Last Update: October 23, 2005
You ask, we answer. This is the place to find the answers to your questions about the HeroQuest 1 rules.
This FAQ wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of you who have sent us questions or asked questions on the mailing lists and for the herculean work by Roderick Robertson, who has collected the questions and provided most of the answers. Thank you for this!
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HeroQuest 1 core rulebook
Question: It’s a bit strange that the abilities you are renowned for are actually poorer than those common to many others around you.
Answer: There are two ways to look at this.
First, it simply is not true. If the ability is in your keyword, you (and everyone else with the same keyword) start at 17. If not, it starts at 13. But in the second case, most other people will not have the ability at all, and so you are better than other people.
Of course, if that still bothers you, it’s an easy fix to start those additional abilities at something higher than 13 — just spend some of your initial 20 points to raise the ability. Because you pay just 1 point per +1 during character creation for these abilities, spending 5 points raises you to a rating of 18, better than everyone else around you.
The keywords represent your ‘professional’ abilities — the stuff you do to make a living; whereas your additional traits represent your ‘amateur’ abilities — the stuff you’ve picked up along the way as a sideline activity or hobby. Viewed this way, it makes sense to me that these non-core abilities start lower than those that contribute to your day-to-day vocation.
Furthermore, where does it say that non-keyword abilities are “those you a renowned for”? They “make your hero unique” (page 28), which is not the same thing! As noted above, your ability to Track at 13 is better than my default use at 6, while my ability to Fly at 13 is infinitely better than your not being able to fly at all.
Question: Does every hero get common magic or not? The rules seem confusing.
Answer: Although the rules (page 18, 2nd bullet point) indicate that having both the Common Magic keyword and a Specialized Magic keyword requires narrator approval, having both is not at all uncommon, as many of the Sample Heroes show. The intent of requiring narrator approval was not to restrict the heroes, but to make sure that you discussed your character concept with your narrator.
Question: I can’t find anywhere in the rules where it states how many feats a beginning hero starts with if he chooses to be a devotee. Is it all the feats listed for his affinities, or just 3 per affinity?
Answer: The default is that the hero knows all of the feats listed in his affinities. (Note the sentence on page 30, “…if you join the organization during play, you do not automatically gain all these benefits…” [emphasis ours] — which can be interpreted as meaning, “But if you join during character creation, you do“.)
If, however, this seems to make the hero too powerful, your narrator might rule that he only knows three feats per affinity, as he would if he were an initiate becoming a devotee during play (as described on page 118). Another suggestion is to give as many feats as a hero has “Advanced Experience” keyword advances (page 178).
If the hero is described in his narrative as having been “a devotee for twenty years…”, it makes little sense to limit his magic to that of a mere beginner. Remember that he has given up Common Magic entirely, which can actually significantly restrict what he can do (devotees of Orlanth Thunderous don’t get Belch Fire!).
Ultimately, it is up to negotiation between the player and the narrator, and the power level of the campaign. A new devotee might get fewer feats and an older one more, or all devotees might start out with all of them, reflecting a slightly higher-magic or higher-powered campaign.
Question: How many spells does a starting orderly or adept begin with?
Answer: An orderly begins with all of the spell’s from his formulary at 17, per the fourth bullet point at the bottom of page 18 of HeroQuest. (This is similar to the way a beginning devotee gets all of the feats in his keyword affinities.)
An adept gets all of his Use [Grimoire] abilities at 17, and can select three spells from each grimoire for which he has talismans and a rating of 17, per the fifth bullet point at the bottom of page 18 of HeroQuest.
Question: The Hero Improvements chapter says that it costs multiple hero points to raise an ability more than +1 at once. For example, raising an ability by +2 costs 3 hero points. Since I can’t spend more than 10 points during character creation on one ability (for a +4 increase), does this mean that the best rating I can get is 1W for a keyword ability or 17 for a non-keyword ability?
Answer: No. The 20 points spent during character creation are not hero points, and do not follow the hero point rules. If you spend 10 points on an ability during character creation, you gain +10 to the base rating, leaving you hero with an ability rating of 7W (keyword ability) or 3W (non-keyword ability).
The only exception is abilities that already cost multiple hero points to raise. For example, raising an affinity by +1 costs 3 hero points, and it costs 3 points during character creation as well.
Question: Galan should have gotten a retainer for free because it is already mentioned in the Nomad keyword (page 34). His “warrior helper” from the narrative should have been in addition to that, or he should have gotten his “words” back!
Answer: No, it doesn’t work that way. You do not get retainers or sidekicks for free just because they are listed in one of your keywords — those are not like abilities. IF you take a retainer or sidekick, and it is appropriate to the list of Typical Followers in your keyword, your relationship starts at 17 rather than 13, but you still have to have the retainer in your narrative or list.
Question: There don’t seem to be any equipment listings in the HeroQuest rules — have I missed something?
Answer: Nope. If you want a piece of equipment, include it in your narrative/list, convince the narrator a person of your occupation and Wealth would have it, or (if it is to have an actual rating), use hero points to buy it as an ability.
Thus, if you are a warrior and you have Pole Axe Fighting 17, then you have a Pole Axe, and can get replacements as needed in between adventures. You have standard armor for your culture, and can probably get better armor in between adventures or perhaps during an adventure. If you want a full set of plate armor, you probably need to find it during an adventure and spend a hero point to cement the benefit.
As for what equipment can do, that is up to you and your narrator, but unless it is magical or very specialized, it just gives a bonus to a relevant ability. Thus, a rope gives you +1 or +2 to your Climb ability. Since everyone can Climb at least at a rating of 6 (the default rating), even if you don’t have a Climb ability a rope can help you a little. But it can’t make you very good.
Question: The “Grazer Cavalry Soldier” in the Supporting Characters seems to have 2W2 in his Look at Sun magical ability. Shouldn’t this just be 2W?
