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Ian Cooper

Bring Out Your Dead

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5 hours ago, Steve said:

Presumably if you are assigning a difficulty level to climbing a tree then it matters for story purposes as to whether the PC succeeds or not, and there will be consequences of failure. It must be something pretty important in your story if it has a difficulty level later in your campaign, otherwise you wouldn't be bothering to make it a contest, right? 

It might matter, but it might not be "pretty important". A task should have to be difficult in order to have consequences. 

5 hours ago, Steve said:

Likewise with your town guards example. Later in the campaign, surely your PCs will have no problem defeating town guards, but what they might have difficulty with is how to take them out without anyone else noticing/hearing, or similar (and that would be the higher resistance).

No. Why would they have any more problems taking them out quietly, etc. later in the campaign then at the beginning?

 

5 hours ago, Steve said:

Again, why would you bother making it a contest unless there's something important here for story purposes?

There are degrees on importance. In most cases just attacking the guard could have repercussion that would be important as far as the PCs go, but not necessarily important as far as the story/adventure goes. 

5 hours ago, Steve said:

Also, it shouldn't be true that "nothing really changes", because your PCs should be up against more dramatic challenges as the story goes on, hopefully making the story (the whole point of what you're doing) more entertaining and raising the excitement levels - a bit like how the later episodes in a TV action drama will have the heroes facing tougher challenges which are more dramatic.

That is where we disagree. PCs shouldn't always be up against more dramatic challenges, because it's anti-dramatic. If the bad guys are always rated relative to the PCs then they are on a treadmill and it becomes a bore. It all becomes predictable. The PCs will probably even know what the difficulty will be for something before they even attempt it. Character advancement become pointless. Everyone should just bank their points.

 

And then there is the silliness of it all. If you are only rolling for important things and rate the challenges relative the the PCs and contacting upping the abilities of those challenges to scale to the PCs, then as the PCs get better they have to constantly run up against more and more powerful opponents and obstacles. So then the GM has to constantly come up with even more powerful menaces. 

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I actually had a conversation with @Jeff about this yesterday for the new core rules version. The headline version is that we will be going with a new improvement system, that is simple, and influenced by Prince Valiant, Greg's other storytelling game. We would drop baseline opposition increase, and recommend that you increase the resistance between 'seasons' of your campaign (where season is defined as season of a TV show ending with you taking down the current big bad etc). When you increase the resistance we would recommend that you pitch previously mildly challenging opponents (i.e. moderate resistance) as now easier given your increased competence (low). Although, we set resistance via story needs, credibility pushes us to imply that the players have improved relative to those around them, and now as bigger players will meet bigger challenges. Your stories should reflect that.

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That sounds much better. It's also more in line with how Chasoium approached things in the past, where you probably got a customized sheet for the leaders and major NPCs, but the rank and file threats were generic. In PV the generic Saxon warrior didn't have to be constantly upgraded to remain a threat. 

I think it actually helps with a story driven style of play, too, as every obstacle or challenge doesn't have to be greater than the last. A experienced hero might actually get a head cold, instead of being forced into getting double pneumonia, because of escalation. 

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I am not sure they qualify as a "dead" as far as this thread is concerned but I don't know what to do with the Specific Ability Bonuses.

There is only one obvious case for me, it is when a player is directly competing against another player. It rewards the player with a specific ability and I agree it is fair and easy to use.

But in all the other situations I imagine, I think the specific ability bonuses give an unfair advantage to characters that already have high ability scores. In my experience, and this is perhaps the origin of my distorted vision, the specific abilities that come into play are usually associated with a high score. The characters with such high scored abilities are thus already the big fishes in a contest. If you give them more bonuses you end up with less gifted characters really struggling to have even a minor impact on a conflict while the big fishes hack their way through the conflict with ease.

May be more examples or rephrasing the section could help me to better understand when and how to use Specific Ability Bonuses.

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13 hours ago, Corvantir said:

I am not sure they qualify as a "dead" as far as this thread is concerned but I don't know what to do with the Specific Ability Bonuses.

