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Joerg

Kraken report 2019

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(I am posting this in Alastor's Skull Inn because it covers quite a few topics outside of my usual narrower focus on Glorantha and related stuff. Partly because I am unsure whether this would fit in its entirety into either the RQ, Glorantha or HQ forum.)

Kraken Report 2019

 

Another Kraken has gone by, and another “What I did in my holidays” essay is in the making.

 

I left work shortly after noon, slightly earlier than usual on a Friday and drove almost directly to the convention, arriving around 4 pm. I found out that my lodging was not on site but about 5 minutes driving from Schloss Neuhausen, so I set off to that place shortly after greeting a few people I had not seen for more than two years. The shortest route turned out to be a cobblestone track with a big bulge in the center of the road, big enough that I had a few hard bumps to the bottom of my car (thankfully without causing any leaks). On the return trip I tried the alternative route, only to be stopped at a fire brigade activity blocking the road to the Schloss, so back to the old-time road and creeping along to avoid too much movement in the suspension.

 

(The weekend before I had been on a RuneQuest weekend in a guest house on a Rittergut halfway between Kiel and Lübeck, also with road blocks – there due to road works – making me travel even more disreputable roads, leaving my car looking like an offroader. Come to think of it, the last times I took the train to Essen Game Fair, both times Essen Central Station was blocked for traffic, and on the way to the last Eternal Con I visited I had to traverse North-Rhine Westfalia when there were 1300 km of traffic jams on the Autobahn there. That means whichever force tries to prevent me from going to a convention quickly left me off lightly this time.)

 

Back at the convention I learned that there would be the beer tasting late that night. Yay, a beer tasting before I would have to drive back to my lodgings.

 

The Schloss itself was heated quite strongly with the wood-burning stoves, luring people outside into the deceptively mild autumn air. While I didn’t manage to catch a fever this time like three years ago, I still caught a minor cold. Maybe some time I will learn how to dress for Kraken?

 

On the plus side, the internet connection was almost too good for a convention, with hardly any delays putting up content here on BRP Central.

 

One of the main attractions of visiting the Kraken is to talking with people you rarely meet in person, often over food in addition to drink, among them quite a few notables. This year had attendees from 19 countries, not all of which I was able to talk to or identify. Still, that’s about half the EU and a few adjacent and overseas territories (like Switzerland, Norway, the US and Iceland).

 

I managed to talk to Robin Laws and Cat Tobin on Friday, had breakfast with Ken Rolston and Chris Lemens on Saturday discussing game ideas and local history, and found some time to chat with Sandy and Wendi Petersen between events. I also was selected as entertainer by Jeff’s and Claudia’s daughter Lara, failing to solve many a “math” problem (mostly ones that involved crossing the moat of the Schloss where it forms a creek, and occasionally getting up imaginary cliffs with the aid of two feeble sticks and “math”), and getting away with it by lifting her onto my shoulders.

 

Another main attraction are the panels, even though you are able to witness these afterwards as Thoumy and Alienor once again recorded everything professionally. Being able to inject a question or two adds another level of immediacy. I’ll point out to the panels when they get online if nobody else happens to notice them. I did miss Ian’s Heroquest panel due to me getting lucky in the Horror Lottery (which dishes out seats in games with the guests of honor), and at least half of the Elmal vs. Yelmalio debate due to Lara occupying my time and shoulders, but with the assurance of being able to catch up on youtube that wasn’t that much of a sacrifice as it would have been otherwise.

 

The Big Rubble panel with Jeff Richard and Robin Laws started the panels of the Kraken, and is already available on youtube. Watch that channel for further videos on the other panels, e.g. Jeff’s presentation of the (eight) master maps of core Glorantha, which will possibly come with split screen and stills of the maps added in post production. Core Glorantha grew by increments of A2 maps defining new territories, starting with Sartar and Tarsh, continued by Heortland and core Esrolia plus Mirrorsea Bay, and extended into the east as Prax and Dagori Inkarth.

 

There are no master maps on this scale for Peloria (which would require dozens of such sheets), where just the eight sheets I mentioned above have about 1200 named locations with some population and even altitude data. Jeff described those lands as grasslands rather than densely populated agricultural land (making the claims made blaming Sheng’s minions for reducing Peloria to such a state a bit weird). But that’s for a different discussion, not for this convention report.