Answer: One of the features of animism is that spirits have a set ability rating, usually within a set range, and when you get a charm or fetish the narrator assigns the rating, and that is it. This can occasionally be high, though keep in mind that this ability rating can never be increased. This is a very high value for a tradition spirit, which is more often range from 6 to 5W. But sometimes, that’s how it works.
However, take a look at the ability itself — Look at Sun. So he gets +4 when looking at the Sun. Since he hardly has an appropriate skill, his rating when looking at the Sun is the default of 6 + 4 = 10. Assuming that looking at directly at the Sun without hurting ones eyes has a resistance of at least 14, and probably higher, the rating is not really that impressive.
Question: In HeroQuest it says that Puma People should have two lists for their abilities — one for their human form and one for their puma form. It also says that some abilities will apply to both forms.
My player wasn’t sure which abilities should go in which form, or what his starting abilities in his puma form should be. When he went to check the pregenerated heroes, there didn’t seem to be two lists (puma and human) for the Puma Person. So:
- Does a Puma Person’s puma form start with ratings equal to those of a normal puma (page 216) or with similar abilities but at the keyword level of 17?
- Which of the pregen’s abilities are puma abilities and which are human? (Or should it just be a matter of common sense?)
Answer: We actually intended that a Puma Person hero have the puma-form abilities at normal puma ratings, rather than the keyword rating. It is up to the player and narrator to decide which abilities carry over to puma form; puma form abilities do not carry over to human form. (The abilities listed for the sample hero are all human form abilities.)
Of course, the hero can spend hero points to improve his puma form abilities. (If he has an ability common to both forms but at different ratings, spending a hero point should improve both of them, though this is subject to narrator approval on a case by case basis.)
Question: Is a Puma Person’s Shapechange to Puma ability an innate magical ability (as defined on page 104), as the Homeland says? If so, this would imply first, that it is a talent and as such can only be used to augment unless the Puma Person concentrates his talents; and second, that a Puma Person who concentrates on animist magic would lose the ability. But neither implication is borne out by the rules or the examples.
Answer: Neither implication was intended. During editing, some terminology was changed that did not get carried over properly into some other areas, notably the Puma Person homeland.
A Puma Person’s Shapechange to Puma ability is not innate magic as defined in HeroQuest on page 104. Instead, it is an ability which is magical, but which is also as natural as a troll’s amazing digestion or a wind child’s ability to fly. It can be used as an active ability by any Puma Person. It does not affect, and is unaffected by, concentrating magic on any magic system. Even if a Puma Person concentrates their magic on theism, animism, or wizardry, they can still transform into a puma.
We are now calling these abilities Natural Magic. For a more detailed explanation, see the article on Natural Magic elsewhere on this web site.
Question: Does a cemented item start as a new ability with a rating of 13 (as all new abilities do), or at whatever rating it had before, during the scenario? Some people have said that you can find an artifact like Arkat’s Unbreakable Sword, but that it will only have a rating of 13.
Answer: Ultimately it is up to the narrator, who could start the cemented ability at 13, or who could let the heroes use the item as they found it (and so probably with a higher rating), or who could start it at a rating somewhere in between. It depends on the story, the power level of the item, and the power level of the game. If the item (or whatever) had a rating of 17, why bother lowering it to 13? (Though nothing prevents the narrator from making the hero pay more than 1 hero point to cement the item, perhaps using the values on the “Hero Improvement Costs–Gain a New Charm or Fetish” table, page 141, as a guide for items with only a single ability.)
As for Arkat’s Sword and other powerful artifacts, or even just a magical sword with a rating of 10W3, that is probably a different matter — it could be very unbalancing for the narrator to let a player suddenly and permanently add an item with a multiple-mastery rating for a cost of only 1 hero point. The section on page 30 of HeroQuest (2nd paragraph under “Special and Magical Items”) easily applies here: “An item might be intrinsically powerful, but perhaps the hero does not know how to use it properly, or is only partially attuned to it. As the rating increases, more of the item’s power becomes available.”
Question: There’s no way to easily equate your current Wealth with whatever you have earned. So how do you know how much Wealthrises when you earn or find more? How much extra Wealth do you get from stealing your neighbor’s cattle?
Answer: The section on “Treasure” (page 185) deals with some of these issues. You do not use Wealth to steal your neighbor’s cattle. You do not automatically increase your Wealth by doing so, but you can use the hero point you gained to get a +1 Wealth, and the justification is the cattle. That’s how we decided to make it work.
Question: Page 59, the paragraph starting “Frederick wants to increase Mr. Puma’s Climb ability…”
Raising the ability from 18 to 1W is stated to cost 6 hero points, but by the table below it should cost 18 — 3 points of actual increase, times 6 for raising the ability by +3 at one time.
Answer: No, the hero points for the additional increase are already included in the multiplier; see the example of Hengal improving his Fighting affinity at the bottom of column 2 on the same page. The breakdown is:
1 hero point (to increase a mundane ability by +1)
x6 (to increase it by +3)
=6 hero points.
Question: If my target number is 20 and I roll a 20, is it a success or a fumble? The success or failure table does not make it clear.
Answer: A roll of 20 is always a fumble, even if that is the target number, per “Die Rolls, Success and Failure” on page 61.
Question: The way I read the rules it seems that at a rating of 19, a 1 is a critical, a 2-19 is a success, and a 20 is a fumble; there is no result of “failure”. If so, this is exactly the same distribution as for a rating of 20.
At 1W, however, a critical is 1, a failure is 2-19 (bump to a success) and a 20 is a fumble (bump to a failure).
Where have I gone wrong?
Answer: You have not. Statistically, 19 and 20 have identical results. This is because of the special results obtained on a natural 1 (critical) or 20 (fumble).
Furthermore, on the surface the only difference between 20 and 1W is the result on a 20, which is a fumble at a rating of 20 but only a failure at 1W. However, there is a “hidden” difference. If your target number is 20, a roll of 1 is a critical. However, with a target number of 1W and a roll of 1, you still have an “unused” mastery that you can use to “bump down” your opponent’s degree of success by one level. This new feature of HeroQuest is one of the things that makes masteries so important.