There is only one obvious case for me, it is when a player is directly competing against another player. It rewards the player with a specific ability and I agree it is fair and easy to use.

So, the game has gone through some eras of understanding. Once upon a time, we found that some players would mini-max by shoving all of their points into one ability and then arguing its usage everywhere. Even paying a stretch penalty they were winning over other players, and any contest they entered they dominated, despite other players having that as their thing.  This rule really exists to dissuade players from having the "Do Anything" ability and throwing all their points at it to dominate the game.

Nowadays I would suggest that judicious usage of stretch penalties that have a little more oomph i.e. -3. -6. -9, -W might be a better tool, and we can then discard this rule, which is confusing.

Thanks for the reminder.

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4 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

So, the game has gone through some eras of understanding. Once upon a time, we found that some players would mini-max by shoving all of their points into one ability and then arguing its usage everywhere. Even paying a stretch penalty they were winning over other players, and any contest they entered they dominated, despite other players having that as their thing.  This rule really exists to dissuade players from having the "Do Anything" ability and throwing all their points at it to dominate the game.

Nowadays I would suggest that judicious usage of stretch penalties that have a little more oomph i.e. -3. -6. -9, -W might be a better tool, and we can then discard this rule, which is confusing.

Thanks for the reminder.

I also suggest a "Right Tool for the Job" or "Just the Right Thing" bonus as a converse to Stretches. If somebody with "Best Arm Wrestler in the West" at 15 and another with "Strong" at 1M put their elbows on the table, the first one should get a bonus. It also makes sense for situations where a character's ability is particularly apropos for a given obstacle, like a Fire Mage battling a Scarecrow Golem or someone with a Phd. facing a problem that falls within their specialty. I do this in play already, as though it were a Plot Augment.

(The bonus needs a shorter name than "Right Tool for the Job", perhaps "Apropos?")

GMs should also be guided that the more they rely on plot flow to set Resistance, the more these sorts of ability modifiers make sense, while conversely, the more they factor credibility into Resistance, the less the ability modifiers are called for.  

Edited by JonL
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14 minutes ago, JonL said:

GMs should also be guided that the more they rely on plot flow to set Resistance, the more these sorts of ability modifiers make sense, while conversely, the more they factor credibility into Resistance, the less the ability modifiers are called for.  

That is probably the key point here.

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9 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

So, the game has gone through some eras of understanding. Once upon a time, we found that some players would mini-max by shoving all of their points into one ability and then arguing its usage everywhere. Even paying a stretch penalty they were winning over other players, and any contest they entered they dominated, despite other players having that as their thing.  This rule really exists to dissuade players from having the "Do Anything" ability and throwing all their points at it to dominate the game.

Nowadays I would suggest that judicious usage of stretch penalties that have a little more oomph i.e. -3. -6. -9, -W might be a better tool, and we can then discard this rule, which is confusing.

Thanks for the reminder.

You are welcome. Thank you for these explanations.

I agree with you, I find the use of stretch penalties far more intuitive.   👍

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In other thread come one good point that was unclear from the rules to me for a long time. The overall flow of an extended contest. It should be made more clear if the player is allowed, or even encouraged, to change his ability between the extended contest rounds. Also, is GM allowed to tune the resistance value during the extended contest? How about having different value per player even if they are contesting the same resistance.

Also, the Multiple Opponent Penalty is unclear, in my opinion. I think the "official ruling" is that the abstract resistance faces multiple opponent penalty just the same way as a PC faces MOP when contesting against multiple resistances. I think the rules do not say which of the PCs get to roll against the lowered value and who is rolling against the full value. That's why I tend to rule that the MOP does not affect the resistance, only PCs.

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1 hour ago, jrutila said:

Also, the Multiple Opponent Penalty is unclear, in my opinion. 

As written in HQG, it manages to fill four paragraphs and still not make room for "e.g. -3 for the second opponent, -6 for the third, and so on."

More painfully, "Engaging Multiple Opponents" is on page 81, while the alternate approach where you just do something like...

