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How Do Masteries Work?


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I'm running a Gloranthan campaign on Discord and Roll20 right now, and I have to confess I don't have the foggiest clue how Masteries are supposed to work, even after reading and rereading the book several times. As far as I understand it (and please correct me if I'm wrong): 

  • For normal contests, you try to roll under your ability rating on a D20. The lower the better. The GM does the same with the resistance of the contest, whoever rolls lower gets a better margin of victory. 
     
  • Critical successes always happen on a natural 1, critical failures always happen on a natural 20. 
     
  • Masteries, so far as I understand it, mean any score that'd go above a 20. So one of my player's "Death-Sworn Duck Thane" trait of 1M2 means he's got a score of 22. They're supposed to represent great big, unassailable skills and can increase the margin of victory if you have more masteries than whatever you're contesting against.
     
  • However, according to the rules as I understand it, the number that player has to hit to get a success on that ability is now a 2 or less, where before his score went up and he got a mastery, it was a 19. But whenever he rolls a 2 or less, it's a critical success. 

How the hell does that make him better at anything, if his margin for victory got that much harder to succeed at? We've houseruled it in our game that he still has to roll under a 19 to succeed, but he gets an automatic critical when he rolls a natural 2 or below. As far as I can read in the rules, that's not how it's supposed to go. As far as I understand, and again, I'm probably misunderstanding, the rules as written say that he has to roll a 2 or below to get a success now that his rating (with masteries) is a 2. 

Am I reading this right? 

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17 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

For normal contests, you try to roll under your ability rating on a D20. The lower the better. The GM does the same with the resistance of the contest, whoever rolls lower gets a better margin of victory. 

I think it is the higher the better, except for a 1.

The reason is that using lowest roll is best means that someone with a skill of 3M can roll a 2 or 3 and will usually beat someone with a skill of 18M, because a 2 or 3 will beat 4-18. With highest better, the person with 18M wins by rolling 4-18 unless the first person rolls a 1.

 

19 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

Critical successes always happen on a natural 1, critical failures always happen on a natural 20. 

Yes, although there was talk of a critical happening if you rolled your skill, but that means working out your skill first, which can slow the game down, so 1 is easier and faster.

21 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

Masteries, so far as I understand it, mean any score that'd go above a 20. So one of my player's "Death-Sworn Duck Thane" trait of 1M2 means he's got a score of 22. They're supposed to represent great big, unassailable skills and can increase the margin of victory if you have more masteries than whatever you're contesting against.

Yes, masteries are an easy way of scaling up.

So, 2M is effectively 2+20=22, but nobody does that, it is easier to keep it as 2M.

 

21 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

However, according to the rules as I understand it, the number that player has to hit to get a success on that ability is now a 2 or less, where before his score went up and he got a mastery, it was a 19. But whenever he rolls a 2 or less, it's a critical success. 

It depends.

In HeroQuest, masteries cancel and any left-over Masteries can be used to bump your roll up or your opponent's roll down.

  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 5 and you roll 13, my roll is a Failure bumped up to a Success, but your roll is a Success and is higher than mine, so you get a Marginal Victory.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 2 and you roll 13, my roll is a Success bumped up to a Critical, but your roll is a Success, so I get a Minor Victory.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 1 and you roll 13, my roll is a Critical so my mastery bumps your roll down from a Success to a Failure, so I get a Major Victory.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15M, so Masteries cancel to give 2 vs 15. I roll 2 and you roll 13, my roll is a Success, your roll is a Success but is higher so you get a Marginal Victory.

In QuestWorlds it works slightly differently, although I might be thinking of my own house mechanic:

You roll a D20 and get 1 for a success and 2 for a critical, then you add the Masteries and the highest roll wins. If it is a tie then the highest die roll wins.

  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 5 and you roll 13, my roll is a Failure (0 points) and I add my 1 Mastery to get a result of 1, but your roll is a Success (1 point), so we have a tie (1 vs 1), your roll is higher than mine, so you win.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 2 and you roll 13, my roll is a Success (1 point) and I add 1 to it, your roll is a Success (1 point), so I win but a bit better than the previous example.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15. I roll 1 and you roll 13, my roll is a Critical (2 points) and I add my Mastery (1) to get a result of 3 you get a Success (1 point) so to a Failure, so I win with an even better result.
  • I have a skill of 2M and you have a skill of 15M. I roll 2 and you roll 13, my roll is a Success (1 point) and I add 1 to get 2, your roll is a Success (1 point) and you add 1 to get 2, so it is a Tie but your roll is higher so you get the win.

I really think the QuestWorlds mechanism is easier and quicker.

 

 

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okay, that makes sense now, but it still means that lower masteries are actually less effective than just not having a mastery, until you have enough masteries that you can reliably succeed with them. 

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1 hour ago, ZedAlpha said:

okay, that makes sense now, but it still means that lower masteries are actually less effective than just not having a mastery, until you have enough masteries that you can reliably succeed with them. 

Not really.

if you have a score of 19, you can get between 0 and 2 successes with your roll: 0 on a roll of 20, 1 if you roll anything from 2-19, 2 if you crit with a natural 1.

With a score of 2M, you get anything between 1 and 3 successes: 1 Sucess on a roll of 3-20 (0 sucesses from your roll, +1 success from Mastery), 2 on a roll of 2 (1 from the roll, +1 from mastery), 3 sucesses on a 1 (2 successes from the Crit +1 for Mastery).

So for any given number you can roll, you're either better of with 2M than with 19, or at least just as well.

If you roll a failure, that doesn't mean you failed at the task. It just means that you derive 0 successes from your roll, but you still get successes from your masteries and hero points; there is no scenario where having no mastery is preferrable to having a mastery.

