To Tharbad. Ep01

With no minis available during travel time to play Five Leagues from the Borderlands, I went back to Solo RPGs.
I’ve decided to continue on Leowyn’s adventure from the Last Inn to Tharbad with the caravan. Putting the knowledge from my several plays of A Call to Glory, to use, I decided to go forward with Harnmaster as a system.
To do this I’ll have to convert Leowyn to the Harnmaster system.

For Harnmaster I will first try to convert the stat to the closest, and then fill in the rest of the stats with average values, or whatever makes sense.

Appearance Attributes

Height: 65″
Frame: 8 (light)
Weight: 130lbs/5
Comeliness: 15

Physical Attributes

Strength: 15
Stamina: 14
Dexterity: 15
Agility: 17
Eyesight: 13
Hearing: 9
Smell: 11
Voice: 10

Personality Attributes

Intelligence: 13
Aura: 18
Will: 11
Morality: 11 (Law Abiding)


Occupation: Soldier/Huscarl/LH
Initiative/5, Foraging/4, Survival/4, Heraldry/2,
Physician/2, Weaponcraft/2
Riding/6, Initiative/6, Lance/6, Broadsword/5, Dagger/5,
Roundshield/5, Shorkana/4, Seamanship/3, Piloting/2

Optional Military:
Cookery/4, Engineer/2, Embalming/2,
Fishing/4, Fletching/2, Hidework/3,
Horsecraft/2, Law/2, Masonry/2,

Parents: Herdsman: Animalcraft/4, Tracking/4, Survival/4, Weatherlore/4

CLIMBING (16): 64
JUMPING (16): 64
STEALTH (12): 36
THROWING (14): 56
AWARENESS (11): 44
INTRIGUE (14): 42
ORATORY (13): 26
RHETORIC (11): 33
SINGING (10): 30
UNARMED (16): 64
Foraging (13): 52
Survival (14): 56
Heraldry (13): 26
Physician (14): 28
Weaponcraft (14): 28
Riding (14): 84
Lance (15): 90
Broadsword (15): 75
Dagger (14): 70
Roundshield (15): 75
Shorkana (15): 60
Seamanship (16): 48
Piloting (14): 28
Animalcraft (13): 26
Cookery (12): 48
Bow (14): 56
Weatherlore (12): 36


Chain Armor -> Mail Byrnie
Steel Helm -> Plate 3/4 Helm
Shield +20DB -> Round
Morningstar +5
Composite Bow -> Hartbow
35 arrows
Clothes & Personal Effects
Belt Pouch (with money, Flint & Steel) _ 1 gp, 19 sp, 31 bp, 5 cp 24 tp
(Added up her share of the party pool plus 1 gp I forgot to award them for saving the cart and Ambald, to her personal pool).

On a rough conversion scale it seems that each MERP bp is about 2 Hârnic silver pennies, so that would mean that Leowyn has about 643 pennies and 2 farthings, a hefty amount. This is 2 pounds, 13 shillings, 7 pennies and 2 farthings.

The equipment was converted either at 1:1 or what was closest that made more sense.
The Hartbow is the elvish composite bow, but since MERP was more high fantasy than Hârn or Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I went along with it. I chose the 3/4 Plate Helm as the Rohir Steel Helm. Finally I decided that the Mail Byrnie is the equivalent to Chain Armor, based on the weight of each armor type. What worries me though is that Hârnmaster is way more gritty and realistic with regards to armor and wounds when compared to MERP, and usually armor is layered to cover many areas. The way this works right now, means that Leówyn is vulnerable at many unarmoured spots. I’m going along with it, and may have to purchase some armor to cover these at Tharbad, provided she survives that long.

Saddlebag (Bedroll, Lockpick kit, 25′ superior rope, 9 torches, waterskin, rations).


