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HeroQuest, keeping the dice roll suspense.


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Hi there.

I'm new to HeroQuest and like it a lot due to the narrative driven stories I enjoy running but I do have a question.

Setting proper difficulty, for things like combat encounters, using simple contests just is not clicking with me. I'm not looking to turn everything into a player murder machine, but I'd like them to feel like they did a good job on the challenge. Maybe it's the entire concept of a success being marginal. Yes you succeeded but not with any massive style. I may also be not embracing the rising and falling difficulty system as well as I should. That could be leading to the "meh" when the contest goes their way.

Does anyone have an elastic band difficulty range they use on average and if so do you have any criteria which you use to ramp the difficulty up or down?

I know a lot of this is storyteller gut but I worry players will lose an arm moving a box from one room to another, but take down the Atomic Robot Horror by flicking it on the forehead with their fingers because I'm not setting the challenge correctly.

Thanks.

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I think a lot of people take the wrong reading on marginal victories. You say it is "not with any massive style" but I don't see that as having anything to do with it. Marginal victories are the exciting ones. Say, you are jumping over a pit. A marginal victory means you make the jump, just manage to grab the far edge, then scrabble to pull yourself up as the rim of the pit crumbles. A complete victory means that you hop over the pit effortlessly as if it was no big deal. 

Marginal victories are the exciting parts. People love seeing heroes win in the movies, but they want to see them struggle. A marginal victory in a fight means the hero got the snot pounded out him, but came out on top with a clever last minute save. A total victory in a fight is like those boring scenes in the Star Wars prequels where the Jedi wade through ineffectual combat droids. 

 

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That's where the paradigm shift from "let's roll dice to feel the struggle continuing" to "let's have a single die roll to determine the outcome" hasn't reached everybody's gaming style (most certainly hasn't reached my narrating style). My usual players expect "struggle" to mean they have to put in extra effort, to challenge them again in a rules-related way. I.e. roll dice again to avert the looming disaster, or to ride them even deeper into troubles. "No, we rolled that already, just narrate it" doesn't work with those guys. They want that extra randomizing input to the story they tell.

In BRP games I feel confident that I can toss up manageable additional tests to make them feel the struggle and near despair while controlling the odds. This is a form of "pass fail cycle" with some little remaining uncertainty about the outcome.

"As you land, the edge of the pit begins to crumble under your feet. Make a dex roll times (a whole number raising the chance to about 70%) to get away before it tumbles in."

"Ah, you failed that, so you join the soil gliding down. (Player interaction - grabbing for a root.) Make a luck roll. (Again a 70% chance, on average.) Too bad, that root you grabbed joins the downward slide."

"One of your buddies tosses you a rope. You try to grab it. (This time a dex roll adjusted to a 50% chance.)"

What are the odds for this character to finally fall into the pit? 0.3 * 0,3 * 0.5 = 4.5% - and that is after a bad roll for jumping. Did the player break out some sweat to save his character? I hope so. Having him roll the dice thrice more did make him feel his struggle against a dangerous world. Did this break up the narrative? Yes, for small cliff-hanging moments which emphasize the involvement.

Sure, these interchanges might be done leading up to framing the contest. This is a different narrative skill that a narrator based in Old School roleplaying still needs to develop, or be taught, even after all these years HQ has been around.

In a game of Fate, the struggling character would probably invoke his fear of heights or something similar for grabbing the spotlight in this situation and reaping a mechanistic benefit. And possibly to the effect of the other players thinking "ok, grab your point, and get over it."

 

In HQ, the player has to provide these moments of doubt or desperation for his character himself. The "roleplaying magic" of embedding the struggle at the edge of the pit as an experience rather than a narrated bit is shifted from the narrator to the player - I am talking about how the player will relate to this scene say half a week later over a shared meal with the other players.

I really like playing HQ and the ease of scenario preparation when passing my gaming ideas on to other narrators - doing so for RQ always is a struggle with numbers and skill expectations. HQ scenarios are written in the way I do (not) prepare my RQ or other BRP games.

As a narrator I want my players to reminisce about their struggles in the same way as if we had a field trip in the wilderness. So, I want advice how to convey this to my simulationist-trained players with a "you rolled a marginal success" result.