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OH. Okay. 
That isn't clear AT ALL in the rulebooks, at least as far as I understood through reading through it. Thank you!

How do Breakout Traits work with that? 

Like, with the example of the Duck in my game: he's got 1M2 "Death-Sworn Duck Thane" with the additional trait of "Unexpectedly Terrifying" at +6. From what I understood the rules to mean in HQ:G, the breakout trait adds +6 to their target number? So in this example, his margin for success while he's being unexpectedly terrifying is 1-8 instead of 1-2?

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

I think it is the higher the better, except for a 1.

If you're using HQG.  It was the other way in HQ2 and before.

35 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

How do Breakout Traits work with that? 

If your base ability is say 2W and your breakout is +6, then your target ability for your roll is 8W.  [generally the target number goes before the W/M and the level of masteries to the right of that]  So as a result, if you roll 1, you get a critical, and your mastery lets you bump down the opponent's result.  If you roll 2-8, you get a success, which you bump up to a critical.  If you roll 9-19, you get a fail but bumps up to a success.  If you roll 20, its a fumble I bump to a failure (but I don't recall if that is actually correct or not).

You then compare to the result of the difficulty/opponent to determine Level of Victory.

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10 hours ago, ZedAlpha said:

okay, that makes sense now, but it still means that lower masteries are actually less effective than just not having a mastery, until you have enough masteries that you can reliably succeed with them. 

They still have an effect.

Functionally, 19 and 20 are identical, you Critical on a 1, Succeed on 02-19 and Fumble on 20, but you cannot Fail.

1M means you roll a Critical on a 1, wasting the Mastery unless it is an opposed roll where you bump the opponent down, 02-19 is a Failure bumped to a success and 20 is a Fumble bumped to a Failure.

So, even on a low skill with a Mastery it does make a subtle difference.

 

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2 hours ago, soltakss said:

1M means you roll a Critical on a 1, wasting the Mastery unless it is an opposed roll where you bump the opponent down, 02-19 is a Failure bumped to a success and 20 is a Fumble bumped to a Failure.

All rolls are opposed on HQG and QW. 😉

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14 minutes ago, Mameluco said:

All rolls are opposed on HQG and QW. 😉

Yes, but the critical/success/failure/fumble classification of results is still used for individual rolls in HQG (QW changes that up a bit). Comparing the results of two rolls gives you your complete/major/minor/marginal success/failure.

Edited by Richard S.
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3 hours ago, Richard S. said:

Yes, but the critical/success/failure/fumble classification of results is still used for individual rolls in HQG (QW changes that up a bit). Comparing the results of two rolls gives you your complete/major/minor/marginal success/failure.

Sorry for not being clearer, I was trying to answer the "wasted mastery on a critical". My point is: It isn't wasted as the mastery bumps down your opposition’s roll. Unless the opposition rolls a fumble, obviously. But in that case it's a complete victory for you.

In any case, QW method of handling masteries is way more straightforward.

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8 hours ago, Mameluco said:
11 hours ago, soltakss said:

1M means you roll a Critical on a 1, wasting the Mastery unless it is an opposed roll where you bump the opponent down, 02-19 is a Failure bumped to a success and 20 is a Fumble bumped to a Failure.

All rolls are opposed on HQG and QW. 😉

Not in my games ...

 

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9 hours ago, Mameluco said:
On 2/4/2021 at 6:08 PM, soltakss said:

Not in my games ...

 

That's intriguing. Can you elaborate?

In my HeroQuest/QuestWorlds games, rolling a D20 is important, so I don't waste it.  The rolls that I normally call for are:

  • Straight Roll: Roll D20 under your skill and do stuff based on the result (Used for simple tasks that I don't think need an opposing force)
  • Simple Contest: You roll 1D20, your opponent rolls 1D20, you compare results and see who won, narrating the result (Can be you against someone, you climbing a mountain, you understanding the Universe and so on)
  • Chained Contest: The results of a Simple Contest give a benefit or penalty to another contest and so on (Good for HeroQuests)
  • Extended Contests: I only use these if the Players demand them and, even then, I try to persuade them otherwise. They are better in HeroQuest Glorantha, but I still don't like them much. I haven't read how they work in QuestWorlds, though.

I never roll for augments, preferring straight adds, as I hate wasting rolls or rolling multiple times for something. HeroQuest/QuestWorlds is a simple, elegant system that can be ruined by multiple dice rolls, in my opinion.

When do I use Straight Rolls? Whenever I want to see if the PCs know something or can do something themselves. For most simple tasks I don't have the world opposing them, as I really can't see the point.

 

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

When do I use Straight Rolls? Whenever I want to see if the PCs know something or can do something themselves. For most simple tasks I don't have the world opposing them, as I really can't see the point.

Interesting use.  I can see that though vs. having the low difficulties.

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

I never roll for augments, preferring straight adds, as I hate wasting rolls or rolling multiple times for something

Similar.  We adopted straight augments right from the start.  I think in the nearly 7 years of running HQG we've had just a couple instances of rolling the augment, and that was during their quest through Hell.  

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

Extended Contests: I only use these if the Players demand them and, even then, I try to persuade them otherwise. They are better in HeroQuest Glorantha

I use them only during the climactic events - halfway through the scenario and at the ending.  I've liked the dramatic tension it adds, particularly if it forces the heroes to take desperate actions to survive. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2/6/2021 at 1:41 AM, jajagappa said:

Similar.  We adopted straight augments right from the start.  I think in the nearly 7 years of running HQG we've had just a couple instances of rolling the augment, and that was during their quest through Hell. 

I roll augments when it's one player augmenting another one. Straight augments otherwise.

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