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Author Topic: First Session of Hyborea/HQ and, boy, do I need help  (Read 13675 times)
Scripty
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Posts: 286


« on: October 12, 2003, 06:20:59 AM »

The first session of my Hyborea/HQ game took place last Monday. I'm glad that I stepped back from it a while to let it settle in my head a bit, because I don't think I really ran the game all that well. The players had fun, and they seemed to like HeroQuest. But I didn't quite capture the Narr elements that I was looking for.

To follow up on my earlier rant, the one player who was a big R.E. Howard fan didn't show, and isn't going to. That surprised me. But we still picked up a random new guy who's coming over from straight D&D.

The HeroQuest character generation worked like a charm. All the characters are well-fleshed out and, oddly enough, all very true to the spirit of Conan's stories. We have a Zamoran thief, interlocked in a clan feud involving his sheepherding family to the north, an Aquilonian sorcerer's apprentice who was given a stolen artifact by his evil mentor, a Hyrkanian warrior chasing down a murderous traitor to his clan, and a Hyperborean who has stolen a necromantic amulet from his uncle (IIRC).

Because the system was new, I wanted to try to stick to the familiar and decided to start the group out in Arenjun in a HeroQuest-ized version of "The Tower of the Elephant." First, I know the story pretty much front and back. So, it's familiar, allowing me to focus on the mechanics and getting the "play" of HeroQuest right. And, second, I thought using an actual Conan story as a backdrop would both ensure that the feel of the game remained authentic and offer a real treat for my one player who was most enthused about playing in Hyborea. Seeing that she didn't show, the latter bit of reasoning was chucked out the window. So, it's all new territory for this crew.

Now, before everyone throws up their hands in dismay that I've Simmed HQ, let me qualify this by saying that I created a relationship map loosely based on the REH story with the Heart of the Elephant as the MacGuffin within which to run. Of course, at the center of it all is Yara with a web of supporters, rivals and others out to kill him. There are also a couple of organized theiving rings that are out for the famed gem. This is the hook that the group took, being led to their employer by the very same loud-mouthed Kothian that Conan offed in the actual story.

Surprisingly, the players took a number of skills on their own initiative that added a good deal of depth to their characters. Noting that both the Aquilonian and Hyrkanian took Cooking in one form or another, I decided to start the game in the same tavern as the Conan story with a bit of an Iron Chef competition going on. Sadly, neither player stepped up and a cook-off was concluded between the aforementioned Kothian and a wealthy Nemedian merchant antiquarian without involvement from either player. But then the Hyperborean showed up, which will always get things moving.

Shortly after entering the room, the Hyperborean was rushed by a couple of Aesir outlaws with a serious hate for all things Hyperborean. A number of people left the tavern outright at the sight of the Hyperborean, but the players mostly watched as the big, gaunt, battle-axe wielding HyperB eventually took out the two Aesirs. More on this later.

Long story short, the Kothian, on threat of death for being such a wiseguy, offered the Zamoran thief an opportunity for "riches beyond his wildest dreams". Hearing this as the tavern was completely empty except for the players, the Kothian, an old man and the two Aesirs, all the players immediately signed up. The Kothian then took them down a labrynthine network of back alleys to what he termed a "Merchant" interested in acquiring a certain jewel, which, of course, was a Zamoran crime boss looking to get some payback on Yara for shrivelling his legs into two little rotten stumps. Needless to say, after some haggling and such, the group took the job for an ungodly sum.

Looking for more info, the Kothian let the group know that the only person to have ever bypassed the walls of the tower and lived was a thief currently being held in the King's Dungeon. Honestly, I couldn't remember whether Arenjun or Shadizar was the capital of Zamora but I just went with that for simplicity's sake. The thief, of course, was now blind as Yara had turned his eyes into a nest of baby spiders. Why the King was holding the thief no one really knows, but, of course, the King is looking for a bit of payback on Yara himself. He's holding the thief so that he can, perhaps, mount an assassination attempt on Yara using what little knowledge the thief has about the Tower. Of course, following this thread, Taurus is pretty much ruled out, but I may still be able to introduce the Prince of Thieves at a later point in the story. With a bit of backtracking he could easily fit in as having been posing as the Nemedian merchant from the tavern while casing the Tower for himself.

The group then went about entering the King's dungeon through a little used, but heavily trapped, sewer line. More on this later as well. The Hyrkanian got through and has the blind thief.

Now, anyone familiar with the story itself will know just how far from the Conan story this game has progressed. The players are engaged in a completely different area of the relationship map than Conan was and are, for the most part, driving the focus of the game with their own decisions and actions. There's no real storyline here, although their influence on events are setting off reactions all over the map, all properly dark and backstab-like to reflect the feel of Zamora with a degree of integrity.

This game was short. The entire story that has occured thus far took place in less than an hour and a half of real time (not game world time), following a wee bit over an hour in character gen. One thing I noticed here was that HeroQuest runs much faster than I'm used to. Because of this, I also noticed that the game tends to get caught up in the direction that the players want to go. The whole King's Dungeon thing was pretty much improv'd. I knew that there was a thief who had gotten past Yara's walls and I knew that the King had him and why, but I had no real reason to toss him in the King's Dungeons. The sewer crawl just worked better for the type of skulking around that the group seemed interested in at the time.

Also, players seemed to be interested in following the story from their character's motivations. The Aquilonian was eager to gain some money to show up his elder brother and gain his father's grudging respect. He was the second-born in his family. The Zamoran's clan from Northern Zamora were being wiped out by their rival clan because of new horse riding tactics that they had never encountered before. After some questioning, the Hyrkanian realized that, most likely, his man was working for the rival clan. The Zamoran was looking for money to help get his clan arms to fight off their rivals. The Zamoran enlisted the Hyrkanian on agreement that, after helping him acquire the gem, the Zamoran would take the Hyrkanian back to his homelands to mete swift justice on the rival clan's new military advisor. And the Hyperborean is going along pretty much for the same reasons Conan did: plunder, plunder, plunder.

So, other than realizing that I need to think a bit more long term when preparing for HeroQuest games, I think the game went fairly well. But I came across a few logjams that I thought the group here could help me with.

