Home Forums Gaming in Glorantha HeroQuest Two questions about running Glorantha with HQ2

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    Profile photo of Ufnal

    Hi there!

    After a long time spent just admiring Glorantha (I’m much more of a lorereader than a gamer), I’m starting to think about running a game set in this wonderful world. I have skimmed the rulebooks and read some reviews and discussions and I have two things I’d like to ask you.

    The first question is really quite straightforward – nowadays I mostly play RPGs via Internet forum, in a play-by-post fashion. Has anybody tried that with HQ2 yet? Do you think HQ2 is suitable for such a manner of gaming?

    The second question is a bit more complex. After learning a bit of and about HQ2 rules [mind you, I am still to properly read the rulebook], I fell in love with the way abilities are portrayed and the magic system – freeform yet well grounded in the setting. This is precisely what I seek in RPGs – on the one hand not crunchy, focused on the story and flow of narrative, on the other hand – perfectly capturing the spirit and realities of a setting in a, paradoxically, very simulationist way.

    I am under the impression, however, that the way HQ2 handles relations between the PCs and the outside world does not suit my tastes. I love the fantasy worlds to feel vibrant, alive, with the characters and powers-that-be having their own abilities, secrets, agendas, clashing with each other behind the scenes – or even not behind the scenes. I love it when the PCs are a part of a greater world. Yet with the NPCs being totally statless and all the challenge difficulties ruled by the flow of narrative rather than the “actual” in-world abilities and powers of the NPCs, I feel as if the beautiful and detailed world of Glorantha was turned into cardboard decorations in a play where only the PCs are actors (or even – characters). This also means that the in-world power of the characters seems, too, to be determined by their narrative progression which seems to have little connection to their mechanics and stats.

    If you think that my fears and doubts about HQ2 are misguided and based on flawed/incorrect info, please correct me. I’d really love to find a way to play Glorantha while utilising the good things about HeroQuest 2 that I learned about (the ability, keyword and magic goodness). Are there maybe good system modifications that adress some of my problems? (I’ve seen a HQ2 – FATE mashup on rpg.net forums and it might be worth a try) Or maybe an earlier version of HeroQuest/HeroWars would better suit my tastes as described here?

    Profile photo of David Scott
    David Scott

    Question 1 is out of my experience, but question 2…. One of the liberating discoveries for me when first exposed to narrative gaming was the that I didn’t now have to keep track of the outside world as well as the players. In terms of HeroQuest – “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” – no. If players are interacting with organisations then the results of contests should provide the info to act on , with lingering bonuses or levels of adversity. I play fate as well so understand the idea of the fate fractal for anything, but with HeroQuest you can forego even that and rely on just taking a few notes to remind yourself of what went on. If you want to run a game where you “run” background groups and powers then HeroQuest probably isn’t for you. Embrace the simpleness. (I rarely bother with the community stats).

    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard

    I use HQ 2 pretty much exclusively nowadays, and I run pretty elaborate games with very significant NPCs. Frex, in the current house campaign, Queen Hendira of Nochet is an active enemy of the players (they just ousted her in a coup d’etat and put one of the players on the throne of Nochet – it is getting very Game of Thrones in feel). She has no stats, just a short description of her as if she were a freeform character. Same thing with King Broyan and Minaryth the Purple (the most important allies the players currently have). The group of eight dragonewts that follow them around, sometimes aiding them, sometimes ignoring them, also have no stats. The players have crossed paths with Tatius the Bright, traveled to Melib and Teleos, befriended some, made enemies of others.They’ve fought duels, battles, magical contests, and political intrigues. All without stats.

    I approach these NPCs like I would characters in a book (or in the Guide). They have motivations, notable characteristics, items, or attributes, but I don’t assign numbers to them. In truth that is what I always did as a GM. even with such systems as Pendragon or RuneQuest. But now I don’t feel like I am doing something wrong. 😀

    Profile photo of Ufnal

    Thank you both for your quick replies!

    I understand that this is something you find liberating or satisfying. However, I am not sure if this approach suits me. I simply enjoy running the whole world, even when the PCs are not there [and, from what I’ve seen playing with more experienced GMs, it can lead to wonderful developments in the background which can be discovered by the players later, to their astonishment :D] I can see your point, Jeff, about approaching the NPCs like characters in a book, and this actually seems like a good POV that I didn’t really think about. Being able to stat the NPCs to get a better feeling of what can they achieve against each other still seems like it would be helpful, but I can do without that. However, in this context I can’t wrap my head around what to do with player stats. Is mechanical progression of the PCs synonymous with the development and growth in power of the characters? If so, how am I supposed to judge how they compare to NPCs? And if not – then are the PC stats purely for narrative purposes [like, dunno, Style Points in Houses of the Blooded)?

    And if it seems that HeroQuest isn’t for me – maybe you could name a game that could better suit what I described and be used to run Glorantha?

    [btw, eight dragonewts following the players around? Man, I really want to hear the story about this!]

    Profile photo of Jeff Richard
    Jeff Richard

    OK, in HQ2, all obstacles are rated by difficulty: Very Low. Low. Moderate, High, Very High, or Nearly Impossible. You can translate that as: Very Easy, Easy, Moderate, Hard, Very Hard, or Nearly Impossible.

