p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

Discuss Other RPG Rules Systems or role playing worlds. It doesn't even have to be Hârn-related. Anything goes...d20 (D&D3E), RuneQuest, MERP, GURPS, RoleMaster, Chivalry & Sorcery...even Shadowrun.

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p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#1 Post by Merdain » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:14 am

I am sure this topic has been covered somewhere and sometime before, but I could not find it (yet). Alternate Realities seems the appropriate forum for this topic, p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

For the record I admire Columbia Games and Kelestia Productions for providing us with the world of Harn. Being a Harn subscriber has been fantastic, now that I can afford a regular subscription. My first experience with Harn was in the early 90s during a brief visit to Vancouver when I happened across some game shop which had all the Harn modules in all their glory arrayed on the store shelves. It was that Harn map that really brought those modules to light. Of course, I was a starving student back then and had to make the agonizing decision of which modules I should buy and selected basically by their pretty covers (E.g. Rethem, Azadmere, Kanday, and Chybisa). A good choice by the way, but of course it was painful thinking about all the others I left behind. Thank god for online, but I digress....

In these forums I have been repeatedly beaten over the head with Harn canon whenever I have made some jibe about what I thought was irrational about a particular part of Harn (I am looking at you Krazma), BUT I do get the point that if we were constantly allowed to alter the established version it would be an unholy mess.

On that note in my p-Harn I would prefer a darker more chaotic version of Harn, with a feel closer to that of Orbaal or Ivinia. I do prefer a version that includes the Khuzdul and Sindarin and other non-human races (Ivashi, gargun, etc.) as I believe it adds some spice to the mystery around the island of Harn. I kind of wished that the gargun had been around much longer. I have trouble picturing (sorry Krazma) the Khuzdul and Sindarin holding hands for close to 6000 years of the Co-Dominion and not having some external threat to deal with. The Co-Dominion must of been one really boring time period. The Khuzdul and Sindarin hating each other's guts is so much better! I do like the fact that the Khuzdul and Sindarin are isolated in the more remote parts of Harn and only deal with humans on a peripheral basis. Again, the tribal nations are great in the more remote regions, but they are kind of over done or unrealistic in the more civilized parts of Harn. Western Harn is more interesting, although I wish Tharda was a little more threatening. Speaking of which Kaldor and Melderyn need some competition, it is kind of boring on that side of Harn. I wish Chybisa was bigger and I wished there was a version of a free Jarin kingdom something along the lines of Chybisa to offer an external threat to the Orbaalese kingdoms.

Anyways, I hope other people will share their p-Harns or versions of Harn.... :D

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#2 Post by pfstrack » Sun Nov 12, 2017 9:23 am

One of the things I love about Hârn is that, despite the massive amount of detail, there is still a lot of mystery and ambiguity in the setting. I think that two GMs can run radically different games and still remain mostly consistent with published canon.

My tweaks to the setting are more in the way of additions rather than outright changes. I come up with my own “answers” to some of Hârn’s mysteries (such as what happened to the Earl of Osel). I put my own interpretation and spin on the personalities of the major NPCs. I flesh out some of the cultural factors that are not well defined in the official setting. That way I can use all of the published material while still making the game mine.

My changes tend to be minor. For example, I decided that Edine Kynn is older than his sister Meliara rather than younger because it made my background work better. A lot of the weirder problems in the setting (like how Azadmere is fed or how exactly the Codominion worked) are not relevant to my game, so I just don’t worry about them.

I did switch the lieges of Kyg and Pendeth, but that was an accident. During the game, I forgot who was the overlord of Kyg, and by the time I realized my mistake it had already become a plot point and I decided it was too much trouble to change it back.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#3 Post by DeCoucy » Sun Nov 12, 2017 6:56 pm

Hi pfstrack

You're right, this has been covered before, but it's a very good topic, so worth revisiting from time to time.

If you're interested, here is an earlier take:

https://www.lythia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9730

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#4 Post by zrayaan » Mon Nov 13, 2017 6:11 am

Most things I leave unchanged, but the things I do change are pretty fundamental. Essentially, the cosmologies of Tekumel, and Moorcock's Eternal Champion are both valid

I've scrubbed Harn of the most overt Tolkien references: I've gone full seelie/unseelie route with the elves (sinai, sidhe, and morsinai are apex fey, etherals with the greatest mixture of real world/other world); Midgaad is but one of the infinite universes, and instead the Young Kingdoms (the diegetic source of the Ragnorak myth) and Tragic Millennium exist in Terra's past and future respectively.

