Feedback: Working on QuestWorlds, the new version of Hero Wars/HeroQuest

Hi all,

I am working on QuestWorlds, the new version of HeroQuest/Hero Wars. It is a generic game. The first generic version was HeroQuest 2e. New material for Glorantha may be forthcoming, but it is not the focus right now.

You can find the files for the SRD on GitHub:

And information on the open license can be found here: https://github.com/ChaosiumInc/QuestWorlds/blob/master/0.1_Legal_Information.md)

We are getting close to what we believe is a good version of this game.

What are we trying to achieve with this version, that we might value feedback on?

First, we want answer one of the criticisms that goes back as far as when Ron Edwards gave his original review of Hero Wars over at The Forge:

“I am only worried about one aspect of this system: its handling time (that is, given that the dice have hit the table, how long it takes to figure out what happens in the game).” see http://indie-rpgs.com/reviews/16/

I believe that some of the handling time issues were caused by the charts required to lookup and see whether success was partial etc. Given that the system is fortune-in-the-middle and the GM narrates the outcome it seemed unnecessarily burdensome to do lookup over reading the results. Success vs. Failure tells you what you need to know, and is different from Better Success vs. Success.

Second, some aspects, such as the Community Rules, how Flaws worked, etc. seemed like bolt ons that didn’t really flow. We revised them to simplify and we would like to understand if they are more usable.

Third, and extending above, some parts like the harm and healing approach were special cases, that we could remove by just using consequences and benefits for everything. I think this really relates to some earlier editions innovating, but not following through to the whole system. Once consequences and benefits were introduced, we had generalized harm and healing already. Does removing that aspect hurt us, in terms of expectations that there should be a harm and healing system.

As we begin working on our Core Rules book from this SRD, it would be great to get feedback.

I don’t think at this point we are looking to change its DNA. In other words, I don’t think we want to switch from opposed D20 resolution to dice pools etc. That is making a different game, over making something that feels the same but fixes issues with older editions. So, it may be worth bearing that in mind for feedback, even if you don’t like that part of the engine.

I am aware that whilst Hero Wars was an indie darling back in the early days of The Forge, it’s not so popular any more. PbTA and to a lesser extent FATE seem to have stolen a lot of mindshare. I would be interested though, what would make you think about using this engine to play with, or for your own designs, over using one of those options. Or if you would not, why not.

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This is really exciting, as a fan of Glorantha but someone turned off by the look ups of HW/HW2, I’m looking forward to going through this.

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Hello,

The game feels outdated not because of its crunchiness (around Torch bearer level ?) but because it is attached to concepts it says it wants to distance itself from. Wealth is not a thing but yet it’s a thing. The rules go around the notion of scaling (wealth, followers, time) like a drill around a steel beam. I’d rather a scale be stated and enforced. Limiting the use of Traits is a necesary constraint in my opinion.

The game lacks clear themes. Working in unison, gathering power, contesting for fun are the main themes. They take mechanical space and are not really aknowledged. It’s weird. Doing the contrary is so much simpler. “This game is about working as a team to gather power to potlatch”

Advantage Points are interesting but the resolution summary hides the various options for losing them. Overall the redaction for the 3 types of contests is problematic. It’s hard to tell how a contest works, how the key elements interact. Like bidding high gives initiative and what else ? The rules are more technical manual than narration, but lack “big picture” schematics.
Then only when I know how a contest works, I can understand the difference between the 3 types of contests very easily and fast, like, in three columns.
Thank you.

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So, I am listening, but I don’t want to jump on every reply. I do value the feedback though.

I just wanted to clarify that as this is the SRD it is intended to be pretty stripped bare. There will be other material in the Core Rules such as examples, play advice etc.

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It may also be worth mentioning that the rules in section 10 from earlier editions are there to “free” them up via the SRD for anyone who wants them. They won’t appear in any Core book.

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Actually I´m running a HeroQuest Campaign. I´ve read the QuestWorlds SRD and found it helpful. Many things are better explained than in the HeroQuest Glorantha Rulesbook.

I use the rules mainly for two reasons:

  • I like it to have no stats for Gamemaster characters.
  • I like a game for campaigns that does scene resolutions.

I´m less excited about

  • Character advancement (Questworlds offers alternatives, that - in my eyes - don´t better anything).
  • the need for an opposing roll by the gamemaster for every test.
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Background
I read through HeroWars back the days when I wanted inspiration for my own, now published, swashbuckling game, that took its core from BRP. Something I really liked was the idea of scaling through Master tiers, but I always felt the implementation of it was clunky. I never tried the game.

