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[Heroquest] Help me get it

CK!

Creator of Things
Validated User
What? I have no idea what this means.
Here is what I think it means:
In HQ1 there is text for awarding modifiers for a PC interacting with the environment in a clever way.
"I take the high ground!"
"Take a +3 to your rating."

In the text for HQG (as far as I can tell) there is no text on this matter. The only Bonuses available are through Auguments on the character sheet or from successes from a previous successful contest. So the character is only focused on using his own Abilities on his own Abilties... and not on interacting wth the world to gain a bonus.

[I don't know what HW or HQ2 said on this matter. I don't them at hand.]

So, depending on which edition one is using (or the edition one has built in one's head after reading several editions and cobbling together one's own rules set) the game posits very different expectations on how the Player can or will or should manipulate or interact with the environment to try to gain a bonus.

That is my guess as to what Scorpio Rising is referring to.

Scorpio Rising Scorpio Rising , if that is what you are referring to and offer bonuses based on circumstance and actions on the part of the part of the PCs if you so wish.
 

soltakss

Simon Phipp - RQ Fogey
Validated User
Here is what I think it means:
In HQ1 there is text for awarding modifiers for a PC interacting with the environment in a clever way.
"I take the high ground!"
"Take a +3 to your rating."
Ah thanks, that makes sense.

I'd just give a Bonus if the Player could justify why a Bonus should be given. High ground, sure. Hates trolls, sure. Heart is pure, well, really?
 

Scorpio Rising

Active member
Sorry for the long delay in response; I got slammed with work and wasn't able to find time to come back to this thread.

Thanks to everyone for attempting to engage my somewhat rambling initial question. I'm going to break out some more specific responses to individual points below.

1. On "going long"
It seems to me that if I've got Weapon Thane 17 [bladesharp +2, swordsman +1, widow's blade +1] and I can spend 1 Hero Point for advancement then I always want to put that point into Weapon Thane: It costs the same amount and by definition it is more versatile than any of the breakout abilities underneath it. Furthermore, if I've got Weapon Thane 2W1, Storm Bull 19 and Red Cow Clan W1 on my character sheet then I should always put all my advancement points into Weapon Thane because I am so much more likely to succeed when I use it. The dirty secret of most "broad trait" systems is that there is a very broadly defined penumbra and even with a stretch penalty/specificity bonus thrown in if I just concentrate on one ability then over the long run of campaign play my ability (and ultimately my agency) will outstrip that of players who attempt to generalize.

There are a couple of possible responses to this critique. One is to state that "good roleplayers" should be more interested in modeling their characters as well rounded individuals. Frankly, I think that's poppycock. I think one of the key concepts of Narrativist play is that it harnesses the reward system (which is ultimately a system of accumulating/increasing agency) directly to motivating story-oriented play. Telling players that they have to choose lower agency as players in order for play not to collapse is dissatisfying to me. Note that this is not the same as saying that characters can't have terrible flaws or make sub-optimal choices. As a player I don't lose any agency when I exercise a flaw I chose or make bad choices for my character's behavior, because I (the player) am making those choices. But when there is a social contract which encourages me to make a sub-optimal character for reasons of taste then that becomes disappointing.

A second possible solution is to attempt to police this by putting restrictions in place and I can see that Heroquest: Glorantha has put some of those in but I think they are weak sauce. Specifically, you may only advance Keywords by +1 each session. But what that's really telling you is that you should advance at least your best Keyword +1 every session, otherwise you are falling behind. Moreover, the fact that you actually gain a bonus "catch-up" boost to other abilities whenever your highest ability crosses certain thresholds is essentially further tacit encouragement from the system to maximize one ability to the exclusion of all others.

The reason I'm so hard on this is that it migrates all play into the social contract: It's overwhelmingly beneficial to players to maximize a single score on their sheet to the exclusion of all else and then to claim that they can use that score to solve all problems. The reason it becomes social contract is that responsibility falls on the GM to police the boundaries of each ability in the game and constantly assign bonuses and penalties based on specificity of application. Player skill at negotiation of boundaries then dominates play.