I'm pretty much in the same situation as @Baroque. How do I get my players to remember the struggle of getting there on a visceral enough level through simple narration? How do I embed the memory of the struggle in the shared player experience? Using RQ/BRP mechanisms (or similar rules systems) I have my techniques to immerse my players past the beer&pretzels situation we meet in. In a freeform game where everyone puts in some identification with their character through props, possibly costumes, or sheer attitude, and referee-less player interaction this embedding of experiences works fine, too.

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6 hours ago, Baroque said:

Setting proper difficulty, for things like combat encounters, using simple contests, just is not clicking with me. 

If combat is the focus of the drama in your HQ sessions, perhaps use Extended Contests instead of Simple Contests for most combat scenes, just to portray the struggle and unpredictable nature of combat. 

Edited by Mankcam
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There's a few factors I've been using to determine when to use Extended vs. Simple Contests, and how to set Difficulty. 

1) Is this a key moment of tension and drama?  If Yes, then use Extended Contest.

An opening scene often requires some drama to engage the characters, whether combat, social, or otherwise, which I would do as an Extended Contest.  Examples: The sacred clan Harvest Festival is suddenly under attack by Fire Demons.  Or, Dyrrkind seeks to sway to the clan and the Ring at the Clan Moot to his goal of a sacred quest.  I play this as a Hard or Very Hard event depending on the tone you want to set for the session (i.e. will this be a complicating action or a disaster that must be overcome?).

There is usually a point at the center of the session, the climax of the rising action, that needs an Extended Contest.  Examples: on a quest in the spirit world, the heroes are blocked by Hard Earth, who will not let them pass and their attempts to negotiate a way by go horribly wrong with a Fumbled simple contest - they are then dragged into Hard Earth's deep caverns and their champion must earn a victory for them to move on.  Usually I play this as a significant obstacle, therefore a Quite Hard or Very Hard event (and, yes, I've added an interim difficulty between Hard and Very Hard as I felt I needed that level).

The final scene should always be an Extended Contest (or a sequence of Extended Contests).  Example: The heroes have reached the high cave in the Cinder Pits where the Fire Demons have imprisoned the Ash Creek Lady.  They must defeat this Hellfire demon in order to free her and it's going to be a tough and memorable fight.  However, to get to the high cave, they needed to climb up the Starfire Ridge - that's a Group Simple contest - the key was to get up to the cave and have the final battle not to have some extended climbing contest there that would dilute from the final.  Depending on ability levels, etc, but at least a Quite Hard and often a Very Hard challenge that requires use of Hero Points to achieve the final goal.

2) Do the heroes seem to want an extended contest here?

Sometimes there is another event which the heroes particularly want to engage in.  Example: Aren wants to get information from the Tarshite mercenary and engages in a game contest.  Or, Hendrick engages in a song contest with Korolvanth the Troublesome Poet.  Extended contest here creates some additional interest and unexpected outcomes.  These are usually of Moderate or High difficulty (rarely higher).

3) Is there an additional reason for an extended contest?

Maybe there's some additional tension needed between the main events.  Maybe you want a dramatic pursuit leading to a key battle.  If so, then go with an extended contest.  If it's a lead-in to another main event, keep the difficulty at Moderate or Hard.  If it's an isolated point, maybe bargaining with a merchant or sage to get some key piece of knowledge, then go with Low if they should achieve it, Moderate if it's up for grabs, or High if they've got to earn it or the opposition isn't readily overcome.  Example: Harrik the Sage discovered spear points from the Fire Demon attack after the foes were driven off.  They had strange markings on them - not Heortling script.  He engaged in an extended contest, drawing on his Truth rune magic to aid him, to try to decipher the script.  He succeeded and was able to discern that each mark was a letter and that the letters spelled out certain words and that this was probably Dara Happan script.  He couldn't read the words to ascertain meaning, but gathered that much.

4) Should this just be a Group simple contest?

If none of the above apply, you can consider a group simple contest.  It gets everyone engaged and has a feel of the group pulling together, yet doesn't require an extended contest at a point where it doesn't matter.  See example above of climbing the cliff face to reach the cave.  I often use this for things like basic rituals like calling upon the wyter (or just recently in my campaign, a ritual calling a spirit back to its place in the mundane world from where it was trapped).  As a lead-in to an extended contest, I'd likely use Moderate difficulty.  On its own, particularly a somewhat unfamiliar activity like an improvised ritual, I'd likely use Hard difficulty.

