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HARP version 0.1

I was recently looking through some old files when I ran across my first draft manuscript for HARP (High Adventure Role Playing), a game that I wrote for Iron Crown Enterprises, and also the first full game that I wrote.

What most folks do not realize is that the game that was released was very very different from this first draft. I figured that it would be neat to show off some of those differences, and perhaps explain some of the evolution….

Stats

Let’s start off with the Stats. In the original manuscript, HARP used the same 10 stats that Rolemaster used.

In discussions with the folks at ICE, it was decided that HARP needed to be more of stepping stone from D&D (d20 having been released just a year or two before — this being before the glut got so bad that WOTC released D&D 3.5 two years early just to separate the wheat from the chaff).

So, in the spirit of making it a stepping stone, we reduced it to 8 stats. Now, one of my favorite games had always been The Arcanum by Bard Games (an RPG from the early 80’s), so using a little bit of logic and The Arcanum as inspiration, HARP’s stats were reduced to the 8 that are currently used.

Professions

ProfessionsProfessions both looked and worked a lot different in the original HARP. Here is an image showing a couple of the Professions.

In the first draft, Skills were grouped into categories much the same that they are in the final version. As you can see from the Professions, each profession got a specific number of Skill Points each level in specific Skill Categories. You could call these Favored Categories.

He would use those skill points to purchase ranks in skills on a simple 1 Skill Point for 1 Rank basis. There were limits on the number of ranks that could be purchased and so forth.

What is not shown is that the characters also got development points (for EACH stat), and that they could spend them to purchase additional skill points (2 DP per skill point in a Favored Category, 4 DP per skill point in other categories). As you can tell, that costing (which was based on d20’s 1/2 cost for skills), made it through as the final method of buy skills. I was forced to get rid of the Skill Points because the guy who owned the ICE properties found it too confusing.

Now, the Professional Skill Bonuses, something that I was also made to change, was something that I thought was very cool. Basically, the player got to assign those bonuses every level. Some of the bonuses were for specific skills, so they had to be applied to that skill only. Others, however, were to generic skills (i.e. “Lore (1 skill)”) and when the player’s character went up a level, he could assign the bonus to a different skill than the one he assigned to last level (the bonus from previous levels was NOT moved). This would allow for a MAJOR amount of customization, and allowed players to better focus their characters as they progressed. But like I said, I was made to remove it (I forget why at this remove).

Spells

ElementalBolt Spells in the first draft of HARP were not created using any sort of creation rules. I did, however, base them on some old Psionics rules that I had came up with and worked on previously. As you can see from the image, the format of the final form of the spells was already in place.

Before I started in on version 0.2, I was asked to create a spell creation system for use with HARP, and so I started doing so. One of my larger mistakes was not finalizing that system before HARP was released. Instead, we used it more as an initial guide, and then tweaked the costs through playtesting. This was NOT a mistake I made in writing Novus – for Novus, if I needed to change something, I went back to the Spell Creation rules, and changed it there, and then update every single spell (a pain in the butt sometimes, but worth it for a much better finished product).

When ICE had College of Magics written, the author was given the basics of the system I had used and asked to flesh it out and polish it. The end result that he returned was too esoteric and required too much hand-waving for my boss, so she had me ditch it, and write up the spell creation rules that ended up in the released product (and yes, the spell creation rules I wrote were crap as well, though not as bad as the original rules that the author turned in).

Combat Tables

CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE VERSION

CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE VERSION

This is where the MOST and largest changes took place.

As you can see from this image, the original attack/critical table was a bit different than most folks were used to. In the skills section, weapons were learned by the group. Each weapon group then had a column on the attack table.

A player would make his attack roll. He would then use the rules in the corner to determine the hit location. The attack roll (already modified by foe’s DB), would then be further modified by the armor on the given hit location (allowing for wearing armor by the piece, though those rules had not been formulated or formalized yet). This same modifier would be applied to the critical roll as well.

CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE

CLICK TO SEE FULL SIZE

By the time version 0.2 rolled around, the tables had been changed to look like this image, which is actually a lot closer to how the attack tables in MERP looked like. Size caps had been added in, and also crit mods for Holy and Slaying attacks.

Armor was still used to modify criticals, but at this point it was used to determine the column that was rolled (and the weapon had been given a size modifier which capped how much damage it could do.

And then a bit further along during the playtesting, my boss decided that she no longer liked the attack tables, that they were pretty much all interchangeable, and could I get rid of them, and just make things so only the crit table was used.

And so I did this (and made another major mistake). All of the attack tables we were using had a built in DB of about 50 points or so before damage started (some higher than that, some lower). You can see it on the attack table images.

But, while I added DB mods for the armor, what I neglected was to add in a baseline Db modifier, so that attacks suddenly became much more deadly. My second mistake was using those same critical tables. They were broken also too deadly for the rules, and when ICE revised HARP 6 months after releasing it, they were the MAJOR reason we did so, and it was also quite likely the major reason HARP never took off.

Unfortunately, not a single one of playtesters caught the problems with the critical tables either. Nobody did until we released the book, and it got in the hands of the public. Who promptly found all sort of problems that neither us nor the playtesters discovered.

That right there was the main reason that when I wrote my RM revision, that we (Mjolnir, LLC dba ICE) were going to release it as a semi-open Beta PDF (i.e. you still had to buy it), and have several months of Beta testing before finalizing the manuscript for print. It is also why, when I wrote Novus, I had my alpha testers, but then did the public Beta testing for so long, to make sure to get as many bugs out as possible. There are still a few in there, as evidenced by the errata and the FAQ for Novus, but nowhere near as much as there might have been.

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