Steve Jackson Games GURPS – Generic Universal RolePlaying System

Adding a little Hârnmaster to GURPS

by Hal Carmer

This article appears by permission of N. Robin Crossby, Columbia Games (publisher of Hârn), Auran Ltd. (owner of electronic rights in Hârnworld), and Steve Jackson Games. The purpose of this article is to help those GMs who either use GURPS in their HÂRNWORLD campaigns, or desire to modify the wound recovery system of GURPS to better reflect the seriousness of combat on player characters. I have rewritten elements of the rules for wound recovery and damage results from HÂRNMASTER first edition so as to be useful in a GURPS game system. The purpose of this conversion is not to make combat more complex, but to make recovering from the damage of combat a bit more realistic.

What Does It All Mean?

In GURPS, damage done to any creature is based upon the strength of the individual either swinging or jabbing with his weapon. Like many game systems, GURPS uses HIT POINTS to describe how much damage an individual may take. But what is the difference between a 2 point swing of a mace upon a leg, and a 4 point swing of a mace upon a leg? More importantly, what is the difference between a 2 point bruise, and a 4 point cut?

In GURPS COMPENDIUM II, it lists different types of wound levels, and gives a descriptive label for such a wound. As fate would have it, these descriptions almost match exactly the wound descriptions given in HARNMASTER. Consequently, one of the best features of the wound recovery system of HÂRNMASTER can be integrated almost seamlessly.


Rates of healing:

GURPS uses a standard healing roll of HT, or HT+2 if a doctor is present to help recover lost hit points. Certain advantages and disadvantages modify the health saving roll to determine if the character recovers a hit point or not. In COMPENDIUM II, the optional rules permit the character to record his wounds in different areas, and roll for each wound when rolling for hit point recovery. In the original GURPS BASIC SET, three one point wounds would combine into a 3 point total, and at best, barring any critical success rolls, take three days to fully heal. With the new optional rules in GURPS COMPENDIUM II, a character can recover from those wounds in just one day – providing he makes all of his health saving rolls for every individual wound.

What I propose to change however, based upon HÂRNMASTER, is to modify the HT saving roll strictly by the damage that was done on a per wound basis. Both game systems have the following four results: Critical success, normal success, normal failure, and critical failure. In HÂRNMASTER, each type of success modified the actual healing rate of a wound. In a nutshell, if you received no medical aid, or the person administering medical aid failed in their attempts to help – the character had a more or less "natural" healing rate. On a successful aid roll, the healing rate was improved, while on a critical success, the healing rate was at its best level possible. A critical failure of course, worsened the healing rate, and if the wound was serious enough to begin with, even jeopardize the patient's life!

Damage Descriptions – please note that all wound points per wound are kept separate. You do not add a 2 point wound to the arm, to an 8 point wound to the arm for a 9+ level wound, they are treated as two separate wounds of 2 and 8 points. All standard rules regarding potential crippling remain in effect.


All types of attacks that do exactly 1 point of damage are deemed superficial. As such, all superficial wounds heal automatically after one day of rest.


Bruise: Minor Concussion/squeeze for 2 or 3 points of damage. Requires minor first aid treatment in the form of a compress.
Fracture: Hairline/Simple fracture for 4 to 8 points of damage. Requires a splint as part of the treatment.
Crush: Compound Fracture/Pulped flesh for 9 or more points of damage. Requires Surgury as part of the treatment.


Minor cut: Shallow cut 1 to 2 inches long for 2 or 3 points of damage. Requires that the victim have the wound cleaned and bandaged.
Serious cut: Cut 2 to 6 inches long for 4 to 8 points. Wound must be cleaned and dressed.
Grievous Cut: Deep/long cut for 9 or more points of damage. Requires Surgery.


Minor stab: Puncture 1" deep for 2 or 3 points of damage. Requires cleaning and Dressing.
Serious Stab: Puncture 3: deep for 4 to 8 points of damage. Requires cleaning and Dressing.
Grievous Stab: Deep puncture for 9 or more points of damage. Requires Surgery.

Using the Treatment Table:

As mentioned earlier, there are four types of results that an attending first aid provider or physician can deliver. On a critical success, the healing rate is the best possible. On a normal success, the healing rate is improved, while a failure is treated as "no treatment" and a critical failure worsens the wound and or worsens the healing rate. When using the treatment table below, cross-index the success type of the first aid (or lack there-of) with the wound level. The number in the column is the HT saving roll modifier. Other information may be included to indicate complications as a result of the wound.

Wound TypeTreatmentFail or NoneCrit FailNormal SuccessCrit Success
Bruisecompress+0-1+1heal in 1 day
Minor cutcleaned & dressed+0-1+1heal in 1 day
Serious cutcleaned & dressed-1Bleeder+0+1
Grievous CutSurgery.-2*Bleeder***-1*+0
Minor stabcleaned & dressed+0-1+1heal in 1 day
Serious Stabcleaned & dressed-1*Bleeder**+0+1
Grievous StabSurgery-2*Bleeder***-1*+0

Special Results:

Any wound with no treatment, or unsuccessful treatment is considered to be an open wound for purposes of infection.

