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jrutila

Extended Contest: use or not to use?

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Before this conversation erupts in the wrong thread, let's continue the discussion here in its own thread (not sure if there was already a thread somewhere in the backlog).

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I really like the EC. It has multiple times (timed right) given players something to be excited and uncertain about.

As the idea of EC is just, instead of a simple contest, give the contest more meaning the timing is crucial. When the players are reaching the "middle climax" I usually toss in the extended contest and we spend little more time concentrating on that contest. I also use the Rising and Climactic consequences to spin the story more.

And a couple of hints about using EC:

  •  Combat doesn't automatically mean to use EC
  • Really concentrate the back-and-forth that happens due to EC in the contest. Don't just roll but discuss with the players where the story is going after every round.

I haven't read the Nameless Streets yet and the Chained Simple Contests but to me, they sound that instead of those you could just run an Extended Contest.

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7 hours ago, jrutila said:

I haven't read the Nameless Streets yet and the Chained Simple Contests but to me, they sound that instead of those you could just run an Extended Contest.

Chained Simple was introduced in Mythic Russia, not Nameless Streets, which is good, as the former is still available. :) 

I prefer to refer to that approach as "Serial" rather than "Chained," but the idea is the same.

Both approaches have merit, and I use each of them in turn depending upon which I find best suited to the situation at hand.

Either one is something to do when interest and excitement in the game would benefit from "zooming-in" from overall conflict-level resolution to more detailed task-level resolution.

I am more likely to use Extended Contests when...

  • The conflict is a climactic set-piece confrontation (battle, debate, duel, fiddle-contest, race, dance-off, etc.)
  • I want the pace/length/#-of-exchanges to be governed by the Result Point spread.
  • I want the increasing threat of consequences hanging over the PCs raising tension as the exchanges progress.
  • The feel of play benefits from dramatic reversals, coming from behind, and incentivizing assists.
  • The time frame of the contest is long-term, perhaps even spanning multiple sessions, such as a courtship, war, political campaign, struggle with addiction, magical research, etc.
  • The players are familiar and comfortable enough with conflict-based resolution to conceptualize the series of exchanges as a single contest.

I am more likely to use Serial Simple Contests when...

  • Zooming-in on the fly in response to player interest and developments in the moment.
  • I want the conflict to be open ended, with as few or many exchanges as makes sense as they unfold.
  • I want a grittier/grinding feel with consequences taking effect immediately with each exchange.
  • The feel of play benefits from momentum/death-spiral effects as bonuses/penalties accrue throughout.
  • The time frame of the conflict is a single scene, or series of back-to-back events in a single play session.
  • The players are still new to conflict-based resolution and more easily conceptualize the exchanges as discrete events. 

 

7 hours ago, jrutila said:

Combat doesn't automatically mean to use EC

I recall the look of surprise and delight on a first-time HQ player's face when we resolved a skirmish early in the adventure with a single Group Simple Contest and he said, "That's amazing! In my Pathfinder game last week, we got into a fight with some Goblins and it ended up taking the whole night." The flexibility to zoom-in to moments of key interest or excitement as desired and get conflicts done-in-one when you want to keep things moving is a huge strength of the system.  

Edited by JonL
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Yeah, I think both approaches have merits and it depends on the circumstances and needs of the story. Extended costs can be good when you want to build up tension, stuff like can they defuse the bomb in time, can often play out better as an extended contest with some sort of timer ticking down. Likewise, somethings are better handled if they are resolved quickly, with a single contest. 

 

One of the nice things about the rules is that there is little to no difference between the two, and that the GM can decide which method to use. 

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57 minutes ago, JonL said:

I recall the look of surprise and delight on a first-time HQ player's face when we resolved a skirmish early in the adventure with a single Group Simple Contest and he said, "That's amazing! In my Pathfinder game last week, we got into a fight with some Goblins and it ended up taking the whole night." The flexibility to zoom-in to moments of key interest or excitement as desired and get conflicts done-in-one when you want to keep things moving is a huge strength of the system.  

True, but that is partly due to emphasis. Pathfinder, like most D&D games revolves around combat, with everything else being a sideline. Look at Heroic Age for instance, even the Gloranthan version. Everything is geared towards the fights. It less that you cannot resolve a conflict quickly in Pathfinder, but that you were never supposed to. 

