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

Started by Erik Weissengruber, January 09, 2012, 11:53:24 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Erik Weissengruber

I have played in Glorantha with a whole bunch of agendas over the decades.

I still love the place.

My return to the lozenge was a combination of interest in newer styles of games AND nostalgia.  My first few tries were colour-spraying investigations of the setting.  This despite picking up a few techniques from Sorcerer and reading about Story Now, playing Dogs, etc.

And I fell back into this default mode with a recent FATE game.

Despite their crunchy-osity I feel that the long Burning games I was in (Wheel and Empires) gave me the longest, continuous experience of Story Now.

Erik Weissengruber

To pick up on the nostalgia thread: in the past I ran heroquests with as much canonical fealty as I could muster.  This time I will see how the pass/fail rhythm interacts with addressing the characters' beliefs through events in the quest.

The myths I have in mind grow out of several sources.  First and foremost, the clan generation sheet from S:KoH.  The clan's institutions condensed out of it and so did the characters and actions in the myths.  Then, I have looked at the issues involving the personalities of the clan and retrojected them back into mythic time (which, in my opinion, is how sacred stories often come into being: a present crisis works in entangles with already-constituted religious practices and a myth is created to fit those practices into a new situation, which situation is brought about by working through the crisis, and the myth making contributes to that work).  Lastly, I wanted to create a set of mythemes open to potential unification, not possessing a unity prior to the quest itself.

The Old Stones are a highly idiosyncratic bunch in that they are ancestor worshipers.  There store of lore and ritual relating to the great gods of their people is really thin.  The heroquesters who venture to the other side to make some sense of the myths and to apply them to their own lives will, through their choices, create a new unity of these elements, and this new canonical structure will be the source for more magic, more challenges, etc.  They are not re-enacting the myth: they are creating it.  Their people will have to live with the consequences of the myths they make.

The most obvious "opening" for the players is to determine what that gift was.

That is the theory, anyway:

Penene, the Daughter of the Wild Marries Sedenor;
or, how a daughter of the wild became protectress of the people

• Orlanth defeated the Emperor and won Ernalda's love. Penene attended the feasts of the great gods.
• When freedom came, Penene lead the children of the wild in savage dances, even with the advent of the Great Winter.
• She and her band of celebrants came upon Heort's people, shivering and lost
• Penene took pity of them and tried to convince her sisters to show mercy. She failed and they devoured the children and the old, led hunters into the trackless waste, and taunted the mothers.
• Penene tried to amend the damage her sisters had done by teaching them how to Resist Winter.
• Later, she taught a Curse against Ves Vena
• Upon Sedenor's advent, she readied the hall of celebration and repaired the Rug of Fate
• In a moment of peace, Sedenor and Penene made their vows and Orlanth — though still on his quest to free the world from the darkness he brought -- sent a gift to their wedding. Penene was wise enough to recognize his true messenger.
• Their wedding was a light in the Darkness

Orlanth's Departure;
or, how the people persisted even when he went away

• Orlanth won the love of one of the his brother Valind's daughters, and tasted desire.
• Then he moved on to slay the Emperor to win Ernalda and learned what love is.
• To heal the world he set off on his quest to recover the sun: this mean that he had to abandon his people
• In his Lord's absence, Heort held the people together. Orlanth learned the importance of making blessed kings for his people.
• And as the darkness got worse, Sedenor dove from the sky to drive Ves Vena and the others away from the people. Orlanth learned the need for allies.
• While his friends and allies defended his people, he had to venture in the otherworld. There, he encountered the child of his transgression with his niece. He tried to make peace with her but failed, and she went spinning off into darkness and terror.
• Before he departed on his great Lightbringer's quest to recover the sun, he sent a gift back with a messenger to reward Sedenor for taking care of his people. It was a light in the darkness, a spark of hope to old onto while he went further into the land of the dead.

Erik Weissengruber

As to genre, I can't really think of a situation like this in any of the Juvenile or YA fantasy lit I read as a kid.

Possibly Dune, with its mythology of the messiah and Paul's consciousness of that mythology. 

There are traces to be found in the Earthsea trilogy, where Ged and the young priestess both have to step on up to the roles their mythologies and religions hold out to them.  Both reject much of what they were born to be, and they reinvent much.

