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What did Heroquest ever do for us?


Ian Cooper

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I'd be interested to hear from folks as to why they like Heroquest (no agenda). For me it is:

  • Single Mechanic: I don't have time to learn different rules for different situations, one mechanic, easily internalized that can handle all situations. [As an aside I think there is a lot of cross-over here between this and the OSR dictum of Rulings, not Rules, where OSR GMs speak about focusing on the story and not looking up rules in play as that breaks the story flow]
  • One-roll (with options): I like the fact that I can resolve in one-roll, but drill if I want to allow players to express themselves more with augments or an extended contest.
  • Concept based Character Creation: I am a [Distinguishing Characteristic] [Occupation] Stolen by games such as Monte Cook's Numenera this idea of building on a 'concept' is powerful for helping folks create a character quickly. The runes also really help here in Glorantha.
  • No skills: No constraints from skill systems at design, or in play. Could a warrior do that? Then so can you. I hate the way skills systems turn into 'hunt the skill' or 'wow, I am poor at that, better do something else' as they stifle my creativity with regard to action
  • No NPC stats, just resistance: This is a prep godsend. Hell under HW I prepped stats, only to have to fudge numbers half the time for my feel of the game. This is just easier.
  • Genre Packs: A little forgotten post HQ:G but I think this chapter of HQ2 is well worth reviewing if you want to use HQ2 for your own games.

But one key point is the sense of creative freedom as a GM. I loved the fact that I could just describe the world, without worrying about how it should be explained systematically. With Greg's cries of "Gloranthans don't know the numbers," and "Your Glorantha may vary" ringing in my ears, I loved the idea that I could just make stuff up that seemed appropriate without having to worry about whether that was 'in the rules.' So I no longer had to worry whether an Orlanthi magician could produce that effect, if it fitted the runes and the mythology, then just describe it happening.

Magic seemed magical again. I felt my table owned the Glorantha we were playing with.

I also loved the way that in both HQ and HW Greg seemed to encourage to indulge creativity in play (without necessarily deciding it was part of canon Glorantha). So in the example game we get 'origami magic'. Is this something a future genre pack for Genertela will detail? Perhaps, probably not. It doesn't matter, what Greg was trying to show, IMO, was that you could add to Glorantha in play, make it yours groups at the table, because people wanted to introduce that element to their game. This is OSR to an extent again, the slightly 'wacky' desires of players at the table. Greg seemed happy to encourage people to 'play' in all senses of that word in Glorantha, as opposed to simulating what Glorantha was exactly like. That spoke to me. Are Puma People canon any more? Probably not, but there are an example that you can add details like that to your Glorantha in play, if it suits your tables needs.

Heroquest told me to go out and tell stories, and that brought me back to playing in Glorantha and with Glorantha in a way that had not happened for years.

What is your story?

(PS If you don't like HQ/HW fair enough, but this is not the thread for that whining. I want to hear from folks who love it, about why).

 

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Rules-wise:

  • Hero Points are a godsend for my players
  • Using Hero Points as Experience Points
  • Very scalable and simple resolution mechanism
  • Abilities that could be anything you want

 

Generally:

  • Freed me from a fairly rigid mindset
  • Allowed the players and GM to build the game/setting together
  • Very free-flowing and fast
  • Easy to make things up very quickly

 

 

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I did not get into Hero Wars and HeroQuest 1. They were even an obstacle to get back into Glorantha.

Then came HeroQuest 2. The first contact was rather weird. The read was not an easy one and I only half grasped the concepts behind the game. I felt there was a great potential though, it was obvious I was missing something. I put the game back on the shelf telling me I should read it again later on.

I did it a few months later, if not one or two years later, and it was a real illumination.

A really generic set of tools... something like FATE Aspects rated as skills would be... but with the possibility to solve a conflict quickly or through a longer process according to the dramatic importance of the scene and/or the need of the story... tools promoting player inputs into the game... and the whole lot cutting through GM prep by removing the need to stat NPCs, the kind of chores that kept me away from running games for so long... Yes, I was hooked and HeroQuest: Glorantha further nailed it down.

I am now reading all the Gloranthan background I can with a new goal: running a campaign.

