I’ve got an opportunity coming up to demo Heroquest for the d20 playgroup that’s been running since… oh… pretty much since this blog started back in 2001. (A campaign I think I started posting about wanting to wrap up somewhere in early 2002, but there you go.)
In preparation for this, I’ve been poking around the Forge and looking at situations where a group moved from d20 to Heroquest and what kind of challenges cropped up. Here’s one such:
Player #2 said he missed the “tactical” dimension of d20 and was a bit bored by the first fight.
We talked after the game, and it turned out that by “tactics” he means the whole d20 rules shebang. How many squares on the battle grid for that Fireball? How many rounds will this Stoneskin last before our fighters will have to beat the retreat? Who’s getting the last two potions of Blur and when do we drink them to ensure the effect doesn’t run out during the fight?
All this is rules, stuff that “happens” on the battle grid and can be counted out and displayed using minis. It’s got little to nothing to do what actually happens in PLAY before, during and after a fight. What about using the terrain and light/darkness to your advantage? What about staging a distraction? What about playing on the enemy’s emotion to shake/enrage/move them? Heroquest does all of that, and that’s not even going to the more exotic examples such as reciting heroic poetry to stop someone lobbing their axe at your head.
DnD supports the first sort of tactics but not the second: tactical rules play, yes. Tactics that matter in an in-character way? No. Combat is abstracted to what goes on on the battle grid and in computing the effect of the numerous combat and magic rules subsets. It can be fun, yup, I enjoy it sometimes.
The drawback for that can arise after playing/running DnD for too long is you lose awareness of the other dimensions of a scene, and the way I observed it, that’s true of everyone in our group. The instant there’s potential for violence, we go into combat mode. The GM above mentioned that in their playtest session it meant that they all drop out of the “play” and into a rules mindset.
I’m of two minds on this topic:
One is that yes, this can be a problem. I haven’t GM’d Heroquest yet, but I’ve been doing combat in other similar types of games (Sorcerer and Fate spring to mind), and it can be difficult for folks who’ve done a lot of d20 to do anything other than stare blankly at their sheet and wonder what to do next… they’re used to seeing a list of feats… buttons to push… whatever, and trying to think in terms of the PLACE in the game and the SPACE their characters are moving in and how they can use that in the game can be a stumper. It’s less difficult to overcome this in HQ than Sorcerer, I think.
The other side of this is that I’ve snuck HQ into the d20 game in two instances — one was in a mass combat with one of the more knowledgeable of the d20 players, and he took to the descriptive, tactical nature of play that HQ encourages like a fish to water. In the second example, the players didn’t even notice I’d used an HQ extended contest to resolve the conflict… they just played.
So I think this is doable. I think it will work. I’ve got two weeks before the game. I’ll post more up here as thoughts arise.