RE: Re: Augmenting to Augment?

From: Mike Holmes <homeydont_at_...>
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2004 11:21:09 -0600

>From: "bigblackcatmail" <bigblackcatmail_at_...>

>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).

It's explicit, as Rory was good enough to cite.

>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.

Well, I think that debate is ancillary to this one. And there's no debate as to what the rules say. They explicitly state that you can augment as many times as you like. In this one circumstance at least, I have the rules on my side. Only by the weirdest possible reading of the rules could you construe them any other way.

>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.

Uh, you lost me; what loophole?

That the narrator uses Fiat in deciding what Augments can be used, and what cannot? Assuming this is what you're talking about, this is merely an extension of that same narrator skill that is used to decide what ability is useful in a particular circumstance. What would be the solution? To allow players to always get to augment with one ability of their choice, no narrator veto allowed? Or not to augment at all?

I must not be seeing the loophole that you're talking about.

>A) 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.

Well, I think AP lending is there to represent something else. So it should be different. As for your second clause, I have no idea what you mean. The rule is the same in simple and extended contests. The only difference in augmenting in extended contests is that it may require an unrelated action.

I'm seeing no inconsistency here.

>B) 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.

What "tweak" are you talking about? These are the rules. A "tweak" is limiting a player to one augment. Or having the hero be in jeopardy when augmenting. Those would be additions to the current rules that simply say that a hero can always augment anyone with as many abilities as make sense.

>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.

Wha? Who proposed that? The "solution" as I see it is to play by the rules, because they work fabulously well unadjusted.

>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-
>and-day" misconception of how you run a game.

Well, I'm flattered. But I think that the problem that people have with reading the rules is that they come from other traditions of play (even HW caused me to stumble over HQ), and have assumptions about how things work from those traditions that aren't supported in the text.

That said, I think that HQ does better in some places, and worse in others. But it's all in there if you read carefully.

>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.

At some point you have to admit that narrator fiat is neccessary, no? Should a player be able to use his "Speak Eloquently" ability to knock down a door? The narrator has to be able to come in and say that things are inappropriate, or outright unsuitable. Not because it has to be used a lot, or to prevent abuse, but simply to inform the players that they're being required to support some level of plausibility. And it's a form of feedback for the narrator. A -5 says, "Well, I can see it being sorta applicable, but not perfectly." The more you do this, the better a vision all the players have of what's appropriate locally.

It's not a bug, it's a feature. Anyhow, again, this is the same skill across the board. Is this ability good as a primary ability? Is this augment suitable? All the same thing, handled the same way.

>HeroQuest had *rules*.

Still does. You're saying that you'd completely eliminate narrator feedback? It's not narrator lords over all, either. It's narrator and players work together to consider what's plausible and dramatic. Which is far better than any one participant making unilateral decisions about things.

>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.

Actually, first, the rules don't say this. I've noted you doing this, and it's just your own local interpretation. The narrator sets all of these things according to the rules (really, read em). Now, I think what may have you confused is my playstyle, because I usually just tacitly agree to anything that a player sets up. But I do retain the duty of the buck stopping with me in deciding whether or not something flies. And that decision is fiat every time.

And if it weren't, it would be player fiat. Which is better how? As I see it, the narrator is there as final authority so that everyone is informed that they can't just play on their own, but have to respect the group. And that requires judgement on when to exercise your powers. I'm fortunate enough with the players that I currently have that I rarely ever have to step in. But it happens. I'm subtle about it, but I can enforce things brutally if it becomes neccessary.

Second, I think few games look like mine. That is I think "most" games out there look a lot more traditional. In fact, if you look at the scenarios and how they're written, they include actual contests that the narrator is supposed to railroad the heroes to. That is, not only do the players not have the ability to set up contests much in this style, they're actually forced to participate in contests that were not designed for their characters.

Now, this style makes me shudder, but that's just my own preferences talking. Way back on The Forge, I showed you the narrativism methods that I think work best for HQ. But they're far from "most" games played, I think. Just how I apply the rules. Apollogies if you've been mislead in anyway.