Maybe even the hobbits of Tolkien are similar, in that they stand in the presence of mighty personages who have shaped their world but challenge them from their human perspective.

So "Epic Fantasy" still holds, in that mythology is here and now.  And the decisions the protagonists make will constitute the new world that is arising from the shambles of the old.  I think I just quoted Led Zep.  Time to stop typing.

Erik Weissengruber

Only one player showed up so I think we are at the end of this little series.

The player who exorcised the dragon-shaped demon picked up the fiction from last time.  He was concerned that the carcase to which the demon had been bound would infect the river into which it fell, and spent time getting the fictional and mechanical positioning needed to get it out of the river.

Moreover, he wanted to preserve the corpse as a resources.  This was waaaaaaay off my prep.  But Heroquest allows you to roll with it.  And it wasn't completely random behaviour: as we players worked out the setting, and through our characters fought for its future and to shape it to our will, such setting-preserving actions could be a trend arising from play practices worked out in the first few sessions.

To maintain setting-relevance, I looked at the relationship map for the tribe's leadership ring and had them react appropriately: they thought preservation of the corpse a wise action but all acknowledged that the ultimate consequences of this act were obscure.  All were interested in the dragon-related myth mentioned above. 

Maybe it was a color connection: but Handor's (James') interest in the dragon gave me the impression that the dragon-related myth would play out well in the night's session.  So it was fun to find an angle to bring in my heroquest ideas. 
Was I railroading?  Well, the characters in the setting had been pushing Handor to undertake a quest for their own purposes.  So the fiction was about a character faced with railroaders.  If he turned down that heroquest, I had a few other heroquesting options prepped.  My agenda was to see some myth hacking but I hope that I could have rolled with a number of options in response to player decisions.

Erik Weissengruber

Quote from: Erik Weissengruber on March 19, 2012, 12:10:09 PM
So it was fun to find an angle to bring in my heroquest ideas. 
Was I railroading?  Well, the characters in the setting had been pushing Handor to undertake a quest for their own purposes.  So the fiction was about a character faced with railroaders.  If he turned down that heroquest, I had a few other heroquesting options prepped.  My agenda was to see some myth hacking but I hope that I could have rolled with a number of options in response to player decisions.

Story now?

I have been using the rune afinities of the characters to generate NPC actions that challenge the premise-y aspects of those afinities.  With Handor's truth rune, I had a character who is determined to know how her father died during a raid.  I was going to have Handor investigate that his own way.  Since he agreed to the quest, I will put his answer there.


In Story Now terms, I have always seen heroquesting as very compatible.

By going onto the Heroplane the PC's are almost roleplaying, this gives a kind of higher level abstraction, which makes the players actions easier to perform at a meta game level. Therefore it can be easier to allow the players to decide on the context of conflicts and have the necessary say of the consequences of their actions.

David Dunham came up with a card based style of play for heroquests, back in the early HW days where the players introduced elements and stations from their hand when appropriate, which also highlights how it is quite common to see heroquesting as a player led activity. Our group used an adapted version of this to great effect.

Erik Weissengruber

Sorry to thread bump.  But I thought I would conclude this thread with a note about how I have resolved some of the issues raised above.

The key to keeping the setting consistent comes from setting what is or is not a stretch.  I was trying to use the number of masteries as a yardstick for setting difficulties, syncing it up with the pass-fail cycle, etc.

The simpler solution is this: stick to the pass/fail rhythm at all times.  The fictional positioning the characters gather behind an action is what makes it plausible or an implausible stretch.

I do have a rubric for setting plausibility.  I was trying to make a few broad stages, like the gang sizes in Apocalypse World or the ship types in poison'd.

Position = [Quantity x Quality] and is compared to Rank.  It is a stretch to affect any Rank higher than your Position.  Each level of Position higher to Rank gives a bump up or a bump down.

QUANTITY (One=1, Several=2, Mob=3, Clan=4, Tribe=5, Nation), QUALITY (Mundane =1, Expert=2 (PC), Leader=3, Rune Lord/Priest/Devote = 5, Hero=10, Superhero=15).

Let us say that there is some Heroquesting baddie.  The Rank for Hero is 10.

The heroes (several experts = 4) has got the fyrd (mob of mundanes = 3) out into the field.  They are at a disadvantage, so they are operating at a Stretch, their Position of 7 being lower than 10.