Question (continued): My initial impulse is to skip over 20 and let players go from 19 directly to 1W.
Answer: Well, you can do that, but it’s not a good idea. Remember augments and penalties — are you going to abolish the “20” target number altogether? You’ll get some strange mathematics if you do: “I have a 17, and +3 augment, so that’s 20”; “No, that’s 1W”. “Okay, you have 5W, but a -5 penalty, that’s 19”.
Remember that it’s not really the number written on the character sheet that is important, but the final result after all augments and penalties are added in. And players should be looking to augment their base abilities — it’s actually a subtle, but major, part of the game. Augments are more than just a bonus, they help narrate the game — using Sword & Shield with a Dodge augment “feels” different than Sword & Shield with a Witty Repartee augment or Sword & Shield with no augment at all.
Question: As I understand it, contestants don’t lose the AP they bid in an extended contest. However, AP are lost based on what an opponent bids. Therefore, as far as I can make out, it’s in everyone’s interest to bid maximum AP’s each round.
E.g. I’ve got a combat skill of 4W and so does my opponent. We each bid our maximum of 24 AP. He succeeds in his roll, and I fail. Masteries cancel out, so I lose 1 times his bid in AP (equaling 24 AP). I now have 0 AP and he still has 24. I lose on account of the number of AP he bid. That is, I lost because he made a maximum bid, but I lost nothing (more) on account of my making a maximum bid (had the die rolls come out the other way around, I would have won and he would have lost).
Answer: From your question it seems like you misunderstand how the bidding works in an extended contest.
AP are bid by only the active person in the round, not by both. When it’s my turn, I state what I’m doing, and what my bid is — basically how much effort am I putting in to the attack. The target of my attack then states what he’s doing to defend against it. He does not bid, he just defends. The person who loses the die-rolling loses AP according to the Extended Contest chart and my bid. Then we swap places: my opponent says what he’s going to do, and the AP effort he’s putting in to it, and I just defend.
Example: I’m having a contest with Oddi the Godi. I have 4W (24 AP), he has the same. Since I declared the contest, I get to go first.
I Bid 5 AP (“I’ll just feel him out, see how good he is.”).
We roll; I succeed, he succeeds with a lower roll. I lose 1/2 the bid, or 3 AP. (He gains nothing). I have 21 AP, he has 24.
He bids 10 AP (“Hah, what a wimp!”)
We roll; I lose with a failure against his success. I lose 10 AP. I’m at 11, he’s still at 24.
I’ll go all-out with almost all I’ve got left: Bid 10. We roll; he succeeds, I fail. I’m down to 1 point, he’s still at 24.
He bids 1 (all he needs to do is drive me to 0 AP and defeat me — a safe bid even with the worst possible roll).
We roll; I Crit, he Fumbles (there’s that worst possible roll!). 3x transfer to me: I get 3 points, he loses them. I’m up to 4, he’s down to 21.
It’s time to end this: I bid 24 (allowable with the “Desperation Stake” rule, page 70.)
We roll; I succeed, he fails. He loses the bid, so drops to -3 AP, and is out of the contest. I still only have 4 AP, but it doesn’t matter because the contest is over, and I’ll be “back up to full strength” at the start of the next one.
Question: I have been reading through 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 only just got my head around the ‘mastery’ 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 mastery level characters or monsters, especially in combat: do you have a brief example of how this might work?
Answer: 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 advantage points (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 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 one with a no-mastery-advantage using augments. Of course, your target numbers will still be much lower than the villain’s, but he won’t be getting bumps anymore, which means he won’t get a critical as often, which means he won’t transfer AP as often.
The 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 a 5th, 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 increase 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 lend them to another hero.
After boosting your comrade, use the Multiple Opponents rules to your advantage (page 79). A party of 5 heroes can impose a -12 penalty on a lone defender. In this method, the un-augmented heroes make weak attacks (1-2 AP) 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.
Example: A party of beginning heroes with ratings of 17 (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 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 AP), so will probably have bid low, like 7 AP.
Round 2: Four heroes again augment the fifth. He rises from 7W to 15W. He is nearly at par with the villain, and 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 10-12 AP bid will ensue, 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, who waits and attacks after his compatriots. The Villain will have a -9 penalty on defense 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 using of hero points to bump rolls. A hero with a rating of 17 against a villain with 17W who also has a couple of hero points available is in a stronger position. 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 the Villain is sufficiently important a character that the narrator has 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 Sword Fighting, how is his Magic Resistance? Or his Running? Or his resistance to Pleading and Whining?
Question: In “Followers and AP” on page 67+, it says that a follower “can simply add its AP to the hero’s at the beginning of the contest”. Then, somewhat later, it says that “the followers ability is used solely as a source of AP”.
So, do the follower’s AP not translate into an improved target number? That seems contrary to the rules, which indicate that all modifiers and augments improve both target number and starting AP. (On page 186, it states that a “trolkin’s ability is 6, but followers give him an AP total of 30”. This seems to confirm that followers only increase AP, but not target number.)
Answer: Bonuses and penalties to a target number modifiy the starting AP, but AP bonuses do not affect target numbers. If you are using the follower’s ability as an augment, then you get only the bonus for doing so. (I.e., if the follower has Climbing 17, you would get a +2 bonus and thus +2 AP.) If you are using the follower as a source of AP, you get no bonus, but +17 AP. (A hero with several followers can easily end up with many more AP than his initial target number would indicate.)
An AP bonus never translates into a target number bonus. If we allowed it to, then you would be adding your follower’s entire ability rating to your own. And no one would ever spend hero points on anything but followers. 🙂
Question (continued): Please clarify to role of followers at the start of a contest.
Here’s an example. Three heroes are confronted with a melee being run as an extended contest. Each has one follower with the Warrior 17 keyword as his sole ability. Each hero chooses a different option:
- Wally the Warrior (Sword and Shield 3W) uses his follower as an augment (+2). He starts the combat with Sword and Shield 5Wand 25 AP.