 

I did manage to get a little gaming under my belt this year. As mentioned above, I got lucky in the Horror Lottery, and had a place in Ken Rolston’s Paranoia game, as assistant team leader of the only all-Infrared troubleshooter team in all of Alpha Complex, a team that had enjoyed an unprecedented 715 day-cycles of trouble-shooting without losing a single clone. After presenting my five things only I know about my character to Ken, I was told that I have way too many bad ideas (for him to exploit). But what’s so bad about being color-blind in Alpha Complex? Or being one of those emancipated AIs liberated by the AI Liberation Front that had itself incarnated as a citizen to further the goals of that secret society? Or already having been terminated once despite bearing the clone-number 1 (which turned out to be an extraordinary feat of foresight on my part)?

 

We found out… Prominent points of the game were e.g. the statement that none of us had ever seen one of our team-mates psi ability (to block any photons) in action. (How could we have, as sight was shut down as no photons could move?) Or making Ken realize that the laser weapons (including that laser rifle with ultra-violet crystals that had somehow become our standard equipment on this mission holiday retreat) used photons, leading to an amusing case of sunburn and k.o. of said team-mate. Or flabberghasting the guards at the exit point to the “wilderness retreat” by confessing that our team had no team leader, only an assistant team leader, and that we weren’t on a mission. Good paranoid fun, interrupted by Ken’s recurring role as high priest of pancakes and judge in the re-run of the Pan Cake Cook-out between Risto and … (giving us a chance to catch some, too).

 

I had a look at Sandy’s newest iteration of Orcs Must Die, combining toy soldiers and dinosaurs – every young geek’s wet dream. And that will allow Sandy to produce Dino miniatures. If he produces them to scale, they might even be useful for Glorantha gaming…

 

I got to play with probably one of the last uses of Sandy’s prototype set of Hyperspace, as the delivery of the finished was delayed, under Sandy’s tutelage. A fun little game of space exploration and colonisation, somewhat asymmetric again but with a fairly sturdy general mechanism. My Mi-Go might have fared a little better hadn’t Sandy convinced me to end the game as he was to host another event. Playing those diverse species was fun, putting Hyperspace on my short “games to buy” list.

 

As it turned out, there was no copy of Gods War at the convention except for the one that was still in my car from the previous weekend, so there was at least one game of Gods War – three people from France (including Gianni Vacca), two from Germany, with the Invisible God (Gianni) managing to overtake Chaos (me) by one point in the final reckoning, thanks to everybody ganging up on my Chaos nests in the last turn.

 

I also managed to squeeze in a three-player game exploring the Restricted Library of Miscatonic University, which was quite fun with that number of players.

 

Amid discussion of other forms of gaming (there are quite a few game designers and authors at the Kraken willing to talk shop not just with one another, but also with ambitious fans), I also had a short look (actually a rather badly shot video) at Gianni Vacca’s Hero Wars-themed boardgame “Last Faction Hero” which is played on a map based on a vertical cut through Glorantha from the gates of Dawn to Dusk, featuring the superheroes and some demigods of the Hero Wars as characters (Harrek, Jar-eel, Androgeus, Cragspider). Something I need to try out at one of the next conventions...

 

I managed to witness the last stages of Ian Cooper’s Dragonrise scenario, of which I played an earlier version three years ago, and to sit in in an after-mission debrief discussing the problem of player-agency in a heavily scripted heroquest. Observing Ian’s dramatic presentation of the last stages of that event after a hard-won success by the players, I wonder whether I would be able to present the events half as well – certainly not speaking English. (Writing down stuff gives you a second chance for a first impression, performance simply doesn’t.)

 

The successful outcome of the Dragonrise is pretty much the basis for the Glorantha presented in the current publications (for RQG and 13G, at least), which means that a failed quest would leave an ongoing HeroQuest campaign utterly stranded in a quite different Glorantha. If you want to play this quest with open-ended results, it would work best as the finale of a campaign. In case of failure, possibly with a coda not unlike Frodo’s return to the Shire. On the other hand, if you mean to play on after running this scenario and thus a success is more or less scripted, your agency would be similar to that of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (as pointed out by Amy in the Big Bang Theory). Food for thought, and possibly a thread or even panel of its own.