I’m going to do a lot of rhetorical questions below, and I’m reading with a critical eye. It may come out as whiny, but that’s only because I’m trying to keep the length down.

Overall Impression
What strikes me is that the document needs an editor with a sharp scissor. The structure of the text is a little bit weird overall, with references to things that appear later in the text. It also feels like the text is written with the assumption that the reader already knows how to use the components in the system.

There are also comparisons to assumptions of how other game systems works (why should I read about those? I want to read about this system). Continuing, the text sometimes spends an excessive amount of words to describe something simple.

I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like the system suffers from terminology sickness, where you make up terminology to describe terminology. You already done this, but I would suggest to take a second round to go through all the terms and really ask yourself if it’s needed. If it’s there to describe another term, it’s probably not needed.

I really like Robin D Laws, and he can surely write, but I can also see how much he developed from HeroWars to Feng Shui 1 in terms of game system building but also, most importantly, presentation. This document suffers from that too, from what I can tell.

I like some stuff that I read. Calling the skill value for target number is really neat, because - in a way - the target number in BRP games is actually determined by the die. If your skill value is equal or higher than the rolled d20, then you succeed. By calling skill value (action score) for target number, you do something similar. Here is, however, what I mean when I talk about “terminology sickness”. You have the terms “ability” and “score” and then you call “ability score” for “target number”. This only brings confusion at worst, and creates complexity at best.

Mastery Tiers
The master tiers are great when it comes to scalability. A human (TN 14) shooting at a spaceship (14M3) just states that the blaster can’t do any harm on the space ship. It’s however hard to calculate. So 14M3 is actually … 3*20+14 = 74 i resistance. Do we even write 74? One example states: »Trevor Okafor is trying to hover a helicopter over a ravine /…/ The GM calls for a roll. Trevor Okafor has 31 in Pilot, written as “11M”«. Why even bother stating 31—that only brings confusion. It’s, for me, more intuitive if we have ability scores that ranges from 1-20M0, then 1-20M1, 1-20M2, 1-10M3 and so on. In other words, when an ability score exceeds 20, it restarts at 1 but with an added Master tier.

I actually think of Master tiers as automatic successes. When you roll a die, you gain one success if the result is equal or under your ability score. Each Master tier then adds another success. So the space ship (14M3) starts with three successes and have a 14/20 chance to gain another. Given this perspective, I don’t really see why you have fumble and crit rules. You mention crit as reaching 1M (by succeeding a roll), but you never explains what a fumble is. However, by having two types of ways to determine the outcome - both the “auto successes” with Master tiers and the result of the die, I don’t see the point of adding more ways of determine the outcome.

Equipment
I like the bit about equipment, both when it comes to assuming equipments based on abilities and having equipment themselves as abilities. Only thing I can’t picture is if the person is loosing the item. Is the ability then scratched?

Assured Contests
I understand the concept of Assured contest, and I think it’s really good that systems explains this, but it’s basically just a simple contest with a demand of 0 “successes”, if I follow my own conclusion above of what the game resolution system really is. It even follows the same structure as a simple contest, so why repeat the information by using another term? Again, terminology sickness.

Ranks
I’m disappointed in how ranks are handled. You already have resistance, so why do you need to have another way of modifying ability score? If you have two different values - ability/resistance score - to modify, what determines that the game master should modify either ability score or resistance score? But more importantly, what purpose does that fill to do that distinction? Because +3 to the ability score is the same thing as -3 to the resistance score.

The numbers are unintuitive. -3? -6? -9? Then jumping 11 scores to -1M and yet another 20 to -2M. You stated that 14 is normal and a character can only have 6 as the lowest, but that’s a -8 decrease. So giving a typical character -9 will always have to deter to a different rule that says that the negative modification will be negated to -8. I’ve been playing BRP for 30 years, and something I learned along the way is that, for a game that uses d20, ±3 won’t do anything really. It’s basically nit picking, because it’s mostly just stops the gaming with a small calculation with very little impact on the roll.

It’s also hard to calculate these numbers. I would rather see a scale that have ±5, ±10, ±1M, ±2M with the implied caveat that you shouldn’t use modifications unless they actually mean something.

2.3.5 Die Rolls
And here is an example of what I mean when I say that the structure is weird. How a roll is handled should be waaay earlier. Also, crit, fumble… when you already have two other means of determine success. If “bumps” is your answer, it’s just another term to describe a term, namely Master tiers.

