[Heroquest 2] Pass/Fail and Setting-Heavy Story Now

Started by Erik Weissengruber, January 09, 2012, 04:53:24 PM

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Erik Weissengruber

If this thing gets off of the ground, the personality mechanics recommended in S:KoH are a subject to consider.

Clans' Political Allegiances:
"You can use your relationships at the rating of your clan keyword.  For instance, if you are friends with the Elves you can use your clan keyword to interact with them.  They also act as a flaw if you try to act against them.  If you clan has always had the Telmori as enemies and you try to co-operate with them, you clan keyword acts as a flaw against you." (65)

Concerning your Clan's Virtues (generated via the questionnaire in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes)
"At the end [of Clan Generation] total the number of checks against each value.  Find the top three values.  These are the values held by the clan.  Your hero is a product of these values.  When you want to act in line with these values you can use them as an ability.  When you want to contradict these values then count them as a flaw that acts against your action.  Finally your clan likely has one or more enemies that they Hate.  Write down the clan enemies, as peaceful relations are impossible with them."  (58)

Rune Affinities and PC Action:
This is the challenging bit: by deciding on one's fundamental runes, a player is setting out boundaries for his or her action.  And it is NOT the same as selecting a religion.  A player may build up the Air rune for his Personality and never initiate or devote to Orlanth.
* Losing control of PC
"At times, the Narrator will treat your Rune Affinities as a sort of Flaw to be overcome if you want to act in a manner contrary to the Rune.  Successfully overcoming the Rune Affinity means you can act in the desired way but at the cost of temporarily weakening your connection with that Rune as a Lingering Penalty [i.e. lasting well beyond any one conflict resolution instance].  Failure means that you must act in accordance with the Rune."  (78)
This last bit confuses things.  Does act in accordance with the rune mean initiate a new contest?  Contests are supposed to be conflict resolution not task resolution.  Maybe its just a fictional result accepted by the GM?
* Getting rewarded by GM
"On the other hand, the Narrator can also give you a Situational Bonus or even a Plot Augment to the use of a rune affinity if you have been consistently roleplaying the Personality Traits of that Rune." (78)

And this is not like Pendragon where there is a strict zero-sum dualism between pairs of Virtues and Vices (Chaste/Lustful, etc.).  You give into Lustful once, you stand a pretty good chance of having it increase during character advancement at the expense of a reduction in your chaste.  Rather, if you do what the GM thinks goes against your character creation decisions, your effectiveness decreases.  If you do what the GM thinks goes in line with those initial decisions, your effectiveness increases.

Now, Hero Points will allow you to prevent Loss of Control.  But the reduction of effectiveness can be slapped down at GM discretion. 

So what to do?  In any check of Affinity, does the player include both desired course of action and the consequences if he or she is compelled to obey the Rune Affinity rather than transgress it?

Have players justify their behaviour in a Burning Wheel-like phase at the end of a session, with the bonus to be applied in the following session?

Who gets to decide if a behaviour went against the Affinity?  Maybe the player could draw attention to a significant violation and get a Hero Point out of it.

What if I want to make a dramatic change in the character, renounce past beliefs and start anew.  How to get off of the railroad I may have set myself on?

It's called a Heroquest.  You want to radically reinvent yourself?  Do so.  Muster the in-fiction positioning and the game resources and take a shot.  This way, you are not playing Pendragon Pass.

The recent discussion of Pendragon over in Burning land has got me thinking of the fun to be had with personality mechanics like this: http://tinyurl.com/7xnsex4

But the focus here cannot be on maintaining a manor and wining Glory.  In Glorantha it has to be about reinventing self and reshaping the world.

Erik Weissengruber

Pendragon's Passions are a little more hard-core than the Virtues or Values in Heroquest.

I can roll my passions to help me in a jam.  But if I fail the role or fail at the conflict I take serious consequences.  Including bouts of melancholy.

If I fail to bring in my "For king and country" ability to augment my swordfighting in Heroquest, it's a mechanical reduction in effectiveness but nothing fictional!  So much for a Narrativist game!

There is one portable solution: The Player may override the roll, but in so doing, automatically loses a point in that trait or passion.

