Alternative weapon style rules for the HARP system

Copyright Jörg Jahnke © 2015

Edited by Terence Wynne for The Guild Companion

"[Weapon & Shield] is... rather weak when compared to [Shielding Weapon]."


In our group we are not too happy with the example weapon styles that HARP uses. The existing styles in Martial Law seem to be quite unbalanced to us. Styles like Shielding Weapon, granting a nice DB bonus, or Double Weapon, granting a secondary attack, appear quite powerful. On the other hand, a style such as Weapon & Shield, where there is a secondary attack but is limited to a very small OB amount, seems rather weak. The requirements in some styles, e.g. for the Paired Weapons style, where a character is supposed to have 1.5 times the ranks in the style skill than in the weapon skill used for this style, also seem to be problematic since, effectively, a character will always have a lower OB when using such a style, which again makes this style unattractive. The reasoning behind such a rule may be that otherwise the style would be a bit too powerful, but style as written is, again, rather weak when compared to the styles mentioned above.

On the other hand, we used the Rolemaster system prior to HARP and the RMSS Martial Arts Companion offers a quite nice system for weapon styles. Therefore this article tries to port the weapon styles system from the MAC to HARP and at the same time tries to incorporate some of the additional weapon style ideas from HARP's Martial Law.

Creating a weapon style

Like in Rolemaster's MAC, we will have two types of styles: Basic Weapon Styles, where we will be using normal skill development costs for the style; and Advanced Weapon Styles, where we will be using double the normal skill development costs. This is in stark contrast to the current HARP rules, where you always have a cost of either 2 DP for favored categories, or 4 DP, for non-favored categories. Now it can be 2 DP per rank for a favored category, 4 DP for a non-favored category or an advanced weapon style in a favored category, or even 8 DP for an advanced weapon style in a non-favored category. So if you can't live with such a change to rule system, you may stop reading here.

A Basic Weapon Style will have 20 style points available for style creation, and Advanced Weapon Style will have 40 points available.

The first step in creating a style will be determine if the focus of the style will be on an individual weapon, like the short sword, or a weapon group, like the short blades. A broader range of weapons will cost more style points. Also note that style options requiring a free hand will not be available when choosing a two-handed weapon.

With the remaining style points you can now add more options from the Weapon Style Options below to the style until all the style points are used up.

All weapon styles use ST + AG.

Using a weapon style

In combat the user of a weapon style will always use the lesser of his weapon OB and his weapon style OB. Only when using the weapon style the character will receive the special benefits of the weapon style. E.g. a character having a style that incorporates an increased initiative modifier will only have the given bonus to his initiative when fighting with his weapon style.

Any modifiers directly affecting the character's OB will also affect the corresponding style OB. E.g. if a character has a style with his shortsword as weapon choice and is using a magical +10 short sword, then the +10 bonus of the short sword would also be added to his weapon style OB.

Weapon style options

General style options

Style Option Style Option Variant Style Points
Weapon choice Single weapon 5
Weapon group 10
Modifying initiative rolls +1 to initiative 5
+2 to initiative 10
+4 to initiative 15
Reducing fumble range -1 to fumble range 5
-2 to fumble range 10
-3 to fumble range 15
Reducing missile/thrown range penalties1 -10 to range penalties 10
-20 to range penalties 20
-30 to range penalties 30
Bonus to Chi skills +5 bonus to skill 10
+10 bonus to skill 15

1No range penalty can be brought above +0

Melee weapon style options

Style Option Style Option Variant Style Points
All-round attack 15
All-around defense 15
Additional melee weapon attack2 Single weapon type 2nd attack 15
Weapon group type 2nd attack 30
Additional shield bash attack3 15
Paired weapon attack3 Single weapon 20
Weapon group 35
Additional unarmed attack3 15
Additional thrown weapon attacks3 Single weapon type thrown attack 15
Weapon group type thrown attack 30
Defensive ward 10
Blade barrier4 15
Double weapon5 25

2Not possible with two-handed weapons
3Not possible with two-handed weapons
4Only available for bladed two-handed weapons
5Can only be used with two-handed weapons that have the option to attack with both ends, like spear or quarterstaff

All-around attack
The character may make attacks also to his flank and rear, but he must subtract double the positional modifier the opponent gets against him from his OB.
Add-round defense
The character may negate one positional modifier an opponent gets against him.
Additional melee weapon attack
This allows the character a second distinct weapon strike during his attack action. See the rules for Two Weapon Combat for details on handling this second attack.
Additional shield bash attack
This allows the character a secondary district shield bash strike during his attack action. Resolution of the shield bash is done as outlined in the HARP core rules.
Paired weapon attack
With this style two identical weapons are used together to inflict more damage. The number of hits inflicted with a successful attack gets doubled, resulting number of stuns increased by 1, resulting bleeding gets increased by 1 and, for death in a given number of rounds, this number of rounds gets halved.
Additional unarmed attack
As additional melee weapon attack, but the character may make an additional unarmed attack.
Additional thrown weapon attack
As additional melee weapon attack, but the character may make an additional thrown weapon attack.
Defensive ward
The character is able to use a particular weapon, shield, or other object conferring a DB bonus more effectively. In a given round he can decide to either increase his DB with the given object by 10 or affect two opponents with the DB from his parrying item. So, a trained user of a full shield would get a DB bonus of 40 instead of 30 against one opponent when using this style option or could subtract 30 from two attacks coming from sides where he can face his shield.
Blade barrier
The character can use the blade barrier style as explained in Martial Law.
Double weapon
The character can use the double weapon style as explained in Martial Law.

Missile & thrown weapon style options

Style Option Style Option Variant Style Points
Move and fire 10
Fast reloading6,7 -10% to loading times 10
-20% to loading times 20

6This option only applies if you are using a percentage activity system and not the 2s HARP combat rounds
7Not available for thrown weapons

An example style creation

Let's say we want to create a weapon style for Gimbur the dwarven fighter. Gimbur is supposed to be a tank character. His primary weapon will be the mace, but he should be able to also use other weapons from the Clubs category, so we will use the Clubs weapon group as Weapon Choice, which costs 10 style points. To be able to use his shield against two opponents, Gimbur also selects the Defensive Ward option for his full shield, which costs another 10 points. If we were to keep the skill costs cheap for the weapon style, we'd stop here, because the current style costs 20 style points, which is the maximum for a Basic Weapon Style.

Gimbur should also be able to use his shield offensively, however, so he also takes the Shield bash style option for his full shield, which costs another 15 style points. Now there are only 5 points left and these get used for increasing Gimbur's initiative when using his weapon style by +1, for another 5 points. Now we have a total of 40 style points, which is the maximum for an Advanced Weapon Style.

In total for Gimbur's weapon style we used the following options:

  • Clubs weapon group as base weapon choice: 10 style points
  • Full Shield Defensive Ward: 10 style points
  • Additional full shield attack: 15 style points
  • Modified initiative, +1: 5 style points

This adds up to 40 style points, the maximum for an Advanced Weapon Style. As a fighter, Gimbur has the combat category as favored, so that ranks in a Basic Weapon Style will cost him 2 DP per rank and ranks in an Advanced Weapon Style—such as the one just created—will cost him 4 DP per rank.


Non-player character
Player character
Rolemaster Martial Arts Companion