It was the Poetic Map of Harn, itself printed on the back of HarnPlayer, that did it. HarnPlayer is the overview of the World of Harn that covers what any native of that place might well know – a useful tome for any potential player in a Harn campaign. But it was the map, alongside the freely available big map of Harn itself, that did it. I decided I would like to explore this realm in play. I decided I should like to do that using GURPS.
Of course, intrepid and exciteable though I am, choosing to play in Harn came with two immediate barriers: firstly, I was intimidated by the accumulation of lore written and published over the years since 1983; secondly, I was going to have to adapt a whole world to GURPS and I’ve never done such a thing before. Still, I have been well-prepared.
On the first, I decided that I would not be bound by the canon of lore. Yes, I am going to access it (I own LOTS of the material and subscribe to HarnQuest) and utilise it but – and this is a nuance that seems to escape some gamers – I will not be bound by it.
Webster’s Harn is my own take on the world and, as playing RuneQuest and Traveller taught me, “my Harn may vary”. In fact, I know it will. This frees me to explore where and what I will from the published materials. It allows me to fall back on them if I get stuck. But it also lets me add in whatever I want. I believe that is the way it is meant to be, if I might be so bold.
GURPS In Harn
I have no doubt that others have trodden this path before me. What I mean is that someone out there has their own GURPS-powered Harn campaign. I haven’t looked. Deliberately.
I am learning to play GURPS. More than that, I am learning to Referee GURPS – to be the Game Master, as some would have it. Thus, I need to tread this path for myself. To begin, I intend to follow the steps laid out in “How To Be a GURPS GM” plus the wondrous advice given in “Adaptations” and the two “Template Tookit” booklets.
I am incredibly lucky in that I already have interested players. To begin, I have posted three questions (by way of digitally doing “session zero”) in the RPR Discord. I call these my “Questions of Character”.
Questions of Character
Do you want to come play in Webster’s Harn? Three questions to answer:
- In general, what kind of role would you like you play in a low-medium fantasy medieval realm? Do you like strong, agile, smart, or tough? Would you play a simple peasant-turned-mercenary, a clever city thief, an inquisitive seeker of arcane knowledge, or a knight seeking favour and a fief? Or something else?
- When it comes to building your character you will have three choices: a) you can roll your character’s attributes and background + occupation randomly then have a few points to customise; b) you can use a combo of a background + occupation template but with less wiggle room; or c) you can give the Referee (me) a broad concept and have me build it for you. Which of those three do you think you will choose?
- Given that you will need to form an adventuring party, what kinds of activities would you most enjoy? Are you an explorer of the wilds, a plunderer of ancient tombs, a defender of the simple folk, a seeker of power and influence, or something else? What would you like your character to achieve in the medium-long term? One broad goal is enough.
Question 2 is interesting to me: I want to know if players prefer to use points-buy – the default GURPS approach – or if they would prefer a randomised approach. Many “old-school” players have told me, over the years, that discovering your character through the throw of dice is something they prefer. I wish to accomodate both approaches… and leave space for the player who dislikes character creation too. Hence the three choices.
The other questions are going to frame the game from the player’s perspective. From all of this, I will be able to go and put my own interests into the mix and propose a starting adventure.
Jazz Band Adventuring
Which brings up a related thought: I intend to run this game as a series of connected but distinct adventures to allow players to come and go. All I am asking is commitment to the first short adventure of up to 3 sessions. Future adventures may be longer or shorter, but the idea will be to allow players to come and go.
There will always be six seats at the (digital) table, first come. Players signed up for an adventure will (hopefully) play through until that adventure ends. When we begin the next adventure, the players and the party can change. I believe that Rick Stump calls this, “jazz band adventuring”.
Jazz band adventuring offers space not only for varying players but also for a single player to have more than one character – they simply choose which character is active in the next adventure. This flexibility will, I hope, feed the longevity of Webster’s Harn.
An idea that came to me while reading your three questions is to have the party take care of something that’s perhaps marauding their village. A necessary encounter. However, maybe word spreads to the next village or the one beyond. They’re having a similar problem and the party has been asked to travel there and take care of it for them.
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Nice thought. Admittedly one I have been considering, but thanks nonetheless.
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Many years ago I ran a short TFT on Harn campaign. I posted some info on the The Fantasy Trip Facebook group’s files section.