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Corvantir

Extended Contests: introducing some tactic or shortening them

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7 hours ago, Aprewett said:

But still no one as really answered my question about what happens if the ghoul wins the extended competition. Is it a total party kill. The advice seems to be no, you twist it narratively to the story to keep it interesting. But the rules don’t point to this way. They say - Players; name the prize, name the tactics and then the GM secretly does the same. So I don’t think to myself ‘kill enemy and eat them’, but some other softer option, based on advice here. But at some point this is not going to be the case. The big climatic monster does want to kill and eat. There is no advice on this outcome, but to find some softly resolution.

Sure, you could say "The Ghoul has won a Complete Victory and starts eating you, you are all dead". Well done, you get to roll up new characters,

Or, you could say "The Ghoul has won a Complete Victory and leaves you tied up in a dirty cellar, while he eats someone he has prepared earlier. He leaves, but you know that Ghouls are always hungry and will probably eat one of you when it gets back. What are you going to do?" 

Both are reasonable results from a Complete Victory. One has absolutely no drama, the other has a lot of dramatic tension.

7 hours ago, Aprewett said:

Where is the threat to the players.

For me, the threat to the PCs is what could have happened, rather than what happens.

My HeroQuest style is making things dangerous without them being deadly. That is different from RQ2's "You roll up a PC, it dies, you roll up another PC, it dies, you roll up another PC ...".

I suppose it all depends on what you are used to and what you, and your players, want out of the game.

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20 hours ago, Aprewett said:

My confusion came from page 58 of HQG that states the GM also Frames the outcome - secretly. I have seen other advise by veterans of the system that does not match the as written rules. Which is fine but leads to confusion when you read threads that don’t match the text.

Good catch! Haven't read the rules for a while and it indeed says this ("The Game Master then secretly makes the same determination for the opposition, if any"). On the other hand, starting on page 64 (Consequences), the rule book does not say anything about the opposition (GM) getting what it wants. That statement (on page 58) sounds quite HQ1-ish. I would be ready to guess it is some kind of blast from the past there. And, of course, GM thinking about what the opposition wants and its tactics might help roleplay the contest. But the goal of the opposition is not present in the final consequences of the contest.

There has been the discussion about official HQ errata but I hope we don't go there in this thread.

@Ian Cooper might tell us if this wording is changed in the SRD?

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Well, for this situations I have another house rule (yes probably I have too many house rules) similar to what says @soltakss .

Obviously it's a good house rule for the kind of play I aim to. I want to make the playing characters (the protagonists) to explore some themes and to have an interesting adventure (like in novels). So having a protagonist dying at random (in the worst case) but also in an important but no climatic scene it's something negative to me.

 

The house rule I introduced is that the life of the protagonists can be the price for a conflict only if they agree. When the life of the protagonists is not involved I frame the outcome of the adversaries as the handbook suggests.

Yes the threat of death is not always present but there are so many other things that can go wrong in the outcome of a conflict that the story is always interesting. 

And in years I use this rules in many rpgs with a contest resolution similar to Heroquest, I have been always happy with this solution.

 

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So I could go with the idea that even with a player defeat, I can still rule it’s a victory but just not the sort of outcome the players may have had at the start. Maybe some important gear is damaged in the melee etc. Need to come up with interesting complications.

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2 minutes ago, Aprewett said:

So I could go with the idea that even with a player defeat, I can still rule it’s a victory but just not the sort of outcome the players may have had at the start. Maybe some important gear is damaged in the melee etc. Need to come up with interesting complications.

I wouldn't call it a victory, as the players do not get the prize, which was the ultimate goal of the contest. But yes, the defeat may not as deadly as it could be (depends on the Most Game Fun objective used by the player group).

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1 hour ago, Aprewett said:

So I could go with the idea that even with a player defeat, I can still rule it’s a victory but just not the sort of outcome the players may have had at the start. Maybe some important gear is damaged in the melee etc. Need to come up with interesting complications.

This is called the Costly Success (p. 108). In normal contest the players should not get what they were looking for. For example:

You try to kill the ghoul. In victory you kill it, in defeat you don't. If there is no interesting story branches behind the ghoul surviving, you can rule costly success and that the ghoul dies in the defeat but the magic sword they were using to kill it is now broken (lingering penalty etc).

