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What is the point of abilities and advancement in HQG?

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14 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Not every challenge should become increasingly difficult. Something like fixing breakfast in the morning or hiking up a trail should stay the same throughout the course of the campaign. But that is now how the game system works. It just sort of assumes that since the PCs have become more skilled, and more heroic, everything they attempt will become more challenging and difficult.

We appear to play on the same side of the divide. Personally, I don't think that the game system actually should oblige you to keep the characters on a losing streak unless your story is one of apocalyptic despair.

I don't think that an indiscriminate pass-fail cycle is the answer, either.

But then I think I can handle difficulties and challenges  for the characters as long as I have a feeling for the math behind the game. And that is my main problem with the opposed rolls of HQ - making an informed prediction is hard on the narrator and on the players.

As a Glorantha geek, I can play the setting and allow the framing of a scene calling out to an appropriate mythic precedence, allowing to alter the difficulty. Any player who is setting- or genre-savvy has that ability. Those who aren't might get away with bluffing or indirect acquisition of lore.

But driving the players to become a single ability breakout jockey is extremely unproductive as a narrative goal. It also takes away any agency. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you'll loosen the screws with that.

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1 minute ago, Joerg said:

We appear to play on the same side of the divide. Personally, I don't think that the game system actually should oblige you to keep the characters on a losing streak unless your story is one of apocalyptic despair.

Exactly.

1 minute ago, Joerg said:

I don't think that an indiscriminate pass-fail cycle is the answer, either.

Yup.

1 minute ago, Joerg said:

But then I think I can handle difficulties and challenges  for the characters as long as I have a feeling for the math behind the game. And that is my main problem with the opposed rolls of HQ - making an informed prediction is hard on the narrator and on the players.

Yes. I think the problem here is that they are looking for some sort of shortcut to rating the difficulties in order to make adventure designed easier. The problem is, as with all such methods, they don't really work, unless the PCs advance in a particular, controlled way. D&D tries to do this by linking everything to character level. Right down to the pluses of any magical items a character finds. The chance of fin ding a +3 sword in a dragon hoard is actually depending upon the PCs character level!

But for a game with more open ended advancement, and few RPGs are more one ended that HQ, it probably won't hold up.

 

1 minute ago, Joerg said:

As a Glorantha geek, I can play the setting and allow the framing of a scene calling out to an appropriate mythic precedence, allowing to alter the difficulty. Any player who is setting- or genre-savvy has that ability. Those who aren't might get away with bluffing or indirect acquisition of lore.

Yeah. And I could see situations such as HEroQuests where a given task could be attempted at variable difficulties depending on what sort of result/reward the character was trying to achieve.

1 minute ago, Joerg said:

But driving the players to become a single ability breakout jockey is extremely unproductive as a narrative goal. It also takes away any agency. If the only tool you have is a hammer, you'll loosen the screws with that.

Exactly, and if getting a screwdriver results in the difficulty of hammering nails increasing by 1, you'd be less inclined to pick up that screwdriver. So players are stuck deciding between remaining good at what they are already good at, or expanding their knowledge base at the expense of their existing abilities. That's a terrible situation, and one of the reasons why a lot of people like BRP over D&D. Skill points put into First Aid don't come out of 1H Sword. Yes, it might slow down your progression, but your relative competency vs. everyone else doesn't go down. With the HQ2/Questworld systems a PC could actually start with a great combat skill and watch it drop to insignificant by not improving it enough to keep up with the fixed increases.

Ultimately I think the game needs a mix of fixed difficulties and specific challenges and opponents rated relative to the PCs to work, just like virtually every other RPG. So the typical Clan Warrior might have Warrior 3W, but the warrior the PCs have to face in a particular adventure might be 2W2 or some such. But, he doesn't have to be 2W2.

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8 minutes ago, Joerg said:

We appear to play on the same side of the divide. Personally, I don't think that the game system actually should oblige you to keep the characters on a losing streak unless your story is one of apocalyptic despair.

This what Ian's season-of-a-TV-show/year-of-a-comic/volume-of-a-trilogy/etc. approach is meant to address. During a given story arc, the base resistance stays steady, allowing the characters to start at a disadvantage to the major obstacles and gradually advance in effectiveness to the point where they have a decent shot at overcoming them in the endgame. Only at the conclusion of the arc does the base resistance jump, letting the resistance level get ahead of the characters giving new threats and challenges some teeth as they appear in the new arc. The characters can once again gradually pull ahead in the ratings race over the course of the arc. The cycle repeats for each chapter in the campaign. It's kind of like the Pass/Fail cycle implemented at the macro-level.

