Harp SF

Author Topic: Problems with the HARP  (Read 142 times)

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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.

Regards,
-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.

 

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