In HQ, non-combat encounters can be important, and social conflict can be just as important, with equally important contests. I think it's the shift in emphasis that allow allows for a single contest to resolve a fight.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

True, but that is partly due to emphasis. Pathfinder, like most D&D games revolves around combat, with everything else being a sideline. Look at Heroic Age for instance, even the Gloranthan version. Everything is geared towards the fights. It less that you cannot resolve a conflict quickly in Pathfinder, but that you were never supposed to. 

Games like that are of course meant to be what they are. I participated in the Pathfinder 2e playtest earlier this year, and mostly enjoyed it. There were some battles that slogged on for hours though, which while not horrible also wasn't particularly exciting after a while.

The player I quoted's point though (by way of further context), was that the encounter with the Gobs was meant to be an incidental one - that instead unintentionally consumed the entire session. The DM could have of course averted that via Rule Zero, but if you run a crunchy game more or less by the book it's a thing that can happen.

HQ by contrast explicitly gives us these tools for dialing the detail up and down to suit taste and need, which I greatly appreciate.

Edited by JonL

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1 hour ago, JonL said:

Games like that are of course meant to be what they are. I participated in the Pathfinder 2e playtest earlier this year, and mostly enjoyed it. There were some battles that slogged on for hours though, which while not horrible also wasn't particularly exciting after a while.

Yeah. There is nothing wrong with that, and a lot (most?) gamers enjoy and prefer that style of play. Personally, I prefer my long battles to have more meaning to them beyond "encounter of the week". 

 

Quote

The player I quoted's point though (by way of further context), was that the encounter with the Gobs was meant to be an incidental one - that instead unintentionally consumed the entire session. The DM could have of course averted that via Rule Zero, but if you run a crunchy game more or less by the book it's a thing that can happen.

Yeah. My group were playing a lot of D&D and were kinda getting annoyed with some of the long fights. Generally speaking you tend to reach a point where the conflict is decided long before the fight actually ends. It's like fighting a war when you know the leaders are ironing out the peace treaty, or leaving in your star players at a sporting event at the end of a blowout.  

Quote

HQ by contrast explicitly gives us these tools for dialing the detail up and down to suit taste and need, which I greatly appreciate.

Yeah, but again I think it is less tools and more technique. You don't have to play out every sword swing. The same holds true for games like RuneQuest or Pendragon, where characters can surrender (or run away) as opposed to fighting to their last breath. Or even games like Call of Cthulhu where the PCs (should) learn quickly not to try and trade blows with all the Mythos nasties. 

Edited by Atgxtg

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My perspective is as follows. You have to grok the shift from task based resolution to conflict based resolution to understand when to use them.

My usual example: you are breaking in to the princess's town house to steal her necklace. You have to scale the wall, sneak through the tiger-haunted garden, pick the locks, get past the guards to her bedroom, and take the necklace before she wakes.

If the player is excited about planning this, preparing drugged meat for the tigers, using their grappling gun to scale the wall, silently killing the guards with their blowpipe etc. then it is an extended contest. Playing it out is interesting. Look for a complex plan, with steps, to pull it off. Or consider that the player might have I try A, but if that fails B going on.

Otherwise a simple contest.

It is about how interesting it will be to delve into the details.

But of course pacing may trump this. We don't have time for this, or there is only one player involved and other players may lose focus as the spotlight lingers on one player too long.

 

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18 minutes ago, Ian Cooper said:

My usual example: you are breaking in to the princess's town house to steal her necklace. You have to scale the wall, sneak through the tiger-haunted garden, pick the locks, get past the guards to her bedroom, and take the necklace before she wakes.

If the player is excited about planning this, preparing drugged meat for the tigers, using their grappling gun to scale the wall, silently killing the guards with their blowpipe etc. then it is an extended contest. Playing it out is interesting. Look for a complex plan, with steps, to pull it off. Or consider that the player might have I try A, but if that fails B going on.

I recall one of @Newt's neater ideas in Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Dungeoneering was to define a dungeon as a series of key challenges (traps, puzzles, hazards, monsters, etc.) and run the entire thing as an extended contest where the goal is to retrieve/destroy the McGuffin, rescue the Heir, or whatever. I'd like to try that approach sometime.

Edited by JonL
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Yeah, player interest is key. It's also why combat tends to be the man focus in most RPGs. It's an easy thing to hook the players into, and there are rewards and consequences that the players care about (treasure, survival, character improvement). Provided that the players have a vested interest in the outcome, any conflict can be worth treating as an extended contest.

