More HQ d20 rambling

One of the things I’m looking forward to in the HQ game with the d20 group is fights and conflicts.
Specifically, fights that they lose. Also, conflicts that aren’t fights that still *matter* and command screen time during the game.
What do I mean?
When, in d20 combat (and remember that I said “combat” here, not “fights”) if you lose, there’s really only one way (95% of the time) that will end — you’re dead. Granted, the players might win and decide to save one -5 npc to question, but NPCs taking prisoners? Doesn’t happen — feels like a GM cop-out, or the NPCs only have time to take out one guy before they die, so it doesn’t come up.
With HQ, actual flat-out “you’re dead” consequences (and note I said that and not “results”) only come out of a fight about 5% of the time — beyond that, you’ve got lots of nuances… you can, as a player, lose a fight and still be cool… fail in the battle, but win the war.
On the of the main reasons for this is because you set the Goal for the fight, and it’s the GOAL you can lose, and the CONSEQUENCES that hurt you (or not). In d20 combat system, the GOAL is always “live”, and ‘reward’ is what we’d call the Goal in HQ, so if you lose the GOAL, you’re dead.
HQ does it like so:
You’re fighting orcs at the gate of a keep. The Goal of the fight is to get inside. You have a marginal failure. You do not get your goal. Period. Marginal failure indicates that you don’t get it and you’ve got a minor (-1) penalty on a limited set of tasks for some time. That’s it. You might have killed 40 of the damn things and looked good doing it… but there were just… too… many.
How DnD does it:
You want to get inside the gate. There are orcs in the way. You initiate the combat system against the orcs. You lose. You’re dead.
Which one sounds more like something that happens to the heroes at Helm’s Deep? I’m just sayin’.
As for Conflict that aren’t fighting? Let’s consider.

It’s a dirty little secret of d20 that the combat system is a Dice-Pool system. Almost immediately at first level, people who are good at combat start to build up a multi-dice pool with which to determine their success in a round of combat.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about multiple attacks per round. All that is is a multi-dice-pool of d20’s… it’s a pool, it’s just that each dice is rolled and resolved separately.
If all the dice were a success, then you kicked 100% ass. If you succeeded about 50% of the time… not so much. More dice mean more chance of at least accomplishing SOMETHING… a MARGIN of success in the round of combat — a system where you can get 3 success and 2 failures in that gestalt of effort we call a combat round.
It’s a mistake to say that d20 combat and d20 skills use the same mechanic. They don’t, because skill checks are always all-or-nothing, one-roll checks. A dice pool (even the hidden pool in d20 combat) does not exist, no matter how high your level.
The result? Combat is much more (a) rewarding, because you can at least succeed a ‘little’ (b) rewarding, because if you’re good at it, you’ll be in the spotlight about 200 TIMES more than if you’re good at say, Bluff.
How? Compare the handling time of your average d20 combat to your average d20 ‘bluff the cops’ check. Who’s getting more screen time?
HQ does every conflict the same way, with the same (relative) set of consequences. Combats using the simple resolution are rolled once, narrated, and you’re done… a hundred orcs could be defeated by your 100 corsairs in 2 minutes of game time and 3 minutes of narration… while the Extended Contest of Diplomacy could be the focus of the evening, with a 15-minute give and take bidding war.
d20 rewards being good at combat with lots of screen time, due to handling time of the combat mechanics.
HQ rewards being good at ANYTHING by awarding screen time based on what’s INTERESTING to the group. Might be combat… could be a theology argument… could be a basket-weaving contest.
I’m not trying to take this into a ‘d20 sucks’ thread — I LIKE d20 when I want to do what it does well. I am, however aware that it doesn’t do everything well, and I’m very jazzed to have the chance to take the d20 group and show them a game where you can be good an things besides combat and still get lots of play time and drama.

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