10 Second Rounds for HARP

Copyright Jörg Jahnke © 2011

Edited by Aaron Smalley for The Guild Companion

"And he also does not yet get the DB bonus from the Blur spell since that spell is not yet finished. Let's hope he survives the orc's first attack..."


The HARP system uses very short 2 second combat rounds. While this avoids a combat round potentially being cramped with two or more short actions – and the resulting confusion concerning which actions take place at which time in the round – it also has its drawbacks:

With such short combat rounds a combat is in most cases finished within about 10 seconds, which in itself seems quite strange. But it also leaves the GM little leeway for bringing in new characters in the course of the combat that the PCs were not aware of, if e.g. combat goes awry after a few (un)lucky rolls. Adding new opponents during a combat encounter to make combat more challenging, if it turns out the combat would otherwise be too easy. Or having NPCs appear that would aid the party, if the encounter was too hard, may look quite illogical to the players since when these new combatants appear more or less out of nowhere only some seconds after the combat started.

The following 10-second combat system for HARP changes the combat round to 10 seconds to mitigate the problems listed above. At the same time it tries to avoid the drawback of overly complicated combat rounds if more than one action is executed by a character in one round.

Of course this again means that it is necessary to consider an attack action rather as a series of individual strikes than as a single strike. But let’s be honest, this is even necessary for 2-second combat rounds, depending on the type of attack. An unarmed or dagger attack often takes much less than 2 seconds, for 10 second rounds it is just more obvious...

Converting the actions

In order to prolong the in-game time of combat encounters, an action that took one 2 second rounds in the old action system will now take one 10 second round in the new system. This equals 100% activity. Of course there are some exceptions to this, e.g. drawing a weapon does not take a full round, movement takes the same time per 10'. The following table lists the typical actions along with their new duration:

Action Activity
Melee 60-100%
Missile Attack 30-60%
Cast a normal[1] spell (per PP in spell) 20%
Cast an instantaneous spell[2] 10%
Perception roll 20-60%
Move base movement rate (x pace) 20%
Reload a missile weapon varies
Draw or drop a weapon 20%
Change weapons 50%
Rapid dismount 20%
Controlled drop to the ground 20%
Activate Chi Defense or make another Chi maneuver, e.g. Chi Speed 20%
Stand up (from a prone position) 20%
Climb (half movement rate) 20%
Take a prepared herb (stored in bandoleer) 20%
Mount riding animal 20%
Search 10' sq. area[3] 100%
Pick Lock or Disarm Trap (per difficulty rating) 100%
Parry a missile attack 50%
Combat perception (-50 to roll)[4] 0%

Some actions list a span instead of a fixed number or otherwise need some more explanation:

- A melee attack uses 100% activity. This can be reduced down to 60% activity, but every 1% of activity less than 100% results in -1 to the OB.

- A missile attack uses 60% activity. This can be reduced down to 30% activity, but every 1% of activity less than 60% results in -1 to the OB.

- Casting a spell takes 20% activity for every PP put into the spell. This time can be reduced (to a minimum of 20% per PP necessary to cast the base form of the spell), but for every round (or portion thereof) less casting time, the caster takes a penalty of -10 to his casting roll [5]. Furthermore reducing the casting time increases the danger of fumbles, as outlined in the HARP core rules.

- A perception roll requires 60% activity. This can be reduced down to 20% activity, but every 1% of activity less than 60% results in -1 to the roll.

- The duration for reloading a missile weapon depends on the type of weapon:

- Sling: 50%

- Short Bow: 50%

- Composite Bow: 60%

- Long Bow: 70%

- Light Crossbow: 150%

- Heavy Crossbow: 300%

Multiple actions in a round

As long as only one action is executed in a round, things are pretty straightforward. The initiative gets determined and all actions are executed in the order of the characters' initiative rolls. But a character may want to e.g. draw a weapon and parry in a given round, or make a perception roll and fire a missile. This is possible using the following rules:

- No more than 3 actions are allowed in a given round. Remaining activity may be used for movement at the end of the round.

- A character's first action uses the normal initiative that the character has rolled. Initiative for subsequent actions gets reduced by -2 for every full 10% of activity that were already used.

- No more than one normal spell plus one instantaneous spell may be cast per round.

- Parrying an attack is only allowed if the current[6] or next action of the character is melee or missile parry.

Example 1:

Jason runs around the corner of a dungeon and is suddenly facing an orc with his scimitar in hands. In round 1 Jason wants to draw his weapon (20% activity) and melee (the remaining 80%) to parry the orc's attack. The orc wants to do an outright attack to take advantage of the fact that Jason does not yet have his weapon ready.
The initiative roll for Jason is 23, the initiative roll for the orc is 20. With the highest initiative of 23 Jason starts with his first action and draws his weapon. Since this takes 20% activity, the initiative for his next action is reduced by 4 (-2 per 10% used) to a value of 19. Therefore the orc is next with his initiative of 20. Because Jason now has a weapon in his hands and his next action is melee he can use the amount of OB dedicated to parry to increase his DB. The orc rolls and misses.
Had the orc had the better initiative roll, then Jason could not have parried.