So you want to be calm during negotiations, but you are highly invested in the Air rune.  I ask you to roll some ability and try to overcome this huge rating you have in Air.  You fail (and don't want to spend hero points on it).  You can take the result or override it.  For what penalty?  Perhaps a 1 point reduction (which doesn't mean much in Heroquest).  How about reducing it by the margin of defeat?  If your "Steady Leader" ability is only 14 and your Air Rune is at 32 or something, you stand a good chance of defeat with a -3 or -6 penalty.  That is a big whomp.


Ok, I think I'm getting the hang of this a little more (but not much): Is it that heroquest's mechanics are profoundly bland, but that is compensated for by the colour and thematic content of the setting itself, embodied by the player's responses?

In other words, it seems like the resolution mechanic doesn't say half as much as I thought about the themes involved, but the fact that it allows you to spend hero points on various things means that there are two layers of choices; what do you do, and how much do you invest in that choice if it goes pearshaped. And you make those choices by creating characters that are strongly enmeshed in all the thematic stuff your interested in.

In order to support that choice though, you probably need to be able to weigh up difficulty of a certain plan verses how it goes with your values: There's no bite in choosing between compromising with difficulty or exausting yourself in idealism, or in finding different ways to seek the same goals, if this landscape of difficulty is invisible to you. Yes ok there's always hero points, so you can run into things that are way out of your league then change your mind, but as a way of scoping out the world, it seems to me that the way that players get to ask questions about the world, absorb knowledge about it, situate their character in it, would be really important to make solid.

And maybe the skill system actually implies that themes should be given a halo of abilities, rather than tying them to abilities directly: Unlike rustbelt say, where explicitly recording a faith called "all outsiders are not to be trusted" with a certain rating matters thematically, and means it's something your going to be dealing with and maybe changing over the game, in heroquest you might actually want to take that belief and put things around it instead, that relate to it but do not themselves define it, because you don't want to fix it in place, but you do want to fill other conflicts with it's influence.

Applying that to relationships between clans, if you want the game to be about how the clans relate to their neighbours, then instead of just saying that the relationship is unfreindly, you could create a few abilities (three?) that each imply that, but deal with some history between the clans.

With that in place, judgements of the appropriateness of abilities and augments could become more interesting, there's potential for a bit of slippage in the character of the relationship that players can take advantage of, and that probably makes rigorous application of the bonuses and penalties less onerous.

So that's the main choices I'm seeing at the moment, the choices about what to do given the complexities of the situation and the choices of how much to commit to something when it turns out to be out of your league.

Do the community augment rules add a third category of choices? What is the disadvantage of trying to get community support? Can you put those resources in danger by your use of them? Is it just that community elders may ask for something in return for using them? Can multiple people use the same resource simultaniously, or is that just restricted by common sense fictional positioning (ie physical artefacts are a lot less flexible than stories or traditions, because multiple people can hold them)?

Erik Weissengruber

They are not bland: they are firmly conflict rather than task resolution.  That might be old news but HQ was one of the first to do it explicitly.  As a conflict resolution system it is theme-friendly in that the GM should be presenting theme-appropriate challenges or the players leveraging their theme and setting-laden Abilities to bring about such challenges.  But a mechanic is like a computer program or any other algorithym: garbage in/garbage out.  The rolls are always opposed so there is some homology between player behaviour ("I am rolling against an opponent and we are both subject to chance"), and an implicit theme ("Heroes must always test themselves in risk-ridden ways against an antagonistic world"), and narrative fiction ("We are heroes up against the Doom Ninja").  Such a homology is nice but it is an aesthetic feature only.

The actual roll (d20) is just a roll but system governs what comes into resolution.  The HQ2 system requires players and GM to state the premise of the series, the genre, and the setting and these higher-order decisions filter what is brought to resolutuion. The system allows laser focus on what is thematically significant but it doesn't guarantee that will happen.  The extended conflict system is not employed when you want to break out into detailed task resolution.  that was my mistake in early GM-ing.  Rather, every blow should be premiseful or setting-rich, or theme-y.  The extended contest system is not a "microgame" like the Duel of Wits or Fight! in Burning game.

