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Ufnal

What is the point of abilities and advancement in HQG?

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At the end of the day, it's the narrator's job to balance his own game (assuming they give a stickpicker's damn about this mythical "balance"). This requires them to weigh the procedural difficulty of the task against the narrative thrust of the scene and make a call. The suggested DN table in HQ:G can help with that, but isn't the final arbiter - that's the narrator's job.

In my opinion, that's a common thread in all games in which the thrust of the story is the "GM's" responsibility. So, outside of purely narrative games like Hillpeople, a GMs have to think on his toes and make their own calls. Sure, there may be rules in place to guide that, maybe even to try to force the GM down a certain path (like universal threat escalation), but its probably only a shaved-tail GM that's going to adhere slavishly to the rules. Their job is to run an enjoyable game for their players, not gratify some stranger's game design philosophy.

Speaking of which, it's my firm belief as a game designer that some mechanism exist purely to satiate a player's expectations of the game and are not integral to the functioning of the game beyond that. 

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1 hour ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

At the end of the day, it's the narrator's job to balance his own game (assuming they give a stickpicker's damn about this mythical "balance"). This requires them to weigh the procedural difficulty of the task against the narrative thrust of the scene and make a call. The suggested DN table in HQ:G can help with that, but isn't the final arbiter - that's the narrator's job.

Exactly.

1 hour ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

In my opinion, that's a common thread in all games in which the thrust of the story is the "GM's" responsibility. So, outside of purely narrative games like Hillpeople, a GMs have to think on his toes and make their own calls. Sure, there may be rules in place to guide that, maybe even to try to force the GM down a certain path (like universal threat escalation), but its probably only a shaved-tail GM that's going to adhere slavishly to the rules. Their job is to run an enjoyable game for their players, not gratify some stranger's game design philosophy.

Quite true. My concern is that when RPGs put in some sort of mechanism to try and do this, even as a guideline, then that guideline becomes accepted as "the way things are done" and that a GM is doing something wrong if he doesn't follow those guidelines. Look at D&D and it's history of XP formulas, Challen ge Ratings and "balanced" encounters. It's reach the point where not following the CR guidleines, such as they are is treated as doing things wrong.

 

1 hour ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Speaking of which, it's my firm belief as a game designer that some mechanism exist purely to satiate a player's expectations of the game and are not integral to the functioning of the game beyond that. 

Probably. I think it varies from game to game. I believe that there has been a tendency to try and make games easier/simpler not so much to streamline rules or to focus on role-playing, but merely to compete with computer RPGs and other games. RPGs demand a lot from the GMs running them, compared to other types of games. I think "quick and dirty" guidelines, really just try to make things easier than they are to try and encourage more people to GM. It's not that the guidelines themselves are bad, only that any sort of foumulatic method becomes gospel.  But it is better if a GM (and the players) have an understanding on what such guidleines are for and what the ultimate goals are of the game.,

 

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On 11/8/2019 at 2:25 AM, jajagappa said:

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.

See, reading the rulebook I was under the impression that it encouraged the GM to first decide what resistance is good for the pacing and branching of the story and then modify the situation to make the difficulty seem appropriate, and to ramp up the difficulty in the same pace that the players advance their abilities. But it may be that I'm reading way too much into it, as everybody chiming in here seems to play in a way that doesn't reach those narrativist heights, so I may be misinterpreting or having problems with something that doesn't really get used in play.

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2 hours ago, Ufnal said:

See, reading the rulebook I was under the impression that it encouraged the GM to first decide what resistance is good for the pacing and branching of the story and then modify the situation to make the difficulty seem appropriate, and to ramp up the difficulty in the same pace that the players advance their abilities. But it may be that I'm reading way too much into it, as everybody chiming in here seems to play in a way that doesn't reach those narrativist heights, so I may be misinterpreting or having problems with something that doesn't really get used in play.