The first is the bar-fight between the Hyperborean and the two Aesir. I intended it to be a Simple Contest at the time, in order to show how combat in HeroQuest could be fast and quickly resolved. That didn't happen. The Hyperborean's first roll turned out to be a tie. Wouldn't you know it? So, running off the top of my head, we described events (the players and I) and rolled another contest. This one was a marginal defeat for the player. I realize now that this would have been a perfect time to introduce Hero Points into the system, but my brain locked up. I froze and we wound up rolling a total of 5 Simple Contests to resolve the bar fight. It wound up having the feel of a D&D fight, almost. The combat was more descriptive, but we definitely broke down into the "my turn, your turn" type of play.

My questions follow. How would you guys have handled the situation? Does a simple contest really mean one-roll-and-out? If players are rolling a bunch of Ties and Marginals, is it okay to have the contest drawn out into a couple of rolls? Overall, I felt this was one of the major failings of the evening, on my part. Rather than show how streamlined the game could be, I screwed up and fell back into a rote method of play. Any advice on how to avoid this mental trap?

Speaking of traps, the lone Extended Contest of the evening was the trek through the sewers to the King's Dungeon. I had intended for the Cooking contest to serve as the player's introduction to this mechanic but, passing on that, I opted to use the sewers as an Indiana Jones style trap gauntlet. My problem was in how I handled this. I didn't understand Extended Contests very well, I found. I represented APs with poker chips. Bad move. Players knew exactly how many the sewer had and an element of surprise was definitely lost. I also represented the traps as part of the Extended Contest, with no clear goal as to what result the "sewer" as a passive participant was trying to achieve. At this point, I think I would've represented the traps as Unrelated Actions attempting to wound the players and use the labrynthine sewers as a way to the King's Dungeon or a means to mislead the players into more danger.

How would you guys (and girls) have approached this? Am I on the right track or completely whacky? Any help or advice regarding these types of Extended Contests against a passive antagonist?

One thing I did notice about HeroQuest upon reflection and running my wife through a brief supers adventure was that it really forces you to think in terms of story development. Not so much in terms of how do I work this next bit in, like my typical D&D games, but, rather, in terms of where this is all going. Revisiting the system over the weekend, I caught myself at my best when I thought of play almost like a movie, letting go of what I had "prepared" for the evening and following more the flow of "if this were a movie, what would happen next?"

In conclusion, I surmised that many of my old means of preparation were pretty much null and void. Maps were nice but, mostly, no help based on their use in play. Dungeons seemed right out, although my "5-step dungeon" thought process for improvising them was essential. I also found myself needing to slow down for description, of all things. In the past, combats had taken so long that I had become accustomed to abbreviating or foregoing description altogether just to keep the action going. Now, that I have time for it, I find myself following the same habits of old, foregoing description but, as a result, running short of bangs before the night's end. And, speaking of bangs, I also found them of less use than before. It was nice to have one, or two, at hand. But I found that once those were taken, the story seemed to flow away from the others that I had prepared. Perhaps, this game calls for a more general sort of "Bang" than I am used to creating?

Thanks for taking the time to read all of this. I am essentially sharing my intial experiences with the system in order to get experienced players and narrators' thoughts on it. Besides being way too unfamiliar with the Extended Contest rules to have attempted to run one, does my experience and observations gel with how you use/interpret HeroQuest? The players liked the game. For die hard D&Ders, I would say their enthusiasm for the system was quite high. With a bit more knowledge and forethought, I think I could really represent the system better for them, however. On a scale of 1 to 5, my execution as a Narrator that night was "Eh" which is one point less than pathetic. Thanks in advance for any advice, observations or musings that you could offer. I look forward to learning more about HeroQuest and how other people use it for their games, in order to improve my own. I know from past experience on this forum that this is not an unrealistic expectation.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2003, 07:21:47 AM »

Hello,

Three points, man. All constructed around the central idea that you do not need help; you are rocking and rolling. What you apparently need is hand-holding, so here's a little bit.

1. You didn't "sim" anything. You provided Situational material, which is necessary in all role-playing. I consider HQ to support "setting-based Narrativist" play, and as such it requires major GM authority over what's there in the setting, especially what's dynamically there. The fact that you identified that your group's evolving story was not Tower of the Elephant, regardless of your faith to its beginning/setup components, is enough to get rid of this fear.

2. About that My-turn-your-turn isssue in the fight, you were working against some seriously-established habits of play both in yourself and in the players. So don't worry about it much. I strongly recommend that you emphasize conflicts, not tasks, in such scenes.

"I pick up the chair and throw it at him!" is not a conflict resolver. It merely rearranges stuff in the scene, and then the player looks at you expectantly. "I'm knocking him out with the chair!" is a conflict resolver. Here's my point: the latter is no less absorbing and in-character than the former.

People always mess this up. They think Author Stance and Fortune-in-the-Middle have to be disconnected from "getting into my guy," and they are profoundly wrong.

So merely ... ask, during these scenes. If you get a chair-throwing line, with no conflict resolution, just get it in there by asking. Then your Simple Contests will mean that stuff happens.

3. A Bang is not a Bang until it enters play. Until then, it's just words on a page or in your head, and has no intrinsic value. That Bang you provided? Did it prompt decisions that defined "the story" at the table? According to your description, emphatically Yes. That is overwhelmingly successful and important, and the last thing you need to concern yourself with is getting Bang B into place after Bang A. There is no "B" unless play demands it, in your judgment as Bang-Holder.

Best,
Ron
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Scripty
Member

Posts: 286


« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2003, 07:54:24 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards

2. About that My-turn-your-turn isssue in the fight, you were working against some seriously-established habits of play both in yourself and in the players. So don't worry about it much. I strongly recommend that you emphasize conflicts, not tasks, in such scenes.

"I pick up the chair and throw it at him!" is not a conflict resolver. It merely rearranges stuff in the scene, and then the player looks at you expectantly. "I'm knocking him out with the chair!" is a conflict resolver. Here's my point: the latter is no less absorbing and in-character than the former.

People always mess this up. They think Author Stance and Fortune-in-the-Middle have to be disconnected from "getting into my guy," and they are profoundly wrong.

So merely ... ask, during these scenes. If you get a chair-throwing line, with no conflict resolution, just get it in there by asking. Then your Simple Contests will mean that stuff happens.