Erik Weissengruber

The things system geeks worry about are not the same as players approaching a game for the first time.

Player Responses

* 1 of the newcomers to HQ, playing a troublemaking bastard daughter of the local trickster, remarks: "I wanted to talk to my father a little more.  I didn't know discussions were part of a game."
* Another player seem genuinely surprised when the village woman with whom he was having a liason refused to kiss him when he went off on an impromptu raid.  And to genuinely enjoy it when he brought the starvelling stick picker girl come along with the raiding party.

The fluctuations in the pass/fail rhythm did not even register on their radars.

The clan was presented with a problem: strong omens that their warmaking would be blessed and they would suffer in their wealth this year.  And strange draconic shadows and surprise frosts on the settlement.  The opposed roll mechanic in response to their clans' "Fear Dragons" flaw saw them thinking of fictional responses to the situation backed up by a wide variety of choices in the Abilities they were using to resist it.

After fictional positioning with a variety of factions, the players all pushed for a quick raid on tax collector caravans to get some coin, supplemented by disguising themselves as Woodpecker clansmen to deflect blame, and returning to the stead to seek out the source of the baleful magic.  The opposition was provided by a senior clan member who wanted to use the clan's magic to ensure a successful spring planting.  The players used their abilities to Augment the Resource roll by the proposer of the scheme.  The use of multiple player augments to one dramatic roll was also grokked quickly. 

The raid was against opposition that was NOT part of any prep on my part so I stuck to the pass/fail rhythm.  Their clan's war rating of 29, augmented by some clever actions on their part and lingering bonuses from previous actions, came in at 45 (or 5 at 2 masteries) against the Lunars' 14.  I justified the low resistance by proposing that they had ambushed a payroll caravan of the Lunar administration and they just wanted to grab some bags of coin so it was an ideal situation.  Each player either played or narrated what they were doing to aid the raid.  There was nice synchronicity between the courses of action narrated and the Abilities brought to bear.

System Concerns

The continuing crisis of the wealth and the prepped threats to the clan will escalate.

Currency now represents the region of mechanical complexity of import rather than any kvetching about pass/fail.  Only one player got the 100 word description in.  So in addition to the 3 main runes, occupation, and homeland Keyword, he has all these personality traits and charms and skills to pull on.  But he did not have all his character creation points assigned.  So every roll had this currency calculation going on as he decided if and how many character creation points would be assigned to the Abilities being brought to bear.

The other characters were all done "On The Fly."  This means that they had 10 abilities to create in addition to the key words.  Every challenge presented was an opportunity for them to make some statement about who the character was and how much of that he or she was.  One player took the lead in arguing against the clan elders in favor of the raid and came up with some impressive barbariany-rhetoric.  It was not from the heart so he characterized himself as "Cunning" and spent a few points to raise it above the default.

So the characters are SLOWLY defining themselves in response to the challenges presented them.  What I thought would happen is that the world would define itself in the interaction between my preped elements and well-defined characters.  So this dialectic is really interesting: I put challenges in their way to see what kind of people they are and how they react to the world, and they define their characters in ways I couldn't predict.  Those who are newbies to Heroquest I throw suggestions, but they refuse them or work with them as they please (most of mine are rejected, which is fine because they are just suggestions).  The character with the well-defined abilities makes little adjustments in the ratings.  And the Gloranthaphile makes sharp and quick decisions.  Then I have to make fictional decisions about the world that have little to do with my prep but which I try to make sure are consistent with that prep.

Hero Points and Such

A number of characters a carrying penalties (reflecting failure to overcome the Fear of Dragons) and bonuses from individual victories.  In addition to the 3 Hero Points given at character creation, and 3 Hero Points for completing a story arc, they will get 3 at the start of the next sessions.  This means that next session that have 9 HP to spend on character improvements, getting out of tight situations, etc.  In addition to the 10 to 15 character creation points they have sitting around.

The pass/fail cycle will increase resistance until someone takes on a conflict they will lose.  So we will see the currency fluctuations in response to that.


