HârnMaster: Roleplaying Text

         The following is text from "HârnMaster", first edition (copyright 1986). This is selected text which reveals the authors' view of what roleplaying is and the responsibilities of GM and players.

From the INTRODUCTION section, page 1


         Harnmaster is a fantasy role playing game in which players assume the identities of fantasy characters who explore and experience a fantasy world. A role-playing group consists of a Gamemaster and one or more players. The Gamemaster is separated from the players' by a screen, behind which he hides his secrets; maps, lists, special rules, and other data to which neither the players nor their player characters are privy. Players should not look on the GM's side of the screen without permission. The idea of the game is to discover secrets and unravel mysteries by intelligent play, not by cheating.

         Each player will generate a ``player-character'' (or PC), a persona who lives in the fantasy world. Players should not confuse themselves with their game identities, for this way lies madness; the PC will have its own traits and peculiarities. In some ways the PC will be greater, in some ways lesser than its player. PCs may represent and ideal for their players - ``this is the way I would have played Conan...'' All PCs are a blend of unique characteristics with the attributes of their operators, partly a role, partly the character of the player himself. In this, the role-playing game is more akin to theater than traditional games.


         The Gamemaster is apart from the players in the same way that a referee is separate from the sporting event he officiates. The GM stands between the fantasy world and the players, describing and explaining it. The GM is supreme in his authority; he knows the ins and outs of the fantasy world and the rules by which it functions far better than the players. He controls the attitudes of the world's myriad of denizens, its weather and climate, its societies and institutions, its gods and religions, many of which he has, at least in part, created himself. The players' challenge is to explore that creation, meet it on its own terms, and succeed according to the goals they set for themselves.

         The nature of fantasy role-playing is that all rules are optional; the Gamemaster may change rules or their interpretations to fit his notions of rightness. The players may make proposals and try to influence the GM, but he has the final word. A good GM will consider the concerns of the players, and explain his rulings; he may, however, claim ``executive priviledge'', for there is a lot of information that the players should not have. It is best if the players do not overly concern themselves with rules. They should develop and understanding of how things work, use common sense, and expect the world to unfold properly. In the final analysis, the GM has total power over his fantasy environment and the players should cooperate and abide by his decisions; a plyaer who does not enjoy the game may exercise his ultimate sanction, to not play.

         While the GM operates the denizens that hinder and obstruct the players' lives, he should not be thought of as the enemy. The Gamemaster also operates characters who can befriend and assist player characters. Almost every action in role playing calls for an interpretation on the part of the GM. Most GMs, whatever they may claim to the contrary, are inclined to favor player-characters over non-player-characters. Players who persistently irritate the GM are likely to reverse this bias; the GM is human after all.


         Fantasy role playing differs form other types of games by the absence of any precise victory conditions. Each player sets his objectives and tries to meet them. However, even if the player succeeds in this, there will be other challenges to meet. In this, Fantasy role playing is like real life.


         One objective that is common to all characters is to survive. The fantasy world is a place of adventure. There are treasures to find, but there are also fell monsters to overcome. Player characters are mortal, and while the player is safe in his 20th century Terran environment, his character may be injured or killed in any number of ways. Few player- characters retire after a life of success, having reached the pinnacle of ambition. Most die reaching for a grail just beyond reach, or by making a fatal mistake.


         Play is conducted in sessions, usually of four to six hours duration. THe characters' activitites may vary greatly from one session to the next. Sometimes there will be a clear objective for the session. Perhaps the band of brave adventurers will first have to attend to the neccessity of finding food and lodging. In a well-run game, mundane activities will take up less of the players' time than adventure; this distinguishes role-playing from real life. A boring game month may be glossed over in only a few minutes of realtime, while the group may opt to resolve a tense battle that lasts only two game minutes in one hour of realtime.

         Business unfinished a tthe end of one session can be taken up at the next. Some ``quests'' can be completed in an hour or two, others require many sessions. Each mystery, when solved, tends to pose new questions. Each objective, once met, tends to suggest more possibilities.

Last modified: Wed Apr 9 12:03:17 2003