Setting Difficulty levels

Besides the rough guides above, I follow what I might term a test of 'reasonableness' to identify what Difficulty level to use.  Is it something familiar?  If yes, then probably a Low difficulty.  Is it something that might be known or a foe that's likely weaker or multiple weaker foes?  If yes, then probably a Moderate difficulty.  Is this something that won't be known or a foe that is beyond their abilities?  If yes, then at least Very Hard, and could be Nearly Impossible.  Otherwise, I usually go with a choice between Moderate (~2/3 chance of resistance being successful) and Hard (95% chance of resistance being successful).  You could apply Pass/Fail Cycle for this, but I usually ask myself something like this:  is it interesting if they fail here?  If not, then use Moderate.  If yes, because it may create an interesting complication, then use Hard.

Hope that helps (and if you want to see examples, my campaign if PbF, so everything is online).

 

 

Edited by jajagappa
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I've learned more from this thread than I have in too many hours blinking at the rule book. And I now like the system *more* as a result. @Balderstone & @jajagappa really clearing some ambiguities up for me.

Progression. I've been keeping (starter) characters down at the one mastery level, almost the introductory levels is there any advantage to playing characters with multiple levels of mastery or are we just moving into Anime levels of description effects?

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On 29 November 2015 at 01:07:12, Baroque said:

Hi there.

I'm new to HeroQuest and like it a lot due to the narrative driven stories I enjoy running but I do have a question.

Setting proper difficulty, for things like combat encounters, using simple contests just is not clicking with me. I'm not looking to turn everything into a player murder machine, but I'd like them to feel like they did a good job on the challenge.

Have a look at the examples in HeroQuest Glorantha. I tried very hard to show stuff like setting the difficulty. The examples are also actual play so I didn't script them in advance, the die rolls are also real.

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13 hours ago, Baroque said:

I've learned more from this thread than I have in too many hours blinking at the rule book. And I now like the system *more* as a result. @Balderstone & @jajagappa really clearing some ambiguities up for me.

Progression. I've been keeping (starter) characters down at the one mastery level, almost the introductory levels is there any advantage to playing characters with multiple levels of mastery or are we just moving into Anime levels of description effects?

That's a question that depends on the needs of your campaign. The numbers in HQ only have meaning relative to other numbers you use. It's not like they carry a specific mechanical effect. When you bump up the starting level of masteries for PCs you are creating new levels beneath them. The question is if you need those lower levels. 

Let's say you want the PCs to be on the level of Superman. If they are going to regularly have conflicts involving regular folk and less powerful supers that you actually want to roll for, then it makes sense to start a few mastery levels higher. However, if the only opposition in your campaign is going to be evil Kryptonians that escaped from the Phantom Zone, then everyone's extra masteries will be cancelling each other out in every conflict. You might just want to set Superman level closer to baseline play in that case. Using your example of anime, if it is one of those anime where everyone happens to be an amazing martial artist of some kind, you have a similar situation. 

Basically, if you are creating levels beneath the PCs, you want to make sure they are levels that will be used for conflicts in the setting or you are just making numbers higher than they need to be.

Of course, maybe the bigger numbers just make the players feel better. Even if the masteries are cancelling out a lot, they just might having it on their sheet. It's like how Japanese console RPGs have have hit points in the thousands and nothing ever does less than 100 damage. They could easily shave a few zeroes off the numbers, but it's an aesthetic choice to make everything seem more epic. 

There isn't a right or wrong answer. It's just what suits the needs of the setting. 

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Progression. I've been keeping (starter) characters down at the one mastery level, almost the introductory levels is there any advantage to playing characters with multiple levels of mastery or are we just moving into Anime levels of description effects?

As Baulderstone noted, there isn't a right or wrong answer.  But you'll want to figure out how you want to balance difficulty as they grow in ability (and whether they are growing equally as a group or only certain heroes). 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Right, so read the advice. (Thank you all) Bought the book (Thank god for the PDF because the USPS has been showing the dead tree format book sitting in one of their centres for the past four days. Tis the season and all that...) and now have a question or two.

-Group Extended contests, can players spend Hero Points to bump results as normal? I ask because I may have missed something in the text but Group Simple Contests use Boosts the players buy up front. I know Group Extended and Group Simple aren't comparable in how they run over time though.

-Breaking ties. I flipped to a lowest role wins model because out of the gate a player would have failed the first roll in a new game in a new system had I stuck with highest roll wins. Does that not matter or have I messed things up when they tie with someone who has mastery over them? Or does it only matter if the person with mastery over them also has a  successful roll. Like rolling a 3 against a target of 4W counts but rolling a 19 doesn't?

