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Author Topic: [Heroquest 2] Pass/Fail and Setting-Heavy Story Now  (Read 12217 times)
Erik Weissengruber
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« on: January 09, 2012, 08:53:24 AM »

Can it be done?

My first thoughts are here: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/for-clan-kin-and-the-gods/wikis/first-thoughts

These are in preparation for an HQ2 campaign I am trying to start up.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2012, 09:34:27 AM »

My meandering (http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/for-clan-kin-and-the-gods/wikis/first-thoughts) boils down to this:

Climactic, setting impacting contests should be like heroquests -- the final challege will be high.
The pass/fail mechanic can serve as a pacing mechanism for myself.
The commuity/wyter is an entity of enduring interest and challenges to it and on its behalf should have the consistency

Use the Climactic Contest results table for these superserious challenges.
Otherwise, continuity creating scenes and individual PC activities can be handled on the rising action table with the pass/fail rhythm.

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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2012, 01:12:22 PM »

I want to continue exploring the mega-pc or the shared community resource/responsibility that I mentioned here:

http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=30173.0

What does this collective character, agent, actant mean in play.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2012, 05:33:27 PM »

I had 1 Glorantha veteran and 3 newcommers at my first meeting.

I tried to tease out the kind of characters they wanted to play
* An uncomplicated farmer/warrior
* A stable, traditional, upright thane
* some kind of thiefy, shadowy, trouble making kind of person
* A hired mercenary serving the chieftain

Then I went through the clan questionnaire in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes to generate their clan, a process which generates an entity that is a source of power and which is their responsibility to maintain and improve.
* discussed here: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?495949-HeroQuest-Communities

The questionnaire produced a completely non-canonical clan.  The love of a setting can make you want to guide the players to create something more "typical" or "canonical."  But I stifled every impulse to pull away from character color input.

They worship ancestors rather than the Odin/Earth Mother biggies, or their children Sun Guy, Trade/Communication Guy, Trickster, Grain Lady, Healing Woman, Gloomy Sword Guy, Berserk Axe Guy, etc.  So they are on a tangent far removed from the vast majority of the god-worshiping noble barbarians around them. 

Now I have the task of designing a world of DRAMA around the heroes, bringing in canonical setting only as needed, and staying away from the metaplot as far as possible..  But there is always the tug to slot the players into Greg Stafford's world.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2012, 05:42:26 PM »

This is what I wrote to their players concerning their clan, the "Old Stones," a group of determined traditionalists and patriots reduced to poverty and marginality by their intransigent opposition to the Lunar Empire.

______________________

Notes on Worship

These are the religious practices of your clan. They are really interesting.

Note: The players are all on individual religious quests. You worship who you want to worship. The main focus of your people is your Ancestral Shrine but you might have discovered the storm god within you, be attunded to illusion or disorder, etc. You come from an environment but that environment does not determine who you are. Moreover, you can change your people.

Main Religious Focus: Ancestors

#1 Sendor: Heaven-sent hero, enemy of Chaos
#2 Penene: Daughter of the Wilds
#3 Bereneth: Tamer of Horses
#4 Mother & Father Antanggi: People of the Shadow
“Before us came the Jars Antanggi, People of the Shadow, scared and in tatters but proud and clever too. We saw their cunning in survival and how they used the very shadows as armor against their enemies. As their leaders had been broken and driven to the Winds, they came among us as shepherds and we called them cottars.”
#5 Heort: Ancestral King of the people, who took Sendor as a thane.

Great God Most Commonly Invoked:
* Ernalda: Earth
-    she taught us how to make useful things out of nature & animals
-    she taught us how to read and weave the tapestry of fate

Great God Acknowledged by All:
* Orlanth: Storm God
-    taught us to explore, to learn secrets, to brave the darkness

Favoured Old God:
*    Acos, God of Stability.

