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[Heroquest] Help me get it

Scorpio Rising

Active member
This is a thread about the roleplaying game, formerly known as Hero Wars, Heroquest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and Heroquest 2nd edition, now known as Heroquest: Glorantha.

I bought into this line with Heroquest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, due to hype here on RPG.net. I'd already played Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, The Shadow of Yesterday and Primetime Adventures by the time Heroquest hit my table in 2005 and I was all pumped up for it to be great and then ... it wasn't.

Since the launch of Heroquest: Glorantha I've gotten back into the line, picking up that book as well as both of the Sartar volumes, the Pavis book and both of the Red Cow books as well. I'm even considering converting my ongoing 13th Age game to Heroquest and yet ... I still don't feel I really get it.
  • How do you incentivize players to broaden their characters rather than just "going long" in a narrow minority of abilities?
  • How do you incentivize engagement with the world when it's so easy to put together dice ratings that are just driven by core ability + augment vs pass/fail difficulty and aren't attached to anything that's happening in the shared imaginative space?
  • Can players really get comfortable spending hero points on instantaneous boosts like bumping rolls rather than long-term stat increases? In my experience even the most indy players, including me, really value investing in long-term character growth above most else.
  • How do you pick the right granularity for skills and abilities, particularly magic?
  • How do you reconcile the many tables, modifiers and adjustment of later editions with the extreme minimalism of the rest of the system?
I'm not here to say Heroquest is a "bad" game. I'm sure it's not. But it's a game that keeps throwing out these stumbling blocks whenever I think about engaging with it. I get that it's a perfectly valid thing to say, "that's never been an issue for me" with regard to any or all of these issues. But the most valuable responses for me will be from people who say, "That was an issue for me ... until I thought about it this way: ..."
 

AndrewTBP

You are Number 6
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I've played all the versions and the current one is my favourite.
I've never encountered the problems you describe. However I've always played with Glorantha fans, so engagement with the world was never a problem.
 

ajevans

Registered User
Validated User
....
  • How do you incentivize players to broaden their characters rather than just "going long" in a narrow minority of abilities?
  • How do you incentivize engagement with the world when it's so easy to put together dice ratings that are just driven by core ability + augment vs pass/fail difficulty and aren't attached to anything that's happening in the shared imaginative space?..."
The same thoughts passed through my mind however I figured that's probably thinking about it the wrong way. The players shouldn't need mechanical incentives to act in a certain way if you ensure they've fully bought into the premise of the game. It's a narrative game so make clear it's about creating a shared narrative and that involves making interesting multidimensional characters - apologies if that doesn't sound massively helpful, but buy in is key.

Saying that you can incentivise players by giving players +modifiers for interesting use of abilities, and giving stretches to those that use the same generic abilities - but probably best to state this up front during character creation.

Regards reconciling "many tables" . Just use what you want to use. You'll be probably using simple contests for the majority of things, with the odd extended context - with barely a table in sight.
 

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
I'm also slightly puzzled with some of the comments above - although I understand you're considering making your own "Hacks" or settings? I'll apologize already for not remembering all the terms and specificities, it's been a while since I played and read the rules.
  • How do you incentivize players to broaden their characters rather than just "going long" in a narrow minority of abilities?
    Isn't that down to your players? Having multiple Keywords (Homeland/Origin, Profession, Cult/Magic/Social Group) is the norm, and ideally all players will want a little spread of abilities (Combat, Social, Stealth, Healing, Mobility, Magic or Tech), unless you're gaming with players who always play the War-Hero Sniper who belongs to the League of Assassins society - and even then there might be some breakouts from there (Skulk like a Shadow, etc.). Having a good selection of keywords, or incentivizing players to come up with interesting Keywords can also help (no "War-Hero" backgrounds, only ones that actually provide some variety of "functions", including social ones). You might want to limit how many points the characters can initially spend on Keyword (versus breakout ability) increases, to start with. Also, abilities within a Keyword can't augment each other or the Keyword, providing some incentive for investing elsewhere. You can also enforce the rule about those having a specific ability having advantage over a Keyword (i.e. a Warrior 17, breakout: Blademaster +2 has a further advantage of +3 or +6 - ? - over a person with Warrior 18 in a swordfight) to encourage investing in specific, more limited abilities. Or use stretches, as mentioned above.

  • How do you incentivize engagement with the world when it's so easy to put together dice ratings that are just driven by core ability + augment vs pass/fail difficulty and aren't attached to anything that's happening in the shared imaginative space?
    I'm not sure I entirely understand your concern here. Characters in HQ have relationships as abilities - these people/relationships can be threatened, and that can provide incentive to engage? Otherwise are you referring to the pass-fail cycle described in the book? To the discussion of the outcome of a roll? Could you clarify? Essentially you'll still go through the same negotiation of impact as in other narrative games, and many GMs don't rely on the narrative pass/fail cycle system of the book...

