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Offline Tywyll

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Problems with the HARP
« on: March 20, 2017, 03:00:45 PM »
I was super excited when Harp came out. My friends who were into RM and I got it and devoured it. We played it a bit but some things that were just...off to us.

I've gone back to it a few times over the years and each time there are a few roadblocks that keep me from really embracing it.

I was wondering if anyone had fixes for these issues or addressed them somehow?

1) Not a huge fan of the Armor=DB. I know it makes thing's easier but it still feels...bland.
2) All magic works the same. I hate that all magic is blocked by armor, regardless of source or nature. I like different forms of magic to feel differently mechanically. Even in College of Magic, the armor as penalty thing is still there.
3) Scaling Bolt spells is pointless. Want to break the damage cap? Scale your bolt spells. Only problem is that you reduce your attack value by 20...which means this is only useful if you open end or have such a high attack value that you routinely hit the cap with tons to spare. It's just mathimatically foolish to do. We even pointed it out to Dugger on the forums when the game first came out and his reply was that things often worked differently in play despite the math(??????).

So, I know there is a revised edition. Have any of these issues been fixed? Does anyone have House Rules that fix them?

Please, if you think these things work as intended and are great, that's awesome. They don't work for me so I'm looking for fixes, not to be convinced that I really should get on board with the way the system is written.

Offline pyrotech

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 06:51:11 PM »
Well I can tell you what I've seen and remember about these issues.  Keep in mind I could be forgetting things and my opinion is just that - my opinion.

1) I seem to remember some house rules people have worked on to change the nature of armor, but the core rules have kept the armor = DB model.  I can understand the idea that it is a bit bland, but in my opinion the ease of play this adds is worth the loss of detail.

2) The new college of magic does have a few alternative magic ideas in it (rune magic and the like) but really the core of the magic system hasn't really changed.  If you want another mystic arts system less bothered by armor you could always role in the psi rules from Harp SF.  That would offer some diversity.

3)  Scaling bolts is still as pointless as ever last I remember.  I know lots of people have tried to address this issue and no elegant solution has been found.

Others may be able to remember other things than I, and point out any mistakes I may have made here.

Regards,
-Pyrotech

Offline pyrotech

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2017, 07:17:29 PM »
Thinking about this a bit more, I guess I can think of at least one other time scaling bolt spells is useful, and that is in the case of spell adders and power point adders.  If the caster has access to either of these then scaling a bolt spell makes perfect sense.

Others are likely to have more to contribute on this however.

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-Pyrotech

Offline trechriron

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2017, 07:19:35 PM »
1. It is the same approach that D&D has used for decades. :-D  OK, so if you eliminate Armor = DB, then Armor absorbs damage? I suppose you could come up with a method to reduce concussion hits, bleeding and penalty per armor type (or even per piece), but that sounds like a ton of work.

2. Why not just ignore PP penalties for armor? This may magic a tad more powerful with Mages armored up vs. melee... Or create a skill like Armor that reduces PP penalties? Call it Mystical Armor Use - every rank reduces the casting penalty for increased PP costs due to armor (the additional PP are still required for balance)? Make it a profession skill for warrior mages and others you want to bypass the normal PP penalties.

3. You can't break the damage cap by scaling. You can scale an elemental bolt up to huge size with a damage cap of 120 (and the +20 critical!). Only the Ambush skill, Sniping Skill, some talents, or rolling a 99-100 allow you to bypass damage caps. If you scale an Elemental Bolt spell from Tiny to Huge, you would increase the PP cost by 8 points = -40 to casting roll for an increase from 80 to 120 on the damage cap. You would need a min of 10 ranks in the spell (50%), so this move would likely be foolish for a 2nd level caster (max 13 ranks = 56 - 40 = 16%).

But what about a 15th level caster? 48 Ranks in the spell (max at 15th level) = 98%, so the same spell is now 58% with the same scaling. Certainly a better chance to hit that cap with the +20 critical for the Huge scale upgrade.

It's not "pointless" but it IS scaling with level. The more powerful the caster, the bigger they can scale their spells. Effectively. This magic system is modeled on the classic apprentice to master power curve. So it may seem futile to scale at lower levels, it is a fine option for more powerful casters who want it. No different than the spell-stepping-stones of D&D's spells (fire bolt, fireball, etc.).

