Dad How Good Am I

Submitted by Jeff on Mon, 15/08/2011 – 12:11

One question that often comes up from old RQ players who have just made the jump to HeroQuest is “what do my ability ratings actually mean?” Or – “how good is an ability with 17?”

Ashley Munday, on the HeroQuest-rules Yahoo Group, has taken a brilliant stab at answering that question, made all the more brilliant because it is written from a “in game” perspective (albeit a bit tongue-and-cheek). Fantastic work Ash!

Here’s Ash’s original post: and reprinted below (with one minor Gloranthan edit):

“Dad, how good am I?”

“What do you mean son?”

“Who can I take in a fight! I’ve got my spear, hat and a shield – look, it’s got an air rune on it, I painted that – and I’ve practised with the fyrd a bit. And when I faced the challenge of the bad dogs in my initiation I ran two of Narga’s pups through.”

“Look son, you’re a bloody farmer. Who do you expect to able to beat in a punch up? Elinor the clan champion? Ari the Black Bastard?”

“What about Elinor?”

“Not a chance kid. Sorry, shouldn’t call you that now you’re an adult. But you are behaving like one a bit. Okay, man to man, she’ll have your balls off before you see her draw her sword. She’s wrestled Tuskers to the ground and she’s the only person in the Clan’s history that’s dared lift Ubran’s sword and lasted more than about 10 minutes.”

“So out of my league?”

“Son, you ain’t playing the same sport – she’s Trollball and you’re playing quoits. She’s death personified. It’s [drum roll] nearly impossible [/end drum roll]. Which reminds me, never drink out of the same horn that she has – everything goes manky pretty quickly after she’s touched it. She’s a scary one alright.”

“How about Ari then? He’s not a Devotee of Death is he?”

“Nope, He’s not. But I wouldn’t go up against him. He’s only recently crawled onto the clan ring, slimey bugger that he is but in a straight fight he’d be [drum roll] very difficult [/end drum roll] to beat.”

“How’s that? They all say he’s shit with a sword!”

“Technically he’s not that competent a warrior. He wins by being a complete count with a silent oh. Don’t let your mother here me saying that word to you, she still thinks you’re 5 summers old and being beaten up by Murnings.”

“Who can I beat up then?”

“Well I’ve taught you most of what you know so I’d be [drum roll] difficult [/end drum roll]. Pissed up Uncle Hrolf is still a bit competent so he’d be about [drum roll] moderately  [/end drum roll] hard to take on. Killing a Murning would be [drum roll] easy [/end drum roll] – if you weren’t scared of cats.”

“So how many HeroPoints do I need to be as good as either of Ari or Elinor?”

“Shush! For Orlanth’s sake you start spouting off like that and you’ll be called a God Learner and be torched or even worse have a gift giver coming after you. I told you not to eat red pills dispensed by black men in trench-coats and shades.”

“But he looked so cool…”

“Forget him son! Now if you want to be able to take either Elinor or Ari in a fight you’re going to have to practise hard. Get some decent weapons – that bronze spear head’s been in family for donkey’s years and has some magic – and armour as well. Go and fight whenever you can with different opponents. On the holy days watch how Orlanth and Destor fight.”

“Sounds like a lot then!”

“Yep, say 20ish for Ari, 50 to 100 for Elinor. Now take this blue pill before the great Gods of Immersion come calling.”

“Before I do that dad, as we’ve reached a higher metaphysical plane…”

“You mean disappeared up our own arses?”

“I think so. While we’re up to our necks in colons then should I diversify my skills or save my hero points for bumps?”

“Wash your mouth out! Skills in Glorantha went out about the same time Japan were in the charts and mobile phones were the size of housebricks. Skills are things you can do, things you can practise doing. What you’ve got are abilities, things that you can use to overcome challenges. I mean, could you ‘improve’ your deathly fear of Murnings?'”

“I could practise. Perhaps have one jump out at me at regular intervals, catch me off guard and make me poo myself!”

“We named you incorrectly son. Should have been Clouseau.”

“Can the Murning be called Kato?”

“Are you listening to any of this?? So you’ve got abilities – not skills. Most of them describe who and what you are, not what you can do.”

“Got it.”

“Now due to the way the challenges you’ll encounter over your cliched career of farm boy to Argrath (they’re really common, I met three one afternoon and I wasn’t even drunk) keep becoming harder it’s a good idea to focus on a couple of your abilities and use catch ups for the rest.”

“Ketchups? Is that imported from the Lunar Empire? They’re into red things.”

“Orlanth and Ernalda! Give me strength Barntar! So, this is your father’s wisdom. Listen and heed it well. Look at page 71 and beyond of the Abiding Book (translated and abridged by Rob the Laws speaker). Ask someone who can read to tell you what it says there, and all will become clear as to your questions.”


“Good. Now take the blue pill. Oh bugger, it’s a suppository and I hate those.”

Rule the First

The base resistance of any conflict depends on the length of time you’ve played your campaign. The base resistance starts at 14 and you add one for every two sessions you complete.

Rules the Second

The actual resistance of any conflict is the base resistance plus a chunk that describes how difficult the challenge is to overcome. They range from trivial (see a previous thread on that one) to nearly impossible (add W2 to the base resistance). Just describe how hard the challenge is to overcome (drum rolls optional) and match it against the table in the rules.

This Means…

The resistance of a challenge has nothing to do with the abilities [1] of a particular character.

If players don’t focus their hero point spends then their character’s best abilities won’t stay ahead of resistances and they become less effective (although potentially more interesting). If you’re trying to keep two keywords ahead of the game you’re only going to have about 1 hero point to bump with every session.

So Kallyr could be “nearly impossible” to beat in a social challenge. This means that on session 1 she’s got a whopping resistance of 14W2. Ouch, even Kindy Lingus the law speaker with “smoozing 7W” is going to have trouble (or have to burn some hero points) overcoming her.

What’s more she gets harder to overcome. Every other session it (to quote Kevin) ticks up by one point. If a player wants to overtake this rate of increase they’ve got to increase their abilities at a greater rate and have fewer hero points to burn. As a first approximation characters get better at overcoming challenges which match their character’s main focus and less able to overcome challenges outside that focus.

[1] Caveat here is that the character has an appropriate ability and isn’t stretched or has a specific ability bonus.

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