Quote from: Erik Weissengruber on February 02, 2012, 02:47:30 PM
Hero Points and Such

A number of characters a carrying penalties (reflecting failure to overcome the Fear of Dragons) and bonuses from individual victories.  In addition to the 3 Hero Points given at character creation, and 3 Hero Points for completing a story arc, they will get 3 at the start of the next sessions.  This means that next session that have 9 HP to spend on character improvements, getting out of tight situations, etc.  In addition to the 10 to 15 character creation points they have sitting around.

How are you deciding when to apply penalties, and how often are you or the players framing conflicts aimed at reducing or removing those penalties?

This is an area I feel that the core rules are very vague on, perhaps correctly, but also lack advice on. This has resulted in very different play experiences, from my reading of the APs and from my experiences playing at conventions as opposed to my home group.

Erik Weissengruber

"How are you deciding when to apply penalties, and how often are you or the players framing conflicts aimed at reducing or removing those penalties?"

Some are blanket: +3 to Fear of Dragons

The rules indicate: The bonus to an ability gained by using it in a contest lasts until such point as the character fails with that same ability.

I have yet to frame a contest to repair a penalty.

Erik Weissengruber

Response to previous session:

"I felt like I was a participant in some ancient, long-lost story."

Parsing of this statement to follow.

Erik Weissengruber

The player's statement about feeling as if he were a participant in a narrative gives some anecdotal support to the idea that conflict resolution mechanics, as opposed to task resolution, are conducive to subjective aesthetic impressions that one is in a story or that something like a story is unfolding around the participants.

The Actual Play example:
- The pass/fail cycle had wobbled back to Moderate resistance of 14

- The PCs have undertaken a pursuit of whatever it is that is messing with the clan's agriculture.  It turns out to be a demon who has stolen the form of a dragon.  The PCs and a band of NPC thanes charge it and it charges them.

- I classed the thing as "Hero" in rank, my shorthand for saying that, unless you are yourself of Heroic rank or using some special magic item you got on a heroquest, or are incarnating a god or hero (the "Heroforming" magic of the setting), you doing a Stretch.

-  "Stretch" means characters are at -6 to an ability and will never score more than a Marginal Victory against the thing they are opposing.  This is a rule that I have rarely seen discussed in reviews of the game.  It, like Credibility tests, are ways in which Setting/Genre/Premise decisions become System, and provide constraints for framing and resolving conflicts.

- The beast, as a demon, had a Weakness: Vulnerable to Exorcisms.  Just like the Stretch rule, Weaknesses or Flaws are consistent definitions of how entities in the setting may affect each other. They do not fluctuate with the Pass/Fail Cycle.  Your Flaw is your Flaw is your Flaw just as the Demon's Weakness is its Weakness is its Weakness.

- At this moment, one of the players narrated holding forth a clan totem, rushing into battle, and drawing his blade across a mysterious birthmark.  I have no idea how all of this color came together in his mind.  But as he invoked one of his as-of-yet undefined special abilities, I saw a chance to give it some definition.  I ruled that the "Comet Birthmark" was a source of exorcist magic of the type to which Demons are vulnerable.  This PC's actions had an overwhelming effect on the beast, whereas other PCs' actions had been failed Stretches.

Erik Weissengruber

These decisions were made by myself, following the rules as laid out in the most recent, genericized version of Heroquest.  The Demon was written up as a prose myth, its Species Keyword defined, broad ratings relevant to the Pass/Fail cycle were indicated (Very High, High, etc.), specific aspects of Keywords notes, Extraordinary Abilities and limits thereto were set, and Weaknesses defined.

Handor's player, James, knew the basic conflict resolution mechanic through my explanation and 2 previous sessions of play.  The other player knew the Glorantha-set Heroquest rules very well and is a Gloranthaphile.   Both knew that vague abilities take on specific forms in the course of play, and that decisions about what Abilities can do become part of the setting and the unfolding story.  But neither knew about Stretches.  And they were presented with a being unlike any they had come across before.  When ordinary and magical Abilities seemed to have little effect, James pushed Handor into making a dramatic move and I took that move as an opportunity to answer a question I had about something on his character sheet: what the hell is that "comet birthmark" ability all about? 