1 hour ago, JonL said:

I recall one of @Newt's neater ideas in Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Dungeoneering was to define a dungeon as a series of key challenges (traps, puzzles, hazards, monsters, etc.) and run the entire thing as an extended contest where the goal is to retrieve/destroy the McGuffin, rescue the Heir, or whatever. I'd like to try that approach sometime.

Interesting. Did they make any allowances for changing the ability used during the extended contest, or just the standard ability plus three augments?

Edited by Atgxtg
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15 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Interesting. Did they make any allowances for changing the ability used during the extended contest, or just the standard ability plus three augments?

I don't recall there being that level of mechanical detail, it being a Little Book after all, though it seems implicit in the premise.

It actually never occurred to me that players might have to use the same ability for each exchange in an Extended Contest. Changing tactics and approaches in response to unfolding events just seemed like a natural thing. A quick check of the EC section in HQG finds mention choosing an ability at the beginning, but doesn't say anything about it thereafter either way.

I do notice though that in the Auroch Hills play example, Vargast switches from using Thane to "I am the Thunderer!" mid-battle (though that AP has some issues). 

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2 hours ago, JonL said:

It actually never occurred to me that players might have to use the same ability for each exchange in an Extended Contest. Changing tactics and approaches in response to unfolding events just seemed like a natural thing. A quick check of the EC section in HQG finds mention choosing an ability at the beginning, but doesn't say anything about it thereafter either way.

I recorded this to the "Bring your dead" -thread. Good catch.

Overall this thread has good pointers about when and how to use extended contest but not one saying why one should not use them, ever. I am not trying to ignite any flame war but am interested in the reasons behind this. Maybe it would help us using them to use them also more properly.

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5 minutes ago, jrutila said:

I recorded this to the "Bring your dead" -thread. Good catch.

Overall this thread has good pointers about when and how to use extended contest but not one saying why one should not use them, ever. I am not trying to ignite any flame war but am interested in the reasons behind this. Maybe it would help us using them to use them also more properly.

If @soltakss doesn't mind me paraphrasing, ECs take a perfectly simple and smoothly running mechanic and needlessly complicate it with point-counting, extra table look-ups and other unnecessary bits that break you out of the flow of play and don't necessarily make for a more fun game experience.

While I don't share his perspective that there is never a time when the extra overhead is worthwhile, he is neither wrong in his critique of the trade-offs involved nor that he never finds them  worth the bother.

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6 hours ago, JonL said:

It actually never occurred to me that players might have to use the same ability for each exchange in an Extended Contest. Changing tactics and approaches in response to unfolding events just seemed like a natural thing. A quick check of the EC section in HQG finds mention choosing an ability at the beginning, but doesn't say anything about it thereafter either way.

My players have used both.  Sometimes consistently using the same ability throughout, sometimes switching tactics if one route didn't seem to work.  I just go with whatever they feel fits the situation.

3 hours ago, JonL said:

ECs take a perfectly simple and smoothly running mechanic and needlessly complicate it with point-counting, extra table look-ups and other unnecessary bits that break you out of the flow of play and don't necessarily make for a more fun game experience.

I use and enjoy both simple and extended contests.  The climax of the session is always extended - makes the players feel like their heroes have really earned the rewards (and usually much more dramatic and nail-biting).  Usually the peak of the Rising Action is also extended as it offers an important mid-point event.

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17 hours ago, JonL said:

If @soltakss doesn't mind me paraphrasing, ECs take a perfectly simple and smoothly running mechanic and needlessly complicate it with point-counting, extra table look-ups and other unnecessary bits that break you out of the flow of play and don't necessarily make for a more fun game experience.

While I don't share his perspective that there is never a time when the extra overhead is worthwhile, he is neither wrong in his critique of the trade-offs involved nor that he never finds them  worth the bother.

Yeah, all methods are supposed to help enhance the gaming experience, not detract from it. While ECs can do what soltakss said, simple contest can also detect from the game byresolving things too quickly, reducing drama and tension and make things anti-climatic.  Yes ECs can be overused, can slow things down and detract from play, but that true of anything that adds complexity to a game. conversely they can also enhance it.  You could make the same claim about keywords or ability scores in general, or the differences between cultures. Doesn't mean those things don't enhance the game too in some way. Same with ECs.

There are reasons why and entire fight isn't decided with one opposed roll in virtually every RPG. So I agree with you ECs have their time and place. It's the GMs job to work out when that is.

 

 

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This is completely a personal view and is probably irrational.

