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a session of [Hero's Banner]

Started by muddlepud, September 09, 2007, 10:18:10 PM

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I randomly ran a session of Hero's Banner yesterday with a couple of friends. Its been one of those games I've been itching to GM since I got my hands on it.

I've never seen players swear so much for actually succeeding. They wanted to fail. They wanted those passion checks.
When one player actually wanted to achieve a certain goal to head towards his happy ending, things seemed certain. The dice failed him however and it threw a great deal new drama into the situation that made subsequent scenes rather tragic.

Things seemed to be going right for them a lot of the time, but they wanted the conflict to escalate and as a GM it was hard to keep upping it. They smirked whenever I threw something drastic into the plot to keep it going however.

Overall, the players were impressed. They may have chosen a favourite influence when the game first began, but that changed as events occurred in the sesssion.  The game did not end up where they, nor myself expected it to go.

Really looking forward to running some more....especially several sessions worth.
Scott V.
Melbourne, Australia

Tim C Koppang


Good to hear from you.  It sounds as if your session was fairly successful, which makes me very happy.  I know exactly what you mean when you say that your players were looking for failures.  It's an interesting phenomenon, but one that the game encourages in situations where everyone begins to race towards the endgame.

Let me ask you a few questions if you don't mind.  First, how large was your group?  Second, I'm curious to know why escalation was a bit of a problem for you.  As GM did you feel as if you were able to keep a handle on the events of the game and frame interesting scenes for everyone -- or was there too much going on at once?  Finally, I'd love to hear some of the details about the scene that changed the game into a tragedy: could you describe it and why it was such a turning point?

All in all, I'm very pleased that your group had an enjoyable experience and that the game ended up in a different place than you may have initially suspected.  If I do say so myself, Hero's Banner always seems to succeed at making small stories into surprising epics.  Keep me posted on any further developments.

- Tim


Hey Tim

So the group was only the three of us: Matt, Damo and myself. These are guys I've been gaming with for at least 10 years. Matt has been looking into a lot of indie games himself recently. Damo hasn't been exposed to much, but is rather interested after a recent chat and giving him a game that I bought from GenCon.

As for the escalation, things started out somewhat big to begin with. The main characters were two princes of Prodan.
Ultimately things went well for the players conflicts (successes then quite a few initally failed conflict checks followed up with successful checks including passion) and they were accomplishing goals and the difficulties being introduced in the game. It was difficult to throw more spanners in the work to prolong the game so that the PCs did not achieve their main goals until right at the end. I managed it in the end, but I had to sit and think for a while on some points (thus delaying the game a little). There was also slightly conflicting interests between the PCs - one prince was trying to stap a way with Uran, the other escalating things himself so that a war would occur (the players had a lot of fun on that story!).

So the details of one of our major scenes...requires a few points of background.

* The current king of Prodan is The Dragon, once a militaristic king but now infirm and dying.
* The Prince Regent is his son, Lokar who is a cunning merchant and diplomat. He and his father do not agree on much.
* The PCs are the Prince Regent's sons, Arnor and Kelidor.
* Arnor's Hero influence is a man by the name of Thaal, once a bandit king but elevated to a noble and given land in Uran. His province is close to Arnor's on the borders between Uran and Prodan. He is an enemy of Arnor.
* Mirielle is Thaal's wife. Thaal is dying and when the game begins has perhaps a year to live. Mirielle is having an affair with Arnor.
* A Uran general by the name of Veron has taken Prodan's northermost province of Thesk. This is a province that is abundant in food stocks. Uran suffered a drought recently and its people are hungry. Prodan as yet has not offered to share its stocks. It is unknown whether the general acted upon the King of Uran's orders or not. Thaal has allied himself with Veron in effort to bring valuable supplies back to Uran.

With the impending war with Uran, Lokar is doing everything in his power to avert it, through diplomatic and trade channels. He does not listen to his father who says that outright military action is what must be done. Prince Arnor has followed his grandfather's beliefs. He has fortified his forces along the border and brings in more men for possible military action.

Battle lines are drawn and it seems that Arnor and Thaal will soon clash. Arnor seeks out Thaal in his own camp and speaks with him. He appeals to Thaal's better nature, to the man he used to be (the Hero aspect on Arnor's sheeet). Arnor persuades Thaal not to continue his efforts with Veron. He also says that Thaal must not deny Mirielle's love to Arnor. She no longer loves the man that Thaal has become, but instead it is Arnor that she loves. Arnor relinquishes his grip on Mirielle and she is freed to join Arnor in his lands. When military matters are settled, he will have the marriage anulled.

Both the princes, Arnor and Kelidor convince The Dragon to pass the line of succession to Kelidor (the eldest son). Their father, Lokar is filling his pockets with too much of the people's money and his non-aggressive stance on the situation with Uran will severely damage Prodan if full war does break out.

Lokar takes revenge on one of his sons and has mercenaries kidnap Mirielle whilst Arnor is in battle with Veron's forces. Once a stalemate was achieved with Veron, Arnor went off to rescue his wife.
(The players was looking eager to this solo quest of his own, rescuing the wife, returning to battle and winning the was one of a few conflict checks he was looking forward to succeeding and narrating!).
Things went horribly the rescue attempt Mirielle was killed by the mercenaries!!
This broke both Arnor and Thaal and led to difficulties in their leadership back on the front with Veron's forces.
(The player had a value of 65 in the respective influence associated with this action. He failed the first roll, made 3 passion checks and then failed the second roll much to his surprise - Mirielle was not a connection on his sheet so was not safeguarded by an influence).
So this event changed some of the directions that Arnor was planning in his life. It unhinged him and he eventually followed a different path to the one that was apparent earlier on in the story.

Arnor blamed his father completely for this death and met him again years later on the battlefield where he slew him in revenge for Mirielle's death.....
Scott V.
Melbourne, Australia

Tim C Koppang

Quote from: muddlepud on September 11, 2007, 12:31:51 AM
It was difficult to throw more spanners in the work to prolong the game so that the PCs did not achieve their main goals until right at the end. I managed it in the end, but I had to sit and think for a while on some points (thus delaying the game a little).

I think I see what you mean.  It sounds as if at first your group was pacing the game ahead of everyone's Passion Scores.  I may have been less clear than I should have in the book (I'll have to go and check), but Passion really needs to serve as the group's guide when it comes to pacing.  This doesn't mean that you have to limit yourself to inconsequential conflicts at the beginning of the game, but it does mean that everyone needs to keep an eye on what's at stake for their characters and adjust according to Passion.  As you figured out, the game won't work if everyone is constantly on the cusp of achieving their Goals.  You have to work up to that ultimate goal in accordance with Passion increases.  Essentially, Passion serves to drive escalation in Hero's Banner.

I think what happened in your game, and rightly so, is that when you took your break you also adjusted your game's pacing to align with everyone's Passion Scores.  Bravo!

- Tim

Tim C Koppang

I should probably add that when I say "escalation", I only mean so in terms of your character's personal goals. You can always ramp up the stakes of a conflict so long as those stakes don't directly (or perhaps immediately) involve achieving your character's goals.


I'm pretty sure that Passion/Pacing/Escalation stuff was in the rulebook. It hadn't quite sunk in how to do it being a first time GM and having first time players to this game. We're pretty sure we know how things might go next time with those same players....hopefully with them reading the rules also by that stage (and me actually finishing the book by the time we get around to a session).
Scott V.
Melbourne, Australia