* Means that the GM must roll versus the character's HT or suffer a GM inflicted disadvantage. This is left up to the GM to interpret based upon where the wound resulted. Any failure by more than 2 means that the disadvantage is permanent. Example: Character suffers a 4-point wound to his arm. GM notices that the player fails his HT saving roll by 2 and decides that for now, until the wound heals, and for 3 months afterwards - the player is at -1 DX for use of that particular arm. The GM could instead have ruled, that the player is in constant pain, and suffer a -1 will reduction until the wound heals.

Bleeder** means that the wound is opened again, and is bleeding. Patient must stop bleeding before the caregiver can try to continue giving aid. For those patients close to death to begin with, this result can cause them to die. Use standard GURPS bleeding rules.

Bleeder*** means that this particular wound is really a gusher. Victim must make 4 successive HT saving rolls instead of the usual 3 before the bleeding stops. Once the bleeding is under control, the caregiver can again attempt to render aid.

How to Use These Rules

When using these rules, players must keep track of individual wounds. A character who has suffered 4 slashing wounds of 3 points, 6 points, 1 point, and 2 points, will have suffered a total of 12 points – enough to render him unconscious as per normal GURPS rules. When he rolls for wound recovery however, he rolls four times. Once per wound. If we assume that the doctor who treated his wounds got normal successes for each wound, the rolls would be thus:

1 superficial wound, 2 minor cuts, and one serious cut. The superficial wound automatically heals after 1 day. The minor cuts however, require HT+1 saving rolls to heal one point. The serious cut requires a straight HT saving roll.

Healing Rolls:

Critical failures during healing rolls increase the HT saving roll penalty by -1. Thus, someone with a HT saving roll of -1 for a wound would discover that complications involving that wound have changed it from HT-1 to HT-2. Also, if this is an open wound due to major burns (4+ points of burns) or from any cutting or impaling wound – treat this wound as being infected.

Normal failures during the healing saving roll mean that there is no healing done for that day, but no penalty either – unless this is the first healing roll. If this is the first healing roll for any open wound, cut, or impaling wound of 4+ points – treat this wound as though it were infected. Note too, that a critical failure on a HT saving roll for the first healing roll of that particular wound – regardless of the points of damage done, results in an infected wound.

Normal success during the healing roll results in a recovery of 1 Hit point, while a critical success will regain 2 hit points.


If a wound should become infected, the player must now make saving rolls to shake off the infection before he can attempt to regain lost hit points through normal healing. Keep track of the healing penalties accrued during the process. Once the penalty has reached a negative 4, the patient has contracted gangrene and requires drastic measures to save his life. A negative 5 means that the patient has departed for the afterlife.

A Critical failure of HT saving roll to shake infection results in an additional -2 penalty to the victim's HT saving roll. There is a 2 in 6 chance that the infection will spread to an adjacent location (i.e. forearm to upper arm, upper arm to chest, etc).

A normal failure will result in an additional -1 penalty to the Health Saving roll with a 1 in 6 chance of the infection spreading.

A normal success will increase the HT saving roll by a +1 bonus, while a critical success increase the HT saving roll bonus by +2. If at any time, the overall modified HT saving roll reaches a +1 after an infection has set in, the infection dies out.

Example of an infection:

Mighty Mike, fearless, and as some might say, lacking in the brains department – wins yet another duel. During the course of his duel, he receives a serious cut to his arm. Unfortunately, the doctor at the field is a quack. His administrations do nothing for Mike, so his healing saving roll is at HT-1. As it turns out, Mike has a HT of 11, but rolls a 13 on his first healing roll for his wound. This results in a normal failure which means that his wound is infected. As fate would have it, the next night he rolls a 17 – critical failure! His healing roll was originally at -1, and is now at -3. The doctor gravely informs Mike that either the arm comes off, or Mike must undergo cauterization (see below). Mike is now on the horns of a dilemma – does he attempt to keep the use of his arm but risk his life, or does he lose his arm now, and assure his survival? He has two choices if he wants to keep his arm. He can allow the doctor to cauterize his wound, and possibly die that way, or he can let nature take its course and hope for the best. Mike doesn't want to die, but he can't face the future as a one armed cripple either. He tells the doctor to go ahead and cauterize his wound. Fortunately, the doctor manages not to bungle the wound and Mike's healing bonus is increased back up to -2 instead of being at -3. Mike is still unlucky, and manages to roll an 11 - a normal failure. Again his Health saving roll is at -3. Unfortunately for Mike however, he is unconscious and unable to voice his opinions. The doctor, knowing Mike's wishes, leaves him to his fate and heads home. Mike manages to roll a 7 the next day, and his Healing saving roll is now up to -2. His lucky trend continues for another day, raising his Healing saving roll to HT-1. Finally, after four more days, Mike finally rolls enough successes to get his Healing saving roll back up to a +1 – snuffing out the infection. After fighting an infection for nine days, Mike may now roll to recover hit points.


A doctor may decide that the only feasible treatment for a massive frostbiten, or gangrene infected limb is to amputate. This will automatically end the chance of the patient dying due to infection at the cost of turning said patient into a cripple. If the doctor rolls a crit failure during the amputation surgery – treat the patient has having gone into shock and died. Otherwise, save for the crippling, the patient is all right.


If at any time, a doctor desires to insure that a wound is not considered to be an open wound, he may use cauterization to improve his patient's chances. This is not fool proof however. Roll versus the doctor's surgery skill. A critical failure results in lowering the healing saving roll by a -2. A normal failure reduces the healing modifier by a -1. A normal success increases the healing modifier by a +1, with a crit success increasing it by +2.

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