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jrutila

Does perception (or other) checks make sense in HQ?

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I have been listening to RPG podcasts and a quite common example of a (not HQ) game situation is "make a perception check". So, the GM has some secret knowledge and the players roll whether their characters spot it or not. This can be perception, knowledge, senses etc. Every time, I start to think how does HQ handle this idea.

In HQ players roll for contests or obstacles. Spotting that a troll has walked beforehand into the tavern is not an obstacle, per se. The better obstacle would be finding the troll. In that case, the footprints are "how" they found the troll. Finding the troll is the prize in the contest. Depending the ability used they might have sensed the troll ("I smell trolls" ability) or just guessed it ("Luckiest hunter in town").

Knowing that information (the troll being in the tavern) might still give a bonus in the actual contest that will follow when the players get to the tavern. Could they use augment? The characters enter the tavern (without knowing about the troll) and it attacks. A player could augment with "Keen eyes" ability and say that he spotted something weird before they entered the tavern thus being alert. Then why didn't he warn others or prevent them from entering?

Multiple attempts to a contest are also forbidden. So, if the contest is finding the footprints can everyone try? Isn't that multiple attempts? Usually, it is enough that one of the characters succeeds. Could they do group simple contest about finding the footprints?

I would avoid these "check" rolls and try to twist them into actual obstacles. Sometimes if they make sense the prize should be a lingering benefit to a follow-up situation narrated as found footprints etc. And then only give the possibility to one or two characters with suitable abilities. Just to avoid the clichè "Everyone! Make a perception check".

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13 minutes ago, jrutila said:

In HQ players roll for contests or obstacles. Spotting that a troll has walked beforehand into the tavern is not an obstacle, per se. The better obstacle would be finding the troll.

Depends on the GM's goal.  Perception checks in my game are almost always Simple Contests.  E.g. "I want to determine if the Lunars are pursuing us" - might make a roll on their Hunter ability, or on their Fire rune, or use their allied Hawk, etc.  I have no issue with multiple characters trying, but probably would turn it into a Group Simple Contest then.  If they succeed, then the result may be that they spot a dust cloud or see ravens circle in the air or find prints of trolls.  The overall benefit might be that they won't be surprised when the Lunars catch up to them or the troll confronts them (or whatever).  

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Any time you find yourself imagining a sequence of rolls think: that is an extended contest. So begin an extended contest, and make the first roll about perceiving the danger etc.

Also remember that you can treat any contest as simple--in this case the PC picks a key ability to triumph from their sheet; that might be using a perception ability to avoid the contest in the first place.

But don't chain simple contests outside of an extended contest, partially because this should prompt you to understand if it could be a simple one instead.

 

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2 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

But don't chain simple contests outside of an extended contest, partially because this should prompt you to understand if it could be a simple one instead.

And it also suggests that you've shifted into a simulationist mode rather than a narrative mode.  That was one of the biggest hurdles I found going from a game like RQ to HQG.

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Zooming in to task-level challenge instead of conflict-level challenge is ok when it suit's your purpose, but don't let old habits draw you in to doing it unintentionally. You'll find yourself suddenly wondering how your game just got bogged down on minutia instead of highlighting cool stuff.

On the subject of perception tests & such, let's ask Robin Laws...
 

Quote

The pacing of roleplaying sessions improves when the GM follows a simple principle: never ask for a roll if failure would lead to a dead end or other uninteresting result. This principle appears in various guises in GUMSHOE, HeroQuest, and the 4e Dungeon Master’s Guide 2.

 In that light, does this contest have interesting results either way the dice fall? I can see situation where perception-related contests can be that way, such s two stalkers playing cat-and-also-cat trying to get the drop on one another. On the other hand, if the question of whether they notice something or not closes off a bunch of interesting bits - let the characters spy the loose thread (in a way that makes narrative sense) and decide for themselves whether they want to pull on it. Just be sure that you're not only describing things in any detail when it's a hook like that, or it becomes the little dot floating over a tally NPC in a video game.

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In some ways, the biggest challenge is that characters don't necessarily have an "obvious" perception skill.   In RQ you can say "Make a Spot Hidden Roll" and only need to reveal to those who make it whether it was to spot the Troll footprints outside the inn, the darktongue graffiti etched into the lintel, the giant beetle in the end stable, or the fact that "Karrg's Rest" is an unusual name for a bar in a Sartarite town that gives away that there might be a troll inside.  In HQ the players need to know they are "looking for trolls" even if the characters will only find out if the roll is a success.

