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I've run into an odd problem. I'm running the Red Cow campaign (that's irrelevant though) and I have players who take very different strategies in playing. One player, an Urox, is a bit of a min-maxer. He realized early on that since Hero Points both improve your rolls and act as XP, if you spent all your HP to succeed at things, you're robbing yourself of XP. So he mostly lets the dice fall as they may (unless it REALLY matters) and saves the majority of HP for advancing his character. He also focused entirely on 2 runes (Air and Eternal Battle, obs), and has never point a point into his third one. As a result, after about 24 sessions, his best stats are just about to crest the W2 level. 

One of the other players, a Helerite,  He put points into all three of his runes (Water, Mobility, and Illusion--he also worships Donandar). He likes to succeed at rolls, and his stats are lower, so he tends to burn through his HP, leaving himself with few XPs. The result is that his best stats are in 7-8W range. I've got another player who is roughly the same boat with a Vingan.

The base difficulty is now in at 20. That means that if a test has a Moderate difficulty, the Uroxi will ace it (because he will have something like an 17 or 18 target number, and a Mastery to boost him from Success to Critical. The Helerite will have a reasonable but not great chance, because he'll have a 7 or 8 target number but a Failure will get bumped to a Success thanks to the Mastery. 

If the test has a Hard difficulty, the Uroxi will still probably ace it (Masteries cancel out and he's left with a 17 or 18 against a 6 Resistance). But the Helerite will be struggling a bit (a 7 or 8 against a 6 Resistance, Masteries cancelling out) and may well have to spend an HP. 

If the test has a Very Hard difficulty, the Uroxi will still have a decent shot (17 or 18 against a 20 resistance, Masteries cancelling out) while the Helerite will be lucky to win (a 7 or an 8 against a 20 Resistance, Masteries cancelling out) and will almost certainly have to spend a HP. 

If the test is Nearly Impossible, the Uroxi still has a chance if he spends an HP, whereas the Helerite will be hopelessly outclassed. 

In a session or two, when the Uroxi breaks the W2 level, crafting a test that will challenge the Uroxi and not blow the Helerite out of the water (or the water out of the Helerite, I suppose) will be almost impossible. So I'm facing a situation where a difference in play styles has resulted in a profound structural imbalance in the campaign. The Uroxi realizes this and has started spending his XP on stuff he doesn't really need just so he won't hopelessly outclass the Helerite. The Helerite is starting to feel left behind. I advised him to not worry as much about succeeding at rolls (I try to make failure an interesting option narratively), but if he does that, the Uroxi just outclasses him anyway. 

I could start giving the Helerite extra HPs, but that feels really obvious and calls attention to the problem in a way that I think will embarrass him. (I also award occasional Humor Points for saying or doing something that gets the whole table really laughing.) The only other option I can think of is to offer asymmetrical challenges (Moderate for the Helerite, Very Hard for the Uroxi), but that just feels like handicapping the Uroxi. 

Any thoughts on how to address this? 

 

 

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I don’t know Glorantha very well, but I gather these runes have a lot of functional overlap? As in, are they both used to overcome the same types of obstacles?

If the types of obstacles are different, then you can have a completely valid reason to use differing base difficulties.

In other games I’ve played I have always discouraged min-maxing and usually will find ways to penalize creating a lopsided character. Such as introducing obstacles outside of their skill set.

Make use of the characters flaws.

You can create opportunities do the characters who are behind by using their contacts. Characters in a story have their own story arcs, and giving them a feature is necessary sometimes. Ex: A character’s niece is kidnapped the character has to find her.

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I have the same balance problem in my Hollow Earth Expedition campaign when it comes to combat. At character creation, two players put a lot of points into fighting and action abilities while the other two players distributed their points more evenly or spent their points into abilities that are not very useful when it comes to fight. The worst thing in my opinion is that those two same players are not very creative when it comes to devise strategies that would allow them to use their best abilities at the right time.