Also consider that a tiny attack is capped at 80. OK results, but generally short term stun and average hits/penalties. It also comes with a -20 on the critical chart which makes hitting the cap less likely. Scaling up to Medium for 4 PP (-20 to skill) eliminates the negative critical modifier AND increases the damage cap to 100. You WILL be more likely to hit a higher number. You're basically paying to increase the odds your open-ended roll can have increased impact on the hit.

Now, on to your last bit. I have GM'd a butt-load of systems. Everything from 2e AD&D, to GURPS, to HERO, to Unisystem... there are PLENTY of systems out there that handle things in particular ways. They exist to fit the needs of various gamers. What you see here as "issues" are in fact features to those of us who like the system. For me, it has just enough customization without going full generic. Personally, I wouldn't waste your time house-ruling HARP into another game. Instead I would seek out a different game that scratches your itch. Personally, based on your desires, I think looking at GURPS 4e Dungeon Fantasy would be in order. It would likely scratch a bunch of your itches! :-D

Over the years I have learned to stop worrying about the things that rub me the wrong way in a system and instead focus on the things that excite me. HARP plays like a better version of D&D in my mind. A few oddities like the bolt issue hardly take away from the fun of the system in my experience.
Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
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Offline Random

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 07:20:33 PM »
If I were going to poke holes in the HARP system those would not have been the ones I'd have picked but every game system has parts that we don't like it's the nature of people and games.

1)  Armour=DB.  Well that is a factor of a lot of systems they just change the name of DB (AC, Defense, etc).  IIRC there is an optional rule that adjusts the damage based on armour.  Blandness - Have you tried Armour by the piece?  This is a bit more work but it add some depth to armour sets.  I use this as a default rule but my first system was RQ2 so that's pretty much a given for me.

2) Yep, all magic works the same.  I view as one of the real strengths of the system, spells can move easily between classes you just have to re-trap them.  Having played systems with different mechanics for each casting style I'd say everything using one unified system to describe a cast spells is a bonus.  If you want a have things work differently for casting in armour them I would develop a Casting in Armour skill and/or just develop different casting styles similar to what was done in the Cyradon source book.  None of them affected the PP armour penalty but it would be fairly easy to do.

3) In the current rules ,2pp per step that's -10 IIRC.  So that's not too bad at lower levels it just cancels out the 2 extra ranks you brought to get that far in casting the spell.

As you say somethings don't work for you and that's fine some things don't work for me either.  The way the system is written it is fairly easy to house rule stuff using the core mechanics.  It's your game if you don't like something, change it.  A friend and I have been doing this for years (in multiple systems) and we have found that there is usually a way to house rule stuff by using the core rule concepts rather than inventing new mechanics.           

Offline NicholasHMCaldwell

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2017, 01:51:07 AM »
1) Armor as DB is easier. There have been various alternate combat systems worked on over the years, typically to get the richness of Rolemaster criticals into HARP. None have yet won out.

2) There has to be some restraint on magic.

3) Scaling Bolts is now +2 PP per Size increase so that changes the numbers. There are also the Enhancement (reduce scaling to -5 per 2 PP of scaling on a single spell) and the Potency (increase attack size of one spell without scaling) talents from College of Magics.

Best wishes,
Nicholas
Dr Nicholas HM Caldwell
Director, Iron Crown Enterprises Ltd
Publisher of Rolemaster, Spacemaster, Shadow World, Cyradon, HARP & HARP SF, and Cyberspace, with products available from www.rpgnow.com
Author: Mentalism Companion, GURPS Age of Napoleon, Construct Companion, College of Magics, HARP SF/HARP SF Xtreme

Offline Tywyll

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2017, 03:38:43 AM »
Of course there needs to be some restraint on magic. However, there are many different options and this one just happens to be the clunkiest dndism. Needing material components, or foci, or extra time, or... Any number of things could be useful limitations on spells. And you could mix it up by magic type as well to create flavor.

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Offline Tywyll

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2017, 05:49:20 AM »
I get that the Armor as DB thing is used in D&D and other systems. However, for the most part, those systems have abstract combat rules, not gritty and 'realistic' ones like RM/Harp. I think that's why it's so...meh to me. But, I'll be honest, it's not the end of the world.

I don't have the Cyradon book. What did they do differently for magic styles?

Offline trechriron

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2017, 12:23:04 PM »
...Needing material components, or foci, or extra time, or... Any number of things could be useful limitations on spells. And you could mix it up by magic type as well to create flavor.

