A More Rolemaster-like Combat System for HARP

Copyright Jörg Jahnke © 2012

Edited by Mario Butter for The Guild Companion

"... Achieve a fatal critical result with one blow."

A more Rolemaster-like combat system for HARP


The core HARP combat system from HARP Second Edition is a combat system that is very concise, with all its combat tables basically fitting on less than 10 pages, and with it combat resolution can be done quickly.

But those who used Rolemaster's Arms Law previously might feel that it also would be nice to have a greater variety of critical results, plus it might be good to add an option allowing all weapons - not only large and huge attacks - to achieve a fatal critical result with one blow. The only way HARP's core combat system does allow this, is via the exception that unmodified rolls of 99 or 00 remove the damage cap.

The following system introduces attack tables similar to those in RMFRP and makes use of the critical tables in Rolemaster's Arms Law and Spell Law. (If these books are not available then you can also use the critical tables from HARPer's Bazaar 11 or those from MERP, if available. Without critical tables the combat system in this article cannot be used.)

Combat system overview

Attack Tables per General Armor Type

The attack tables below differ from those used in the core HARP rules since they a) combine a number of concussion hits with a critical that gets rolled separately and b) have different columns based on the general armor type of the defender.

This armor type is based on the cuirass or shirt of the defender. E.g. a defender wearing a chain shirt uses the Chain column whereas a defender in a soft leather shirt uses the Soft Leather column on the tables, even if they both have a plate helm, no arm greaves, rigid leather boots or whatever other armor pieces. For monsters the Tough Hide ability determines the armor column: No Tough Hide ability means the None column gets used, Tough Hide (Minor) means usage of the Soft Leather column, Tough Hide (Major) means usage of the Chain column and Tough Hide (Greater) means the Plate column gets used.

Optional Rule: Standard HARP Armor Protection

On the Attack Tables below better armor types, like Chain or Plate, typically offer better protection than e.g. Soft Leather armor or no armor. This now comes in addition to the DB bonus that these armors are accompanied with in the HARP rules. If you feel that this makes armor too powerful, then adjust the DB of any combatant as follows, based on the general armor type the combatant wears:

  • No Armor: 0
  • Soft Leather: -10
  • Reinforced Leather: -20
  • Chain: -30
  • Chain/Plate: -40
  • Plate: -50

Weapon Adjustments

The attack tables contain markers for the maximum results based on the size of the weapon used. The attack size for the various weapons is listed along with each attack tables. These sizes will differ from the sizes in the HARP core rules due to the nature of how the tables were set up. Typically one-handed attacks will have a higher weapon size with this system since the one-handed attack tables are a bit weaker than the tables for two-handed weapons. For non-weapon attacks, i.e. natural attacks or elemental attacks, please use the attack sizes listed in the normal HARP rules. Also listed for each weapon is the critical type to use when achieving a critical with the attack.

Using the Tables

Usage of the tables is done as in Rolemaster or HARP's Hack & Slash. You roll, add OB and other modifiers and subtract DB to get the net result of the attack. This result gets cross-indexed with the armor type on the attack tables appropriate for the attack. The result will either be "-" for no damage, a number or a number followed by a letter. The number is the amount of concussion hits dealt by the blow. The letter indicates the critical severity and thus the column to use on the critical table. If such a critical is indicated, then make a percentile roll on the critical table listed in the weapon statistics and look up the result on the critical column according to the critical severity.

Please note that the Rolemaster Critical Tables contain result types that do not appear on the HARP Critical Tables. This include e.g. Must Parry, Stun & No Parry or Out results. These results are applied as explained in the Rolemaster Arms Law rulebook.

Example 1:
Mike the fighter fights against a goblin. He has 75 OB with his broadsword while the goblin has a Minor Tough Hide (treated as Soft Leather armor), 30 DB and parries 10 from his OB. The player rolls a 52. He adds 75 for Mike's OB and subtracts the 30 DB and the 10 parry of the Goblin for a final result of 97. Since his broadsword is a 1-handed edged weapon, the player looks up Mike's result of 97 on the 1-Edged Attack Tables in the Soft Leather column. The indicated result there is 23E. He therefore did 23 hits damage and an E critical. For a broadsword Slash is listed as critical type, so that he has to roll on the E column of the Slash critical table. He rolls a 46 on that table. He then applies the damage from the critical tables along with the 23 hits to the goblins damage.

Example 2:
If, in the example above, the player had rolled a 84, then the net result of the attack would be 84 + 75 (OB) - 30 (DB) - 10 (parry) = 119. Since the broadsword size is listed as large, the attack would then be capped at 110, the maximum result for large attacks.