- Larry the Lab-rat has no combat abilities. He uses his follower’s Warrior 17 as his initial ability, starting the combat with a target number of 17 and 17 AP.
- Willard the Warrior (Spear and Shield 3W) uses his follower as an AP battery. Willard starts the fight with a target number of 3Wand (25+17) 42 AP.
Willard is likely to win the contest, all else being equal, simply by outlasting Wally. In a simple contest, the options are more limited, and Wally and Willard are on pretty equal footing, as followers can only be used as augments, not AP batteries.
Note that if you have multiple followers, you do not have to make a single decision for all of them. Thus, if Wally had three followers, he could use 1 to augment his ability and 2 just to provide AP. If Larry had the three followers, he would start with a combat rating of 17 using one of them, and then the other two could either augment or provide additional AP.
Question: I have no idea from the ‘Killing Helpless Foes’ section (page 75) how you go about killing a helpless foe in game terms – what is ‘helpless’ and what is not? Is an Injured foe helpless, or even an Impaired one? If I used my parting shot to get them to Injured can I then kill them, or have I blown my chance? What happens in an arena if a gladiator uses his parting shot and can only get his opponent to -9? Does he then have to say ‘Oh sorry, I’ve got to go home now’, pack his weapons and then get crucified for not killing his opponent as the crowd wanted (NB not everyone is Russell Crowe)?
Answer: The decision is ultimately up to the narrator, who should look at a number of story factors when determining if the villain should die:
- Importance of the character to both the story and the world around him.
- How helpless is the character in story terms? The more truly helpless the character is, the easier to kill him.
- Why is the hero killing this character? Is it a callous act, a battlefield expedience, or the finale of a years-long feud between the two? Is this just a behavior brought over from another game system?
- Does the player know the consequences of the hero’s act? It may be that the player is used to other game systems, where death is the norm. There are many other alternatives to death, from ransom to slavery, which are more appropriate to his homeland.
Assuming that the player does intend to go through with the act, the narrator still has some options:
- Allow the death to be handled with an Automatic Success. This is fine for faceless minions and those who are truly helpless — tied up, dead drunk and passed out, etc.
- Make the player work for it. As a suggestion, let the soon-to-be-deceased force a Simple Contest by pleading for his life, offering a ransom, making a break for the door, or any other action that might save his life. (Villains do this all the time on TV, in the movies, and in books.) The narrator should choose an option that makes sense with the story so far — if the character’s legs are tied, making a break for it isn’t the smartest thing to do. If the player wins the contest (any level of victory), the opponent dies. If he loses, he lost his nerve, was too greedy or slow, etc.
Question: Under “Circumstance Bonus” on page 77, it is unclear whether the bonus for “surprise attack from behind” is applied only for the first round of a combat or if it’s persistent for the duration of the encounter. The rules seem clear that any modifiers / augmentations last for the duration of the encounter – if they are applied at the start of that encounter. So the +20 to target number and AP would apply throughout the encounter so long at the encounter began with an ambush of some kind. Is that correct?
Answer: No. Situational bonuses like “surprise attack” only last as long as the situation that provides them — once you attack, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be surprising your target on the second or third shots. You may get a smaller bonus if you are hidden and he doesn’t spot you, but he’ll be dodging and getting behind cover. You do keep the benefit of those 20 “extra” AP for the entire contest, as normal, and this alone is enough to make an ambush a pretty scary thing. Similarly, someone with a +10 height bonus for being up on a table loses that bonus if his opponent climbs on the table with him, or he is knocked to the floor, or someone swings on a chandelier to attack him.
Question: As written, the box on Rune Metals (page 78) makes it sound as if an iron sword with combat magic cast on it will always have a penalty from the iron that is greater then any bonus from the magic, giving the sword a net penalty. Is this what was intended?
For example, if I have a refined iron sword (+3 for sword, +3 for iron, total +6) and it has, say, Extra Sharp 18 magic (for another +2), its total augment is +8, and therefore the total penalty is -8, making it less effective then a regular +3 bronze sword.
Answer: The penalty for iron is not applied to the iron weapon’s bonus directly — it applies to the magical ability before the augment is attempted. Thus, an iron sword will reduce your Extra Sharp 18 to Extra Sharp 12, for a +1 automatic augment, and thus the total bonus from the sword will be: +3 (sword) +3 (iron) +1 (augment) = +7. The “total bonus” of the iron object does not include magic cast on it, nor any inherent powers of the item itself (i.e., a rating on the character sheet). Thus, an iron sword always causes a -6 penalty to magic cast on it or by you (and gives a resistance bonus of +6 when magic is cast against you) even if it has 20 points of magical augmentation on it.
Also, if the iron item has any inherent magical abilities (again, a rating on the character sheet), these inherent abilities are not reduced by the iron penalty.
Note that the additional bonus iron gets against elves and trolls (in the case of your example, the additional +3) does not increase the penalty to magic use. Thus, even though your iron sword gives you +9 against elves, you still suffer only a -6 penalty to magic.
Taking both these clarifications and the erratum on iron into account, here is an example:
Galan carries the Ironbone Sword (see page 23) – a sword made of iron, which yields a +6 bonus under normal conditions. As it a rating of its own on the character sheet, Galan may add a +2 automatic augment, for a total +8 bonus. (If he wishes to risk getting a penalty for a chance at a higher bonus, he can roll against the sword’s rating rather than taking the automatic augment.)
If Galanis facing a troll or elf, his bonus increases to +13: +3 (sword) +6 (iron vs. vulnerable foe) +4 (automatic augment doubled vs. vulnerable foe).
When Galan wants to cast any magic, the Ironbone Sword causes him to take a -6 penalty to his magical ability’s rating. Thus, if he wished to augment his Swordfighting ability with his Fight Well charm, he gets only a +1 automatic augment instead of the normal +2 (his Common Magic keyword’s rating of 17 -6 penalty = 11). On the other hand, he receives a +6 to rating when resisting magic cast against him by others; unfortunately this includes not only hostile magic cast by enemies, but also beneficial magic cast by his friends.