  • Can players really get comfortable spending hero points on instantaneous boosts like bumping rolls rather than long-term stat increases? In my experience even the most indy players, including me, really value investing in long-term character growth above most else.
    Clearly, that's a yes. It feels like a bigger choice opting to use the Hero Point if you know it's going to impact your progression down the line. I know some groups split them (Hero Points and Experience points), but I've never minded. It's also down to the economy of the group (how many and how often you give out HPs) - if they can expect 5-6 per "cycle", they may know they can spend 2-3 on actions and have some for progression. If you only have 1-2, you'll keep them for progression. It might be something to discuss with them beforehand and can be a dial to adjust how much agency and "narrative power" the characters have (making the game more heroic/rapid progression). I believe there may be a discussion of "GM directed increases" - it's been a while since I read the book? At least when I played in a PbP game (I'll include a link to the BGG forums) the GM would offer us a choice of certain abilities to increase at a significant milestone point, which would ensure that all characters did progress, even without HPs. I believe he would offer us progression on abilities we spent HPs on, or abilities we'd broken out from a Magic Keyword with a HP (stunts).

  • How do you pick the right granularity for skills and abilities, particularly magic?
    That's a tricky one, but again, think of it as a dial or way to give direction/style to your game. A "Four-Colour" or Pulpy game might have "Pilot", "Scientist", "Doctor" and "Genius" Keywords, whereas a more grounded on might have "Dentist", "EMT", "Airline Pilot" and "Navy Reserve Veteran" as keywords, limiting their range already.
    Maybe look at the baked-in Heroquest setting for ideas, as they have various Keywords and magic systems in place. By default HQ:G is quite high magic. But by requiring specialised Keywords (you have to have the Wizard Keyword to be able to take an active Magic ability), limiting Magic's use as an active ability vs an augment (unless you are a Wizard, magic breakout abilities can only be used as augments and Keywords can't be used as Augments), or limiting magic to "a specific ability as a spell", no Keywords.

  • How do you reconcile the many tables, modifiers and adjustment of later editions with the extreme minimalism of the rest of the system?
    Again, aside from the resolution matrix, I'm not sure what you're referring to? In fact, once the one augment maximum (vs the whole "as many augments as you can" system) and the "bidding" system of the first edition was removed, I got the feeling there were fewer tables. I'll go back to the core rulebook...
The PbF game I participated in on RPG Geek:
Heroquest - Glorantha - Colymar campaign 2 Orlmarth IC
Heroquest - Glorantha - Colymar campaign 2 Orlmarth OOC

EDIT: Also there's a link to an older game of HeroQUest (using 2nd Ed, I believe) in my signature.
 
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Alter_Boy

Big Brain Ideas
Validated User
Regarding going broad instead of going long, I recall that HeroQuest stresses not letting people get away with being loosey-goosey with what you can use a skill for. I'm fine with some systems being loose with skill uses (using a different attribute bonus in D&D for a skill that's supposed to be used with another attribute), but with HeroQuest, I think it needs to be more strict, since the skills are near everything in the game. I wouldn't let some take 'Genius' because that's too broad: 'Chess Genius' or 'Marketing Genius' are more specific, and frankly, they create a better description of who the character is.
 

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
I wouldn't let some take 'Genius' because that's too broad: 'Chess Genius' or 'Marketing Genius' are more specific, and frankly, they create a better description of who the character is.
I was exaggerating for effect with that one, although that was a lot clearer in my head than in what I wrote.
Again, depending on the game style, it light be fun to let it stand - with some added descriptors (forgetful genius? Mad genius?) and bounding (works for intellectual pursuits and tech, not physical prowess) - but treat anything without a specific ability as a big stretch on their part, or as a risky gambit (or whatever that option is called).
 

AndrewTBP

You are Number 6
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I’ve come to think that Abilities in HeroQuest and Backgrounds in 13th Age have much in common, and advice about the latter applies to the former.
So
  • Narri Clan Sword Thane
Is good in either system.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
This is a thread about the roleplaying game, formerly known as Hero Wars, Heroquest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and Heroquest 2nd edition, now known as Heroquest: Glorantha.

I bought into this line with Heroquest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, due to hype here on RPG.net. I'd already played Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, The Shadow of Yesterday and Primetime Adventures by the time Heroquest hit my table in 2005 and I was all pumped up for it to be great and then ... it wasn't.
For me, HeroQuest is an excellent system that gets bogged down by the rules. Strip out all the excess rules and it just works.

Since the launch of Heroquest: Glorantha I've gotten back into the line, picking up that book as well as both of the Sartar volumes, the Pavis book and both of the Red Cow books as well. I'm even considering converting my ongoing 13th Age game to Heroquest and yet ... I still don't feel I really get it.
I normally use an example of something that people get or don't get. A swordsman faces up to a young female NPC and the NPC uses "Sweet Face" as a counter to the Swordsman's Sword ability. In HeroQuest, this works without any commentary, as you narrate what happens. If you don't get this, then maybe HeroQuest isn't for you.

