25 Aug 2011

HQ is a toolbox, just use the parts you want to

Two answers to this one.

1) Thank goodness it is, I can stop worrying about the rules that make HeroQuest so unreliable as a Narrativist game. It just so happens a lot of these rules are the Glorantha specific ones that some may not even recognise as part of the rules. 

2) This is again a bit of a traditional gamer perspective, places like the Forge were created to do away with this kind of vague unreliable treatment of game rules. With this kind of approach you can drift any game into the type of game you always play, which results in a group having a house style and being convinced that systems are interchangeable. Nothing wrong with this, but HQ was very clearly a different and powerful game, I have no interest in turning it back into RuneQuest with a bit of narrational colour. And, I firmly believe the tenant that system does matter.

Your Glorantha may Vary

Hell yes, but in Narrativist play this variation isn't even an important consideration. Narrativist groups are not concerned with building up situation from a solid background and rules, they generate situation from character and the here-and-now situation the characters are in.

My Glorantha isn't really in focus most of the time, it may or may not vary, it has little to say about why my Orlanthi has a feud with the Ernaldan Priestess because that feud is more informed by my character description and the GMs portrayal of the priestess than by how Ernaldan Priestesses are described in the books.

You are trying to have the positives without the negatives

More fully expressed: by de-emphasising things like cult or community obligations you are just trying to max out a character without the negatives.

This concern is an expression of the Simulationist/Narrativist divide. In Simulationist play disadvantages are mainly enforced by the GM to ensure they are brought into play as a form of balance.

In Narrativist play it is mainly the player of a character that would be driving this kind of issue. A player in a narrativist game only needs the number on the sheet and perhaps a bit of a reminder that it is there. It is about the GM and the players bringing these negatives into play as interesting elements of exploration for their own sake not a matter of enforcement or balance.

HQ2 is the best version of Greg Stafford's intention

Every version of RQ/HW/HQ has been approved as a better representation of Greg Stafford's Gloranthan fiction and or vision.

This is mainly a marketing stance. Who would buy the new game if the consensus was that it was less like Glorantha? Some things appeared to line up well and some things seemed to be a bit forced, but on the whole I think this statement is meaningless.

More than this I don't really care. World setting is part of the game and as such there will always be differences in presentation of the world in each game but the world as envisaged is not a game. It would be better if the designers could acknowledge this innate separation of the game, the setting and the inspiration for the setting.

Augments were a key part of the system from the start

For a start the text of HW wasn't quite finished, such that there was still evidence of a previous version of the game where there was a distinction between skills that could be used only for augments and those that could be used as both skills and augments. This distinction remained as a part of the magic system, based on what level you were in a cult.

Augments were presented as a part of the extended contest rules and were not very well defined, provoking a lot of discussion on-line. The on-line community very quickly drifted augments and they became more flexible, were used in simple contests and often used in pairs, with a physical and a non-physical augment often advocated. The biggest change got placed into the early supplements, the idea of automatic augments. something I believe was a very bad precedent even though it seemed like a time saver at the beginning.

It seems to me they have always been problomatic, with problems rooting back to the play test. I have never been a fan of anything being treated as augment only, and I don't like the way they can lead to prejudicing the narration of a conflict before you even roll.

I prefer augments as presented in HQ2 but not as presented in the magic system or in the Sartar Book.

Occupation and Magic Keyword character traits have always been there

Yes, and they are a really great and fully functional part of the game, but look closely. The emphasis was originally on choosing and playing a particular type of character. You didn't for instance have to select cult or culture traits that you were not interested in. Your relationship to the cult or culture wasn't seen as a limitation of effectiveness, or as a specific character driver. It was instead seen as a stat used to represent how easy it was to use that relationship to solve problems just like any other skill. Yes there were entry requirements for cult levels but it was easy to start as a devotee, so this wasn't exactly a limiting factor. Early on it was even possible to be an initiate of one cult and a devotee of another, and pantheon worship was emphasised. Things drifted very rapidly soon after because these things were apparently not correct.

HeroWars wasn't designed to be Narrativist

Well I think it was, but it wasn't expressed well in the text, and controversially I don't think Robin Laws fully understands Narrativism, some of his comments on the subject seem plain wrong.

But, even if it was an accident of design, HW was rapidly picked up as a poster child for Narrativist style roleplaying. This wasn't some kind of co-incidence or because of some misunderstanding of the Narrativist crowd, it was because lots of elements of the mechanics actively support this style of play. The Fortune-in-the-middle system; the use of Hero-points in contests; the bidding system in Extended Contests; the grabby and situation heavy 100 word character generation; the universal conflict system, specifically the equality of relationships and character traits to more standard skills; all aid and support a Narrativist agenda.