Question: How do followers work in regards to the Multiple Opponent penalties (page 79)? If I am facing an opponent with four followers, do I suffer a -9 penalty? What about if I have four followers, does my opponent take a -9 penalty when I attack him, when he attacks me, or both?
Answer: Put at its simplest level, multiple opponent penalties are assessed based on the number of die rolls involved in the round. Each Die Rolling Entity (DRE) is counted for penalties, but their followers are not. So, an opponent that is by himself is one DRE, as is one with four followers, as is a horde of 25 rubble runners.
- Situation 1: I have no followers, and I attack or am attacked by a villain with no followers. Neither of us takes a penalty.
- Situation 2a: I have no followers, and I attack or am attacked by a villain with any number of followers. Neither of us takes a penalty.
- Situation 2b: I have any number of followers, and I attack or am attacked by a villain with any number of followers. Neither of us takes a penalty.
- Situation 3a: I have no followers and I am attacked by four villains, for whom the narrator rolls one die each. I suffer no penalty when defending against the first, -3 against the second, -6 against the third, and -9 against the fourth.
- Situation 3b: I have no followers and I attack by four villains, for whom the narrator rolls one die each. I suffer no penalty when attacking the first, -3 against the second, -6 against the third, and -9 against the fourth.
- Situation 4: I have two followers and am attacked by four villains. My two followers cancel the penalties for villains 2 & 3, so I only face a -3 penalty for villain 4.
Question (continued): So, if my narrator allows me to have my followers attack the villain directly, she can, right? And so he takes penalties?
Answer: You can use the ability of a follower directly, so a merchant or priest hero (with poor or no combat skills) might have a Bodyguard follower who will fight for him. In this case, you will augment your follower, rather than him augmenting you. But, if the narrator allows all your followers to attack for you, then they are not really followers any more, since she is giving them a bigger role in the game. The whole idea behind followers is not having to roll for each member of the hero’s retinue individually, but to subsume them all under one roll.
Question: How can Jane use her Gesture to Ward Off Magic to resist magic (page 99)? This is a common magic ability, which can only be used as an augmentation if Jane has not concentrated her magic on talents.
Answer: Although common magic abilities cannot be used as to “cause an active effect” (page 104), they can be used as resistance in a contest, if the ability is appropriate. Using an ability for resistance does not count as using that ability actively in a contest.
Question: In HeroQuest, page 102 it says “The Lunar cycle provides a multiplier to the ritual bonus that the magician gains from the Occasion; see page 113 for details”. OK; I know this will apply to Lunar magicians, but are all Ritual Magics actually subject to the influence of the Red Moon, as seems to be applied in this generic paragraph? Nothing in the paragraph to my reading suggest this is exceptional???
Answer: Under most situations, the phase of the Red Moon only affects someone using Lunar magic (ie, magic provided by an Lunar Immortal). The magical status of the caster (not concentrated on the moon, concentrated on the moon, know the secret of your Lunar Immortal) and his location (inside or outside the Glowline) will determine how he is affected by the Phases.
There may be circumstances where the narrator might impose the Lunar Phase on a non-Lunar ritual, but it would have to be a ritual closely connected to the Moon somehow, not just your everyday ritual.
The Phases would not affect someone casting magic at the Moon Herself (The Moon always resists as if She were Full, and she is a Great Goddess, so has 10W10 or so when defending herself…).
Question: We got talking about common magic last night (at our game), and some felt that it was too powerful. With the player’s ability (as described in the character creation section) to make up their own common magic (and what kind it is), together with being able to use it as an active ability after concentration, it was thought by some that even initiation in a cult (for example) was superfluous – that common magic was just as powerful.
Answer: A good narrator can discourage this kind of thing, where the player is just being a “munchkin” and trying to abuse the intent of the system. In part, this is why the Pompous Magic and other sections were added.
Additionally, such a player needs to remember that a common religion generally provides no community support. And a specialist in common magic in some lands will be viewed with suspicion — “What, isn’t Orlanth good enough for you, Rastormhy?” And suspicion is a bad thing — the player might need to be reminded that everyone will treat him as a foreigner or stranger when they find out he doesn’t worship an acceptable god. Thus, he might take a -5 to -20 penalty to almost any social interaction.
As far as rules sanctions go, there is one primary disadvantage to this player’s plan — hero point cost. If the hero has 5 common magic feats, even after he has concentrated his magic it costs him 5 hero points to raise each of them by +1. A devotee can raise his affinity (and all of its feats) for 3 hero points. Now, the player may be right that an initiate has it somewhat bad, but he can improvise any number of feats from his own affinities for a -5 penalty (if he has concentrated his theistic magic), which the common magic user cannot.
If the hero never initiates, he must only take common magic feats. And the narrator has final approval of what common magic abilities he takes. If he makes up feats and nothing else, your narrator needs to start asking him where he is learning this magic, what common religion is offering so many feats, and only feats. Your narrator can even do this during character creation, if he thinks the player is abusing the system.
Question (continued): To solve this problem, our narrator decided that common magic can only ever provide augments, even when magic is concentrated.
Answer: Although it depends on the needs of the campaign, relegating common magic only to augments is not recommended. Restricting common magic in this way can cause a lot of problems once the group starts heroquesting, since many times a hero may gain a common magic ability during a heroquest. If that ability can only ever be used to augment, it makes attempting many heroquests useless — what good is a Leap Atop Thrown Javelin feat if you can only augment with it?
Question: Is the loss of Donandar and Lanbril common magic if you specialize in the magic of a specialized magic “subcult” intended to be a part of the reality of Glorantha? (Example: Worshipping Skovara as an initiate provides access to Donandar’s talents, but concentrating on theism in order to gain reduced hero point cost for her affinities requires that the hero give up all talents, including Donandar’s.)
Answer: No, this is not the reality of Glorantha.