It’s weird how you can “crit”, and still fail, because it’s actually the Master tiers that matters when determining the outcome.

»"Your GM narrates the contest outcome«. In a game about heroes, why shouldn’t the player get to describe the outcome of their successful rolls?

Augments
I love the concept of combining abilities. I used that in my own published game, and it creates the side effect that every roll tells something about the character by adding “style” to the narration. Again, this opportunity is possibly missed because the game master should describe the outcome, probably not knowing everything that the player had in mind for its character.

However, the implementation of the rule, to roll to see if you get a bonus is just … bad. Why not just give the bonus straight away? Also, you bring in poodle points, where the game master determines if the description is good enough, just like s/he is judging poodles at a dog exhibition. In the long run, this creates a behavior where the players describes what they think the game master is cool, rather than describing what the players think is cool. I would prefer if this would be discussed within the group, just like it’s handled in other places in the rule book.

It’s stated that the player should describe, but that goes against what stated earlier when the game master should describe the outcome.

You may only use one of your own abilities to augment the ability you are using in the contest , and you may not use an ability to augment itself. You may not use a breakout to augment it’s parent keyword , or another breakout from the parent keyword . However, augments from other players supporting you can add together with your own, along with other modifiers , including those from benefits and from plot augments .

This paragraph needs to be rephrased. I don’t understand what “breakout” means, as that’s a term that I never seen before. It says that you can only augment with your own abilities, which in a way means that other characters can’t augment your ability.

I had to reread the following subordinate clause a couple of times to understand that it tried to explain—that you can’t augment an augment: “and you may not use an ability to augment itself.”

Flaws
I’m not a fan of the game master keeping track of flaws, because that person have so many other things to think about. In Solar System, the players gain something from bringing in flaws in their actions. Burning Wheels lets players loose a tie by activating a flaw. What they gain is experience points so they want to activate them. The players gets experience points in these rules too, so why restricting flaws to only having the game master activating them?

Benefits/Consequences
I like benefits and consequences, the description of those should be wrapped up in a tidier way. Benefits is just another way of describing rank, which you also do in the text. I like the waning part, but the consequences doesn’t really make any sense until I read about long contests, which is in a chapter of its own. Another example of structural problem of the text. I can’t say much about the healing rules, because it’s hard to imagine without trying them.

Combining Abilities is to me when the game master should call for an long contests. I would scrap this entirely.

Mobs, Gangs, and Hordes should use the augmented rules instead of being an own section of rules. The same goes with Ganging Up. I do like what you guys wrote about Mass Effort. You stated in the OP that “Second, some aspects, such as the Community Rules, how Flaws worked, etc. seemed like bolt ons that didn’t really flow”, but here are examples that you haven’t gone the whole way. I would suggest to create a couple of dynamic submechanics that can be reused, rather than making up new situations with new implementations. In my experience, as a game theorist, if you have a well built foundation for a system, the rest of the pieces will fall into places automatically.


So this was just my thoughts from reading the first two chapters. It took me about 2,5 hours. Please let me know if any of this is useful, or if I should stop there. I really like the design thoughts in HeroWars, but I don’t like all the implementations, especially about how Master tiers are handled. The same can be said about this system as well.

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@Rickard This is all really useful. I’m trying to go slow when receiving feedback here, so that I can digest the responses over reacting to them. That aside, this is all very useful, and very detailed, and I appreciate the effort you are putting in.

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@Rickard

So first piece of concrete feedback from me was to say thanks for your thoughts on Mastery Tiers and Die Rolling. This has always been a pain point to explain, so we are aware it is an issue, but we have never found a resolution. Treating a mastery as an automatic success, and then comparing number of successes looks like a smart resolution. I’m going to playtest this approach to masteries in the next few days. I think it also simplifies some other aspects of the game, to think about the number of successes you have over your opponent.

I’ll continue to reflect on the other pieces, but this advice was golden, thank you.

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As @Chiarina stated, it’s a nice design feature to never have to stat any obstacles (I wrote “opponents” first, but realized how that limited my perspective). When it comes to determine the resistance score, I would like to see a generalized table with different types of obstacles sorted by their resistance. An angry dog; a group of mooks, a T-Rex; a space ship, falling 10 stores, catch a fly with chopsticks, etc.