As Heroquest conflicts are resolved solidly from the player's perspective, there is no need to do any fancy calculations for the advantage the Hero has against them.

If the same situation had been in play and the players had convinced a squad of lancers to join in, that would add a mob of experts (6).  That gets us to a Position of 13.  More than enough to qualify for a position of advantage over the Hero.  They would at most pose an irritation to a superhero like Harrek the Berserk.

There is probably some more elegant way to represent this.  But it seems to reflect canonical Glorantha and allow for quick decisions about what is or is not a stretch.

I like the way Apocalypse World provides clear and simple benchmarks to turn the ficitonal positioning achieved by the players into numbers for resolution.  I have to have a kludge like this to make my setting-heavy Heroquest 2.0 operate in a similar fashion.  But it looks as if it will work

Erik Weissengruber

I am sure that someone can parse the above table and come up with a routine for determining plausibility.  But I need to see it.


How to read this:

Look at the quality and the number of the PCs' forces. All the other forces in the same row are an even match. Anything in a lower row is at a disadvantage against the PCs. Anything in a higher row is a "Stretch." To overcome the stretch and to match forces with a force in a higher row, the PCs need to ally with at least one of the forces on the PCs row.

Target numbers will be set using the Pass/Fail Method

Erik Weissengruber

The final session of my HQ campaign was a heroquest.

None of the events relates to the previous discussions.  But those who have been following this thread might be interested in how the heroquest played out.


Erik Weissengruber

So 8 players have signed up for my next iteration of a Setting-Heavy Heroquest game, in Pavis.

The rules are supposed to emulate adventure fiction.  I want to do a particular kind of genre aesthetic: intrigue.  To bring the intrigue-heavy setting into techniques I have proposed a kind of scene economy.  It differs from Burning Empires in that I cannot leverge mechanical currency against the players in some kind of competition.  At most, I am making fictional positioning to determine what is probable or improbable, and to present players with the consequences of their actions on the global setting.


Erik Weissengruber

These and other posts are largely archival.  Before the closure of the site I will try to post crosslinks to other Heroquest, and Setting-Heavy AP posts to improve its archival value.

This was emailed to players after a session where I introduced more formal turn-taking.

Heroquest Update 1)

Or; How Random Creativity Becomes Gamed.

Here is how players and GM interact in each session of our game:

Colour > Fictional Position > Resolution > Long and Short Term Changes to the Setting

The first two parts of the process can occur in different orders.  I might create a fictional position (terrible winds are coming to the plains) and you might respond with colour (describe your character huddling in an ancestral cave).  You followed my Fictional Positioning (activating a pre-existing part of the setting) with a piece of pure color with you in extreme closeup, no conflict with other named characters.  You might even bring in a bit of mechanics to finish the Colour Scene (use an ability to try for a bonus on a possible future action like "survive poison gasses of the storm).  But creative responses to the setting -- a.k.a. Colour -- are were EVERYTHING in this game begins.  Colour is the necessary precursor to all other activities in this game.

What Happened;
A festival of the exiles was attacked by Dog Demons in the service of the Lunar occupation.  The heroes were able to resist the attack on their clan's magic.  One fought off an attack on a brood of alynx kittens.  Another summoned alynxes and other cats from around the city.  One simply swatted wildly but managed by luck or fate to smack a few.  One threw daggers into demons he alone could see.  Two were caught flat footed: one was guarded by a faithful hyena.  The other, given his cowardly cringing nature, was lucky enough to be hidden when a dog attacked him unawares.