Otherwise it's down to *why* is this roll needed.  If the players are actively looking for the troll then it's a "Find the Troll" contest which they may choose to use "Keen Eyesight" of "Master Huntsman" or similar.  (and on the "Failing forward" principle,  failing might not mean they don't find him, merely that he finds them first, or they don't find him alone, or by the time they find him it is night and he has an advantage in whatever contest follows). 

If it's effectively part of another contest then you can treat it as such ("Characters who successfully Spot Hidden notice the mob approaching them have weapons drawn and can act normally, those who fail are surprised" )

If failing the check is boring then they succeed "...Oh and in the corner, hidden behind a pot-plant is a secret door into the rest of the villain's lair..."
(or if succeeding (now) would be boring, and they don't realise they should be looking, they don't notice  (The merchant who is a lunar spy has a signet ring with a moon rune on - If the players specifically look they can find it, but if they don't say they are looking they won't spot it, at least in the early part of the adventure.  If they run into dead ends later on, they might suddenly notice it then...

But if it's a case of "If they know this then they have these choices, and if they don't they have these other choices" then the roll is as valid in HQ as anywhere else...

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On 2/7/2018 at 6:08 AM, Tim Ellis said:

In some ways, the biggest challenge is that characters don't necessarily have an "obvious" perception skill.   In RQ you can say "Make a Spot Hidden Roll" and only need to reveal to those who make it whether it was to spot the Troll footprints outside the inn, the darktongue graffiti etched into the lintel, the giant beetle in the end stable, or the fact that "Karrg's Rest" is an unusual name for a bar in a Sartarite town that gives away that there might be a troll inside.  In HQ the players need to know they are "looking for trolls" even if the characters will only find out if the roll is a success.

Otherwise it's down to *why* is this roll needed.  If the players are actively looking for the troll then it's a "Find the Troll" contest which they may choose to use "Keen Eyesight" of "Master Huntsman" or similar.  (and on the "Failing forward" principle,  failing might not mean they don't find him, merely that he finds them first, or they don't find him alone, or by the time they find him it is night and he has an advantage in whatever contest follows). 

If it's effectively part of another contest then you can treat it as such ("Characters who successfully Spot Hidden notice the mob approaching them have weapons drawn and can act normally, those who fail are surprised" )

If failing the check is boring then they succeed "...Oh and in the corner, hidden behind a pot-plant is a secret door into the rest of the villain's lair..."
(or if succeeding (now) would be boring, and they don't realise they should be looking, they don't notice  (The merchant who is a lunar spy has a signet ring with a moon rune on - If the players specifically look they can find it, but if they don't say they are looking they won't spot it, at least in the early part of the adventure.  If they run into dead ends later on, they might suddenly notice it then...

But if it's a case of "If they know this then they have these choices, and if they don't they have these other choices" then the roll is as valid in HQ as anywhere else...

The only place that's relevant is in determining a modifier for the roll.  I'd have no problem with figuring out a modifier on behalf of the player involved in that particular case, having them make their roll, and adjudicating as necessary.

ETA:  also applies to the base skill to be used.  I forgot about that one.

Edited by Yelm's Light

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On 2/7/2018 at 8:08 AM, Tim Ellis said:

In some ways, the biggest challenge is that characters don't necessarily have an "obvious" perception skill. 

In the absence of a specific ability, I'll often go to a culture/background keyword for catch-all "thing that everyone has some innate capability for even if you aren't specifically developing it" use. It may end up being a stretch depending on how intricate the challenge is, or may suffer from broad-ability-alongside-specific-ability disadvantage, but it still bares remembering that in most cases the culture keyword also implies a baseline of things an otherwise healthy adult member of your species can do. I wouldn't usually make someone go with the "Nothing Relevant 6" unless the challenge was something completely out-of-context for them, requires specialized training/knowledge, etc.

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On 8.2.2018 at 4:29 PM, JonL said:

In the absence of a specific ability, I'll often go to a culture/background keyword for catch-all "thing that everyone has some innate capability for even if you aren't specifically developing it" use. It may end up being a stretch depending on how intricate the challenge is, or may suffer from broad-ability-alongside-specific-ability disadvantage, but it still bares remembering that in most cases the culture keyword also implies a baseline of things an otherwise healthy adult member of your species can do. I wouldn't usually make someone go with the "Nothing Relevant 6" unless the challenge was something completely out-of-context for them, requires specialized training/knowledge, etc.

I think the beauty of HQ comes here. If you define the contest well enough it can be resolved with (almost) any ability. E.g. instead of a perception check with perception ability the contest should be framed so that the players can come up with innovative way to resolve the contest.

So, instead of asking "roll about do you spot something in the woods". Instead, do "there is something fishy in the woods. How (what ability you use) do you find out what it is and what happens if you don't?" 

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