HARP without professions

Copyright Jörg Jahnke © 2009

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"Unless we want to lose the ability for characters to specialize and excel in some areas, there needs to be some other way of defining these areas where a character can outperform other characters"

Introduction

Like its ancestor, Rolemaster, the HARP system uses professions for representing such archetypes as a fighter or magician. For more flexibility, and also for enabling characters to change their career path during their adventuring life, it also allows for adding more professions to a character so that a PC might be part Fighter, part Thief etc.

But we might add even more flexibility. Why does the character have to have a profession at all? Isn't a profession an artificial restriction that we can get rid of? The rules presented in the following sections try to do exactly this, getting rid of professions for the HARP system without losing any benefits.

Please note that this added flexibility comes at the price of a bit more work during character creation because certain choices that the designers of the HARP professions have made now need to be made by the player. This also means that this system is meant for the advanced player and not for the HARP beginner.

What is defined by a profession?

Except for a description of the profession, where a player can get an impression what kind of character can typically be built with the given profession, and the key stats, which give a hint for what stats typically are important for members of a given profession, a profession defines the following characteristics for a character:

- Skill costs: Each profession has a set of Favored Categories whose skills can be developed at a cost of 2 DPs per level while other categories cost 4 DPs per rank.

- Initial skill ranks at character creation. Each profession gets 20 skill ranks in his favored categories.

- Professional abilities: This may be access to certain spells, Talents a character gains or category bonuses.

Unless we want to lose the ability for characters to specialize and excel in some areas, there needs to be some other way of defining these areas where a character can outperform other characters.

Stats defining favored categories

In this system the character's stats define what he can learn easily and where he will have difficulties. So a character with a high Reasoning stat will have lower costs for lore skills, and have an easier time learning such skills than a character with low Reasoning. Likewise a character with high Agility stat will more easily get access to Subterfuge skills than a character with low Agility. For each of the skill categories in HARP a Key Stat gets defined. If that Key Stat is below 60, then the cost for skill ranks in the category is 4 DPs. If the stat is 60 or above but below 90, then the cost may be lowered to 3 DPs. And finally if the stat is 90 or higher the cost is allowed to get down to 2 DPs, making it a Favored Category.

Table 1.1 Stat values and DP costs
Stat value Minimum DP cost
<60 4
>=60 and <90 3
>=90 2

The following table lists all skill categories and the corresponding Key Stat:

Table 1.2 Key Stats for the skill categories
Category Key Stat
Artistic Pr
Athletic Ag
Combat St
Concentration SD
General Re
Influence Pr
Mystical Arts In
Outdoor In
Physical St
Subterfuge Ag

At the same time the following restriction applies: The sum of the DP costs of all categories must not be lower than 30. If the sum of the costs derived from the above table and the corresponding stat values are lower than this value then the player must increase the costs for some categories as he sees fit until the sum of the costs is 30.

Example: For the character Luc the player uses Option Two for stat generation from the HARP rulebook and distributes the 550 points among Luc's stats as follows: St 90, Ag 90, Co 80, Qu 70, Re 60, SD 60, In 60, Pr 40. Using the table above we get the following minimum DP costs for Luc: Artistic (4), Athletic (2), Combat (2), Concentration (3), General (3), Influence (4), Mystical Arts (3), Outdoor (3), Physical (2), Subterfuge (2). Summing up the DP costs of all these categories results in a value of 4+2+2+3+3+4+3+3+2+2 = 28. This is two points below 30, so Luc's player decides to increase the cost of the Concentration category from 3 to 4 DPs and the cost of the Subterfuge category from 2 to 3 DPs. This brings the total up to 30. The player then notes the generated costs on the character sheet for Luc.

His costs are now as follows: Artistic (4), Athletic (2), Combat (2), Concentration (4), General (3), Influence (4), Mystical Arts (3), Outdoor (3), Physical (2), Subterfuge (3).

Selecting Professional Talents

Each of the current HARP professions has a unique set of special abilities. To enable something similar with the profession-less system, each character gets 40 points to select from the Professional Talents listed below. Points not spent on these Talents may be used for normal Talents from the HARP rulebooks during character creation. At level two or higher characters may spend DPs to select additional Professional Talents.

Jack-of-all-trades (Lesser)

The character can easily pick up a variety of skills. The sum of the DP costs of all categories can be as low as 28 instead of the usual 30. All stat restrictions still apply. If the stats don't allow for lowering DP costs the level this Talent is selected then it still allows for lowering the costs at a later level when the stats have reached the necessary values.

Cost: 10

Jack-of-all-trades (Greater)

The character can easily pick up a variety of skills. The sum of the DP costs of all categories can be as low as 26 instead of the usual 30. All stat restrictions still apply. If the stats don't allow for lowering DP costs the level this Talent is selected then it still allows for lowering the costs at a later level when the stats have reached the necessary values.

Cost: 20

Example: The example character Luc should have cheap access to a few more skills. So his player decides to pick the Jack-of-all-trades (Greater) Talent. This allows him to lower the DP costs of four skill categories by 1, two categories by 2 or another combination that reduces the DP costs of the existing categories by 4 points. Luc's player decides to again lower the costs of the Subterfuge category to two, where he had to increase the costs beforehand. He might even lower the costs of another category, but the Concentration category, where the stats would allow him to lower the costs, is not so attractive for what the player has in mind for Luc. So he saves the other points for later lowering the cost of categories, when the stats might have increased.

His costs are then as follows: Artistic (4), Athletic (2), Combat (2), Concentration (4), General (3), Influence (4), Mystical Arts (3), Outdoor (3), Physical (2), Subterfuge (2), for a sum of 29 across all skill categories. This leaves Luc three categories that can be lowered at later levels.