HeroQuest is a basic rules system, and even a book of its size cannot address every exception to or permutation of the rules. Like the Lunar Way (pages 112-113), worshippers of certain “primal” entities like Donandar have some options when they concentrate. Put at its simplest, a worshipper of any Donandar “subcult” can choose to concentrate their magic either on a specific magic type or on Donandar magic as a whole. Depending on how they choose, they do have to give up something (in thise case, either the Donandar talents or some of Skovara’s affinities), but the magic they retain, whether feat, talent, charm, or spell, becomes concentrated.
For more details, see “Concentrating Donandar and Lanbril Magic” on page 45 of Masters of Luck and Death.
Question: I am a bit confused by the line that says a devotee must give up all magic not coming from their god. Does this include magic items?
Answer: No, magic items are generally not included in this prohibition, although they could be if their magic was specified to come from the Spirit World or Essence Planes, or even from a specific deity.
Question (continued): How about acquired charms or fetishes? Talismans?
Answer: Absolutely, because their magic comes from the Spirit World or Essence Planes.
Question (continued): For Heortling characters, it would also appear as if they would have to give up all their common magic as well, is this right? This seems a bit harsh. I would have thought a devotee could keep common magic from pantheon-related cults/sources.
Answer: This is correct, and not just for Heortling heroes. All devotees must give up common magic, and use only the magic gained from the deity they have devoted to. (This also means they cannot be an initiate of a second deity, either.)
Being a devotee is about a personal choice of devotion to a deity to the exclusion of all other deities or magic. It is not about religious advancement — devotees are not automatically priests (although they can be), nor are priests automatically devotees. (Similarly, a shaman is not automatically a spirit-talker, or vice versa; and a clergyman doesn’t have to be a liturgist, and he certainly doesn’t have to be an orderly or adept.)
It may be that devotees thus seem less powerful or versatile magically, and perhaps that is true (although the ability to improve individual feats can be very powerful). But that is the way it is with magic — the greatest devotion to magic requires the greatest sacrifices.
Question: There’s not one example in HeroQuest of actually using a feat as an active ability.
Answer: A feat is just a magical ability, like any other. See the “Jane and Oddi Jump” example on pages 98-99.
Question (continued): I forgot to state that I meant use of a feat during an extended contest. Do they just move AP around, or do they create specific effects as unrelated actions?
Answer: Feats work the same as any other ability in an extened contest — what they “do” it depends on how they are used. If you use a feat as your primary ability, such as frying your foe with a lightning bolt, then it moves AP around with a neat special effect. If you use it as an unrelated action, it has whatever effect you want it to (and which the narrator allows). The point being that they are used no differently than any other ability.
Question: HeroQuest states that a hero can improvise a feat from an affinity, with a modifier basically determined by appropriateness. Does this improvised feat have to be an existing feat of the god? Or can it be something made up by the player? (With the new interactivity encouraged by the rules, I guess it could be either.) Is this answer different for initiates than for devotees?
Answer: Actually, a strict reading of the rules indicates that the answer is different for initiates and devotees. Page 118: “An initiate can improvise any named feat in the affinity” [emphasis ours] Contrast this with page 120: “A devotee can improvise a feat from an affinity.” (This makes sense, since many devotees will already know all of the named feats, so what else is there to improvise unless they can make up new feats?)
However, this is not an absolute rule. Despite what page 118 says, a narrator is free to allow an initiate to improvise a feat not named in the affinity, but she will likely assign a higher improvisational modifier because the initiate is not working within the established myths of his cult. But, not necesarily.
Devotees have more freedom built into the rules, but even they will likely suffer a higher improvisational modifier for making up new feats. And if the player suggests something difficult to justify in terms of his god’s myths and religion, the narrator is free to disallow it even if it otherwise would fit well with the affinity name.
The main difference is one of concentration. The default modifier for improvising a feat is -10, but drops to -5 if the worshipper has concentrated his magic. And by definition, a devotee has concentrated his magic.
Question: For a landscape daimon, its functions can be gained as a feat via misapplied worship, at the cost of diminishing the level of the function (page 128). Is there intended to be some means of just using the function in situ?
Answer: While pages 127-129 don’t specify that local worshippers gain the benefits of living near the guardian, the functions do work normally for them. As it says on page 127: “In HeroQuest, landscape daimones use the same rules as guardians.”
Now, again as it says on page 127, this does not mean that landscape daimones are guardians, merely that we use the same basic set of rules to describe their influence on the land and people around them. Thus, people who live near The River benefit from its functions as long as they treat with it properly, and so locals can work in the river better because they know where its currents are; can cross it more easily than strangers; and find it easier to defend themselves against people who attack them when they are on or in the river. This is the benefit of living in harmony with the natural world around you. (This sometimes works for users of wizardry as well, so that a church building or congregation might be miraculously saved from some evil force or disaster by means of their reliquary’s functions.)
Question (continued): Now that Kero Fin and Engizi (The River) are landscape deities, are their Storm Tribe cults still relevant?
Answer: Yes. Although their physical manifestation in the Inner World uses the Guardian rules from HeroQuest, these gods are still worshipped in the manner described in Storm Tribe. More specifically, their theist worship as gods is not considered misapplied worship.
Question (continued): Since worshipping Kero Fin as a god reduces her power, does the 20W6 resistance to climbing her decrease as well?
Answer: Funny idea! Very God Learner. But no, it does not. For several reasons.
First, “The Divine Landscape” (pages 127-129) discusses Kero Fin as a landscape entity. This is separate from her being a magically tall mountain, and it is separate from her being worshipped in a proper theist cult. It is discussing the effect she has on the people who live near her, and the way some people can “abuse” this power by taking it as feats.
Additionally, HeroQuest does not properly put this practice into context. The people who live near The River, for example, rarely sacrifice to him to gain his functions as feats. Even when they do, it is a matter of urgency, usually to defend themselves in times of great need. They do it when they need to, and then they purposely “forget” the feats. This restores The River to its full strength in the Inner World.