Don't use the costly success on extended contests, though. If they are EC'ing about the ghoul the stakes should be high enough that failure (ghoul not dying) is an interesting story branch.

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On 5/6/2019 at 2:51 AM, jrutila said:

@Ian Cooper might tell us if this wording is changed in the SRD?

Yeah the SRD will be clear that the outcome of the contest is focused on the result for the PCs and the GM interprets what it means for the resistance. If it is PC vs. PC is the only time that it must be symmetrical.

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6 hours ago, Ian Cooper said:

Yeah the SRD will be clear that the outcome of the contest is focused on the result for the PCs and the GM interprets what it means for the resistance. If it is PC vs. PC is the only time that it must be symmetrical.

Hopefully I'll see it before I retire.

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On 5/11/2019 at 4:37 AM, Ian Cooper said:

Yeah the SRD will be clear that the outcome of the contest is focused on the result for the PCs and the GM interprets what it means for the resistance. If it is PC vs. PC is the only time that it must be symmetrical.

Thanks for this clarification. This is something I have done instinctively until Aprewett's questions raised valid points I didn't thought about before.

It is sometimes as if the authors of HQ2 had forgotten to write things that were obvious for them but that are not for those that didn't playtested the game system.

In my opinion, HeroQuest mainly needs a more accessible prose, some clarifications and a lot of examples, really a lot of them. This game system can be confusing because of its innovative concepts. So it needs varied examples showing us how it can be used in many different contexts and with conditions changing during contests of various scales. If the rules are the tools, I see the examples as an users' manual. And I think that there are not enough of them in HQ2 and HQG. I am the kind of persons that needs to be shown how things are working in order to grasp them efficiently. This is the reason why I am not playing any PC game that doesn't have a good tutorial. More examples in HQ2 would be a good tutorial.

As far as I am concerned, HQ2's learning curve is too steep, especially if one considers the simplicity of its rules. I have played 9 long sessions thus far and I am still considering myself as a beginner. To my eyes, the complexity of HQ2 does not lie in its rules but in the way to handle them because of their flexibility and infinite possibilities.

Edited by Corvantir
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I don't think, though, it would be the worst thing in the world if HQ 2.5 or 3 had more robust rules for extended contest with more options and decision making. This thread has a whole bunch of things that could be used or scavenged from older ruleset.

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Major yes to the examples and not the short story stuff in HQG. But multiple examples and then some more. I have playtested a few board games and war games etc and the one problem between the developer who is imbedded in the system and knows what he is reading without really reading it and a noob trying to interpret what is going on.

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Myself, I found the extended examples of the HQG book to be a bit (cough) tedious, but there does seem to be a need for more information on how to run the game, resolve situations, build scenarios and settings, manage the various keywords, and overall how to go about it. Perhaps a HQG GM's Book would be useful? (Include extended rules for extended contests, of course.)

 

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For me , HQ would benefit from fewer rules, more examples and more templates of different genres.

When the SRD comes out, we should get all of these, although I am not holding my breath for fewer rules.

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I'm of a mind that guidance on when to use more rules, when to use fewer, and why with respect to the sort of play experience you're aiming for is of great benefit. Placing mechanical detail beyond the baseline on something is a signpost telling your players where to focus attention in play. Runes in HQG are a good example of this. Their implementation in HQG contradicts the core HQ abstractions in several ways, but in so doing they focus the game on key Gloranthan themes.

The QW SRD,  talks a bit about those sort of choices in the context of being an implementation reference for designers, but a future full toolkit book will hopefully dig in in more depth.

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We finally had the opportunity to play the final episode of our Hollow Earth Expedition campaign.

I have tested two things, reintroducing some tactics through the actions of the NPCs and better descriptions, and an alternate difficulty table.

Thinking about my previous games, I have came to the conclusion that I have been somehow blinded by the abstract nature of the rules. Though the rules are simple and abstract, a scene must be described well enough so that the players can visualize the playground and take informed decisions. Though I do that naturally in traditional games, I forgot to do that while playing HeroQuest 2, at the very least I did it far less than with other games.

