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Framing the Contest

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59 minutes ago, Scout said:

I need to kill the orc because he's trying to kill me. Perhaps it's a chance encounter on a secluded trail or similar

Then that is really the contest - you've been attacked and want to survive.  You use your sword-fighting ability to do so.  Simple contest, and some difficulty level for the orc.

When I got started with HeroQuest after years of playing RQ, I found I had to make a shift in mindset.  RQ was choreography, each step of the 'dance' outlined and detailed.  HeroQuest was screenwriting - the contests are defined and enacted, but not the details.  

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Thanks all for the advice, it's basically enabled me to pick up the game again and take another look. 

I understand there has to be a prize described (and the GM has to do so as well) but I wasn't sure as to the 'why' there had to be. At first, I thought it was to be fair to all involved because it meant everyone knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. I'm still not sure why it's required but I just go with the flow.

Then I ended up asking, well what if you had two opponents that simply wanted to kill the other? The prize is 'survival' but it's a bit obvious and again I can't see the need for it. 

Even if it is to do with contests being over in a succession of actions or just one (simple contest), I don't see why a prize is required. I see it as the default is if you're attacking an orc, you want it dead and if you don't, you'll say so. 

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3 hours ago, Scout said:

Then I ended up asking, well what if you had two opponents that simply wanted to kill the other? The prize is 'survival' but it's a bit obvious and again I can't see the need for it. 

In that case, if one of the opponents didn't care for survival, the difficulty for the other one who has "kill the other guy and survive" has got to be higher.

 

3 hours ago, Scout said:

Even if it is to do with contests being over in a succession of actions or just one (simple contest), I don't see why a prize is required. I see it as the default is if you're attacking an orc, you want it dead and if you don't, you'll say so. 

Do you? If my characters encounter an orc, they will want to 

- avoid being killed

- avoid letting the orc alarm the rest of the dungeon

- get a chance to get at the orc's knowledge about the dungeon

- possibly hire the orc away from his dark overlord, like promising him lordship over the dungeon once they have cleared it of the overlord and the items they desire.

Weapons and/or magi will be argumentation aids for the orc to take his opposition seriously, but other than that, everything is open.
 

Killing that orc is only an objective when the reason for the visit is revenge or extermination.

 

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20 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Do you? If my characters encounter an orc, they will want to 

- avoid being killed

Killing that orc is only an objective when the reason for the visit is revenge or extermination.

 

But, 99.9% of the time when you fight an orc, it's to kill or be killed. Granted there are other reasons (prizes) for engaging with that orc, but that's just the 0.01% of the time. 

I'm not saying there's isn't another reason for conflict other than death-dealing, I'm just saying in most scenarios it's a battle to the death. 

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The funny thing is, I have no problem whatsoever with announcing how you will attempt gaining the 'prize', or what prize you hope to gain. In fact, I quite like it and I think it's a good idea because it also adds tension to the conflict. 

Player: "I will attack the orc with my battle-axe in an attempt to kill it...

GM: "The orc is doing the same..."

Granted it's a bit dry but everyone at the table knows there's death on the menu. Drama and tension are ramped up even if it's simply because everyone's reminded that lives are at stake here. 

The problem I have (other than why you have to declare a prize/goal - and I'm pretty much ok with that part now), is that using this way of doing things, you can go around one-shotting opponents, and major villains at that. 

GM: "You are facing the dragon..."

Player: "I aim my bow and arrow right under its maw in an attempt to rip its throat out and drop it stone dead..."

Let's say you succeed, is that dragon dead?

-------------------------------------------

As an aside, do you have to announce how you are going about achieving a prize and what the prize you are after is - for all contests in HeroQuest? If yes, that's great, that's a positive, because it's a universal ruling and everyone has to do it all the time. For reasons I can't quite explain, this makes sense to me. If it was yes for some contests and no for others, that might complicate matters. 

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47 minutes ago, Scout said:

The problem I have (other than why you have to declare a prize/goal - and I'm pretty much ok with that part now), is that using this way of doing things, you can go around one-shotting opponents, and major villains at that. 

GM: "You are facing the dragon..."

Player: "I aim my bow and arrow right under its maw in an attempt to rip its throat out and drop it stone dead..."