Clan’s Mythological Enemy
*    The Bright Emperor, Yelm

God of Clan’s Traditional Enemies
*    Ves Venna, son of Winter, who brought kin-slaying to humanity

Nightmare Demon, Ultimate Bad, Bogeyman
*    The Thing With Many Bodies

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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2012, 05:27:19 AM »


Given the focus you have mentioned and the fact that you have used the published questionnaire, community resource options, I was wondering if you had put any thought into changing the resources to match your campaign scope, or if you had just decided early on to choose the default scope presented in the Sartar Book?

My question is purely self interested as I managed to squeeze in the side text on this topic through convincing the editor of its merit.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2012, 09:30:31 AM »

I will work at it like this: The clan is incredibly idiosyncratic.  But it is valuable to others because it is so unusual.  So the ratings and their scope as defined in the Sartar Book are fine.  Their friends are a more conventional Ernalda/Earth Clan and an Orlanth/Storm Clan.  Their Enemies are a mirror image: Earth-friendly Lunar accomplices and Storm fans, as well as Grazer raiders and a band of bandits with Kinstrife magics.  Their allies include Trolls, Lightbringer clan with a shrine to the God of Sages, and 2 more traditionalists.

If I were doing a smaller scale game, I would have juggled the resources.  But I like this bunch: they are way outside the mainstream and they are dirt poor -- but they punch above their weight.

The text IS useful.  Heroquest doesn't have to be generic -- it can be highly customized for a particular setting!  The resources and the resource cycle are a good way to feed player activity into the setting. 

What can we call that point of connection that, like the pirate ship in Poison'd or the MRCZ in Freemarket, is a piece of the setting of continuous interest and is the locus through which players affect and are affected by the setting?

* Centre of Gravity?
* Meta/Mega PC?
* Nerve Core?
* Heart?
* CPU?
* Collectively Managed Setting Processing Actant Mechanism?
* The Thing?

So the text about changing resources is welcome in that it opens up the question of how to tailor a Thing for a setting.

(or a CG/MPC/NC/CPU/CmSPAM ... whatever)
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 02:58:12 PM »

Yes exactly. That thing is exactly what I was concerned with. The idea that the scope, setting interactivity, and thematic traction, is facilitated by the choices made in setting the questionnaire, and the choosing of the resources and their weightings. And, I was worried that the Sartar book was making those choices for the GM.

I do wonder if that thing is just a more elaborate and specific definition of Setting from a Story Now perspective.

But I'm concerned I may be leading things off on a tangent so I will await a more suitable moment to discuss that further.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2012, 07:35:48 AM »

"I do wonder if that thing is just a more elaborate and specific definition of Setting from a Story Now perspective."

Well, I decided to commit to that specific clan thing in the text because the clan/tribe/setting arc in the King of Dragon Pass game really appealed to me.  The scaling up of concerns, not the metaplot or canonical history.

"I do wonder if that thing is just a more elaborate and specific definition of Setting from a Story Now perspective."
I am really into The Thing.  Planet Burning for Burning Empires really gives tangible, gameable dimensions to the setting.  The Fronts sheet for Apocalypse World aren't tied to fine-grained numerical values, but they represent the MC's principled commitment to the consistent behaviour of a few important agents, with the countdown clocks providing a track of how near to crisis various parts of the setting are.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2012, 07:45:21 AM »

The relationship between character colour and setting colour is crucial.

The sessions of the game will be based on tension, so even if characters fit the cannonical models the whole direction of play will be about exploring conflict.  If you love the Storm God and the Earth God, and keep the commitments to those gods gender-identified, I am still going to find ways to bring out the conflict between you and the other conformists.  If you have no gods and base your magic on Water, you still have the ability to interact with other tribes no matter how weird you are.  But your exceptionality will then become the issue explored later.