I went through the previous actual play reports and identified which situations justified an Experience roll, and proceeded to roll these. To each roll, the Skill Base is added, and if it’s greater than the Mastery Level of the Skill, its increased by 1.
The results per skill are as follows:

Broadsword: 7 rolls: 51,87,16,14,57,34,54: 1 increase (76)
Roundshield: 6 rolls: 80,74,32,21,23,80: 3 increases (78)
Bow: 1 roll: 48: –
Unarmed: 1 roll: 79: 1 increase (65)
Climbing: 1 roll: 5: –
Jumping: 1 roll: 68: 1 increase (65)
Stealth: 4 rolls: 37,93,16,28: 3 increases (39)
Initiative: 8 rolls: 63,17,37,93,44,54,86,55: 3 increases (68)
Riding: 1 roll: 13: –

Also as soon as the month changes, we’ll have 30 Skill Maintenance Points to spend, and as far as I recall, we’re only a few days away (it’s Hithui 26 when they ride out).

The Story

So a short recap:
Leówyn split from the party and has joined a Caravan heading south to Tharbad. She is paid 5f per day.
The caravan comprises of two carts drawn by a horse each, another guard called Enryn, Wyny the Caravan Master, Ambald the Teamster, Suse the Healer, and three hands, Berter, Eram, Sige. They have a spare horse that belonged to the downed guard Hreodhelm whose place Leówyn took.
Once they reach Tharbad she’ll probably look for a way to continue towards Gondor, to complete her personal task to get revenge from her lover’s killer.
Something that bothers me is that Leówyn first met the caravan outside of Bree on the East-West road. If they were meant for Tharbad then it’s most likely that they should have been on the Andrath Greenway. Maybe there’s a story there. It could be something as simple as avoiding a certain guard, or maybe something more foul. I’ll keep this as a possible thread.
Doing a quick count, it seems that Tharbad is 300 miles if they keep east, and go south in the Angle, to cross a bridge and keep south next to Mitheithel in order to stay on trails that the cart can traverse.

Day 26, Hithui, 3rd Watch

Weather (8) is cold, sky is overcast, winds are breezy and there’s sleet flurries.

Q: Has the caravan crew repaired the broken cart? (Likely)
A: No, and it’s not possible to repair it with the tools at hand. They’d need to be in a town or village with a carpenter.
Q: Can the goods fit on the other cart?
A: No, but, they can be spread amongst the horses and crew. The crew becomes baggage crew.

The axle of the cart has been split in half. With no carpenter nearby for miles, the crew carries the goods to the other cart. They load Hreodhelm’s horse and the broken cart horse with as much as they can carry without tiring them, and split the rest amongst them. It’s going to be a slow march south.

Encounter: 2: No encounter.
10 miles east.

Day 26, Hithui, 4th Watch

Weather (10) is cold, sky is overcast, winds are a gale and there’s snow furries.

Encounter: 8: No encounter.
10 miles east. Reached crossroads to south.

Day 26, Hithui, 5th Watch

Weather (9) is cool, sky is overcast, winds are windy and there’s light rain.

Encounter: 1: No encounter.

Day 26, Hithui, 6th Watch

Weather (9) is cool, sky is overcast, winds are windy and there’s light rain.

Encounter: 9: No encounter.

Day 27, Hithui, 1st Watch

Weather (8) is cold, sky is overcast, winds are breeze and there’s sleet flurries.

Encounter: 1: No encounter.

Day 27, Hithui, 2nd Watch

Weather (9) is cool, sky is overcast, winds are a gale and there’s light rain.

Encounter: 13: No encounter.

Day 27, Hithui, 3rd Watch

Weather (10) is cold, sky is overcast, winds are a gale and there’s sleet flurries.

Encounter: 2: No encounter.
Moved South 10 miles.

Day 27, Hithui, 4th Watch

Weather (10) stays the same.

Encounter: 7: No encounter.
Moved South 10 miles.

They went through some ruins.
Q: Is there anything interesting in the ruins?
A: No, but they didn’t get close enough.

Day 27, Hithui, 5th Watch

Weather (10) stays the same.

Encounter: 1: No encounter.

