HarnWorld 2nd Edition
Website Address http://www.columbiagames.com/Products/Harnworld/index.html
Many moons ago, a roleplaying and game publisher called Columbia Games released a product called Harnworld . It still stands today as easily one of the best-detailed and intricate works ever done for the fantasy genre. With the current influx of roleplayers returning to the fantasy milieu, there is a demand for a world setting that can provide gamemasters and players alike with limitless potential in which to create their own, personalized campaigns and stories. HarnWorld is that setting.
HarnWorld comes solidly packaged in a plastic folder with two books and a beautiful, full-color regional map detailing the island of Harn. Both books and the map slide nicely into the inner pockets of the plastic folder, which keeps them safe from suffering the wear and tear most RPG books undergo.
HarnWorld is described as, ". . .a realistic medieval environment for fantasy gaming". It uses any rule's set, so GM's can utilize any suitable game system that their group is familiar with, used to and enjoy the most. While HarnWorld's sister project, HarnMaster, is a realistic RPG also published by Columbia Games to help support HarnWorld, it isn't necessary to enjoy all that Harn has to offer. Many groups use DnD, Runequest, GURPS, RoleMaster, Warhammer FRP, HeroWars or any number of other fantasy RPG systems on the market. The choice is up to the individual group, which makes Harn that much simpler to slot into an existing group of gamers.
Book One in the package includes Harn 1 to 38, Lythia 1 to 24 and Kethira 1 to 8.
Harn (Harn 1-38) starts with an overview of the Island of Harn, providing general qualities of weather, climate and the currently existing kingdoms. Medieval Feudalism and Government is explained shortly thereafter with a keen eye to realism. Everything in Harn exists for a reason (much like in the real world) and this attention to detail is what sets it apart from other settings. The write-ups on how the kingdoms operate, from topics such as 'subinfeudation' all the way to royal treasuries and manorial agriculture and husbandry is clearly explained and covered in this section.
The Harn section is completed by a thorough historical essay, starting from the "dawn of time" (5000 BT) and leading up to the "present day" of 720 TR (Tuzyn Reckoning). The disappearance of the EarthMasters, the coming of the Sindarin (elves) and Khuzdul (dwarves), the rise of man and the subsequent barbaric invasions on the island, to the formation of the kingdoms and regions that make up Harn (and the wars fought to get there), all enhance the rich tapestry and populates the world. As the history goes through the years, the GM can fully understand and comprehend how the economical state and feudal society grew to be the one that it is.
The Lythia header-section (Lythia 1-24) of HarnWorld deals with the mainland and major continent that lies to the east. There is a cultural map and supplemental essay on the make-up of the Lythian realms, which are vast indeed. Herein lies a major strength of the setting. GM's can place their pre-existing campaign "realm" anywhere on Lythia and have their PCs travel to the misty island of Harn to the west. It's as simple a way to get the players into the setting as rolling the dice and saying "let it be so!". The GM can also have a sea voyage end up on Harn and the players wouldn't be the wiser for it or have any inkling that they have been supplanted from one setting to the next. To assist GMs who want to go with either of these routes (or simply to explore the mainland), Lythia has an encyclopedic look at the places that exist within its limitless boundaries.
The Kethiran header-section (Kethira 1-8) deals with the planet itself. Kethira's placement in the solar system, the Kethiran astrological cycles, vegetation patterns, Oceanic currents and Prevailing Winds are given small write-ups and accompanying maps and diagrams to help illustrate the finer points. Being the smallest section, and the least likely to make any major impact on the campaign at hand, the space given simply makes the HarnWorld book complete.
The second book, Harndex, is an alphabetical listing of every last keep, manor, kingdom, city, mountain range, water body, river, and natural land mass that is shown on the large regional map. The map itself is color coded and keyed in relation to the information in Harndex, so a lot of information can be gained without looking it up. However, rather than the Harndex being a boring synopsis of what simply exists on the map--story seeds, historical importance, interesting characters, lineage and heir trees, kingdom, city and town foundation dates and a host of other resource material, like Guild Herald badges and religious factions are given much deserved attention. The Harndex book is a wondrous assortment of raw information and inspirational material that gets any GM's creative juices flowing. It is also a remarkable reference manual, for most major terms and world specific details are summarized as well.
HarnWorld is an amazingly well put together product that every GM should own. Whether you need a fully developed world for a new campaign, a shift in location for an existing one or simply a fantastic book that shows and tells what efficient and productive world creation is all about, then HarnWorld is a must!
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)