>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).

But the system doesn't support that. That is, the system doesn't tell the players that they have some imperative to win contests. What it tells them is that they should do plausibly dramatic things. As such, any decision that they make to band together automatically makes a dramatic statement, really, and is therefore good play. I encourage players to do this. It's a feature, not a bug.

Yes, again, if players were actually in a gamism mode, that would be problematic. Never seen it.

>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.

I agree that "roping players in" would be a problem, indicative of an incoherent CA. Fortunate how the system is such that I never ever have to do that.

As for isolating players, it's only a problem, again, if the players are playing gamism. In which case we have a deeper problem than the system can solve. That is, HQ already does a good job of making people play in the non-gamism CAs. If players are still doing it, it's not because he system is telling them to do so.

>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.

Except in my case. Right? What makes me so special. Here's a little secret. I'm a pretty mediocre narrator. What makes me look good when I run? I use the right system. I attribute any success i may have had in the HQ games that I run to having the support of a system that works brilliantly.

Again, we were playing this way whether or not you personally realized it. Were there any such problems? It wasn't me. It was the system not causing the problems you fear - rather, supporting a coherent style of play that everyone works together on.

>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*?

Nothing. I intend to pretty much do that with the PBEM that I'm playing with Jane. Really, I intend to play a little group of four characters. Again, not because I don't want my guy to fail. But simply because it's interesting that I can play that way.

In any case, I fully hope that Adrienne ambushes my character with stuff that he can't shunt off on the followers. Becasuse I do want him to fail and succeed directly without help at times. He'd be a wimp if he didn't get challenged directly at times. If Adrienne doesn't do this for me, I'll have to expose the main character until he is challenged.

See, sans a gamism agenda, why is any of this problematic?

>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

Well, sidekicks cost three. But, I have three followers, and thought about taking more. They do take up slots, however.

That said, in another game I'm playing, one of the characters has a 10,000 man army as a follower. It's working out brilliantly. Because losing a follower, or taking casualties with an army is a thematically powerful thing. Only in HQ, can I play out a military campaign, and actually have the player worried about the men he commands.

And this guy is so into gamism generally that he plays mostly wargames, and not RPGs.

>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...

Huh? First, that's pretty damn cruel to Bobo, there. But that's an interesting statement to make if you want to point out your character's cruelty. Second, however, why won't the dragon just proceed to eat you? That's two separate contests. one against your Bobo ability, and then one against yours. Dragon's going to have you for lunch.

None of this says that you can get away with anything implausible.

>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).

So why are you worried?

>It also assumes that a player is acting
>maliciously and disruptively, which would ruin any game.

Yep, and which no rule system can stop. Which means that it's usless to put in rules to try to stop it (in fact, the theory is that many really bad designs arise from trying to thwart abusive play). This is something that you have to handle at the social level. My suggestion in almost all cases, is to play with somebody else.

>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.

Yes, but that's not the fault of the design. If you're saying that HQ will have trouble accomodating players who bring in assumptions from other games that are contrary to how HQ works, then I can only agree. There's no systematic solution to that other than to present a coherent way to play. Which HQ does in spades. So it's done all it can.

The augmenting rules as they stand do not support gamism. In a game where it makes sense for me as narrator to simply attack the heroes with things that they can't possibly win against (I do this all the time), how can augmenting be anything other than a way to show off the character? Dramatically, not tactically.

>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).

If you think it'll help. I don't see it as problematic, so go for it. I'm still not seeing the problem, however.

>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.

I, too, like the gambling involved. That said, when it was mandatory in HW for these to all be rolled, they happened, very inrequently. Basically it's an extra level of detail that most players are just not interested in generating most of the time. Since I want to see tons of augments, I was very glad to see he auto-augment rule.

>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.

Yes, they might have been capable of doing it, but would they have? Are they really incentivized to do so? And this wasn't the group of assholes, was it? If so, then see my comments above about this not being a problem the system can solve.

