Player's Guide to HârnMaster

By David Johnson, August 1998
Updated for Hârnmaster Third Edition, July 2005.

Note: This Guide references optional and house rules that are not officially part of Hârnmaster.

Using Skills

Every skill will have a Skill Base (SB) and a Mastery Level (ML). The skill base is the attribute bonus for that skill. The mastery level is the basic chance of success when using the skill. Effective Mastery Level (EML) is the mastery level after applying modifiers. Occasionally, a Skill Index (SI) is referred to. This is simply the ML of the skill divided by ten, rounded down (the ten's digit).

To test a skill, roll D100. If the result is equal to or less than the skill's Effective ML, then it is a success, otherwise it is a failure. Furthermore, if the result ends in a zero or a five, then the result is a critical. The results are abbreviated "CF" (critical failure), "MF" (marginal failure), "MS" (marginal success), and "CS" (critical success).

If two skills are used against each other, such as Tracking versus Stealth, both parties roll, and the highest result wins. If both receive the same result, then it is a tie, or the party that rolled the lowest dice number wins if ties are inappropriate.

Skill Specialties

Some skills will have specializations. For example, the skill of Bow has specialties equating to the various kinds of bows. When a skill reaches 40 ML, the palyer may choose a specialty for that skill. Specialties are treated as separate skills from their base skills. THeir advantage is that they may be improved at a quicker rate. See below.

Universal and Physical Penalties

The Physical Penalty only modifies skills relating to physical activities, such as combat and athletics. The Universal Penalty modifies every skill roll. The actual modifier to the skill is the penalty times five. Thus a Universal Penalty of four equates to a minus 20 penalty.

The Universal Penalty is the combination of Injury and Fatigue. The Physical Penalty is the combination of the Universal Penalty and encumbrance. The Encumbrance Penalty is equal to the weight carried divided by the character's Endurance.

Improving Skills

Skills are improved through Skill Maintenance Points (SMP) and Skill Development Rolls (SDR). These are really the same thing, so the concept of the SMP will be ignored in favor of the SDR.

To reflect the normal practicing and studying that a one does in his free time, characters receive three SDRs every month. These may be used for any skills improvable through practice or study. In addition, characters receive SDRs for work experience or personal training. SDRs may not be saved up from month to month.

An SDR is used to improve a skill. Spend the SDR and roll D100 plus the applicable skill's SB. If the result is greater than the skill, then the skill goes up one point. If the skill is a specialty it improves by two points.

Bonus Development Rolls

Bonus SDR's may be awarded by the gamemaster for special situations. These may be for stressful, heroic, educational or unique situations. Bonus SDR could arise from a singularly flawless success against the current jousting champion, or even something as simple as learning how important it is to keep one's bowstring dry. Bonus SDR's must be spent on an appropriate skill. One gained in combat may not be used to improve Intrigue, for instance.

Players should take it upon themselves to ask for the bonus rolls when they feel they deserve one. Ask immediately, or wait until after game play, but ask. The worse that can happen is that the gamemaster will say no.

Player's Guide to HârnMaster Combat


The order of actions in combat is determined by the character's Initiative skill. The highest Initiative skill goes first. During a surprise situation, characters must roll their Initiative in order to act.

Action Options

Some of the actions available to characters during combat include: Rest, Pass, Free Move, Engage, Disengage, and Attack. Engagement is a critical concept. A character can only attack an opponent that he is engaged with. An Engage action includes taking a half move to enter an opponent's "hex", and optionally making a subsequent attack. Only engaged characters can attack with a melee weapon. Long reach weapons can engage opponents one "hex" away. The Rest and Free Move options are only available to unengaged characters.

Combat Sequence

The attacker declares his Target, Weapon, Weapon Aspect and Aiming Zone. The Target of a melee attack must be an engaged opponent. The Weapon Aspect is one of Blunt, Edge or Point. The Aiming Zone may be High, Mid or Low. There is a -10 penalty to aiming High or Low. Weapon Aspects and Aiming Zones can be used to take advantage of armor weaknesses.

The defender may choose to Block, Counterstrike, Dodge, Ignore, or Grapple. A Block is an attempt to block and parry with a weapon or shield. A Counterstrike or Frapple is an attempt to strike back at the attacker first. Counterstrikes favor the original attacker. Dodge is an attempt to evade the attack by ducking, twisting, etc. The Ignore option is for unaware characters or those unable to defend.

The attacking and defending skills are now rolled and cross indexed on the combat table. The attacker rolls with his weapon's AML. The defender rolls with his DML, or another appropriate skill.

