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Author Topic: First Session of Hyborea/HQ and, boy, do I need help  (Read 14340 times)
Scripty
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Posts: 286


« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2003, 05:14:01 AM »

Thanks to everybody for the great responses. I am learning a great deal here and I appreciate the help.

Quote from: Mike
The point is that I think that the whole climb thing could make a great Extended Conflict. You just have to be creative about what sort of "actions" the tower can take against the player.

Mike


A problem I had was something that Mike illustrated. I hadn't thought (much) about the types of challenges the Tower could offer, like vines, shuttered windows opening, etc. Extended Contests of this type seem a lot like the Set Pieces of Feng Shui to me in that many of the environmental factors need to be considered prior to running through them. I hadn't thought much about the environmental factors. Honestly, I didn't expect the players to get to the "climbing" of the Tower until the following session. HeroQuest moves really fast through an adventure. I noticed that the first session. I learned it this one.


Quote from: Brand_Robins
So, under that analysis, I think part of the problem that happened with contests in the game is that Scripty had an idea of what type of contest he wanted to have based on ideas external to the flow of the game. He wanted the fight to be simple, and so it was simple even though it ended up feeling incomplete, and wanted the tower climb to be extended and so it was extended even though no one had ideas about it.

Brand_Robins


This is pretty spot on. I was thinking in terms of using the contest for its own sake, to introduce the players further to the "this is how the game works" aspect of it. Extended Contests are still kind of confusing to them and the wound system is very alien to anything they have ever played. However, I think this was the wrong approach. I can see where using a Simple Contest and Extended Contest on the basis of dramatic suspense (rather than a sense that this conflict needs to be important) might be a good approach. In the first game, I forewent the cooking contest because no one was interested. I should've forewent the Tower as well. I wasn't thinking clearly at the time.


Quote from: AnyaTheBlue
I probably would have had him use his "Pass Unseen" ability to move out into the room, and then have him notice that the lions appear to be sniffing the air, perhaps moving meaningfully towards him. So now he can react by retreating, or attacking them, or something else.

AnyaTheBlue


I had a real problem with this scene as well. His "Pass Unseen" succeeded easily against the guards (Simple Contest). It was pretty much a given. He had specified that it worked on humans and had used it to such effect before. But the lions were animals and, thus, he incurred an improvisational penalty of -5. This went up against the lion's Scent ability at 3W (or 5W, can't remember). The result was a major defeat for the Aquilonian. The Aquilonian specified that he was rushing to the tower. He had thought that the guards were his only obstacle and was not on the alert for other dangers. Thus, he failed a Simple Contest to even notice they were rushing behind him. The lions followed up with a Pounce ability at 1W. The resulting roll was a Complete Victory for the Lions. In the story, the Lions don't really bait their prey. They move in fairly quickly (and silently too) for the kill. Perhaps this is another area where I should have let the story lie. According to the mechanics, however, the Aquilonian should have been reduced to "Dying". In the interest of keeping him in the story, I dropped him to "Impaired" and ruled that he was captured. Based on his actions, up to that point, I thought he would enjoy the opportunity to sell out the party to Yara. He decided it would be more fun to tell Yara to "F--- off". By all rights, he should have died right then, but, again, I was being a bit too nice about it, IMO. I was really thrown off by this player's behavior.


Quote from: RaconteurX
You can play HeroQuest that way, but that pretty much derails the entire purpose of the contest mechanics, which is to highlight moments of dramatic tension in the story you are telling. A single conflict should not require more than one contest, whether simple or extended. The key is framing... just as you frame a scene with specific objectives in mind, so too should you be framing contests. Use extended contests only for the important, suspense-filled conflicts... those you want the players to sweat over. Everything else is anti- climactic.

RaconteurX


I think I understand, but this also brings me back to an original quandary as well. Take the bar fight between the Hyperborean and the Aesir. The Aesir intend to pin the Hyperborean to the wall and beat the holy snot out of him. The Hyperborean player responds with "I hit the first one with my axe". The Hyperborean and the Aesir roll a (I kid you not) "tie". We decided that they had their weapons locked together. Is the contest over? Do we continue from there? This is the part that confused me. By all rights, it seemed to me that the contest should have been done, but it wasn't. The following round resulted in a minor defeat for the Aesir. We worked out that the Hyperborean had thrown off one of the Aesir. The Zamoran thief slit this Aesir's throat after he was thrown back on his table. The Hyperborean then declared "I hit the other one with my axe", while I stated the remaining Aesir's intention as striking the Hyperborean in his leg, IIRC, and running off. The Hyperborean won with a major victory. Despite rules to the contrary, I decided that meant that he had struck the Aesir with a significant enough force to knock him out of the contest. I was so confused that this Simple Contest had gone for so long that I was certain I had been doing something wrong. I consulted the book for a few seconds and decided just to go with it. I was encouraged by Brand's words to the effect of "sometimes this happens" and also his statement that this seems a common, and excusable, result when players stick to "I hit him" as an action. But now your post seems to counter this statement. I feel like I'm back on square one. Which is it? "One roll and out" or "sometimes this happens"...
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Valamir
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« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2003, 05:44:24 AM »

Scripty, the Aqualonian player was just stupid.  I don't mean stupid for disrupting the game, I mean just plain stupid.