    So if my players say, “We want to politically outmaneuver Queen Hendira so that she is stripped of allies when we march on her”, I make a judgment call. I can either determine how hard that is going to be based on dramatic tension or I can decide how hard that should be based on world verisimilitude. I tend to go with the latter, and we know Queen Hendira is a canny politician (she’s Queen of Esrolia after all), so I decide that is going to be Very Hard.

    However, let’s imagine later that the players want to rally the anti-Lunar faction in Nochet, especially the Heortling Quarter, into open revolt. That’s going to be easier, and I saw that is only Moderate difficulty.

    I then let the players do their thing, figure out the results, and then think about the ramifications. OK, so now the players have started riots in the city, the Heortling Quarter is ablaze (and at the same time the Heortlings expect big changes in the New Order), Hendira’s allies were outmaneuvered but not eliminated, and Hendira herself has fled the city to seek more powerful allies. Again no dice rolls, but determined just like if I was collaborating on a book or running a freeform.

    The stats of the players simply determine how likely they are to overcome an obstacle of a particular difficulty. So if you have a 10W ability, you are much more likely to overcome Hard difficulty than if you have a 17 ability. But it is a very flexible measuring stick and not something that pretends to model the universe – just to handle the perennial problem from playing “Cowboys and Indians”: “I shot you!” “No you didn’t!”

    Because HQ2 is not a tactical skirmish game, it doesn’t need to approach obstacles the way a tactical skirmish game does. That’s an incredible tool if you like running flexible role-player games (in the Old School sense of that term going back to the article wrote Glen Blacow wrote way back inDifferent Worlds #10 (Oct 1980)). It isn’t so good if you want Powergaming or Wargaming (which are legitimate styles of play and there’s nothing wrong with them at all. But I’m a Role-player at heart, so HQ2 appeals to the Role-player or Storyteller side of things).

    If you find HQ2’s approach offsetting or just not fun, I’d suggest Runequest, Pendragon, or 13th Age as good engines that can easily work with Glorantha.

    Profile photo of Douglas Crawford
    Douglas Crawford

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that there is absolutely nothing to stop you stating up npcs in HeroQuest of it really makes you feel better (I’m pretty sure it even sez so in da rulz…)

    Profile photo of Ufnal

    Ok, thank you for all the feedback, I guess I just have to reflect on what you told me and seek out the systems you’ve mentioned for comparison (RuneQuest is probably out of the question, as what I’ve seen of it was very crunchy and handled magic and religion in a way that compared to HeroQuest’s is less fun, but I will check out Pendragon and 13th Age, thanks!)

    Profile photo of Roko Joko
    Roko Joko

    I bet it would work well with PBP because of how contests can be macro.

    I agree with ^ that you can stat HQ2 NPCs without breaking much, or anything.

    But also yes, I think you should check out Hero Wars and HQ1. There are used copies on Amazon.

    Profile photo of Robin Mitra
    Robin Mitra

    HQ2 ist my absolute favourite. I somehow I have the feeling that I was waiting long for this rule system to come.

    I agree with Jeff that there is no need to create full fledged character sheets for all your NPCs and that your roleplaying experience will probably benefit, if you don’t. Douglas is also right pointing out that you can still do it anyway, if you like.

    I would like to add my two cents. Like in the real world people can and will surprise you – no matter how good you know them. In HQ2 that means, even if you create a full character with any of the creation methods described in the book, you can still re-interpret the character’s abilities before any obstacle. You gave your character the ability ‘Sword Fighting’ and you only used it actually for sword fighting? Well, next time the character is in a bar he/she might use the same ability to start a conversation with a stranger about his weapons. You might even create a new ability like ‘Never shy’ to augment ‘Sword Fighting’, because in your conversation with the stranger you remember that even as a child your parents let you do the talking to customers in their carpenter’s shop. And the best of it is all this true for both PCs and NPCs. So no matter you good and elaborate you create a character in HQ2 there is always the chance that he/she will surprise you with something new. Just as in real life. 🙂

    Profile photo of Kristin Hunt
    Kristin Hunt

    As a long time PBP (Play-By-Post) roleplayer I feel that sometimes doing ‘light’ stating is useful, even if its just to remind myself that my ‘other characters in the universe’ have some ‘weight’ to them.

    Lets take a Queen for example:
    I might she has Politics (Average) and Riding (High) but I might label her Allies as Discus of the Black (imvovably Loyal), and another Ally: Karven of the Red Spear (Easily Swayed- Contest: Persuasion (or a similar start) : Target Number : 5+)

    Let me know that if the PCs encounter KAren, they maybe able to sway him with a particular argument as long as they ‘hit’ the target number of five, and there isn’t anything to sway them.

    I’ve run a few PBP games, and having some ‘basic’ NPC ‘templates so that way people can make NPCs is useful. But then again I also would borrow from other game systems too to flesh out my own knowledge and playstyle.

    Profile photo of Phil Nicholls
    Phil Nicholls

    Hi Ufnal,

    I agree with Robin, HQ2 is such an awesome system that I would urge you to stick with it, even if you have to tinker with the rules a little. This is what I have done, and then run over 100 Sessions with it.

    Essentially, I assign difficulty ratings to opponents or events as I create the encounters, as these ratings are keyed off Base, and thus will scale as the game progresses. These ratings are the Very Low, Low, Moderate, etc. as described by Jeff. I find this easier to deal with than the more narrative method suggested by the rules.

    Indeed, you may prefer to hybridise HQ1 with HQ2, as the original system adopted a more conventional approach to enemies.

    Please give HQ2 another look, as it is a dream to run and can create some great story opportunities.


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