49 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

That is the problem with getting a fixed number of improvements. Because they are limited, the players don't want to "waste" them on "minor" abilities, especially when their primary abilities suffer.

This dynamic is specifically addressed with catch-ups even now. Where I do see a gap though is the rating for new abilities sitting at 13. In a long campaign, escalating base resistance will leave those behind. Doing something like making new abilities start equal to your lowest-rated ability, the lowest-rated ability among the party, or one point below the base-resistance would be a good tweak there, IMO. 

More broadly, I think swapping HP/advancement models is a big opportunity to orient your game towards the sort of play you're looking for.  Saving HP for advancements rather than spending them in play rewards different behavior than getting an XP for every HP you spend. Getting XP for Major/Complete defeats encourages taking bigger risks. Flaws as hero-point generators make for yet different reward structures, as would something like milestones in Cortex+ games.   

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59 minutes ago, JonL said:

This what Ian's season-of-a-TV-show/year-of-a-comic/volume-of-a-trilogy/etc. approach is meant to address. During a given story arc, the base resistance stays steady, allowing the characters to start at a disadvantage to the major obstacles and gradually advance in effectiveness to the point where they have a decent shot at overcoming them in the endgame. Only at the conclusion of the arc does the base resistance jump, letting the resistance level get ahead of the characters giving new threats and challenges some teeth as they appear in the new arc. The characters can once again gradually pull ahead in the ratings race over the course of the arc. The cycle repeats for each chapter in the campaign. It's kind of like the Pass/Fail cycle implemented at the macro-level.

Since ability improvements are measured out though, it still encourages a narrow focus to ability improvement, though. If the opposing ability is going to 18 or a 5W or whatever, then the players have to have a ability in that ballpark to have a  reasonable chance of beating the challenging.

 

Also if NPC improvements happens "in between seasons" Like with a TV series then there will need to be adjustments made of the length of the "season". For instance compare a  show that might had 10 or 12 episodes per season to  once which has 26, or even and older one that had 40. 

 

59 minutes ago, JonL said:

This dynamic is specifically addressed with catch-ups even now. Where I do see a gap though is the rating for new abilities sitting at 13. In a long campaign, escalating base resistance will leave those behind. Doing something like making new abilities start equal to your lowest-rated ability, the lowest-rated ability among the party, or one point below the base-resistance would be a good tweak there, IMO. 

Yes that would help. Basically what you are really doing is giving the PCs an competency Rating, say X, and then rating everything relative to X. 

59 minutes ago, JonL said:

More broadly, I think swapping HP/advancement models is a big opportunity to orient your game towards the sort of play you're looking for.  Saving HP for advancements rather than spending them in play rewards different behavior than getting an XP for every HP you spend. Getting XP for Major/Complete defeats encourages taking bigger risks. Flaws as hero-point generators make for yet different reward structures, as would something like milestones in Cortex+ games.   

Yes it does. Personally I favor HQ1's absolute scale of capability though, rather than HQ2/Questworld's  relative ones. I find it much easier to both run and believe that the typical warrior might be rated at 3W and a specific opponent at 2W5 then to just assume that all the average warriors are now rated at 2W5.

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2 hours ago, JonL said:

More broadly, I think swapping HP/advancement models is a big opportunity to orient your game towards the sort of play you're looking for.  Saving HP for advancements rather than spending them in play rewards different behavior than getting an XP for every HP you spend. Getting XP for Major/Complete defeats encourages taking bigger risks.

I read through @Ian Cooper's thread from last year about advancement/rewards, but sort of lost track through it.  I understand the dilemma involved in spending Hero Points for either in-play bumps or meta-play improvement, splitting one currency between two different types of transaction.  I also understand the drawbacks to introducing an additional currency in the form of Experience Points for improvement.  Has anyone suggested that HPs, if spent in-play, can also buy an improvement at the end of the session/scenario?  Not just getting a Major/Complete victory by virtue of a successful roll, but as a result of bumping up with HPs.  It still doesn't necessarily address the rationale for buying a new ability at starting level, but neither do straight XPs.  And it does create an added incentive for spending HPs in play instead of hoarding them for advancement.

!i!

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Jumping in as a pure player at this point. The point of advancement is because for players it is fun. I like hitting my banked HP level and getting to give my character new things she is good at. As a player I know things scale. It's not something I am unaware of. I expect the difficulty to be about the same throughout the game. It does not ruin the fun for most players. In that regard, it is just up to the gm to be running a fun game that makes people want to participate and try out new things. If I can use my 1w2 Death rune for everything, well, where's the fun? Maybe I should have used my campfire cook 15 instead. If I have a reason. It is, basically, up to the gm to make sure one thing doesn't work for everything. Sometimes you have to tell a player, "You know, I don't see that being an option. What else can your character do to overcome this obstacle?"