Thanks for the encouragement, Ron. I didn't feel like I was doing all that well, but, from your observations, it appears that I may have been closer to the mark than I thought at first. Regarding Bangs, I guess I felt a bit odd because we went through so few of them. In the past, the players have been so "what do we do now?" that I would run through 8 or 10 bangs a night (easily) until one had given them enough of a hook to follow through on. This time they really only needed two: the normal reaction to a tavern whenever a Hyperborean just up and walks in and the Kothian grovelling for his life. The players were so proactive this time around that I guess felt like my Bangs weren't wide enough to encompass their initiatives.

The biggest point however is the one I snipped above. You've really defined a problem that I hadn't thought about regarding that fight between the Aesir and the Hyperborean. His general statement of intent was "I swing my axe at him" with no real focus on what he wanted this to accomplish. I hadn't thought much about it, but I did find that Simple Contests worked more like what I had been reading in the book during short practice sessions than they had in the Hyborea game. I can now identify that this was because my wife (who is not a roleplayer) was proactive in saying what she wanted her actions to do, whereas the Hyborea group, at times, was very intent on letting the dice decide. When running a session for my wife, it seemed the dice determined not whether she actually did what she said, but rather the extent to which her actions influenced future events in her favor. The concept of doing something was pretty much a given when she announced her action. Whereas she would say "I'm gonna punch him and knock him out" and the dice roll would determine the degree to which her punch succeeded at her stated objective of knocking her opponent out. The Hyborea group most often would say "I punch him" and then leave it to me to determine what the results of said intentions might be.

After reading your reply, a big light-bulb went off over my head. Your advice ("Ask them what they want their actions to do...") is a nuance of the system that, for some reason, I had glossed over. Thanks, Ron.
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Scripty
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Posts: 286


« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2003, 11:10:28 AM »

The conclusion of the ToE adventure occured this week, with only three of the players returning. The Zamoran thief, for some reason, was AWOL. Not expecting him to return, I narrated a speedy exit that could have meant he was either dead or washed ashore to safety. The option for his character's return is still open, however, and highly plausible.

Primarily, my biggest problems in the second game stemmed from my lack of preparation or, rather, preparing for the wrong things. Whereas, I prepared for a grim and dangerous contest in the sewers of Zamora and an eventual confrontation between the PCs and their patron, the PCs went straight for the Tower. I hadn't much anticipated that the Tower would be much of an obstacle in this session. I assumed that the players would either break through to the ground floors or climb up through the top ala Taurus and Conan.

But the players wasted no time in scaling the Tower and running amok for a while in a manner reminiscent of D&D play as I have grown accustomed to it.

The first glitch occured when the Aquilonian, who had volunteered to "case" the premises, decided instead to sneak in and singlehandedly pre-empt the party. Internally, I was against this. The Aquilonian had some minor magical abilities that could conceivably get him into the Tower, but not beyond the lions and, certainly, not past Yara himself. The Aquilonian had no idea what was in there and, although he had heard rumors of Yara's power, really had no idea what he was up against.

I was in between a sort of rock and a hard place. Here was one player doing something incredibly ill-advised. If he failed, he'd most likely be killed. If he succeeded, he would potentially de-protagonize the rest of the group. What to do? What to do?

The Aquilonian snuck past the guards fairly easily (using his "Pass Unseen" magical talent which basically just kept people from really noticing that he was there). But the lions were not people, and were not fooled by his tricks. On a simple contest (in retrospect I should have perhaps made this an Extended Contest), the lion rolled a Crit and bumped the Aquilonian's Failure to a fumble.

The Aquilonian's player then settled into a deep funk. He didn't want to spend his last Hero Point to simply avoid dying. By all means, then, he should have died. I caved and allowed him to be taken prisoner by Yara for questioning. I understood how the player felt, but I suppose he didn't understand the extent of the gamble that he was undertaking.

To underline this frustration, the player basically had his player throw a tantrum when Yara initated the interrogation, calling him all sorts of names and basically behaving in a manner that screamed "Kill me now!"

To account for the group's loss of a member, I introduced Taurus in much the same way that Conan met him. I had left that option available and he turned out to be very helpful to the group. I had some problems with the extended contest representing the climb up, however. How exactly does an inanimate object act to prevent the players from climbing it?

Not sure. So the climb was anti-climactic to say the least. The Aquilonian, held at the top of the tower, was able to help them climb up, however. Long story short, Taurus kicked it. The giant spider went down hard with a shot from the Hyrkanian's bow (shortly before it was about to bite the Aquilonian who had dove into the room with a wild abandon). Yara, of course, was alerted that others would possibly be attempting to loot his tower and was on hand, in spider form, to cast some pretty nasty little spells. The players aborted the mission. The Aquilonian deciding to face off against Yara (despite being impaired) finally died. Yara lived and the remaining members of the party survived to tell the tale. This wasn't too far removed from the main thrust of Howard's stories, but it was anti-climactic.

Had I to do it over again I would've introduced the Elephant-headed Godling Thing earlier, perhaps even substituting his room for the treasure room. But, as things were going, the Aquilonian's player was acting like such a complete nimrod that it was quite likely the party would not have been able to enlist the help of the creature (which would be the key to defeating Yara).

I also would have focused much more on the Tower or, specifically, the types of contests that the characters might find in the Tower. A bit more thought or even experience might have given me a better Extended Contest to represent the stealthy climb up the Tower. Again, in retrospect, the game worked best when I thought in terms of a movie and really broke down when I began thinking in terms of a role-playing game.

Something else I noticed was that the game didn't much support the "GM vs. Players" mentality that is prevalent in a number of other rpgs. The Aquilonian's player was very much into this mindset and really threw the whole adventure by trying to upstage everyone else at the table. Following that, his every breath was pretty much to oppose/derail/complicate/berate the adventure, the other PCs or any NPC that might happen his way. I guess with behavior of that caliber I shouldn't be surprised that I felt that this session didn't go all that well either.

Questions that occured to me after some thought, however, were: As mentioned before, how does an inanimate object come into play in an Extended Contest? Does it "act" against the players? How do you guard against the "old school" lines of thought (like "Player vs. GM" thinking) when running HeroQuest? Is it just an old habit that will have to die hard with certain players or is there something that I, as a Narrator, am missing that will counter it now? Also, how do you handle player protagonism when a player is acting directly against the rest of the group? At what point do you put a brake on player protagonism to preserve protagonism for everyone else? The Aquilonian's player pretty much single-handedly did everything he could this game to wreck it for everyone else and wasn't satisfied until he did. He's normally not this bad and generally really likes more Narr play, but for some reason that night he just let loose with the Killer PC mentality. HeroQuest was not a useful tool from reining in this player, nor is it meant to be, IMO. By all rights, the player should have been killed by the lions... What do you do in that instance? Fudge and let the other players' preparation and planning be diminished? Or should I have let the roll stand where it was and had the Aquilonian up and die? The whole instance had a very Sim feel to it, and this player really seemed up for a Sim or Gamist style of play on this particular evening.

