Apr 20, 2005

Hârn Hero: The Invasion Begins!

I've run a Hârn Hero game over the last few years that's been popular with my players.

For those who aren't familiar with it, Hârn is a setting created by N. Robin Crossby. Originally produced by Columbia Games, the setting concentrates on the island of Hârn on the planet Kethira. Hârn is an island about twice to three times the size of Britain. Climate-wise, it's a good fit as a fantasy version of Britain, with several competing kingdoms and tribes of barbarians. The fact that the island is to the northwest of a large continent called Lýthia merely strengthens that impression.

The big attraction of the Hârn setting is the fantastic quality of the maps. The setting is low-magic medieval fantasy, but as opposed to the hundreds of Dungeons & Dragons clones out there, Hârn is based strongly on real-world medieval life. The maps bear this out, as the castles and towns are based on archaeological findings; the whole effect is of a very "realistic" setting, with good quality player handouts. The products are always designed with three copies of each map: a GM version with important locations keyed; a Player version like the GM's copy but without the number keys; and a Common map like the Players' version but in color.

Some good Hârn links include:

The way this game came about is, our usual GM was really burnt out from running his game for three solid years. So, he took a break from GMing and someone else had to step up to the plate. When the group asked me to run, I had no idea what to do for a campaign. I had them create low-fantasy characters while I wondered what to do. I hit upon running a game set in Hârn because I had recently bought an introductory Hârn product, called HârnWorld. A sampler of the setting, it had a worldbook, a gazeteer on the island, a large poster map of the world, and so on. No rules, but loads of setting material; and all for only $5!
One of the interesting features of Hârn is that the setting is liberally dotted with ruins of an ancient culture called the Earthmasters. Who they are and where they went is unknown, but they seemed to have a very advanced (possibly psionic) technology, and so some of their structures still survive the 15,000 years since their disappearance. Most Earthmaster ruins seem to contain these monoliths called Godstones, which are teleportals - they allow instantaneous transport from the Godstone to anyplace else. They're powerful enough to allow even interworld travel, to the other planes of Keléstia, the universe of the Hârn setting. In the past, they'd been used to bring a horde of otherworldly goblins (called gargun) to Hârn, by an ancient conqueror called Lothrim the Foulspawner. I decided an Invasion/Survival campaign might be interesting.
Anyway, I had the players create low-powered characters and placed then on the frontier. I arbitrarily "created" a castle on the spot on the map called Mozil Point. The player inhabitants of Mozil Keep were a knight and his squire (who were tending the new castle for its master), a couple of sideshow attractions from a carnival (the strong man and an acrobat), and two other hangers-on (a hunter and a thief).
Now, on the way down to the game, I'd stopped by nearest hobby shop. There, I'd seen some new Reaper minis that had come out. Among them were these six-armed skeleton guys with horns on their skulls, called Arachno Assassins. I'd picked up a few, so I decided to make use of them.
The players were relaxing in the town, when a runner arrived from the beach to the east. He announced that the fishermen had spotted a number of ships approaching. Everybody trooped out to the shore to see what was up. Sure enough, there were maybe five to eight ships on the horizon. As they came closer, sharp-eyed people could see that they bore no flags. In fact, their sails were green and black from rot, and the hulls of the ships looked black except where rents and holes in the side displayed bleached timbers like ribs on a corpse. The knight got a bad feeling about it and ordered everyone to take refuge in the castle.
From the castle's lookout tower, they were able to see the ships as they hit shore. They didn't anchor - instead they drove right in and beached themselves. As they did so, they cracked open, disgorging hordes of waterlogged animated corpses, which I called Gaunts. The Gaunts swarmed about killing everything they could lay their hands on. They seemed to be able to sense the living people inside the castle, and they swarmed about the outside walls, circling it like sharks.
The players briefly thought of making a break for the forest to the west, but then the forest disgorged another batch of Gaunts, this group led by a weird six-armed skeletal figure. He seemed to be in command of the undead horde, and he had them array themselves around the castle, hemming everybody in.
To be continued...

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