Latest revision: 30 May 2003
From Gavin, answer by Roderick Robertson and Mark Galeotti
Q: Hi, I have been reading through HW book for last two days, and while I love the character creation methods and backgrounds and can only commend you on it, I find some of the mechanics a bit ‘clunky’. I just got my head around the ‘mastery’ and ‘edge’ notation, (the cryptic nature of which however, does appeal to me). In particular, I find it difficult to see the process by which low level (non mastery) characters/groups can take on master level characters or monsters, especially in combat: do you have a brief work through of how this might work?
A: A single-mastery advantage is about the equivalent of five lesser combatants. (With the Mastery-elimination mechanics, it doesn’t matter if the odds are 12 to 12w, or 12w3 to 12w4, it adds up the same way). Because AP can be transferred on a critical roll, and because bumps make criticals more frequent, a 1-mastery advantage can actually get “stronger” by sucking AP from his opponents.
Heroes fighting against a mastery advantage need to make low or no AP bids until they have augmented as far as they can. Instead of attacking, augment yourself. If you start close to the “Mastery Barrier” of 20, you may be able to turn the fight into a no-mastery-advantage one with augments. Of course, your target numbers will still be much lower than the villain’s, but he won’t be getting bumps anymore.
The Hero Wars/HeroQuest system is flexible enough to ensure that there are no ‘perfect’ tactics, though. Here are a couple of different ways in which player heroes can take on an enemy with a mastery advantage.
The SWAT Team
The band of heroes work together. Use augments to boost one of the heroes as far as possible – with 4 people augmenting the fifth, they should be able to get ~+10 (assuming the hero also augments himself, otherwise ~+8) to his ability in one round. This may get him past the “Mastery Barrier” and eliminate the bump advantage that a mastery gives his opponent. If the four augment him again on the next turn (using different abilities), that could take him up another 10 – which will put him almost on a par with his opponent. On the third round, if they can augment him again, he will have the advantage on his opponent. Followers will boost AP, making the hero less vulnerable to damage. All heroes should have followers.
Bowmen or ranged magic users can suck AP off the opponent, or loan them to their hero.
Use the Multiple attacker rules (after boosting your comrade…) A party of 5 heroes can impose a -12 penalty on a lone defender. In this method, the un-augmented heroes make weak attacks (1-2AP) attacks to drain the defender’s target numbers, so that when the augmented hero steps in (as the last attacker), the defender has the penalty.
A party of Starting Heroes with 17 abilities (for some reason, all of them put their masteries in other abilities) versus a single villain with 17w.
Round 1: All five of the Heroes will use magic or skills to augment one member of the party. He rises from 17 to 7w. The Villain will probably get a 1x transfer from someone. Since this is the first round, he won’t know how powerful they are (can’t ask for APs), so will probably have bid low, like 7AP.
Round 2: Four heroes augment the fifth. He rises from 7w to 15w. He is nearly at par with the villain, at can either attack at 15 to 17, or augment himself to 17w. The villain, knowing that he has a mastery advantage will probably try to take out the guy he hit earlier. A 10-12AP bid will probably occur, and the probable outcome will be one hero down and the villain with extra AP.
Round 3: One hero is down. The other three attack with low AP bids (only 1-2 AP). The villain will probably try to take out the pumped-up hero. The PUH waits and attacks after his compatriots. Villain will have a -9 penalty due to Multiple Attacker penalties, so the contest will be Hero 17 to Villain 8. Villain will start to go down…
Of course, if the Villain has followers of his own, then he will have lower or no Multiple Attacker penalties, and may be able to make attacks against multiple heroes, taking out two in one shot.
Conan the Barbarian
The more rounds of combat, the more the law of averages will even out the die rolls such that a stronger character will beat a weaker one. A high-risk option, then, especially for characters who are on their own and thus cannot rely on augments and multiple target penalties, is to go all-out and bid high, even using the desperation stakes rule to bid more AP than the hero actually has, and hope for a lucky roll. After all, speed and savagery can sometimes prevail over experience. However, what might appear to be a suicidally dangerous option is transformed by the use of hero points to bump rolls. A hero with a skill of 17 against a villain with 17w who also has a couple of hero points available is in a stronger position, depending on how the narrator chooses to interpret the ‘narrator decides’ option of critical vs critical successes, which will be common in such circumstances.
Even so, this is still a situation in which high AP bids are imperative, because the hero will be in serious trouble if the villain is still in the fight once he has burnt through his hero points. Or if villain is sufficiently important a character that the narrator has also chosen to give him a few hero points, too…
Another thing to try is to change the nature of the contest – if the villain has great Close Combat, how is his Magic Resistance? Or his Running? Or his resistance to Pleading and Whining?