Quote

 

PLAYER: Cyrano's goal is to protect Lignière from the 100 toughs at the Port de Nell. He's using his "Greatest Swordsman in France" ability to run them off, and bringing the revellers along to watch in hopes of augmenting with "Loves to Put-on a Show." The plan is to keep moving and avoid getting cornered, so as to not face them all at once.

GM: OK, even if you don't need to stab them all to achieve your goal, that's still 100:1 odds. We're going with Nearly Impossible.

 

...comes on page 107 under "Militias and War Gangs." The intervening 26 pages contain the entire Auroch Hills interlude, some full page comic pages and paintings, and several other important and often unrelated rules in between them. 😫

"Poorly organized information." is a special Dead all its own.

More broadly, MOP is another example of a rule that makes sense if Resistance is not affected by credibility, but is somewhat redundant if it is. If we're going to generalize the Stretch concept as @Ian Cooper outlined above, I wonder if there there may no longer be a need for a discrete MOP rule. 

Edited by JonL
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2 hours ago, jrutila said:

In other thread come one good point that was unclear from the rules to me for a long time. The overall flow of an extended contest. It should be made more clear if the player is allowed, or even encouraged, to change his ability between the extended contest rounds. Also, is GM allowed to tune the resistance value during the extended contest? How about having different value per player even if they are contesting the same resistance. 

I know what you mean. It's been awhile since I played HQ (or much else for that matter) but it used to be that "damage" came off of the ability score being used. Plus, with the way all abilties work the same there would be little reason to switch to a lower ability score, and every reason to try and change to a higher one, if possible. 

 

I don't think resistance value should change under normal circumstances. Not unless there was some sort of in game reason for it. 

 

Edited by Atgxtg

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2 hours ago, jrutila said:

Also, the Multiple Opponent Penalty is unclear, in my opinion. I think the "official ruling" is that the abstract resistance faces multiple opponent penalty just the same way as a PC faces MOP when contesting against multiple resistances. I think the rules do not say which of the PCs get to roll against the lowered value and who is rolling against the full value. That's why I tend to rule that the MOP does not affect the resistance, only PCs.

Wouldn't it be a lot simpler if multiple opponents just became one opponent who was augmented by the others. Maybe bend the 3 augment rule for this a little (3 augments plus helpers), and let PCs roll to see what their augment value is? Seems to me that would eliminate the need for penalties too, as the extra augment would accomplish the same thing. 

 

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37 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

I know what you mean. It's been awhile since I played HQ (or much else for that matter) but it used to be that "damage" came off of the ability score being used. Plus, with the way all abilties work the same there would be little reason to switch to a lower ability score, and every reason to try and change to a higher one, if possible.

There are two rules about this. One is that you don't penalize a player for something that is interesting but not strictly covered by the original ability used, when they are not trying to gain a mechanical advantage. So Buffy can taunt with her Slayer keyword Martial Arts breakout, you don't have to switch up abilities. Because otherwise she would just describe swinging again. The other is 'new conditions, new resistance'. If the player switches ability because in story terms it might give him an advantage then you can reset the resistance.

But let's make this clear too.

Keep it coming.

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2 hours ago, jrutila said:

 

Also, the Multiple Opponent Penalty is unclear, in my opinion. I think the "official ruling" is that the abstract resistance faces multiple opponent penalty just the same way as a PC faces MOP when contesting against multiple resistances. I think the rules do not say which of the PCs get to roll against the lowered value and who is rolling against the full value. That's why I tend to rule that the MOP does not affect the resistance, only PCs.

I think the MOP rule exists to allow players to take down something with a Nearly Impossible resistance, by tag teaming it, especially if the first up players fight defensively to reduce the RPs lost from a defeat. I think that is interesting enough to make it worth keeping. However, a player should probably not suffer a MOP against a resistance, the resistance should be picked to be multiple opponent worthy.

I think it is alright to have some rules focused on players, given that once you move to a resistance model the opposition is an abstract force the GM gets to narrate pretty much whatever they like about.

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20 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

I think the MOP rule exists to allow players to take down something with a Nearly Impossible resistance, by tag teaming it, especially if the first up players fight defensively to reduce the RPs lost from a defeat.

Let's examine the math on this across the resistance spectrum.