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While I had both HW and HQ1, and there were aspects of each that were interesting, both had complexities that kept me away. 
It was when I got S:KoH that I said: "This is the game I want to run."  Didn't have an immediate chance to do so as I didn't have a local gaming group anymore, but with the discovery of PbF at the same time HQ:G was coming out, I was finally able to run.  2.5 years into my Orlmarth campaign and 1 year into the Nochet campaign, and I'm still fully satisfied with HQ:G.

What drew me in (in order of items popping into mind):

  • simple, consistent mechanics across all actions that don't get in the way of the narrative (I love Extended Contests! but at the same time I can move things forward with Simple Contests)
  • easy to follow difficulty levels - I don't use any hard-and-fast Pass/Fail cycle, but use a loose sense of when the characters should be tested in the narrative
  • keywords and breakouts - great flexibility in creating characters + in areas where you don't have strong abilities, there is still potential to have some ability
  • using Hero Points to make a bump at critical junctions (and knowing there are a limited number of chances to use them)
  • using Hero Points to gain experience (though I also provide some experience options if players scored critical successes or complete victories in certain actions)
  • no NPC stats - so much simpler to just think about what you want this NPC to do or represent rather than spending lots of time prepping them with loads of stats.  On occasion, I will create some specific ability stat for an NPC if I want that to represent a specific target for the heroes (e.g. as the heroes get better in some skill, they may achieve evenness with the NPC in that area).
  • quests might occur at almost any point - the characters in my Orlmarth campaign have been to the Spirit Plane, gained aid from their wyter, fought hell demons in the Cinder Pits, fought off Hell Hounds in the Thunder Hills, travelled to the White Camp in a dream sequence, and escaped from a Lunar encampment by way of the Trickster's Gut after the Eurmali swallowed them.

My stories:

Orlmarth campaign - this was intended to be the SKoH campaign.  I started it at the Harvest festival in 1617, but then Sky demons attacked the ceremony and Orane was lost.  We're still in 1617 (albeit now Darkseason) and the heroes are in Jonstown trying to learn more about how to rescue Orane.  The plan is to have the quest for Orane in the upcoming Sacred Time.  And then, finally, we should reach the Feast of Beasts.

Nochet campaign - a playtest campaign for my work on Nochet starting in 1621 ST.  The characters are part of a client house aiding their noble patrons while seeking advancement, magical secrets, and new sources of wealth in a time of upheaval and turbulence.  They saved a noble child at a festival from burning threads falling from the sky, mass riot, and boggles; and in process found a strange newborn child in an ancient ruin.  Now their patron has asked them to provide escort to a small Esrolian noble house arriving in the city for a marriage alliance.

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Got a favorite setting that's got no rpg available or has a deal-breaker of a system attached to it? You can get up and playing in HQ2 in minutes, maybe an hour or two if you've got some detailed magic or similar crunch you want to engage with mechanically.

The mechanics are sufficiently flat that you can make whatever adjustments your taste might call for without breaking a bunch of interconnected bits in unforeseen ways.

Detail is just where you want it, or find it useful. In play you can vary between high-level 1-roll conflicts, zooming in all the way to traditional blow-by-blow exchanges, or various parts in between. Character generation can be a detailed list & point affair, pick from this list and assign this array of scores, 100 words, or even

Conan

Cimmerian 15

--Mighty thews +2

--Sword in hand +2

A thief, a reaver 13

Gigantic mirth, gigantic melancholies 17

Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women! 5m

aaaand DONE!

Ratings can be abstract measures of narrative problem-solving power, quantitative metrics (like the Runes), or both, depending on how you want to play things.

Prep just the important or interesting parts, abstract the rest.

All the rules you need to refer to in play fit on both sides of a sheet of paper.

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I really like the HQG book, but Glorantha will always be the setting for the RuneQuest mechanics for me. Despite that, I do like how the HQ products are content-heavy; it is almost system-less, and makes it easy to port Glorantha into any game mechanics.

I would really love to see the HQ mechanics running another setting. I could really see HQ shining as a pulp game, the handwaving and the ability to scale makes it a perfect platform to play Pulp. 

