Character Creation in HARP SF

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2006

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"The difference is in the details."

The extended manuscript for HARP SF (no, a final name has still not been decided) was formally handed over to ICE last month. In addition, I've asked Allen Maher, who has been responsible for producing Open Office character creation spreadsheets for HARP, if he would like to create a suitable spreadsheet for HARP SF. It occurred to me that this might be an opportune moment to look at how characters are created in HARP SF, by way of a preview of the final product.

For biological characters (as opposed to electronic characters, e.g. robots and AIs), the process is identical in method to that used in HARP Fantasy. The difference is in the details.

In Step One, players choose the starting profession for their hero. The available professions are: Adept (the psionic experts), Dilettante (generalists), Entertainer (the artists), Merchant (the influencers), Pilot, Researcher (scientists and academics), Scout (explorers), Soldier, Spy (rogues of every stripe), and Tech (gadgeteers). HARP SF professions provide favored categories and professional abilities -- the difference is that characters are allowed to choose their professional abilities from a set, so a Pilot selects one of Instinctive Evasion, Lightning Reflexes, Natural Astronaut, or Natural Gunner, rather than all Pilots having the same professional ability.

In Step Two, players generate the statistics of their characters, exactly as they do in HARP Fantasy. The difference is that HARP SF characters do gain fractional Development for stats below 51, so the completely average Joe Spacer with stats of 50 across the board won't be stuck with zero Development Points and no way of increasing them. An optional rule of random stat gains is also included for System Operators (HARP SF's GMs) who wish to prevent characters spending Development Points to increase stats at higher levels thus gaining more Development Points.

In Step Three, players choose the species of their character. They can choose from Human, Gorsiva (an advanced race of short avian humanoids who can glide), Krakur (amphibious hexapods with an insatiable curiosity), Madji (clannish herbivores who hail from worlds orbiting red dwarf suns), Runcori (strange motile plant-like beings), or Triceran (warm-blooded reptilian bipeds from a cold world) . Some SysOps may allow characters to be Silth, normally the "enemy" alien race of the Tintamar universe as they are militaristic xenophobes bent on galactic domination. In HARP Fantasy, characters may have Greater or Lesser Blood Talents, allowing for half-Elves, half-Dwarves, quarter-Gnomes, etc. In HARP SF, characters may be genetically adapted for life in environments other than their species' original homeworld. Players may elect to take the Genetic Adaptation Talent once or twice, swapping out one or two of the character's standard species abilities in favor of new abilities. Alternatively characters can keep their normal species abilities and buy the genetically engineered capabilities as a standard Talent.

Players must also select a defining culture -- this can be Aristocratic, Belter, Corporate, Cosmopolitan, Exotic, Frontier, Militaristic, Religious, or Scientific -- and these provide adolescent skill ranks. A noble will learn different skills to a commoner in an Aristocratic society; likewise an ordinary employee will have a different upbringing to a member of a magnate family in a Corporate world. The rules support this by providing alternate skill sets for Aristocratic and Corporate characters.

In Step Four, players spend Development Points on Skills and Talents just as normal. In HARP SF, the Mystical category is omitted in standard sf settings, but three new categories, namely Scientific, Technical and Vehicular, are added in. Existing categories gain extra skills, such as Audiovisual Recording in Artistic, Zero-G Maneuvering in Athletic, Gunnery in Combat, the cyber and psi skills in Concentration, Computer Operation in General, and Forensics in Subterfuge, among others. There are also many more Talents in HARP SF.

Steps Five (Equipment) and Steps Six (Final Touches) are much as in HARP Fantasy -- although the available equipment is very different.

As a sneak preview of actual content, here then is the Belter culture.


Belters (sometimes called Spacers) belong to technologically advanced cultures who have chosen to make their homes on airless moons and asteroids. The archetypal Belter is a spacefaring prospector who mines metals and other resources from asteroids and comets for months at a time, and then spends his gains in a drunken debauch lasting days on one of the major asteroids. Space is both the Belters' home and their implacable enemy. Habitation domes can be breached by meteor strikes, air recyclers can break down threatening death by suffocation, radiation from solar storms can bring slow doom to insufficiently shielded habitats, and so on. Belter communities rely on their technology and are extremely safety conscious. When an accident can endanger the lives of everyone, Belters are intolerant of ignorance and harsh with anyone who commits malicious damage.

Preferred Locations: Belter societies are found on orbital habitats and on (and beneath) the surfaces of moons and asteroids.

Clothing & Decoration: Belter clothing favors hard-wearing synthetic materials and functionality over aesthetics. Many Belters wear skintight "semisuits" at all times. In an emergency, the Belter can grab the nearest oxygen helmet and join it with the suit's neck seal, giving him a temporary spacesuit. A full-blown spacesuit is the most valued possession of any true Belter -- indeed for some, it is their only real home.

Demeanor: Belters are rugged individualists, yet have a genuine respect for the welfare of their communities. They are cautiously bold -- they assess the risks, weigh up the potential gains, and then act decisively. Belters can be contemptuous of the citizens of normal planets, believing them to be "soft" and a danger to everyone around them in space. As the rock rats say, "Groundhogs should stick to the ground".

Starting Languages: Racial Tongue (S 6/W 6), other racial language (S 4/W 3)

Skill Belter
Appraisal 1
Armor 2
Artistic Skills 0
Climbing 1
Computer Operation 2
Crafts 0
Driving 0
Endurance 1
First Aid 1
Influence Skills 0
Jumping 0
Mental Focus 0
Mundane Lore: Own Culture 1
Mundane Lore: Cosmography 1
Mundane Lore: Geography 0
Outdoor Skills 0
Perception 1
Scientific Skills 2
Sports 0
Stalking & Hiding 0
Streetwise 0
Swimming 0
Technical Skills 2
Vocation 1
Weapon Skills 1
Zero-G Maneuvering 3