 

 

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5 hours ago, JonL said:

This what Ian's season-of-a-TV-show/year-of-a-comic/volume-of-a-trilogy/etc. approach is meant to address. During a given story arc, the base resistance stays steady, allowing the characters to start at a disadvantage to the major obstacles and gradually advance in effectiveness to the point where they have a decent shot at overcoming them in the endgame. Only at the conclusion of the arc does the base resistance jump, letting the resistance level get ahead of the characters giving new threats and challenges some teeth as they appear in the new arc. The characters can once again gradually pull ahead in the ratings race over the course of the arc. The cycle repeats for each chapter in the campaign. It's kind of like the Pass/Fail cycle implemented at the macro-level.

There's a game I just skimmed, Shonen: Final Burst, that AFAIK uses some similar mechanics. As far as I remember, it simulates the environment of shounen anime (Dragon Ball, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Fairy Tail etc.) by having the numerical values of characters' attributes mostly reset at the end of every arc, to represent how in an anime's new season what was once the pinnacle of power and achievement becomes a basic level for the next stage and next batch of more powerful enemies. (The aspects of character progression that are not straight numeric values, such as skillsets, unique powers and mechanics etc. stay, so the "breadth" of the characters' abilities is not compromised by this reset, just the "height" of these abilities when compared to a new baseline and a new set of challenges)

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2 hours ago, Minion1stClass said:

Jumping in as a pure player at this point. The point of advancement is because for players it is fun. I like hitting my banked HP level and getting to give my character new things she is good at.

But is only is fun because your character becomes good at new things. If the characters doesn't become good at new things, or bettewr at the things they are already good at then where is the fun?

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As a player I know things scale. It's not something I am unaware of. I expect the difficulty to be about the same throughout the game. It does not ruin the fun for most players.

But what if you start to fall behind in difficulty? That's the problem I see with automatic blanket increases in difficulty. Everything goes up where as with PCs not everything will improve  because they have limited Hero Points to improve with and will be forced to prioritize. 

Quote

In that regard, it is just up to the gm to be running a fun game that makes people want to participate and try out new things.

Yes, somewhat. The game should be fun, or at least have the potential to be fun. Acutally being fun is something that requires a group effort. But if the difficulties increase over time, regardless of how the characters develop then you will wind up with the PCs not bein gup to the task when they pick up new abilities. 

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If I can use my 1w2 Death rune for everything, well, where's the fun? Maybe I should have used my campfire cook 15 instead.

Yes, but if the opposing value is 2w2 your Campfire Cook 15 isn't going to cut it. That;'s the problem I see with any sort of  pre-set automatic increases in difficulty, they don't take into account  what  abilities the character don't have. It's like old D&D adventures where a party was in big trouble if they lacked characters of certain classes. No thief and the fell for every trap, no cleric and they had no healing, no magic user and they could never identify and item and so on. 

So if you are already into a long running game and suddenly decide to diversify by taking Campfire Cook, it won't help you if the default difficulty has been raised to 2W5 by that point in the campaign.

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If I have a reason. It is, basically, up to the gm to make sure one thing doesn't work for everything. Sometimes you have to tell a player, "You know, I don't see that being an option. What else can your character do to overcome this obstacle?"

Yes, we don't want someone to take Unified Field Theory at 5W8 and be able to use it for everything. That actually ties into my point. In play a PC gets a limited number of hero points to spend on improving abilities.  So in any campaign where the PCs diversify some, they won't be able to raise all their keywords at the same rate. That's both a  given, and IMO desirable. But if all the opposing difficulties go up at a uniform rate over time, then the players are discouraged from diversifying, as the more abilities they have, the fewer points get spent on any one ability and the father behind they fall. 

 

For instance if the default difficulties go up by 5 points after each season, then the PCs need to improve all of they abilities by 5 points just to  tread water. If they can improve faster than that, well they will run ahead of the curve and the game will become too easy. If they progress slower than that, then some abilities will fall behind the curve and become unusable. It why I don't believe blanket raising of difficulties can really work. Like it or not the position has to be scaled to the actual abilities of the PCs. 

Edited by Atgxtg

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3 hours ago, Ian Absentia said:

  Has anyone suggested that HPs, if spent in-play, can also buy an improvement at the end of the session/scenario? 