I think it’s more beneficial, instead of using ranks, to just get a resistance by comparing to some of the suggestions above. “Is it as bad as a T-Rex? Nah, more like an angry dog.”

I also like that the text sometimes describes the thought behind the rules, like how resistance exists to remove heavy stat prepping for the game master. That makes it easier to grok the system.

Character Generation
I love the character generation in it’s simplicity, even though I think spending 20 points over 12 abilities seems like it’s a lot of work. When I’m playing games with “improvised skills”, people can have trouble coming up with 10 abilities. I would like to see more suggestions of themes, like distinctive background, signature moves, family and friends, distinctive knowledge, prized possessions, physical abillities, or spiritual values. Something that makes me reflect about my character.

I still don’t know what “breakout keywords” means, as they are mentioned in 3.2 Assigning Ability Scores. OK, it was explained in 3.3, but I don’t understand how I “get” them.

I’m not sure I understand the difference between keywords and abilities but, mostly, why they should be separated. Keyword … is the concept of the character, and abilities are a slimmer form of keyword, where they can be even more specialized in form of breakout keywords…?

I always wanted to try the prose approach to create a character, just like how it’s done in Spirit of the Century.

Contests
Group Simple Contest could use the augment rules (or my suggestion of how the augment should work).

The text about Scored Contest confuses me, when it talks about not having defender and aggressor, but then later—in the list—it states »The ‘defender’ describes how they counter the aggressor’s«. From what I can tell, a Simple Contest is a Scored Contest, but with only one resolution point.

The text gives a categoric feeling when it tries break the resolution system this much and trying to tell different parts apart, when they are very similar, which feels like it’s mostly just repeating text with tiny nuances. I’m starting to feel more and more confused about all the new terms that are introduced.

The explanation of the resolution points could be summarized with just the game master advice, and not all the rules. Could save a lot of characters, by using the success variant that I suggested in the previous post.

I can understand the need of simulation when it comes to disengaging but penalizing trying to give up, will probably just create a system where the players never want to give up. We have been taught that in previous roleplaying system all through our lives, and I think it’s a shame that not more systems encourage giving up.

What I fondly remembered from HeroWars, when I was scavenging for good mechanics to my published game, was the extended conflicts. However, the explanation were messy, and I could never wrap my head around how action points could be played out, so I went with something like your scored contests. Can’t tell much about what I feel about extended contests now either, because I need to try the bid and action point system to understand how it will play out.


All in all, from what I can tell, from reading to chapter 5, is that you can probably cut about 10-25% of the text without loosing any information.

@Rickard I’ll reply further to the first set of comments, so that I can give myself time to digest the others.

Terminology Sickness: I think you may be right. So one thing we did was to try to identify all the different concepts and name them clearly. There was previously a lack of exactness in terms, for example clarity between result and outcome. It may be that we need to follow that through to the next step, and try to eliminate some concepts now we have tagged them.

Ranks: I think ranks will work better if we use the masteries fix because they can be used in the many places we try to use the difference in successes to figure out the impact, such as benefits and consequences, long contests etc.

We’ll come back to consider the actual sequence i.e. +3, +6 vs. +5, +10 once we try that.

Die Rolls I will look at how we structure this. We do have a lot of comments in between.

Augments We need to fix the text here, thanks for the spot. It should be an assured contest that gives you a bonus.

.Flaws You are right, the player should be able to invoke the flaw.

Combining Abilities Thanks, I think you are right.

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@DeReel I’m hoping that the mastery and ranks change may give us the key to unlock long contests. We should be able to surface more easily that any long contest is a series of simple contests that either (scored) mark progress in ‘first to five’ (advantage) track changes in momentum (chained) immediately apply effects.

I think we can make that clearer and then explain why your game might choose one of the other

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@Chiarina Thanks for the positive feedback. I am one of the authors of The Coming Storm and the Eleven Lights. Always excited to hear about folks playing it.

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Been crunching some numbers, and I realized that it’s really hard to win over someone who has one more Master tier than yourself.

Outcomes for die rolls looks nice on paper:
• Fumble
• Failure
• Success
• Crit

Four outcomes, right? Seemly equal chance to get.

Not a Great Chance
No really, because when you look at player vs one higher Master tier (ignoring story points), you can honestly just win if you roll a crit (and your opponent fails) or your opponent fumbles (and you succeed). All other options will create a tie, at best. So that brings us two (fumble, crit) results out of (20x20=) 400, or 1 in a 20 chance --> 5% chance to win against someone that has just one more Master tier. Against someone who has two Master tiers higher, it’s a 1 400 chance!