I think cinematic genres of Pulp, like Rollicking AdventureCrime Noir, Murder Mystery, Action Hero, or even Wu-shu would be a match made in heaven with the HQ rules :)

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On 1/5/2017 at 2:45 PM, Ian Cooper said:

Genre Packs: A little forgotten post HQ:G but I think this chapter of HQ2 is well worth reviewing if you want to use HQ2 for your own games

These were the real key to adoption in our group. We've played a large range of RPGs ported to HQ as well as backgrounds and genres without systems -  Exalted (2nd ed), RKO Radio adventures (Flash Gordon), Santa and the Elves at the North Pole, Star Wars, to name but a few.

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11 hours ago, David Scott said:

Did you not see Nameless Streets: http://shop.cubicle7store.com/Nameless-Streets

It didn't seem to grab me at the time of release, and then I completely forgotten about it for some reason.

Now all this talk of HQ has spiked my interest again, and this is definately back on my radar.

The setting sounds like it is heavily influenced by The Dresden Files, which is great for a contemporary urban-supernatural setting, and very pulpy! HQ should work well with this. 

I will grab the pdf and see if I want to get the printed book at a later stage.

Thanks for the reminder!

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And it started the kickstarter thing

Or at any rate was the first crowdsourced project I became aware of, when I first read ToTRM with its various backer levels I thought it was a real example of optimism over pragmatism and would never fly. Look at the world now.

 

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1 hour ago, Al. said:

And it started the kickstarter thing

It's funny to think now, that if we had worked with Greg on his crowdfunding idea all those years ago, we could have created Kickstarter years before, and been rish by now. Oh well :-)

 

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On 06/01/2017 at 11:17 AM, Mankcam said:

I think cinematic genres of Pulp, like Rollicking AdventureCrime Noir, Murder Mystery, Action Hero, or even Wu-shu would be a match made in heaven with the HQ rules :)

I'd agree that HQ is cinematic and suits a 'pulp' genre very well. Star Wars works very well, as would Guardians of The Galaxy, Lankhmar, or Doc Savage. I've played a '50-60s space opera at a number of cons inspired by Forbidden Planet, Lost in Space, even TOS Star Trek etc. at cons and that works well too.

Intriguingly it was intended to be able to play the kind of stories in Greg's unpublished novels (which are not really RQ in the way that they describe Glorantha).

It's worth a pitch to Chaosium if you have an idea.

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10 hours ago, Mankcam said:

It didn't seem to grab me at the time of release, and then I completely forgotten about it for some reason.

Now all this talk of HQ has spiked my interest again, and this is definately back on my radar.

The setting sounds like it is heavily influenced by The Dresden Files, which is great for a contemporary urban-supernatural setting, and very pulpy! HQ should work well with this. 

I will grab the pdf and see if I want to get the printed book at a later stage.

Thanks for the reminder!

Its refinements and variants to the rules are quite welcome, especially with regaurds to things like Flaws-as-Hero-point-generators and advancement options to replace Hero points as xp.

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59 minutes ago, JonL said:

Its refinements and variants to the rules are quite welcome, especially with regaurds to things like Flaws-as-Hero-point-generators and advancement options to replace Hero points as xp.

Yes, some of those rules are very nice.

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10 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

It's worth a pitch to Chaosium if you have an idea.

Oh, I have ideas ?

I just don't have the time and probably lack the literacy skills to pull it off. Although it's certainly something I've considered.

If I win a jackpot and my home mortgage is paid off I would consider leaving the ball-and-chain job security I have and pursuing something more creative.

Until then, I'll just have to be content trying to inspire those who can!

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On 2017-01-05 at 3:45 PM, Ian Cooper said:

[O]ne key point is the sense of creative freedom as a GM.

 

I've been in love with the system since the Hero Wars playtest. I'm a fairly improvisational GM with a narrative bent, and HW/HQ gives me an awesome framework with which to run both gritty and epic stuff with a minimum of prep. Too bad that too few of the people i play with shares my love of this kind of system. They prefer to have more rules and crunch that give them a clearer sense of what they can and cannot, and should and should not, do. Freeform character generation in particular befuddles them. They might be too imprinted on RQ and CoC for their mental models of how RPG:s (should) work. 

I think that for HW/HQ to shine in actual play, players either need to be narrative-oriented (to enjoy the mechanics) or have strong knowledge of Glorantha (to give them a sense of place, direction, and propriety). At least that's my experience with the people i play with. 