Earthmasters are responsible for human psionics through genetic engineering. The Airmasters are the Other Gods. Great Old Ones and Tekumel's gods exist (Tekumel is Venarive backdoor canon).

Lythian religion is more complex.

"Magic" is real, but "spells "don't exist: elves have psionics and pacts with other fae, beastlords, and elementals; Sidhe have the blessing of Siem (ritual invocations); dwarves have runemastery; humans and elves have summoning and blood magic (ritual invocations tied to demons, pariah gods from Tekumel, or Dark Gods' invocations that have gotten out of control of the priesthood). Avatar summoning is a thing; Good luck on getting a god to teach it to you.

Alchemy is a thing, practiced by the handful of shek-pvar in the world (much like hermetic and alchemical magic), and there is no "wizard's guild".
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#5 Post by APrewett » Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:07 am

Not that I have read any recent works, but I found a disconnect between the religious miracles and the published canon. In that they seemed to be missing in the lives of the inhabitants. So I attempted to insert that into the mundane more, but I did feel like I was fighting the setting.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#6 Post by Targan » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:10 am

APrewett wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:07 am
Not that I have read any recent works, but I found a disconnect between the religious miracles and the published canon. In that they seemed to be missing in the lives of the inhabitants. So I attempted to insert that into the mundane more, but I did feel like I was fighting the setting.
I get what you're saying there. It's something I've pondered from time to time too.
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#7 Post by blackhorde » Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:22 am

Targan wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:10 am
APrewett wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:07 am
I found a disconnect between the religious miracles and the published canon.
I get what you're saying there. It's something I've pondered from time to time too.
Completely empathize here. One of my main focuses in Harshlands has been to code as many of the HM Religion rituals into the game for the clergy but each time I see these rituals used in game I can't help but think of how jarring they feel in the medieval setting.
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#8 Post by Peter the skald » Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:36 am

blackhorde wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 1:22 am
Targan wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:10 am
APrewett wrote:
Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:07 am
I found a disconnect between the religious miracles and the published canon.
I get what you're saying there. It's something I've pondered from time to time too.
Completely empathize here. One of my main focuses in Harshlands has been to code as many of the HM Religion rituals into the game for the clergy but each time I see these rituals used in game I can't help but think of how jarring they feel in the medieval setting.
Same, but verisimilitude is a tool for player suspension of disbelief...and if players happily dosing out invocations without harming said suspension... Unless we consider that the Gm needs the same suspension of disbelief....🤣
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#9 Post by Munin » Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:53 am

For me, much depends on how I'm actually using Harn. If I'm running a longer-term campaign, I tend to keep things pretty much as-written. I incorporate much of the work that was done under the Harn Religion Team project to further flesh out the "human" side of Harn's religions - I like that it makes them more intrinsically human institutions. Apart from that, I don't change much.

But if I'm running a one-shot or convention game (especially a "Harnpocalypse" game), I generally have to change things from the jump. If someone elects to play the Valhakar playbook, they are now in charge of a particular settlement - so the very first thing I have to do is change canon by working with the player; "OK, so-and-so was the previous Valhakar, but now you're in power. How did that come about? What was your relationship to the previous Valhakar? Who supported you? Who opposed you?" etc, etc. I build off their answers to ripple that change out through the canon, and we go from there.

To Merdain's point, one of the things I think is interesting about Harn is that there is conflict in every kingdom. Much of it is internal, and in some places it's more subtle than others, but it's always there. Sure, Orbaal doesn't have any big external threats, but internally it's a mess. There are bloodfeuds and scheming and divided loyalties aplenty, to say nothing of the potential for another Jarin uprising. And that's not to say that you couldn't have an external threat - who's to say that the Rognans don't get uppity and try to make up for their loss of territory in what has become Seldenbaal? The potential is certainly there.

Similarly, Kaldor is anything but boring. Yes, it too lacks a direct external threat, but it is poised on the knife's edge of civil war. Similarly, Merlderyn's problems are mostly internal as well, with the Solora Crusade threatening to cause a schism within the Laranian Church (remember that the bulk of Laranians on the island of Melderyn itself are not associated with the Order of the Spear of Shattered Sorrow). Merlderyn also has lots of potential for covert intrigue due to the influence of the Council of Eleven and the internal workings of the Shek P'var. A kingdom doesn't strictly need external threats to be interesting.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#10 Post by Ilkka » Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:18 pm

I have two very different takes on Hârn.