 

Probably not. It would make for some challenging bookkeeping. You would need to distinguish between HPs that were used for bumps and those that hadn't been -unless the bump and improvement happened at the same time?

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15 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Probably not. It would make for some challenging bookkeeping.

I don't believe it would be particularly challenging, but upon further reflection I realise that it's effectively re-skinning XPs.  Spend an HP for a bump to a Major or Complete victory?  Put a check or tally on your character sheet.  During bookkeeping at the end of the session or scenario, take an improvement for each check mark, then erase them.  So, really, it's pretty simple, but yeah, they're still XPs.  The joy is in how you earn the improvement, though -- not by conservative play and hoarding, but by bold play and actively directing the action. 

!i!

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That could be interesting, as 

17 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

I don't believe it would be particularly challenging,

I was thinking in terms of heat of the moment play and such, but I do agree the checkmark would help.

17 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

but upon further reflection I realise that it's effectively re-skinning XPs.

Yup. Basically 

17 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

  The joy is in how you earn the improvement, though -- not by conservative play and hoarding, but by bold play and actively directing the action. 

I think some of the agony could be in there as well, since circumstances could force you to spend a HP to bump up something that you needed to bump as opposed to something you wanted to bump. I think that could be very interesting as I think it would lead to more organic improvement as opposed to players focusing on improving their favorite abilities. For instance, maybe a player hand wanted to improve his Sword but fell overboard and didn't want to drown so he ended up improving his swimming. 

I think you could even do away with the "end of the adventure" stuff and do the bump and the increase at the same time, as a sort of epiphany. That would fit with the mythic feel of things too. 

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5 hours ago, Minion1stClass said:

Jumping in as a pure player at this point. The point of advancement is because for players it is fun. I like hitting my banked HP level and getting to give my character new things she is good at. As a player I know things scale. It's not something I am unaware of. I expect the difficulty to be about the same throughout the game. It does not ruin the fun for most players.

And having run an HQG campaign with an array of players over the past 5+ years, I've generally found my players enjoy this aspect, too. 

6 hours ago, Ian Absentia said:

Has anyone suggested that HPs, if spent in-play, can also buy an improvement at the end of the session/scenario? 

I apply a version of this, and that whatever ability the HP was used on in-play provides an improvement to that ability at end of session. Whereas, those HP's not spent can be applied more widely to any ability. You haven't forfeited a bump up by playing the HP, just the flexibility of what to bump. 

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7 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

I apply a version of this, and that whatever ability the HP was used on in-play provides an improvement to that ability at end of session. Whereas, those HP's not spent can be applied more widely to any ability. You haven't forfeited a bump up by playing the HP, just the flexibility of what to bump. 

This is, I think, exactly where I intended to go with it.  I still needed the rationale for developing an entirely new ability, and it didn't seem to jive with emerging Athena-like from a superlative result of a potentially unrelated ability.  Consider this houseruled.

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5 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

But is only is fun because your character becomes good at new things. If the characters doesn't become good at new things, or bettewr at the things they are already good at then where is the fun?

But what if you start to fall behind in difficulty? That's the problem I see with automatic blanket increases in difficulty. Everything goes up where as with PCs not everything will improve  because they have limited Hero Points to improve with and will be forced to prioritize. 

Yes, somewhat. The game should be fun, or at least have the potential to be fun. Acutally being fun is something that requires a group effort. But if the difficulties increase over time, regardless of how the characters develop then you will wind up with the PCs not bein gup to the task when they pick up new abilities. 

Yes, but if the opposing value is 2w2 your Campfire Cook 15 isn't going to cut it. That;'s the problem I see with any sort of  pre-set automatic increases in difficulty, they don't take into account  what  abilities the character don't have. It's like old D&D adventures where a party was in big trouble if they lacked characters of certain classes. No thief and the fell for every trap, no cleric and they had no healing, no magic user and they could never identify and item and so on. 

So if you are already into a long running game and suddenly decide to diversify by taking Campfire Cook, it won't help you if the default difficulty has been raised to 2W5 by that point in the campaign.

Yes, we don't want someone to take Unified Field Theory at 5W8 and be able to use it for everything. That actually ties into my point. In play a PC gets a limited number of hero points to spend on improving abilities.  So in any campaign where the PCs diversify some, they won't be able to raise all their keywords at the same rate. That's both a  given, and IMO desirable. But if all the opposing difficulties go up at a uniform rate over time, then the players are discouraged from diversifying, as the more abilities they have, the fewer points get spent on any one ability and the father behind they fall. 

