A Sneak Peek at HARP Subterfuge

Copyright Until publication, the author wishes his or her identity to remain secret. © 2018

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"[Camouflage] skill can be useful to hide your adventuring haul so that others do not find it before you can return with a wagon"

Review of Useful Skills

In this section we will review many of the HARP skills that are useful for subterfuge professionals. This is not an analysis of all available skills, so you should look at the complete skill list and descriptions to see what else might be interesting for your role-playing goals. Chapter 5, Tricks of the Trade, provides even more guidelines on using HARP’s subterfuge skills and some others to their best advantage.


Ambush is a dependent skill and may not be necessary for every subterfuge character. In order to use Ambush you have to successfully approach a foe undetected. So if you are not developing your Stalking & Hiding skill or have some way to be invisible, then your high skill ranks in Ambush may never be used. If you succeed in being undetected, then you make an Ambush maneuver roll. If that is successful, then you make an attack roll with surprise bonus and positional bonuses. If you hit the target, then the Ambush skill ranks modify the damage ignoring damage caps.

If all that sounds too complicated or too hard to track, then skip this skill. Otherwise, if you are playing an assassin, ninja, or expect to be involved in espionage, then you can do a lot of damage with this skill when you acquire a decent number of ranks. For example, a 6th level assassin can have 21 ranks in Ambush. This can make a considerable difference in the attack critical, moving it up two levels of the critical table on average.

Ambush can be combined with Called Shots and the new Backstabbing talent.

Camouflage (Folkways)

This skill can be useful to hide your adventuring haul so that others do not find it before you can return with a wagon. It can also be used to help hide those of your colleagues who failed to invest in Stalking & Hiding, which may help your party avoid being discovered by patrolling guards.

Dirty Fighting (Martial Law)

The result of Dirty Fighting is like Ambush in that it allows you to increase your attack damage and ignore damage caps. Like Ambush, it can only be used once during a combat encounter. Even if you don’t intend to fight much, you should develop this skill. You will not always have time to hide to Ambush your foe, so knowing how to fight dirty may help you win the encounter.


If you are focused on dungeon crawls or are combat-oriented, this skill may not be used much, unless of course you knock an orc guard unconscious and don his uniform to infiltrate their lair (by the way, nice work, Frodo and Sam!). But if your adventures include detective work, information gathering, and the like, having some skill at disguise can be useful. Remember that disguise may only be part of the equation. You may also need some skills in Acting or Mimicry to complete your deception. See Chapter 5, Tricks of the Trade for more detail on disguise.

Locks & Traps

An essential skill for any adventuring thief or rogue. The party will likely depend on you to get them past locked doors, open locked chests, and bypass pitfalls.

Pick Pockets

Primarily a skill for thieves who spend time in urban environments or those whose adventuring is not all hack-n-slash. This skill can be used for more than the literal picking of pockets. See chapter 5, Tricks of the Trade for more on Picking Pockets.

Stalking & Hiding

Like Locks & Traps, an essential skill for any thief, rogue, or ranger. You should increase this skill at every level, especially since it is used in a skill vs skill context against perception. The more ranks you have, the more likely you will succeed and get some kind of advantage (ambush, sniping, or avoiding an encounter).


Mostly useful for premeditated or planned adventures. Your everyday thief or rogue may not need this skill, but you should develop ranks in Poisoning if you are playing an assassin, Nightblade, or perhaps Ninja. See chapter 7 for more information on Poison.


Sniping is the missile or ranged weapon equivalent of Ambush and has the same dependencies, so the same considerations apply. If you are playing an assassin, Ninja, or expect to do espionage, then you can do a lot of damage with this skill when you acquire enough ranks because like Ambush, it ignores damage caps.


An interesting skill, but likely only useful for urban-based thieves or perhaps bounty-hunter rangers given that it must be developed separately for each “underworld society” location. This could eat up valuable development points. This skill also requires your Gamemaster’s discretion on what information is available through the underworld. See “The Underworld” in Chapter 10 for more details that may help you determine if this skill will be useful for your campaigning.


The idea and description of Trickery overlaps somewhat with Duping, which this book attempts to clarify in chapter 5. Trickery is what our real-world magicians do. Yes, they are verbally lying to us, but they use physical misdirection or sleight-of-hand to make us fall for their tricks. In HARP, this skill can be used directly, as in tricking the guards to look the other way as you or your colleagues sneak past, or as a bonus maneuver for another skill such as Pick Pockets. Most adventuring thieves will find some use for Trickery during their lifetime.