Thanks again.

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-Group Extended contests, can players spend Hero Points to bump results as normal?

Yes.  Only the Group Simple contest is an oddity since a bunch of Hero Points applied there will completely skew results.

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-Breaking ties. I flipped to a lowest role wins model because out of the gate a player would have failed the first roll in a new game in a new system had I stuck with highest roll wins. Does that not matter or have I messed things up when they tie with someone who has mastery over them? Or does it only matter if the person with mastery over them also has a  successful roll. Like rolling a 3 against a target of 4W counts but rolling a 19 doesn't?

A tie only occurs when masteries are equal or have been applied, and the success/fail result is the same, and the roll is the same.  Otherwise there is a clear winner.

Example 1: Beohrt has Spear & Shield combat at 17 and fights a fire demon with difficulty moderate at 14.

Beorht rolls 10, the difficulty roll is 10.  No masteries involved, Beorth succeeds, the demon succeeds, both rolls are the same.  This is a Tie.  The result is inconclusive.

Example 2: Dyrrkind uses is God-talker ability at 17 to try to overcome the divisions in the clan at the Moot at very high level 14W.

Dyrrkind rolls 14, the difficulty roll is 14.  Dyrrkind succeeds, the reluctant clan succeeds, but there is a mastery involved.  Dyrrkind's result is bumped down to fail.  Failure vs. success in this case, so minor victory to the reluctant clan.

Example 3: Aren battles the demon Veloramash.  Aren uses his augmented Spear at 7W, the resistance of the demon is very high at 14W.  Aren rolls an 8, the difficulty roll for the demon is 8.  Masteries cancel so effectively it is 7 vs. 14.  Aren fails, the demon succeeds.  While the roll is the same, it is a minor victory for the demon.

Example 4: Harrik attempts to solve the logic problem posed by the White God.  Harrik uses his Keen Mind at 1W and the difficulty is 20.  Harrik rolls 10 and the difficulty roll is 10.  Harrik has failed, while the difficulty is a success, but Harrik has a mastery, so he bumps down the result of the difficulty from success to fail.  Both results are now fails, and the rolls are the same.  This is a Tie and the result is inconclusive (Harrik makes no progress in solving the problem).

Now, using your example, I'll assume that the heroes' ability is 17 and the difficulty is the 4W you note.

You roll a 3.  You've succeeded.  If the difficulty roll is 2, that is also a success.  But the difficulty has a mastery so bumps you down to a fail.  Failure vs. success is a minor defeat for the hero.  In the story, your hero saw a clear opening, drove his sword in, but was turned aside by an unexpected maneuver and suddenly the foe scored a clear cut upon your arm.

You roll a 3.  You succeed.  The difficulty roll is 5, which is a fail.  But the mastery is there and bumps you down to a fail as well.  Failure vs. failure.  But now high roll wins rule (assuming you are using HQG and not HQ2) comes into play so it is a marginal defeat for your hero. Your hero saw a clear opening, attacked and seemed to drive the foe back, but the hero slipped on the bloody ground and lost his advantage.

You roll a 19.  You fail.  The difficulty roll is 20, which is a fumble.  Again the mastery is there and bumps you down to a fumble as well.  Fumble vs. fumble, high roll wins.  Again a marginal defeat for your hero.  Both stumble badly over the broken ground as they try to engage, but your hero twists his ankle and falls down taking some damage on the sharp rocks. 

You roll a 5.  You succeed.  the difficulty roll is a 5, which is a fail.  The mastery bumps you to a fail as well.  Both fail, and the rolls are equal.  This is the inconclusive Tie.

Hope those help clarify.

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  • 3 weeks later...
22 hours ago, jholen said:

Where might your PbF campaign be located at? I'd love to follow it!

Thanks!

It's on RPGGeek.  It's a Colymar/Orlmarth campaign as described in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes.  The campaign has been going 1.5 years now so there's a lot to read!  When we started, we were all new to HQG so in part 1 we were still getting a feel for how it worked (including me as GM).

The current active In-character thread is at: [IC] HeroQuest Glorantha - The Colymar Campaign 2 - Orlmarth Clan - part 4

In brief, part 1 covers much of the Harvest Games (based loosely on the old Sun County scenario transposed to Colymar lands); part 2 moves to a quest into the Spirit World (my interpretation thereof); part 3 is the marriage of the Harvest Queen as part of the Earthseason Ernalda rituals (warning: spoilers re: HQG scenario); part 4 starts with the Clan Moot and now moves to a quest to Jonstown.