Day 27, Hithui, 6th Watch

Weather (10) stays the same.

Encounter: 19: 66: Reroll as Highway: 70: Reroll as Wilderness/Rural: 10: Farmer: 67: Villein/Wealthy Thrall: 45: At Leisure (non-work related): 92: Escaping the law/service.
Attitude: 47: indifferent

Time: 4/8: 10 pm.

Donjon: Eryel: Female Halfling Peasant, Evil. Eryel has copper hair and dark green eyes, and an unusual scar on her face. She wears well-made clothing and a wooden holy symbol. Eryel has a raven named Donny.

Q: Is Leówyn at watch?
A: Yes

Leówyn: Awareness: 40: CS
Eryel: Awareness: 44: MS

Leówyn detects Eryel first.

Now here’s a thought on how to work with meta knowledge on the fly.
First I need to split Character knowledge and Player (meta) knowledge. There’s also Derived knowledge that my character may deduct easily.

Character knowledge: Female, Hobbit. Indifferent. She has copper hair and dark green eyes, and an unusual scar on her face. She wears well-made clothing and a wooden holy symbol.
All the above are easily discernible. One can see them at first glance. So since these are given by the random tables and generators, I consider them as true.

Derived knowledge: Farmer, Villein/Wealthy Thrall. Peasant.
These can be deducted within moments, or by careful observation. The combination of the clothing style and their quality, along with the fact that it’s a hobbit living at the angle, means she’s a farmer quite high in the class. It’s quite likely she could even be a freeman or yeoman, therefore I’m keeping the derived knowledge results as highly likely. They may or may not need verification by the oracle. Essentially this is meta knowledge that is almost real, waiting to become character knowledge.

Meta knowledge: Escaping the law/service, Evil, name is Eryel, she has a raven named Donny.
None of these could be easily known to the Character. Unless Eryel gives this information or something extraordinary happens to reveal it, this all is in the sphere of imagination. The hobbit’s name could be Eryel or not, she could have a raven or not, but most importantly there’s no way to say she’s evil or that she’s escaping the law/service. So, the moment they come up, these may need to be verified by an Oracle if they’re story relevant.
With regards to the name’s relevance to the story, If the hobbit gives a name it is going to be Eryel, but it may or may not be true.
With regards to the rest, they’re story relevant, but will need to be verified.

Now there’s two ways I can go about this meta knowledge.
The first approach is to disregard it until it comes up. Until then, it’s like Schrödinger’s cat. It exists, buts it’s nor dead nor alive. Our information has been given, but it’s nor true nor false. The moment we look up into the box, is the moment we ask the oracle for verification. That’s mostly how I’ve dealt with meta knowledge given to me until now in my solo plays. Also that’s the main concept on how to solo play prewritten modules.
The second approach is the prejudice approach. The meta knowledge is character knowledge as to what the character believes is true. Call it hunch, cognitive experience, collective unconscious or whatever, but for some reason, my protagonist believes this hobbit is evil, she’s escaping from law/service and she heard a crow before she appeared (let’s not forget my protagonist’s previous encounter with crebain). What’s even more interesting is that all these fit together like puzzle pieces as we’re talking about a lone hobbit with a scar, walking in the middle of a cold winter night, in the Trollshaws. Therefore she will act with this prejudice, until it’s verified or not. This could be embarrassing or a lost opportunity if she’s wrong, but it will make the story even more interesting, give a behavioural approach to my protagonist and also give an extra reason for this additional information to exist instead of me trying to compartmentalise the knowledge away.

Another topic of interest is with regards to the following text in Hârnmaster:

Only significant encounters are detailed to the players. Scores of people may be seen while walking through a busy marketplace, but only a few are likely to interact with the PCs. A generated encounter is assumed to be at least potentially significant.

So what means significant in terms of solo play here? The way I interpret it, it’s an encounter that has the potential to evolve a story thread. It could be an existing or a new thread.
Beware though of two things: first it doesn’t have to be a main thread or story arch, secondly, it’s only potential. The encounter could be a dud, depending on how the player reacts.