 

I left the convention at 11 pm on Sunday, driving home. This time over quite wet roads, with another road block pushing me widely off course (with the aid of a navigation system). Still, I arrived at home in the middle of Monday night, managed to get up in time for work, and back home from work before sleeping like a log.

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On 10/22/2019 at 12:54 PM, Joerg said:

sit in in an after-mission debrief discussing the problem of player-agency in a heavily scripted heroquest

Can you talk a bit about what was discussed. Any solutions or assessments? (Maybe it isn't a problem?)

And thank you for the write up!

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On 10/24/2019 at 8:01 PM, creativehum said:

Can you talk a bit about what was discussed. Any solutions or assessments? (Maybe it isn't a problem?)

For me, it isn't a problem. It's as though the Players are playing a scenario that they have already read, it gives them some clues as to what might happen, but the GM might have changed it anyway.

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I'd also be curious to have more details on the subject, but I wonder if this might be a moot point for RQG players because IIRC the upcoming heroquesting mechanics in RQG will feature something where the players make up the "script" as they go, so the player agency vs GM might turn out a lot different.

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Basically, it was Chris Lemens who played this run of Ian's playtesting who brought up the lack of meaningful choices in the (necessary) series of encounters the dancers would have to go through on their spiral path.

The following thoughts are all mine.

The Dragonrise is fairly well described in King of Sartar. It is also a one of a kind opportunity - miss this quest, and the entire future timeline of RQG has fallen to pieces.

So, where is the player agency in this? Are you just going through the moves, and do all your achievements and pain account for nothing, just like those of Dr. Henry Jones Junior in Raiders of the Lost Ark?

If you are playing a scenario like this with the option to fail, failing completely means that Your Glorantha Will Vary significantly. Nothing of the new material will be of use to you. Playing the scenario this open-ended basically means this is the climax of your campaign, and what follows will be a coda at best. That's fine if you signed up for this kind of "trilogy" of supplements. I would probably go for something limited like that with a game club campaign or online play.

There is the possibility for a "fail, but" outcome. The dragon rises anyway, but it identifies the dancers of Orlanth's Ring as part of his previous torture, and takes out their communities. What remains of Sartar still gets liberated. This gets into the territory of the 13G assumption that everything has gone haywire. Does something like this as the "fail" outcome of the heroquest suffice as an irretrievable stake of the players, or are they still feeling that their failure had no consequences?

If you are unafraid to do high stakes intervention with Sartar, you could of course let the Lunars win, and play that out. The Hero Wars with Orlanth already half defeated, Dragon Pass lost. Maybe Arkat needs to set it right? Truth to tell, I'd love to play in a campaign like that, but it would be Hell on wheels for the GM to manage. I'm less sure I would like to run that campaign, although doing the strategic game in the background would be interesting.

 

On a less concrete topic, how to deal with other heroquests, which after all are quite scripted affairs? If you have played King of Dragon Pass, you will most likely have solved the intermediate stages of the Orlanth and Aroka quest differently at times, like your Vingan quester fighting the Night Woman and seducing some other darkness opponent. There are certain amounts of deviation tolerated by KoDP's narrative engine before you get cast out into the unknown places of the Hero Plane, from which you may succeed to return to a thoroughly f'***ed up clan.

Facing a GM with some more flexibility than a narrative engine and steeped in some Glorantha lore, you might find yourself in a different mythical path rather than straying along, or you might have the ability to determine the place you got shoved to and pick up that quest. That won't necessarily solve your original problem (e.g. drought), but it might lend you some extraordinary magic to get you through that loss.

 

There is the issue of the HeroQuest surprise, and the stage with the personal challenge for some (or each) of the questers. Ideally, this should be played out with passions defining the character, but those passions in RQG gained from the family history still are quite gamist and not very personal to the player. (I'm probably using the term "gamist" in a non-Forge way here...) I have problems with both RQG and HQG to create my Gloranthan character that feels real to me rather than an optimized for success action toy. One of these is the lack of a supporting cast of NPCs (ideally NPCs shared with other players' characters) one has built a relationship to.