 

For instance if the default difficulties go up by 5 points after each season, then the PCs need to improve all of they abilities by 5 points just to  tread water. If they can improve faster than that, well they will run ahead of the curve and the game will become too easy. If they progress slower than that, then some abilities will fall behind the curve and become unusable. It why I don't believe blanket raising of difficulties can really work. Like it or not the position has to be scaled to the actual abilities of the PCs. 

How do people handle this?

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1 hour ago, Archivist said:

How do people handle this?

Well since the new version that ups the difficulty each "season" hasn't come out yet, only the designers, playtesters know., assuming they have a work around. Keep in mind we are all just speculating based on what we've seen so far.

As far as HQ2 goes , well it is partially be handled with the new rules, but I suspect most Gms would probably adjust the progression manually in play or just override the formula.  It's no different that looking over an adventure and then adapting it to better suit the capabilities of the PCs, shifting the existing stats up or down to better fit the requirements of the campaign.That's what GMs are for. 

To be fair, pretty much everything I mentioned as a negative can be avoided by a competent GM, provided they pay attention and adjust things either before the become a problem or even shortly after. If the PCs start to get beaten most of the time, and they aren't just in  a die rolling slump, then the GM should start to wonder why, and scale things down. 

The problems usually happen when a inexperienced Gm blindly follows the "rules" regard of what is actually happening at the table. It's like CR in D&D. It's okay for a general guideline but the DM needs to factor in the situation to see how difficult a challenge really is. For instance, CR 1 goblin archers aren't much of a threat to a 4th level party, unless the archers are on the other side of a ravine with cover and the PCs are out on a flat open plain, and can't get to the archers. On paper it is a cakewalk for the party but in reality its closer to a cakewalk for the goblins! That is why all such methods for encounter design and predetermined difficulties are just guidelines and should be suspect. 

If I were going to use some sort of mathematical formula for rating opposition rather than a fixed rate of increasing difficulty I'd just rate things relative to the PCs abilities and how difficult I wanted the challenge to be. Say I took the average of the PCs best, middle and worst skills, and then used one of those as the baseline and shift the opposition rating up or down from there depending on how tough I wanted the encounter to be. Maybe even randomize the values a little. That way I'd never have to worry that contest would ever be too difficult or too easy. But...

...that method would make improvement fairly pointless, so I wouldn't want to rely on it exclusively and probably mix in some fixed difficulties at lower values so the PCs can see some signs of how they have improved relative to the common mook. Basically it's not much different that how most GMs create the oppositions for an adventure. A mix of standard, generic challenges plus a few custom ones scaled tot he PCs abilities to keep things interesting. A good example of how this would work would be in a Superhero themed game. While naturally the adventure should challenge the PCs with Super villains who aren't pushovers,  you also want to put the heroes up against some "normal" bad guys very n ow and then to show the players just how awesome their super heroes actually are. After all, that's part of why they wanted to play superheroes in the first place. But if everybody the run into can lift a tractor-trailer, then super strength doesn't seem all that super anymore. If everybody can do something then it isn't special anymore. If everybody has Strength 10W10 then nobody is going to be impressed by feats of strength for very long. So you need those Strength 17 and Strength 13 guys to show the contrast. Just like those guys need a Strength 6 Jimmy Olsen to beat up to show that they aren't incompetent but that Superman is just that much better than they are.

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1 hour ago, Archivist said:

How do people handle this?

I only ever used HeroQuest for one-shots, but if I was to it for a campaign, I would simply not use the rules about the base difficulty level increase per session. It's a guideline anyway -- HQG p113 says: "Remember, the table is just a guideline, and the context of your story will always trump it." (about the base difficulty level increase table). But, also, I totally hate that guideline anyway (in part for the reasons @Atgxtg listed).

The same thing goes for the pass/fail cycle difficulty levels:  "Always remember that the Pass/Fail method for assigning difficulty is a fallback measure. Use it when you have no strong answers to the questions listed above. Don’t let it rigidly override your dramatic instincts, or sacrifice the broader credibility of the narrative to the pacing needs of the moment."

I totally understand that this kind of stuff comes all the way back from HeroWars and other games that initiated this narrative RPG philosophy, but it always seemed to me that these kind of rules are (probably on purpose) mixing mechanical and story writing guidelines... like, sure, generally speaking, it's good to make the PCs improve and take on bigger challenges... and it's good to follow some arcs-and-beats structure where the heroes succeed and fail and prevail and succeed again. But it kind of boils down to the same thing whether this should be communicated to the future GM as a set of general guidelines (i.e. system-agnostic advice on good GMing) or as a set of mechanical modifiers per scene or per session...