Specialized Professional Bonus

Beginning at first level and then every fifth level thereafter (5th, 10th etc.) the character gets a +10 bonus to one skill in a Favored Category (the character must select this category when choosing this Talent). No skill can have a bonus greater than +30 from this ability. Spells may not receive this special bonus.

This Talent may be selected multiple times for different Favored Categories but when doing so the player needs to track which category is being improved per level. It is probably best to do this tracking the same way you would track the advancement of a new level for a profession.

Example: Firgon is a combat-oriented character and the player selects the Specialized Professional Bonus Talent for Firgon to increase skills from the Combat category every five levels. At first level Firgon gets a +10 bonus to one skill from the Combat category. At level four the player decides that Firgon should also be a skilled outdoorsman and selects the Specialized Professional Bonus Talent a second time to get a bonus to Outdoor skills. He gets the +10 bonus in one skill from the Outdoor category. Upon fifth level and every level thereafter the player has to decide whether the character is to make progress in the Combat category for his specialized bonus or in the Outdoor category. Firgon's player decides that in level five and six Firgon should advance in his Combat abilities. So upon 6th level Firgon has advanced in these skills for five levels (1, 2, 3, 5 and 6) and gets another +10 bonus to one Combat skill.

Cost: 20

Generalized Professional Bonus

Beginning at first level and then every third level thereafter (3rd, 6th etc.) the character gets a +5 bonus to one skill in a skill category that has no higher DP cost than 3. No skill can have a bonus greater than +25 from this ability. Spells may not receive this special bonus.

When combining this Talent with the Specialized Professional Bonus Talent the player needs to track whether he is advancing in his Specialized Professional Bonus (and which if multiple categories have been selected) or the Generalized Professional Bonus.

Cost: 20

Specialized Arcane Power

The character may learn spells from a single selected sphere of magic. When choosing the Cleric sphere the character has to define 20 spells he may learn. This Talent may be selected multiple times for different spheres of magic but the character may only learn from one selected sphere when gaining a new level. The cost for developing spells in the sphere of magic is the same as the cost for developing a skill in the Mystical Arts category.

Cost: 20

Example: Marian is to be a sorceress-like character. Her player decides she should have access to the Mage sphere and selects the Specialized Arcane Power Talent to get access to this sphere.

Monk Attacks and Defense

The character has the ability to attack multiple foes and perform multiple attacks as defined for the Monk profession in the HARP rulebook. Additionally, beginning at first level and every third level thereafter (3rd, 6th etc.) the cost for using Chi Defense is reduced by 5 points (to a minimum of zero). Finally Martial Arts attacks by this character are Medium Attacks instead of Small Attacks.

Cost: 20

Initial skill ranks

During character creation 20 skill ranks now get distributed among up to 6 skill categories. For determining the initial skill ranks we start with the Favored Categories, which have a cost of 2 DP per skill rank. Each of these categories gets assigned a number of ranks as defined in table 1.3. If this would result in more than 20 skill ranks then the number of ranks may be reduced as the player wishes until 20 ranks are reached.

Once the Favored Categories have been assigned initial skill ranks and we have not yet reached 20 skill ranks, we proceed with the categories that have a DP cost of 3 and also assign a number of ranks as indicated by table 1.3. If we then have less than 20 ranks assigned we first increase the categories with a DP cost of 3 to the maximum allowed from table 1.3. Only if then we need more initial skill ranks do we proceed with the categories that have a cost of 4 DPs.

Table 1.3 Initial skill ranks
DP cost Initial number of ranks
2 6
3 2-4
4 0-2

Example: For determining Luc's initial skill rank the player starts with Luc's favored categories first. These are the Athletic, Combat, Physical and Subterfuge category. 6 ranks have to be assigned to each of these categories. Since this would result in more than 20 ranks his player decides that Luc should get 6 ranks in Combat and Physical skills and 4 ranks in Athletic and Subterfuge skills.

Therefore he has the following initial skill ranks: Athletic (4), Combat (6), Physical (6) and Subterfuge (4), for a total of 20 ranks.

Effects of improving stats at later levels

HARP allows for increasing stats at later levels. Doing so now has an effect on the DP costs of the categories affected by the increased stats (see table 1.2). Whenever a stat value is increased to 60 or 90, the player may consult the table 1.2 to check which categories are affected by the stat. If the stat is a Key Stat for one or more skill categories, then the DP costs for the affected categories may be lowered as given in table 1.1, as long as the sum of the character's DP costs is still above the allowed minimum (usually 30 unless one of the Jack-of-all-trades Talents was selected).

Example: Starting with level seven Luc's In stat has increased to 90. This allows the costs of the Mystical Arts and the Outdoor category to be lowered from 3 to 2 DPs. Since the sum of Luc's DP costs across all skill categories is 29 at the moment and due to his Jack-of-all-trades (Greater) Talent he might have a sum as low as 26, Luc might reduce both skill categories. Because he does not plan to invest much in Outdoor skills at the moment and he would like to maintain some flexibility at later levels, Luc's player decides to reduce only the costs for the Mystical Arts category from 3 to 2 DPs.

His costs are as follows after this change: Artistic (4), Athletic (2), Combat (2), Concentration (4), General (3), Influence (4), Mystical Arts (2), Outdoor (3), Physical (2), Subterfuge (2), for a sum of 28 across all skill categories. This leaves Luc two categories that can be lowered at later levels.

Since the Mystical Arts category is now a Favored Category for Luc, with only a cost of 2 DPs per rank for a skill, Luc would like to learn some spells. For his character, which already has some skill with weapons, he decides to pick the Specialized Arcane Power Talent and get access to the Warrior Mage's sphere. This costs him 20 DPs.

Abbreviations

DP - Development Point

PC - Player character