As far as combat is concerned I balance the whole thing through the number of opponents by players. I throw a higher number of adversaries against the heavy weight fighters which means they receive multiple opponents penalties. The two good fighters take the bulk of the opposition while the two other players struggle for survival against one or two opponents. That works, the combat is still fun for everyone and it is in keeping with the characters.

The campaign is coming to its end next session. Before the next campaign, in session zero, I will include a talk about the abilities and the way they can be used. I will also be even more specific about the kind of threats one can have to face in the setting. I will then encourage them to keep that in mind when they create their character.

Before the next session, a talk with the players explaining again what abilities are and how they can be used could solve your problem. A short practicing exercise could also help. Frame several conflicts, ask them to describe several Tactics in response and encourage them to use various abilities in the process.

It takes some time to get used to HeroQuest 2, for the game master as well as the players. The players of my current campaign are used to more traditional games with skills for everything so HQ2 is a change of paradigm. For me, HQ2 is a simple but yet difficult to master game system.  After seven sessions, I am still learning how to play this game.

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Corvantir,

Something from a PbtA game I’ve seen for players that aren’t creative with their abilities is an ability that lets the player know what sort of options they have. Like “gut instincts” or “oops” where the latter let’s the player stumble upon something of significance. It’s a pretty neat mechanic and I know The Critshow guys that run monster of the week have “read a bad situation” and on a success they’ll get one or two questions such as “what’s my best way out?” And the GM presents multiple options with the risks of each. You could go out the back door but you’ll leave X alone with the monster.... etc.

 

 

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What I would do is to only use Difficulties when they are really important.

So, for example, why would you use a Hard Difficulty in HeroQuest? As HeroQuest 2 assigns ratings based on the narrative, something is only Hard if you say its Hard. By not saying it is Hard, you avoid the problem that the Helerite often fails. 

Personally, I have no sympathy for Hero Point Hoarders, the mechanic is there to allow Hero Points to be spent, if the Helerite chooses not to spend Hero Points and would prefer to fail very often, then tough.

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59 minutes ago, soltakss said:

What I would do is to only use Difficulties when they are really important.

So, for example, why would you use a Hard Difficulty in HeroQuest? As HeroQuest 2 assigns ratings based on the narrative, something is only Hard if you say its Hard. By not saying it is Hard, you avoid the problem that the Helerite often fails. 

Personally, I have no sympathy for Hero Point Hoarders, the mechanic is there to allow Hero Points to be spent, if the Helerite chooses not to spend Hero Points and would prefer to fail very often, then tough.

I think the problem is that the Helerite spends his HP and the Uroxite hoards them as xp. 

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I forgot to tell that in my HeroQuest 2, I have separated Hero Points from experience. In our campaign, the effects of Hero Points as experience became obvious after the second session or so, I thus proposed the players to change the rules. I thought the game could be more enjoyable if they were encouraged to spend their Hero Points during the session instead of hoarding them for experience. It solved my problems with Hero Points being both experience points and contest result boosters.

In my games, each player starts with 3 Hero Points that are lost if unspent. I then give the players two experience points to spend from time to time and it works fine. As far as I know, the game designers thought the players would spend something like two Hero Points after each adventure. We have played seven sessions so far and I gave them experience points twice. I am far less generous.   :)

Edited by Corvantir

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5 hours ago, Bohemond said:

I could start giving the Helerite extra HPs, but that feels really obvious and calls attention to the problem in a way that I think will embarrass him. (I also award occasional Humor Points for saying or doing something that gets the whole table really laughing.) The only other option I can think of is to offer asymmetrical challenges (Moderate for the Helerite, Very Hard for the Uroxi), but that just feels like handicapping the Uroxi. 

Any thoughts on how to address this? 

To address the "hoard" or not spend vs. spending HP's, I always provide experience for all players.  If you don't spend HP's, you can use however. If you do spend, you get to choose adding points between either: 1) what you spent HP's on; 2) where you achieved Complete Victory; 3) where you had a critical and achieved a Major Victory; or 4) some really good roleplaying event. If you spent 1 or 2 HP's, then it's something of a mix.