Have you got a copy of the HQ Core Rules? If you haven't, it's well worth picking up a copy of the PDF. I found that reading it after I'd ready HQG was very helpful. I feel that in writing HQG, a little too much of the general advice and (particularly) the examples found in the HQ CR was cut out (understandably, since they had to put in a lot more Glorantha content), and that detracted from understanding some of the intentions behind the rules.

 

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2 hours ago, Ufnal said:

See, reading the rulebook I was under the impression that it encouraged the GM to first decide what resistance is good for the pacing and branching of the story and then modify the situation to make the difficulty seem appropriate, and to ramp up the difficulty in the same pace that the players advance their abilities. But it may be that I'm reading way too much into it, as everybody chiming in here seems to play in a way that doesn't reach those narrativist heights, so I may be misinterpreting or having problems with something that doesn't really get used in play.

I'm sure GM's will vary in approach. Ian Cooper's 11 Lights campaign offers various suggestions regarding pacing, etc.

I rarely have a difficulty in mind in advance, other than that the central action and final conclusion need to be very difficult to get the right feeling of achievement to overcome.

For instance, in game, a hero tries to think if they know about or have heard of a particular myth or story that may be relevant to their situation. If it should be common knowledge, they just know it, no difficulty needed. If it seems outside their typical lore, then it's likely hard or very hard difficulty. In those cases, I don't look at it in relation to pacing, but in relation to believability. And it's not surprising if they fail that. 

Sometimes they face a test, and there isn't even a roll - it's literally their choice as to what to do. So when recently a couple of the heroes came to the Table of the Six Bells in the Underworld, they could discern that each bell was of a different metal. They randomly chose to ring the gold one. No difficulty there, but they did have to dodge the shards of darkness that subsequently crashed down around them which felt like it should be a hard difficulty. Oddly, when the hero fumbled their dodging ability, and the difficulty was also fumbled, resulting in a tie, some of the shards of darkness turned out to be shadows and did no damage! (Aside from the hero becoming striped with dark lines).

As with any RPG, there are approaches that can be used as players get very high with abilities. Our scribe Harrik, has some very high knowledge skills, and with an augment, can get very close to equaling the very high difficulty. Where those skills apply, he will usually achieve a victory. I don't raise the difficulty if he should have some knowledge in this case. What I may do is give him too much knowledge! Now Harrik has to make a choice as to what to do with that knowledge - he gets to/has to shape the narrative/story with his decisions.

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On 11/5/2019 at 3:37 PM, JonL said:

Advancement & escalating resistance are one of the big warts on HQ2/G as written.

Laws's "Why advance Characters at all?" side-bar in HQ2CR is a totally legit approach if you're leaning more towards "Ratings are relative measures of abstract problem solving power" and away from "Ratings ratings reflect in-fiction capabilities and effectiveness."  In that context, I'd let players shuffle points around between ratings over time to reflect what aspects of their character they wish to emphasize in play, (Many Fate-based games take a similar approach.) 

Yeah.  The resistance treadmill is pointlessly confusing.  If fixed resistances had been the default that would have been so much clearer, and they could have added value by providing rules for character development rather than advancement.

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4 hours ago, Roko Joko said:

Yeah.  The resistance treadmill is pointlessly confusing.  If fixed resistances had been the default that would have been so much clearer, and they could have added value by providing rules for character development rather than advancement.

That was the way they did it in the earlier editions.

 

In a nutshell it comes down to two goals that tend to oppose each other.

On the one hand a fixed scale of competency helps the GM to rate challenges and characters as well  as give the players a idea of what to expect and an understanding of just what their particular skill ratings mean. Taken in a vacuum, 17 mean nothing. Take\en with 1d20, 17 looks pretty good, until you hear about masteries.   

On the other hand, a relative competency  scale helps the GM to keep adventures and opponents challenging to the player characters. If the bad guy is rating as character skill +10r some such,  then he will always be better than the players and thus a challenge.

The goal is always to try to blend these two goals in some way.

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

That was the way they did it in the earlier editions.