If you opt to, you can require a focus in your spellcasting. You get a +5 bonus with it, but a -5 without it. This option is available for all spellcasters. You can create magic items that help scale (maybe one that gives the talent while being worn?). College of Magics has many various spellcasting styles; low magic, spell magic, high magic, sorcery... Have you reviewed this supplement? It's very well done, it's the key thing that keeps bringing me back to HARP.
Trentin C Bergeron (TreChriron)
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Offline Random

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2017, 04:14:29 PM »
I don't have the Cyradon book. What did they do differently for magic styles?

Technically they were called Traditions.  The descriptions were mostly narrative with a small rules amendment.  There were 2 traditions that traded a lower chance of your casting being detected for a longer casting time.  2 that required components, one the lowers the cost of scaling options by half but adds a 1PP cost to all spells and quite a few that require some sort of focus. (Weapon, staff, want etc.)

In your situation maybe something like -1 to the PP armour penalty but spells might take longer to cast or the armour might have to be attuned to the wearer, blessed or maybe the have to make it themselves  (the key would be to have this take some time, a month sounds about right) or something like that.

Offline craig

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2017, 12:40:57 AM »
I have a few house rules to deal with spell scaling and armor issues, all based around the idea that the more experienced you become, the less the limitations affect you.

First, I have two skills called "Armored Casting" and "Spell Scaling".  Both Mystical Arts SD+In.  They work like a hybrid of the Blindfighting and Ambush or Sniping skills in that they a) reduce a penalty but b) their effect is based on the number of skill ranks rather than the total skill bonus.

Armored Casting reduces the casting penalty for wearing armor by 1PP for every 7.5 ranks (round down) in the skill.  -1 at 7 ranks, -2 at 15, -3 at 22, -4 at 30 ranks, etc.  This can, at most, reduce a casting penalty to 0, it can never provide a bonus.  Why 7.5 rather than 5 or 10?  5 is far too cheap, 10 is a little too expensive.

Paladins from Harpers Bazaar can also develop this skill and it stacks with their casting penalty reduction - e.g. at 4th level, they automatically reduce the CP by 1 just for being a Paladin AND they can have a maximum of 15 ranks in this skill, reducing the CP by another 2. (a minor house rule I have is that the Paladin ability can also reduce the CP to a minimum of 0 rather than a minimum of 1).

Spell Scaling reduces the casting penalty for scaling any spell by 5 for every 5 ranks.  This only reduces casting penalties from scaling spells, not from any other source and, at best, can reduce the penalty to 0.  It can never provide a casting bonus.

I experimented with requiring a maneuver roll to activate these but found that it wasn't worth the bother, it just slowed down the game.  Anyone with a low skill bonus is only going to get a minor benefit (enough to, e.g., reduce the casting penalty for soft leather to 1 or 0 PP, which they can mostly achieve with armor by the piece anyway), and those with high skills are almost always going to succeed.

I also tried Spell Scaling as reducing the scaling penalty by 1 per rank, but I preferred the punctuated equilibrium effect of 5 per 5 ranks.  Gives players something to aim for.

Second, I have a house rule that the better you are at a spell, the faster you can cast it.   Practice makes perfect.  For every 5 full ranks you have in a spell, you can cast up to an extra 1 PP worth of that spell (and ONLY that spell) per round.  So if you have 6 ranks in the Light spell (the base PP) you can cast it in 1 round, and 6 ranks of, e.g., Elemental Bolt (Fire) lets you cast it scaled up 1 size level (base 4 PP, +2 PP scaling) in 1 round.  If you have 10 ranks in Major Healing or whatever, you can cast up to 7 PP of that spell incl. scaling in 1 round.  8, 9, or 10 PP worth of scaling would still take 2 rounds.   If you have 15 ranks in a spell, you can cast up to 8 PP of that spell per round, 9-15 PP takes 2 rounds (because at 8 PP/round you can cast up to 16 PP in two rounds).

BTW, I don't see this as "unbalancing" because IMO balance in HARP comes from the fact that everything you choose to improve comes with the opportunity cost of not improving other things.  If a caster wants to spend 30 DP over four or more levels to get 15 ranks of Armored Casting in order to reduce their armor Casting Penalty by 2 so they can wear soft leather without penalty, that's fine.  That's 30 DP worth of spells (e.g. 15 ranks of Mage Armor or Tree Skin) they haven't developed.  That's 3/4 of the Eloquence talent.  That's an additional Sphere they could have learned instead.   Similarly, if they want to be better at scaling spells in general, it costs DP that they could otherwise spend on gaining more spells or improving the ones they have.