I mean, you can either decide that it's a good time in the game to bring on a big troll for some challenge, or you can look at the table and notice that the trollkin the PCs just met should really have 15W3 so, errr, you need to come up with a justification, therefore here comes the big troll that the trollkin was scounting for, or something. Either way, the PCs are facing a big troll. What came first, the high ability, or the big troll? It's somewhat irrelevant, although I find it somewhat ironic that a narrative system is trying to enforce narrative tropes through mechanical means as opposed to... well.. narration and writing.

Funnily enough, "classic" RPGs (especially level-based ones) also enforce this general raising of the stakes through mechanical means, but they do it by making the PCs so good at pretty much everything that things would be boring if the DM didn't throw bigger challenges at them. So it's more incentive-based, so to speak. Other non-level-based RPGs, I find, don't have such a pronounced increase in PC abilities (for instance, trollkins can still be dangerous in RQ even if you're a Rune Lord), and so I find it's more often about raising the stakes of the story, or making the story go to new places, rather than the actual raising of difficulty levels.

Edited by lordabdul

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As for character advancement, I agree that I don't like it either when it's the same economy between spending points in game to improve rolls, and spending points between sessions to improve the character. @jajagappa's houserule sounds on point to fix that, but to make it even clearer that hoarding Hero Points is, ahem, pointless (pun intended), I would carefully monitor where unused points are spent at the end of the session. As in: you should generally only be able to spend Hero Points to improve abilities that you used during the session... This way, spending unused points makes it feel like you wasted the opportunity to get a bigger victory when you used that ability in the first place. You would still be able to spend Hero Points on other abilities but those would be special cases, like when a session ends with a time jump and you have in-game time to improve or learn something unrelated to the last adventure.

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12 hours ago, lordabdul said:

I only ever used HeroQuest for one-shots, but if I was to it for a campaign, I would simply not use the rules about the base difficulty level increase per session. It's a guideline anyway -- HQG p113 says: "Remember, the table is just a guideline, and the context of your story will always trump it." (about the base difficulty level increase table). But, also, I totally hate that guideline anyway (in part for the reasons @Atgxtg listed).

The same thing goes for the pass/fail cycle difficulty levels:  "Always remember that the Pass/Fail method for assigning difficulty is a fallback measure. Use it when you have no strong answers to the questions listed above. Don’t let it rigidly override your dramatic instincts, or sacrifice the broader credibility of the narrative to the pacing needs of the moment."

I totally understand that this kind of stuff comes all the way back from HeroWars and other games that initiated this narrative RPG philosophy, but it always seemed to me that these kind of rules are (probably on purpose) mixing mechanical and story writing guidelines

Yeah, I think it is to some extent inherient in all RPGs, and is sort of a disconnect between how a RPG works vs. how it appears to work. For example, when someone  raises their sword skill over time there is the underlying belief that because they have improved with the sword they should do better in a sword fight. The reality is that in most RPGs they will probably do worse in a sword fight as their opponents have improve as well. 

So players are looking at character improvement as a step up, either due to experience or as a reward for play, but an actual shift in probabilities is counterproductive, so the improvement is mostly canceled out- at least in terms of serious opposition. Either the opposing improves or their numbers increase or some such to counteract the increased PC abilities, at least most of the time. To some extent this has to happen to keep the game interesting and exciting. It wouldn't be much fun if every opponent was a beggining opponent. 

HQ's mechanical simplicity (one game mechanic for virtually everything) makes this more transparent than most RPGs. 

 

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

The reality is that in most RPGs they will probably do worse in a sword fight as their opponents have improve as well.

I wouldn't say that. If that happens, it either means that the GM is not correctly balancing the next adventures, or that the GM somehow wants the campaign to change tone and delve into despair and drama.

The PCs do get better. Suddenly they're not afraid of bandits when traveling -- the GM might highlight that by actually having bandits attack the party, which the party would dispatch easily, much to the enjoyment of the players who might remember that time, 6 months ago, when they almost go killed by the same bandits. And by the time they get back to their original town, they have such a reputation, such amazingly looking equipment, and such confident demeanor that they can walk up to the castle and make demands out of the local lord that, in the first adventure, was bossing them around. And sure, they'll get whatever clue they need from that NPC and then go over to the Caves Of Doom and will have a really hard time in there, barely making it alive, but those are the Caves Of Doom that they didn't even dream going into back at the beginning.

As a GM I often throw random foreshadowing (like the Caves Of Doom, here) at the beginning (it might not even mean anything! It might just be a random name I jot down on a notebook). Half of it will be forgotten, but maybe hopefully the other half will come back and provide a sense of accomplishment to the players. And then, as with that lord NPC or the road bandits here, I also bring back previous characters, factions, or locales, to achieve the same effect.

