In Harm's Way is a roleplaying game about being a naval officer and a gentleman during the Napoleanic Wars. In Harm's Way is designed to emulate the feel of the historical naval adventures of Forster, O'Brian, Parkinson, Lambdin, Pope, and many others rather than the actual history. As such, it's heavy on the adventure and romance, and light on the blockade and convoy duty.
In Harm's Way uses the StarCluster 2.5 System, with some significant differences:
- Play British, American, or French characters.
- Play midshipmen, lieutenants, commander and lieutenants, captain and lieutenants, or even commodore or admiral and captains - or you can start as midshipmen and play all the way through to your retirement as an admiral.
- Troupe Play: Players play three characters, an Officer, a Warrant Officer, and a Seaman
- Honor/Practicality Mechanic: Adds to your chance of success due to your reputation.
- Interest and Notice: You have to accumulate Notice - the approval of your superiors - and add your Interest - your family's political clout - to advance in rank. You are born with Interest, but in order to get Notice, you have to burn with zeal and throw yourself headlong in harm's way.
- Competitive Play: There can be only one Captain. One hero. Is it going to be you, or the guy sitting next to you?
- Voluntary Wounds: You are face to face with the Captain of the French frigate. He's a master of the blade, and after a long duel, cuts you down. Instead of taking damage from it now, you can turn some or all of the damage into a permanent wound, and deal with it later. You stay on your feet, and slash him in return. He drops to your feet, dazed and bleeding. The ship is yours - but that left arm is going to have to come off...
- Avocations: You're an officer, sure - so are all your fellow officers - but you are also an intelligence agent. Breckenridge over there is an avid naturalist, always cutting things up. Williams is a gambler and a bit of a sharp, you suspect, and Horton and Woolrich are both passionate amateur musicians, on violin and cello respectively. They play long into the night when they aren't on watch, but neither one is a good as Will Kelly, the nimble topman.