For me, Extended Contests are "We want people who like to play RuneQuest to feel comfortable with HeroQuest", so it emulates a big RuneQuest Combat. If I wanted that, I'd use RuneQuest, which I do each and every week.

Extended Contests bog the game down, in my opinion. They don't have a good feel and they end up with a bidding process that I don't understand and don't like.

I much prefer to have chained Simple Contests. 

In group combats, it comes down to a roll - Us against Them. "Us" gets a skill that is augmented by everyone, as do "Them", then we roll.

Sure, it loses a lot of granularity, but HeroQuest does that anyway.

Where the Players want things done in more detail, we break the contest down into steps and resolve each one individually, with the effect of one carrying over to the next. It is more rolls, but gives a nice resolution at the end.

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On 11/28/2018 at 8:42 PM, JonL said:

If @soltakss doesn't mind me paraphrasing, ECs take a perfectly simple and smoothly running mechanic and needlessly complicate it with point-counting, extra table look-ups and other unnecessary bits that break you out of the flow of play and don't necessarily make for a more fun game experience.

Exactly.

I can do anything I need with HeroQuest without Extended Contests and haven't used them for years. In fact, I ran a LightBringer Quest for around a year using HeroQuest 1 with no Extended Contests, traipsing through Hell.

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3 hours ago, soltakss said:

Extended Contests bog the game down, in my opinion. They don't have a good feel and they end up with a bidding process that I don't understand and don't like.

I much prefer to have chained Simple Contests.

Ah right. An earlier term Robin used, which we may bring back was a long contest, of which there could be scored contests (as current in HeroQuest)  or extended (old method with APs). TBH I think that you are using a long contest approach, just a chained contest in this example.

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I'd be curious to hear more about chained Simple Contests, maybe with some examples. Is it zooming in more at a 'task' level (thinking more traditional exchange of blows in a combat scenario for instance)? If so how does it flow? And what values/resources are used to represent damage/status?

 

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

Extended Contests bog the game down, in my opinion. They don't have a good feel and they end up with a bidding process that I don't understand and don't like.

Not sure what 'bidding process' you're referencing, but maybe that's something from HQ1?  There's no bidding process that I've ever encountered in HQG.

My Extended Contests resolve in roughly 4-5 'rounds', and I've never found they bog the game down.  As I've noted before, they are climactic events.  They provide a tension and drama, with an opportunity for things to go back and forth that I don't find a Simple Contest provides.  They provide opportunities for Assists to help someone recover in the midst of the event, or for a shift in focus/try something new to alter the contest, or for a last ditch use of a Hero Point to swing events more favorably.  

5 hours ago, soltakss said:

If I wanted that, I'd use RuneQuest, which I do each and every week.

I run RuneQuest as well and that has its own feel.  

With HeroQuest, I want the narrative to flow like a story - at key points, the narrative focuses in on something more intense and more extended, so they work for me.

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17 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Ah right. An earlier term Robin used, which we may bring back was a long contest, of which there could be scored contests (as current in HeroQuest)  or extended (old method with APs). TBH I think that you are using a long contest approach, just a chained contest in this example.

Yes, exactly, a Long Contest, I like that term.

It suits things like a long seduction, or political jockeying, something that has a series of events that build up to a conclusion.

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14 hours ago, jajagappa said:

Not sure what 'bidding process' you're referencing, but maybe that's something from HQ1?  There's no bidding process that I've ever encountered in HQG.

To be honest, I have never played HQ2, or HQG.

HQ2 confused me and HQG, which was meant to make it simpler, confused me even more.

I think I'm easily confused.

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21 hours ago, soltakss said:

Exactly.

I can do anything I need with HeroQuest without Extended Contests and haven't used them for years. In fact, I ran a LightBringer Quest for around a year using HeroQuest 1 with no Extended Contests, traipsing through Hell.

The whole Quest wasn't one contest though.

 

21 hours ago, soltakss said:

I much prefer to have chained Simple Contests. 

Works as well. I think there has to be some method of keeping a conflict going for more than one round. 

I mean, you could resolve the entire Hero Wars with just one simple contest ( "Fumble, okay the Lunars lost."), but that doesn't leave much room for roleplaying.  

 

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26 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

The whole Quest wasn't one contest though.

Nope, it was a campaign, made up of scenarios, each Station was a Scenario and consisted of a lot of conflict, trouble, friend-making, enemy-making and so on. 

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It could be kinda neat if there were certain cirumstances where the 3 agument limit was relaxed. Maybe add other characters together  as part of some sort of Leader skill? 

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