Campaign background material is here: HQG Orlmarth Campaign Background

Leaders and significant NPC's are described here: Leaders, factions, and other NPC's of the HQG Orlmarth Campaign

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Having a glance through your game will be incredibly useful. Glorantha (the setting) is looking like a beast to get started in. It's mapped, rich history and mythology but that's intimidating to put your hands into. Character creation alone is a case of "feel the weight of history!" 

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2 hours ago, jajagappa said:

It's on RPGGeek.  It's a Colymar/Orlmarth campaign as described in Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes.  The campaign has been going 1.5 years now so there's a lot to read!  When we started, we were all new to HQG so in part 1 we were still getting a feel for how it worked (including me as GM).

The current active In-character thread is at: [IC] HeroQuest Glorantha - The Colymar Campaign 2 - Orlmarth Clan - part 4

In brief, part 1 covers much of the Harvest Games (based loosely on the old Sun County scenario transposed to Colymar lands); part 2 moves to a quest into the Spirit World (my interpretation thereof); part 3 is the marriage of the Harvest Queen as part of the Earthseason Ernalda rituals (warning: spoilers re: HQG scenario); part 4 starts with the Clan Moot and now moves to a quest to Jonstown.

Campaign background material is here: HQG Orlmarth Campaign Background

Leaders and significant NPC's are described here: Leaders, factions, and other NPC's of the HQG Orlmarth Campaign

Awesome! Thank you so much! I benefited greatly from Yohann's PandaCon youtube introductory game and now am looking forward to delving into your HQG game. Awesome -- trying the system out with my wife, though we've been loosely playing in the Harry Potter world as I've been reading and reading up on Glorantha. Might float the idea of jumping into Glorantha with her tonight and see how it goes!

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21 hours ago, jholen said:

Awesome! Thank you so much! I benefited greatly from Yohann's PandaCon youtube introductory game and now am looking forward to delving into your HQG game. Awesome -- trying the system out with my wife, though we've been loosely playing in the Harry Potter world as I've been reading and reading up on Glorantha. Might float the idea of jumping into Glorantha with her tonight and see how it goes!

No problem, and I hope you convince her to try out Glorantha!  It's a wonderfully rich world to game in.

And if you have questions on either HQG (or my game), just post here and I'll do my best to answer. 

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22 hours ago, Baroque said:

Having a glance through your game will be incredibly useful. Glorantha (the setting) is looking like a beast to get started in. It's mapped, rich history and mythology but that's intimidating to put your hands into. Character creation alone is a case of "feel the weight of history!" 

Yes, there's a tremendous range of content built up over the years.  But at the same time, you use what you want to play the game you want to play.  Your Glorantha Will Vary.

When I first started playing in Glorantha (RQ2/3 days), there was already a wealth of material.  At its core, though, I worked with three concepts:  it's a Bronze Age world (i.e. a world of heroes like Achilles, Odysseus, etc.); religion, in the form of cults, is pervasive; and magic is pervasive. 

I took this small fragment from the Griffin Mountain book:  "Kingdom of Imther. Imther is another client state. It fell to the Conquering Daughter in 1347. Its barbarian population is mixed herders and farmers; the state controls the Imther Mountain mines."

I built my campaign around this concept of a small Lunarized kingdom on the Edge of Empire.  The Lunars were there.  The Conquering Daughter was a glorious goddess.  The sun worshippers of Yelmalio were there (convenient since there was a cult writeup for them, though I modified to produce the Imther cult of Khelmal).  And it grew from there (and it was easy to pull in or go to Balazar/Elder Wilds). 

For my HQG game, I just started with Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes, HQG itself, and an old scenario borrowed from Sun County that fit my needs.  I'd always wanted to run a campaign in one of the 'classic' settings.  But we started with the basic premise that all the heroes were in the Orlmarth clan, struggling to survive against the might of the evil Lunar Empire.  And once underway, then it's easier to pull in more as you need.  HQG lends itself to narrative rather than remembering lots of charts.

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4 hours ago, jajagappa said:

No problem, and I hope you convince her to try out Glorantha!  It's a wonderfully rich world to game in.

And if you have questions on either HQG (or my game), just post here and I'll do my best to answer. 

