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[House Rules] Yes, but...


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Because Heroquest uses opposed rolls, we often tend to get marginal victory results. One problem I see with this is that people tend to crock the results of a marginal victory to mean something like "you don't really get what you want" reserving that for complete victory. That is not really the intent of the rules. I suspect the injury mechanics are at fault here, and to be honest they are a bit of a holdover from more structured games. It should be perfectly viable to kill your opponent on a marginal victory, if that is what the fiction suggests. It might be worth dropping the straight link between contest outcome and level of injury if you want to use this.

My group is toying with moving to a yes, yes but and yes and approach. We think this is clearer to Heroquest's intent. A marginal is a yes, but. You get the stakes but there is a complication or hard choice to make. A complete is a yes, and.. in that you gain more than the stakes (or succeed at multiple goals). The converse applies to failure.

Quite how is this different. Well let's say I fight a duel with my hated opponent, and its clear from the fiction that it is to the death. I get a marginal victory. The GM knows that killing my opponent is my stakes, so that is up for grabs. But there ought to be a complication: perhaps I can kill him,  but I am wounded in the process myself, or my lover becomes disturbed by my savagery as I refuse to show my fallen foe mercy etc.

This approach is inspired by other story games such as the PbTA family and Freeform/Universal RPG

 
Result
Do you get what you want?
Major or Complete Victory
Yes, and… You get the stakes, and something else. The loser’s condition worsens, perhaps they take a significant injury, lose the trust of their community, or are publicly shamed. They might be dead or as good as. Or perhaps you gain something, stealing a possession, gaining a new follower, or become renowned in song. If you want to distinguish a Complete should be a greater gain than a Major, but you can ignore this distinction often.
Minor Victory
Yes... You get exactly what you want i.e. the stakes.
Marginal Victory
Yes, but… You get what you want, but there are complications, the effect is more limited than you desired, or you have to make a hard choice between benefits or accept a loss to get one.
Margina Defeat
No, but…  You don't get what you want, you lose, but its not a total loss.You are able to salvage something from the defeat, a little more if you sacrifice something other than the stakes to your opponent,  that they agree to take instead. 
Minor Defeat
No… You don't get what you want, you lose the stakes. Any consequences or complications such as injury or loss of influence are short term and easily shrugged off. Just take the loss and rest up. 
Major or Complete Defeat
No and… You don’t get what you want, and there are long-term consequences. The situation might grow worse or more complicated or you might suffer adverse consequences that will require other conflicts to resolve: an injury that needs a healer, an insult that requires a formal apology, a  loss of influence with the community that requires a triumph to win their trust again etc. You might be dead, or as good as. Or perhaps you lose something, an item is taken from you, a follower deserts you, your reputation lies in ruins as poets mock your defeat. If you want to distinguish, a Complete should be bigger loss than a Major, but you can ignore this distinction often.

 

Thoughts?

 

 

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BTW what happens if a PC gets a marginal or minor defeat in a fight to the death. Do they die? Because we said that the NPC can.

I would tend to avoid feeling the need to be symmetrical. Opt for the story logic, and only kill if you really don't have options for the story at that point, to recognize defeat. In this case I would tend to leave the PC badly wounded, or be humiliated in front of his lover, perhaps as their opponent spares them etc. You might want to lop of a hand etc. One of the best options is to offer the PC choices for the consequence, such that they make choices about their own story.

Indeed the problem with the strict equating of defeat level to injury is that it implicitly trumps story logic, which is what we are trying to avoid.

In a story focused on the PCs stories, death should tend be rare, and something that the table feels will be meaningful, not random (unless that is the kind of story you are telling).

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Having come to HQ after already spending a few years with PbtA games, I gravitated to this approach right out of the gate. It's the major innovation in resolution mechanics to hit the table in the years since HQ2 came out, and incorporating it definitely leads to richer play, especially with Marginal results being the most common when opposing ratings are closely matched.

Examples from the last session I ran:

PCs sneaking into another clan's tula - Marginal Defeat: They were spotted, but were aware of the fact that they had been spotted. (They changed gears to approaching openly.)

PCs trying to scale a fortress wall between patrol passes at night -Marginal Victory: They made it inside, but their rope-ladder fell down behind them. They were not spotted, but they knew next patrol would see that someone had come over the wall.