How many clues do you need to determine that this course of action was a bad idea.

1) You're hired to get inside a tower.  That right there tells you it isn't something ordinary people are capable of or they wouldn't need you.

2) The guy who hired you has money but is physically crippled.  That right there tells you the guy is someone powerful.  If he were a nobody, he wouldn't have money.  As a physical cripple in Hyborea someone would have taken it from him long ago, so obviously he must be something more than that.  As someone who is either powerful himself or has powerful backers he still needed to hire someone else to raid the tower.  Ding...if the tower's too tough for him, its probably pretty nasty.

3) The sum of money was outrageously high.  One doesn't offer that kind of money for an easy job.  And one doesn't offer that kind of money easily.  If the player had any sense at all he would have immediately concluded that the guy had probably tried to hire others at a more normal price but no one would touch it.  Meaning...its a big deal.


There were plenty of clues just in what you described that any player worth his dice should have picked up on.  The only thing I noticed that you might have done better in this regard is use rumor or common knowledge to impress on all of the players who this Yara guy is...someone fairly legendary in the area.
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Scripty
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Posts: 286


« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2003, 06:04:22 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
There were plenty of clues just in what you described that any player worth his dice should have picked up on.  The only thing I noticed that you might have done better in this regard is use rumor or common knowledge to impress on all of the players who this Yara guy is...someone fairly legendary in the area.


Thanks, Valamir. Actually, I followed through on your suggestion. Not only did the players know beforehand that Yara was feared/hated by the King because he had turned the King's son into a spider and squished him (as in the story), but the players also knew that Yara was responsible for withering the crime boss' legs. Furthermore, the players' informant (a thief who had been inside the tower and was allowed to live) was blind and sickly because Yara had turned his eyes into poisonous spider-egg sacks. The Aquilonians observation of the tower yielded to him the information that the Tower was not built by human hands. Further investigation confirmed that the tower appeared overnight in Arenjun. No one really knew how it was built or where it came from.

I built it up fairly well via rumor. The Aquilonian just wanted to get the "Heart of the Elephant" before the rest of the group. It was my impression that he was interested in showing how his "Pass Unseen" would "break" the adventure by him just walking in and walking out with the gem. When this failed, he threw a fit. Your assessment of the situation mirrors my own. He definitely knew the dangers beforehand. I thought he would capitalize on the situation of being captured. He did, but not in a constructive way.

Now, had I put the "Ganesh clone" behind the golden doors. I think the whole adventure would have gone better. Live and learn, I suppose.
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2003, 06:28:44 AM »

Quote from: Scripty
Take the bar fight between the Hyperborean and the Aesir. The Aesir intend to pin the Hyperborean to the wall and beat the holy snot out of him. The Hyperborean player responds with "I hit the first one with my axe". The Hyperborean and the Aesir roll a (I kid you not) "tie". We decided that they had their weapons locked together. Is the contest over?


I think this specific example perfectly demonstrates where HeroQuest differs from the resolution mechanics of most other games. In most games a roll is made to determine the results of an action, in HeroQuest it is made to determine the results of a conflict. What the Hyperborean did “I hit him with my axe” was an action, not a conflict. Thus when you rolled and got a result of anything other than a full victory (or defeat) it felt lacking and off, and so you continued it with more actions. In the end what you did was, essentially, an extended contest without using the extended contest rules. (Actually, it probably would have worked well with the “Crunchy Contest” rules that were posted in another thread.)

A simple contest generally is used not when the results of a single action are in doubt, but when the results of a contest are in doubt. (Though sometimes the single action will be the whole contest, but it does not have to be.) In the bar fight example the Hyberborean’s Simple Contest goal wasn’t “hit him with an axe” – that was the goal of a single action. His goal for the whole contest was something along the lines of “kick (or kill) his ass, throw him out of the bar, and look impressive doing it.” When you look at it that way, resolving it with one roll becomes much more possible. In the case of a complete victory he tosses the guy out like a sack of potatoes in one easy move, on a normal victory he does it but with normal flair, in a tie he does it but doesn’t get to look cool, in a failure he does it but takes a wound while doing it, in a complete failure he might even lose and be wounded.

