Resistance for players

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Resistance for players Submitted by Michael Lewis on Tue, 28/05/2013 – 22:01

Here’s the situation:  An evil wizard(NPC) casts a spell at a PC.  

If the PC doesen’t have any ability that would work to resist the spell, would the resistance be 6 for no appropiate ability?  Or could the PC use the natural resistance of 14 like when a PC would climb a mountain that does not have abilities.  

Hope this makes sense.



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Expand the Timeframe

Submitted by Philmagpie on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 01:47.

Hi Michael,

My take on this issue would be to widen the scope of the contest, and look at what the Players were doing too.

So, if this were in a combat, then the Players are trying to fight the wizard.  Thus I would roll the PC’s Spear and Shield Combat against the wizard’s Fireball, or whatever the exact abilities are in this case.

If the wizard wins this Contest, then the PC is hit by the spell.  Whereas, if the PC wins, then the spell fails/is parried or dodged and the wizard has been stabbed with the spear.

Happy Gaming


Charles's picture

good point

Submitted by Charles on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 02:02.

HeroQuest is meant to be a story telling / dramatic resolution system, meant to model action in a similar fashion as tv or film writers and directors do. Always think of the big picture and resolve contests at the largest possible scale that is consistent with the players need for drama.

I suspect this is where the campaign that I started with my sons fell down 🙁


Yes – I think that sometimes

Submitted by Tim Ellis on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 04:20.

Yes – I think that sometimes the answer we come up with after careful offline consideration is not the same answer that we would come up with were the situation to arise suddenly in our own games with players in mid-flow.  One of the benefits of this sort of thread is to share different approaches to help everyone (not just the Original Poster) recognise how and when different approaches can be made


As Phil points out, HQ takes the line that contests should be player driven/focused so that rather than 

GM:”THe Evil Wizard casts a spell at you, how do you resist?”

 Player 1: “I use my ‘Indomitable Will 4W'” Player 2: “Umm … I don’t really have any applicable abilities…”  


you could have

GM:”The Evil Wizard is chanting and waving his arms about what do you do?”

 Player 1: “I resist his magic with my ‘Indomitable Will 4W'” Player 2: “I will rush forward and stab him before he can finish his spell ‘First to the Fight 5W'”

GM:”OK, anything better than a Marginal victory and you’ll hit him before he can finish casting. Anything worse than a Marginal defeat and he’ll get the spell off before you reach him. If you get a Marginal victory you will hit him, but get not fully avoid the spell, and if he gets a marginal victory the spell will go off, but you still get to hit him”*

(* The mechanical effects of the combat are unchanged, but the options for the next exchange may be different if the spell gets cast)


I like this but….

Submitted by Michael Lewis on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 09:21.

Nice.  I like the response by the GM about what happens if you get this and that.


Would you give any of these players a penalty for not having a more specific ability than the other?  (I forget what the rule is called)



Charles's picture

Specific Ability Bonuses – Page 51

Submitted by Charles on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 09:48.

The value of the penalty or bonus relates to how generic the ability that they are trying to use and the specific action they are trying to undertake with the ability vs. the specific action and generic ability of the opponent (or the other players if the opposition is an abstract force).

If the hero is trying to stab the wizard with her Stab Wizard with Sword ability, then she should likely get a +6 bonus because of the very narrow specificity of the ability. Unless, of course, the wizard is using a spell of Injure Female Orlanthi Warrior’s Left Leg.

Remember, as pointed out earlier, both the hero and the wizard are taking actions against each other, not one acting and the other resisting.

Charles's picture

consider the nature of the system

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 29/05/2013 – 07:05.

In the Moon Design HeroQuest scenarios, GM characters are usually defined with 2 or 3 runes and a short description. For an example, see page 7 of Return to Apple Lane[1], where all of the recurring GM characters get descriptions of a similar length as Darsten below.

Darsten Black Oak (Storm, Movement, Disorder)
A powerful thane and warrior of the Taraling clan, Darsten is a kinsman of Kangharl and the strong right hand of the king. He was once a priest of Orlanth, but after the humiliating defeat of the Sartar High Council, Darsten concluded that the god Orlanth was doomed to defeat by the Red Goddess. Darsten traveled into Peloria where he learned of Doburdun Black Oak, the Pelorian storm god, and was initiated into his secrets. Darsten is now a priest of Doburdun and the leader of that small cult in Colymar lands.
Darsten is a stout, greedy man who wears his grizzled hair long to cover the scars left by Orlanth’s impests. He always carries “Addi” – a magical curved club made of dark oak. Darsten is a fluent speaker of New Pelorian. Darsten is at least a Hard Difficulty in combat or magic. If Darsten were injured or killed, his cousin King Kangharl would go to extreme lengths to avenge him.”

The GM has to interpret these descriptions very broadly, particularly the keywords.

Note that the following is my very opinionated interpretation of how to best use the HeroQuest Core Rules. Your game will vary, just as your Glorantha will vary.

The keywords in this example are Storm; Movement; Disorder; Warrior; Taraling Clan; and Thane / Priest of Doburdan[2].

  • The magic rune Keywords give personality abilities/flaws and maybe some physical abilities, in addition to the more obvious magical abilities.
  • Warrior, for example, implies a certain physical toughness that might be used to resist magic that causes physical damage. Warrior might also imply a certain mental discipline that could resist mind altering magic.
  • The clan keyword gives all of the abilities that you would expect from every member of the Sartarite Orlanthi culture, in addition to those abilities that are specific to the Taraling clan.
  • The Thane / Priest keyword(s) imply all kinds of abilities of authority, wealth, respect, politics, magical knowledge and relationships within the tribe and even outside the tribe.