That said, I still get imbalance where I have heroes with masteries on specific abilities (picking up that bonus) and augmented by other abilities with mastery level (getting +5/+6 bonus), so even a very high difficulty is pretty even (but out of the question for those who are using base keywords). 

For combat, I use one of the following techniques: 1) a very high difficulty opponent facing the high-level hero with lower minions facing others; 2) multiple foes attacking the high-level hero and forcing the multiple foe penalty (which could include an allied spirit of the main foe); 3) some tactic that prevents the high-level hero from leveraging their advantage and forcing use of a lower-level ability.

For non-combat, I try to vary events and needs so that everyone can draw on their strengths (and sometimes that forces the high-level hero to use other abilities that are quite low). Also take advantage of flaws.  In some non-combat situations, you could "flip" the situation so that the high-level abilities have to become Assists (e.g. in a social situation, the "combat" ability becomes a means of Intimidation to help the merchant or noble bargaining with the clan chief).  

You could also do a variation of the Group Simple contest, where instead of a common difficulty, the obstacles are of differing difficulties that cater to the skills of each.

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I don't think that hoarding HPs is a bad thing. The game actually encourages it a little with its principle that failure should be as interesting narratively as success. The purpose of HPs is to give players a choice about where they want to fight the dice rolls and where they want to just go with the dice. 

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I would not use the advancement rules as written for a long campaign, for the exact reason that inspired this thread. 

The QuestWorlds development feedback thread has some good discussion around this. In particular, here's how I would handle a long campaign:

On 10/8/2018 at 9:13 AM, JonL said:

More broadly WRT advancement, I've increasingly come to favor something inspired by RQ/Pendragon checks, the Organic Improvement option presented in Nameless Streets, and some aspects of how Rolemaster awards XP.

If in the course of play, you use an ability in a contest and achieve a Victory or Defeat result that is not Marginal, check it. At the end of the session, roll the ability in a contest against itself to determine advancement (per Nameless Streets) or forgo that option and select a new ability, whether stand-alone or breakout.

This indirectly still turns HP into advancement, as spending them will often mean boosting Victory-grade above Marginal. It also kills the optimal keyword advancement strategy cold. Further, I really like giving out the checks for significant Defeats, as that very much mirrors how things work in both fiction and real life. If anything, you learn more from your failures.

If one wanted to tune this concept for slower advancement, only give out checks for Major & Complete results (much like Pendragon only gives checks on criticals).

In keeping with the cementing-benefits proposal, cementing a benefit could also be an option in-lieu of an advancement check.

 

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1 hour ago, JonL said:

I would not use the advancement rules as written for a long campaign, for the exact reason that inspired this thread. 

I agree. The idea that everying balances out is ludicrous, and seting the difficulty of taks based upon the duration of the campaign, is a formula for disaster. What if a group rolled bad and spent a lot of HPs of die rolls and fell behind the advancement curve? 

. Rather that use an increasing scale of difficulty based upon the number of game sessions, which promotes this exact problem, instead set challenged based upon the abilities of the character(s) who is going to be challenged. So if you want to challenge an Uroxi with W2 abilities, give him opponents that can challenge him, and less powerful opponents to the other characters. 

Also, don't be afraid to hit the Uroxi in any one of his multitude of weakspots (between the ears?) to try and get him to spread out his advancement into more areas, rather than just concentrating on a few areas. If ther PC has to spend HPs to broaden his character it will slow his advancement in his primary areas and help to mitigate the problem. 

Basically, either be accident or design, the player is exploring a loophole/weakness in the ruleset, and as GM you have to find a way to plug the hole for the good of the campaign- Preferably without alienating the player, who really isn't doing anything wrong.  Transparency helps here too. If you explain to the player what the problem is that can often help. Good players will usually make adjustments for the betterment of the campaign. 

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Our current SRD model for hp and experience has changed. A summary would be: GM awards players up to 5HP in a session for overcoming obstacles, good role-playing etc. They can spend them, or turn them into XP if unspent at the end of the game. Once you get 10HP, you can buy a package of increases.