I couldn't help feeling that I dropped the ball here in a fairly big way. Any advice would be great.
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2003, 01:03:40 PM »

Heya Scripty,

I too am fairly new to HeroQuest and have had some of the same issues you’ve had with the rules (though not with the players, for which I thank Ron’s advice about getting the right players and setting up play contracts). So I thought I’d chime in with some ideas that have helped me in the past, which may be of some help to you.

Quote
The first glitch occured when the Aquilonian, who had volunteered to "case" the premises, decided instead to sneak in and singlehandedly pre-empt the party… The Aquilonian's player then settled into a deep funk…  I understood how the player felt, but I suppose he didn't understand the extent of the gamble that he was undertaking.


Okay, I think this was the core of a lot of the problems with the game, and I think you’ve pretty much identified why it was problematic. That said I don’t think you did wrong, but I do think that there was a social contract breakdown in here.

In my games I always let it be known that actions have consequences, because without the real possibility of failure and damage the choices that the PCs make lose import. If you chose to do something brave/insane/wonderful/stupid and have the same effect you would have if you’d done nothing or the expected thing, then your choice might as well not have been made. That said, the results of failure don’t have to be death and should not be something that will remove you from the game. Failure can result in increased drama, as digging yourself out of a whole you cast yourself into in the first place can be wonderfully interesting.

So, with that in mind, I don’t think you did the wrong thing here once play had progressed. The Aquilonian made his choice, he has to deal with consequences. Killing him, however, wouldn’t make the game more interesting (for him at least), and I think you did the right thing in having him captured. Once he was in that position there was the possibility for him to take heroic action, and for the other PCs to both have reason to fear (“they got him so easily!”) and thus reason to take heroic action of their own.

The mistake that was made here, and not even by you, was the misunderstanding of the social contract around the game. The PC didn’t understand the gamble he was taking, and didn’t react well when said gamble failed. The first part is something I always do my best to keep clear – when PCs are making big chances and gambles I make very, very sure they know that they are doing so. I even stop game and say OOCly, “Are you sure about this?” which is an established signal in my group that there can be big consequences for the action in question. (It’s important to note that we have also specifically defined that the question is not my way of saying, “Don’t do that or I’ll punish you.”) Having a clear idea of what they are getting into is very important to some PCs.

Its also important to know what the expected consequences of failure are. If you expect to die/be removed from game by failure, or to have your hero role negated, then you’re going to become despondent upon failing. This, it seems, is what happened to your player. Sure, he wasn’t dead, but he also had lost his sense of his character’s heroic ability. Partly this seems to be immaturity on his part, but it also probably has to do with the way that such situations are often handled in game. “You should be dead, but I’ll give you a break and keep you alive until someone else rescues you” is not something that is going to make someone wanting to play a hero happy.

The way around this is to make it clear what the results of failure will be, and that a failure can be more of a chance to be a hero, rather than less of one – and then the player has to do their part and deal with that like an adult. In this situation the response on these lines would be “You’re captured, but already you are plotting your daring escape/epic confrontation of wills with the sorcerer/seduction of the sorcerer’s daughter.” It should have been clear that this wasn’t you saving his fat, it was another chance to do something cool. If, at that point, he still sulks then it is his problem and needs to be dealt with by some frank talking about what people want from the game.

Quote
I had some problems with the extended contest representing the climb up, however. How exactly does an inanimate object act to prevent the players from climbing it


I’d say there are two issues going on here. The first, and probably more important, is questioning why you made the climb up the tower an extended contest. Extended contests are best used when there is something dynamic and dramatic at stake, something with which a significant portion of the game should be taken up with. Scaling the tower in this case, and in the story as I remember it, seems to be less a central pivot of the story and more an event that lies between the pivotal events (meeting Taurus and either fighting the spider or meeting the Ganesha clone) – so it seems more fitting to a simple contest.

Now, if you feel that it is an important, central contest, then you can run it as an extended contest. The things you’ll need to do in order to make in interesting are one, make the victory and failure conditions dramatic without being game killing and two, make the resistance dramatically interesting. In this example you need to decide what the PCs are really doing – is it just climbing the tower, or is it climbing a sorcerously enscrolled tower on a windy night with less than perfect gear while guards and lions prowl about below and giant spiders wait above? In that case things that might happen to make the contest more dynamic would be hiding from guards, resisting magical traps, holding on for dear life when a sudden gust of wind threatens to blow you off your rope, spotting a spider on the roof just before you climb right into it, using counter spells to keep the sorcerer from feeling your approach, hauling yourself over the out-thrust lip of the tower’s crenellations, and so on.

In most cases overcoming a non-animist inert object isn’t that interesting. Overcoming dramatic resistance is what is interesting, and what will generally make a good extended contest. If you can’t think of dramatic things to happen during an extended contest, chances are it would work better as a simple one. Your comment about thinking of it in terms of a movie is dead on accurate. If you see the tower climb as one event (the group climbs up the tower) that gets a short scene with the characters at the base, some rope throwing, and then muscle rippling action to the top in short order then it’s just a simple contest. If you see it as a series of challenges in dealing with guards, crumbling rocks, breaking ropes, traps, evil spells, roaring lions, gusting winds, and so on in a way that would make for a gripping 15 minute long scene, then it’s an extended contest.

 
Quote
At what point do you put a brake on player protagonism to preserve protagonism for everyone else?


Now I’m sure Ron can come on and give better advice on this one than I can, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. My answer generally is that you shouldn’t have to, at least not alone. While the GM does act as the moderator and facilitator, if one player really is deprotagonizing the other PCs then the other players should be able to speak up and address the issue. My group does this by briefly pausing play and having a quick series of author stance ides about how we can move the scenario back on track in a way that will preserve everyone’s hero roll. As GM you should, of course, be able to call such a stop as well. But I don’t think the traditional notion of the GM having to single-handedly fix all the problems is the best way to fix the issue. It works much better to get everyone to step away from character roll and have the group as a whole fix the issue collaboratively. If the GM forces a fix it could, really, end up ruining the protagonist stance of everyone – as the story has become something forced by the GM. If the group as a whole cooperates to fix it, then it’s a joint story told by all.