How it Happened:
a)  Determining the Scale of the Threat
Peter's Connecting Scene: He spoke to his brother Davydd about the coming threat to the clan's festival.  In the course of that scene the GM had the alynx provide some information about how many demons were there: 21.  No roll revealed that.  The discussion provided some ideas about how to confront the threat.
My thinking: a MOB of LEADERS (characters who are more competent than the Player Characters) was coming to cause trouble.
b) Determinig the Scale of Resistance
Lita managed to corall a bunch of bravos from the Sun Dome to come to the festival and compete in the feats of strength.  The roll did not win full participation from their boss, but the fiction was established: 16 tough teens would be there.  This, in addition to a general attendance from the Garhound clan.
My thinking: a MOB of MUNDANES (the Sun Domers) was joining a CLAN of MUNDANES (the Golden Arrows plus a load of Garhounds), under the leadership of SEVERAL EXPERTS (the PCs).  That is enough for your side to have a reasonable chance of beating the agenda of your opposition.  Individually, you would not be facing penalties.  Preceding role-played decisions allowed this to come about.
c) Saving the Kittens:
Mike stepped in, and Kate and Kole backed him.  Which means that they weren't confronting the opposition directly.  Their assistance allowed Mike to save the brood. (A fictional group that only came into being when Iniskiss was contributing to the clan meeting).
d) Fighting the Demons:
Mike was taking direct action against the threat.  So was Davydd, once the throwing daggers came out.  Peter summoned forces capable of dealing with the overall threat.  James managed to smack a few around.  But Kole contributed his action to assisting another.  Nice move, but it meant he was exposed.  It was a STRETCH to assume that a character occupied helping another could be concentrating on protecting his rear end.  That meant a STRETCH: -6 to the Target Number, and a maximum result of Marginal Victory (this is a rule, but I flubbed it).  He rolled allright, suffered no personal losses, but didn't really contribute to the clan's overall result.  Kate's pet Hyena did have her back.

So, individually you all escaped unscathed.  Collectively you creamed the opposition (even if Kole and Kate were busy keeping their characters alive)

So: the color scenes and your interaction with NPCs and each other set up both the fictional and mechanical conditions for victory in the large-scale conflict which is to be the culminating point of every session.  Make those scenes count when you frame them.  Also, if you listen to what is being said by characters in those scenes, you can pick up on it and work it into your own scenes.   

Further updates may be found here: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/glor_hq_tag

Erik Weissengruber

Running a Setting-Heavy Game

- I speculated on such a Heroquest game years ago.  When I discovered Burning Empires I didn't need it.  But when I came back to Glorantha, this was the way I wanted to play.

- Initial attempt to do it was a little clunky:

- Ron's use of Glorantha as a theme-heavy setting, albeit with a different version of Hero Quest (Hero Wars) was and remains an inspiration.

GM-ing Examples to Follow

- what I am trying to take from sucessful experiences as a player, not GM:
- "[W]e ended up playing a pretty tricky scenario that had a pretty fine narrative resolution wherein a character discovered that he was not being cursed, but rather his true magical nature was making itself apparent and that he had to deal with the attendant social complications." This is a great way for the GM to create bangs.

Tying Setting to Character w. Bangs

- I have not addressed the Bang technique.  I used it very frequently in all of my sessions at the game.  But all of my Colour Scenes and the Connecting Scenes are setting up fictional positions that the players cannot ignore.  Or ignore at their peril.  Or deliberately ignore 'cause they have different fish to fry. But direct authoring of Bangs I didn't do in the recent game.

Augments (using one ability to assist another)

- Generally thought of positivley.  Latest iteration of the rules limits you to one augment: my players are always straining to add more

Dealing with the Depth of the Setting

- always a very touchy topic
- the problem of setting overload have been addressed in the most recent iteration of the game
- generating a character-centered sub-set of the broad setting has been mechanized in the form of clan questionaires in the Gloranthan material and the generalized community questionaires in the main rule books.

I need to start implementing more complete Extended Contests

- The early advice is still good, even if the most recent version of the game uses a simple "score 5 points" scale to determine victory rather than the large Action Point bids.

Christopher's Kubasic's Comments on Glorantha

- any relevance to his Play Sorcerer ideas?
- what does he think of the setting now?

Erik Weissengruber

stupit html code!

Advice on Introducing Newbies to the Game:

- http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=31598.0

The Pass Fail Rhythm

- http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forge/index.php?topic=32632.0

Relating Stretches and Obstacles and Theme

- This discussion was the start of my attempt to get the pass/fail rhythm to work.  Looking back, it was a lot of sound and fury.  The act of defining a stretch is part and parcel of all the fictional positioning in the game.  The pass/fail rhythm has some interesting effects in modifying player expectations, behaviour, and use of currrency, but it is not really an obstacle to functional setting-heavy story-now play.

- a discussion of Heroquest and the role of bringing chance into resolving fictional positioning and intentions

Comments on the 'Thing' of Enduring Interest
- On the meta-PC in several games (Freemarket, Poison'd, Heroquest, Warhammer)