Harn1 1

The Staff of Fanon (1988)

The Staff of Fanon (1988) is the first in a trilogy of modules penned by Harn creator N. Robin Crossby. It’s a bit by the numbers, but in a clever way.

The whole series is curious. If you’re me, when you think of Harn, you think of a setting that is deeply interested in simulating a kind of fantasy version of medieval Europe. Yes, there are monsters and magic, but the baseline world, its cultures, its social structures and so on reflect something essentially historical in nature. Similarly, the HarnMaster system, which this adventure is nominally written for, is a realistic system in the spirit of a RoleMaster or a Chivalry & Sorcery. But then this module goes to weird places.

It is, essentially, a straight forward adventure. Villain curses a town, villain disappears (to appear in later adventures), heroes show up to lift the curse. Lifting the curse requires getting the titular staff back. Finding it, though, requires going through a passage in a nearby cave that deposits the characters on an entirely different world. The transition is subtle and most players will probably not realize it, but for the GM, this feels like some proto-Planescape vibes. There is an imprisoned demon, a subterranean garden and a bear-headed gardener. Not so medieval realist anymore, huh!

Love the mage on the cover in his terrycloth robe — getting some very “confused old codger” vibes from him. Art throughout is evocative, as are the maps and other schematics.

Oh, one more thing. Around this time, new Harn setting material was hard to come by, so fans started creating their own. They called the official material canon and, inspired by the name of this adventure, combined “fan” and “canon” into the word “fanon,” making it maybe the first instance of a word that is now an important term in fanfiction. Which is neat, if true!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *