Heroquest, the test run

Well, it was a slow weekend around the casa, so when Randy called up to see what we were doing yesterday, I proposed getting together to playtest Heroquest. He agreed, my wife agree, and we called Stan (who had been discussing HQ vs. d20 with me for the last couple weeks and had voiced an interest in trying out the system).
Now, I have a really bad habit of running games like this: call everyone, rush over on a Sunday afternoon around 3pm, start making characters… finish that by six, six-thirty, then run about half a scenario before everyone has to get home and crash, because tomorrow’s Monday.
That’s… basically exactly how this started… except, for a wonder, we actually finished the scenario!

Now, to preface all of this, I should explain that I’m getting ready to run a ‘real’ HQ game on Friday for the group that normally plays d20. For *that* game, I prepped up a scenario, sent out a briefing to everyone on the nest of NPCs in the area, and have be working out PCs with each player in private emails for about the last ten days.
Far be it from me to waste prep-time. For this down-and-dirty one-shot, I simply printed out my player-information on Spring Fountain and handed it out with the same instructions that I’d given the other group, excepting only that the Baron wasn’t in a coma for the session we were going to play, and we had a couple hours to make characters, not a couple weeks. The player’s consisted of:
– My wife, who played the character she’d already made up for the coming Friday game.
– Justin, who played the character he’d already made up for the coming Friday game (assuming he plays).
– Randy, who had browsed the main rules at one point and owned the Hero’s book.
– Stan, who had never seen HQ before, but had discussed it in broad terms with me in the past couple weeks.
We had one rulebook and two Hero guides. It took about three hours to (a) build the two new characters (including building a Wizardry school from scratch — my second in a week!) (b) finish up the last bits of the characters who were basically done (Jackie and Justin’s).
Unfortunately, this gave me no time to actually prep the game.
Therefore, I hopped over to the Glorantha site and printed out “Sheepless Nights”.
Yes, this is a Heortling adventure. No, it’s not a deep or remotely story-based scenario. Do not judge me, for I had zero prep time 🙂
I tweaked things around a bit and had the head shepherd come down to ask Eustef for help with the missing sheep, and Eustef in turn sends the PCs back with the shepherd to investigate the disappearances. The bandits at the end were from a neighboring, unfriendly Barony (of which Spring Fountain has several).
Anyway, the results:

The character’s were (in order of the players listed above):
Emelie, a young female squire (who’d gotten accepted as a noble page on a technicality and had simply worked too hard to be drummed out… yet). She been assigned by Serge as the squire for Guilbert (the idea being that he would eventually screw up badly and she could be blamed for it).
Lucas, the third son of Eustef. Lucas had been sponsored by Father Rance to attend the wizardry Academy of the Church, but, unknown to most, had fallen in with a very unsavory ‘school within the school’ while he was away at University. (Unfortunately, couldn’t play through the whole scenario.)
Nellisante, the bastard daughter of Eustef who, though certainly not officially acknowledged, had been allowed certain leniencies to the typical female roles and works in the King’s stables as a horsewoman (using the Herder keyword I worked up) and sometimes-courier.
Guy DeGex: Guilbert’s “Jeeves”, the yin to Etienne’s yang, Guy is a young journeyman adept from the Academy of Lordly Advisors (or something similar) who’s made it into Guilbert’s entourage — we had great fun working up the Grimoires for this School.
Tying the PCs into the NPC relationship map for Spring Fountain, even with such a simple scenario, totally paid off right from the beginning of play, because it let us hit the ground running. All I had to do was start off with Guilbert too hungover (and drunk) to answer his father’s summons and Emelie and Guy were suddenly deeply involved and invested — we opened with a scene of Emelie intercepting Alfan (the Baron’s right hand man) while he was looking for Guilbert, and her being sent to find him, then cut to Guy waking up in the Hen’s Lips tavern down in the town of Wells and looking around at the ”nobility” passed out on the hearth, then cut back to Emelie riding up, stalking in, picking up a weakly protesting Guilbert, and dumping him in the water trough outside… those two just locked everything in tight right off the bat. Fun stuff.
Okay, fast forwarding: The four are sent off to the shepherd’s, poke around a bit, start to get a whiff of something wrong with the head shepherd guy. Nellisante and Emilie are riding patrols around the herd of sheep and Guy is basically welded to the head shepherd’s hip so he can’t go off and do anything ‘unnatural’. The sheep thieves make off with a clump of sheep and it breaks down into three conflicts:
1. Emilie running down the thieves on her horribly ill-tempered but very battle-trained mount.
2. Nellisante chasing the ‘distraction’ down through the trees — him on foot and her mounted.
3. Guy, trying to keep the head shepherd from escaping.
I ran them as three concurrent Extended Contests. We’d had some simple contests prior to this point, but since this session had been established from the get-go as a way to play through the HQ system and get our feet wet, I decided to go for this — the players were GREAT about allowing for the vagaries of test-play, and we had a great time. The first couple rounds of the Contests were a bit bumpy, but once I got the flow down (ask for actions, THEN bid, THEN roll) it smoothed out considerably and led to some really fun moments. We started to really see the ebb and flow of the advantage point pools. It was quite excellent.
We wrapped up with victory stories around the campfire, I awarded HPs to folks it (some would be playing again, after all), and we wrapped after about 3 hours of (IMO) very satisfying play — albeit bumpy from the ‘new rules’ adjusting. Randy and Stan stayed and talked about the game til nearly midnight (my fault), both about the setting we were using (I could easily run an all-Seshnela campaign… love the politics and religious nastiness) as well as the system, which went through very well-received. Folks could really see the strengths of the conflict resolution, but commented that the main rulebook itself should be separated into ‘this is rules, this is Glorantha’ to make it… you know, readable.
(I, personally, cannot WAIT to see the ‘generic’ Heroquest rulebook.)
And today, Stan (who’d been discussing the relative strengths of HQ vs. d20 earlier and doing a good job as devil’s advocate) emailed to ask if he could sit in on the game this Friday. Convert!

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