There is no reason that player heroes should not have the same generousity applied when using their keywords.

Of course, your game might not be set in Glorantha, and so different setting appropriate assumptions might apply in your game world. However, this broad-stroke approach is encouraged in the HeroQuest system.

[1] Return to Apple Lane is an excerpt from Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes.

[2] Some may want to treat these as two separate keywords, others might say that being a Priest automatically implies a status of Thane. Because Darsten is a Thane for the King of the tribe, this brings with it relationships at the tribal level rather than at the clan level.

RoM's picture

what kind of spell? what do you want to achieve?

Submitted by RoM on Wed, 29/05/2013 – 05:04.

First of all you can determine the resistance based on the pass-fail-cycle. What do you want to achieve? Is it the ultimate magic spell that will wither the PCs soul? Have the PCs won/failed against the wizard before?

Secondly I can hardly imagine a combat spell that does not have any related resisting abilities. Here are some examples:

Fireball/Magic Missile: strong, athlete, heavy armour, worships a fire god.

Fear: iron mind, stubborn, loves his spouse, clan, warrior.

Disease/Curse: devoutly religious, in good shape, arcane knowledge, good alignment.

Ask your player. He/she will probably come up with some very creative ideas. The wizard wants to change something in the PCs life. To have it changed there must be something in the first place. Use that keyword/ability.

And one last technicality: I would not let the player roll the resistance. Let the wizard use the resistance and use the PC the ability. It doesn’t really matter which is which, in the end it is 13 vs. 17 or whatever. But it makes it easier for you the narrator to let the players always roll on their abilities and you determine the resistance according to the suspense and difficulty you want to create (low to almost impossible) and the pass-fail-cycle.





RoM's picture

Be spontaneous

Submitted by RoM on Wed, 29/05/2013 – 05:30.

Oh, and one more thing. If neither you nor the players can really, really come up with any reasonable ability to use, let them create one. There is no rule that the ability has to be on the character sheet *before* the situation happens. If you tell the players “The evil wizard suddenly appears before you and casts frost rays against you. What do you do?” A player could answer: “So far I have no ability that could go against it, but when my character was a little girl she once got lost in the woods. Heavy snow fell and covered her tracks immediately and took her orientation. So she strayed for many a day until she was far from home and even the forest was long gone. Without food or shelter she would have died in the snow. But then some ice giants appeared. First the girl was frightened. But then she realised she was too small of a meal to even be considered eating. Instead they gave her some food and took care of her. To return the favour my little girl taught them how to play with snow balls and build snowmen just for fun. Weeks later the giants brought her back home safely and her family rejoiced. But whenever she sees the first snowflakes in winter, the girls gets sad and misses her giants. Could I add ‘Loves the cold 13’ to my character sheet?”

On an evil simulationist /

Submitted by Tim Ellis on Wed, 29/05/2013 – 04:58.

On an evil simulationist / task resolution basis I could say that the Wizard needs to beat the “natural resistance”  of 14 to cast the spell, but once it’s cast if the player has no suitable ability then they can only resist with the “default base”of 6.  I’m not sure I’d actually do this in practice (certainly not for every spell in a typical Fantasy setting).


For a more conflict resolution based approach, we could look at what is happening – The Wizard is trying to affect the PC with a spell – Test his “Cast Spell” (or “Fireball” or whatever) ability against the best/most appropriate resistance – If the PC has a “Resist Magic” (or “Flame resistant Armour” if it is a fireball!) then this is likely to be what is used.  If they have no thing at all (even as a stretch from something like their own God/Cult Membership) then they might be forced to rely on the worlds natural resistance to magic (14) – although you might penalise this as a “broad” ability if other characters have more specific abilities to use (and the Evil Wizard is also presumably using a more focused ability too!)


I’d want to be a bit careful about allowing PC’s to use “natural resistance” where they don’t have a relevant ability.  You can sort of argue for it for magic, but if you are not careful then it becomes the default for any ability the character doesn’t have.  

I found the reference!!!

Submitted by Michael Lewis on Thu, 30/05/2013 – 09:25.

Ok, I found where I read this about natural resistance.

Mythic Russia p.63 

“The default resistance for natural and ordinarythings is 14.Use this number for normal tasks or “passive”resistances, or if the resistance is hard to gauge. 14 is thenormal minimum resistance — if a hero has noappropriate ability to resist in a contest, he can at least“passively” resist and hope that his opponent makes amistake. The narrator may decide that a hero offers alower resistance, typically the default ability rating of 6.However, such an easy task might be an automaticsuccess, even for the hero’s opponent. Thus, a hero whohas been drugged into unconsciousness might offer aresistance of 6 to being tied up, but the narrator is morelikely to simply declare that he can do nothing about it.”  This is what confused me.   Michael

Charles's picture

nature of magic in your world?

Submitted by Charles on Wed, 29/05/2013 – 05:17.

It depends on the nature of magic in the world you want to play.

If casting magic is just like breathing, then the hero can only resist with the abilities that they have. But some abilities may be very broad and may resist with a penalty.

If casting magic is changing the nature of the world (even if only slightly), then there may be a natural resistance. Then, the hero’s resistance is the greater of their own abilities or the world’s natural resistance to magic.

In either case, there should only ever be a single roll (pair of rolls) and almost never the GM rolling against herself.

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