Furthermore, they do not like it when outsiders do this, because such people do not live near or depend on The River, and there is thus no assurance that they will return The River’s power to him when they are done. Thus, the locals will generally not teach outsiders the right sacrifice to get the feat, or how to convince The River of your sincerity. And even if you know the right sacrifice and are sincere, there is no guarantee that The River will give you the feat! (From his point of view, he has an existing cult to whom he gives theist blessings, so any request outside that context represents an exception, and thus one that the god will “scrutinize” closely. Even minor landscape entities cannot just be used as “magic stores” by anyone who comes along. Like most magical entities, an established relationship is an important part of gaining magic, in this case the relationship of living near and regularly tending the landscape entity’s “home”.)
Finally, misapplied worship of a landscape daimon to gain functions as feats does not decrease the power of the entity itself: as page 128 says, “Each feat known by a worshipper decreases the appropriate function’s rating by 1″ [emphasis ours]. This section says nothing about reducing the god’s power or the efficacy of its true worship. If enough people worship The River inappropriately by taking its functions as feats, the net effect would be to reduce those function ratings to 0. This would harm people who live near The River by depriving them of the normal bonuses they count on when working on and in The River. This might make them easier to conquer, sure, but Engizi himself is not affected by such trivial problems (though he can of course be angered by them). The same holds true of Kero Fin: if her functions are “worshipped down to 0”, the people living in Kerofinela are deprived of some automatic bonuses they probably don’t even know they are getting, but Kero Fin remains, as tall and unconquered as ever.
For this latter point, it may help to think of Kero Fin as the goddess of Mount Kerofin rather than thinking of her as Mount Kerofin, and Engizi as the god of The River, rather than thinking of him as The River itself.
So, to clarify, the landscape daimones provided in HeroQuest are really of several types. Some are true gods who actually live in the God World but have a permanent physical presence in the Middle World. Others exist only in the Mundane World. Either way, although in rules terms their physical manifestation works like a guardian, these entities are not guardians. The magic locals feel from their presence can be weakened by inappropriate worship, but that does not necessarily weaken or destroy the actual entity.
See also the discussion of Landscape Daimones, above, for general information that may apply to Embodied Essences as well.
Question: I’ve always considered Glorantha as heavily based on the ancient world — with a very bronze age feel. (This is specifically how it was presented to readers of RuneQuest.) This, in many ways, set the game apart from the medieval influenced D&D, C&S, and so on.
However, in HeroQuest, I detect a certain “medievalness” about the homelands of Esvular and Seshnela that seems completely out of step with the “ancient world” feel of the rest of the game, and its RuneQuest ancestry.
Is my interpretation of Esvular/Seshnela correct, or have I missed something here? (E.g., should I be making comparisons with ancient Greece rather than medieval Europe?)
Answer: Greg’s conception of the West has always been based more in Arthurian legend, medieval Europe, and the like. However, because RuneQuest never dealt much with the West, this was never as evident as the Bronze Age feel of the central lands of Sartar and Peloria. However, HeroQuest is not the first place this has come to light; Glorantha: Genertela, Crucible of the Hero Wars, a boxed set created by Chaosium and published by Avalon Hill Games in the mid-1980s, clearly depicted Seshnela and Fronela in a Medieval light.
Similarly, the southern continent of Pamaltela, with its animist-dominated Doraddi, is almost a Stone Age world.
Different regions, different magic systems, different levels of technology, and different Real World cognates.
Question: If a liturgist casts a blessing that gives his congregation an augment, what determines the bonus?
Answer: The value of the bonus is determined by the liturgist’s Use [Scripture] rating, generally applied as an automatic augment. Thus, a newly-ordained liturgist (with a rating of 13) adds +1, and a beginning player hero liturgist (with a rating of 17) gives +2.
Question: Is the scaling of penalties with wizardry church congregation size intended to be a part of the reality of Glorantha? The issue comes about because multiple target penalties (Basic Magic chapter, page 100) increase more rapidly than community support bonuses (Relationships chapter, page 91), so larger congregations provide a net penalty to the liturgist invoking blessings, even given bonuses for sacred place, time, etc. Tthis has caused speculation that smaller churches are more effective with magic than larger churches.
Answer: The base chance to bless a congregation is almost always modified by the Ritual Modifiers on page 102 (worship sites are built in holy places with reliquaries, ceremonies are held on holy days, with ritual items), with help from assistant liturgists. Trying to bless a large congregation even with these modifiers is supposed to be difficult. This is true of any religion (not just monotheist ones), and it is reflected in Gloranthan reality by the fact that most people attend their local church on holy days.
Blessing very large congregations (such as a high ecclesiarch blessing his entire church) is very difficult. For example, a liturgist with a rating of 17 blessing a congregation of 1,000 worshippers takes a -80 penalty for the size of the congregation but only gains a +25 bonus from the congregation’s support. It can be assumed that he has access to high modifiers: +20 for holy place, +20 for a unique relic used in the ritual, and at least +10 for the holy day. Even a +5 from other liturgists filling appropriate ritual roles gives him a 17 rating vs. the resistance of 14 (since this type of blessing rarely faces active resistance). If he can get another +4 from ritual roles or from his own augments (such as a high Worship [God] rating), he has a mastery advantage. And even a marginal victory means that the blessing takes effect.
Question: Creature ability ratings seem to be too low — a Horse only has Strong 2W? I can make a beginning hero that can out-pull a horse!
Answer: Remember that if the character doesn’t have an ability, it starts out at 6 — so a not-Strong human has a 6 to pit against the horse’s Strong 2W. A not-Fast human has Run Fast 6 against the horse’s Run Fast 10W.
Still, if the abilities seem too low to you, feel free to change them. The way we deal with too-low animal stats is to pile on all the automatic augments we can. This often brings an animal up to what we consider “respectable” levels. Or just toss out the book values and make up your own — the stats provided are guidelines only, and we expect they will change most of the time anyway, to reflect young animals or fiercely powerful ones.
Question: How do you model large creatures that have terrible combat abilities — the creature doesn’t connect very often, but when it does, it’s a whopper? Does the large creature have a small number of AP and thus a poor chance of success?