No, I didn't mean HQ1 style, I meant what Laws said in the sidebar and JonL said in the post: HQ2 style, but without the treadmill.

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7 minutes ago, Roko Joko said:

No, I didn't mean HQ1 style, I meant what Laws said in the sidebar and JonL said in the post: HQ2 style, but without the treadmill.

I'm not sure you can have HQ2 style without the treadmill. The treadmill is a byproduct of PC advancement, and is inherent in most RPGs. As soon  as the PKS can improve select NPCs need to as well to keep up the challenge.  It's just that in most RPGs it isn't as noticeable. HQ, by virtue of it's simplify, having one mechanic to do everything, becomes easier to notice what is going on. We get to see the man behind the curtain and spot the illusion. 

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Yeah, and I said no advancement.

"I'd let players shuffle points around between ratings over time to reflect what aspects of their character they wish to emphasize in play, (Many Fate-based games take a similar approach.) "  That.

Character development like in literature, but not advancement which is an illusion in HQ2 since resistances are defined relative to the PCs and advancement is independent of whether a character becomes more skilled in the fiction.

Edited by Roko Joko

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I think I can offer my two, if arguably worthless due to inexperience, cents. If I'm reading this all right, the problem is that if the difficulty increases along with the players' capabilities, it makes advancement mostly worthless, and due to how difficulties work in HQ this means that a peasant mob will pose the same threat to a group of experienced adventures that it would a gang of beginners because the base difficulty will have increased. Is that right? I haven't been following the thread too closely so maybe I'm just reiterating a point someone else has made, but why not change what the opposition is along with the difficulty?

For example, if the party is making an upset in town and the base difficulty is 13, send a peasant mob to oppose them. But if the difficulty is around 17 or even 1M, instead of using a peasant mob use a troop of guards. If the difficulty is higher, use elite weaponthanes or similar as the opposition.

I've seen a few people mention the fixed difficulties that HQ1 had. How about using those as benchmarks for what to use as the opposition? So if you need to throw a magical encounter at your players, just cross reference the difficulty for the encounter with the given difficulties for different entities. Maybe this requires a bit too much improvisation and bookwork to actually work at the table, but it could be worth a shot.

Sorry if this is confusing or badly worded, I'm not great at getting my thoughts onto paper.

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The real root of the trouble is using Rune ratings as quantitative measures of magical power with set thresholds for gatekeeping Initiate/Devotee (and Shaman, Mage, etc.) status. 

That break from the core abstraction of ratings measuring metafictional effectiveness demands advancement based on increasing ratings, and uncomfortably drags the rest of the system along for the ride. 

I'm ponderg a hack that replaces that dynamic with advancing in cult status et al through Extended Contests to overcome trials, impress elders, and otherwise prove yourself worthy.

The advancement then happens in-fiction, and you're free to look at Fate-style point shuffling, gainng new abilities through cementing victory benefits, etc. 

There's more to be ironed out, but that's the broad strokes.

 

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4 hours ago, Richard S. said:

I think I can offer my two, if arguably worthless due to inexperience, cents. If I'm reading this all right, the problem is that if the difficulty increases along with the players' capabilities, it makes advancement mostly worthless, and due to how difficulties work in HQ this means that a peasant mob will pose the same threat to a group of experienced adventures that it would a gang of beginners because the base difficulty will have increased. Is that right? I haven't been following the thread too closely so maybe I'm just reiterating a point someone else has made, but why not change what the opposition is along with the difficulty?

Yes, esnetially it is a zero sum game. Now this holds true for most RPGs, to some extent. It's just that it is more obvious in HQ, as the simple "one game mechanic to rule it all"  doesn't oscurwe whats happening the way most RPGs can with carious stats and mechanics. 

4 hours ago, Richard S. said:

For example, if the party is making an upset in town and the base difficulty is 13, send a peasant mob to oppose them. But if the difficulty is around 17 or even 1M, instead of using a peasant mob use a troop of guards. If the difficulty is higher, use elite weaponthanes or similar as the opposition.