For a party of 5 PCs against a resistance representing a single foe, the average resistance across the whole party is 6 less than the unmodified resistance faced by the first PC to rolll:|

Quote

 

|-- Nominal Resistance --||-- Resistance Sequence --||-- Average Resistance --||

||-- Nearly Impossible: 14M2 ---||--- 14M2, 11M2, 9M2, 6M2, 3M2 ---||--- 9M2 (Very High +15) --||

||-- Very High: 14M ---||--- 14M, 11M, 9M, 6M, 3M ---||--- 9M (High +9) --||

||-- High: 20 ---||--- 20, 17, 14, 11,  8 ---||--- 14 (Moderate) --||

||-- Moderate: 14 ---||--- 14, 11, 8, 5, 3 ---||--- 8 (Low) --||

||-- Low: 8 ---||---  8, 5, 3, 0, -3 ---||--- 3 (Very Low -3) --||

 

(I suppose 0 and -3 could be rolled as 20M-1 and 17M-1, allowing for a 5% chance of a success and increasing fumble chances.)

I can see where you're getting pleasing results out of this approach at the top of the spectrum, where the 14-20 point leaps make for plenty of room for meaningful gradations between brackets.

At the lower/middle tiers though where the brackets are only 6 points apart, it's effectively an entire bracket's drop.  Being on-par magnitude-wise with a Stretch or a good Augment roll either way, that's probably an OK result too.

Where I'm a bit skeptical about this though, is how it starts to look if you have a larger party or a few followers/sidekicks/familiars/etc as participants. At 7:1, the average drops by 9.

Vs High resistance, that becomes a serious distortion. Roughly half the party is now opposed by numbers that make SvsF or CvsF rolls increasingly likely. When you tally the result points, that starts to make  a 1-round overall Minor+ victory the most likely outcome against something that is supposed to be a serious-but-not-overwhelming challenge. Major+ becomes most likely if the Players are clever enough to have the early rollers play defense and the later ones take risks like you described. (Moderate resistance would be effectively < Very Low.)

For the GM, this presents an inflationary situation, where any sort of single opponent that's meant to represent Moderate to Very High challenge needs to have the Resistance padded (or minions thrown into the mix) to counter the large MOP impact if the level of challenge is to be roughly maintained. At that point, you're going in circles with bonuses & penalties just to get back where you meant to start.

(At the other end of the spectrum, it probably undersells the effectiveness of 2:1 or 3:1 odds, but that's less of a problem, IMO)

Again, I can see where this made for some fun and dramatic emergent teamwork events at the high end of the scale. However, outside that sweet zone it seems like the impact would much more often range from "About like an augment or stretch, but more complicated." at best to "Making the GM do extra bookkeeping for little benefit." at worst.

I suggest rolling numeric disparities into a general and more qualitative framework of situational modifiers, and looking for ways we might enrich teamwork in fun & interesting ways that are more consistently impactful WRT varying player counts and resistance levels.

.

 

 

 

Edited by JonL
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21 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Wouldn't it be a lot simpler if multiple opponents just became one opponent who was augmented by the others. Maybe bend the 3 augment rule for this a little (3 augments plus helpers), and let PCs roll to see what their augment value is? Seems to me that would eliminate the need for penalties too, as the extra augment would accomplish the same thing. 

 

I frequently use this approach, especially with small parties. Augmenting one another provides a different sort of feel than Assists (which only reduce harm) do. It's an especially a good fit for situations where one character might not credibly be able to harm a foe, but might be able to distract or hinder it in order to set up a harder-hitting comrade. It also maps nicely to using buff-magic, thatch-weaving fighter-planes, etc.

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4 minutes ago, JonL said:

I frequently use this approach, especially with small parties. Augmenting one another provides a different sort of feel than Assists (which only reduce harm) do. It's an especially a good fit for situations where one character might not credibly be able to harm a foe, but might be able to distract or hinder it in order to set up a harder-hitting comrade. It also maps nicely to using buff-magic, thatch-weaving fighter-planes, etc.

Reminds me a bit of T&T too, except you don't add the totals. Not that you couldn't.