1. The game setting. This I alter a lot, from campaign to campaign. This is more dependent on the needs of the game/story. For example, when I used Hârn as a planet in a sci-fi saga, it naturally took a very different look from the point of view of the PC's, who approached the planet from the orbit. The common people and their lives followed the general pre-industrial/medieval patterns, but the things that mattered and happened to the PC's were definitely out of what has been written of Hârn. Maybe a little bit similar to NRC's dimension-hopping adventures. I'm very open to bizarre ideas and alternate p-Hârns - the more they vary, the more inspiring.

2. The 'real' fantasy world. This I study and try to understand, using normal academic means (close reading, comparison, quantification) to siphon information out of lean sources. It's a fun hobby of its own, and often doesn't meaningfully connect to gaming. I love how this method constantly opens new views on the setting, making and keeping it its own thing, less a derivative from any other setting. And I thank the creators to have taken the pain and to have gone this far with the 'boring' data the original publications are full of. I'm very harsh and rigid on adding to 'canon', rejecting much of what has been done since the 1990s as badly researched and hence un-fitting to the original themes.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#11 Post by Targan » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:33 pm

Ilkka wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 7:18 pm
I'm very harsh and rigid on adding to 'canon', rejecting much of what has been done since the 1990s as badly researched and hence un-fitting to the original themes.
Wow, you don't pull any punches. I guess you and Eder and natural allies around here?
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#12 Post by Ilkka » Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:30 am

Targan wrote:
Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:33 pm
I guess you and Eder and natural allies around here?
I guess I've missed something. :?: :)

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#13 Post by MDMann » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:45 am

You have a similar take on canon validity.
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#14 Post by Krazma » Sun Nov 19, 2017 6:53 am

Merdain wrote:
Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:14 am
Anyways, I hope other people will share their p-Harns or versions of Harn....
My current campaign is relatively "local" in flavor (Kaldor's Lynnfana hundred), so there hasn't yet been a need to depart from canon in any significant way. I suppose that, as the PCs become more involved in the broader scope of Kaldoric politics and such, that will evolve. I don't foresee anything where I'm just saying, "Oh, that doesn't make sense," though.

Also, I don't have to worry about the issues of economic verisimilitude that seem to trip some folks up, because none of my PCs are manor lords, caravan masters, or ship captains. They simply don't care how much revenue the manor generates per acre. The NPC manor lord worries about all that stuff off camera while they are having adventures.

To APrewett's point, if I understand it correctly, he's saying that published HM religious rituals should be impacting the setting. I have totally the opposite viewpoint; to me those have always been like Shek-P'var spells -- just suggestions and examples. I emphatically distinguish between system and setting, and never consider system "canon" in any fashion. So, to me, there's no disconnect at all; I just don't use the ones that I don't find appealing. The fact that some priest (probably a PC) can perform some ritual that is noteworthy doesn't mean every priest can. The overwhelming majority are limited to the common invocations. PCs are exceptional; even then, they only have access to the rituals I approve of as GM (that's a question of game mechanics, not setting).

I don't tie the elves and dwarves explicitly to Tolkien, but neither do I explicitly say they aren't (it's not as if any of the PCs would have cause to ask about Tolkien references, after all). They definitely have the flavor of the LotR material, but that's as far as I take it.
Last edited by Krazma on Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#15 Post by APrewett » Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:43 am

Hi Krazma.
I suppose my feeling comes from the rules. If I was new to the Harn rules, I would see that they allow me to generate a butcher, a baker and ... So I would look to the priest and there miracles as part of the setting. I dont have any books out, but there was healing and all sorts of effects. But the published setting does not seem to show these. We can all house rule, but if I was a noob I could look to the published rules that go with the setting and expect to see this footprint in the setting. The setting already backs up the hidden Shek Pvar feel and there secrecy, but the priests have no impact on the published material. Least wise not that I can remember.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#16 Post by MDMann » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:36 am

It comes across fairly strongly in the fanon, especially in the dark churches and Peoni (which is pretty dark) but I can't think of much in the way of canon that has miracles being cast, except in an historical sense. I'd agree most priests won't know the available rituals and even if they do, don't have much cause to invoke them. Staff of fanon is an obvious exception where this occurs mind (probably my least favourite canon articles).
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#17 Post by APrewett » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:59 am

But I dont see how that can be as far as not knowing rituals. Doesn't the char gen give them on obtaining a certian circle?
I dont recall different versions of char generating a priest to make for example a scholarly type, book read but with no connection to the god. If so that would make sence that the village priest has no ability for miracles.
Just coming from the point of view of interpreting the setting through the rules. I have never assumed that the Harn rules where for player types only, but represented the setting for the ordinary inhabitants.
Anyway out of my depth with this really and hyjacking the thread and all.