If things go according to plan, the players should have the same difficulty fighting those bandits as level 1, as they are surviving the Caves Of Doom as level 15. It shouldn't feel "worse".

Edited by lordabdul
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1 hour ago, lordabdul said:

I wouldn't say that. If that happens, it either means that the GM is not correctly balancing the next adventures, or that the GM somehow wants the campaign to change tone and delve into despair and drama.

Do the math. 

In RQ, for example, the chances of the opponents rolling a critical or a special success increase with thier skill, and such attacks tend to be harder to survive, crticals tend to bypass most armor, and specials have additional effects usally extra damage. So as the opposition's skill increases so does the chance of that "lucky hit" that will drop a PC. Most RPGs have some similar game mechanic.Now just applying the normal laws of probability and the duration of a typical fight should indicate that a PK is more likely to take a nasty hit as the opposing skill increases. A the guy with Sword 100% who is more likely to take a critical from an foe with 70% skill than one with 50% who was fighting a foe with 20% skill. 

Now I used RQ as an example, but the underlying math holds true for most RPGs. Basically the PCs getting better results in their fighting with more powerful enemies, who in turn have a better chance of getting a lucky hit and dropping a PC.  It why character death can become more common in high powered games. It gets easier to get that one big hit past the defenses.

 

1 hour ago, lordabdul said:

The PCs do get better. Suddenly they're not afraid of bandits when traveling -- the GM might highlight that by actually having bandits attack the party, which the party would dispatch easily, much to the enjoyment of the players who might remember that time, 6 months ago, when they almost go killed by the same bandits.

Uh, not in most RPGs. In most games the bandits go up in level/hit dice are are still a threat. Now games that use an absoule scale of ability, such as most BRP games, as opposed to a relative one, like Class & Level RPGs, don't usually do that, but in those games a bandit is always a threat because a PC is always vulnerable to one lucky hit from a sword. spear, axe, whatever.

Now if the GM does throw in an encounter with bandits who the PCs now outclass that is great. It helps to show the player show much they have improved. But that goes agains tthe whole automatic increases idea, or the rate everything relative to the PCs idea. I think it is a better way ot handle things though.

 

1 hour ago, lordabdul said:

If things go according to plan, the players should have the same difficulty fighting those bandits as level 1, as they are surviving the Caves Of Doom as level 15. It shouldn't feel "worse".

It shouldn't feel worse, but it might very well be worse. The overall illusion is that the characters have gotten better. But since the relative difficulty remains the same they really haven't. They just traded in their foes for better foes.

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31 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

So as the opposition's skill increases so does the chance of that "lucky hit" that will drop a PC.

Fair enough -- although it depends on the system. Some systems don't significantly change the chances of criticals with higher stats. Some systems have totally fixed probabilities for criticals. But yes, that's an interesting point. I assume it's counter-acted by the fact PCs have access to bigger armor, and/or better healing magic, or other mitigating factors. Or maybe, well, that's just life at high level (and it surely is that for RQ). To be honest, most of my long term campaigns have been horror anyway, so the PCs don't survive long on purpose :) I'll leave it to people who had high-powered long term campaigns to reply on that subject.

31 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Uh, not in most RPGs. In most games the bandits go up in level/hit dice are are still a threat.

I have no idea why road bandits in a specific part of the game world would, over time, become stronger and stronger. If it happened, it would have to be justified in-game, like some background story about the previous bandits being taken over by more vicious ones coming from the Northern Realms, and the local farmers complaining that things have gotten worse or something. But I wouldn't just make the bandits more powerful just for the sake of keeping up with the PCs' progression -- that would, indeed, be a sure way to make the players super frustrated.

31 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

But that goes agains tthe whole automatic increases idea

Yep, as mentioned before, I don't like that kind of rule, and I'm arguing that applying such a rule wholesale is a bad idea. But I don't think anybody is saying to do that anyway -- AFAICT, HQG says it's a guideline. I assume the table in HQG is therefore more of a reference for the GM to look at and check that the game is progressing more or less as expected (i.e. you play first, and at the end of the session you check that most of the rolls tonight were on average of the "correct" difficulty level).

Edited by lordabdul

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19 hours ago, lordabdul said:

but to make it even clearer that hoarding Hero Points is, ahem, pointless (pun intended), I would carefully monitor where unused points are spent at the end of the session. As in: you should generally only be able to spend Hero Points to improve abilities that you used during the session... This way, spending unused points makes it feel like you wasted the opportunity to get a bigger victory when you used that ability in the first place.

