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in 1997 Crossby founded Kelestia Productions (KP), an electronic publishing e-company. KP and CGI now independently produce printed and online materials for use with Hârn-based role-playing campaigns and fiction.
The role-playing game HârnMaster was developed specifically for use with Hârn. It enables players, gamemasters, and writers to develop character descriptions that exploit the deep level of detail found in Hârn.
The world of Hârn first appeared in Hârn (1983) from Columbia Games, which presented the Hârn campaign world as a folio that offered a general overview of a campaign area, the island of Hârn, which was about three times the size of Great Britain. It included background, history, a look of religion and a small encyclopaedia called the Hârndex, and a map of Hârn drawn by N. Robin Crossby. Hârn was broadly based on Norman England, with some fantasy elements appearing through dwarves, elves and orcs. It was low magic and Hârn tried to create a genuinely real setting, based on careful research and consideration.:182
Properly speaking, Hârn is an island off the western coast of the region of Venârivè (the northwestern part of the continent of Lýthia) on the planet Kèthîra, but as Hârn has traditionally been the focus of the setting, many people refer to the world as Hârn or HârnWorld. Hârn is notable for several reasons:
- It has no 'evil' versus 'good' aspect that dominates many other FRPGs. This concept is difficult for many new players to grasp because there are no easy behavior indicators for them to rely on.
- It has a high level of detail and internal consistency. A large number of individual cities, fortifications, towns, manors and adventure locations have been described down to the names of the peasant families residing there. In its immense detail it rivals other game worlds known for their depth, such as Tekumel.
- It is also notable for its high level of realism and a concomitant low level of magic. Its societies are, for the most part, modeled quite closely on Earth during the Middle Ages (specifically, that of Norman Britain). Nonetheless, it has many of the standard trappings of fantasy, such as elves, dwarves, orcs, wizards, etc. Many of these have a unique Hârnic spin.
- The written history and events of Hârn are current up to a specific point in time (midnight on the first day of the year 720), and there is no intention of "advancing" the official timeline beyond this point. The history and events that occur after this point are controlled by the individual game masters. Thus, all Hârn games are unique but spring from a common starting point.
The island of Hârn has seven human kingdoms and two kingdoms ruled by other species. In alphabetical order, these are:
- Azadmere is the home of the Khuzan, the Hârnic dwarves.
- Chybisa is viewed as a struggling independent monarchy or a breakaway county of Kaldor.
- Evael is located along the southern coast and is the forest home of the reclusive Sinái, the Hârnic elves.
- Kaldor is a feudal kingdom with a weak king. Located at the hub of four trade routes, it is a power in the east. It is perhaps the most detailed of all of the kingdoms.
- Kanday is a stolid, chivalric kingdom situated in the western part of the island.
- Melderyn is the most ancient kingdom, reputedly founded by wizards. It is located in the southeastern part of the island and claims a monopoly on trade with the Lythian continent.
- The northern land of Orbaal was once a collection of peaceful princedoms inhabited by the Jarin people (analogues of the British Celts) until it was conquered by the Ivinians (analogous to the Vikings). Now the Jarin are brutally suppressed, but some plot rebellion.
- Rethem is widely viewed as the "evil kingdom" but this is because its rulers value might and merit over birth and privilege (or, possibly, because its largest town was the base for a crusade by the church of the death-god Morgath). It is a kingdom born of war and beset by enemies on all sides.
- Tharda rose from the ashes of the former Corani Empire (as did Kanday and Rethem) and is the island's only non-monarchist state; its patron-client social structure is superficially similar to that of Republican Rome. Petty corruption and patronage are rife, however, and the Republic is very ambitious in its territorial claims.
The island is also home to over a dozen human "barbarian" tribal nations and many bands of Hârnic orcs, known as gârgún.