Combat Results

A Block is equivalent to a Miss, except that possible weapon damage may occur. Fumbles and Stumbles require a character to roll to avoid dropping his weapon or tripping. A Tactical Advantage means that the attacker has left himself wide open, giving the defender an immediate action. No more than one Tactical Advantage can occur during a character's turn. Characters can also gain Tactical Advantages when their opponent fails a Shock, Stumble, or Fumble. A Strike result means that the attack has hit. Strikes may be labeled A1 through A4, indicating the number of dice to roll for Impact.


Roll for the strike location on the Strike Location Table, using the appropriate Aiming Zone. Determine the Strike Impact by rolling the number of D6 from the Attack Table. To this add the Weapon Aspect and subtract the Armor Protective Value for the appropriate location. Now consult the Injury Table to determine the wound inflicted. Missile weapons calculate their aspect's impact differently, and are based on range.

Injuries can be Minor, Serious, Grievous or Mortal. Each injury is also rated with an Injury Level (IL) from one to five. Mark the injury down on the character sheet, including type, IL and location.

After every injury, the character makes a Shock Roll by rolling 1D6 for every Injury Level (and also Fatigue Level). If this roll exceeds the character's Endurance, then the character has fainted from trauma, bloodloss, exhaustion or pain. Each turn, a character in shock will make a new Shock Roll. If successful, the character has revived. After recovering, determine if the character is in medical shock by making one final Shock roll.

Mortal wounds also require the character to roll to prevent death. Of course, characters can also die from lesser wounds if quality medical care is not forthcoming. Amputations and severe bleeding are also possible.

Weapon Damage

Every time a weapon a Blocked, the weapon or shield with the lowest Weapon Quality (WQ) must check for breakage. If they are tied, both weapons check. Roll 3D6. If the result is greater than the WQ, then subtract the difference from the WQ. When a weapon's quality reaches zero or less, the weapon breaks. Weapon quality can deteriorate over time if not properly cared for.


The first step in healing is first aid. A character with the Physician skill rolls on the Treatment Table to determine the wound's Healing Rate (HR).

The Healing Rate is a number from one to six. Every five days (two for Sindarin), the character make a healing roll by rolling the HR times Endurance. When the Injury Level of a wound reaches zero, the wound is fully healed. Characters in shock, or those that have acquired an infection, can have their Healing Rates lowered, affecting all other wounds to the point of eventual death.

Open wounds can become infected during the healing process. Any cut or stab, Serious or greater burn, or Grievous blunt injury is considered open. Even bandaged and stitched wounds are open. Cauterization will close wounds, and certain herbs will help prevent infection.

Player's Guide to HârnMaster Magic

The Shek-Pvar

Those members of the Arcane Guild who specialize in the magical lores are the Shek-Pvar, or mages. Mages gather into chapter houses known as chantries. The only way to learn magic is to apprentice under the guild. The Sindarin and Khuzdul are an exception who learn magic from within their clan.

The Convocations

There are six suborders, or convocations, within the Shek-Pvar. Beginning mages will know only one convocation, but others can later be learned with some difficulty. The convocations are usually depicted as a wheel. A mage's first convocation is his prime convocation. Next to it on the wheel are the secondary, then tertiary convocations. Opposite the prime convocation is the diametric convocation. All spells belong to a single convocation, or are considered "neutral" and learnable by all mages.

The convocations are:

Characters who master all six convocations can choose to become Grey Mages.

Casting Magic

Characters will have two magic related skills. The first is for the mage's convocation and the second is for neutral magic. These skills will improve as any other skill. The base chance to cast a spell, or its EML, is the magic skill minus five times the Complexity Level of the spell. For example, if a Peleahn mage is attempting to cast the spell "Orb of Zatara", he will subtract 15 from his convocational skill, since that spell is level three. The Universal Penalty applies to spell casting.

Spells occur at the end of rounds, and since rounds are ten seconds long, spells with times of one to ten will occur at the end of the same round of casting, spell times of eleven to twenty will occur at the end of the end of the next round, etc. Should a spell have a time of zero, it's effects will occur immediately. Stored or delayed spells will have times of zero.

A critical success in spell casting will cause no fatigue, success and failure will cause one level of fatigue, and a critical failure will cause two levels of fatigue. Fatigue can be lessened through the use of certain material components, etc. A critical failure during spell casting will also require the mage to roll on the Spell Misfire Table

A critical success will triple the duration of spells. Indefinite spells last until they are dispelled. Permanent spells cannot be dispelled, and last until the object they are cast upon is destroyed.

Bonus Effects refer to additional spell capabilities that can be used when one's magic skill is high enough. For example, casting the neutral "Feel" spell with a CML of 70 will reveal the convocation of the detected spell, while a CML of 80 will also reveal the spell's Complexity Level.