My player said "I imagine a steady, dependable voice of reason, so that sounds like the Earth rune as you described it.  My guy will be a stalwart thane."  I am cool with that player's identification with the Earth rune.  The fact that 99.9% of his neighbouring clans would not understand why a MALE chose to identify with Earth is gold for Story Now.  It is really bad for someone trying to follow the metaplot in the Sartar book -- Air boys and Earth girls unite to push out the foreign weirdos who have brought their cosmopolitan, sophisticated, labile culture to the area.

The numbers generated during clan creation state: no matter how un-canonical the derived clan is , it has THIS rating for Warfare, THAT rating for magic, THOSE ratings for peacemaking & wealth.  It is up to us to explore what the clan's ratings MEAN in the contex of the setting, and how the characters relate to or bounce off of or defy the values implied by the thing that is the clan.

In other words, you are not tangenting me, you are helping me deal with what I wanted to deal with.
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JoyWriter
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also known as Josh W


« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2012, 06:20:48 PM »

I'm curious about the stuff you started with in the first few posts, but this is pretty impenetrable to me. But then it might help you to explain it to me, so:

My understanding of heroquest is that it's thematic power comes from putting really meaty stuff into the generic mechanic, so that when your rolling it's about whether hope overcomes desperation, or whether the community can deal with the disgrace to it's elders, by literally rolling one of those against another directly or as augments.

That's the impression I get anyway, but if that's true, I'm not quite sure why the ratings are there, do we want to say that the community can usually deal with disgrace, but it might not happen this time? Why not save it until the moment it's in question then find out 50/50?

How do these specific ratings support story-now play normally, what do they add to the fiction? I'm sure there's something really obvious that I'm skipping over here.


The next question is what the pass/fail cycle is there for. It just looks to me like a feedback loop to get players to keep hitting a certain average success rate. Perhaps you have to play it, and in play it actually does give a good rhythm, but I can't see what it adds in terms of story structure, particularly thematically. What job do you want this pass/fail system to do/recognise it as being designed to do?
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2012, 05:37:55 AM »

I'm curious about the stuff you started with in the first few posts, but this is pretty impenetrable to me. But then it might help you to explain it to me, so:

I am riffing on previous Heroquest posts so I apologize for being hermetic.

My understanding of heroquest is that it's thematic power comes from putting really meaty stuff into the generic mechanic, so that when your rolling it's about whether hope overcomes desperation, or whether the community can deal with the disgrace to it's elders, by literally rolling one of those against another directly or as augments.

Yes, and ...

I cannot speak for the generic mechanic's ability to make theme out of any conceptual material.  I am looking at Glorantha as setting, with Heroquest as the resolution mechanic, and using the guidelines in Sartar: Kindgom of Heroes to create a very specific kind of Community Resource, an interesting rules feature of the core rules.

Moreover, the core rules demand that a play group establish certain Color expectations upfront.  So Genre/Mode/Premise (the rulebook's terms, not Forgespeak) decisions are made upfront and those decisions help decide what is a Stretch or and Impossibility when determining numbers for the conflict resolution.  I am going High Fantasy/Episodic/Noble barbarians vs. decadent Empire at the end of the world.  Decisions about what conflicts to frame, not just how to frame them or what numbers to use in resolution, take place in that conceptual sphere.  The universal conflict mechanic by itself doesn't confer theme on any old input.  Before we start there are a range of inputs that are dictated, implied, or ruled out.


That's the impression I get anyway, but if that's true, I'm not quite sure why the ratings are there, do we want to say that the community can usually deal with disgrace, but it might not happen this time? Why not save it until the moment it's in question then find out 50/50?

The community does not deal with disgrace.  Community resources are an aid in helping a character achieve goals -- goals that are simultaneously fictional and mechanical.  The community makes no rolls, the player makes a roll to borrow the community resource.  Players position themselves in the fiction, frame a conflict, specify how they approach the conflict, point out abilities to resolve it, expend currency to try to shape outcome.  Success means they borrow the resource and failure means they don't and they suffer fictionally and mechanically.