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As far as I am concerned, I have no problem with the MOP rule.

When I run a HQ game, I chose a difficulty and, when it is appropriate and does not contradict credibility, I then attribute a different number of opponents to the characters so that the characters with higher score abilities face a greater number of opponents. This allows the characters with lower score abilities to have fun while it gives some challenge to the big league characters.

I am not found of the augment approach to factor in the number of opponents. I find it far less intuitive than the current rule. Orange and apples perhaps.

Edited by Corvantir

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On 11/25/2018 at 11:29 PM, Archivist said:

Can you talk a bit about this? How do you handle group combats? Why don't you like Extended Contests.

Answered in the other thread - Sorry, just seen that it was moved.

Edited by soltakss
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On 11/27/2018 at 9:30 AM, Ian Cooper said:

I actually had a conversation with @Jeff about this yesterday for the new core rules version. The headline version is that we will be going with a new improvement system, that is simple, and influenced by Prince Valiant, Greg's other storytelling game. We would drop baseline opposition increase, and recommend that you increase the resistance between 'seasons' of your campaign (where season is defined as season of a TV show ending with you taking down the current big bad etc). When you increase the resistance we would recommend that you pitch previously mildly challenging opponents (i.e. moderate resistance) as now easier given your increased competence (low). Although, we set resistance via story needs, credibility pushes us to imply that the players have improved relative to those around them, and now as bigger players will meet bigger challenges. Your stories should reflect that.

Overall, I like the direction this is going. I like the idea of obvious hero improvement relative to challenges, and I definitely like any direct advice to GM's, which is what this sounds like.

I have one question: The way you have phrased this, it sounds like all hero "improvement" is really accomplished by the GM fiddling with resistance levels, so the players don't make any changes on their character sheets. Is this correct? If so, that may be a bit of a challenge for players coming from other games where they are used to seeing the improvement in their heroes. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but again it may be something that will need to be addressed directly.

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On 11/28/2018 at 5:03 PM, Ian Cooper said:

I think the MOP rule exists to allow players to take down something with a Nearly Impossible resistance, by tag teaming it, especially if the first up players fight defensively to reduce the RPs lost from a defeat. I think that is interesting enough to make it worth keeping. However, a player should probably not suffer a MOP against a resistance, the resistance should be picked to be multiple opponent worthy.

This makes sense, but it is never how I have read the rules as written.

Like @jrutila, I have been confused about the MOP rules as written in HQ2 and HQG. HQG, pp. 81-82 explicitly addresses *players* as the ones subject to MOP's, and then goes on to discuss how having followers may affect those penalties. HQG p. 107 talks about bunching militias and war gangs together into a single resistance. I feel like there's nothing in the rules as currently written to square this circle. (And I just realized that @JonL said this earlier and better than I.)

Again, the more explicit you can be, and the more directly you can address players and GM's, the better.

Edited by Garwalf
Forgot to credit another participant.

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On 11/28/2018 at 4:48 AM, Ian Cooper said:

So, the game has gone through some eras of understanding....

Nowadays I would suggest that judicious usage of stretch penalties that have a little more oomph i.e. -3. -6. -9, -W might be a better tool, and we can then discard this rule, which is confusing.

I definitely like the idea of having one stretch penalty rule rather than separate rules for stretches and for specific ability bonuses.

Thanks to @Corvantir for bringing this up. This was the next thing I was going to mention (honest!) For me the big confusion was that, as written, I understood the specific ability bonuses to work in different ways, depending on the challenge:

Against a personalized opponent, specific ability bonuses/penalties depended on the participants in the contest. For example, if the hero were a Lankhor Mhy sage using her "Heortling" keyword to fight, she would be at a disadvantage fighting a Lunar soldier.

Against an abstract resistance, specific ability bonuses/penalties depended on the abilities of other heroes. So if that Lankhor Mhy sage were using her "Heortling" keyword again--this time to walk through snowy woods, she would suffer a -3 penalty if one of her companions had the "Hunter" keyword, and -6 if that companion had the "Walk through woods on snowshoes" ability.

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