Re: Augmenting to Augment?

From: bigblackcatmail <bigblackcatmail_at_...>
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2004 14:47:46 -0000

Howdy Mike. There's a lot here, and a lot you've covered. I'll try to be as concise (yeah, right) as I can in my reply so perhaps my points will be clear(er).

My understanding of the situation thus far is that most people on this list propose that a PC can automatically augment another PC's action whenever they want with no penalty or repercussion (and that this is implicitly supported in the HeroQuest text if not flat out written down in there somewhere). The only caveats to this rule are that the character must be in the same vicinity and the GM must *approve* of the augment. The primary debate seems to be whether a PC can add one, more than one or as many augments as can fit in Santa's sleigh to another PC's action.

I don't like that. I think it's a "loophole" that could be open to manipulation on either the Player or the GM's part. As rules go, I don't like loopholes. They bug me. I don't like GM fiat in regards to the rules either. To me, GM fiat is not an answer. It doesn't "solve" the problem, IMO. So, saying "a good GM would never let this happen", doesn't satisfy me, even if it *is* true.

That said, this "loophole" still bugs me.

  1. Because it's inconsistent with the rest of the ruleset. It doesn't follow either the spirit of AP lending nor does it follow the rules of other characters in the game supporting the PC in simple contests. HeroQuest is one of the most consistent rulesets I've ever run or played. I love it for that. Running across this inconsistency (which may just be interpretation, not necessarily "canon") is like finding out my supermodel girlfriend used to be a man. It's just one of those things that's going to bug me. And it's going to continue to bug me until I can make peace with it.
  2. Because there's no easy way to address this issue in play. Which leads to more inconsistency, IMO. Most groups play a game (from D&D to Risk to Monopoly) with a few tweaks. I understand this. But most groups can describe those tweaks in a couple of sentences or less. More than that and it ceases to become a "tweak" IMO. This "tweak" as it has been described doesn't really address the issue and further it's so open to interpretation (on the GM's part) as to be more of a suggestion and less of a rule. Which doesn't fly, IMO, with one of the most consistent and elegant rulesets I've ever read, played or cuddled fondly into the wee hours of the morning.

The solution proposed, as I see it, is basically: "Just be aware that it's there, keep players from doing it and stick it to them when they think they have their bases covered." I'm not so sure that's a rule "fix" as much as it is a footnote from Robin's Laws.

It's also easy to read in a number of different ways. Had I not played in your game now for quite a while, I would've had a "night- -day" misconception of how you run a game. Which is why I think GM fiat pretty much shoots itself in the foot. In the hands of a good GM, it's great. It works like bacon on a griddle. In the hands of anyone else, it's a disaster. It's like being caught between Roseanne Barr and Jack Black doing the lambada. Which is just not how HeroQuest works, in my myopic, fanboy universe. HeroQuest had *rules*. I didn't ever *have* to watch out for some arcane feat combo. Or worry about Player X pulling some weird wording out of the Glue spell to justify it working on a Crawling Jello. HeroQuest had real, honest-to-Orcus rules. Just like Monopoly or any other game. That's why I love it with a fiery, monkey passion that melts all gummi bears within 30 yards.

I think (and this is just my opinion, mind you) that offering a player the choice of acting as a follower in a contest or offering a variable augment is just less open to manipulation on both the part of the GM and the other players. It's a hard and fast rule. There's no room for anyone reading that statement to wiggle it in any way.

Otherwise, here's how I think it's still open to "abuse".

In *most* HQ games, the players get to call what ability is going to be used in a contest. Most times, the players even set the nature (and content) of a contest. It would be easy for a couple of players to "band together" and assure that, say, the mage never takes combat damage or the fighter never takes a hit from magic. All they have to do to "game" the system is just make sure they're out front on the declaration (which they usually are anyway, IME). *Most* contests, IME, are called by the player. Most of the time, players determine what type of contest (simple/extended) they want it to be, again IME. Players always determine what they'll use in a contest. It's an easily argued extrapolation of that rule to say that Jimbo the Fighter gets to use his skill at fighting because he's standing behind Penicilla the Mage. The GM can argue that Jimbo can only support Penicilla. But, once we've gone down that path, I might as well be playing d20...

My point being that the more a GM tries to "rope players in" or isolate them (when they don't want to be isolated), the more the GM will just look like a jerk. It would also amount to the GM just taking potshots at the players when their pants are down. IME, that's the lonely road that GM fiat leads us to. I've rarely seen it work out any other way.