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@Joerg thank you for the lengthy reply!

There is so much to discuss here, but my attention was drawn to one point to start of (a point that had nothing to do with my original question!)

You wrote:

Quote

those passions in RQG gained from the family history still are quite gamist and not very personal to the player. (I'm probably using the term "gamist" in a non-Forge way here...) I have problems with both RQG and HQG to create my Gloranthan character that feels real to me rather than an optimized for success action toy

Can you talk more about this? Is this only for Passions, or also the use of Runes for Augements as well?

Are you saying the use of Passions comes too easily with too little cost? Or that unless the Passion is connected to a specific, concrete NPC it feels like a "Gimmee' Button" to be tapped whenever the Player really wants the PC to accomplish something?

 

As for HeroQuests and scripted content:

I have some thoughts on this, perhaps nonsensical and pehaps not worthy of being well-received. But here we go.

It seems to me that a lot of Chaosium content, going back to CoC and then Pendragon, has been about the Players being put in the position of experiencing the events of the game. Yes, they get to make choices. But if you look at the rules of CoC and Pendragon you find that the game invokes moments of madness or strong behavior (respectively) that overwhelms the PC and asks the Players to "go with it." 

Further, if you look at the published modules and campaigns for CoC and Pendragon you'll find them often surprisingly "scripted." Moreso than most other published adventures in overall particulars. (The recent Pendragon adventure for #WeAreAllUs states clearly at several points "If the Player Knights make this choice the adventure ends...")

Years ago I compared the Adventures found in Pendragon to the Catholic "Stages of the Cross," where a parishioner will walk around the church reflecting on images of specific moments of Jesus' journey with the cross. The story is already known, of course. What matters is what the devotee experiences in the reflection of the image carved on the wall and the moment of the narrative he or she is contemplating. I saw what Greg was trying to do with Pendragon as a whole and the adventures in particular in a similar fashion.*

And if you read Greg's commentaries and interviews about Pendragon's design and the purpose of the Great Pendragon Campaign I don't think I can be called out for being too far off. There are moments of wonder and violence and terror and tragedy, and the game system asks you to really consider "How do you feel about that?" and "What does this mean to you?" Because if you don't you'll have no idea which, if any, Traits or Passions apply in this situation. 

The game seems built to provide a reflective experience. Again, not that the Players don't have agency and can't make choices. But that those choices are there to lead to the moment when the Player must ask, "This is happening... what does this mean to my Player Knight...?" Which of course is attached to the question "What does this mean to me?"

CoC, in a similiar vein, puts the Player in the position of viewing and experiencing moments of horror, knowledge of helplessness, a need to press on, overwhelming information, violence, and so on. Like Pendragon's Traits and Passions, the Madness rules can make Investigators end up behaving in ways well beyond the control of the Players -- if only for a short while. In both cases the Players are asked to "ride" the PC and see where he or she leads them.

I should add here I'm not saying all tables play the games this way! I'm only looking at the rules and the structures of the adventures and looking at what I consider to be the intended effect. And in the case of Pendragon I have it on the author's word this was the intended effect.

Hero Wars was my first encounter with Glorantha. (I missed RuneQuest in my early years of RPG play.) 

When I read Hero Wars rules for HeroQuesting it was quite clearly a "Stations of the Cross" model. Maybe this is only something someone raised Catholic or raised in a religious tradition with similar rituals would pick up on. But if you look at those rules for HeroQuesting it's right there. A lot of people were (rightfully!) spooked by how "scripted" HeroQuests looked. But as a long time Pendragon fan I immediately recognized the structure and thought, "Oh, it's like a Knight's Adventure in Pendragon. The Player goes on an adventure and experiences these different moments in stages. The point isn't to win, or do it right, or solve it -- but to go through it, stage by stage, and see who you are by the end."

With this in mind, I'd like to refer to Joerge's example of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is true that Indy's actions don't change a thing. The Nazis were doomed the moment their arrogance demanded they look up on God. 

But here's the thing: what matters in that movie for Indy isn't how he changes the course of history. What matters is how the adventure he goes on changes him. (That's a whole discussion, so I'll leave that out for now, assuming that most people see how Indy transforms from a man who only covets old things to a man who needs to draw a line between himself and other would be treasure hunters.)