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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#18 Post by MDMann » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:17 am

They know all common rituals as per the rules of appropriate circle. These are generally things like baptism, which have no visible or obvious effect. Other rituals must be taught or gifted through divine intervention, giving the gm control and making it plausible for them to be less known or observed.
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Re: p-Harn: What is your version of Harn?

#19 Post by Kara » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:56 am

My pHarn has both major changes and minor intrusions.

1/ I regard the world as canon; I do not regard Harnmaster rules as canon though I take them as the best interpretation of the world.
Mostly when I do use HM3 I add in bits of other HM.
And I excise all Ritual Invocations as defined benefit spells. I use those spells as ideas for divine benefits that MAY come to a priest who prays in a time of need and has been exemplary in following the faith.
(Peter the Skald's allowing the use of Invocations was the only part of his campaign that I disliked, as I stated a few times ;) ).

2/ The worlds that Kethira is linked to are not as per canon. My worlds include but are not limited to Tekumel, my own Islandia world (especially links of Jarinese peoples and some of the faiths), my 100 Kingdoms world (high levels of psionics), a world partly akin to Deverry and one partly akin to that of the Deryni novels. Islandia is the only one that the PCs have visited.

3/ I play up psionics and down magics. Hints in a fanon piece that someone may be a mage are usually changed to that NPC having some psionics while all psionically written characters are kept. There are only approximately 2000 mages total over the whole of my Kethira and little place for the Men in White (unfortunately as I do like that piece :) ). My Gentle White Hand is more little old ladies though they can be vicious old grannies when needed.

4/ I play up that women are naturally better at magic than men (with that +2 to Aura) and after a few incidences of (mostly male) mage wars and arrogant mage-kings in the past the Code of Shek P'var was written and enforced by longlived grannies.

5/ I tone down the male '80s attitudes a bit, especially as regards Halea. (I ran about 30 hours of pregame with one player mostly in Byria and Helas before he reached the rest of the PCs in Kaldor...he had asked to be surprised ;) ).

6/ My magicians marry a bit more often than in canon. Still a lot do not as a family can be a distraction, especially to a powerful female mage. However, high Aura & psionics have a tendency to run in families. Shek P'var have noticed this and some like to see their heritage passed on. And that fits in with the powerful grannies as mentioned above.

7/ Barasi points go in temporal cycles of higher and lower activity and are in an upswing from c.710 on.

8/ Barasi points can take one to another place nearby if set so (usually by the elves) and not often to another world though during another phase of high activity many Jarin fled through to Islandia centuries ago.

9/ Dwarves are important for trade and culturally and have high status, treated very politely on the rare occasions they do venture out of Azadmere.

10/ Elves are mostly thought of as legends. On the one occasion a PC met a pair of elves he had no idea and only came to that conclusion weeks later.

11/ Arathel was founded from Ledenheim, with some input from Rogna. Wethom is still under the control of the main clan, not yet separated. There is a marriage alliance between a son of Tursi and an Ymodi group who trade with the gargun. Tursi fostered the nephew of his favourite wife who is the actual heir to Pethwys, usurped by his uncle there. (PCs here)

12/ The inhabitants of Bevon Manor are expanded from fanon. (PCs here)

13/ All plants and animals with realworld analogues are in their respective pre-1492 places on Kethira except as transported though Barasi points.

14/ Many barbarian tribes are a little different and more advanced than in canon. Eg. the Taelda practice agriculture where they can given the local gargun numbers; also they usually build their homes on crannogs as gargun are averse to water.

15/ Ivinian culture: to be on the thrangaad, a male clansman only has to have had 3 wives not to have 3 living at the same time. Though disputes arise sometimes.

16/ The Jarin of Azadmere mostly worship Ilvir and Peoni as Father and Mother.

17/ I utilise a lot of the work of the Harn Religion Team. [In fact I use a lot of fanon so thank you all very much! Especially Sageryne and Pokep]
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