Let's say you succeed, is that dragon dead?

 

If you get the best success possible, then yes.

However, if you get a Marginal or Minor success then, No, but you might have another effect, for example:

  • Complete Success - You kill the Dragon
  • Major Success - You pin the Dragon's Jaws together, so it cannot breathe or bite
  • Minor Success - You pin the Dragon's Jaws together, stopping one of Breathe or Bite
  • Marginal Success - You pin the Dragon's tongue, stopping it talking
  • Tie - You shoot the arrow in its mouth and it has no other effect
  • Marginal Defeat - You shoot the arrow and it hits the mouth but bounces off and the Dragon knows something has hit it
  • Minor Defeat - You shoot the arrow and the Dragon knows where you are
  • Major Defeat - You shoot and the dragon knows where you are and is annoyed that you have tried to kill it
  • Complete Defeat - You shoot the arrow and the Dragon swallows you

It might seem exceessive, but the extremes are difficult to get. In HQ1, a Dragon might have a lot of Masteries and so can bump itself up and you down to the extremes. In HQ2, it is more narrative, with fewer Masteries, so the extremes are harder to get.

As an aside, do you have to announce how you are going about achieving a prize and what the prize you are after is - for all contests in HeroQuest? If yes, that's great, that's a positive, because it's a universal ruling and everyone has to do it all the time. For reasons I can't quite explain, this makes sense to me. If it was yes for some contests and no for others, that might complicate matters. 

In HeroQuest, you don't "have to" do anything. It all depends on your play style and how your group plays HeroQuest.

If declaring the intentions of contests works for you, then do it. If it doesn't, then don't.

I am very comfortable with this kind of approach, as I have played a lot of RuneQuest and a fair amount of HeroQuest (We did the LightBringers Quest in HeroQuest from start to finish). However, I am very aware that people new to the game might think they have to play it in a certain way to get the maximum enjoyment.

Play it however suits you.

 

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1 hour ago, Scout said:

As an aside, do you have to announce how you are going about achieving a prize and what the prize you are after is - for all contests in HeroQuest? If yes, that's great, that's a positive, because it's a universal ruling and everyone has to do it all the time. For reasons I can't quite explain, this makes sense to me. If it was yes for some contests and no for others, that might complicate matters. 

That's the goal.  As an HQ GM, I try to keep my players thinking about what they want to achieve, then how they want to go about it.  Without that, it becomes difficult to determine what the outcome is.

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4 hours ago, Scout said:

But, 99.9% of the time when you fight an orc, it's to kill or be killed. 

We're playing quite different styles of games, then.

Ok, if a horde of orcs has ambushed my party, it is kill or be taken out, possibly immediately killed, possibly taken away for torture or slavery, or possibly taken for ransom.

But more often than not, it will be my party ambushing the orcs in their home territory and environment, or chancing on a patrol or group of non-alerted orcs, making us the aggressors, and also the ones to decide on our objectives. 

Killing them first and then have the necromancer or medium interrogate them might work out in murder hobo settings.

4 hours ago, Scout said:

Granted there are other reasons (prizes) for engaging with that orc, but that's just the 0.01% of the time. 

I have had games where the party volunteered to aid a triibe of orcs against nasty mounted elf invaders following a twisted cult, so I definitely disagree with your 1 in 10000 encounters statistic. They never became friends of those orcs, but they parted in mutual respect and distrust, and with a pointer to the lair of an ancient archmage of dubious allegiances. Not even Tolkien presented all orcs as impersonal victims, some of the more memorable characters in the Lord of the Rings include Ugluk and Grishnakh, the captors of Merry and Pippin, as well as a number of named adversaries of the dwarves in The Hobbit.

If I want opponents that can be mowed down without thought of regret or quarter, I use automatons (like golems or skeletons) or zombies.

 

4 hours ago, Scout said:

I'm not saying there's isn't another reason for conflict other than death-dealing, I'm just saying in most scenarios it's a battle to the death. 

Only if you frame the scenario and setting that way.

There are ways to mislead a patrol rather than to slaughter it. There are ways to recruit the minions of the bosses. While it may be necessary to kill or otherwise incapacitate the current leader of such a group, by reading the social dynamics there is a good chance to bribe or coerce the surviving lieutenant into changing sides. Look at the second biggest employer of orcs in the Lord of the Rings: Saruman.