Yep, converting D&D players to a HQ mode of play can be hard. Again, however, the rules you cite are no more "abusable" than, say, the breadth of abilities. Same players would take, "Kill Anything Automatically" as abilities. Requiring? Narrator fiat to bring them in line. There's no way a system can stop a person determined to play against the mode of a game. Your little modifications won't do it. Not even close.

Sans a habit or strong will to play this way, HQ does just fine.

>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 min-
>maxing 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.

You're kidding? In addition to ability breadth, if you think that allowing players to select their own contests and abilities is how it should be played, then you're going to get Horst using "Kill Everything" to get the pretty princess to love him. After all, it's his biggest score, why wouldn't he use it? Outside system, when you present him with a situation where Horst has to decide between running away, or facing a duel with somebody dangerous, he'll run away since apparently his only objective is to see that his character doesn't get hurt (despite the fact that losing contests is actually fun).

I can go on and on if you like. A RPG has only the obligation to show one or more solid ways to play. It cannot, and should not try to ensure that players who are determined to play against the way it presents play that way. It won't work, and generally is bad for the system.

>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).

Appearance of fiat. It's all over the game constantly. It doesn't have to be used, because the "legal" principle is at work. That is, people don't rob banks because they've been informed that it's illegal to do it. This informs them both morally, and in terms of Game Theory - crime does not pay. So they act like they should, knowing that if they don't they'll be overruled.

The game works in part because of narrator fiat, and a community standard of play. Not in spit of it.

I hate fiat, too, actually. What I realize is that means I have to play a system where I have to do it only rarely if at all. Which taken as a whole is the overall reason I play HQ.

>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.

Getting a tad melodramatic, aren't ya? About a phenomenon that you've never observed? In any case, the game is what you want as written.

>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!

Uh, no, it's not like saying that. Augments represent helping. AP lending represents getting in harm's way. Why not have two methods to represent two different levels of committment? Or, rather, if you always want the PC to be in harms way, then why not just have only one system? Why have two at all? Why not just eliminate AP lending entirely, and just say that everyone involved with a contest is affected equally?

For me, it's because I can represent two different things better with the two systems. Again, if I'm shouting encouragement from the sidelines, would you say that I can't augment? Or that I can get hurt in the process? I'd like a way for players to have their heroes participate peripherially.

Otherwise, I want the contest to simply revolve around the one hero involved.

>Besides, why even have rules for variable augments if you can auto-
>augment 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

I've pointed out already that the new variable chart is broken, actually (wrote a whole long post on this, in fact). But you don't want to make the outcome of a variable augment have an expected value greater than that of the auto-augment. Because then it's unbalanced (players who don't want the hassle will feel bad that they're not getting their "money's worth"). You want to leave them equal optons. So why ever do it? Because people like to gamble. Variable augments are side wagers.

Oh, yeah, and because the narrator can require them if he thinks they make sense in the case in question.

>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.

Scott, that's plainly paranoid. Read what you've written. You have no evidence that the effect will occur. I've provided lots of counter-evidence including actual play that you've experienced. But still, since you think this one little thing is problematic in the rules, suddenly the rules system is riddled with holes and imperfect.

Want to know what? I can show you some comparatively gaping holes in HQ that are far more dangerous than the little thing you're looking at. No system is perfect, nor will it ever be. The only, I say again, the only way to truely judge how well a system works for what you want it do to is to play it, and see how it runs. No amount of speculating can ever tell you anything certain about what actual play will really be like (this is a Forge maxim - design without playtest is idiocy).

The point is that I suggest you be a tad more philosophical about the whole thing, and just reserve judgement. Maybe I'm wrong, who knows? But until you actually see the problem rear it's ugly head, do you really need to fix the problem? I'm not a "If it ain't broke..." guy, I like to improve games too. But this one is nothing to stress over.

See you tonight for play. We will be using the rules as written as pertains to this. :-)


Powered by hypermail