Whiff factor, and How to Fix It
Even if you’re comparing a target number and a resolution score of 10M0, that will give the player a 25% chance to succeed. To fix this, I would rather let the result of the die break any ties, where the one who rolls the highest—if equal number of “successes”—would win. So the player rolling 4 and the resistance 15 (both have 10), makes the player succeed (because that person gets one success). Rolling 4 vs 2 makes the player succeed (both gets one success, but 4 > 2). Rolling 17 vs 15, again the player succeeds (0 successes, 17 > 15).

That would the player a succeed rate of 47,5% (because they can still roll equal).

A 1 in a 20 Chance
If we use the result of the die as a tie breaker, that will make it more clear when it comes to the possibility to succeed against a resistance with one Master tier above the player.

If the player have 10M0, rolls 8, and succeeds … that would give 1 success with 8 in result. An opponent with 10M1 can roll any number (than 20) and still beat the player, because even if the resistance rolls over 10, it still counts as one success—from the Master tier—but with a result of 11+, which is more than the player can ever roll and still get an success.

If using result as tie break, the system can be written like this:

Target Number + 1d20 - 1d20 > Resistance

The mean of the rolls is around 0, and this is basically what the system in Feng Shui looks like. I haven’t realized this until now, but the problem that this system have, Robin D Laws fixed by changing to d6s and making them more volatile, by having d6 explode on a 6. Fortune Points gave another positive d6 that could explode as well.

That Critical 20
A side note: it strikes me the wrong way to negate fumble results when the player have an target number of 20. So I would propose to let the score jump from 19 to 1M1. So that leaves us with the 20.

Crits are Funnier than Fumbles
I really don’t like fumbles, especially in a hero system. I would remove the fumble result, and let 20 instead explode. So if you roll 20, you gain one success, and get to do another roll against your ability.

That would bring us a 1/20 chance to at least get the chance to beat someone with a higher Master tier and, in theory, be able to beat any Master tier. The same goes for the resistance, which can raise its successes to 2+. That could then be interpreted as a fumble, if you still want to have that.

Volatile in a Different Way
Given what I written above, giving just a bonus doesn’t cut it against higher Master tiers, unless the bonus pushed the total ability score over so it’s in the same Master tier.

Instead—with exploding d20 in mind—I would give extra d20 for Augments and Story Points to roll against the target number - straight off. Only the best result counts. That would increase the chance of the dice to explode, and could surely turn the tides, even if you go up against a resistance with one higher Master tier:

[edit] Corrected Anydice link

https://anydice.com/program/1f22e

The suggestion could, however, make the game mechanic seem like as a pool system, and therefor strand too far from the original system.

I also don’t know how this would affect the extended contest.

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Not a great chance
Just checking. Under RAW, if you both get the same result (crit vs crit, success vs. success, fail vs fail) then high roll wins. I think this is what you are asking for in Whiff factor and How to fix it.

If so, we probably have some unclear text that means you did not see this.

Criticals
I think we may go with the option of:
Success = One Success
Failure = No Success
Critical = One success + a ‘Bump’

Bump = Story Point, Mastery -> Add a success

Then compare the number of successes (including having 0 successes) and if tied high roll wins, otherwise treat # successes + one as the ‘rank’ and use that for long contests, consequences and benefits etc.

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The strange one becomes 20.

Treating it as Fumble means we might need a -1 success, which isn’t friendly. Dropping it altogether makes sense, as you say in a heroic game, but there is not much difference then between a 20, which will get you a success and a crit if you roll a 20, and 1M which gives you a success and a crit if you roll a 1.

Still I can’t see any easy way to avoid that anomaly without having 20 back in as a fumble, which makes the “count successes” less elegant.

I knew I read it somewhere, but when I skimmed through chapter 2-5 again, I couldn’t find it. :slight_smile:

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Some of the text there needs to be in a box in the final product, to separate rules and comments on rules. I think that might make it easier to navigate.

On the brightside, coming up with the solution we have is probably a vote of confidence :smiley:

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Hey folks.

So I made some updates. It uses the approach from @Rickard for masteries and uses that to change the use of ranks to flow through the text. It hopefully makes some of what we were trying to achieve clearer. I also updated Augments and Flaws for some clarity about usage. Finally there are a few tweaks to the order and layout.

As always, grateful for any feedback.

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Next up is probably to look at the issue of terminology bloat