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Framing the Contest

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On page 21 of HeroQuest it says to 'Frame the Contest' and in doing so, you have to announce the ability being used and what you want the outcome to be. 

Why does it ask for the outcome? As an example:

Traditional Rpg: "I swing my sword at the orc..."

HeroQuest Rpg: "I swing my sword at the orc in an attempt to lop his head off..."

Or

Traditional Rpg: "I use my Climb skill to climb the small cliff..."

HeroQuest Rpg: "I use my Climb skill to climb the small cliff in order to get to the top first..."

It seems redundant so I must be missing something but I'm not sure what it is. 

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It seems redundant, because that really isn't how you should be using the contest in the first place. A more appropriate way of describing the differences would be:

Traditional RPG: "I attack the orc with my sword." and then you roll.

HeroQuest: "I want to defeat the orc in combat." and then you roll.

The point of the contest is that it is not just a single, split-decision action performed by your character. It is a contest. The roll that you, as a player make, as well as the one the GM makes give you a result which comprises the totality of the actions needed. In HQ you do not roll to hit the orc, unless hitting him is all you want to achieve in this sittuation. If you want to kill the orc, you should frame the contest as that "I do everything in my power to kill this orc. I will use X ability to do that.". If you want to just beat the shit out of the orc and take him as prisoner, then you should frame the contest roll as "I attempt to fight the orc into submission and then take him prisoner." and then you use whatever ability you think would help you do that.

In those two examples, the effect of the success of the roll is already obvious, you have stated it when you framed the contest. If you fail though, then the framing also comes into play. If you try to kill the orc, but fail, then maybe he'll in fact hurt you instead. Or maybe he'll just run away. If you try to subdue and take the orc captive? Maybe the failure means he ran away, but maybe it means you instead swung too hard and accidental killed it, thus depriving you of your prisoner and of your stated goal.

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29 minutes ago, Scout said:

HeroQuest Rpg: "I swing my sword at the orc in an attempt to lop his head off..."

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.

with out being specific you wont get added effects.

I would also say that that example is not the best frame:

GM: There's an orc attacking you what do you want to outcome to be?

Player: I want to lop his head off to scare the others into routing.

In the climb example it may not be an exciting part of the story to climb the small cliff, so the gm can say you succeed without a roll. Also is it a race to the top? if so player candecribe how they are going gain advantage.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Scout said:

Still not sure

Would it be ok to run HQ without the declarations?

Yes, but be aware that it's these that are at the core of the system. As a narrative system HeroQuest is much less procedural. Have a look at this  example I wrote for Heroquest Glorantha, it's the same engine - there is combat in it:

 

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It can be very helpful to distinguish your actual goal from the means you're using to attain it. Defeating the particular Orc may not even be the real goal in cases where you're trying to rescue someone, steal something, defend a position, etc..

Imagine, "I'm trying to free the prisoners by attacking the Orc guarding them using my Renowned Swordsman ability."

If you score a Marginal Victory, you might free the prisoners, but the Orc survives and raises the alarm.

On a Marginal Defeat, you might slay the Orc, but find that he doesn't have the key to the cells.

OTOH, if you're needing to bring the head of a particular notorious Orc in to prove your worth to your betrothed's father or something, then you would frame the contest such that killing the orc was more central to the contest. 

As a GM, I frequently ask a Player struggling to frame a contest, "What goal are hoping to achieve, and how are you using one of your abilities to bring that about?"

Edited by JonL
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13 hours ago, Scout said:

Still not sure

Would it be ok to run HQ without the declarations?

A key difference as @Jenx noted is that the contest is not the same as a traditional RPG round of combat.  In some of the Extended Contests it may feel like it, but it is different.

In a traditional RPG, you may be confronted by a troll and begin a combat.  Each round, you state an action, make a roll.  Then repeat, eventually getting to some outcome.

In HeroQuest, you have the same confrontation.  But you might simply state:  I'm going to use my Howling Wolf Combat training augmented by my quick Movement to run rings around the troll and wear him down until he submits.  You make a roll to try to achieve your goal.  The GM rolls the difficulty.  You get some level of success or failure.  Contest is done.  If you've been victorious, the troll has submitted (possibly with some but... condition).  If you failed, the troll won, and perhaps you're off to become troll food now.  

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7 hours ago, jajagappa said:

A key difference as @Jenx noted is that the contest is not the same as a traditional RPG round of combat.  In some of the Extended Contests it may feel like it, but it is different.

In a traditional RPG, you may be confronted by a troll and begin a combat.  Each round, you state an action, make a roll.  Then repeat, eventually getting to some outcome.

In HeroQuest, you have the same confrontation.  But you might simply state:  I'm going to use my Howling Wolf Combat training augmented by my quick Movement to run rings around the troll and wear him down until he submits.  You make a roll to try to achieve your goal.  The GM rolls the difficulty.  You get some level of success or failure.  Contest is done.  If you've been victorious, the troll has submitted (possibly with some but... condition).  If you failed, the troll won, and perhaps you're off to become troll food now.  