Answer: First of all, AP has nothing to do with a good or poor chance of success per se. That is what target number is for.
As for specifics, it depends on the creature. You might give a large creature a low ability rating, but then give it a high bonus that applies in certain circumstances (such as for a griffin fighting while it is airborne). This bonus might be to the ability’s own rating, or to another ability that can augment it in that circumstance (which filters the bonus through in much reduced fashion).
Also, it depends on the creature’s goal. If it’s goal is to rend you, yes, it might not do well. But if it’s goal is to catch you, it might have a much greater chance of success. And once it catches you, it is a long (but quick) way down to the ground for you, which might not even require a roll on its part. A fine distinction of goals, perhaps, but remember that as long as a hero can justify using a certain ability to accomplish a certain goal, so can a creature. Thus, an aerial combat to the death can certainly use a flying ability; in the case of a griffin, you might not even apply a penalty to it.
But, to answer the question, just give the creature a low ability rating and then use Edges (page 186) — “It’s ragged claws can rip through armor with ease – if it hits you. It has a ^10 edge. Any successful hit when it uses its claws have 10 added to the AP bid it makes.” If you want the creature to last a long time but not be a great combatant, give it a low ability rating but then use handicaps against its opponents — “It is very hard to pierce it’s thick, blubbery skin. You have a ^-5 when using a weapon on it, -^10 if it’s a impact weapon like a mace.” A monster like that can last a long time, but if it only has Fist Attack 10 it won’t hit very often, and so the contest could drag on for awhile with neither side able to do much to harm the other.
Introduction to Glorantha
Question: The map on page 227 doesn’t seem to match the text on pages 226-229. What’s up?
Answer: The map on page 227 of HeroQuest is typical of many Gloranthan documents. While much is accurate, there are other elements that are distorted and only hint at the truth. Such is always the way when those compiling the documents have not witnessed the event or been to the places described. Also, note that this map was not actually drawn by Wilms himself, which is made obvious by the names present on this map (such as “Sun Dome Temple”) which were not used during Wilms’ life.
Furthermore, there is at least one error in the text itself (on which see the HeroQuest Errata.) Thus, some notes may help to match up the map with the description of Dragon Pass. (More complete information is available in Dragon Pass, Land of Thunder.)
Mount Kero Fin is the highest of the mountains located under the legend “Wintertop”; Wintertop itself is a mountain settlement named after a small peak on Kero Fin. Outsiders often confuse the two, and use Wintertop to refer to Kero Fin itself (and sometimes to the Tarshite Exiles who live at its foot). The hills that stretch northeast of Wintertop also reach southwest to the Grazelands and northeast to Snakepipe Hollow. These are the Dragonspine mountains made from the body of the dragon Orlanth killed. Where Wilms shows wide passes through these hills to the south and north of Wintertop, there are actually five high mountain passes. One of these is the Dragon Pass itself, where passage is through the dragon’s skull and from whence the region gets its name. Wilms obviously never traveled these passes that he depicted them so wide and easy!
Skyfall Lake is the large lake to the east of the Stinking Forest at the headwaters of The River. (Some versions of Wilm’s map also depict the permanent storm that broils over this lake.) To the east of Skyfall Lake itself, Cliffhome is the mountain fortress of the troll leader Cragspider described in the text; BlackOrm mountain is here, too. Of the three great mountains mentioned in the text, Arrowmound (to the southeast) is not covered by the area of this map.
The text describes two regions that are not fully covered on the map. Black Horse County lies west of this map, beyond the Grazelands. The tip of Esrolia appears on this map, but most of that land lies to the southwest of the map. Immediately south of the Haunted Lands (which are actually a plateau) lies a large body of water called Choralinthor Bay or MirrorSea Bay.
Also, there is no key to the symbols on the map. For reference, a star represents a large or important settlement. A Magic Rune in a circle represents a site of religious significance, usually a cult center. A “grave marker” represents a ruin — many of which date from the Dragonkill War or earlier.
Question: Two of the scenarios refer to “directed hero points”, (twice on page 247 in “Aftermath”, once on page 252, “Report to Vlasik”), What the heck are directed hero points?
Answer: The terminology came from Hero Wars, and these examples were not caught and corrected. “Directed Hero Points” are the same as “Free Abilities” discussed on page 179. They are ability increases (or, occasionally, decreases) or new abilities dictated by the narrator, rather than just giving hero points to the player. They give the narrator some direction in the growth of the hero based on events that have happened in story.
Question: In the index under armor, tools and weapons it says ‘see equipment‘, but there is no entry for equipment. Equipment is on page 78 (found after page flipping for a while).
Answer: Oops! Indexing is always an effort in consistency. Add the following index entry on page 283:
Question: For secrets that have an “all or nothing” effect (which in Hero Wars were described as “acting like mystic strikes”), can they be handled as a simple contest rather than extended contest? It seems to make more sense in many cases.
For instance, with Humakt’s Death secret and the example manifestations given in Storm Tribe (page 97), having ‘Death at a Glance’ or ‘Death Shadow’ done as an extended contest seems kind of silly.
I realize that it makes the secrets more powerful (especially if the hero has a hero point to spare) but it makes more sense mechanically.
Answer: Yes, you can run a secret as a simple contest, but it is up to the narrator. Sometimes it does make more sense, but sometimes running the secret’s use as a simple contest misses out on a lot of drama and fun and gives it more power than it deserves. As always, it is the importance of the event that should determine the type of contest used.
In the case of the Humakti above, for example, running the secret using a simple contest is fine as he is walking down the street heedless of whom his shadow falls on and sickens.
But when he is in an epic battle against a powerful foe, running the exchange as a simple contest makes the Death secret into Pompous Magic (HeroQuest, page 99). Imagine the devotee and his opponent, their glances locked for what seems like hours, each striving against the other’s will until one finally gives in and dies. (See Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light for a couple of examples of this sort of contest using the ‘Death at a Glance’ ability.)