Harnmaster and the german language

Hermes's picture

Dear All,

long time ago; but I have revived my interest in fantasy roleplaying again. Not because I have a lot of time; but my kids are growing and I want to play. The kids seem interested and I think this is a lot better than sitting in front of the TV-screen. Also I wanted to play with my wife! But she is german and told me that Harn means something like "urine" !!??
A little unpleasant name. Ok, yes that circumflex sort of avoids it a little but still.. She and I must say this is really weird name.
The game is probably the best game ever, but internationally this is a little embarrassing. New name?

Anyhow, this is not going to prevent me from playing it! But IF we can change the name to something more appropriate also for germans, it would look better. Most material is online/electronic, so the change should not be too hard.

Are there any germans here that have some comments on this?

Kind regards,

Jan's picture

I'm German, but the name Hârn was never a problem for me. I guess that's partly because Harn is not just one word for "urine" (Urin being a lot more prevalent) but also part of the word Harnisch (akin to the English harness) -- which refers to medieval armor (mainly a knight's armor). That latter association was always stronger for me personally, so it was never an issue.

Of course, I've also heard quite a number of jokes about this coincidence made by fellow Germans. Most of them have been enthusiastic Hârn players themselves, however, and would never have made fun about the game itself. Actually, making the occasional urological reference about the title has simply become part of the mandatory crude and dirty joking prior to most RPG sessions. During the game itself, however, nobody cares -- and in fact nobody would trade in HârnMaster for any other system.

With regards to marketing, I think that for Germans, "Hârn" mostly has a memorable quality. If anything, the fact that it's a homonym might make it more memorable. I don't think, however, that there is any negative association because of it.

Hermes's picture

Thanks a lot or this reply. I know my suggestion is quite crazy to change the name, but I got annoyed about it and thought it could *harm* the potential of the growth of the game on an international level. However, since you are german and you do not seem to have problems with it -- I guess it is ok. My wife, who is also german, thought it was a weird name. Anyhow, it is just a name. I think the game itself is unsurpassed in fantasy role playing.

Btw -- have you compared it with rolemaster or runequest? Maybe this should be another thread..

Best wishes,

Jan's picture

We can talk about it here, no problem. :) I have played both Rolemaster and Runequest and find HârnMaster to be clearly superior.

Rolemaster has a tendency towards -- what I call -- "hyperrealism" in the way that with all its tables and calculations, it completely overshoots the goal of creating a realistic gaming experience. Instead, it is in fact a heavily abstract experience that doesn't feel any more real than D&D.

Runequest is a very important RPG from a historical perspective. It brought sophistication and an emphasis on realism to RPG systems at a very early point in time and thereby paved the way for games like HârnMaster. I *do* like the Basic Roleplaying system that forms the core of Runequest, but I like it more in its simplified form as presented in Call of Cthulhu. The additional complexity of Runequest (especially in newer editions) never seemed to improve the experience and never seemed worth the additional effort.

HârnMaster, on the other hand, is one of these rare games where nearly everything clicks. HârnMaster is quite realistic and -- even more importantly -- has a realistic feel to it, but not at the expense of playability. Despite certain rumors, HârnMaster *is not* complicated, as the whole system is based on the same intuitive dice-rolling mechanism and success interpretation. It is this successful combination of realism *and* playability that makes HârnMaster my RPG system of choice for most campaigns (wherever believability is more important than Hollywood-esque heroism).

Durandal_1707's picture

I agree that HârnMaster systematically speaking is the best of the three systems. I have played many systems and have found myself wanting in all systems where I haven't in HârnMaster for the most part. RoleMaster gives the illusion of the realism, with the Masquerade that is the barrage of charts they use. In reality, they are just Dungeons and Dragons with charts. A silly superheroes game with charts, with an absurd lethality swing to justify "realism" to balance out their poor choice of allowing the tired "pick a race and a class" dynamic that is used by the countless imitators of the TSR/WotC game out there. HârnMaster's eschewing of that dynamic, and having adopted the more historical-leaning approach of the Feudal [Europe/Britain] society is much more satisfying, and gratifying for that matter to me, in reflecting realities of the era in which Fantasy authors drew upon, adding those touches of Fantasy which make Role-playing possible, but also don't spoil opportunities to have a breadth of experiences that most mainstream role-players tragically too often miss.

