Submitted by Invain63 on Mon, 23/04/2012 – 20:49
I am looking for a bit of guidance about the default resistance level in HeroQuest. Some players in a game I ran last weekend observed that because the default ability rating is 13 and the default resistance is 14 heroes will fail at tests using those abilities more than half of the time. They were not happy about this! This problem came up most often in augmentation tests, which depend on secondary abilities.
I have to agree that a less than 50% chance to succeed at most of your abilities seems a bit harsh. Maybe it is a matter of taste, but I feel that if a player has gone to the trouble to put an ability on the character sheet it is probably something that the character shouldn’t fail at more than half the time versus a moderate resistance. That sounds more like “hard” to me.
Now, use of the pass-fail cycle (a bone of contention for one of the players, but that is a topic for a different post) could have blunted this a bit, but I don’t think it would have totally mitigated it. I had never thought about it before, but while I can come up with lots of reasons why the main test would be harder or easier based on the PFC, augmentation tests seem to be a lot harder for me to describe modifying factors for. Furthermore, since augments are of secondary dramatic significance to the main test I don’t think they should be described in as much detail.
I should probably have used the alternate auto-augment rule – which for some reason I incorrectly thought had been removed from HQ2 – but this raises another issue for me. The auto-augment rule gives the player 1/5 of their ability rating without requiring a roll. For an ablity of 13, that would be +3 which is the most likely result of an augment roll with an ability of the same rating – assuming that the player succeeds in the test, which as stated above is a less than 50% chance. These two options seem wildly out of sync with each other!
One idea I have to mitigate this issue for augments is to eliminate making augments a special case (with their own separate default resistance) and simply say that – all other things being equal – augments are considered to have a resistance class of “Low”, (usually a 7) or “Very Low” (6). Taking the auto-augment would still probably give you better results, but rolling might still appeal to gamblers. I haven’t run the numbers, though, so I am not sure.
Of course this still doesn’t solve the problem of failing too often when using abilities with base ratings directly.
Paradoxically its not about the numbers 😉
Submitted by Newtus on Fri, 27/04/2012 – 09:28.
“I have to agree that a less than 50% chance to succeed at most of your abilities seems a bit harsh.”
Not really, its posistively generous in comparison to starting low level characters in RuneQuest/BRP. One of the joys about HQ2 compared to HQ1 (where it was so easy to win-win-win-and-win-again-yawn ) was that it reintroduced a level of risk where characters could mess up badly. Until you get that Mastery you suck! And even when you do have that Mastery and someone comes along with another mastery level, you are likely to get you ass handed to you.
What you and the players need to get into your head is that unless they either changes circumstances to decrease the resistance or all pull together to do a group augment, such odds will smack them down. And so it should…….for being so dull! Get them to focus on describing what their characters are doing and work it out from there. The more they narrate what their characters are doing the more they will find suitable unique augments.
I find to run contests successfully, for me HQ is not about the numbers. Make sure you are connecting with your players and work out how emotionally charged they are (as you’ve already pointed out). You’ll find that alot of potiential contests get thrown out the window, when you stop and think about it. And don’t be afraid to talk it out with your players – “Do you think this is a Simple Contest or do you really want to ramp it up and have an Extended Contest?”. That even goes for resistances. Breakdown that GM/Player barrier. You’ll find players will appreciate it and buy into it. Some of the best moments I’ve had are where me and the players have set up scenes filled with contests, alternating with meta-gaming talk about setting resistances and augments with immersive roleplaying.
On the subject of Auto vs Rolled Augments, I use both even in con games. 9/10 players will go with Auto augments, but for those truely dramatic moments nothing beats the tension of a well placed Rolled Augment 😉
Submitted by newsalor on Fri, 03/08/2012 – 03:32.
I completely agree.
The genre and style of the campaign defines in what the characters fail at 50% of the time if the players are unwilling to spend heropoints. If the players aren’t happy with the conflicts their characters are involved in, the problem is in the framing of the contests, not in the numbers.