For simple contests, sure.  Extended contests are a different animal.

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47 minutes ago, Yelm's Light said:

For simple contests, sure.  Extended contests are a different animal.

Yes and no. Yes, similar to a traditional RPG it consists of several rounds. But contrary to a traditional RPG every roll does not reflect a single hit (or another single application of an ability against an opponent or obstacle), but (probably) a more complex action like an exchange of hits and parries or applying a certain strategy, etc. Every round is an Extended Contest by itself, so the player defines his goal and roughly his action to achieve this goal and rolls his dice. The GM rolls the difficulty, which defines the level of success or failure for this round. This (and the interpretation of players and GM) defines in detail, what was the outcome of the defined action in this round and what it means with respect to the ongoing story. Also it may have a severe impact on what the player decides to do in the next round.

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I think the old Task vs Conflict Resolution dichotomy is useful to understand here.

Quote

Conflict Resolution vs. Task Resolution

In task resolution, what's at stake is the task itself. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you crack the safe?

In conflict resolution, what's at stake is why you're doing the task. "I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!" What's at stake is: do you get the dirt on the supervillain?

Which is important to the resolution rules: opening the safe, or getting the dirt? That's how you tell whether it's task resolution or conflict resolution.

Task resolution is succeed/fail. Conflict resolution is win/lose. You can succeed but lose, fail but win.

In conventional rpgs, success=winning and failure=losing only provided the GM constantly maintains that relationship - by (eg) making the safe contain the relevant piece of information after you've cracked it. It's possible and common for a GM to break the relationship instead, turning a string of successes into a loss, or a failure at a key moment into a win anyway.

Let's assume that we haven't yet established what's in the safe.

"I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!"
It's task resolution. Roll: Success!
"You crack the safe, but there's no dirt in there, just a bunch of in-order papers."

"I crack the safe!" "Why?" "Hopefully to get the dirt on the supervillain!"
It's task resolution. Roll: Failure!
"The safe's too tough, but as you're turning away from it, you see a piece of paper in the wastebasket..."

(Those examples show how, using task resolution, the GM can break success=winning, failure=losing.)

That's, if you ask me, the big problem with task resolution: whether you succeed or fail, the GM's the one who actually resolves the conflict. The dice don't, the rules don't; you're depending on the GM's mood and your relationship and all those unreliable social things the rules are supposed to even out.

Task resolution, in short, puts the GM in a position of priviledged authorship. Task resolution will undermine your collaboration.

Whether you roll for each flash of the blade or only for the whole fight is a whole nother issue: scale, not task vs. conflict. This is sometimes confusing for people; you say "conflict resolution" and they think you mean "resolve the whole scene with one roll." No, actually you can conflict-resolve a single blow, or task-resolve the whole fight in one roll:

"I slash at his face, like ha!" "Why?" "To force him off-balance!"
Conflict Resolution: do you force him off-balance?
Roll: Loss!
"He ducks side to side, like fwip fwip! He keeps his feet and grins."

"I fight him!" "Why?" "To get past him to the ship before it sails!"
Task Resolution: do you win the fight (that is, do you fight him successfully)?
Roll: Success!
"You beat him! You disarm him and kick his butt!"
(Unresolved, left up to the GM: do you get to the ship before it sails?)

(Those examples show small-scale conflict resolution vs. large-scale task resolution.)

Something I haven't examined: in a conventional rpg, does task resolution + consequence mechanics = conflict resolution? "Roll to hit" is task resolution, but is "Roll to hit, roll damage" conflict resolution?

Source: http://lumpley.com/hardcore.html

 

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The difference is that conflict resolutions is about what you seek to obtain with your action (or "the prize"), and not the action itself. So if you fail your roll, that means you didn't get the prize, but not necessarily fail the action...

The action (or task) is "I swing my sword to behead the orc."

What do you want to get from the action may be different things depending on the narrative context:

1- I want to kill the orc. The prize is killing the orc. If you fail the roll you don't kill the orc.

2- I want to kill the orc to intimidate all the other orcs. The prize is intimidating the orcs. If you fail the roll you may fail killing the orc and intimidating the others OR you may still kill the orc but fail to intimidate the others. You may or may not complete your action but you surely don't get the prize, that which is at stake.

 

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That's what I mean:

I swing my sword - [Prize] in an attempt to lop the orc's head off...

I swing my sword - [Prize] I want to defeat the orc in combat...

The prize is identical, one dead orc. Only the wording is different. 

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1 hour ago, Scout said:

I swing my sword - [Prize] in an attempt to lop the orc's head off...

I swing my sword - [Prize] I want to defeat the orc in combat...