The phrase that matters most in Pendragon is "Yes, you're all knights... but what sort of knight are you?" That's the crux of the game design and the purpose of play.

In the same way I would suggest that the HeroQuests of Glorantha are not so much about "changing the world" as they are, like a Knight's Adventure in Pendragon, about changing the Hero in Glorantha. 

I'll stop here and say I don't know how Ian's Dragon Rise scenario works. I don't know how Jeff is planning on writing the HeroQuesting rules for RQG. I'm only talking about my own expectations of what HeroQuests are in a way that works for me and that I saw worked in rules for Hero Wars.

So, for me:

  • The Hero in Glorantha needs to do something, and most likely something pretty damned big. 
  • The Hero is lacking in some way... some item, some wisdom, some skill, some way of seeing the world, that will let him or her do the deed that must be done. Significantly, the item (if it is an item) can only be wielded (or wielded well) with some wisdom or way of viewing the world the Hero lacks.
  • The Hero goes on the HeroQuest to become changed by the quest. 
  • The change allows the Hero to return to the world, if successful, changed in a way that now gives him or her a shot at succeeding at the task. 

The question still stands of course: If a campaign lynchpin point is on the table, what happens to Glorantha if the PCs come back after a successful HeroQuest, successfully, and then still blow a random roll in their efforts in the real world.

I have two suggestions here, both of them perhaps controversial:

First, if you about to make a roll and you (you being the Referee or the Players) are thinking, "I really don't like the idea of a failed roll here," as might be the case in a campaign defining moment, DON'T MAKE THE ROLL. It's a rule of mine at any table I run. Random results provide random results. If you don't want a random result do not roll! If the Heroes have made it through the HeroQuest and have been amazing and interesting, I would simply hand them the last victory they need to successfully finsh the quest. By the same token, in the "real" world if hte PCs have lined up all the pieces of magic and soul to bring about a beautiful plan that should work am I going to make them roll? No. I am not. They have already done the work as far as I am concerned. 

Second, when there should be a roll, the roll should be about the Heroes -- their souls, their fate -- not about the big event. I turn here to the Great Pendragon Campagin as an illustration and model of what I think Greg clearly meant for people to do with the Hero Wars Campaign structure. 

I've written my thoughts about how to use the GPC here. The short version is: look at it like the historical structure of WWII if the PCs were soldiers in an RPG about that war. They will not decide the fate of the war. But as characters they will certainly have an implant on the small portion of the war they can effect. And most importantly the war will have an impact on the characters.

In this way, with the ironic knowledge of the events of WWII, the Players can participate as their characters succeed or die or transform as the war goes on and finally concludes.

In the case of the Hero Wars, the Dragon Rise will definitely occur and the campaign will continue as expected. What matters is: do the Heroes falter, fail, or succeed in who they need to be? Who they wanted to be?

Returning to point one above, if it seems like they already are who they need to be to successfully help the Dragon Rise, don't roll. If there is still a question about this, then roll and find out if the PCs can be who they need to be to win. Frodo does not have the strength to climb Mount Doom. But Sam does, and if he was a NPC the PC needed to finish the story, then there you go. 

Anyway... some thoughts!

__________________

* Some links and references about these ideas are in this thread

 

Edited by creativehum
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4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Can you talk more about this? Is this only for Passions, or also the use of Runes for Augements as well?

The passions from character creation cover a very small section of a character's possible motivations, but they load significant amounts of percentage on these items. Great, so I end up hating the Lunars 80%, perhaps "Love family" 60%, and I might have "Loyalty chosen leader 20%". Sure, this doesn't stop me from roleplaying the character as a loyal bodyguard who manages to keep a seething calm while his leader negotiates with an emissary of Fazzur to my leader, but I often feel it hinders the character concept.

There is nothing to stop me from house-ruling this, of course.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Are you saying the use of Passions comes too easily with too little cost?

No. If anything, I am complaining that there are passions missing from events of the character's life, like "like/loathe in-laws" or "specific in-law". Basically, a character might have a relationship map (like the ones mentioned in the Dramatic Interaction Master Class video from Kraken) which more or less generates a strong feeling or two with each individual and group they may belong to, and create a minor passion out of those as opportunity offers itself.