 

A lot of the death/injury particulars comes down to the tone of your particular game. HQ can do breezy fairy tale or grim & gritty with equal facility depending on how one frames contests & interpret results, but everyone at the table should have a clear idea as to what feel is currently in play. In that vein, another PbtA thing I like is "Announcing Future Badness." If the stakes are high (physical or otherwise), that should usually not be a surprise to the Players. HQ has the advantage of explicitly laying them out much of the time, but even before a conflict comes to a head, it's a good practice to telegraph what sort of trouble they might be getting themselves into. If an NPC has killed 30 men in duels, the Player ought to hear about that reputation before issuing a challenge. The path to the particularly nasty monster's lair might have remnants of previous battles foreshadowing the level of threat in play. Getting turned to stone completely out of the blue does not make for fun play, but if you saw all the twisted statues in the White Witch's courtyard earlier, you'll know what's on the line and to be on your guard.  (Even in a dungeon crawl like good'ol B2 - Keep on the Borderlands, the surprise Medusa in the jail cell is at least initially trying not to petrify the PCs so that they can help her escape.)

 

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Somehow I had always understood a "marginal" victory to include "yes, but..." as one of the good options for resolution.  Some combat-to-the-death examples --

  • ... but I get injured (resulting in some further issue; "CLW-and-done" is not a valid "but..." imho!)
  • ... but I suffer another interesting combat-effect (slow poison with rare antidote; fragment of cursed blade has some lasting effect; etc)
  • ... but my irreplaceable <X> is broken (Sword of my Father, McGuffin's Sigil, etc)
  • ... but an ally is shaken (shocked by my savagery, unimpressed by my only-marginal performance, etc)
  • ... but I make a new enemy (blood feud, sworn vengeance, etc;  relative, brother-in-arms, lover, etc...)
  • ... but a watching foe learns meaningful insights into my tricks, combat-style, etc

Note that I generally look for the "and" and "but" (in the  [YES|NO]  [AND|BUT]  scale) to be INTERESTING stuff.  +X hp's of damage not-so-interesting, vengeful lover moreso !   ;-)

Edited by g33k
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12 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

My group is toying with moving to a yes, yes but and yes and approach. We think this is clearer to Heroquest's intent.

While I don't formally describe it in this manner, I think it is largely the outcome that I apply at the different levels of victory.  In some cases Marginal Victory is just 'you got what you wanted, nothing more'.  Minor, major, and complete then add some additional results.  In other cases, a Marginal Victory is sort of a partial victory - for instance, in tracking you might find that yes you can find the tracks, but there's two sets of tracks and they go in different directions.  This seems to be in line with your 'Yes, but...' result.

I think it's a useful way to describe or approach the results (though I don't think that it needs to replace what is written).

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It's not necessarily about 'replacing' what is written, it is about a change in terminology. The problem with marginal is it implies: you just scraped home, and not by much. Because this is the most common result, you get a distint whiff factor in play: oh,another marginal victory. Rephrasing it as yes, but... moves it to you got what you wanted, but there are complications which is interesting in story terms, but has less of a whiff to it.

As @JonL mentions, this is the default in PbtA where a 7-9 (on 2D6) is a yes, but... result which further complicates the story line by introducing a hard choice etc.

Changing the HQ terminology just helps emphasize that you 'get the prize' on any victory, and levels of victory just describe what it costs you, or what else you get.

It's less whiffy.

 

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14 hours ago, Aprewett said:

Great stuff, love reading from the old hands.

Similar and maybe of interest;

http://conjecturegames.com/

One of the products is a random event generator very similar.

Neat stuff there. I've had a mind for a while to try out solo play HQ as a mental exercise using the Pass/Fail Cycle to set difficulties and some combination of Rory's Story Cubes, my soapstone Rune Dice, and a deck of Tarot cards. I'll take a good look at this now too. 

Another thing that I'd like to try with that idea is to take it a step further and do GM-less troupe play. Use Pass/Fail for difficulties, the above mentioned semantic randomizers, and maybe have the person sitting to across from you narrate your results.

I think that the conceptual guidance that the "and/but" ideas provide could be very useful in that sort of context.

 

11 hours ago, jajagappa said:

I think it's a useful way to describe or approach the results (though I don't think that it needs to replace what is written).

 

1 hour ago, Ian Cooper said:

It's not necessarily about 'replacing' what is written, it is about a change in terminology. The problem with marginal is it implies: you just scraped home, and not by much. Because this is the most common result, you get a distint whiff factor in play: oh,another marginal victory. Rephrasing it as yes, but... moves it to you got what you wanted, but there are complications which is interesting in story terms, but has less of a whiff to it.

As @JonL mentions, this is the default in PbtA where a 7-9 (on 2D6) is a yes, but... result which further complicates the story line by introducing a hard choice etc.

Changing the HQ terminology just helps emphasize that you 'get the prize' on any victory, and levels of victory just describe what it costs you, or what else you get.

It's less whiffy.