"I swing my sword" is a task.  It's a very specific action.  You make a roll.  You hit or you miss.  The goal is trying to hit, and doesn't take into account why you want to do so.  That's something you may have in mind, but is somewhat irrelevant for the duration of the task.  Here each action of the conflict is explicitly spelled out through multiple detailed rolls.

"I want to get into the Temple of Doom, but there is an orc blocking my way" represents a conflict.  You are choosing specifically how you will approach resolving that.  "I'm going to take him down with my blazing sword skill" is a statement of how you are approaching that conflict.  And there's some level of difficulty.  But you could just as readily say "I'm going to trick him into investigating somewhere else" through some other action.  Again it's a statement of how you approach the conflict.  And maybe the difficulty is greater or lesser, but the goal is getting the orc out of your way.  Here the entire conflict is encapsulated into one roll.

 

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Ok, but in most if not all examples above, it's assumed you want to get something else other than taking out an orc. But what if you just want to smack an orc upside the head hoping to knock his block off, literally? It seems the rules work against you doing this. 

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5 minutes ago, Scout said:

But what if you just want to smack an orc upside the head hoping to knock his block off, literally? It seems the rules work against you doing this. 

What's your point in doing so?  Are you trying to impress someone?  Trying to prove yourself an orc-killer?  

You can frame the contest as "I want to kill the orc for the hell of it".  There's some difficulty, and you try it.  But it's still framed as a contest, not the minutiae of each task within it.

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3 hours ago, Scout said:

Ok, but in most if not all examples above, it's assumed you want to get something else other than taking out an orc. But what if you just want to smack an orc upside the head hoping to knock his block off, literally? It seems the rules work against you doing this. 

There is this method of "5 whys" to get to any root cause of a problem. Somehow these two statements are in two different levels of whys:

- I want to swing my sword to chop the orc's head off

- I want to get into the temple but the orc is blocking my way

In the first one I might want to ask "why" and get the second answer. The second I think we have clear understanding what is the prize and not go further. If the adventurer would have been tasked by the witch to bring orc's head then the prize would already be present in the first statement. But even then it should be: I want to get the orc's head (okay, how?) by using my "Head-chopping sword 3W".

I always try to frame the contests so that they can be resolved wuth multiple abilities. If the framing is "I want to swing my sword" it is pretty much nailed to one ability. Go up one why and try again.

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5 hours ago, Scout said:

Ok, but in most if not all examples above, it's assumed you want to get something else other than taking out an orc. But what if you just want to smack an orc upside the head hoping to knock his block off, literally? It seems the rules work against you doing this. 

If decapitating the Ork is truly one's objective, then that's all there is to it and evaluate accordingly. Any sort of victory means that Orc is decapitated. Your grade of victory in that context probably tells you how tough of a fight it was. A complete victory would mean you caught it flat-footed and sliced if clean off without breaking a sweat. Marginal victory might mean you eventually did the deed, but only after a grueling duel - and you've got a nasty bleeder yourself.

It works just fine that way. The examples presuppose some other purpose because most of the time your PCs will have some motive for their mayhem. You can absolutely zoom all the way in to task-level if the situation calls for it. Follow the excitement and fun. Focus your attention on what the group finds exciting. If that's finding out whether or not you can slay the Ork in a single mighty blow, then lay on.

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8 hours ago, jajagappa said:

What's your point in doing so?  Are you trying to impress someone?  Trying to prove yourself an orc-killer?  

 

It's because the orc is trying to kill me

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5 hours ago, Scout said:

It's because the orc is trying to kill me

Then the objective here is really to survive. You could use a lot of abilities to achieve this aim. Certainly, using your fighting skills is one (as is, well, running away). A complete success by using your fighting skill here would definitely include killing the orc, but a lesser level of success might not - your fighting skills could buy you an opportunity/moment to escape, or you could convince your opponent that you're not worth the trouble and the orc lets you escape, etc.

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Ok, I think I need to reread those contest outcome tables. There's a few of them I believe, but it's a bit difficult seeing them all the same time on a pdf. I think that's the disconnect for me. If I had the hardcopy I could flip back and forth and compare them. Perhaps then I'll see how this all fits. 

 

 

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All tables are available on three pages in the appendices. Opening these pages in a second PDF reader instance makes using these tables a lot easier ...

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19 hours ago, Grievous said:

Then the objective here is really to survive.

Indeed. We don't know the context in which the Orc has appeared here. Are you engaging the Orc in combat just to buy some time for your companions to escape? Or do you need to kill the Orc for some reason (he has something you need?). Or is he blocking the way through to somewhere you need to get to, and you need to eliminate him (or make him run away) so that you can get through that door he's standing in front of?

So what is it you are *really* trying to do that the Orc is preventing? Unless you're killing the Orc to impress someone, or similar, as has been suggested earlier.

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Not really. 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

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