I mean, if the characters are superspies, then the obstacle that provides the mid level resistance should be different than in a “realistic” spy game set in Berlin during the cold war.
The numbers don’t mean what they used to mean
Submitted by Invain63 on Fri, 27/04/2012 – 22:02.
Hey Newt! Your post is full of pretty good advice but does seem to miss the mark on the HeroQuest 2 “paradigm” for ability ratings. A starting character in HeroQuest isn’t neccessarily a noob as in RuneQuest. It is pretty clear from the rules that the setting/genre/style (I have failed my lit-crit roll tonight) of the game sets the benchmark.
A HeroQuest 2 character is like a protagonist in a movie or book. Such characters don’t generally start out as neophytes and rise in skill to be movers and shakers. They are what they are defined to be. In one game you might be playing super-spies and in another you might play high school students. In both cases you start out with exactly the same character creation system. This means that ability scores have no meaning except as relates to other ability scores on your character sheet (or another player’s) or the default resistance as modified by difficulty (set either by Narrator judgement or the pass-fail cycle). This idea is best illustrated by the fact that the resistance rises as the PCs abilities advance, making advancement itself basically an empty exercise.
Therefore, the 14 default resistance and beginning ability scores are intended to be how the game is experienced. My point is that having most of your dozen or so abilities have less than a 50% chance doesn’t seem to reflect most fictiont that I have seen/read. A character should have less than a 50% chance to do something *difficult* not something with a moderate resistance, IMHO. Your game will vary.
There is actually an in-system way to adjust the default rating, BTW. If I simply say that the max starting ability rating is 5M instead of 7M then the default resistance becomes a 12. (Default resistance = max rating – 13) I might give this narrower range of scores a try next time I run a game and see how it goes.
Thanks for your help! It is deeply appreciated.
default is not average
Submitted by RoM on Tue, 24/04/2012 – 05:26.
You are right that the default rating for abilities is 13. But that doesn’t mean it’s the average rating. If a player puts all his 20 creation points into two abilities, of course the rest will be at 13. But that is the player’s choice. He doesn’t have to. He could as well start all abilities at 15. That would turn the odds in his favour.
If the contest in question is for an augment, remember that these resistances don’t rise as quickly. So augments become easier over time. Also failing or winning an augment test is not as important as the main test.
If it’s about a main contest, the players still have heropoints to bump the result. That will almost always turn the result into a minor success.
So far the system worked for my series.
Submitted by Invain63 on Tue, 24/04/2012 – 09:17.
This was a convention game, so it wasn’t the players choice (fault!) – it was mine. I went with a 10/5/5 split of character creation points. I could have spread the points out more thinly, say 4/4/4/4/4, which could have resulted in one or two abilities at 1M and another few at 17. The players would still wind up with lots of abilities – probably around half – that fail more often than they succeed against a moderate resistance. It wouldn’t have been as obvious, though.
Hero Points would have helped in a pinch, but I forgot to give the players HP! Another botch on my part, one of many I am afraid.
You are the boss
Submitted by RoM on Tue, 24/04/2012 – 11:04.
Don’t worry. To err is human. You are not playing to follow some rules but to have fun. So if you have to adjust the rules at any time for better entertainment: go for it! If you realise you made a mistake or something is not working: change it!
On a one-shot you don’t have to give heropoints at all. But I like doing so, because it gives the players the opportunity to assess what contest might be of greater importance than others. Heropoints not only make the difference between defeat and victory but also between great and complete victory.
A 10/5/5 split is perfectly fine. Such a character is simply more specialised than a character with a 10×2 spread. Neither will be stronger nor weaker.
If you play a system with keywords or runes, remember that they have a broad range they can be used for. Your 10/5/5 character with the keyword ‘Police officer’ 7M could use that keyword for physical, social, financial, research or other augments.
