FASERIP style dice resolution system for Harn

Brimstone's picture

As far as the raw dice mechanics go regarding skill tests, there is some potential for improvement in my humble opinion. If Harn adopted a resolution chart similar to the old TSR "FASERIP" games (Marvel Super Heroes, Star Frontiers, Gamma World and Conan), the resolution charts could be expanded from four quality results to six.

The normal FASERIP charts have 5 or 4 colors on them: 3 success levels along with either one or two failure levels. If a six color chart were to be created for Harn, the combat resolution tables could be expanded by one box in each direction.

So you could have hyper success/failure [(HS)(HF)], to go along with critcal and magrinal success on the combat resolution tables.

One of the reasons I'd like to see Harn go in this direction would be the potential for players to spend "hero or karma" points to shift the quality of results. More quality levels would smooth things out, in essence giving more dynamic range to potential results.

Here is a link to the Marvel chart for those that might not be familar with it.


Here is a 4 color chart that people made for some open source rules.


If Harn had a d100% chart with Black, Blue, and White as failures (HF, CF,and MF) and Red, Yellow, and Green for success (HS, CS, and MS) it would
evolve the Harn dice resolution mechanics in a positive direction.

Games like Deadlands use pokerchips that let players influence situations as fate points. It would refreshing for Harn to allow something like this as an option. Even the old James Bond RPG from West End Games has this quality shift mechanic.

Column shifts could be used for all sorts of things.

When comparing weapon class attack vs. defense aspects, the number results in column shifts. So a 5 attacker vs. 3 defender results in the attacker gets a positive 2 column shift.


Minor ='s 1 negative column shift
Serious ='s 2 negative cs
Grievious ='s 3 neagtive cs
Mortal ='s 4 negative cs

Although no penalty for minor wounds might be in order with serioucs -1cs, grievious -2cs, and mortal -3cs.


Since it's almost a 1-100 range stat, roll on the universal chart.

HS (red) = +20 to initiative score
CS (yellow)= +10
MS (green) = +5
MF (white) = -5
CF (blue) = -10
HF (black) = -20


Have players turn order based off of what column their intiative score places them.

For every 20 points in the skills EML, they get a +1 column shift.

The Flip-Flop dice mechanic (Full Finesse)

When it comes to shields they get a special advantage beyond column shifts. On the weapon class vs (B)(R,H)(K)(T) chart after two or three column shifts, the special code FF is printed. FF stands for Full Finesse (Flip-Flop). The mechanic works in a similar fashion as it does is the Underground Armies game, where you get to choose which d10 is the high dice. A roll of 47 can turn into 74. So instead of getting a lot of column shifts for using a shield, the shield user has the opportunity to open up this dice mechanic. Using a shield to block while being in the "FF" segment, your odds of getting a tactical advantage would be fairly high. Although just using it as a general rule for attack vs. defense might work out as well. The threshold trigger level could be greater for attackers. In certain situations like a roadside ambush the GM might reward a "+2" for the first round or two on the A/D aspect comparison table.

Shield Class K
A 0 +1 Column Shift for Defender
A 1 +2 Column Shift for Defender
A 2 Full Finesse for Defender
A 3 Full Finesse for Defender
A 4 +2 Column Shift for Defender
A 5 +1 Column Shift for Defender

Defending Weapon rating 2
A 0 +2 Column Shift for Defender
A 1 +1 Column Shift for Defender
A 2 Neutral
A 3 +1 Column Shift for Attacker
A 4 +2 Column Shift for Attacker
A 5 +3 Column Shift for Attacker
A 6 Full Finesse for Attacker

Here is a table I put together to help illustrate the idea of Full Finesse and column shifts for a FASERIP style chart.


A spellcasting bonus/penalty table for "Voice and Gestures" levels.


Perhaps in all situations there could be a cap on how many column shifts are possible. Once the limit is reached on column shifts, the Flip-Flop rule gets engaged.

Jan's picture

First of all thanks for this very interesting presentation of a classical RPG rules mechanism. Personally, I wasn't aware of column shift systems in general and the FASERIP games in particular.