This view was formed in the crucible of Story Games Boston where we played dozens of story games over a period of several years. There were several very smart players in that group who absolutely had the "breaker" mentality and would look for the glass jaw of every system, and games with this weakness -- effectively, depending on players' good taste not to double down on a single ability -- consistently collapsed and produced un-fun play. I view that not as a player problem but as a game design problem. I also will point out that in my mind The Shadow of Yesterday, Fate, Cortex Plus/Prime, Dogs In The Vineyard and Primetime Adventures all facilitate an amount of freeform, player-authored character traits without devolving into the mode of play I'm talking about here.

Finally, I'll point out that I have only played Runequest once and haven't internalized the genre implied by its ruleset. That means that I and my potential players don't have a shared language to tell us what an Lankhor Mhy Sage or a Storm Bull Berserker might or might not be able to do and that can lead to a lot of interpretation clash in terms of what is and is not covered by any given keyword or ability. I really don't want to have to internalize Runequest in order to make Heroquest play functional and even if I did then I would have the same problem as soon as I switch to other genres.
 

Bruce Redux

Not flying or biting
Validated User
I don't have any answers, but wow do I want to complicate you for describing the problem so clearly and productive. I am, without any sarcasm, deeply impressed, and curious to see where things go from here.
 

Scorpio Rising

Active member
2. On engaging with the world
Boy, did I phrase this badly; it seems almost no-one got it until CK! I'm not talking about giving the PCs an in-character motivation to go adventure, or connection to NPCs and communities. In general this isn't something that I or my players struggle with. I'm specifically talking about a feedback loop between what's been established in the fiction of the game and what the dice and scores at the table indicate. Some examples from other games:
  • D&D 3rd Edition: "I'm moving to flank the Ogre. That will give me a +2 bonus due to a Feat and make me eligible to Sneak Attack him." "Okay, great, but to get there you have to move away from the goblin you're fighting. That will expose you to an attack of opportunity."
  • Pendragon: "I attack the fleeing ruffians from atop my mighty destrier, Darkwind." "Okay, great. You modify your Lance skill by +5 and the bandits lower their Sword skills by 5. Also, you can add Darkwind's damage dice to the damage yielded by your lance."
  • Dungeon World: "I'm leaping down off the ledge on top of the Orc, swinging my lantern into his face." "Okay, great. Defy danger using your DEX and let's see what happens...."
  • Cortex Prime: "I'm going to set the mouldering old curtains on fire with my lantern to fill the room with smoke to cover our escape." "Okay, great. Your effect die becomes the value of a new Billowing Smoke effect. You can add that die in to future rolls for the rest of the scene where it benefits you or hampers your opponents."
  • Sorcerer: "Before I strike him down, I'm going to try to demoralize him. I'll go ahead and tell him the truth - that *I* am his father!" "Okay, great. Roll your Will vs his Humanity. You'll roll over successes as extra dice in your next attack roll."
Now Heroquest does have a form of this effect in the way that benefits of victory from one contest are applicable as bonuses to later relevant contests. But.
  • But #1: By my reading of the text, Heroquest doesn't encourage chaining contests together in quite the way that many of these other games do. If you want to seize the high ground or put the sun behind you or take any other small, advantageous action, that should typically be inside the scope of the contest, rather than a precursor contest of its own. (Again, by my reading of the texts -- this may not be how you play in which case I'm eager to hear about it). Is there some mechanism that I am missing for assigning bonuses and penalties based on circumstance and tactical play? Again, the text doesn't seem to address it.
  • But #2: I find it very confusing that extended contests seem to just use the initially established value in every round and not to shift from round to round as the participants adjust to each other. It means if I go into a contest where I am the underdog I am massively more likely to lose (due to compounded probabilities) and there is no real tactical move I can make that will alter the situation.
 

Scorpio Rising

Active member
Thanks, Bruce. What a nice thing to say.