Learning Spells

It is traditional for mages to invent their own spells. The process for learning spells is the same for original or existing spells, exept that existing spells will have a grimoire or mentor bonus.

The base chance to learn a new spell is known as the Research Target Level (RTL). This is simply the mage's convocational skill modified by spell level, environment, mentors, interruptions, etc. At the end of the research period, the RTL is rolled, and the mage learns the spell successfully, or has to start over.

If a player wishes to invent a wholly original spell (or even a variation on an existing one), just submit the spell idea to the gamemaster. Just about any spell is possible, but it is up to the gamemaster to determine the spell level and any niggling details.


Spell casting requires both verbal and somatic foci. A mage must both speak and gesture with his hands. The mage may choose to be silent, still, or both, but there will be a penalty for "stealth" spell casting. On the other hand, the mage may opt to shout and jump about, granting him a casting bonus (i.e. tribal shamans). Music and dance are variations on these foci, and the skill with these activities will grant additional bonuses.

The players may devise alternate foci to be required for spell casting, subject to the gamemaster's approval. Such a focus will take the place of either the verbal or the somatic foci. Examples include material components or enscribing runes.

Mental Conflict

Mental conflict is used for attuning to an artifact, resisting a spirit's attempt at possession, or for certain spells or psionic talents. It is also known as a "Battle of Wills." The Mental Conflict skill can only be improved after a mental conflict situation. This psychic ordeal only lasts one combat round, and usually results in the acquisition of fatigue.

Player's Guide to HârnMaster Religion

The Gods of Hârn

Piety Points

Piety Points (PP) are acquired through good deeds and religious actions. They may also be lost by way of evil acts. Some of the specific ways that PP's may be gained are through prayer, fasting, attending mass, donations to the church, etc. PP's are also awarded for miscellaneous "good deeds" and long term behavior appropriate for the specific diety.

Divine Grace

The gods of Hârn are concerned with the proper deeds, and not just proper behavior. Characters who have Piety Points greater than their Ritual ML are considered to have Divine Grace. Certain gods are very strict about proper Piety levels, and other are rather lax. Most deities will fudge a bit, and take other factors into consideration. Try to keep your Piety up, but don't fret too much if your PP's occasionally dip below the Ritual ML.

Characters with Divine Grace will receive bonuses to Divine Intervention and certain worthy Invocations. It also helps in convincing their deity to accept their soul after death.


In any endeavor, the character may pray to their deity for aid. For every PP spent, to a maximum of 20PP, increase the odds of that endeavor by 1%. Prayers do take a little bit of time to perform.

Divine Intervention

Any character may call for divine intervention. Such an intervention might not be recognized as such. For example, a sailor may call for divine aid to prevent him from drowning in the sea, with the intervention taking the form of a timber drifting by that he can grab hold of. The basic chance of divine intervention is quite low, ten to twenty percent. Modifiers may be added to this to represent the "worthiness" of the call. In addition, Prayer bonuses are added, but the number of PP expended is not limited. With any intervention, there is always a chance that conditions will be placed on the character by the diety. "I'll rescue you, but you'll have to build me a shine." Unworthy calls also have a chance to attract the diety's anger.

Ritual Skill

This skill reflects the character's knowledge of his religion's dogma, chants, scriptures, etc. It is also used by clerics to perform ritual invocations, or religious "magic."

Ritual may only be improved by learning new ritual invocations and reading scriptures (study). It may not be improved through practice. Bonus Development Rolls may be used, however.

Learning Invocations

Ritual Invocations are ceremonies or prayers that "encourage" a deity to intervene with a limited miracle. Invocations may be learned from mentors, the study of scripture, or, rarely, through divine revelation. The priest must expend Piety equal to the Invocation Circle, or level, times five. The base chance to learn is the cleric's Will plus the Ritual Skill Base. Modifiers are added for mentors, environment and scriptures. It takes two days of twelve hour studying and meditating per Circle level. Interruptions for the purposes of attending mass, holy feasts, etc. are ignored. With a successful learning roll, the cleric will receive both the invocation, and one to two Skill Development Rolls for the ritual skill.

Performing Invocations

The Ritual skill is used to determine the success of invocations. There are a few modifiers for this, including consecrated ground, preparation, worthiness of invocation, opposing dieties, and prayer.

There is a minus five modifier per Invocation Circle. For example, an invocation of the Third Circle has a minus fifteen modifier. The character may also pray to improve his chances.

Fatigue is not received for performing invocations, as there is for magic. Only Piety is expended, if any.

Like spells, invocations occur at the ends of the rounds.