It's also worth mentioning that this doesn't *have* to be a couple of players. What's to stop a single player from using his followers as main contestants and then having his PC sit back and *never suffer any consequences for failure*? Other than, of course, the trail of dead followers in his wake. If followers only cost a hero point why can't I have a whole slew of them as minions? Why can't I just waltz through any contest without a scratch? A 5w3 Dragon? Pshaw. I'll have Bobo the Hobbit Slave fight him. I'll support with my Big Stick of Justice 19. No, we'll do a simple contest... What?! Bobo lost? Complete Defeat? Well, guess he's dead... I'll come back when I have more followers...

Granted all this assumes a level of gaming, and knowledge of, the HQ system that I've never witnessed acting in conjunction (even among the most min-maxing players). It also assumes that a player is acting maliciously and disruptively, which would ruin any game. Just because it hasn't happened in one of your own games doesn't make it an impossibility. I've known many players for whom this would be the default mode of gaming.

This is also a pinprick of a hole in the elegant mechanics of HQ that's just biting at me. And probably will continue to do so. Whenever I get to run HQ again, I plan to continue using the system that I was using (albeit a misinterpretation on my part) with the added option of allowing other PCs to act as supporting cast for another PC (just like a follower would).

>From my point of view, the bonus of using a variable augment is that
the PC would likely not take any "damage" from the contest. The downside would be that there is a potential for the PC to penalize the other player and it is also likely that the augment given would not be as great as the auto augment. It's certainly not a guarantee.

The benefit of the auto augment is that it's automatic. It's a given. The drawback is that, if the other PC screws up, you're in bad shape.

To me, this covers some of the loophole, as I see it. And, should it come up, it gives the players a great dilemma to choose between, IMO. I like it. For me it's a patch. It's not a something-for-nothing situation. Sure, players could still wiggle their way around a bit and *try* to game the options but there's no default setting that puts them in a position to avoid conflict (which most people don't do in your games) or avoid consequences (which again most people don't do in your games).

I have seen people try to min-max HQ, though. It's a scary thing. And I'm sure there will be others out there who try to, just for the sheer joy of breaking (in) a new system. Had my last group been more familiar with the rules, I think they could've broken HQ. Worse yet, I can now see exactly how they would've done it.

Up 'til now, I viewed the HeroQuest mechanics as unbreakable. And revelled in that. I kicked back and enjoyed the warm, beachy sunshine of knowing that I would never, ever have to worry about players minmaxing  and manipulating the system to the detriment of all those things I held dear (story, fun, character development). There was nothing "there" to manipulate in HQ. And it was good.

I also felt comfortable knowing that there was really no way to argue HQ. There's a pretty minimal amount of GM fiat in the game (unless one is being picky about augments). For once, I had an rpg whose rules were actually rules and not really open to (mis)interpretation, whose rules just functioned as rules. There was nothing I had to be "on guard" against as a GM. I could just let the rules work out how they were going to work out and leave it at that. I felt I could work (finally) as a referee of the rules and not their watchdog.

That's why this bugs me. And that's why I'll stick with my way of doing it (when I run it again). I like the option of players being able to auto-augment. But to do so for nothing...

That's like just saying a PC can extend AP to another player without ever losing any AP, IMO. Which just... doesn't... fit. Aaagh!

Besides, why even have rules for variable augments if you can autoaugment  for free (with no fear of screwing up)? Why even have that rule? Variable augments, by design, would rarely exceed the augment given by auto augments (without the expenditure of a hero point. In most instances, you can only bank on giving 1/2 of what you're going for with a variable augment. Why would anyone ever use a variable augment?

They could've put the rules for Tapping in the corebook instead of that worthless, useless and pointless section for variable augments, if what we're discussing is true.

It's just giving me braincramps. It'll probably continue to do so. That doesn't mean that what you're doing is wrong, inefficient or nonfun.  I haven't noticed what you're doing as having a detrimental effect on play and I'm certainly enjoying your game.

I'm just looking at this little black hole in the rules and wondering if there are any more out there and, if so, why the heck I missed them all and how long it's going to be before my fun gets sucked down one I didn't notice by some pimply-faced kid with a modem, a copy of the Issaries' Game Aids and a desire to show the world how much HeroQuest sucks so he can run BESMd20.

I can't allow that to happen.


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