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Advancement in Questworlds. Some ideas.


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I've never really been satisfied with how advancement is handled in HeroQuest. First, the increasing resistance is book-keeping without much dramatic effect, because in opposed d20 resolution you need modifiers of +3, +6 to really feel them. In addition, the march of resistance only really serves to stop PCs appearing to improve. In the sources HQ tries to emulate its normal for heroes to get better with respect to the opposition over the course of a book or season. When we reset the resistance it tends to be a new book or season. In addition, the correlation applies, an increase of +1 to an ability doesn't really help.

Inspired by some design discussions with Ron Edwards on Cosmic Zap (these are not what Ron is proposing there, but serve as inspiration for it). I am contemplating the following change in QuestWorlds. Feedback very welcome:

States of Adversity and Consequences of Defeat
These are the same thing, we just keep Consequences of Defeat, but see below.
 
Advancement
 
Resistance does not advance with the number of sessions. It remains at the baseline of 14. If your GM plan to run several seasons, much like a TV show, they can re-baseline with the new season to provide a greater challenge. Usually a season builds a story towards a climatic conclusion, and with the next season new stories emerge. Generally, your GM should re-baseline by +3, +6 or +9 depending on how the PCs advanced in the previous season
 
Hero Points
You get 3 hero points at the beginning of a session. Unspent hero points are lost at the end of the session.
 
You can use a hero point to bump a roll.
 
In addition, you can use a hero point to 'cement a lingering benefit' and make the change to your ability permanent. You need to spend 1 hero point to cement a +3 benefit, 2 hero points for a +6 benefit, and 3 hero points for a +9 benefit. You can't partially cement a benefit, you need to pay for the whole benefit. You can cement any benefit any time up to the point that the GM rules it is replaced by time, or by a subsequent contest result.
 
Your GM can give you hero points to 'cement a defeat' and make the change to an ability permanent. Your GM gives you one hero point to cement a -3 penalty, 2 hero points for a -6 penalty and 3 hero points for a -9 penalty. Because hero points are lost at the end of the session, this award should encourage you to remedy the loss by engaging in contests where you can spend the hero points to reverse the penalty, or buy new abilities that reflect the changes to your character.
 
In all cases, the cementing of  the benefit or consequence must be justified by the story being told at the table.
 
You can also use a hero point to buy a new ability at 13, or at +1 to an umbrella keyword as a new breakout. Again, the new ability must be justified by the narrative.
 
Do not forget that the benefits and consequences may apply to abilities other than the one used in the contest; often a relationship might be improved or worsened by a success or failure of another ability for example. 
 
 

 

Edited by Ian Cooper
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1 hour ago, Ian Cooper said:

In addition, you can use a hero point to 'cement a lingering benefit' and make the change to your ability permanent. You need to spend 1 hero point to cement a +3 benefit, 2 hero points for a +6 benefit, and 3 hero points for a +9 benefit. You can't partially cement a benefit, you need to pay for the whole benefit. You can cement any benefit any time up to the point that the GM rules it is replaced by time, or by a subsequent contest result.

 

So, the basic idea: the GM will assign lingering benefits several times a session, based on the outcomes of important scenes. A player can choose to cement such benefits while they are still in force.

So, for example, Oddi's party defeats the Greydog raiders and receives a +3 lingering benefit to combat abilities. Oddi's player can choose to cement the benefit and raise his combat ability by +3 at a cost of one Hero Point. But if a season passes and the GM says the lingering benefit has worn off, the opportunity is lost.

I like it. 

I've never been crazy about having to choose between bumping rolls and improving characters with Hero Points, but that's a separate issue.

Rob

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The one thing to really figure out is how 'much' advancement you want, and how the GM controls that.

Let's assume you run a QW game and you play a 'season' of 6-12 sessions. And then let's assume you might want to run subsequent seasons, topping out at five or so for a campaign. We are mirroring a successful TV show at that point.

Now I might assume that by the end of a season I would like to see an average of three of four abilities up by +6. Or some variation of with eight at +3 etc.

One way to limit this would be to work with the idea that the GM has to consider the benefit a significant story moment to allow you to cement. The advantage here is that it prevents 'improvement hunting'. Of course, it relies on trust that the GM will move the PCs forward.

The second would be to change the hp economy by varying number of points, and rollover of hp between sessions.