It’s been two days that the caravan moves through the trollshaws without any issue. It’s not to wonder though that the trolls, orcs and hillmen would rather stay around warm fires than brave the snow and sleet flurries that are whipping the caravan.
They went eastwards on the highway for about a score of miles, and camped near a crossroads before continuing south on the trail. They passed by a few ruins, but dared not go closer. Winter time is when creatures feared by men make their homes at abandoned places.
They camped further south on the trail, near a few trees, and set up a few tarps so that they would be protected by the weather.
Winter nights are not only colder, but longer too, so Leówyn took the first shift on the 5th and 6th watches.
It’s around 10pm, when she notices a short figure in the distance. Shorter than dwarves, she knows it’s no goblin, but whoever travels alone in the middle of a cold winter night, may carry a dark story with them. She puts her hand on her sword hilt, and calls out to what she makes to be a hobbit.
“Halt! Who goes there?” She asks, giving away her position, but showing that she’s not afraid.
The hobbit steps closer.
“Just a weary traveler, Lady. May I join your company for the night?” asks a hobbit woman. She’s wearing well made clothing, and a wooden symbol hangs on her chest. She’s got copper hair and dark green eyes. What draws Leówyn’s attention though, is the deep scar running down her face. Something about her doesn’t seem right. She keeps her hand on the hilt, and looks to Wyny, see if he’s sleeping.

Q: Is Wyny sleeping?
A: False Presuposition. So it’s either that Wyny is not there or he’s dead (unlikely).
Q: Is Wyny missing?
A: Yes.

Ok, that’s interesting.

Leówyn looks around but she can’t find the Caravan master. How did he sneak out during her watch, and most importantly, why. She’ll have to decide on her own what to do with the uninvited guest.

So from the MERP Core rule book, I get that her Demeanor is Formal, Personality is Cautious and Alignment is Neutral.

“You may sit by the fire where I can see you, but you’ll have to surrender any arms you’re carrying, and place them by the cart. Come first morning light you’ll go your own way and we go ours.” She says.

Q: Does the hobbit agree?
A: No, Random Event.
Descriptors: Partially Warm
Actions: Praise Physical

“My lady. I’m not as strong as you are. I wouldn’t even consider turning against a warrior such as yourself. I could keep some distance if that would make you feel safer, even if that would mean I won’t be as warm as I’d like.”

So since we have a conflict here, I’ll turn to game mechanics.
Leówyn will use Rhetoric: 21/33: MS.

Leówyn draws her sword from the scabbard just enough that the blade itself is visible. “I think I made myself quite clear. I will not let a traveler freeze in the cold, but I won’t let the caravan get robbed either. If you won’t let go of your arms, then leave. Or I’ll have to make you leave.”
The hobbit nods. She reveals a long dagger, places it by the cart, and moves to the warmth of the fire.

Considering the events, the unexpected hobbit arrival and Wyny missing, Leówyn will wake up Enryn.

Q: Does Enryn go after Wyny?
A: No
Q: Does he stand guard? (Likely)
A: Yes

Leówyn goes to Enryn and wakes him up. She tells him about their visitor and about Wyny missing.
“You go, look for Wyny. I’ll stand guard here and watch over our guest.” The caravan guard replies.
She packs some gear, and heads out, torch in hand to see where the caravan master may have gone.

Since Leówyn hasn’t got a Tracking skill, I’ll have her use Awareness instead to see if there’s something obvious.

Leówyn: Awareness: 73: MF.
She can’t find anything.

After an hour or so, walking around in the dark of the night, around the camp, she can’t find any sign of Wyny, and Leówyn returns empty handed.

Q: Has Wyny returned maybe?
A: Yes

“There you are.” He says as Leówyn returns. “Thought you had abandoned your post, but Enryn filled me in.”
“I was looking for you. The timing of the little one’s appearance and your disappearance felt odd to me.” She replies.
“Just relaxing myself. Needed to hit the pot before a good nights sleep.” He looks at Enryn and continues. “I see the two of you have everything under control, so we’ll talk again in the morning.”