Of course, the other option (something someone more comfortable with Narrativism will probably bring up shortly) is to be more aggressive in your scene framing. If there is a situation like yours, where one character might do everything, then you need to frame the scene so that is not an option. Starting off with all the PCs hiding in a tree, watching a lion sniffing around down below, might be a good way to do it – the PCs are already all in the courtyard, the PCs all have a chance to act, and there is instant dramatic tension. At that point one of the PCs could suggest that they’d scouted ahead, and thus gain a bonus to their roll to get out of the situation by knowing the ground, but that becomes a matter of negotiation and power to direct/author a scene rather than of trying to force the PC to scout then return to the other PCs to parrot what they learned.

Finally, I don’t think you’re doing badly or that you messed up the game. You sound like you’re doing better than I did the first couple times I tried running a game in my personal version of narrative play. I think you need to talk about the game with the players and set up a stronger social contract, and you may need to scene-frame more aggressively, but your game sounds fun to me. In fact, it sounds like a game that I’d like to play in.
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- Brand Robins
Scripty
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« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2003, 02:05:46 PM »

Quote from: Brand_Robins
Its also important to know what the expected consequences of failure are. If you expect to die/be removed from game by failure, or to have your hero role negated, then you’re going to become despondent upon failing. This, it seems, is what happened to your player. Sure, he wasn’t dead, but he also had lost his sense of his character’s heroic ability. Partly this seems to be immaturity on his part, but it also probably has to do with the way that such situations are often handled in game. “You should be dead, but I’ll give you a break and keep you alive until someone else rescues you” is not something that is going to make someone wanting to play a hero happy.


I guess I didn't make those clear. I usually ask a player "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" when they decide to do something that I perceive is even odds of life or death. Most of the time, PCs eek through these situations, though, or have in the past. Perhaps, if I would have clearly stated that it was most likely that (by his actions) he would either be killed or captured and possibly blow the mission for the rest of the group. If I would have put that in concrete terms, rather than my usual question and raised eyebrow, the player might have given it a second thought. He seemed to be in a rather feisty mood to start with, though.


Quote from: Brand_Robins
The way around this is to make it clear what the results of failure will be, and that a failure can be more of a chance to be a hero, rather than less of one – and then the player has to do their part and deal with that like an adult. In this situation the response on these lines would be “You’re captured, but already you are plotting your daring escape/epic confrontation of wills with the sorcerer/seduction of the sorcerer’s daughter.”


I tried to give him options on where he could go from here: selling out the rest of the party, playing up to Yara's ego, asking Yara for an apprenticeship, lying, anything that would've gotten him out of his current situation into a potential escape. The player deciding that calling Yara names and shooting him the bird was a more tactical move. Frankly, after that incident, I was so thrown off the "think in terms of a movie" mindset that the whole game sort of rambled to its rickety conclusion. I think it was that player's attempt at "rebelling" or something. I don't know. He had every chance to use his social abilities (which were far better than his combat skills) to get on Yara's good side, even to the point of really screwing over the other players, but not necessarily by pre-empting them.  

Quote from: Brand_Robins
I’d say there are two issues going on here. The first, and probably more important, is questioning why you made the climb up the tower an extended contest. Extended contests are best used when there is something dynamic and dramatic at stake, something with which a significant portion of the game should be taken up with. Scaling the tower in this case, and in the story as I remember it, seems to be less a central pivot of the story and more an event that lies between the pivotal events (meeting Taurus and either fighting the spider or meeting the Ganesha clone) – so it seems more fitting to a simple contest.


I think the first question pretty much answers it. I've been trying to show the players that extended contests mean more than just swinging a sword. Unfortunately, the only ones they seem to bite on are the ones that involve sword swinging. I pretty much forced the climb into an Extended Contest. From your response, I can see how that probably wasn't such a good idea. Especially in terms of the game's dramatic flow.

Quote from: Brand_Robins
My group does this by briefly pausing play and having a quick series of author stance ides about how we can move the scenario back on track in a way that will preserve everyone’s hero roll. As GM you should, of course, be able to call such a stop as well. But I don’t think the traditional notion of the GM having to single-handedly fix all the problems is the best way to fix the issue. It works much better to get everyone to step away from character roll and have the group as a whole fix the issue collaboratively. If the GM forces a fix it could, really, end up ruining the protagonist stance of everyone – as the story has become something forced by the GM. If the group as a whole cooperates to fix it, then it’s a joint story told by all.


This is a great suggestion. If I would have had the forethought to have everyone take a breather and talk this through then the game might have taken a different momentum for sure. I will definitely employ something along these lines in the future. It seems that Narr style of play requires more open discussion between the participants for some reason. Perhaps, because it is too easy to abdicate one's responsibility for the fun of everyone at the table, including oneself, in Narrative play.

Quote from: Brand_Robins
Of course, the other option (something someone more comfortable with Narrativism will probably bring up shortly) is to be more aggressive in your scene framing.


Again, something I wish I would have considered in hindsight. Initially, the Aquilonian's scene was just to give him an idea of the otherworldliness of the Tower and also give him some alone time with the Kothian, whom he would discover was not all that trustworthy after all. It didn't occur to me that he would try to go for it. In the past, this player hasn't been a very go-it-alone type of guy. The last couple of campaigns he has been very much a team player, but, for some reason, he decided to take the Tower on his own. Had it occured to me that this was on his mind, I would have just framed the scene with him joining back up with the party having finished his casing of the area. Primarily, if I were dealing with a player who had consistently behaved the way he did that night, I would have run the scene off-camera (if I would have kept a player in the game that behaved in such a manner at all).

Quote from: Brand_Robins
Finally, I don’t think you’re doing badly or that you messed up the game. You sound like you’re doing better than I did the first couple times I tried running a game in my personal version of narrative play. I think you need to talk about the game with the players and set up a stronger social contract, and you may need to scene-frame more aggressively, but your game sounds fun to me. In fact, it sounds like a game that I’d like to play in.