So by giving folks 1 hp per session, but allowing them to accumulate between sessions. In a 12 session episode, 8 hp would buy you four increases at +6, with another 4 used for bumps. Then you would get additional hp for the GM cementing consequences, that you could use to buy other abilities.

That might not be enough though, if the GM cemented a few consequences you wanted to buy off, so you might even want 2 hp a session.

I think it needs some actual play to figure out.

 

 

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22 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

I've never really been satisfied with how advancement is handled in HeroQuest.

I'm not sure if it was originally done or not to calculate the math stats, but I've found there are some odd effects at the points where you cross mastery boundaries (e.g. High Resistance goes from 20 to 1W).  At 20, you either get critical, success, or fumble - there is no fail.  When you move up to 1W, you get critical, fail bumped to success (if PC has no mastery) or simply fail, and fumble.  I've ended up creating an intermediary level of Quite High Resistance (starting at 6W) to get a better level of interaction/opposition (particularly where PC's are likely to get a specific ability bonus + augment). 

Over the course of play I generally agree that there feels like there is something missing in both the levels for High Resistance, etc. as well as the effects of advancement.

22 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Generally, your GM should re-baseline by +3, +6 or +9 depending on how the PCs advanced in the previous season

Interesting thought.  May be more interesting than the +1.  I could almost see it depending on the Level of Victory effectively achieved by the PC's in the season's climax.

22 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

You get 3 hero points at the beginning of a session. Unspent hero points are lost at the end of the session.

I still like the approach that if you don't use it, then it can be applied to experience (and will certainly keep that in my game).  But they never carryover into the new session/season.

22 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

In addition, you can use a hero point to 'cement a lingering benefit' and make the change to your ability permanent. You need to spend 1 hero point to cement a +3 benefit, 2 hero points for a +6 benefit, and 3 hero points for a +9 benefit. You can't partially cement a benefit, you need to pay for the whole benefit. You can cement any benefit any time up to the point that the GM rules it is replaced by time, or by a subsequent contest result.

I like this.  I may explore this when I get to my next 'season'.

23 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Your GM can give you hero points to 'cement a defeat' and make the change to an ability permanent. Your GM gives you one hero point to cement a -3 penalty, 2 hero points for a -6 penalty and 3 hero points for a -9 penalty. Because hero points are lost at the end of the session, this award should encourage you to remedy the loss by engaging in contests where you can spend the hero points to reverse the penalty, or buy new abilities that reflect the changes to your character.

Interesting thought.  Do you carry over the 'defeat' but gain a Hero Point?  Or risk a subsequent defeat because you haven't bumped up your Hero Points?  It makes me think that this is a way for PC's to drive a Pass/Fail cycle in the game.  

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4 minutes ago, jajagappa said:

At 20, you either get critical, success, or fumble - there is no fail.

I play, and highly recommend,  that rolling a 20 with a 20 rating results in a fail rather than a fumble. Otherwise, a 20 rating is no different than a 19. Mastery essentially phases in at the cusp: at 20 you stop fumbling, at 1M you stop failing, at 2M+ crits become more likely.

When combined with ctir-on-rating rather than -crit-on-1, which has the desirable effects of avoiding tied crits most of the time and allowing occasional upsets vs masteries, 20-rated abilities continue to crit on a rolled 19.

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On 8/16/2018 at 4:10 PM, Ian Cooper said:

I've never really been satisfied with how advancement is handled in HeroQuest. First, the increasing resistance is book-keeping without much dramatic effect, because in opposed d20 resolution you need modifiers of +3, +6 to really feel them. In addition, the march of resistance only really serves to stop PCs appearing to improve. In the sources HQ tries to emulate its normal for heroes to get better with respect to the opposition over the course of a book or season. When we reset the resistance it tends to be a new book or season. In addition, the correlation applies, an increase of +1 to an ability doesn't really help.

Inspired by some design discussions with Ron Edwards on Cosmic Zap (these are not what Ron is proposing there, but serve as inspiration for it). I am contemplating the following change in QuestWorlds. Feedback very welcome:

States of Adversity and Consequences of Defeat
These are the same thing, we just keep Consequences of Defeat, but see below.
 
Advancement
 
Resistance does not advance with the number of sessions. It remains at the baseline of 14. If your GM plan to run several seasons, much like a TV show, they can re-baseline with the new season to provide a greater challenge. Usually a season builds a story towards a climatic conclusion, and with the next season new stories emerge. Generally, your GM should re-baseline by +3, +6 or +9 depending on how the PCs advanced in the previous season
 
Hero Points
You get 3 hero points at the beginning of a session. Unspent hero points are lost at the end of the session.
 
