Beginner's Guide to GMing Harn - part three (draft)
In the first part of this guide, we took a detailed look at how to develop campaigns in Harn, and focussede on one particular example: a big conspiracy theory involving the Earthmasters, the Meleryni Council of Eleven and the 'evil' wizard Lothrim.
In the 20 years since Harn was first published, fans have been finding all sorts of campaigns and adventures hidden in the source material. Here are examples of some of the most popular. Remember, you don't have to use these as is; they're intended to inspire you. You can get some great adventures by taking one of these examples and reversing things to the bad guys are the goodies and vice versa. You may want to take two or three ideas and blend them together. You may use an idea as a jumping off point for something you make up yourself.
For each of the ideas, we provide a list of useful articles that have been published over the last 20 years. But let's be clear: they're useful, but you don't need them. Having them will keep your campaign closer to the canon accepted by other fans, they'll save you some time as you don;t have to develop locations or cultures, and they'll give you even more adventure ideas. But you don't need anything more than the basic HarnWorld set to play in Harn. You may want the articles (most of us Harniacs are completists), but you don't need them.
The first batch of adventure ideas appeared in the first edition of HarnWorld, but was dropped from the second edition in order to fit more background in.
The Legend of Genin
The story of Genin is fairly well-known in Thay and Tashal. Genin was a mage who helped found the city of Thay in 573. He is thought to have journeyed north, along the trail that bears his name, to visit his friend Noron (see Harndex). he went into the Sorkin Mountains to meditate, but was attacked and killed by gargun on the slopes of Mount Sofyn. Hru drove off the gargun and gave Genin a decent burial, but no one knows what happened to various powerful artifacts Genin was said to keep with him. The gargun may have taken them back to their lair at Sokus, the hru may have given them to Noron or they may be buried with Genin. Genin was a renowned historical figure, so artifacts associated with him would fetch a particularly high price among the learned.
Overview: It's a treasure hunt, basically. Opportunities for fighting gargun, talking to hru and negotiating with Noron. The GM is free to develop the artifacts as he sees fit. Sokus has never been developed officially.
Useful articles: Noron (in Kaldor); Gargun (in Nasty, Brutish & Short).
The Penultimate Tome
Lothrim threw away his empire and his life in pursuit of the Penultimate Tome. What did he think it contained? What did it really contain? Where is it now? It's commonly thought that Lothrim found the tome and it was buried with him when the dwarves of Kiraz entombed him with several hungry gargun.
Overview: Another treasure hunt. The tome almost certainly didn't hold the secrets of the Earthmasters, as some suggest (and Lopthrim is thought to have believed). One interpretation is that it's a cursed book that entrances its reader.
Useful articles: Kiraz module.
The Sirion Scrolls
Stolen from the Library of Sylud in 553, and the subject of various rumours ever since. In 717 it was rumoured that Letaxa, a Tulwyn chieftain, had acquired a dozen scrolls that might be the Sirion Scrolls. Although the Tulwyn can't read, they regard the scrolls as religious artifacts. The dwarves of Azadmere wan the scrolls badly, but so do others...
Overview: A treasure hunt, but one that depends on talking and sneaking rather than fighting - getting into a fight with a horde of angry Tulwyn is suicidal.
Useful articles: Tulwyn (in Kaldor module or HarnMaster Barbarians); Trobridge Inn (in Kaldor module); Trobridge Inn module.
The Sword of Calsten
Calsten was the father of Medrik, first king of Kaldor, and his sword was one of the symbols of the Kaldoric monarchy. Its theft in 693 sparked the Treasure War, when Kaldor conquered Chybisa, but the sword was never recovered. King Torastra promised a knighthood for its return, and King Miginath would probably honour that promise. A recent rumour suggests the sword is held by the commander of the Red Guard in Coranan, but there are always plenty of rumours about the sword's location.
Overview: Yet another treasure hunt, this time an urban one (perhaps).
Useful articles: Kaldor module; Tharda module; Coranan (in Cities of Harn).
The Riddlemaster of Anrist Point
The waters of Anrist Point (see Harndex) are rumoured to have healing powers, but they're guarded by the Riddlemaster, who insist people must answer three riddles before bathing.
Overview: A quest with a mysterious encounter. You need a reason for the party wanting the waters (perhaps someone important is dying, and they must fetch a sample of the waters to heal them). You also need to decide what the riddlemaster looks like, and prepare some good, hard riddles for it to ask. Just reaching Anrist Point isn't going to be easy...
Useful articles: none.
The Sunken City of Ridow
Ridow (see Harndex) may contain treasures; scholars would pay well for confirmation of its location and even better for information and/or maps of the city.
Overview: An exploration. Ridow has never been developed officially, so you have a totally free hand for its location, its plan and its contents.
Useful articles: none.
Many ships sank during the Aleathian Odyssey, carrying refugees and their wealth to the bottom of the sea. Maps showing the location of one or more of these wrecks often circulate round Aleath and Thay.
Many Ivinian dragonships sank during the Cape Renda disaster. Some of the captains were rumoured to possess enchanted weapons.
Overview: A treasure hunt with the added complication that the goodies lie under several fathoms of water.
Useful articles: none.
The Pamesani Games
"My name is Maximus, general of the armies of the north, husband to a murdered wife, father to a murdered son, and I will have my vengeance." Yup, gladiatorial combat. Lots and lots of fighting. Alternatively, players could try to catch beasts or slaves to fight in the arenas of Rethem and Tharda.
Overview: blood and guts - in abundance. You'll have to come up with some kind of plot to avoid this becoming boring - perhaps the players are wrongly convicted and are forced to fight while the guilty party laughs at them from the galleries.