The planet Kèthîra, on which Hârn is situated, is one of seven linked parallel worlds collectively known as Keléstia. Among the other worlds in the family are Terra (or Earth); Yàsháin, a high-magic world which is the afterlife of Kèthîra; Midgaad, a parallel of Tolkien's Middle-earth; and the Blessed Realm, a parallel of the land of the same name in Tolkien's works. It is suggested that the ancestors of Kèthîra's elves and dwarves came from Midgaad to Kèthîra; in the case of the elves this is a stopping off point on a longer journey to the Blessed Realm. Kèthîra's Sinái retain the custom of building swan-shaped ships in which they sail to the Blessed Realm when they weary of their time on Hârn (in this case sailing through a periodically appearing interworld portal known as the Nimeliant off Hârn's northeastern coast).
In addition to the island of Hârn itself, products have been released covering the nearby regions of Shôrkýnè (a large feudal kingdom with a weak king) and Ivínia (an analogue of Scandinavia complete with fjords, Vikings, and a religion similar to that of the old Norse).
Other products have been released detailing the island kingdom of Chélemby, a mixed-Ivínian trading state (an analogue of the medieval Scandinavian trading state of Visby). A product detailing the nearby Hârbáaler kingdom of Lédenheim is also available.
Most recently, a product has been released which details the whole sub-continental region of Venârivè (an area roughly equivalent to Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle-East). This product provides the basis for adventuring and exploration beyond the island of Hârn, and puts the island and its cultures in their wider context.
Columbia published most of the canon material about Hârn in the early 1980s; at that point (around the time the first edition of the Harnmaster rules was published) the interval between new products lengthened and some scheduled products were never completed (such as the Trierzon and Azeryan regional modules). The setting was sustained throughout the 1990s and early 2000s by fan-created material, popularly called "fanon." The high quality and consistency of the fanon products, as well as the interactivity of message fora such as HarnList and HârnForum have kept the setting alive.
Hârnic fanon, although independently written, is notable for its goal of staying consistent with the hundreds of pages of canon material spread over more than twenty years of publication. In many instances high quality art was produced and professional grade layout and design was done to make the material look similar to products produced by the publishers. There are points of confusion regarding the sanctioning and format of fanon. Both CGI and Kelestia have different fanon guidelines.
In 1998, the creator of Harn, N. Robin Crossby and Columbia Games were contacted by Auran Games, an Australian video game company interested in developing a Hârnic Internet role-playing game. Around that time Robin had grown unhappy with the direction being taken with the Hârn product line and had begun self-publishing his own modules under the name Kelestia Productions in 1997. These modules and rulebooks diverged from CGI’s releases as of the HârnMaster I series. Crossby released both digital products in PDF format through Hyperbooks.com and print products which were produced in Burnaby and shipped in large volume from his home with the help of his eldest daughter Arien. During this period he published nearly half a dozen products, including his own extension of the basic rules called HârnMaster Gold. HMG was not only a new version of the Hârn universe, but a guide to campaigning with the Hârn world in any gaming system.
CGI and Crossby worked together alongside Auran until 2000 when the Auran project was cancelled by Electronics Arts, the games proposed publisher, before it was fully completed. It was one of a number of games cancelled by Electronic Arts at the time due to budget cutbacks. Over the next three years there arose more conflicts between Robin and CGI over licensing and unpaid royalties. In 2003, Crossby claimed that the contract between him and CGI had ended. An acrimonious disagreement ensued.
Though the dispute between Kelestia Productions and Columbia Games has never been completely resolved, Kelestia Productions has done business selling electronic-format modules since about 2006. After Crossby’s death in 2008 his intellectual property rights passed on to his eldest daughter Arien. The trademark for the name “Hârn” was formally granted to Arien Crossby by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office in September 2009.
Columbia Games still produces and sells Harn material through their website. Their most recent efforts have been producing a series of articles under the name Harn Quest. HârnQuest is a collection of Hârn articles released 4 times a year. Each issue is approximately 32 pages and includes articles about Hârnic kingdoms, cities, castles, history, creatures, and more. New Atlas Hârnica maps are also sent to HârnQuest subscribers as they are released.