I decided that it could serve in exorcisms and it will do so from this point foreward.  The player made some bold fictional decisions which spurred me to answer questions about the setting and backstory (the omens of his birth and their relationship to the wider setting).  But it was I who flipped the switch and fused that decision to the setting and to mechanics, reading his birthmark as a way to bypass the Stretch and overcome the static value of 14 for the "Vulnerable to Exorcism" Ability.

It all worked.  But the moment of decision was a weird one.  It was not like a Burning Wheel game where players are aware of how a test  against a specific ability of a certain value will result in advancement, how expenditure of Artha will push a character closer to Arestia, etc.  In this instance of play from my game, the setting has been changed, the player's Ability will be both constrained and enabled to do certain things at a certain level of probability in future contests.  But the decision-making process, and the degrees of responsibility in it, and the varying levels of awareness of the factors involved, are one big pile of obscurity.

Erik Weissengruber

Here is what I wrote to the game's participants after the session.  It would be nice if players were aware of the interaction between setting limits (esp. Stretches) and the decisions we make about their abilities, and to underline that it is not only possible for them to define their Abilities in ways that affect the setting, but that they are encouraged to do so.  And to hold out the promise that such decisions on their part will result in a more engaging story:


"So, is Handor the golden boy, superstar, spotlight guy?


He has 1 NPC ally trying to use him for a very particular agenda. That NPC's agenda is HIS, not mine. Moreover, all of the other NPCs have agendas for you. Go with them, against them -- whatever. Your characters' choices make the story.

And decisions have major consequences, as was illustrated by the battle with the demon at the end of last session:
The thanes rode out to find the Kinslayers and ran into a dragon-shaped demon that has been warping the weather, sending killing frosts and causing sudden thaws of glacial ice to bring floods. Handor's character description said something about being marked out for destiny and that destiny was symbolized by a comet-shaped birthmark. James said something about cutting into it to release its power.

My preparation notes indicated that the demon had a vulnerability to exorcist magic. Given that James' character was bearing a clan totem, something on his character sheet mentioned an extraordinary destiny, and he was making a very specific action using one of his previously undefined special abilities, I interpreted that action as a kind of exorcism.

And from this point forward I will continue to do so.

This is the way your characters' creatively-defined Abilities become part of the game world: you propose how an Ability might affect the situation and, using the game's jargon or me considering behind-the-scenes decisions I have made about setting and opposing characters, we pin down just what that Ability means in this setting. And from that point, going forward, we have defined how that Ability interfaces with the setting.

[This bit could have used a rewrite: maybe I could have said "we use the game's jargon, I my pre-game prep, and you your feelings about where you want the character to go" or somesuch]

Think of Bilbo picking up a magic invisibility ring. Which then turns out to be something much more. If that situation had come up in a game, I might have dropped some earth-shaking magic item into a set of caverns. Or a player might have had some way of linking an Ability to a cruddy old ring he found in a creep's personal stash. I like the way this game allows vague intuitions or colourful descriptions to crystallize into concrete, significant, and situation-changing Abilities with real game-mechanical weight behind them.

And you can all do it. Just remind me to give you opportunities to do so."


Hello again Erik,

Thanks for taking the time to write these reflections up, they are very interesting. HQ isn't very prescriptive when it comes to play styles, so it is always interesting to see how someone actually uses it.

One of the reasons that you havn't seen a lot of descriptions or discussions about using stretches to define a creature's abilities, is because this appears to be your own interpretation. It sounds like it could work, and certainly by challenging the PC's it provided an opportunity for creativity.

However, stretches are always described in the context of choosing abilities. Indeed the main advice is if somthing is a stretch it may be best for the Narrator to suggest an alternative ability.

Certainly in the Glorantha section of the Core Rules, and the recent Sartar Material, Stretches are used to help define the setting, especially for things like magic use, but even those are focused on the abilities of the PC.

I do think that some of the Sartar material, especially the scenarios, occasionally twist the uses for Stretches as well, but that material has subtley drifted the rule set in my opinion.

For the write up of a ghost, it may be appropriate to rule a physical interaction a stretch, or maybe impossible, this isn't placing it on a scale of difficulty relative to the players, it's just saying that hitting it with a sword would stretch the story and or genre's credibility.