I often give an additional benefit to those who used HP's at end of session.  Usually, I'll go back through and identify those abilities in use where they gained either a Complete victory or scored a Critical leading to a Major victory. The player can then get a +1 bonus chosen from among those abilities (assuming they are different from where the HP's were used).

Those who hoard HP's don't get such bonus. 🙂 

Overall, I try to encourage the players to use the HP's as part of the dramatic narrative without penalizing advancement.

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53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

Fair enough -- although it depends on the system.

Yes it does.

53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

Some systems don't significantly change the chances of criticals with higher stats. Some systems have totally fixed probabilities for criticals.

Not many Even D&D tends to have ways to increase the chance of a crtical. 

53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

But yes, that's an interesting point. I assume it's counter-acted by the fact PCs have access to bigger armor, and/or better healing magic, or other mitigating factors. Or maybe, well, that's just life at high level (and it surely is that for RQ).

It's mostly life and high level, although it can be mitigated to some extend by the ability to raise the dead. 

Now I'm not saying that it is a big problem, just that is something where people are expecting one thing to happen and the opposite happens. The reason why is happens is also artificial, mainly the need to keep things exciting. 

53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

I have no idea why road bandits in a specific part of the game world would, over time, become stronger and stronger.

Me either, other than improvement with repetition, and spending their ill gotten gains on training and better gear. But it is part of the "leveling up/increasing opposing" viewpoint that the opponents will increase in ability.

53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

 But I wouldn't just make the bandits more powerful just for the sake of keeping up with the PCs' progression -- that would, indeed, be a sure way to make the players super frustrated.

Me either. It just leads to players shaking their heads and wondering what all those points they spent did for them.

53 minutes ago, lordabdul said:

Yep, as mentioned before, I don't like that kind of rule, and I'm arguing that applying such a rule wholesale is a bad idea. But I don't think anybody is saying to do that anyway -- AFAICT, HQG says it's a guideline. I assume the table in HQG is therefore more of a reference for the GM to look at and check that the game is progressing more or less as expected (i.e. you play first, and at the end of the session you check that most of the rolls tonight were on average of the "correct" difficulty level).

Well raising the difficulty after every "Season" certainly indicates that they are going to use that guideline as a bit more than just a guideline. Even the HQ2 advancement every so many sessions isn't that great a guideline as it doesn't consider the relative abilities of the PCs. If it is supposed to rate the opposition relative to the PC it would be better just to base it off the  PCs actual ability ratings  instead of the number of game sessions. Not only would that be a more accurate gauge but also simpler to implement.

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On 11/3/2019 at 3:31 AM, Ufnal said:

So HQG Abilities aren't really able to show how good a character is in the world. So maybe they are just measurements of a character's narrative power, how well they can impose themselves onto the story and make it go their way by engaging it with a particular aspect of themselves?

I guess how I encourage my players to look at it is that these are the abilities that most define the character. Yes, they are at more of a relative level than an absolute one, but if you've got a Mastery, it's an ability the hero is very strong in or good at. And yes, using those will have narrative power in situations where those seem relevant (and penalized where they are not - either with something like a stretch or situational penalty, or a greater difficulty).

On 11/3/2019 at 3:31 AM, Ufnal said:

This function of abilities is mostly undercut in HQG. When difficulty is a function of story needs first and credibility second, the ability ratings can't really be used to judge how likely a person is to succeed at a task, because their chances of success are based primarily on how interesting/useful/wanted by the GM a success or a failure are, or how the GM wants their players to feel.

I haven't found that to be the case. I identify the situation, the players determine what abilities they wish to use to address it. Some difficulties are situational - they are facing a Runemaster and that person is very, very good. Sometimes the difficulties are more relative, or less critical, to the plot. But they know where they have strengths. They also understand that abilities are not universally relevant. And they do come up with interesting ways to apply their abilities (though there's certainly not a guarantee of success). And advancement in the abilities both gives them a feeling of advancement/change, and does increase the likelihood of success (assuming I don't ramp up the difficulty in the same way). But they will face other obstacles that aren't as clearly mastered by that ability, and that's part of what makes the story/narrative enjoyable.

I'd note that all RPG's have some arbitrary level of difficulty though. They aren't explicitly called "difficulties" in RuneQuest, but they can be reflected by the number of foes, or how heavily armored the foes are, or the level of the resistance or opposed roll the GM determines for a given NPC. The GM is always striking a balance to achieve a story that feels like a story, where challenging and difficult obstacles are overcome, and failure is a real possibility. 

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