 

HQ doesn't need to go so far as mandating/regimenting/enumerating them the way that PbtA games do, as that would conflict with it's more open and interpretive nature, but I think incorporating "and/but" explicitly into examples and such would be a good thing. Most especially, there's not really an option as written for "You won the fight, but are also wounded." or similar costly successes in Simple Contests as written.  

I also think that the "just scraped home" marginal result should remain in the toolbox too though. The needs of the narrative flow can guide you in the moment as to whether play would be improved by further complications or not. Sometimes the steady flow of trouble from 7-9s in PbtA games can make for a stressful death-of-a-thousand-cuts feel that can make players a bit gunshy. The "You achieve your framed goal, but receive no further benefit beyond that." is a good option for when you just want to keep things moving forward and a further complications would disrupt the flow of the scene. 

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37 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

Agreed, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water, and you are right PbTA can devolve into too many complications as every roll seems to almost imply more trouble

One of the things that initially drew me to HQ was having more nuanced gradations of success and failure compared to the three-and-a-half (miss/botch, mixed result, hit/win, win+ from a special move) from PbtA. Misses in PbtA are harsh, and are common anytime you step outside your character's favored attributes. Having the Minor Defeat state where you've lost but aren't necessarily wrecked in the process takes away the Sword of Damocles sensation of rolling with less than a +2 in PtdA can produce.

Edited by JonL
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Robin's comments are interesting, and he did write the game, but I think that at this point I agree more with Andrew Luther's remarks on page 5: https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?464819-HeroQuest-Hacking-each-other-to-bits/page5

It is worth remembering that we have Consequences of Defeat and Benefits of Victory to track long term side-effects to both sides. So if the objective is 'steal the gem' and you get a minor defeat, you may well not only lose the gem, but be injured in the heist, or lose status with the gang. I agree that you don't want to lose those items from the game. But on a marginal defeat, you might be able to get away with the gem but be forced to stash it during a pursuit, Now you only have to get it from your hiding place, or on a major defeat you may not only fail to get the gem but be captured and thrown into gaol.

The concern I suspect over killing an opponent on a victory is the 'reversal' issue i,e, if the stakes are 'death' rather than overcome, then its high risk for the player if you assume minor defeat for the player would be death too.

I find this the hardest issue here, as it reverses the usual complete defeat and makes HQ much more deadly for players. But I am loathe to make combat a 'special case' for outcomes.

I think this depends on the narrative tbh. In the same way I would not want to block story on a defeat: the door is closed, and you are not getting through and replace it with: you can't pick the lock, but now you recall seeing the key hanging around the fat guardsmen's neck when he was at the bar, then whilst would certainly have the player at risk of death, I would not want to prematurely end the story with player death and would be tempted by: you flee in terror when he breaks your sword and hear the mocking laughter of his companions following you.

Does that mean I favour PCs. I might say I favor the story.

I might not countenance player character death on anything other that a complete defeat outside the climatic consequences.

Edited by Ian Cooper
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You may always create a figurative death - a humiliation of the player beyond recovery for a certain ability. In an Otherworld situation, this might be loss of a rune.

An Orlanthi might lose his breath, or find it chained. An Ernaldan or aldryami may become uprooted. A core feature of the character will be gone, or rewritten into a flaw.

The character doesn't fall out of the game or the narration at once, though, and he or she might embrace something else as a new core feature instead, or the character might have become a slave to this last task, carrying a doom, and possibly spreading it to his communities.

Or the character might retire in a spectacular way, becoming a story feature for those who traveled with him, and possibly his successor.

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I think "Killing is the Goal" has it's place.

If your goal is to assassinate Lord Honda and your means is to infiltrate Honda Castle in the night with your "Ninja" ability and slay him where he sleeps, any victory result should bring about Lord Honda's death. A Complete Victory would represent something perfect like sneaking in smothering him with a pillow without waking Lady Honda, and being on your way home before anyone realizes he's dead. A Marginal Victory might mean that you had to fight your way through, were wounded, and that while Lord Honda is mortally wounded, he is still able to arrange for a stable transfer of power to his heir and extract oaths from his mightiest Samurai to avenge his impending death a twenty-fold against your clan. A Marginal Defeat might mean that Lord Honda's doctor had an antidote for the poison you dripped into his snoring mouth, but that he will be mostly unconscious for weeks as he recovers, and that you were not identified. A Complete Defeat could mean that you were captured and tortured into revealing the name of your client and the location of your clan's village before being executed. (If you risked invoking Pyrrhic Victory results, you might also slay Lord Honda at the cost of your own life.) The key thing here is that this contest is explicitly framed as achieving a specific death at the risk of your own. 