Evenrude wants to race his swamp boat against the marsh mutants.  He approaches the village elders to use their pool of scavenged pre-apocalypse tech to improve the performance of his marshboat.  We roleplay the council scene.  Evenrude's player says my "Community's #1 Fix-it Guy" is rated at 17" and I say "OK, roll to see if you can beat my result of "Success" on my "Grumpy old survivors" of 15.  Evenrude's player rolls a Critical, gets to borrow the clan's "Tech" rating of 25 to help in the contest.  Evenrude is probably going to use that Tech as an augment to his "Speedy Swamp Boat" of 14, which he will also augment with his "Fastest Racer in the Whole Mega-Delta" ability.

If he wins the conflict, the resource will be replenished.  Repeated successful use of this community ability, and accomplishing certain fictional goals, will increase it.  If he loses it will take a serious temporary hit and will suffer long-term reduction.

Did any of this address a theme-generating premise like "Will technology win over sheer determination in post-apocalyptic Florida?"  No.  If Evenrude wins his race, the numbers attached to the word "Tech" will have helped him do it.  But the result of that roll does not produce any resolution of any premise.  Players may think whatever thoughts they wish about the premise, or make whatever statements they desire.  But premise will only be addressed by players when they take subsequent actions in response to this mechanics-dictated fictional result.  And as there is this community resource thing to interact with, those actions will transform that resource as well as the setting itself.  Blowing up the enemy village is a fictional goal that will have mechanical consequences: the GM will never frame opposition using that village and its numbers ever again.

That's the impression I get anyway, but if that's true, I'm not quite sure why the ratings are there, do we want to say that the community can usually deal with disgrace, but it might not happen this time? Why not save it until the moment it's in question then find out 50/50?

The community resources rules are a separate thang from the pass/fail cycle.  They are a way of saying "these are the kinds of forces at play in this setting."  Space empires might have "Space Fleets" "Spice for the Navigators" "Special Abilities" "Leadership" and "Morale" Ratings.  Highschool cheerleading squads might be defined by "Spunk" "Style" "Money" "Athletic Prowess" and "Cheat" abilities.  Anything that transforms broad swaths of colour into abilities that can be used by characters to succeed in contests.

The community is a shared resource for PCs to frame conflicts and win them.  GMs do not need to make a million communities -- you just need one, the one that serves as a common ground for all the PCs.  And you don't have to make it part of every HQ game.  I can't find much AP about those who have used one.

The next question is what the pass/fail cycle is there for.

At this point I am not sure.  It is supposed to impose a formal rhythm on the contests: if you have had a series of success -- whether though luck or expenditure of Hero Points -- expect some heavy shit to come your way soon.  If you have been beat down by a series of bad rolls, one of you is going to catch a break soon.  In many ways, it's just a formalization of what a lot of GMs do in the course of a session: giving players a break or making them sweat a little.  Given the generous helping of Hero Points at the start of a session and the ability to bank them up, the swing is not that extreme.  If the players find that some village of losers is suddenly 9 or 22 points higher than they are normally, I can explain that you happened to drop in on "militia practice day" and players can either take a temporary drubbing (characters in HQ are really robust) or spend the HP to improve their chances.

I just look at the pass/fail thing as a kind of oracle to challenge me to come up with a particular definition of the moment's circumstances.  A decision to set one village against another, have an earthquake strike the mountains where the PCs live, all of that is made as pre-session prep.

I can't see what it adds in terms of story structure, particularly thematically. What job do you want this pass/fail system to do/recognise it as being designed to do?

It is "story" in the sense it is supposed to give the formal up/down rhythm of protagonists' response to obstacles in the course of a linear narrative.  As for theme, the HQ rules don't say anything.  In my Glorantha, this rhythm is part of the setting.  In the course of stores, success is never permanent and even the mightiest will find surprising challenges just when they think they have everything under control.  The primal creative powers acted in such stories.  The gods played them out.  The world has been made by gods, powers, and mortals acting out this ur-story in the form of various conflicting myths.  Mortals can change the world they have known, their own communities, and the whole world, by re-enacting or rewriting the myths out of which they and their communities have been made.  So, I guess I have a premise at work.  It is not "can people remake their world by retelling its myths"?  That is a given.  That is Glorantha.  One set of premises we could be working with is "how/when/if you should use your power to shape the world by shaping its myths"?