It's modeled on the system in Prince Valiant (with the added HP twist).

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16 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Our current SRD model for hp and experience has changed. A summary would be: GM awards players up to 5HP in a session for overcoming obstacles, good role-playing etc. They can spend them, or turn them into XP if unspent at the end of the game. Once you get 10HP, you can buy a package of increases.

It's modeled on the system in Prince Valiant (with the added HP twist).

Is this going to be the only system presented, or is it just the default among several possible options? I know there's plenty of people out there, myself included, who really dislike systems where hero/action/fate points and experience/advancement are the same resource -- though it's no trouble to house rule, e.g. "Unspent HP disappear at the end of a session, and you get an increase package at the end of every third session," so it's not a huge deal. Just curious.

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On 3/5/2019 at 12:33 PM, Arkat said:

I know there's plenty of people out there, myself included, who really dislike systems where hero/action/fate points and experience/advancement are the same resource. 

Why don't you like that? I'm not opposed to that view, just curious as to the reasons why you dislike that.

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22 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Why don't you like that? I'm not opposed to that view, just curious as to the reasons why you dislike that.

I'm not sure I can explain it well; I think a lot of it is just a strong personal preference. I know it's not the case for everyone, but I personally find picking between short-term success and long-term advancement a very irritating choice, rather than an interesting one. It can also lead to very different levels of advancement for different PCs depending both on their natural tendency to spend/hoard points and on how well they roll. (See the opening post of this topic.) Of all RPG experience systems with which I have familiarity, it is probably my least favorite.

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I try to embrace the idea that failure should be as narratively interesting as success. So I try not to make any serious challenges where failure is either totally catastrophic or boring. I came up in the old 80s-style "roll dice for every little thing" approach, so I find HQ's approach liberating. 

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Okay, I can see your point. So to get around that you would need to have a separate method for awarding or replenishing Hero Points.

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The problem I see with Hero Points being both Conflict Result Boosters and Experience Points is that it offers a boring choice, in my opinion of course. In other words, you either increase the result of a roll now while playing or either keep the same Hero Point to increase an ability once the game is over.

Besides that, sometimes it sucks to fail especially when your character is under the spotlight and it should be his turn to shine. At other times, a Hero Point can make the difference between resisting a few more exchanges or waiting passively while your comrades have fun with an ongoing conflict you have just been expelled from. Moreover, when a player puts a lot of points in action abilities, there are a lot of chances he will have spared Hero Points at the end of the session while a less action oriented character will be left without any Hero Point if he get caught in a fight.

So when fate isn't on your side, is it really fun to chose between spending a Hero Point and forfeiting a chance to raise an ability? I think it isn't and that the game is better when the players can spend their Hero Points freely.

That is only my point of view of course, but it is shared by my players.

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17 hours ago, Corvantir said:

The problem I see with Hero Points being both Conflict Result Boosters and Experience Points is that it offers a boring choice, in my opinion of course. In other words, you either increase the result of a roll now while playing or either keep the same Hero Point to increase an ability once the game is over.

I don't see it as a boring choice, more as a feature, and something of a secondary reward for clever play. Plus by making HPs come at the cost of improvement keeps them in check. But that's just my preference. 

17 hours ago, Corvantir said:

Besides that, sometimes it sucks to fail especially when your character is under the spotlight and it should be his turn to shine.

Yup. But, on the other hand, if a character always shines when under the spotlight, is also boring. If the risk of failure and the consequence that go with failing that keep things exciting.  

17 hours ago, Corvantir said:

So when fate isn't on your side, is it really fun to chose between spending a Hero Point and forfeiting a chance to raise an ability?

Actually it is. Making tough choices and accomplishing difficult things are what makes gaming fun. If all the choices are easy and the tasks simple then the players can just "phone it it" and lose interest. That's why I'm not fond os completely linear adventures and so called "balanced" (they're not, they are most definitely unbalanced encounters) encounters. 