How do you incentivize players to broaden their characters rather than just "going long" in a narrow minority of abilities?
They can use Breakouts, which add flavour to the Abilities. I don't make any distinction between keywords and Abilities, they are just the same to me.

Alternatively, they can gain new Abilities that don;t fit as a Breakout and can add new Breakouts to those abilities.

How do you incentivize engagement with the world when it's so easy to put together dice ratings that are just driven by core ability + augment vs pass/fail difficulty and aren't attached to anything that's happening in the shared imaginative space?
What? I have no idea what this means.

HeroQuest is no different to any other game in this regards. If I play in Glorantha, then my struggle is against Broos, Ogres, Trolls and Lunars, no matter what my skills and abilities are, I support my clan and help my friends. If I play in Thatcher 1999, I oppose Thatcher's Totalitarian State and help the oppressed, again no matter what my skills and abilities are.

You engage with the world by, well, engaging with the world. The roll is a means to an end, nothing more. If you use the Swordthane to defeat a broo, then you are engaging in the world. If you use Great Strength to hold up a coal face to let the gnome children escape, then you are engaging with the world.

Engaging with the world is a RolePlaying activity, not a Rules activity, in my games at least.

Can players really get comfortable spending hero points on instantaneous boosts like bumping rolls rather than long-term stat increases? In my experience even the most indy players, including me, really value investing in long-term character growth above most else.
In my experience, yes.

In my games, PCs get a Hero Point each session and a number of points at the end of a scenario. They quite often use the Session point to reroll things, but also use saved Hero points. It is better to survive or do well and get a smaller boost at the end than to die and have no boost.

In any case, with a small number of Abilities, you only need a small number of Hero points for character advancement. Even if you increase or add Breakouts, I play it costs 1 Hero Point to increase a skill/Breakout and 1 Hero Point to add a new skill. What else is there to spend you points on?

For HQ1, you had a lot more skills and they took longer to increase, but with HQ2 that just isn't the case.

How do you pick the right granularity for skills and abilities, particularly magic?
I don't.

A skill is a skill is a skill. A spell is a spell is a spell.

In my HeroQuest games, you can use any skill against any skill, as long as you can narrate it. Spells are just Breakouts of a skill, for me. I allow Breakouts to add to the main skill, if applicable, so someone with Sword 15 (Bladesharp +1, Broo-Slicer +1) attacks at 17 when fighting Broo. If you cast a spell on an opponent, you roll your skill vs their resisting skill to see of it had an effect, or you just use it to augment.

How do you reconcile the many tables, modifiers and adjustment of later editions with the extreme minimalism of the rest of the system?
I don't.

Simple as that.

I look at every rule for HeroQuest and ask "Does this make the system better?" or "Does this make it easier to use?" If the answer is "No", then I drop the rule.

I'm not here to say Heroquest is a "bad" game. I'm sure it's not. But it's a game that keeps throwing out these stumbling blocks whenever I think about engaging with it. I get that it's a perfectly valid thing to say, "that's never been an issue for me" with regard to any or all of these issues. But the most valuable responses for me will be from people who say, "That was an issue for me ... until I thought about it this way: ..."
For me, HeroQuest is a quick and fun game that can be used for almost any genre.

How I make it quick and fun:
  • PCs have Skills and Breakouts and that is it
  • Breakouts can be used to increase the skill in use, depending on circumstances
  • All Augments are based on the skill, a skill can only be used to augment once at a time
  • Several skills can be used to augment (So, someone with Sword and Swordthane can use one to augment the other)
  • You only roll once and only roll when it is important
  • Any skill can be used against any skill
  • Hero Points can be used to adjust skills, do impossible things, reroll skills, introduce plot points and much, much more
  • If you can Narrate something then it should be allowed
  • If you struggle to find an applicable skill or augment then it's time to roll
Now, I know full well that the way I run HeroQuest does not suite everyone, but I have found it quick and easy.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
I’ve come to think that Abilities in HeroQuest and Backgrounds in 13th Age have much in common, and advice about the latter applies to the former.
So
  • Narri Clan Sword Thane
Is good in either system.
Yes, I use RuneQuest and 13th Age as templates for Skills and Breakouts.

So, in your example, I could have Narri Clan (Sword Thane + 1), or Sword Thane (Narri Clan +1) and both would work pretty well. I could even have Narri Clan and Sword Thane as separate Skills.

I use RQ cults as templates, so I could have Humakt 15 (Bladesharp +1, Truesword +1, Turn Undead +1) which I could use to augment my Sword 20 skill, giving me a +2 to my Sword, making it Sword 2M. Generally, Battle Magic/Rune Magic spells act as Breakouts for HeroQuest. 13th Age Feats would work well as Breakouts as well.
 
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