 

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But why are the characters out  where they might run into Orcs in the first place?  Besides just killing the orc in front of them, what are they hoping to accomplish? Are Orcs just popping up everywhere, like the mooks in a video game?

Consider this example:

"I want to evade the Imperial tie-fighters."

vs.

"I want to evade the  Imperial tie-fighters, evade Lord  Vader as I navigate the Death Star's equatorial trench, and fire a laser bolt into the Death Star's thermal exhaust port."

 

In a simulationist game; each action requires a roll (or a opposed roll):  evading the tie fighters, evading Vader,  firing the laser that will destroy the Death Star.

In HQ you could fold everything into a single contest (or an extended contest, which would be better):  Vader's  skill in the 'Force', augmented by  his squadron of tie-fighters vs. Luke's skill in the 'Force', augmented by Solo's  piloting skill. The contest: "We want to destroy the Death Star by blasting the  thermal exhaust port." The contest  describes a whole series of actions and their outcome.

Parsing a contest down to a single sword-stroke is too granular, and not really in the spirit of the game.

 

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On 5/22/2018 at 11:42 AM, David Scott said:

In this example, with a complete success, his head will come off, with lesser levels you might cut his head and blood gets in his eyes.

 

I'm going to agree and disagree. This is valid RAW, but I think it only really makes sense to apply levels of victory and defeat to PCs. So really, we only care about the outcome for the defender when they are a PC. Everyone else, you care about the level of victory from the point of view of the PC, not the NPC. The 'mirror' rule is not important when you consider most NPCs don't have stats.

Why is this important? Because you get the prize on any victory. So if the agreed prize was lopping off the orc's head (presumably its important that this effect occurs) you get that on even a marginal victory. It's the prize, don't weaken player victory.

The rules do state, but its not obvious, that levels of victory/defeat are optional. You only need to use them when there is value in knowing more graded information about how the PC succeeds. That is useful in contests with graduated goals, or ones where victory encompasses a lot of scope. If you fight off the orc army, it's useful to know when, if ever, they will return for example, if the contest was about saving your community, but may be less important if they were just an obstacle on the way to some bigger goal.

HQ 2.0 changed quite a bit from HQ 1.0 and sometimes its easy to bring baggage from one to the other. in HQ 1.0 NPCs have stats, and it can make some sense to track their current status. But in HQ 2.0 we moved away from that to resistances. However, a lot of folks bring the interpretation from HQ and tend to use the mirroring all the time. I would suggest that you don't play that way.

The prize is often something more than straight death vs. life. It's "I kill the orc so that..." and the so that is the prize. But the narrator should narrate and choose the fate of the orc dependent on what makes sense in the narrative at that point. Otherwise you end up with a lot of unsatisfying minor and marginal victories where the villain lives to fight another day. I would favor just narrating via the PCs outcome, not trying to mirror that for the NPC.

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One important thing to note is that HQ 1.0 is essentially a middle-ground version of the system that appeared in HW, designed to appeal to RQ players more. As such it reverts slightly more to the RQ view that everything has stats just like a PC. With HQ 2.0 we move away from that. And with RQG coming out there is less pressure to provide something that works for RQG fans. So I would focus on it as a rules-lite game, and one that is PC focused. (Compare to PbTA games where only the players roll and only PCs have stats).

Can you kill the dragon with a simple contest? Sure. But don't make it an simple contest if that seems cheap. Will even a marginal victory kill the dragon? Sure. But when it's body crashes into the town below and crushes several houses, killing innocents, and the claims for compensation come...

Use levels of victory and defeat to create new story, not to create a whiff factor. PCs in HQ are heroes not zeroes.

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For me, the thing that always helps is to approach HQ like a movie. In a movie, the scale of action varies depending on what the point of the scene is. A sword fight between a man and an orc might look quite different depending on what point of the film we're in. Early in the movie, when Rurik is a total novice who is the only survivor of an orc attack on his farmstead, the fight might stretch out for several minutes, with each swing of the sword mattering because our hero isn't very skilled yet. So the film might get a lot of drama over whether Rurik can survive this desperate encounter.