Note: I am using the old HARP rules and supplements from a decade ago.  One of these days (after the upcoming Bestiary and Something Wicked are published) I'll probably get the new versions but there doesn't seem to be any compelling reason to do so.  And from what I've read, there are no major changes in the current version that would be incompatible with the above house rules.

Offline Midarc

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2017, 08:39:31 PM »
Find myself considering harps problems, but specifically the combat.

I'm about to start a harp game with my group.
We were originally RM players from 2nd edition through to  RMFRP as the new editions released.
Eventually system fatigue set in and, as time became more of a premium commodity in our lives, we gravitated to simpler, swifter systems.
Unfortunately the price paid for entry to those was a diminished sense of satisfaction over time.

It's been quite a while since we've played an I.c.e game
We're hoping harp gives us the happy compromise.

On reading the rules I'm having to admit to a certain degree of misgiving regarding the combat.
Everything else seems great, but the combat seems a little off.
I'm willing to accept it may be a grognard like reaction to seeing something so familiar being slightly (shudder) different, but I'm concerned enough about the combat to already be trying to find a place selling hack and slash and lurking here for options an house rules I can crib.

There's good in the combat though, especially from the martial book.
I absolutely love the locational hit system and would be loathe to lose that.
Similarly the idea of combat actions gated by a characters skill in a weapon is excellent.
The fighter types have a lot of actions to choose from in that book.

 I think the thing that gets to me is having the entire concussion output tied to what is also effectively the critical roll.
 this may be the reason I've noticed some discussion regarding scaling (my comprehension of the system is far from complete at this time).
Power attack was what brought this to my attention.
-20 for a plus 10 cap.
A more inaccurate strike for more concussion but a less precise critical makes sense to me, but unless you roll maximum hit, all this option does is ensure a weaker strike overall.
Of course, if I've gotten the wrong end of the stick here, I'd appreciate being corrected.

Anyway, I find myself wondering if a base damage number may be an option.
Each weapon doing a set amount of hits in addition to whatever the crit/combat resolution states.
The benefits would be the ability to weight weapons in a way that compliments base adjustments to ob/accuracy while also offering a number from which to modify concussion damage outside of improving the critical inflicted
On topic example: Power attack instead multiplying the base damage or increasing it by the characters str(or ag for ranged, or re for magic)
Disadvantages would be potentially upsetting the balance of endurance points across far too wide a range of books (using armour conc reduction option might help, but probably not enough of a mitigating factor)
The biggest though would be taking on a massive house rule project for a system that was picked out for its speed of use and elegance of rules.

...maybe I was right about that grognard thing.

Offline Bruce

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2017, 05:09:39 PM »
Interesting. I have players that use both bolt and ball spells to different effect. It all seems to work out ok, though it might be because of the 2pp scaling option that Nicholas mentioned.
As far as HARP combat. I noticed that as did my players. The thing I noticed more so and that irked me even more so is the fact that all weapon sizes use the same single column chart. Even with the modifiers for weapon sizes, the smaller the weapon the more often you are going to hit the max number and get the same critical over and over again. It seemed unbalanced to me and I do love the RM combat system way better even though combat in RM can be extra lengthy.
So I took it upon myself to create my own combat system. I call it the HARP alternate combat system. The second pinned post is for the HARP alternate combat system NDA of which you must agree to to get access to the files. This system is a slow work in progress and will eventually include rules for armor that does not add to DB. I am currently working on a revision that includes it's own crit charts instead of using the RM crit charts. My system uses a separate column for each attack size and all columns have a base max of 120 but go up to 150 (for breaking the 120 on openended rolls along with wrap around rules), giving a more balanced damage output for the attack sizes. My group likes this system way better than the original HARP combat system and the alternate combat charts included with Martial Law.
It is not as simple as the HARP combat system but gives better balanced results in relation to attack rolls and weapon sizes.
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Offline Witchking20k

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Re: Problems with the HARP
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2017, 06:49:25 PM »
I apply the Armour DB after the attack roll so that it reduces damage but does not stop you from being hit.  Yes there is more often than not no difference...except that it make more sense in my mind.  As a side note the DB should really be calculated as 40 or 50+your QUx2 too.
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