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Or that unless the Passion is connected to a specific, concrete NPC it feels like a "Gimmee' Button" to be tapped whenever the Player really wants the PC to accomplish something?

Not at all. For every incantation of the passion to act in favor of the PC, the GM has the opportunity to "coerce" some reaction out of the character leading to possibly less wise courses of action (in the unlikely case you have players whose characters act sensibly), or to use the passions as some form of "idea roll" (aka lesser Divination).

 

Passions and otherwise statted personal relationships are one of the core things tested in heroquesting. Quite often a heroquesting challenge is of a moral, ethical or personal nature. How many heroes have had to satisfy the crone they encountered on the boundary between this world and a more magical realm, whether sexually or doing other stuff that might go against their nature or personality? How often does their reaction to a plea of an otherwise insignificant encounter alter their magic or add another trump card in their sleeves later on, or otherwise aggravates a station on that quest?

Tough personal choices, and possibly a character transformation from making that choice, are the stuff heroquests are about. When does the quester give up personality to become another imitation godling, and when does he stick to his human self rather than minimax for better magical oomph?

A lot of the personal heroquesting experience is covered by "Dramatic Interaction", and the currency RQG has to offer towards this are passions and to a lesser extent runes. (HQ offers relationship abilities which cover a broader range of stuff and are somewhat easier to use.)

 

But then this is a bit contradictory to my complaint that I look at the RQG character sheet to find documented dozens of things my character sucks at. I prefer character sheets and supplementary sheets that enable the characters rather than those that limit them.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

As for HeroQuests and scripted content:

I have some thoughts on this, perhaps nonsensical and pehaps not worthy of being well-received. But here we go.

It seems to me that a lot of Chaosium content, going back to CoC and then Pendragon, has been about the Players being put in the position of experiencing the events of the game. Yes, they get to make choices. But if you look at the rules of CoC and Pendragon you find that the game invokes moments of madness or strong behavior (respectively) that overwhelms the PC and asks the Players to "go with it." 

It isn't quite as bad as the madness that overcomes the Redshirt of the Week in Scalzi's Redshirts, and I think it may have come from playing with a group of minimaxing power players stress-testing both game system and setting in Greg's games that needed some formula to enable the use of some classic mythical plots.

"My character has a geas against eating bird meat, there is no way she would accept a soup from any stranger!"

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Years ago I compared the Adventures found in Pendragon to the Catholic "Stages of the Cross," where a parishioner will walk around the church reflecting on images of specific moments of Jesus' journey with the cross. The story is already known, of course. What matters is what the devotee experiences in the reflection of the image carved on the wall and the moment of the narrative he or she is contemplating.

This.

Especially for heavily scripted "this world" heroquests where your fellow clan or cult members act up for the opposition wearing ancient masks. Where your heroquest surprise might be that you can see your fellow clansperson supposed to wear that mask sit dazedly in the background while the entity represented by the mask confronts the quester.

Heroquests aren't exactly an all reflective experience, or in other words, they tend to be very agile and physical forms of meditation and possibly austerities. Genre-savviness by the characters may be helpful at times, and at times it may lead to deleterious decisions.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

With this in mind, I'd like to refer to Joerge's example of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It is true that Indy's actions don't change a thing. The Nazis were doomed the moment their arrogance demanded they look up on God. 

But here's the thing: what matters in that movie for Indy isn't how he changes the course of history. What matters is how the adventure he goes on changes him.

The old problem of managing internal dialogue in a roleplaying session, as opposed to fiction, or the silver screen with the option for flashbacks.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

The phrase that matters most in Pendragon is "Yes, you're all knights... but what sort of knight are you?" That's the crux of the game design and the purpose of play.

In the same way I would suggest that the HeroQuests of Glorantha are not so much about "changing the world" as they are, like a Knight's Adventure in Pendragon, about changing the Hero in Glorantha. 

Yes. It isn't just about becoming more like the mythical figure whose path you trod, it is also to sharpen or blunt certain parts of your character's personality. A heroquest should result in some personal meaning for the character, not just some magical power or a decisive weakening of an enemy.