I've now thrown out two fairly substantial, um, wodges of thought so I won't put any more in the thread to keep it from getting too defuse.

I did want to thank Samachadreal for linking to Chris Chinn's "narrativist hacks" for Heroquest. I hadn't seen them before and they go a long way towards addressing the style of play that I'm looking for.
 

NathanS

Registered User
Validated User
Yeah for "engaging with the world" that sort of tactics, my positioning, my exact item I'm using, type stuff is not what Heroquest cares about, contents are not there to be a means of "let's deal with this problem in any sort of depth" its more "the story could go two or more interesting ways, let's roll to see which way it goes and move on." And Extended contest are just "that but since this is something we have more emotional stakes in let's keep everyone in suspense for a few more rolls then normal" But if you're looking for "I got behind them to flank them!" it really doesn't care about that stuff at all.

I mean you could make it, but by default it doesn't.

And yeah again by default it as a system really want everyone on the table to just get o the same page abut the setting and power scale you're using and only polices it through group consent/GM calls. But it really dosn't put any active road blocks on players looking to not go along with the mood its shooting for, other than to perhaps shrug its shoulder and go "Well using the same ability all the time seems boring but you do you."
 

SibKhatru

Registered User
Validated User
Well, I just chain contests as needed.

But the issue of getting the narrated thingy fitted in, I usually make it act like an augment. If it's a stretch though a normal penalty applies. And in a case with an extended contest against a foe who is bad-ass, well, I'll consider augments as we roll through things, and I'll also adjust the challenge level with the pass-fail logic, maybe--it depends on the stakes of course.
 

Geburah

Brickotherapist
Validated User
1. On "going long"
It seems to me that if I've got Weapon Thane 17 [bladesharp +2, swordsman +1, widow's blade +1] and I can spend 1 Hero Point for advancement then I always want to put that point into Weapon Thane: It costs the same amount and by definition it is more versatile than any of the breakout abilities underneath it. Furthermore, if I've got Weapon Thane 2W1, Storm Bull 19 and Red Cow Clan W1 on my character sheet then I should always put all my advancement points into Weapon Thane because I am so much more likely to succeed when I use it. The dirty secret of most "broad trait" systems is that there is a very broadly defined penumbra and even with a stretch penalty/specificity bonus thrown in if I just concentrate on one ability then over the long run of campaign play my ability (and ultimately my agency) will outstrip that of players who attempt to generalize.
Welcome back to the discussion. It is a concern, however HQ does have a few systems in place for this:
  • Advancing Keywords costs more (2 Heropoints per point only in HQG, though? I think previous editions had a higher cost) and if you're also using them for bumps, there will be some (slight) limiting effect of that expenditure on how frequently Keywords get increased
  • Enforcing stretches and skill advantages (specific skill has an advantage - +3 or +6 - over the general) in play
  • Feats and Magic abilities are necessarily breakout skills - you will have to invest in those to use them actively, or pay a Heropoint each time you want to activate them. In Glorantha, this is a big area for developing your breakout abilities.
  • Using Heropoints to "lock down" advantages such as relationships (which in some genres/games can be really essential), magical objects or other powers (wealth, holdings, emotions or values) which will otherwise fade away. That's always an interesting tool for the GM, presenting such goodies. They then become a seperate ability or can fold in to a keyword.
  • Be a bit harsher in allowing augments from Keywords as opposed to abilities (especially for automatic augments) - for example disallowing augmenting Weapon Thane with Red Cow Clan when raiding, but allowing the augment for "I bear the Pride of the Clan"
  • Offer directed increases to abilities, letting the players focus on the core keywords (or vice-versa)
  • Finally, is it that bad to have some core features that increase regularly? It's also the GMs role to present situations in which it would be advantageous to have a high "Red Cow" ability, and where using "Weapon Thane" would be a stretch or a serious handicap - negotiating peace between two angry female relatives or arguing for the support of the clan in repairing your damaged stead. Make it clear to your players beforehand and through play that there will be situations where they will have to call on their other abilities.
 
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