7 Jul 2009

Is the new HeroQuest Narrativist?

Is the new HeroQuest Narrativist?

Of course the simple and most correct answer to this question is no. Narrativism, as situated within The Big Model is about the agenda of a group around the table for a particular game, not about the rules chosen or the techniques used.

Does HQ2 support Narrativism?

Yes, in so far as there is a clearly stated aim to focus on story. This in itself can cloud the issue, as story is a value laden term, but yes, there are specific mechanics that support narrativist play in HQ2.

What about the game supports Narrativism?

Primarily, the fortune in the middle mechanic allows for a player based decision on the outcome of the conflict, and as such whether you succeed or fail is heavily weighted towards how important the conflict is to the player.
How this aids narrativism is by allowing the players to make decisions on consequential outcomes, but of course it is still dependent on the Narrator to allow this to happen. Note that this mechanic has always been present since HW.

Fortune in the Middle, what is that?

Fortune refers to the randomising dice mechanic. The Middle part is related to where the randomising factor occurs in relation to the resolution of the conflict.
In HQ2 the player and the narrator will agree on a conflict, then the player will decide on a goal and the narrator will decide on the opposing goal of the opposition. The conflict is then resolved by a mechanic that allows the player to influence the outcome in his favour if he wishes to spend his limited Hero Point currency. Sometimes the dice will dictate the outcome, but usually the outcome can be swayed by Hero Points. The key here is that finalising what actually happened, how the conflict was resolved, is ascertained by this Hero Point expenditure mechanic. You get to make decisions about relative success or failure after the randomiser.

Consequential Outcomes, explain?

In order for a game to be Narrativist, players must be able to influence how the story is being told. If decisions about story structure and pacing are informing the usage of Hero Points then there is a good chance that the game is being played with a narrativist agenda. In other words, if the outcome of the conflict has story related consequences, and that the responsibility for these outcomes is distributed amongst the group and not in the hands of the narrator, then the conflict mechanic can support a narrativist agenda.

This all sounds non-committal, can HQ2 be narrativist or not?

When you boil it down, HQ2 has loads of advice about story telling in games, but the advice is not aimed towards making the game narrativist. There is lots of advice directly compatible and even supportive of narrativism, and some that may detract or work against it. It would appear that Robin Laws does not adhere to the Big Model, so HQ2 can never be a narrativist toolkit. Indeed much of the advice, such as its approach to pacing with the Pass Fail cycle, could easily lead the well meaning group far away from a narrativist agenda if it didn’t already have this agenda firmly established.

The book clearly addresses narrative story methods, surely this is narrativist?

In some places yes, and in others no. The advice is often geared towards collaboration over the story and the narration, but I think it is important to have in mind when reading this advice that collaboration over such issues as narration can be used as a technique in any agenda.

Pass, Fail Cycle?

A chapter of HQ2 is given over to advice on story structure based on keeping track of how successful the players have been, and adjusting the current conflict’s resistance based upon a loose negative feedback loop. (A run of success leads to stiffer resistance for instance.) This system is geared towards using success and failure as a model for story structure.

Does the Pass, Fail Cycle work against Narrativism?

No, but it could have the potential to do so. A Narrator that is clearly trying to facilitate a group responsibility for story structure will possibly find that the Pass, Fail Cycle models a system very similar to their instincts. The danger may be for those Narrators who use the Pass Fail Cycle to enforce structure rather than help inform it, taking story structure out of the groups hands.

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