But the bare rhythm is by itself is an aesthetic thing.  And aesthetics are important.  But the pass/fail rhythm is at the periphery of my vision.

Pass Fail is a Subset of Setting Decisions
Procedurally and systems-wise the pass/fail rhythm is a subset of the setting decisions.  Setting decisions are part of the system and those decisions constrain what fictional elements enter a game session, and very firmly constrain how conflicts involving those elements are resolved.  If something is a Stretch, no matter how you roll or how many hero points you spend, the best result you will get is a marginal victory.  If something is impossible, it is impossible.

Let us say village loser takes on a PC.  The abilities of average people (6) will almost always fail against even a starting PC (13), even before Hero Points are taken into account. PCs vs roughly comparable NPCs will have the default value (14 or 15 or whatever) modified by pass fail.  That "oracle" compels me to come up with the fiction that makes the variable resistance probable. Let us say a PC takes on a really skilled NPC.  I will assume a default 25 and let the pass-fail rhythm imagine the circumstances that either hamper or enhance that.  Undertake a challenge against someone who is a "Hero" someone who has undertaken heroic deeds on behalf of a god and achieved a sort of legendary status.  That is a stretch.  The pass fail rhythm might be dictating a -20 or -9 to her rating of 62.  Fine, but you are still going to have to roll really well or expend HP to avoid getting totally creamed.  And what are you undertaking that risk for?  To give a Ringwraith a scratch on the cheek?  OK, sure, be my guest.  And be prepared to accept the consequences. 

This would be a case where you should have activated your city's "Warfare" 25 ability, augmented by your "Heroic self-sacrifice" of 24.  That's not a stretch anymore. That's you leading a city's militia out against the monster.  And the odds against you are still high.

If you have the "Ringbearer" special power, that is an extraordinary ability.  Where once you were just some short dude with hairy toes, now you are part of the Ringwraith's universe.  The odds against you are still high but at least you have a shot.  At this point were are dealing with specific, unique elements of a setting (swords, rings, books, weirding modules) that affect how contests are framed. 

The pass/fail thing has generated a lot of talk but it is really trivial, IMHO.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2012, 09:38:12 AM »

By trivial I mean as something to worry about.  The discussion was interesting.  But it is not the be all and end all of the game.
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Web_Weaver
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« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2012, 03:08:48 PM »

I would second that, the Pass/fail thing is a bit of a distraction, and in my early play with HQ2 it just got in the way, until I learnt to just let it guide and inform things. I havn't played HQ for a while now, and now I think I would ditch P/F all together.

I tried to do the whole clan gen resource thing a couple of years ago and it ended before it had really begun, so I watch with interest. I suspect few APs also reflects few people actually doing this thing you are embarked upon. My gut instinct says it should work despite my experience. But, it may be tricky for hardened Glorathaphiles to achieve the needed flexibility of approach, as the process can lead to non-standard situations and unusual set-ups.

In my experience it provided a very ripe ground for inter player conflicts over setting which ended up breaking the game.

The origional questionnaire dates back to the resources in the King of Dragon Pass computer game, and was frequently used with earlier iterations of HQ, but now the resources themselves have a mechanic the questionnaire has taken on a whole new focus, that has a much wider impact on the game if used wholeheartedly.
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Erik Weissengruber
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« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2012, 08:58:25 PM »

"In my experience it provided a very ripe ground for inter player conflicts over setting which ended up breaking the game."

Sounds like an AP reflection in the making.

Inter-character conflicts over the future of a setting I like.  The Fellowship does get broken.  But inter-player conflicts not so much.

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