That's fine as far as keeping up with the PCs, but doesn't necessarily make sense storywise. A good example of this is D&D. When the PCs get to high level all those low hit die threats that were wanding around a area suddenly disappear and are replaced with a more powerful higher hit die threats  that weren't there before. 

4 hours ago, Richard S. said:

I've seen a few people mention the fixed difficulties that HQ1 had. How about using those as benchmarks for what to use as the opposition? So if you need to throw a magical encounter at your players, just cross reference the difficulty for the encounter with the given difficulties for different entities. Maybe this requires a bit too much improvisation and bookwork to actually work at the table, but it could be worth a shot.

That's pretty much what HQ1 did. The reason for not sticking to that method is to keep the game challenging as the PCs improve. The solution seems to be some sort of mix between the two. But the fact that it is just as easy to improve something that is at 10W10 a point as it is to improve something at 10 to 11 has something to do  with it.

4 hours ago, Richard S. said:

Sorry if this is confusing or badly worded, I'm not great at getting my thoughts onto paper.

I think you got your  point across.

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7 hours ago, Richard S. said:

[for example] a peasant mob will pose the same threat to a group of experienced adventures that it would a gang of beginners because the base difficulty will have increased.

No, the GM is supposed to take into account the experience of the PCs when they set a contest's resistance, so for example the same peasant mob might be medium for beginner PCs and easy for experienced ones.

Edited by Roko Joko
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1 hour ago, Roko Joko said:

No, the GM is supposed to take into account the experience of the PCs when they set a contest's resistance, so for example the same peasant mob might be medium for beginner PCs and easy for experienced ones.

And that is precisely the problem. The player spend all the time  to adventure and allow their points to improve their weapon skills only to have the  peasants keep pace. So what 's the point of improving their skills? They would actually be  better off not improving.

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No, the peasants don't keep pace.  "Medium for beginner PCs and easy for experienced ones" is the peasants not keeping pace.

Edited by Roko Joko
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There is also the complementary approach where you do keep the resistance the same, but frame the stakes and consequences according to the PCs in-fiction capabilities.  

Regular Joe's with a Marginal Victory barely escape with their lives after a hard fought running fight. Mighty Heroes with a Marginal Victory are in great shape after the fight, but may perhaps be  inconvenienced in some fashion like having their pack horses run off. 

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18 hours ago, JonL said:

I'm ponderg a hack that replaces that dynamic with advancing in cult status et al through Extended Contests to overcome trials, impress elders, and otherwise prove yourself worthy.

The advancement then happens in-fiction, and you're free to look at Fate-style point shuffling, gainng new abilities through cementing victory benefits, etc. 

I'm taking a similar approach in the Balazar-based campaign I'm running for my wife and kids. I think cult advancement is best handled narratively within the fiction itself. I was also going to incorporate situational modifiers for things like beefing up your community through your actions and for instances notably "godlike" behavior prior to the final qualification trial.

One of HQ's great advantages, IMO, is the ease with which Narrators can lean on the story thus far to help determine how it advances. Sorry, couldn't help but preach to the choir for a moment there. ;)

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When I run HQ (twice a week, once for adults and once for a mixture of teens and adults), I handle task difficulty by asking myself these questions:

  •  Does the story need the PCs to succeed at this task? If so, make it an Automatic Success. 
    • Could the PCs get seriously roughed up in this task? If so, make it a Costly Automatic Success.
  • If the PCs fail this task, could the outcome be interesting and still advance the plot? If so, make it a standard contest of the appropriate type.
  • Based on the following, what difficulty level should I use?
    • PC experience vs. opposing force
    • Narrative impact that is more pervasive than a simple Situation Modifier 
  • What Situation Modifiers apply?
  • Does the Difficulty I arrive at feel right? If not, adjust it. When in doubt, I usually bump the difficulty UP. Very few stories are less exciting because they're more challenging to the protagonists. 