Thanks for the vote of confidence. I wish our group shared your feelings. They seem rather ambivalent about the HeroQuest system thus far. In fact, the Aquilonian's player may not return at all, from his post-game comments. Personally, I think he was just having a bad night. But if he wants to leave, I'm cool with that. I'd rather have two players that really wanted to play (which I still don't have), than 12 players that I have to babysit. I won't be so reluctant to broach the social contract issues next week. Also, I will be more aggressive with the scene framing. When I ran a brief Buffy campaign, scenes were really tight, often leaving only a few viable options for players. But, then again, that game was as resounding a success overall as I've had recently. I suppose I was considering that the more Narrative a system you play, the less you want to limit player options via scene framing. I can see now how that may be completely wrong. A Sim group responds best, IMO, to the "here you are, now go" style of adventure. I'm beginning to see Narr as more "You are at A, and B, C, D; what do you do?...What...do...you...do?"

Thanks for the advice and encouragement, Brand. My group is dwindling, gasping, wheezing, even choking on its own blood. But I'm learning and growing here (as both a Narrator and a person), so it can't be all bad.

I've always felt that for every incompatible player I've lost, I've gained at least one that's looking for something similar. My math may not be perfect, but perhaps the theory will hold despite my rounding up on the fraction of players looking for something similar.

Another thing that occured to me is how non-Narr it was to run them through a pre-existing story. Although I diverged ruthlessly from the story itself, I can honestly say that there were points at which the canon swayed me more than the drama, as when I left the spider where it was in the story rather than move the "Ganesh clone" (heehee, didn't know if anyone would catch that reference) behind door number one (which was my dramatic instinct).

I'm hoping the next adventure goes better as it directly includes one of the player's backgrounds and is much less rigid in its structure. In fact, it's practically structure-less, being more of a "Conan chases bad guys to bad place, bad things in bad place wake up" type of story. There will be more for the players to "create" in this story as it will be *their* story. I was hoping to use a playground of the familiar with ToE, in order to focus on getting the mechanics right. I'm uncertain whether that was the best strategy to take as, at some point, the goals moved away from Narr and moved heavy into Sim. In fact, I can see the Sim moved in (in terms of group play, not system) right when the Aquilonian PC started calling Yara a chowderhead (among other things). When that "movie-vision" shut off, we fell into default-dungeon-crawl mode. Honestly, at that point, other than torturing the PC to within an inch of death, I really saw no other "if this were a movie" option and I must admit that I was rather offended by some of the things the player was saying as well. He certainly wasn't light on the insults or vitriol.

With a more open-ended scenario, perhaps the game will shine more brightly. With tighter scene framing and a more concrete social contract, perhaps the players will protagonize in a more positive manner towards one another...
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2003, 02:43:36 PM »

Hello,

I hope I'm not being too terse with the following, but time is limited at the moment.

1. The canonical story should have been abandoned the moment you looked at the character sheets, if not before. Your tendency to "make things go like they go" got you into a lot of trouble; role-playing HQ is authorship rather than celebration of the source material.

2. Character protagonism is not the same thing as player ego. When the latter turns out to be the issue, and the "character's integrity" is used as club to keep the ego climbing ever higher, then you are facing major GNS conflict, if not indeed Social Contract conflict at a wider level.

3. The good news is that you are doing well to filter, re-form, play again, filter, re-form, play again, and so on. Over time, I expect to learn about some amazing play.

Best,
Ron
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Scripty
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« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2003, 04:55:17 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I hope I'm not being too terse with the following, but time is limited at the moment.


Thanks for taking the time. Everything you said is pretty much spot on, so your bluntness is appreciated.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
1. The canonical story should have been abandoned the moment you looked at the character sheets, if not before. Your tendency to "make things go like they go" got you into a lot of trouble; role-playing HQ is authorship rather than celebration of the source material.


Yep. My sentiments exactly. I seemed to do a better job of this in the first game, although I did a worse job with the system. My biggest mistake in preparing for this game was that I didn't consider much how events inside the Tower itself might be shifted or altered altogether by player action. I focused my brainstorming on events outside the Tower, for the most part. As I said before, I consider running this adventure to be a mistake. It was intended as a "treat" (so to speak) for the R.E. Howard-phile who, in turn, never showed up for the sessions. She would have appreciated the adventure and added a dynamic to the sessions that certainly would have changed their outcome, IMO. For my part, I will most likely avoid running adventures based on Howard's stories themselves. Without doubt, I will scour the writings for source material and setting information, but any attempt on my part to "mirror" the stories seems to me both futile and counterproductive.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
2. Character protagonism is not the same thing as player ego. When the latter turns out to be the issue, and the "character's integrity" is used as club to keep the ego climbing ever higher, then you are facing major GNS conflict, if not indeed Social Contract conflict at a wider level.


Funny thing is that I'm not sure why this player chose this particular evening to "freak out". My first response is to look to myself for failings (of which I had a few). After serious review, however, I always come back to very childish behavior on the part of this player that pretty much ruined the evening.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
3. The good news is that you are doing well to filter, re-form, play again, filter, re-form, play again, and so on. Over time, I expect to learn about some amazing play.


Thanks. The advice is encouraging. Like I said earlier, I'm seriously backing away in the next session. I plan to take a similar approach to my Buffy campaign by focusing on scenes and what I call "thinking in terms of a movie". I can retrace my biggest mistake (being kicked out of this mindset) to the above player's tantrum in front of Yara. It's rare that I've experienced a player directing insults at me via an NPC. I lost my groove after that and fell back onto the familiar. Problem was that I lost my capacity to drop the familiar after it was no longer needed. But, considering that the tantrum continued on for most of the evening (with the player telling both the other PCs and Taurus to "F-off" despite their attempt to assess his health and possibly help/rescue him), I'm not surprised that my groove never recovered. The player was telling a lot of people to screw off that night. Beyond calling Yara a chowderhead and insinuating that he was mentally handicapped, that seemed to be his choice expletive for the evening. It's kind of hard to concentrate when such behavior is occuring, at least for me.

I'm willing to chalk this one up to a bad night for said player, but, personally, I don't appreciate him sucking the momentum out of the game. Hopefully, next week will go better. I'm pretty sure that I "get it" now as regards HeroQuest, or that I'm at least close to a "breakthrough" here. It's just translating that to table-play prior to the group splintering completely. That's the real obstacle that lies ahead for me, IMO.
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simon_hibbs
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2003, 08:20:02 AM »

Ouch, the Aquilonian guy sounds like a real pain.