Well, last night we generated our clan -- though still do have some questions on fleshing it out (namely, "Thunder Brothers", The Ring -- guessing we just generate names for the ring members and their associated cult) -- and then finished the night with generating our heroes.

Tonight, I'm going to try and get some gaming on so we'll see! Thanks for the help!

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8 hours ago, jholen said:

still do have some questions on fleshing it out (namely, "Thunder Brothers", The Ring -- guessing we just generate names for the ring members and their associated cult)

Neither are required to get a game going.  Most likely you'll have someone task your heroes with something.  If it's the clan chieftain or chief priestess or similar, then give that person a name and say they are on the Ring.  And that's more than sufficient to start.

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6 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Neither are required to get a game going.  Most likely you'll have someone task your heroes with something.  If it's the clan chieftain or chief priestess or similar, then give that person a name and say they are on the Ring.  And that's more than sufficient to start.

Sounds good! 

I think we'll stop in and check with the ring prior to pursuing K'Avent and his scorpion men west! See if we can't get a few thanes or other aid. Really appreciate the insights, huge help!

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  • 1 year later...
On 11/28/2015 at 8:16 PM, Baulderstone said:

I think a lot of people take the wrong reading on marginal victories. You say it is "not with any massive style" but I don't see that as having anything to do with it. Marginal victories are the exciting ones. Say, you are jumping over a pit. A marginal victory means you make the jump, just manage to grab the far edge, then scrabble to pull yourself up as the rim of the pit crumbles. A complete victory means that you hop over the pit effortlessly as if it was no big deal. 

Hi there,

There is so much I love about the HeroQuest system, going all the way back to Hero Wars. Yet I find myself confounded sometimes by the assumptions laid out in the game. This isn't a fault of the game. This is me not see, I think, from the same perspective the game works from.

So, for the example above, are you saying that if the Player rolls a Marginal Victory for his player the player (or the Referee) describes how the character grabs the far edge, and then scrabbles to pull himself up as the rim of the pit crumbles? That there is no second roll made to resolve the issue of not having made it safely across, and that, it is exactly like any other victory but that the Player or Referee adds some additional description to justify the Marginal quality of the roll?

I think this is what you are saying. But I want to make sure.

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To pick up on Baroque's first post....

Let's say I'm using the HQ system in the setting of Shadowrun. The team is making a run on a well secured data centers.

If I understand what people are saying, one could make one Roll to determine if the team gets into the center. If the team fails, then they can't try again. The failure means the Referee describes the events of the raid in such a manner that it's clear the team is having to high tail it out, and they simply have failed to get in.

Am I getting this right?

On the other hand, an example with a series of chained tests. I'm not saying this is what the rules say, but I began imaging how such a raid using the HQ might play out and it seems viable:

The team needs to get past the external security measures around the data center.

The Street Samurai rushes a position of Lone Star guards. We make one role, determine the result, and then narrate the fictional results based off that range of mechanics. 

He gets Marginal Defeat. Let's assume for the moment that our focus here isn't that he gets hit and takes damage, but the tactical position he wanted by storming the Lone Star guards is not only lost but turned around. He ran for the guards, trying to get there before they could react, but they raised their weapons and started firing. We narrate that he ducked behind some crates. Not only did he fail to get to the guards and take them out, he's pinned down behind the crates with a -3 penalty for any actions he takes in efforts to advance on the data facility. It's a lingering penalty till he shifts the situation in some way to remove it.The rest of the PCs have yet to act, and we can continue with the PCs taking action, hoping to get lingering benefits as they move forward. But the raid is a series of contests that either move the PCs closer to their goals (along with benefits for better victories) or slow them down or route them (with penalties).

I know that we might use the Extended Conflict here. What I'm specifically asking about is using the system as a series of linked Simple Contests to build out a moment-by-moment action sequence using the consequences of defeat and benefits of victory in a compact manner to build a terrific combat sequence. 

Am I talking crazy talk here? Because it seems to me this could work.

Thoughts?

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What you are describing is the Group Simple contest.  "In the group simple contest, multiple participants take part in a contest, each of them rolling once."

As an example, I used this approach when my Orlmarth heroes were attempting to climb a section of the Starfire Ridges above the Cinder Pits.  Each made a roll that contributed to or detracted from the overall effort.  You can choose to either accumulate all the results and then narrate the final result, or take it on a roll-by-roll basis to add some suspense (and potentially break off when they have either achieved sufficient level to ensure victory, or cannot possibly achieve it).

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