However, a lot of the places where people struggle with this are when the're caught up in the idea of RPG combat and mistake violent means for the actual goal they are trying to achieve. Those cases are where Hurt, Injured, etc should come into play as consequences for your violent means failing to achieve your goal. Really, most fights with intelligent foes or animals shouldn't end up being a grind to the death anyway. Most opponents will surrender, flee, or just drop from pain after taking a serious wound.

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A small suggestion on terminology.

Kill the term Minor completely (or kill Marginal and use Minor). It diminishes the thought of Victory, and turns the mind negative. Thus we would have the following:

Complete (or Major) Victory  [Yes, and...]
Victory [Yes]
Marginal (Minor) Victory [Yes, but...]
Marginal (Minor) Defeat [No, but...]
Defeat [No]
Complete Defeat [No, and...]

This way the perception of Victory and Defeat is much more solid.

SDLeary

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On 11/04/2017 at 7:32 PM, JonL said:

I think "Killing is the Goal" has it's place.

 However, a lot of the places where people struggle with this are when the're caught up in the idea of RPG combat and mistake violent means for the actual goal they are trying to achieve. Those cases are where Hurt, Injured, etc should come into play as consequences for your violent means failing to achieve your goal. Really, most fights with intelligent foes or animals shouldn't end up being a grind to the death anyway. Most opponents will surrender, flee, or just drop from pain after taking a serious wound.

I agree that framing what the stakes are helps. After all even in a fight to the death the goal is usually: I kill him, but don't suffer fatal wounds. That gives the narrator a choice: sure you could kill him, but you would likely end up mortally wounded, and if the player does not bite...

Of issue here is that I think some of this is a holdover from ealier editions, that could have been dropped. An NPC has no stat block, so any injury is part of the fiction anyway, and not mechanical. If injury was not the stakes, its mostly color. If murder was the objective, why not let victory be the guide Injury as a result thus only really matters to the PC -w ho suffers a penalty to further action - but consequences of defeat supplies this anyway (as benefit of victory the reverse). So if a PC is 'injured' you have a means to award a mechanical penalty and determine what form that takes from the fiction. "You live, but the sword your father gave you lies shattered in pieces, you do not feel any other will fit your hand as well", "You flee clutching at the bloody stump where your hand once was, perhaps the Sisters of Mercy at the House of Peace in Jonstown can help you"

For me the consequences of defeat and benefits of victory are a key to contest outcome management.

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  • 3 months later...

I enjoy FU a lot and a talk with a friend convinced me to try the "yes, but..." system when I run HQ2.

I also think that the Consequences of Defeat and Benefits of Victory systems can also be used in conjunction with the "yes, but..." results when appropriate.

Here is my take on the alternate contest results table.

HQ2_HQG_ALTERNATE_CONTEST_RESULTS.docx

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HQ's opposed rolls resulting often Marginal Victories or Defeats might seem fine to some people during extended contests.

But in simple contests, so many ties bore me.

That's why we turned at Fate and FU, which we eventually hacked into the HQ base as Fets i prets.

I didn't mention it here previously because, despite displaying some examples of the rules by telling the story of a Torkani Argan Argar priestess travelling from Jonstown to Whitewall, it's written in Catalan.

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Being french and having a little knowledge of Castilian from school allow me to guess a good part of Fets i prets, this is an impressive work, thank you for sharing. I will have a more thorough look at the rules when I am back from a week in... French Catalunya.   ;)

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18 hours ago, Corvantir said:

I enjoy FU a lot and a talk with a friend convinced me to try the "yes, but..." system when I run HQ2.

I also think that the Consequences of Defeat and Benefits of Victory systems can also be used in conjunction with the "yes, but..." results when appropriate.

Here is my take on the alternate contest results table.

HQ2_HQG_ALTERNATE_CONTEST_RESULTS.docx

Useful chart. Thanks

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On 28/07/2017 at 11:26 PM, Corvantir said:

I enjoy FU a lot and a talk with a friend convinced me to try the "yes, but..." system when I run HQ2.

I also think that the Consequences of Defeat and Benefits of Victory systems can also be used in conjunction with the "yes, but..." results when appropriate.

Here is my take on the alternate contest results table.

HQ2_HQG_ALTERNATE_CONTEST_RESULTS.docx

I may modify this chart a little, but use your columns, for something I am writing. I'll acknowledge you in the article. Is that alright?

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On 30/07/2017 at 0:03 PM, Ian Cooper said:

I may modify this chart a little, but use your columns, for something I am writing. I'll acknowledge you in the article. Is that alright?

Sorry for the late answer, I am just coming back from a holiday trip.

An acknowledgement is alright, feel free to do whatever you want with this chart. I posted it in a .docx format so that it can be directly modified at will. This is my tribute to the spirit of FU.

Please let me know when the article is published.   ;)

Edited by Corvantir
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