Also you don’t have to allow augments at all or only from time to time. If you do allow them, it should be fun. If you think the PC’s own secondary ability is not strong enough for an augment you can suggest that another player augments with his primary ability. That even works without any physical help. E.g. if PC1 is in a one-to-one duel with the antagonist, PC2 could lend morale support by telling him that the whole town is on his side.
You can also lower the resistances for exciting or funny ideas by the players or for good roleplaying. However, I would not lower the resistance to 6. That would be so easy you could use an automatic victory instead.
If you follow all the rules and you still think the ability ratings are mismatched in your series, you can simply increase the creation points to 30 or 40 and see how that goes.
Submitted by Invain63 on Tue, 24/04/2012 – 14:47.
It occurs to me that I have also not been paying enough attention to the Choosing Your Contest Type decision tree (pg 70). One could interpret the Quick Augment rule as essentially being an automatic success. After all, in most cases an augment contest can be described this way:
Are the players emotionally involved? Probably not. The player is just angling to increase chances of success for a subsequent contest.
Does failure offer an interesting branch? Probably not. Failure would be frustraing, but wouldn’t change what comes next.
Would failure seem peculiar? Probably so. Augmenting your spear with the Death Rune is IMHO something no self-respecting hero should fail at. YGMV.
What are the stakes? Probably low. As in the first question, the player is unlikely to change his course of action depending on the result of an augment roll.
If any of the above is the case then an automatic success is called for.
Bending the rules a bit more, I could see myself ruling that if the player wanted more than the +3 for an automatic marginal success then he/she has to win a simple contest. The situation is no longer one where there is no emotional involvement, failure doesn’t offer an interesting branch, etc. The player and I would negotiate how this augment attempt is unusual and how much of a bonus success would be worth. I would then set the difficulty rating per story logic.
Submitted by Philmagpie on Sun, 29/04/2012 – 03:43.
Also remember that as the GM you have the ability to define the parameters of failure when declaring a contest. Traditionally, RPG contests would be rather binary in nature; either pick the lock or not, and the door stays locked.
HeroQuest, by being a Narrative Game, offers an alternative; pick the lock before the guard walks past. I admit that it can be tricky to improvise such Contests, but practice and preparing some stock sceanrios in advance should all help you.
By moving away from the traditional binary contest, you have created a contest with no uninteresting failures. There is still a penalty for failure, namely having to deal with the guard, and the narrative becomes more difficult for the Heroes, but the plot does not end if the rogue fails to pick the lock.
Indeed, the grades of failure may indicate who arrives; Tie could be the janitor, Minor Failure and it is a secretary, Major Failure is an armed guard, and so on. Each one offers a different plot branch, and complicates the narrative, but the damn door still gets opened.
I accept that this is not quite what you asked, but the idea is that there can be more narrative answers to your mechanics issue.
Hope that this helps
Submitted by Invain63 on Mon, 30/04/2012 – 15:43.
This is an excellent point, and one which I keep forgetting. Thanks! One of the to-do list items for my next demo game is to create a page of reminders for contest options that I frequently overlook, like arduous auto-success.
“Default” settings and contests
Submitted by Herve on Thu, 03/05/2012 – 14:57.
This is a very stimulating discussion, to which I’d like to add my two cent’s worth.
What Newt said about breaking the GM/Player barrier and to build the contests together is dead on. It stimulates creative process by both sides and “augments” playing pleasure for everybody. Do give them a few minutes to work up a strategy, and make sure they did understand how the rules work before launching an extended group contest !
My players like to roll dice, so we often do – lots of simple contests to reflect the wear and tear of long off-road treks in the jungle, taking shots from invisible embyli, etc. But we go for extended contests only for big issues.
Finally, I do use default settings of my own which don’t change, especially for sizes, temperatures, distances and basic ratings : a complete beginner is 13, a young adult 17, a competent NPC is 5M, a Hero 1M2 etc. I think it gives more cohesion to the game.
Finally, make players afraid of failure, and enthusiastic about success. Go for emotions. If a scene works super-well without dice rolls, if everybody is roleplaying well and enjoying themselves, forget dice rolls.
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