17 hours ago, Corvantir said:

I think it isn't and that the game is better when the players can spend their Hero Points freely.

That is only my point of view of course, but it is shared by my players.

Try it. But be warned that too much of a good thing isn't good.

I'd suggest that if you go that route you should work out a reward rate for Hero Points  and then when players spend them they are gone. You will want to keep Hero Points fairly rare or else the players can start spending them like water, and then still won't have any left over when under the spotlight and it is their turn to shrine. I've seen a lot of that in the D6 system. Since the players know they will get points back or that more are coming they end up wasting quite a few on rolls that they want to succeed at, often trivial stuff. Then when crunch time comes, they are out of points to spend. If they have more points? Then they just waste more and still don't have any for when they need them. 

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On 3/5/2019 at 5:33 PM, Arkat said:

Is this going to be the only system presented, or is it just the default among several possible options? I know there's plenty of people out there, myself included, who really dislike systems where hero/action/fate points and experience/advancement are the same resource -- though it's no trouble to house rule, e.g. "Unspent HP disappear at the end of a session, and you get an increase package at the end of every third session," so it's not a huge deal. Just curious.

I experimented with presenting different systems, and play-tested some, but this one proved the most satisfactory. There is nothing to stop anyone publishing their own preferred systems, but after much toying around, this seemed to work best.

Yes, some folks don't like two aspects: hero points going to good play tends to reinforce dominant players over quiet ones, and the trade between hero points and experience points annoys others.

But all other systems had their own set of weaknesses, and many seemed to drift away from the goals of HeroQuest as a game i.e. lots of bookkeeping required, or not flexible enough to support abilities that didn't come up in play so that they fell behind etc.

 

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An alternative to spending hero points in all but name would be to take a lasting disadvantage for bumping a roll (something like a disability that may either be kept or bought off with HP or possibly some kind of in-game activity not quite in line with character expectations). That way the player can decide when or whether to buy off that disadvantage, or whether to make it a new defining trait of the character.

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On 3/13/2019 at 4:46 PM, Atgxtg said:

I don't see it as a boring choice, more as a feature, and something of a secondary reward for clever play. Plus by making HPs come at the cost of improvement keeps them in check. But that's just my preference. 

Yup. But, on the other hand, if a character always shines when under the spotlight, is also boring. If the risk of failure and the consequence that go with failing that keep things exciting.  

Actually it is. Making tough choices and accomplishing difficult things are what makes gaming fun. If all the choices are easy and the tasks simple then the players can just "phone it it" and lose interest. That's why I'm not fond os completely linear adventures and so called "balanced" (they're not, they are most definitely unbalanced encounters) encounters. 

Try it. But be warned that too much of a good thing isn't good.

I'd suggest that if you go that route you should work out a reward rate for Hero Points  and then when players spend them they are gone. You will want to keep Hero Points fairly rare or else the players can start spending them like water, and then still won't have any left over when under the spotlight and it is their turn to shrine. I've seen a lot of that in the D6 system. Since the players know they will get points back or that more are coming they end up wasting quite a few on rolls that they want to succeed at, often trivial stuff. Then when crunch time comes, they are out of points to spend. If they have more points? Then they just waste more and still don't have any for when they need them. 

You know Atgxtg, you are right about everything. There is a fine balance to find and it depends on many things. If using Hero Points as in the rules is fine for you and creates the balance you like, there is no need to change anything.

But as far as I am concerned, Hero Points are not about winning everytime, they are about having fun. Embracing failure is something you are willing to do or you are not. Without Hero Points a player is forced to embrace failure, with Hero Points it becomes a choice. Do you like to be forced to do something, I can tell you I don't. There are times I chose to let fate hit my character because it is fun to deal with a given failure, but sometimes I chose not to and I spend a Hero Point. When a failure is not fun, I don't see why I would have to chose between having fun and hoarding a HP so that I can spend it later to increase or earn an ability.