Optional: Additional Damage when breaking Damage Caps

For some it might be disappointing that the Attack Tables end at 120 and no further damage is done, even on very high rolls. If you want to allow for a bit more damage in such cases, let the following rule apply:

For every full 30 points that the Damage Cap was exceeded add +5 concussion hits to the normal maximum result and also add +5 to the critical roll.

Example: Ben the warrior has already wounded the goblin he is fighting. On his next attack with his sword he rolls a 97, followed by a 70, resulting, after adding his OB and subtracting the goblin's DB, in a final Adjusted Attack Roll of 172. The Damage Cap for his sword, a large weapon, is 110, with a result of 25 concussion hits and an 'E' Slash critical. Since this Damage Cap is exceed by 62 points, two times a full 30 points and a bit more, this damage is increased to 35 concussion hits and a 'E' Slash critical modified by +10.

Attacks vs. Large or Huge Creatures

When attacking Large or Huge creatures, the critical table indicated in the Weapon Statistics or Attack Statistics table gets replaced by the Large Creature or Huge Creature Critical table accordingly. Use the critical tables for Large or Huge Spell Criticals in case of elemental spell attacks, instead of the tables for the physical attacks. For Large creatures only criticals of severity B or higher get resolved, for Huge creatures only criticals of severity D or higher. Criticals of lower severity get ignored vs. these creatures since they don't have enough force to do damage.

Other system adjustments

Ambush & Sniping skills

Upon successfully using these skills, the character can modify the critical roll up or down, up to the number of ranks in the skill instead of always having to add the full number of ranks.

Arid the thief is trying to ambush an orc sentry. He successfully sneaks behind the orc and also makes a successful Ambush skill check. With modifications for surprise and the attack from behind, the attack results in 21 concussion hits and an E puncture critical. The player then rolls a 42 for the critical. Since Arid has 14 ranks in Ambush, he may then modify this roll by up to +/- 14 on the critical table i.e. he may choose any critical from 28 to 56. 56 seems a nice result to the player since it includes one round of Stun & No Parry, so that this is what the player decides should be the final critical. A 56-60 on the "E" column of the Arms Law Puncture Critical Table results in a blow to the side, 6 more concussion hits, 1 round of stun & no parry and 5 hits per round. So the orc is not dead yet and might still cry out an alarm. Had Arid had five more ranks in Ambush he might have modified the critical up to a 66, which would have been an instant kill...

Bane Talent

When a character with this talent makes an attack that includes a critical roll, then the critical is rolled on the "Slaying" column of the Arms Law Large Creature Critical Table for normal sized and large creatures. For huge creatures the "Slaying" column of the Super Large Creature Critical Table should be used.

Divine Hammer and Hammer Strike spells

These spells only double the concussion damage from the attack tables and not the damage from the critical strikes.

Elemental Ball spells

The HARP core rules specify that only one critical roll is made for all targets. With this system one attack roll is made for all targets, with the center target receiving a bonus of +20 to this roll. Critical rolls on the appropriate Rolemaster Critical Tables are made separately for each target.

Fumble and spell results requiring a critical roll

Some fumble results or spells indicate that a critical roll should be made to determine damage. E.g. the Shock spell from the Mage Sphere causes a Tiny Electricity critical when not scaled up. Such a Tiny Critical now equates to an "A" critical on the appropriate Arms Law/ Spell Law critical table. A small critical uses the "B" column, a medium critical the "C" column, a large critical the "D" column and a huge critical the "E" column. If no attack size is given, then the "C" column is used.

Tyler the Warrior Mage is trying to block a passage against a group of goblins. He scales a Guardian Blades spell up to a small attack and succeeds in casting it. When the goblins come close to the blade barrier, the leader decides to try to rush through. The small attack results in a âeurooeBâeuro critical on the Arms Law Slash Critical Table. The critical rolled is a 74 which slashes some muscles in the goblins calf and leaves him so badly wounded that his comrades don't dare to follow him until the spell runs out.

Weapon's Fury spell & "Of Slaying" items

The Weapon's Fury spell has a scaling option to inflict slaying criticals. Similar to the Bane Talent mentioned above, the "Slaying" column of the (Super) Large Creature Critical Table should be used. The same is true for weapons or other items that inflict a slaying critical.

The new Attack Tables

1-Handed Concussion Attacks

1-Handed Edged Attacks

2-Handed Attacks

Missile Attacks

Pole Arm Attacks

Thrown Weapon Attacks

Tooth & Claw Attacks

Bash & Grapple Attacks

Elemental Attack Spells