Erik Weissengruber

QuoteOne of the reasons that you havn't seen a lot of descriptions or discussions about using stretches to define a creature's abilities, is because this appears to be your own interpretation. It sounds like it could work, and certainly by challenging the PC's it provided an opportunity for creativity.

I meant to say that I haven't seen any productive discussions of using Stretches anywhere.  Not just in dealing with individual creatures, but with whole categories of creatures, but in any resolution context at all.

I have also not come across any discussion of the enabling assumptions specified at the start of the Heroquest rules, those of Genre/Setting/Mode/Premise.  The Sartar Book seems to say "here is Glorantha the way Greg and Jeff would do it, hop on board.  No guide to adapting the system outlined by Laws to the particular material at hand.  Saying "YGMV" is not the same as providing guidelines for how to use Laws' enabling assumptions in making "Your" Glorantha.

What I have done with my demon keyword is no more than to say: here is what is plausible or implausible in my Glorantha using my High Fantasy/Dragon Pass/Epic Chronicle/Heroic Barbarians vs. Empire as my Genre/Setting/Mode/Premise decisions.  To my mind I am following strict chapter and verse:

"Using a somewhat implausible ability is known as a stretch.  If your Narrator deems an attempt to be a stretch, you suffer a -6 penalty to your target number.   Further, any major or complete victories you might score are instead treated as minor victories." (Heroquest 52)

"Implausible" makes sense only in the nested contexts of G/S/M/P.  As you say, "stretches are described in the context of choosing abilities," but I would add "and in G/S/M/P-defined contexts of what constitutes implausibility."
It is actually at the intersection of those contexts:

[ Ability Description    < Stretch decision ]     G/S/M/P >

Laws reinforces the connection between stretch adjudications and higher order assumptions in the game text:

"The definition of stretch is elastic, depending on genre [my emphasis].  All sorts of crazy stunts ought to be possible in a high-flying martial arts game.  Conversely, even common cinematic conceits ought to be impossible in a realistic espionage game inspired by John Le Carre novels" (52)

And in my take on Dragon Pass, mundanes will be ploughed by Heroes, Heroes by Superheroes, and Minor Gods will have some edge over individual Superheroes but better watch out for teams of them (this is the hierarchy going back to the Dragon Pass boardgame).  Demons have fearsome abilities but are prone to exorcistic magic.  These are some of the basic decisions about what is plausible in the Glorantha I knew and in the Glorantha I am presenting to players.  I don't want to go willy-nilly making all sorts of complicated rules about what is a stretch when dealing with a Great Wolf, as opposed to a Dire Wolf, or a Timber Wolf.  Just to elaborate on my guidelines for plausibility as we explore the setting in more depth.

I would quibble with your assertion that it is a "main" piece of advice that "if something is a stretch it may be best for the Narrator to suggest an alternative ability."  Selecting the most believable convincing or realistic Ability instead of going for a Stretch is a marginal case of Stretches:

"Narrators running series in those rare genres that enforce very strict realism should, rather than impose a penalty, instead propose a more suitable action description." (53)

If I want to make sure that a character's particular choice of a martial art style really fits a given situation, and the setting has been strict about such details, I won't allow a Boxing Ability to do a takedown of someone who has grappled you: it's flat out impossible, just doesn't work.  But in the genres and premises I want to run, say a noir story about crooked fighters and the mob, I would allow it as a stretch.  That is me allowing broad interpretation of Abilities within the limits of G/S/M/P.

I hope I am following the principles you outline in your post:

QuoteFor the write up of a ghost, it may be appropriate to rule a physical interaction a stretch, or maybe impossible, this isn't placing it on a scale of difficulty relative to the players, it's just saying that hitting it with a sword would stretch the story and or genre's credibility.

Exactly.  The pass/fail mechanics offer a simple range of obstacles (6 in total?) in the place of endless finicky tinkering with ratings.  And credibility tests where you judge an action as absolutely incredible, a stretch to credibility, or within credibility, are a way to keep to those 6 simple tiers of difficulty even in extreme or fantastical situations.  I want guidelines for me to keep difficulties with those values without sacrificing plausibility.