We have tried to play with the rules as written and it is simply less fun than allowing the players to freely spend their points. And the Hero Points don't prevent them from failure. Hit them hard and they will have to spend their points to survive. Hit the big league fighter harder and he will spend his Hero Points like the others, one by one until there is none left. At this point, the player is in the hands of fate again, the risk of failure is present, there is no more a safety net. In my games, spending Hero Points like that helps build the tension.

Randomness produces great results but it can also produce stupid or uninteresting results that a Hero Point can fix. Sometimes, spending a Hero Point on a minor challenge is important for the character, like a show of skill for the panache, why restricting the player? Spend it!

In our current campaign, "Hero Points separated from experience" is a Maximum Game Fun rule, there is nothing you can do about it.   ;)

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4 hours ago, Corvantir said:

You know Atgxtg, you are right about everything.

No, I doubt that. I could be wrong though. ;)

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There is a fine balance to find and it depends on many things.

But as far as I am concerned, Hero Points are not about winning everytime, they are about having fun. Embracing failure is something you are willing to do or you are not. Without Hero Points a player is forced to embrace failure, with Hero Points it becomes a choice. Do you like to be forced to do something, I can tell you I don't. There are times I chose to let fate hit my character because it is fun to deal with a given failure, but sometimes I chose not to and I spend a Hero Point. When a failure is not fun, I don't see why I would have to chose between having fun and hoarding a HP so that I can spend it later to increase or earn an ability.

If they can avoid failure whenever they would like to, then they don;t run any risk of failure, so whats to keep them interested? 

I get where your coming from, but you need failure, or at least sell the players on the illusion of failure YOu got an infinite number of options of how to do that, but if they know that they can't fail anything important then the game becomes predicable and the players will know that they won't fail, when it matter, and their victories will ring hollow because they will;know that the outcome was a forgone conclusion. 

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We have tried to play with the rules as written and it is simply less fun than allowing the players to freely spend their points. And the Hero Points don't prevent them from failure. Hit them hard and they will have to spend their points to survive. Hit the big league fighter harder and he will spend his Hero Points like the others, one by one until there is none left. At this point, the player is in the hands of fate again, the risk of failure is present, there is no more a safety net. In my games, spending Hero Points like that helps build the tension.

That fine as long as the players get the feeling that they have more things that they want to spend Hero Points on that they have Hero Point to spend. If you don't used HP for character advancement then you will need to work out how Hero Points get awarded and how many.  There is nothing wrong with that, but you will have to figure out what the right amount of points to hand out in order to allow the [players enough points to have fun and also keep enough in reserve for the big fights.

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Randomness produces great results but it can also produce stupid or uninteresting results that a Hero Point can fix. Sometimes, spending a Hero Point on a minor challenge is important for the character, like a show of skill for the panache, why restricting the player? Spend it!

Why restrict the players? For the greater good of the game. It much like when a character dies or a group gets wiped out or some other really bad happens. Dos that suck? Yup! Would the players want things to work out differently , definitely. But is the chance that something like that could happen that keeps things exciting. Once that chance goes away so does the excitement.

In my current group the old DM (tells you what game he was running) used to fudge things to ensure a desired outcome. Eventually the players caught on and realized that their decisions and actions didn't matter because in the end the DM would just fix things to work out the way he wanted them to. That pretty much took all the fun out it for them. However you house rule it, just be sure to avoid that type of mess. 

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In our current campaign, "Hero Points separated from experience" is a Maximum Game Fun rule, there is nothing you can do about it.   ;)

Max game fun is a good rule, it the fundamental principle behind all gaming.  Just be sure you don't kill it with too many Hero Points. Now just how many are too many? You will have to figure that out, but I'd advise you to go easy at first because it will be harder for you to backtrack the amount later than it will be to increase it. Player hate it when the GM takes stuff away, but rarely complain when the GM gives them more stuff. 

 

I don't know if you are familiar with the archaic term "Monty Haul Dungeon" but it what I'm trying to warn you about. 

Edited by Atgxtg

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