Again, this might be expressed ruleswise as gaining a passion or relationship, or altering an existing one.

The use of the Power Runes as opposed pairs always adding up to 100 is a game construct whose math I hate. The traits in Pendragon doing the same were a feature there that always appeared buggy to me, too, but then my Pendragon experiences were few and long times between.

(When I discovered Fantasy literature, half the material I could lay my hand on initially were Arthurian pastiches (rather than Tolkien pastiches), and it soured the Arthurian genre somewhat for my. Seeing Richard Gere as chromium Lancelot killed off much of my remaining enthusiasm, and not even Monty Python managed to salvage much.)

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

I'll stop here and say I don't know how Ian's Dragon Rise scenario works.

I only played the earlier version, 3 years ago, which had a much different prequel/preparation, but the activities available after successfully entering the Lunar ritual remain what the map of the Gloranthan night sky, Copper Tablet 7 and the description in King of Sartar frame - a bunch of Orlanthi questers representing Orlanth's Ring walking the spiral path of Umath (tracing the week of ascension that Orlanth's Ring inscribes onto the sky as the sky dome rotates beyond it), and this leads them past certain constellations and possibly planets which as a rule do their best to hinder the questers unless they have brought a mythical reason for the Lunar dancers not to do so. It is pretty much a fight against the clock, as the rite will be completed at Dawn.

Leaving the path isn't really an option - the genius of the quest is to use all the magic the Lunars poured into this rite for their well-calculated alteration in the stellar mechanics. The questers themselves shouldn't be exactly clear what they are going to release (other than finally liberating Orlanth), except maybe for Minaryth and Orlaront.

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

I don't know how Jeff is planning on writing the HeroQuesting rules for RQG. I'm only talking about my own expectations of what HeroQuests are in a way that works for me and that I saw worked in rules for Hero Wars.

So, for me:

  • The Hero in Glorantha needs to do something, and most likely something pretty damned big. 
  • The Hero is lacking in some way... some item, some wisdom, some skill, some way of seeing the world, that will let him or her do the deed that must be done. Significantly, the item (if it is an item) can only be wielded (or wielded well) with some wisdom or way of viewing the world the Hero lacks.
  • The Hero goes on the HeroQuest to become changed by the quest. 
  • The change allows the Hero to return to the world, if successful, changed in a way that now gives him or her a shot at succeeding at the task. 

A good synopsis.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

The question still stands of course: If a campaign lynchpin point is on the table, what happens to Glorantha if the PCs come back after a successful HeroQuest, successfully, and then still blow a random roll in their efforts in the real world.

I have two suggestions here, both of them perhaps controversial:

First, if you about to make a roll and you (you being the Referee or the Players) are thinking, "I really don't like the idea of a failed roll here," as might be the case in a campaign defining moment, DON'T MAKE THE ROLL. It's a rule of mine at any table I run. Random results provide random results. If you don't want a random result do not roll! If the Heroes have made it through the HeroQuest and have been amazing and interesting, I would simply hand them the last victory they need to successfully finsh the quest. By the same token, in the "real" world if hte PCs have lined up all the pieces of magic and soul to bring about a beautiful plan that should work am I going to make them roll? No. I am not. They have already done the work as far as I am concerned. 

If you don't want to make a roll, make a trade? Give up on some of your preliminary mythical ammo to clear that stage? We discussed this briefly in the vaulted cellar of the Schloss where Ian had run his scenario. As there is a prequel quest which gives the players the opportunity to collect such ammo, this was a consideration. But then player behavior would be different depending on whether they regard the quest as a last breath resistance they never expecterd to return from, or whether they expect to have enough of a margin to win this quest that they might actually wish to retain that power for themselves, their temple, or some other community after their victory (or as an existential insurance for their personal support group in case of a major failure).

(This is harkening back to the Dragonrise quest discussion, really.)

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Second, when there should be a roll, the roll should be about the Heroes -- their souls, their fate -- not about the big event. I turn here to the Great Pendragon Campagin as an illustration and model of what I think Greg clearly meant for people to do with the Hero Wars Campaign structure. 

