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How to handle NPC allies in Extended Contests


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I'm 11 sessions into running a HeroQuest: Glorantha campaign. We switched after a few sessions to the point-bidding style of extended contests from the QuestWorlds SRD (the ones called "extended contests" by the SRD).

A difficulty I've encountered running extended contest is there being a non-follower NPC ally fighting alongside the players. Because (if I understood correctly) that NPC does not participate in the mechanical structure of the group extended contest (since I as GM should not be rolling NPCs against each other), I have in both instances where this occurred struggled to remember the NPC ally was there at all. 

When I do remember their presence I am still uncertain of how I should approach narrating their participation due to it being unconnected from the mechanical progress of the extended contest. How do other GMs handle these kinds of situations? How do you decide how successfully to describe the NPC ally's actions and how the contest affects them?

The two occasions I've had this problem so far were both combat situations, although I haven't yet had non-combat extended contests with NPC allies to compare to so it might apply equally outside of fighting:

  1. A Yinkini NPC was assisting the PCs in a Seduction of Tarahelera heroquest which ended in a running battle between the heroes and the forces of Venebain as the heroes fled down the Celestial River.
  2. The PCs followed the trail of a kidnapped farmer and confronted the family of ogres who had kidnapped him, accompanied by a warrior from the same household as the farmer.

In both cases, I ended up noticing at the end of the fight that I had almost entirely forgotten about the ally and having to be kind of apologetic to my players about that. In the second one I did a better job involving the bodyguard retainer of one PC (the bodyguard didn't participate in the heroquest), as it was easy to fold the bodyguard's actions and fortunes into narration of her employer's outcomes (the player opted for the "just-add-the-ability-to-your-starting-APs" option).

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I generally handle it by not having expended contests at all, or very rarely, but I am in a very small minority on this.

The SRD currently calls then Sequences, which are extensions to Contests.

NPCs, for me, provide resources to the PCs. They can provide Breakouts, Keywords or simply augment.

An important NPC can be treated as a PC, so can take an important part in the Contests that make up a Sequence. In this case, just treat it as a PC but under the control of either the GM or one of the Players. If the NPC is a hireling or henchman then have the Player of the PC who they serve make the rolls.

The SRD contains the following, which might be useful:

Quote Followers

You may choose to have your followers take part in scored sequences in one of three ways: as full contestants, as secondary contestants, or as supporters.

Contestant: The follower takes part in the contest as any other PC would. You roll for your followers as you would their main characters. However, your followers are removed from the contest whenever 3 resolution points are scored against them in a given round.

Secondary contestant: To act as a secondary contestant, your follower must have an ability relevant to the contest. The follower sticks by your side, contributing directly to the effort: fighting in a battle, tossing in arguments in a legal dispute, acting as the ship’s navigator, or whatever. Although you describe this, you do not roll for the follower. Instead, you may, at any point, shift any number of resolution points to a follower acting as a secondary contestant. Followers with 3 or more resource points lodged against them are removed from the scene.

Supporter: Your follower is present in the scene, but does not directly engage your opponents. Instead they may perform assists and other unrelated actions.

Followers acting in any of these three capacities may be removed from the contest by otherwise unengaged opponents. To remove a follower from a scene, an opponent engages your follower in a contest. Your GM sets the resistance, or if it is another PC’s follower they determine the relevant ability of the follower engaging yours. On any failure, your follower is taken out of the contest.

Your GM determines any long-term implications for the follower being removed from the contest. Whilst your GM should not end your character’s story without consent, such as via death, they may choose to end the story of a follower in such circumstances, viscerally demonstrating the threat that the PCs face.

An important NPC could be a contestant, in which case they play as big a role as a PC. A Secondary Contestant provides support and assistance but does not get to roll. A Supporter adds assists and is just an extension of a PC. 


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Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

I am running a Hollow Earth Expedition campaign with HeroQuest 2 and lastly tested the point bidding system, as I was not totally satisfied with scored contests.

There was a fight and two NPCs were joining the party. I decided that their fate would follow the player's fate. I kept myself to describing what was happening to them by following the ebb and flow of the combat. This decision was the easier to make as I had not stated the NPCs abilities.

Lesson learnt, the NPCs will be stated for the next session. These kind of NPCs are always managed by the players, I already have enough work managing the session.

I use the HeroQuest 2 rules like this :


Can be used in four ways:

- Support : the follower is unengaged, he does not directly engage the main hero’s opponents but may perform Assists, Augments and other Unrelated actions

- Ressource : the hero uses an Ability of the follower as if it were his own

- Full participant : the follower directly engage the hero's opponents with his own AP. If the follower is reduced to 0 AP or less, his Consequence of Defeat is increased by one rank (Impaired to Injured, for example).

- Secondary participant : each follower cancels a Multiple opponent's penalty. When the hero loses AP, he can transfer the losses to the follower. If the follower is reduced to 0 PA or less, his Consequence of defeat is increased by one rank.

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  • 1 month later...

I have a terrible memory, but I like to run games. What I do is to make table tents for the characters. Players get large table tents with a character image, name, and a couple of things to remember: players sometimes forget some of their own abilities, and having a little tent on the table to remind you can help.

NPCs get a character image, and that's it for most of them. If they're player allies, I make table tents with images and names, but they're always smaller than the PCs table tents. I find that having a visual reminder on the table in front of me helps me a lot to remember they're there. If they're assisting the god-talker or the warrior, I'll move the table tent to be next to that PC's table tent.

If things go awry and the party loses track of them, there's something dramatic about yanking the NPC tents off the table. I need to get a dramatic sound effect to play when I do that.


Running: nothing | Playing: Battletech Hero, CoC 7th Edition, Blades in the Dark | Planning: D&D 5E Home Game, Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, HeroQuest 1E Sartarite Campaign

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