Home Forums Gaming in Glorantha HeroQuest Contest Question: "Mismatched" Duel Outcome or Just Non-Lethal Combat

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    Profile photo of Clay

    One of my players has been challenged to a duel. The player is confident he can win, but dreads the thought of paying the wergild. The challenger has every intent of killing the player. The player wishes to win the duel without killing the challenger.
    I felt this was a mismatched goal: the challenger wants to “win AND kill” while the player wants to “win BUT NOT kill”. My rationale was that it will be as hard for the “win and kill” duelist to achieve his “best desired results” as it will be for the “win but not kill” duelist to achieve his “best desired results”.
    If the “win+kill” duelist must gain a major or complete victory to both win and kill his opponent. The “win-kill” duelist must gain a major or complete victory to win and not kill his opponent. They both “win” on any victory, but the challenger doesn’t get the kill he wants (best desired result) and the player doesn’t get to spare the challenger’s life (and avoid the wergild) he wants (best desired result).
    To ne, this seems to set the stakes of the duel nicely.
    However, a player suggested that this was clearly a case of “Non-Lethal Combat”:
    HQG110 “In almost every type of campaign, experienced combatants should have the option to restrict the harm they inflict on their opponents. To do this, players specify that their heroes are fighting to disable, not kill, before they land any blows. If, at the end of any fight, an opponent is assessed as being Dying, and the hero who knocked him out of the fight was fighting to disable, the result is reduced to Injured.”
    While I agree it does fit the requirements (the player is just stating “I don’t want to kill my opponent” before landing a blow), it seems a little “too easy” or “undramatic” to me. Anyway, I’ve got to come up with a decision soon.
    Agree? Disagree? Comments?

    Profile photo of Thomas Iverson
    Thomas Iverson

    I would not run the contest as Graduated Goals, as the primary goals aren’t mismatched. The primary goal for both is to win the duel, right? That’s the main contest… but they both can’t win the duel. The consequences of each winning aren’t necessarily the same, but it’s a zero sum game, like most contests. One could think of the “Kill vs weregild avoidance” as a secondary goal, but Graduated Goals (IMHO) aren’t useful for secondary goals that mismatch, they are best for primary goals that mismatch with secondary goals which are mutually exclusive. Here the primary goals are mutually exclusive and the secondary goals mismatch. After all, if the PC dies, they don’t have to pay weregild… both sides succeed!

    How important is this duel to the player and the current campaign?

    • Not very important? Just run it like a normal simple contest. If the player wins, they do the Non-Lethal Combat option if the opponent is Dying. The opponent gets what they want on a Dying result for the PC, too. Except if someone powerful intervenes at the last minute….
    • Important? Run it as an extended contest of the appropriate flavor. If the player wins, it’s pretty much like a simple contest result. If the opponent wins, they will automatically do a Parting Shot to try to take the PC out to Dying or Dead (if not there already).
    Profile photo of Sergi Diaz
    Sergi Diaz

    I’d say that if there’s the possibility that the player can die, it’s automatically an important contest and thus it should be an extended contest. Personally I never kill a player as a direct result of a simple contest, it’s very anticlimatic.

    Profile photo of Phil Nicholls
    Phil Nicholls

    Hi Clay,

    I would not rule this as a mismatched duel either. I see this as a duel with slightly different intentions, and thus run it as an extended contest. I am happy for the Players to narrate the outcome of a contest, should they win. Victory in the duel, without killing the opponent, is a common story event, so should not be an issue in a narrative game.

    All the best

    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko

    “While I agree it does fit the requirements it seems a little “too easy” or “undramatic” to me.”
    I think it depends whether the opponent is specifically trying to put the PC in a lose-lose situation where the PC either dies or kills the opponent and incurs the wergild. The rules would call it “dramatically important”, or a plot point, or something. Is it in character for the NPC and would you want to narrate it as part of the drama of the situation?
    If yes then it can be part of the contest, so that if the PC does poorly, they might either die, or win but kill the opponent. You could use the HQG Graduated Goals rules for that, or you could handle it less formally.
    If not, then I’d say the general spirit of the rules advises you to “say yes”; that just seeming too easy is not necessarily the best criterion for introducing the complication. There’s a decent amount of “fuck it, just give it to them” (give the players what they ask for as part of collaborative storytelling) (“say yes”) in the rules.

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