So when the players started a fight, I drew a small map on the fly showing them the situation and the place of the various protagonists. Each exchange, I then took the time to better describe the actions of the various opponents, encouraged the players to do the same and put an emphasis on the results of each die roll instead of just adding Resolution Points. I also played the NPCs better. The NPCs took better tactical decisions forcing the players to react and think about their next actions. I also reduced the number of opponents so that the conflict played faster.

Those various enhancements did the trick and the players acknowledged that the conflict was more engaging than the previous ones. I suppose that the fact I am getting used to the game system also helped as I am better organized behind my screen.

We also tested an alternate difficulty distribution with an added Extreme difficulty level :

Nearly Impossible (Base + M2)

Extreme (Base + M)

Very High (Base + 12)

High (Base + 6)

It proved a good thing as the former Very High difficulty level (Base + M) was too challenging for half of the characters while the High difficulty level is too easy for the other half of the group. The gap between the High difficulty level (Base + 6) and the former Very High difficulty level (Base + M) is in my opinion too big, at least it is for the characters in this campaign.

This session was very positive and I hope to apply my newly gained experience to another HeroQuest game very soon.

Thank you all for your invaluable help.

It's now time to go to bed, it is late in France. Please forgive me, I don't have the time to read my post again to track the various grammatical mistakes and typos.

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7 hours ago, Corvantir said:

...

 I also played the NPCs better. The NPCs took better tactical decisions forcing the players to react and think about their next actions. I also reduced the number of opponents so that the conflict played faster.

...

All of what you said is good stuff, but I want to ask about this.  Could you provide an example of some of the tactical decisions the NPCs made, and how it caused the players to change their next actions?  Thanks in advance!

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On 6/19/2019 at 7:14 AM, Daredevil said:

All of what you said is good stuff, but I want to ask about this.  Could you provide an example of some of the tactical decisions the NPCs made, and how it caused the players to change their next actions?  Thanks in advance!

A combat happened around the middle of the game and Instead of throwing all the NPCs directly against the PCs, two of them were kept away from contact and started to shoot at the characters, one opponent even tried to take out a Companion. When one of the characters got rid off of his opponent, he had to choose between, helping another character who is far from being a good fighter or engaging the two pesky shooters so that they stop harassing them.

The heavy weight fighter finally choosed to engage the two pesky shooters and the two other poor fighters of the group, who had the habit to rely on their stronger comrades to save their a**, struggled  against their opponents. This raised the tension for every one.

This a simple thing to do, and there are many others, but I was so concentrated on the game system itself (HeroQuest 2 is what I call a simple but yet difficult to master game) that I forgot to focus on the scenes themselves.

Edited by Corvantir

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On 4/7/2019 at 4:12 PM, soltakss said:

What I would do in those situations is to apply Bonuses/Penalties for tactical choices. So, you get +5 for being Under Cover when in an arrow storm, +5 for having height advantage, -5 for being on unsteady ground and so on. 

That would be my solution, too.

I would myself add a "rock/paper/scissor(/lizard/spock...)" mini-game here, inspired by MouseGuard (which was influenced by Pendragon).

Each turn, players would chose one option out of 3 to 5 different possibilities (aggressive, defensive, evasive, deceptive...), and get a bonus/malus depending on their opponent's choice (for instance, aggressive versus defensive could result in +5/-5 in favor of the aggressive character, whereas aggressive versus evasive would result in a +5/-5 in favor of the evasive one).

Edited by Mugen

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I have now seen multiple mentions of a chained simple contest as a way to handle an extended conflict. Could any of you who use that method post an example of how that looks like? Thanks!

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On 7/20/2019 at 5:09 AM, AndreasDavour said:

I have now seen multiple mentions of a chained simple contest as a way to handle an extended conflict. Could any of you who use that method post an example of how that looks like? Thanks!

With chained/serial simple contests, you just frame a simple contest on a specific event or exchange rather than an overall conflict. Any benefits of victory or consequences of defeat are applied immediately, rather than deferring to the end as in an extended contest. There is no result point tally (HQ2/G style) or AP bidding (HW/Q1 style) so conflicts are open-ended. They can end whenever it makes sense based on the outcome of the individual contests. One fight might end when someone gives up after taking a nasty gash, another might be a nasty grind out to the death. 

Here's a summary I posted in another thread last fall:

On 11/27/2018 at 11:49 AM, JonL said:

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. 

 

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.  

 

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