I wasn't trying to drift the rules set, just connect the dots between the "Before Starting" material on pages 8-9 and the material on Stretches (52 - 53), Credibility Tests (74-75), and Extraordinary Ability Frameworks (96-106). 

And, to get up on a soapbox, I was disappointed by this lack of attention to these parts of the Heroquest system in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, and see no sign that the writers of Pavis are paying attention to it as well.  I don't think they are drifting the rules set, if that is taken to mean the totality of the system.  They have pulled out the resolution mechanics and the algorithm for setting difficulty levels but ignore the systematic framework Laws developed for them in the first place.

Sarah Newton's article "Asymmetric Gaming" points out the challenge that Laws' system -- in its basic assumptions -- poses to many conventional roleplaying habits:

"When your character fights the dragon, rescues the prince or princess from the evil sorcerer, or destroys the space station in your tiny starfighter, in HeroQuest none of those opponents are defined using the "stat blocks" you'd find in other games. Rather, the difficulty of achieving those individual goals (fight the dragon, rescue the prince, destroy the space station) is defined. Moreover, that difficulty isn't defined by how objectively hard each of those goals might be to achieve (starfighter against space station? no chance!), but instead by how difficult it should be in terms of the story. If the story, by its genre, dramatic structure, or structural necessity, suggests that a hero with a stray arrow should, right now, have a decent chance to kill the dragon which has terrorised the land for decades, then that's what the difficulty of that task will be, regardless of how formidable the dragon might "objectively" be."

Maybe all of Laws guidelines for keeping credibility decisions consistent are an attempt to provide some of the illusion of objectivity that the rules, according to Newton, disavow radically.  I like to see them as working with "genre" to give a context for the characters' abilities, of integrating those player-defined Abilities within an unfolding framework of characters' interaction with each other and with the setting (which is what I like to think Newton means by "story").  Maybe I am on the old-guard objectivist side when I think of credibility stretches as setting limits on character action (STOPPING a non-Runelord character from posing any kind of deadly threat to an NPC Hero) instead of breaking limits to permit greater player character effectiveness (Newton's example of giving a PC a shot to take out a mighty dragon*).  But for a setting to be significant it has to give resistance as well as afford opportunities.

You don't walk on your carpet despite the friction, but because it offers some friction.  A perfectly frictionless surface doesn't give you limitless freedom: it is more likely to have you flat on your ass.  And how can you talk of a current with no reference to the resistance of the medium through which it must of necessity pass?

* To return to the letter of the law: the maximum victory a Stretched Ability will win over an opponent is a Minor Victory.  I take that to mean "including any Hero Point expenditure".  So our Stretched bowman can ding the beast but not bring it down.  To have Bard take out Smaug, that would require something other than a Stretch.

Erik Weissengruber

QuoteI wasn't trying to drift the rules set, just connect the dots between the "Before Starting" material on pages 8-9 and the material on Stretches (52 - 53), Credibility Tests (74-75), and Extraordinary Ability Frameworks (96-106).

Rewrite that: to make the setting have weight there is an inevitable drift back towards HQ1 and Hero Wars.  HQ2 is more concerned with the envelope of plausibility surrounding the characters than really making the setting have any weight.  I think my Apocalypse World play was bleeding over into my HQ2 prep.


In general I am right with you on the way that the Sartar material tends to ignore a lot of the genre / setting context of HQ2. In a R.Laws panel back when HQ 2 was still in a pre-release state I remember pointing out to a doubter that Glorantha is bigger than a genre pack, but instead could contain any number of genres and setting expectations. But, now we are faced with a thoroughly detailed and defined setting with little reflection on the chosen genre, campaign scale, scope, or even the resources that it so clearly advocates but doesn't make much use of.

Of course this was probably always going to be the case, as published Gloranthan material has a momentum all of its own which has always been relatively system agnostic. I would love to see a chapter in each book that talked about how the material could be used in different ways to achieve various effects at the table. Or a piece on how the more grainy rules interpretations could be streamlined for more vanilla HQ2 play, but alas this isn't really their priority. The Glorantha fan in me doesn't mind a bit as long as we see current material, but the system geek in me is frustrated. But of course that part of me is easily distracted by new shiny gears, such as those in Other Worlds.