Day 28, Hithui, 1st Watch

Weather (11) stays Cold, but it’s Snowing heavily now. Winds are North and Windy.

Encounter: 5: No encounter

Day 28, Hithui, 2nd Watch

Weather (11) stays the same.

Encounter: 5: No encounter

Day 28, Hithui, 3rd Watch

Weather (10) stays the same.

Q: Is Eryel there in the morning when Leówyn wakes up?
A: No
Q: Is everyone alright?
A: No, and stuff is missing.
Q: Is Enryn dead?
A: Yes, but no one else is hurt.

Okay so that escalated quickly. My first impression is that Leówyn’s instinct was correct. The hobbit was a murderer escaping from the law.
There’s a chance also that something else killed Enryn and Eryel got kidnapped or run away.
There’s plenty of questions that arise in either case. But let’s try to set the scene.

Q: Is there any sign of struggle?
A: Yes
Q: Is Enryn’s body away from the campsite? (Likely)
A: Yes, Intervention. 1: New Entity.
Q: Is it animal?
A: Yes

As the sunlight falls on her face, Leówyn wakes up. The rest of the party does, as well. Soon it hits her. Where’s Enryn? He should have woken her up.
She quickly gathers her gear and looks around. Further away, half buried in the snow is Enryn’s body in a pool of blood. The throat is mangled. Bite marks everywhere. The face has been eaten off, and if it weren’t for his gear, he’d be unrecognisable.
She looks for tracks, but the constant snowfall has covered everything.
She covers the body in the cloak, and drags it over to the caravan.
“Something attacked him at night.” She says to Wyny.
“And someone took lots of our food and some valuables.” He responds. “Probably that hobbit. Nasty little creatures. Can’t trust them. You thing she had something to do with him?”
“Doubt it. I think she saw an opportunity to rob us and took it, while Enryn fought for his life.” Leówyn thinks out loud. “She can’t have gone far, as she can’t ride our horses. And she didn’t scare them off because they’d have woken us. Want me to try to go after her?”
“The snow will have covered her light foot tracks.” He shakes his head. “What do you think killed Enryn?”
“I’d say a lone wolf, or considering how close we’re at the Trollshaws, a warg. Went for the throat first that’s why we didn’t hear a thing. It either didn’t notice the rest of us, or we were hid by the snow.”
“We need to bury him and move on. Guarding now doesn’t make much sense. I want you a bit ahead, scouting. If you see danger, gallop back to us.” Wyny orders her.
After handling everything, the caravan moves on.

Encounter: 9: No encounter

“What valuables?” Leówyn asks. “What are we selling to Tharbad?”

Leówyn: Rhetoric: 65: CF.

“I’m not paying you to ask questions. You’re meant to get us there. Leave the rest to us.” Wyny responds, obviously offended by the question.
Leówyn wanted also to ask for how many days their rations will last, in the middle of winter, but she feels like it’s not a good moment to do so.
They do have one less mouth to feed though, no matter how grim this sounds.


Development rolls:
Rhetoric: 15: No increase
Awareness: 44: No increase

Session Summary

Okay, so far I’m still getting the hang of Hârnmaster as a system.
I’ll have to read more into when to use opposed rolls and some generic difficulty penalties.
I think that with regards to mechanics it relies more heavily to rulings vs rules than I’d like. I’ll know for certain after a few more sessions.

As for heading south to Tharbad, at this pace I’m not sure the caravan will make it.
It’s very much likely they won’t. But it’s not like they have much choice. I’m thinking that there’s something not right with this caravan. Otherwise what could explain their odd path, odd time travelling, and unwillingness to discuss the cargo?
Again these are not just my thoughts, probably Leówyn also considers that in the back of her head, as she rides through the snow.

This leads me back to the approaches to meta knowledge. I’ve done some discussions on the matter, and may write a short blog post about it in the near future.