EDIT: which is why we eagerly await the new RQ for returning to Glorantha.  

Best,

Mikael

 

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7 hours ago, mikkling said:

I think that for HW/HQ to shine in actual play, players either need to be narrative-oriented (to enjoy the mechanics) or have strong knowledge of Glorantha (to give them a sense of place, direction, and propriety). At least that's my experience with the people i play with. 

I have found that RPG newbies get HW/HQ intuitively, whereas those used to traditional games struggle more because they have 'learned' that an RPG has a task-resolution system, characteristics, weapon and armor charts, fixed scales etc. Intriguingly I don't think this is as true for folks who favor non-skill based OSR approaches such as OD&D, MA, EPT or T&T, perhaps even CT whose mantra was 'rulings not rules' and whose universal mechanic was the 'saving throw.' I think they find the step to something like HW/HQ simpler.

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2 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

I have found that RPG newbies get HW/HQ intuitively, whereas those used to traditional games struggle more

In my situation it wasn't so much the players as me (in the GM role) who struggled initially with the combat approach, particularly in finding the right initial level of difficulty in a mass combat (in the first instance against spirit creatures who had natural immunity to mundane weapons).  Given a background with RQ 2/3, my natural inclination was make the fight tough and it nearly did in several heroes right at the start.

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On 2017-01-08 at 7:32 PM, Ian Cooper said:

OSR approaches such as OD&D, MA, EPT or T&T, perhaps even CT

So, i'm fairly sure you refer to D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, and Tunnels & Trolls. Does CT refer to Classic Traveller? I'm thoroughly stumped on MA, though; what game is that?

Best,

Mikael

 

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10 hours ago, mikkling said:

So, i'm fairly sure you refer to D&D, Empire of the Petal Throne, and Tunnels & Trolls. Does CT refer to Classic Traveller? I'm thoroughly stumped on MA, though; what game is that?

Best,

Mikael

 

MA=Metamorphosis Alpha

(I have some random memory that might have been @Jeff's first RPG, but it could be someone else and I am wrongly attributing

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Metamorphosis Alpha was indeed the first RPG I actually played (as opposed to OD&D which my friends and I simply could not figure out "where the game was" - in OD&D's defense, we were maybe 9 years old at the time).

I have two "go to" rules systems - HeroQuest (2nd edition or HQG) and the BRP family of games (RQ2/RQ3/RQ4, CoC, Pendragon, Ringworld, Stormbringer/Elric, Nephilim, etc.). I find that HQ is easier with newbies or with experienced players/gms who are confident in their ability to game "freeform". RQ is easier for players who have come to RPGs through traditional RPGs or through computer games - there are mechanical rules that define the parameters of what characters can (and possibly more important) cannot do. Both operate from radically different sets of assumptions, and are as different as Cataan is from Empires at Arms. RuneQuest models the "environment" in which the characters operate - what is the likelihood that their sword hits something, what is the likelihood that they would be inspired by their devotion to their god or by their connection to a Rune, etc. It is "objective" and "materialist," and requires a tremendous amount of thought about how the setting interacts with characters.

HQ models story logic, not environment. It really doesn't matter "objectively" how likely it is that an experienced soldier will be able to get a knife into the dinosaur's vitals - what matters is how does Conan overcome the threat of a dinosaur *in this dramatic scene, in this story, right now."  All that matters is that the GM and players know the tropes of the type of story they are weaving together. Is this Game of Throne, Star Wars, or the Maltese Falcon?

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've switched my home game from RQ to HQG and I'm very pleased with the change. Starting the game using RQ was important in hindsight though because it established how the world works at the ground level.

If I were to run a Bourne Movies game using HQ, the action and fell I'd be trying for I emulate would be the action in the films. In HQG the action and feel I'm trying to emulate us the emergent narrative you get from RQ. I just find RQ too mechanically time consuming and fiddly for play at home.

this doesn't mean I try to recreate specific spirit magic spells or impales or such directly into HQ terms, any more than every kick and manoeuvre that would be shown in a Bourne movie fight scene has to be specifically called out and represented mechanically in a game.

Simon Hibbs

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