In one of the Kraken panels, Jeff voiced a similar concern about the Battle skill, and how he intends to change the RQG version from a way to decide the outcome of a battle into what the character experiences through the battle are going to be.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

I've written about how to use the GPC here. The short version is: look at it like the historical structure of WWII if the PCs were soldiers in an RPG about that war. They will not decide the fate of the war. But as characters they will certainly have an implant on the small portion of the war they can effect. And most importantly the war will have an impact on the characters.

In this way, with the ironic knowledge of the events of WWII, the Players can participate as their characters succeed or die or transform as the war goes on and finally concludes.

In the case of the Hero Wars, the Dragon Rise will definitely occur and the campaign will continue as expected. What matters is: do the Heroes falter, fail, or succeed in who they need to be? Who they wanted to be?

It really depends how you set up the Dragonrise event. If you make this the culminating final and desperate move of the characters as the means to somehow avert the destruction of everything they had run through, and give them the heads up that return from that quest is unlikely, the outcome of the quest might as well be a massive failure.

The dragon might fail to rise, the Lunars might slay it (at the cost of their temple and army?), stars might plummet, a chaos rift might rise instead... If this event is the final episode of the campaign, there is no need to stick to canon.

 

4 minutes ago, creativehum said:

Returning to point one above, if it seems like they already are who they need to be to successfully help the Dragon Rise, don't roll. If there is still a question about this, then roll and find out if the PCs can be who they need to be to win. Frodo does not have the strength to climb Mount Doom. But Sam does, and if he was a NPC the PC needed to finish the story, then there you go. 

Anyway... some thoughts!

Well formulated ones.

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5 hours ago, Joerg said:

Well formulated ones.

Thank you! And thank you for all the responses.

The conversation is obviously going far afield, but I'd love to keep talking if you want to.

There's so many topics that got opened up I'm going to address them in pieces. This first:

5 hours ago, Joerg said:

The old problem of managing internal dialogue in a roleplaying session, as opposed to fiction, or the silver screen with the option for flashbacks.

Is it a problem? I have never found it to be so.

As a Referee I will simply ask my Players, when I see the processing a moment on behalf of their Player Character, "What is your character feeling?" Or "What choice is your character weighing?" Or "What matters to your character in this moment?"

The Player then simply expresses the internal life of the character and now everyone at the table has lovely view into the interior life of the character and I, as the Referee, have a better understand of what the Player cares about vis-à-vis the Player Character. 

I find introducing literary traditions and techniques (the revelation of a character through internal thoughts, whether first person or third) are perfectly functional in RPG play. A lot of RPG play these days trades in cinematic techniques from TV and Film. But that doesn't mean we should limit ourselves.

When it comes to Pendragon play, for example, Traits are Passions are driven by the Players as much as possible when I Gamemaster. If a Player declares he wants to invoke a Passion for his Lord at a tournament, the first thing I'm going to ask is, "Is this really a passionate moment for your knight? And if so... is this really about the passion of loyalty for his lord?" I ask because I want to drill down and really reveal the fictional detail at work in the invoking of a Trait or Passion. 

The Player will certainly know more about his or her character than I do. But Players also sometimes grab onto rules that seem there to give them a benefit rather than see how the mechanic fits into the larger themes and structure of play. So I ask questions. Not to stop the Player, but to learn more. 

In such a circumstance the Player might decide "Yes, this really is about the Loyalty to my Lord." If this is the case now we know this. The risk of despair or madness makes sense because we've put a marker down on the table: The knight desperately wants to do so well for his Lord at this tournament that his sense of self is on the line in this next run down the lane with his opponent. 

The Player might also say, "You know what? This isn't about my Lord. Now that I think about it see it is about my Loyalty to Arthur and what the tournaments mean to him. He's in the snd and I want to show him I am 100% percent with him in creating this tournament."

Of the Player might say, "You know what? No. I mean, I want to do well. And I am loyal to my lord. But there is no connection between these two things."

I know some people view Passions as a tool for buffing skills to make them more powerful (especially lower value skills) but if I encounter this at my table I try to disabuse any Player with this notion as quickly as possible. Given the stakes of failure present when using a Passion I can only imagine using them when the PK is truly Passionate -- underscored and with red letters -- about the matter at hand.

Having the Players talk out what the character is thinking or feeling is a perfectly common occurrence at my table.

 

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