Frankly, he deserved to lose his character though I'd not actual do that. Instead I'd have done somethign similar to you. Something like "The Lion guardian bashes you with a paw, the force of the blow knockign you against the wall. You are aware of it looming over you as conciousnes slips away." And then switch to the other players and give them a chance to cathch up. The player lost rights narative focus with the contest.

On runing a series of simple contests, there's nothign wrong with this. Each contest has normal consequences in terms of wounds, which are cumulative penalties, and you just carry on. Not a great way to do things naratively perhaps, but perfectly allowable under the rules if all the combattants are saying is 'I hit him'. If they want to knock their opponent permanently out of the contest then they need to either go to an extended contest or try something more than just 'I hit him'. For example "I attack so ferociously they shit themselves and run for it". Any level of success at that, and the opposition will have to withdraw, though because it's a contest involving morale more than physical abilities they can defend with appropriate abilities such as loyalty or determination as well as just close combat.


Simon Hibbs
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Simon Hibbs
Scripty
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« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2003, 11:59:28 AM »

Quote from: simon_hibbs
On runing a series of simple contests, there's nothign wrong with this. Each contest has normal consequences in terms of wounds, which are cumulative penalties, and you just carry on. Not a great way to do things naratively perhaps, but perfectly allowable under the rules if all the combattants are saying is 'I hit him'. If they want to knock their opponent permanently out of the contest then they need to either go to an extended contest or try something more than just 'I hit him'. For example "I attack so ferociously they shit themselves and run for it". Any level of success at that, and the opposition will have to withdraw, though because it's a contest involving morale more than physical abilities they can defend with appropriate abilities such as loyalty or determination as well as just close combat.

Simon Hibbs


This is something that had confused me earlier. Because I was under the impression that simple contests were "one roll and out", I thought that all conflicts resolved using them required just one roll to determine the outcome. The original barfight between the Hyperborean and the outlaw Aesir lasted about 4 Simple Contests. This had unsettled me because, lacking a degree of confidence in my familiarity with the rules, I thought that any contest requiring more than one roll should be an Extended Contest. If this is not true, then I'm having a real "Aha!" moment right now.

If it is perfectly acceptable to string a series of Simple Contests together, then my misconception has led me to work far too hard in trying to shoehorn a conflict into either one roll or an Extended Contest, leading, I'm sure, to a good deal of frustration on the part of my players as well.

Thanks for clearing that up. Is that how you play HeroQuest (i.e. Roll a Simple Contest for surprise, roll another to hit, roll another for the wounded party to attempt to run away...)? See, what I've been doing has been tying all those elements to one roll (using one skill and augments) and then trying to interpret what happened from there. It's been a downright chore at times. But if it's perfectly acceptable to have more than one Simple Contest in a particular conflict, then it's all gravy from here... I can see the Simple Contest being quite useful, whereas before it seemed rather abrupt and anti-climactic.

Thanks, Simon.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2003, 01:16:30 PM »

One Conflict per Simple Conflict. I think (hope) that what Simon is telling you is that Conflcits can come up very quickly.

A good definition of Conflicts is that they aren't tasks. That is, if a player wants to kill someone, then that's the Conflict; surprise is just a part of that, one task on the way to completing it. If you're contemplating rolling for tasks then what you need is an Extended Conflict.

Now, that means that if the Conflict in question was getting inside of he Tower, that I'd definitely have it be an Extended Conflict. As long as there ought to be more than one roll involved, then it's an Extended Conflcit. It's really that simple. Brand is assuming that when you say, "there's not much you can do to have a tower resist" that you're telling him that it ought to be one roll - a Simple Conflcit.

But let's look at that presumption. It never ceases to amaze me that people make this claim. It's like the whole opposed/unopposed thing. First off, resistance doesn't have to be really an active seeming thing. That is, if I have you roll against your Hardy 17 to avoid being hurt in a fall, you're really not doing anything, are you? You're just checking against some quality. The same thing is true for climbing a wall. And there are as many ways for a wall to resist you as you can imagine.

For example, as the character climbs, on it's phase, the player might face a low AP bid with, "You find yourself in a difficult position with the next handhold that's almost out of reach." If the player wins the roll, they get past that hendhold. If they do not, then they had to backtrack a bit to a less optimal rout. Let's say that you've had a few rolls, and narrated being near the top of the tower, but the player has 14 AP and the tower has 15 AP left due to small bids lower down. GM narrates, "You grab onto one of the crenelations on top, but it's loose and comes down on you!" The GM bids all 15 AP.

The roll then is to see if the character manages to avoid the falling rock, and gets to the top. If he fails then it all depends on how much he failed by. If he was reduced to zero, he falls, lands in the reflecting pool; the lions come over to see what's up. If he goes to -16, he crashed through the roof of the guard minarette half way up wounding himself in the process, landing in the middle of a group of guards. If he goes to -31, he lands on the pavement in front of the tower, and the rock from the crenelation lands on top of him.

I mean, if you want to think of it as an active force, then it's not the Height of the Tower that he's overcoming, it's a battle against Gravity the entire way up. Other things the tower can "do":
    [*]vines tangle the character
    [*]a particular section is passable only via an exhausting maneuver
    [*]the next handhold in the charcter's path is a sharp metal flashing that could cut him
    [*]birds in a hidden nest fly out at the character
    [*]the rout of the climb could split with one rout leading to a "dead end"
    [*]shutter to a barred window blows opens while the character is resting on it's sill[/list:u]
    Near the top roll for endurance at least once for sure. Trade in 7 AP for a hurt representing exhaustion.

    Failure conditions for these need not be falling, either. If the Conflict is "Climb into the tower undetected," then the character may have limited time. If he gets to zero, he doesn't fall, but a guard has spotted him (in a very bad position). The tower has defeated him by making him take too much time. Etc. The Tower can change it's goal at any time. So one moment failure means a potential fall, and the next it means detection.

    The point is that I think that the whole climb thing could make a great Extended Conflict. You just have to be creative about what sort of "actions" the tower can take against the player.

    Mike
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    Brand_Robins
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    « Reply #11 on: October 16, 2003, 03:31:36 PM »

    Quote from: Mike Holmes
    Brand is assuming that when you say, "there's not much you can do to have a tower resist" that you're telling him that it ought to be one roll - a Simple Conflcit.