Late in the film, when Rurik has finally tracked down the orc chieftain who ordered the raid that slaughtered Rurik's family, the sword fight between Rurik and the watchman orc on the edge of the camp might be totally incidental to the drama, which is about confronting the evil chieftain. So when Rurik fights the watchman, it might just be a single enchange of blows that's over in a second or two. Same challenge (kill the orc with a sword) with two very different dramatic objectives (kill the orc to survive vs kill the orc to get to the chieftain). 

So for me, HQ encourages me not to look at the specific action, but rather to consider the importance of the action in the dramatic narrative. No one at the table really cares about the watchman, but if Rurik can't kill him, we don't get to the much more dramatically interesting moment when Rurik finally gets a chance to avenge his dead family. So let's treat the watchman as a Simple contest while the chieftain is going to be an Extended contest. 

Put another way, in RQ you're simulating a series of fights. In HQ you're simulating a movie or tv show about a character who has a series of fights. Which system you want to use is determined by what it is you're interested in simulating. 

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On 5/25/2018 at 5:36 PM, Scout said:

But, 99.9% of the time when you fight an orc, it's to kill or be killed. Granted there are other reasons (prizes) for engaging with that orc, but that's just the 0.01% of the time. 

I'm not saying there's isn't another reason for conflict other than death-dealing, I'm just saying in most scenarios it's a battle to the death. 

And that is fine, really. Sometimes the prize is the obvious thing. The story may be about survival at this point.

In that case any victory kills the orc.

Things to watch for:

 - This contests, kill the orc, leads to another contest, kick down the door, and another contest, seize the gold from the room. In this case the prize is seize the gold.

- In a simple contest victory tells you if you seized the gold, and the level of victory tells you if the orcs ran off, to fight another day, or were mercilessly slaughtered. Its a simple contest because you just want to know whether we grabbed the gold and get to the next story beat.

In an extended contest victory the steps are important to play out. As we narrate gaining RPs we move through the narrative. Gain two RP - the gate guard falls to your blow, and you are into the main room where a couple of orcs spring from their seats to attach you. So by the time we get to the victory level we know a lot more about what 'seemed' to happen narratively. But because we don't know until the end, exactly how well you did we can't be sure if the orcs were really dead or just badly wounded etc. so we are cautious around 'his head flies off' narrative at this point (unless there are enough orcs a dramatic flourish won't impact our ability to assess results at the end).

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Here is my canonical example of a HeroQuest contest. The Viper vs. The Mountain.

Now this would seem to be a fight to the death, but actually the prize is a little different. The Mountain has a prize of: prove Tyrion's guilt. The Viper has a prize of: Force a confession that the Mountain raped and killed his sister. The GM declares that these are graduated goals. He tells the Viper's player that any victory will free Tyrion but only a Major Defeat or better will force the confession.

The Viper beats the Mountain, but its only a Minor Victory. To get a better Victory, and win the confession, the Viper tries a Parting Shot against his falling opponent. He fails, gives RPs to the Mountain, who then turns the tables and kills the Viper.

The Mountain gets the prize, Tyrion is found guilty.

The Viper is dead too, but that was incidental to the prize (though not to the Viper...)

 

 

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11 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Here is my canonical example of a HeroQuest contest. The Viper vs. The Mountain.

Now this would seem to be a fight to the death, but actually the prize is a little different. The Mountain has a prize of: prove Tyrion's guilt. The Viper has a prize of: Force a confession that the Mountain raped and killed his sister. The GM declares that these are graduated goals. He tells the Viper's player that any victory will free Tyrion but only a Major Defeat or better will force the confession.

The Viper beats the Mountain, but its only a Minor Victory. To get a better Victory, and win the confession, the Viper tries a Parting Shot against his falling opponent. He fails, gives RPs to the Mountain, who then turns the tables and kills the Viper.

The Mountain gets the prize, Tyrion is found guilty.

The Viper is dead too, but that was incidental to the prize (though not to the Viper...) 

I have to point out that the Mountain also dies.

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11 hours ago, Mark Mohrfield said:

I have to point out that the Mountain also dies.

But he gets the prize!

(I would point out that in a Climatic Extended Contest the Consequences table allows for both Winner and Loser to suffer consequences.

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