I absolutely agree with your view on fate/hero/karma points in role-playing games; for several reasons, a fate point system is the best concept to distinguish player characters (the "heroes" in the sense of "leading characters") from non-player characters. Fate points increase player characters' survival chances without -- and that's the important aspect for me -- making them physically stronger or giving them "special powers". In my gaming groups, we have introduced fate points even where the official rules don't mention them. A pretty good alternative for HârnMaster Gold are the "Luck Coupons" we offer as a free gaiming aid under Downloads. They don't allow re-rolls but the increase/decrease of test results by a fixed amount.

I don't agree however, that more result types or an expanded resolution chart would do HârnMaster too much good. They would probably add abstract complexity instead of making things more believable or exciting. What I would like to see in a possible future version of HârnMaster is in fact a reduction of tables and charts to a minimum as well as a resolution system that simply calculates the difference between the score and the die roll, i.e. where each single point can mean a different (positive or negative) quality.

Example: A skill test against a score of 54 where a 62 is rolled has a test quality of -8 (a negative quality).

In a skill contest (e.g. a combat situation), the opponents' test qualities could be compared to see what happens.

Brimstone's picture

I'm glad you took the time to read my thoughts and make a comment.

At times Harn does use something similar to FASERIP style solution. When weapon crafting you compare a skill index rating to the quality of a result. What I'm suggesting would make the entire system more homogeneous. At least in my humble opinion.

Here is an example of some spell casting charts. Regular on-the-fly casting and in the wizards laboratory.


The only time a spellcaster can get Full Finesse or Partial Finesse is when he's in his laboratory. Which leads into another area where Harn has some room for growth. The way Ars Magica requires "Vis" to make a spell permanent adds another layer of economy beyond fatigue levels for spell casting. In general you want to avoid spell use requiring "Vis" unless you have maximized you're spell casting bonus (i.e. Full Finesse or Partial Finesse). "Vis" is too precious to be wasted. As great as the "normal world" aspects of Harn are, Ars Magica has a leg up on "Harn magic". The good news is all Harn needs to do is add something like "Vis". It would certainly add a lot of adventure possibilities with the need to go hunting of "Vis" sources. Chantries being built in area's that have natural a "Vis" source and the Wizards fiercely protecting that domain. Or say a great big "Vis" source in the middle of Gargun territory, and some unsrupulous wizards making deals with the Gargun in exchange to harvest it.

I'm thinking Partial Finesse you get to choose which d10 is the high dice after you rolled.

While Full Finesse you get to choose which is the high dice after you rolled, but in addition, on a roll ending in either "5" or "0" you get to shift that quality result to the next highest level. For example, you roll a "5" and a "4". Although the "5" is higher, choosing the "4" as the high dice for a roll of "45", will allow for you to shift the quality result to the next level.

Here is a Weapons Combat Table with "Full Finesse" and "Partial Finesse" included.


Brimstone's picture

I've put more stuff together.

Here are a few tables I've done so far. Very bare bones, but it has a Universal Table with six colors, 3 degree's of success and 3 degree's of failure. It's d6% based instead of d10%. Players will want to roll high numbers on the chart, so "66" is the highest and best you can roll.

The stat and skill ranking range is from -14 to +14. You'll see that range at the top of the Universal Table.

The dice mechanic modes beyond column shifts are "Full Finesse" and "Combat Apex".

Full Finesse roll d6% then choose the high die after you rolled.

"Combat Apex" roll d6% then choose the high die after you rolled. On a roll ending with a "1" such as "11", "21", "31" and so on, you get to shift the quality result to the next highest level.

For spellcasters they've got to watch out for "Arcane Discord" and "Arcane Nadir".

"Arcane Discord" works similar to Full Finese but to the opposite effect. You roll the d6% and the highest die is automatically the lowest number.

"Arcane Nadir" which works like Arcane Discord, but in addition any roll ending in a "6" gets the success level reduced to the next lowest level. So a Marginal Success could become a Marginal Failure on a roll of "56" for example.

Also I added "Defender Strategic Advantage" to the combat tables. It works just like "Defender Tactical Advantage", but the defender gets a increase the quality result on their next action. So a marginal success would become a hyper success on their next dice roll.