    No, not really. What I was saying is:

    "If you think that climbing the tower isn't interesting enough to merit an extended series of rolls, or if there isn't that much dramatic or exciting that can happen on the way up the tower, then it should be a simple roll.

    If, on the other hand, you and your players can think of ways to make it interesting/dramatic (such as if the PCs start describing in detail how they tackle each section of the wall, or if you want to make the guards searching for them more dramatic, etc) then you should use those ideas to make it an extended roll.

    The difference between making a simple roll and an extended roll in the game is what grabs you and what doesn't. If something isn't grabbing, let it be simple. If it does grab then let it be extended. It doesn’t matter if it's a fight with 3 Hyberborians, if it's the same old thing let it ride in one roll. If, otoh, it's a really exciting stare down on the streets at high noon, then it could easily be drawn out into an extended contest."

    I think the main place in which we differed was in that I was focusing too much on the tower as sorcerous center, where your description was a really wonderful breakdown of how to make a "normal" climb up the sides of a tower beign guarded by lions interesting as well as more of an examination of how default resistances can still make for interesting contests.

    (A breakdown, BTW, that I think I'll crib for the next time my PCs are trying to climb into the Lunar tower on the border of their lands.)

    Edit: So, under that analysis, I think part of the problem that happened with contests in the game is that Scripty had an idea of what type of contest he wanted to have based on ideas external to the flow of the game. He wanted the fight to be simple, and so it was simple even though it ended up feeling incomplete, and wanted the tower climb to be extended and so it was extended even though no one had ideas about it.

    Deciding that something will necessarily be a simple contest or an extended contest ahead of time and irrespective of PC/dramatic interest seems to be a mistake. Doing it to “highlight a feature of the game” will only work if it’s actually highlighting the authorship that the game system gives players, rather than enforcing a particular form of resolution upon then.
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    AnyaTheBlue
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    « Reply #12 on: October 16, 2003, 04:02:35 PM »

    I haven't tried playing HQ yet, but when has ignorance ever stopped me from commenting?  =)

    I would have handled the Aquilonian in a way similar to Simon, except I would probably not gone so far as let the Lion knock him out.

    I probably would have had him use his "Pass Unseen" ability to move out into the room, and then have him notice that the lions appear to be sniffing the air, perhaps moving meaningfully towards him.  So now he can react by retreating, or attacking them, or something else.  At the point where actual combat between him and the Lions is about to start, I'd jump in with a "MEANWHILE" and shift narrative focus over to the rest of the party.

    Perhaps the others make it up to the top of the tower in time to rescue the Aquilonian from his fate.  Perhaps they are able to catch him wounded but not yet dead, and yet still before Yara captures him.

    But really, he did deserve to die, or at the very least get wounded heavily, and suffer lasting penalty.  At some point, being dumb is just asking for it.

    On the extended contest/simple contest thing, I think the thing to realize is that you can make, say, the Bar Fight the simple contest.  Ie, 'finish the bar fight', one roll, win or lose.  Or, you can dial it up and say, 'Knock this guy out', yes or no.  If no, well, then maybe HE gets to try knocking YOU out, or whatever.

    Likewise with the tower.  The whole climb can be a single simple contest, or you can make 'reaching the first ledge' into a simple contest.

    Or, finally, you can do an extended contest, as others have described in depth.  I think an excellent model for this is in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In the "Throw me the idol.  I'll throw you the whip!" scene, when Indy jumping the pit is an extended contest.  He leaps, but only hits the edge and begins to slip, then he grabs the root, but it begins to pull out of the ground, then he gets his grip and manages to climb over the lip.  It's a perfect example of an inanimate object 'opposing' a character in a climactic fashion.

    Now if I can just scare up some players...
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    Dana Johnson
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    RaconteurX
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    « Reply #13 on: October 16, 2003, 05:37:49 PM »

    Quote from: Scripty
    I thought that any contest requiring more than one roll should be an Extended Contest.


    A contest only requires more than one roll if you as narrator decides it does. The simple contest is for situations when there is little drama but some measure of resistance or difficulty to a task. If there is little drama and little resistance or difficulty, I tend to make success automatic.

    Quote
    Is that how you play HeroQuest (i.e. Roll a Simple Contest for surprise, roll another to hit, roll another for the wounded party to attempt to run away...)?


    You can play HeroQuest that way, but that pretty much derails the entire purpose of the contest mechanics, which is to highlight moments of dramatic tension in the story you are telling. A single conflict should not require more than one contest, whether simple or extended. The key is framing... just as you frame a scene with specific objectives in mind, so too should you be framing contests. Use extended contests only for the important, suspense-filled conflicts... those you want the players to sweat over. Everything else is anti-climactic.

    An example from my playtest campaign: the heroes needed to fight past a handful of hostile warriors from a rival clan, so that they could lodge a suit against that clan at the tribal moot. The legal wrangling was intended as the climactic scene, so I made the fight outside a simple contest for each hero. Any victory allowed the hero to enter the king's hall, unless he or she declared a different intent (one of the warriors stated that he wanted to prevent anyone from stopping the sage's efforts to get inside. He was victorious, so the sage got inside automatically without a roll).

    Quote
    What I've been doing has been tying all those elements to one roll and then trying to interpret what happened from there.


    Nothing wrong with that. As an example, let's say the heroes are traveling to the villain's stronghold and, along the route, the villain has set various lackeys to waylay them. You could run each as a simple contest, with one roll for each to determine their individual outcomes. This would be a gritty approach, where defeats, with their penalties in full carrying over to the final confrontation with the villain, would simulate the growing weariness of the hereoes and the depletion of their reserves (arrows, bandages and healing magic, etc.). You could also handle the entire series of ambushes as a single simple contest. This would be a heroic approach, where defeat hinders the heroes only a little, and victory allows them to waltz into the villain's lair without so much as a hair astray.
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    Ron Edwards
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    « Reply #14 on: October 16, 2003, 08:53:49 PM »

    Hi there,

    Just how much in-game action a Simple Contest entails tends to be kind of like an accordion: sometimes it squeezes real short, and other times it stretches out long. Wow, what a simile! I could go on and talk about how it must do both to make beautiful music, but I figure Mike H is retching about now already.

    Anyway, in my game, I tend more toward Michael's (RaconteurX) point of view. Very occasionally, a series of Simple Contests is involved, but only when we're talking about several distinct conflicts.

    Best,
    Ron
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