You can use a hero point to bump a roll.
 
In addition, you can use a hero point to 'cement a lingering benefit' and make the change to your ability permanent. You need to spend 1 hero point to cement a +3 benefit, 2 hero points for a +6 benefit, and 3 hero points for a +9 benefit. You can't partially cement a benefit, you need to pay for the whole benefit. You can cement any benefit any time up to the point that the GM rules it is replaced by time, or by a subsequent contest result.
 
Your GM can give you hero points to 'cement a defeat' and make the change to an ability permanent. Your GM gives you one hero point to cement a -3 penalty, 2 hero points for a -6 penalty and 3 hero points for a -9 penalty. Because hero points are lost at the end of the session, this award should encourage you to remedy the loss by engaging in contests where you can spend the hero points to reverse the penalty, or buy new abilities that reflect the changes to your character.
 
In all cases, the cementing of  the benefit or consequence must be justified by the story being told at the table.
 
You can also use a hero point to buy a new ability at 13, or at +1 to an umbrella keyword as a new breakout. Again, the new ability must be justified by the narrative.
 
Do not forget that the benefits and consequences may apply to abilities other than the one used in the contest; often a relationship might be improved or worsened by a success or failure of another ability for example. 
 
 

 

I really like the Advancement section: no Base Difficulty increase during a campaign "season", +3 +6 or +9 modifiers next campaign "season".

This is simple and elegant.

In my current campaign, we have agreed upon separating Hero Points from character improvement though. The players are encouraged two spend their Hero Points and this is cool.

In our game, each player is awarded 2 points to spend in character improvement from time to time and the Base Difficulty increases according to the number of "character improvements" awarded so far.

Unfortunately, the rest adds a layer of rules that bothers me because it adds things I don't like and don't want to manage while I am GMing. I would prefer  this kind of rules/tools to be optional.

Welcome to QuestWorlds.

Edited by Corvantir
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On 8/17/2018 at 11:53 PM, Corvantir said:

I really like the Advancement section: no Base Difficulty increase during a campaign "season", +3 +6 or +9 modifiers next campaign "season".

This is simple and elegant.

In my current campaign, we have agreed upon separating Hero Points from character improvement though. The players are encouraged two spend their Hero Points and this is cool.

In our game, each player is awarded 2 points to spend in character improvement from time to time and the Base Difficulty increases according to the number of "character improvements" awarded so far.

Unfortunately, the rest adds a layer of rules that bothers me because it adds things I don't like and don't want to manage while I am GMing. I would prefer  this kind of rules/tools to be optional.

Welcome to QuestWorlds.

It likely will be optional as it involves book-keeping. Most likely I will suggest a quick advancement method similar to today and story based advancement approach.

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8 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

It likely will be optional as it involves book-keeping. Most likely I will suggest a quick advancement method similar to today and story based advancement approach.

Thank you very much for this precision, I am looking forward QuestWorlds with great anticipation. I like to have the choice and this kind of "optional" suggestions are always very good to read in a RPG. They give ideas and prompt the imagination when it comes to create your own genre packs or emulate another setting. It's food for thought.

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One thing that's occurred to me about rising resistance values over time is that in the current  game the No-Relevant-Ability default TN of 6 does not scale along with the base resistance. Very Low resistance being the lesser of 6 and Base-M softens that somewhat, but 6 vs low(8) in a starting game compared to 6 vs low(12) a couple months later is a very different thing. Catch-ups prevent your less-central abilities from becoming ineffectual over time, but No-Relevant-Ability has no parallel to that.

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57 minutes ago, JonL said:

One thing that's occurred to me about rising resistance values over time is that in the current  game the No-Relevant-Ability default TN of 6 does not scale along with the base resistance. Very Low resistance being the lesser of 6 and Base-M softens that somewhat, but 6 vs low(8) in a starting game compared to 6 vs low(12) a couple months later is a very different thing. Catch-ups prevent your less-central abilities from becoming ineffectual over time, but No-Relevant-Ability has no parallel to that.

Overall 'increasing resistance' is trying to solve the problem that when you set resistances based on story rhythm over measuring the world you still want a difficult challenge to be difficult as the PC advances.