For example, I'm running a campaign right now, and the players are on a hunt on a Lord's Manor (the current Seigneur is set to actually transfer his interest to one of the other characters, abdicating, due to the inability to produce an heir, instead adopting the player character as his son (he rolled a Knight-Bachelor, a very lucky roll) and join a Laranian fighting order currently in a crusade against an Agrikian domain [roughly meant to simulate to real-world Reconquista]). It has proven to be a very exciting scenario thus far, and it has only been but a single watch, with the most unexpected results coming in the early morning of the hunt (a pack of Yélgri, a mad goose, a catamount, and a stag...what could go wrong?). This is something that doesn't really happen in D&D. You just go to the place, kill the bad things, or people, take the stuff, and go back and use the stuff to power up, rinse, and repeat.

One can have a character entirely viably devoted to a trade [or trading] and make for a very entertaining campaign for that character; my very own character in a campaign, rejected Shek-Pvar candidate, went and through bitter focus and study themselves learnt the ways of magick and became something of an amateur mage. They were not exactly refined, but they were bent on trying to show the world that they were worthy. This culminated in a disastrous misfire casting a Odvishe spell that saved their party from a bear attack (the "brave, armoured lady-knight" ran screaming in fear, while the poor Able Seaman just off the boat was being mauled to death while bravely trying to fight) that froze everyone nearly to death in ethereal frost, but it did kill the bear. Again, nothing you'd quite see in the D&D-style plain-Jane Vancian-system I hate ever so much or RoleMaster's magic system that isn't a whole lot better.

RuneQuest, I can agree has a lot going in terms of historical significance, and also, systemically is more similar to HârnMaster in manner of results, but I think it's too "dumbed down" in comparison, that's not a slight at the legendary creators of that game. They deserve their dues for their contributions to the game plain and simple and the Glorantha setting is rather compelling as much as Hârn is (and taking a Bronze Age approach is something that is unique among a crowd of typically Late Mediaeval Fantasy RPGs that cloned the initial concept by Gygax and Arneson; the gritter Early to High Mediaeval taste of Hârn[Master] is another reason why I love HârnMaster - get your anachronistic cities, gunpowder, gizmos, and steam put of my way!). CoC, I appreciate for being one of the very few systems to cover the rare late Victorian to Interwar years in some fashion of depth, which fairly much any other system or setting fails to do in any quality. I actually am not a big Lovecraft fan; I despise his ideologies, and his inspirations that led to so much of his writing, even if you were to pretend they weren't there and to take the writing at face value without that taint, the material is honestly objectively mediocre in a lot of cases. The more modern talent, I can speak for, have improved upon the work, but there will always be the sort of taint of gross racism, mainly, that was utterly ridiculous, even if it was common for the time. That said, the system, itself, proves very flexible for "non-Mythos" play. I'm, in fact, gearing up to start a sort of dramatic socio-political campaign based around the Irish War of Independence, which fits perfectly with the system, altering the Sanity mechanism with a Loyalty/Paranoia scheme where players question whether their fellow soldiers/guerrillas have been infiltrated by the enemy or not. Given the BRP system, like HârnMaster is much about skills rather than race/class I find it to be superior to most other systems, I just find the mechanics of it to be lacking without the better tuned success mechanics that HârnMaster has, which can be an annoyance at times. The "Magic" system can't really be directly compared but I can appreciate in its own way separate and apart from HârnMaster, but I really like HârnMaster's "Make-Your-Own-Magic", and I fully utilise the optional "Have the spell blow up in the player's face" rule if they like to get too ambitious with some nigh-armageddon causing spell.

In all, HârnMaster Gold is the premier system for running an RPG campaign, the charts are hardly a burden compared to RoleMonster, it's well-grounded compared to D&D and it's analogues, and it allows for such a variety of rewarding experiences that truly allow a character to play a role that normally wouldn't be had in so many other systems it really is the Gold-Standard for Role Playing. If only more people knew about it and gave it a chance, regardless of linguistic funny business (I've had this problem with my German friends convincing them to play the system as they think it is some deviant game).