Useful articles: Agrik (in Gods of Harn or HarnMaster Religion); Tharda module; Coranon, Shiraz and Golotha (from Cities of Harn); Rethem module.
Running trade caravans or transport companies, setting up a business, exploring Earthmaster sites or gargun complexes, opening new mines or trying to re-work old ones...
These are some of the regular campaigns that most fans have indulged in at one time or another. If you ask questions about them on this forum, you'll find tons of opinions on how to handle them - remember, at the end of the day, no individual's opinion is correct: it's your Harn, your campaign and your opinion that counts.
The Kaldoric Succession Crisis
King Miginath of Kaldor is old, ailing and has no official heir, though numerous wannabe heirs are waiting in the wings. This is primarily a political campaign: diplomacy, negotiation, skullduggery and all the rest. It may develop into outright civil war. Characters will be hob-nobbing with the great and the good of Kaldor; they may support one particular faction, or have a different agenda (such as making sure the crisis is resolved peacefully). For added spice, one of the PCs could be an heir. It's certain that the Melderyni Council of Eleven is keeping a close eye on developments; they may even be taking an active, if undercover, role. You can blend in as much fantasy as you want - perhaps one of the factions is dominated by a Morgathian or whatever. And you don't have to limit the adventures to political negotiations - your party could be the strongarm hit-squad for one of the factions, for instance. Your call.
Useful articles: You do really need the Kaldor module to get the most out of this campaign. Tashal (from Cities of Harn) and Qualdris (from Castles of Harn) will also be useful. The published adventure 100 Bushels of Rye has the party working for one of the potential heirs, and may make a good opening adventure to a succession crisis campaign. But whatever support materials you buy, you'll still have quite a lot of development work to do yourself: it's up to you to create the factions, work out how they interact with each other, and determine the overall development of the crisis.
The Second Jarin Rebellion
The indigenous Jarin population of Orbaal are treated as second-class citizens by the Ivinian invaders. A generation ago, their rebellion was brutally quashed. Lots of Harn GMs base campaigns around a second Jarin rebellion, usually with the underdog Jarin as the good guys - so it's worth considering having a party of PC Ivinians on the receiving end of a second Jarin rebellion. You can throw loads of stuff into this campaign - guerilla-style raids, skirmishes, betrayal, fifth columnists, longships sweeping in through the morning mists...
Useful articles: You need the Orbaal kingdom module, and you'll probably want Castles of Orbaal and Quimen Keep (from Castles of Harn) as well. The articles on Sarajin and Ilvir from either HarnMaster Religion or Gods of Harn detail the religions of the Ivinians and Jarin respectively.
The Second Lothrim
Another perennial favourite. Someone - either the original Lothrim reborn or a pretender - begins to recreate Lothrim's old empire, unifying the gargun and generally creating mayhem. The scope for what happens is huge; as far as I know no two GMs have ever agreed on the ground-rules, never mind the development, of this campaign. The second Lothrim has been the real one, an imposter, undead, a Morgathian priest, a renegade wizard and more. And you can set the campaign pretty much anywhere in Harn. It's probably best to start off gently - let the players face a gargun raid, then hear rumours of other raids, then NPCs start wondering why there's so much gargun activity this year, and so on, building up to as much mayhem as you're prepared to handle. PCs could nip the new Lothrim in the bud reasonably quickly, or kingdoms could topple before he's stopped.
Useful articles: You don't need it, but Nasty Brutish & Short has lots of information on the gargun, and contains details of an NPC who could become a second Lothrim.
Rethem vs Kanday vs Tharda
There's trouble brewing between feudal Kanday, republican Tharda and anarchic Rethem. It isn't war - not yet, anyway - but there are border skirmishes, particularly between the religious fighting orders of Larani and Agrik across the Rethem/Kanday border, and tension is high. You could run this as an acion campaign, or a political one - most likely a blend between the two. PCs may be trying to prevent a war, or provoke one, or be bystanders caught up in events.
Useful articles: You'll probably need at least one of the relevant kingdom modules - pick the one where your campaign is based. Ideally, you'll have all three. Cities of Harn and Castles of Harn would also be useful, but not essential. The published adventure module Dead of Winter is a murder-mystery, set in Kanday, with certain political implications, and could make a useful introductory scenario for such a campaign.
Here are some ideas for Harnic-flavoured adventures. Unlike the campaign ideas above, these are relatively simple affairs that will last you for a session or three. You could run them as one-off adventures, or as part of a longer campaign.
A-hunting we will go
Joining nobles in pursuit of deer or boar could be fun, but why stop there? Harn has all sorts of beasties that could be chased down, either because they're causing a problem, for sport, or for honour. Popular targets include Ivashu, Yelgri (harpies), Ilme (meredragons) and gargun (orcs). The ultimate, of course, would be a dragon: by feudal tradition, anyone slaying a dragon wins knighthood. Alternatively, PCs could be making money by supplying beasts to the Pamesani games, which meas they have to capture their targets with as little damage as possible, then transport them back to civilisation.
Every once in a while, gargun swarm - a near-unstoppable rampage of violence and destruction. Woe betide anything that gets in their path. PCs might be protecting a village - see Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven and the like - or simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Swarms generally occur due to population pressure, so an alternative might see PCs hired to seek out and destroy gargun nests after an increase in gargun activity, in the hopes of preventing a swarm before it starts. That'll mean killing the infants and destroying the eggs as well, which could be played for pathos.
Useful articles: Not necessary, but Nasty Brutish and Short contains a lot of background info on gargun.