If we are trying to emulate the dramatic rhythm of stories, I believe that the classic story which includes advancement is farmboy to hero i.e. the hero grows more competent during the movie. So increasing resistance doesn't really make sense, during the context of the story. I genuinely can take the experience from 'the road of struggles' to face down the 'big bad' at the end, when it would have been too great a challenge at the beginning. Luke the farmboy learns the way of the Jedi and uses the force to guide his torpedoes and destroy the Death Star. Hence why I think the base resistance should increase at the beginning of a new 'season' not during.

Does the hero become more competent across the board? Do we also increase No-Relevant-Ability? Do we also increase the starting rating for new abilities up from 13? Do they both increment by the season increase?

I'd be inclined to say no. After all, as the hero progresses we would expect them to be using their signature abilities, not No-Relevant-Ability and if they were forced onto that backfoot, for the difference to be all the more compelling. I try and avoid putting the PCs in a no-relevant-ability situation anyway, because that makes them zeroes over heroes, unless acquiring that ability is the story itself.

I still believe in catch ups even in a story driven improvement approach.

But its not a compelling answer and needs some more thought.

 

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12 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Does the hero become more competent across the board?

That's kind of what catch-ups end up doing, especially if you've got a a culture keyword that implicitly involves a lot of the basic "I'm an adult member of this species & society." common knowledge and things that most people can at least somewhat do without specifically training for it (though perhaps at a stretch or broad vs specific disadvantage).

The other thing about it is, if you hold to the abstraction of ratings as problem solving effectiveness rather than in-fiction competence,  I don't know that the cloistered medieval monk suddenly thrust into a basketball game against robots and aliens (it's actually a testament to how hard to come up with a total fish out of water scenario that I had to mash up Space Jam) is any worse off if it happens later in the story rather than earlier.

12 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Do we also increase No-Relevant-Ability?

Capping Very Low at six does this a little bit already,  if inversely. Anybody has no worse than even odds to try whatever wild-ass out-of-context thing they come up with against VL resistance at any time. Against any other Resistance, Minor Defeat gets progressively more likely. This is less of a problem with your searonal-increase idea though.

12 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Do we also increase the starting rating for new abilities up from 13?

If we're following the fiction here, I think there's actually a pretty strong case to be made for this. New capabilities gained later in stories tend to be meaningfully effective wrt the intensity of the current conflict, even if it may take time to realize their full potential.

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I also think that how much you set resistance based on meta-fictional story flow and how much you base it on in-fiction capability and credibility is a slider you move back and forth to make your game more fantastic or more grounded. That's tangential to this question, but something to consider in terms of what advancement really means.

If you lean over towards resistance following in-fiction things a bit more, you could actually do some zero-to-hero style things entirely based on in-fiction advancement and not change ability ratings or base resistance. In that model, lifting a car is Nigh-Impossible for me (though an adrenaline surge & Phyrric Victory for a heart attack after might let me get one up enough for my daughter to crawl out from under it), but would be Low for Spider-Man. I'm not suggesting HQ1-style static scales, just relative resistance based on fictional capabilities.

(In practice, I usually like to split the difference between metafictional and in-fiction factors to generate a "high-adventure" sweet-spot)

If they're not tied into other mechanics (e.g. Runes in HQG)  it could almost make sense to let players swap ratings around on their sheets between seasons, mirroring how successive installments in a saga emphasize different aspects of the characters, with previous seasons' key elements often becoming secondary as new angles of the story are emphasized. For example, Han Solo did exactly no cool flying in Return of the Jedi, but he finally did fast-talk somebody.

You could almost take a page from some of the Fate games where you don't advance, just swap around emphases or trade aspects out. In this case, you'd never raise resistance.

Edited by JonL
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On 8/16/2018 at 5:10 PM, Ian Cooper said:

In addition, you can use a hero point to 'cement a lingering benefit' and make the change to your ability permanent. You need to spend 1 hero point to cement a +3 benefit, 2 hero points for a +6 benefit, and 3 hero points for a +9 benefit. You can't partially cement a benefit, you need to pay for the whole benefit. You can cement any benefit any time up to the point that the GM rules it is replaced by time, or by a subsequent contest result.

Regarding the Character arcs discussion I think this is good input for that too. Cementing a lingering benefit is about the character changing in some way thus creating the character's arc.

And yeah, I like the new name.

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