Example 2:

This time Jason is better prepared and has his weapon drawn when encountering another orc. To improve his defense for the combat, he wants to cast a Blur spell (3 PP => 60% activity, reduced to 40% activity with -10 to his casting roll) and then melee (the remaining 60%) parrying the remainder of his OB. The orc wants to melee (100%) activity and parries 40 of his OB.
Jason's initiative roll is a 22 but the orc is better with his initiative of 24. Because Jason's next action is casting a spell and not melee, he does not get a bonus to his DB from parrying. And he also does not yet get the DB bonus from the Blur spell since that spell is not yet finished. Let's hope he survives the orc's first attack...
Please note that had Jason tried to cast a Bladeturn spell, which is an instantaneous spell, this spell would not have hindered parrying since instantaneous spells do not count as a separate action. Thus, even with the orc attack at an initiative of 24, his next action would have been melee (we ignore the Bladeturn spell here, since it is instantaneous) and he would have been allowed to parry.

Example 3: Gyr the mage sees a band of goblins that are running towards a group of farmers. It is only two more rounds before they will have reached the poor souls and would attack them. The Elemental Ball he wants to cast to wound the goblins costs 6 PP in its base form. But he wants to scale up the potency to a Medium ball in order to do more damage. Furthermore he needs to increase the radius, so that he can hit all goblins with one attack. This increases the total PP necessary to cast the spell to 13 PP, which would require 260% activity i.e. 2 full rounds and 60% of a third one. Since by then the goblins would already have reached the farmers, he decides to take -6 penalty to his casting to use exactly 200% activity for the spell, which equals two rounds (-10 to the casting and 160% activity if using the variant of reducing only full casting rounds). If the goblins were a bit closer and would only require one round to be upon the farmers, then Gyr would have no chance to attack them in time, because an Elemental Ball requires 6 PP in its base form, which translates into 120% activity as time to cast the spell. He might take a -14 penalty to reduce the casting time down to this minimum penalty (or -20 if using the variant of reducing only full casting rounds) but he cannot reduce the casting time below this 120% activity.

Other system changes

Spell Durations

All spells that have their duration listed in rounds per rank will last the same number of rounds per rank in the 10-second combat system as in the 2-second combat system. This effectively increases the in-game duration of most spells by a factor of five. The same increase of duration should also be applied to spells that have their duration in minutes per rank or hours per rank. E.g. a spell like Divine Hammer, which in the 2-second combat system has a duration of 1 minute / rank, will have a duration of 5 minutes / rank in the 10-second combat system.

Combat Actions changes


The OB bonus when charging is only +2 for every 5' of movement. Also the minimum distance for a charge is now 25' and the maximum bonus is +20.

Missile parry

The normal HARP rules allow a missile weapon to be fired only once every three rounds or, if a character has the Speed Loader talent, once every other round. With the rules above, a missile weapon may be fired every round, if at a penalty. To offset this advantage a bit, parrying missiles becomes a bit easier when using the 10-second combat action round rules. Parrying a missile attack requires 50% activity in a round and enables the combatant who is parrying to add half of his OB to his DB vs. one missile attack when using a shield to parry the missile. With the Missile Deflection talent from Martial Law the full OB may be added to the DB.

Move & Attack

This combat action is no longer used in the 10-second combat system. When wanting to move and attack in the same round, then use two actions, one for movement and one for the attack. For every 10' (or portion thereof) of movement the OB gets reduced by 10.

Reload Weapon Spell

When using these rules then the Reload Weapon spell reduces the time required for loading a missile weapon to 10% [7]. Reloading is still a separate action.

Speed Loader Talent

Use of this talent cuts the reloading time for missile weapons in half. E.g. reloading a Composite Bow takes 30% activity instead of the usual 60% required without the talent.

Chi Speed & Haste

If a character is under the influence of a Haste spell or has successfully made his Chi Speed maneuver the round before, he has 200% activity available for his actions. He is still limited to three different actions. Also he must use the same parry assignment for all attacks in a round. Also note that Chi Speed may only be used every other round when using the 10-second combat rules.


GM Gamemaster

NPC Non-player character

PC Player character

[1] i.e. non-instantaneous spells

[2] Does not count as a separate action

[3] For traps, decret doors etc.

[4] Does not count as a separate action and does not need to be declared

[5] You may as well use -2 per 20% less casting time

[6] i.e. the action just executed

[7] For drawing back the bow string or to re-cock the crossbow