I narrate the results of any contests exactly as JonL suggests:

13 hours ago, JonL said:

Regular Joe's with a Marginal Victory barely escape with their lives after a hard fought running fight. Mighty Heroes with a Marginal Victory are in great shape after the fight, but may perhaps be  inconvenienced in some fashion like having their pack horses run off. 

 

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Here's how I've come to think about things:

  If Ability Ratings represent…
  ...Actual In-Fiction Capability, then… ...Abstract Meta-Fictional Effectiveness, then…
...an obstacle's Resistance should typically reflect… ...the ease/difficulty of credibly overcoming it with the Ability. ...the significance of the obstacle to the plot (though must still be credible in-fiction).
…advancing in experience, power, influence, etc. is done through… …raising ability ratings to reflect improved/new capability. …their fictional context evolving as characters overcome challenges.
…a good way to represent facing Multiple Opponents is… ...with an ability penalty. ...in how you frame contest stakes and results.
…"HULK IS STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!" is probably rated… … around 3 Masteries higher than the starting rating for Cultural Keywords, or even higher if you scale like HQ1. …higher than Very High Resistance, but still less than Nigh Impossible Resistance.

 

Neither approach is right or wrong. A great game can be played in either posture. However, a lot of the struggles with HQ2/G come from not recognizing/understanding when or why to  use one approach or the other, and what that choice implies for other parts of how you play.

Edited by JonL
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Wow, sorry to anyone reading this on a phone. Pasting that table in looked great on my laptop,  but has done strange things to the small-screen  layout

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It sure did! I looked at it on my phone at lunch and thought, "Well, this is going to have to wait till I get home to read." So, you need to consider mobile formatting in the future. Your failure to do so this time resulted in me being forced to talk to my wife and kids at lunch! 

;)

 

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Turning my phone sideways softened the blow, at least, but yeah, owch.

1 hour ago, Shawn Carpenter said:

Your failure to do so this time resulted in me being forced to talk to my wife and kids at lunch! 

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Joerg said

On ‎11‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 10:02 AM, Joerg said:

"You will never catch up" is not the kind of story your players will want to play. That master swordsman may be overcome in his speciality by learning that secret discipline that neutralizes his advantage or by that new heroforming ability, or something like that. This is the salt and bread of player character agency.

That is entirely a matter of opinion and personal experience, I am afraid.  Playing Amber DRPG it was simply and implicitly the case that 'You will never catch up' in the opponents particular area of speciality, IF (and only if) they were the best in all the multiverse of the Amber universe.  Part of the fun was in the frustration.  (Not an innuendo!)

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4 minutes ago, Ali the Helering said:

Joerg said

That is entirely a matter of opinion and personal experience, I am afraid.  Playing Amber DRPG it was simply and implicitly the case that 'You will never catch up' in the opponents particular area of speciality, IF (and only if) they were the best in all the multiverse of the Amber universe.  Part of the fun was in the frustration.  (Not an innuendo!)

I am talking about HeroQuest Glorantha first and foremost, although a Dresden Files application of Questworld would have similar means:

Gloranthan myth has a different story. Yanafal Tarnils faces Humakt, in a sword duel, and prevails.

Morden Defends the Camp (printed in the fiction booklet that came with the boxed Hero Wars set) tells among others how Morden overcomes the Strong Man in an (admittedly tricked) contest of strength.

Basically, if there is a myth for it, any such difference can be overcome. As myth is supposed to be silly and surprising at times, there are bound to be stories about "when god X had a hang-over and..." which can be "played" against an avatar of that deity.

Of course, the opponent can come prepared for such trickery. "Not today, grasshopper..."

 

A diceless rpg does need a replacement to the frustration a toss of dice can provide to the best thought out player character action. I feel that the case you are making here is close to creating a sacro-sanct Mary Sue, however.

I admit to only a cursory familiarity with the Amber setting, with the biggest lasting impression the reply to the question "How do you want to die?" being "trampled to death by elephants while climaxing in sex" (both paraphrased).

 

 

 

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