I agree with Mike that here is an example where the rules don't work well. It IS a contest between the three, and unlike some things (like "can you jump this tree") it is not just a matter of who succeeds, but there should normally be a first, second and third.
So, first spot that the rules break down is that they don't cover this sort of contest at all. Even if all three runners have mundane running skills, there is no system for you to roll against two other people in this way (ditto for larger races). You pretty much have to come up with a house rule to cope with it (like "all role against the distance, and the highest degree of success, or the biggest spread within the same success level, wins" or "its an extended group contest, each of you against a sepearte distance, first person to drive the distance to zero AP wins" or "There will be four contests you each face along the way, each giving you a carry over result. The one with the most carry-over at the end wins").
Another problem is that the rules don't give a clear way of setting the difficulty and judging success levels in situations like running a certain distance in a certain time. If it is a marathon "can you keep running that far without collapsing" then going against distance is appropriate. But if it is a modest distance, the only issue is how fast you can run it, and the only way to set the difficulty is by story conditions ("can you do it before they light the fire? roll against, oh, a 19"). In the more general case, the HQ rules very specifically do not cover a quantative best effort result, so there is no "in-the-book" way to simply say how long it takes each person to run a certain distance, or how far they can run in a certain amount of time. (One of those features that can bug you sometimes, but inherent in the dramatic resolution concept I suppose).
OK, so let's simplify. You have one character, call him/her "A" who has mundange "jumping" skill at 5W, and another, "B" who has "sunset leap" at 5W. You have established in a previous session that with a running leap you give A a target of 1 per foot he/she is trying to leap, and you've established that B can leap across the valley the clan inhabits with a target number of 14, when he catches it right at sunset and leaps east to west.
A brags about his/her leaping, and B calls for a leaping contest. B manages, through whatever means, to get the contest held at the edge of the top of the valley, on the eastern side, right at sunset, so his magic is perfectly applicable.
So, do you give them targets of each others abilities? I'd say of course not. I'd have B role for his magic, and if he succeeds then he wins, if he fails, he loses. It sort of falls into the "no self respecting hero" category. B leaps across the valley, or he doesn't. His resistance is the world's resistance to his leap, not A's leaping ability.
Now, if the two abilites happen to end up being similar in scope anyway, then you could probably compare use one to set targets for the other, that is used a 'fixed' magical result to set a target for a mundane abilit. For example, C has the Salmon Leaping Boots, and has decided that their ability is to jump just above his height, flip over in mid-air, and land on his feet (so that normally it lets him leap over a foe in combat, landing facing the foe's back), and gets into a leaping contest with B (from above) to see who can leap higher. In this case I'd suggest that the target number for C is still 14, and on any success he jumps a little above a man's height, and with degree of success saying how neatly he does so. What I would do then is give B a target number to jump higher than C (10W2 from the HQ rules to jump your own height, so maybe 15W2 to jump a little higher than that). Note that the rules do not support B saying "well, I jump as high as I can."
I do agree that the result of magical abilities can vary greatly, and perhaps oddly to those not used to Glorantha, depending on the situation and opposition. A Humkti might manage to fairly easy "decapitate foe" on a burly guard who was caught by surprise and who had little magic, but might utterly fail against a frail and elderly priest. This might bug those who are used to thinking of everything in terms of mundane resistance, but I think very strongly that is a part of the flavor of Glorantha!
Phew. I think that covers all I've managed to come up with to say on the subject.....for now :)
As always, the above are strictly my opinions, I'm not suggesting they should be anyone else's opinions, or that they are the best way of doing things. They are just what I think makes sense, and I hope they are of some use to others thinking about the situation.
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