Now in the case of the complete failure he’s wounded, but still alive, may have a still angry Aesir around, and will certainly want to redeem himself and look good in front of the others. So another simple contest with a goal like “Pose and seem tough despite having just been injured” or “make friends with the guy I just fought as he’s obviously a worthy fighter” or “run away before the rest of the people in the bar rob me and knife me.” So in that manner a simple contest can lead directly to another simple contest – but most of the time they’ll be about related goals rather than the exact same goal repeated.

To come at this from a different angle, let me talk briefly about another game that I love, but that occasionally annoys me because it doesn’t do what HeroQuest does: Exalted. In Exalted you play sword and sorcery/anime badasses (starting PCs are a lot like Khesma from “People of the Black Circle”). This means that when you get some XP under a character’s belt, they quickly get to the point where large numbers of normal people have trouble hurting them, or even touching them. There is some possibility of injury from say, a small phalanx of elite guard, but the chances of them defeating the character are nearly non-existent.

The problem with this is that in Exalted there is no extant system for resolving a fight between said Exalt and said phalanx with a single roll. You have to play it out blow by blow, round by round, or (as the books suggest you do at a few points) simply skip the fight in an abdication of system. In short, you either have an extended contest or no contest at all. Neither, however, fits the drama of the situation. There is a chance of the character being injured, or having his goals compromised, or being forced into a tough moral place by the situation – and so some mechanic for handling it without having to play out endless rounds of the PC blocking 15 strikes a round and killing 5 soldiers a round.

That is exactly where simple contests for HeroQuest come in. They are made to handle the fights that aren’t that perilous, that aren’t brutal grudge-matches, but that have enough dramatic interest that they deserve mechanical representation. If Exalted had simple contests and extended contests then you could have an extended contest duel with the First and Forsaken Lion, but a simple contest when fighting The Languorous Society of Bar Patrons.
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- Brand Robins
Scripty
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Posts: 286


« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2003, 07:05:20 AM »

Quote from: Brand_Robins
I think this specific example perfectly demonstrates where HeroQuest differs from the resolution mechanics of most other games. In most games a roll is made to determine the results of an action, in HeroQuest it is made to determine the results of a conflict. What the Hyperborean did “I hit him with my axe” was an action, not a conflict. Thus when you rolled and got a result of anything other than a full victory (or defeat) it felt lacking and off, and so you continued it with more actions. In the end what you did was, essentially, an extended contest without using the extended contest rules. (Actually, it probably would have worked well with the “Crunchy Contest” rules that were posted in another thread.)


This takes us back to pretty much what Ron and others had said earlier in the thread. I think I get it. Someone earlier had advised that I question the players to get to the root of what it is they are trying to accomplish. I tried that this last game with minimal success. It's difficult to draw this group out of their shell. I actually did get a more specific response regarding an attack in the second game, however. The Hyperborean was facing off against a giant scorpion in the sewers below the King's Palace. His stated action was, again, "I hit him". I asked for more information and his response was: "I hit him with my axe." I stopped for a moment and explained that I was interested in finding out what he was trying to accomplish here and why. He replied, "I'm trying to cut off its tail with my axe." This worked out much better. He received a major victory, which I felt was sufficient for "disarming" the scorpion. The scorpion then tried to scurry away but was shot by the Hyrkanian with an arrow as it ran. That pretty much summed up that conflict. Two simple contests.

It was a bit of a mental stretch at times, for me, to pit declarations against each other. But I think I'm improving.

Thanks for the detailed description. I sincerely appreciate all the help and advice I've found here. I've also been scouring the Yahoo groups for info on Extended Contests/Simple Contests. I think I have it down. We'll see. I plan to stick it out, though, until either the entire group quits or I have HeroQuest figured out.

I'm in it for the long haul.

:)
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2003, 10:28:07 AM »

Quote from: Scripty
The Hyperborean was facing off against a giant scorpion in the sewers below the King's Palace. His stated action was, again, "I hit him". I asked for more information and his response was: "I hit him with my axe." I stopped for a moment and explained that I was interested in finding out what he was trying to accomplish here and why. He replied, "I'm trying to cut off its tail with my axe." This worked out much better. He received a major victory, which I felt was sufficient for "disarming" the scorpion. The scorpion then tried to scurry away but was shot by the Hyrkanian with an arrow as it ran. That pretty much summed up that conflict. Two simple contests.


Sounds perfect to me. I'm also glad that you're in it for the long haul. Getting used to HeroQuest hasn't always been easy for me, but so far it's all been worth the effort.
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- Brand Robins
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2003, 11:21:37 AM »

Promting. Try that.

If a player says, "I hit it", then don't follow up with, "but what are you trying to do?". That's what gets the, "I hit it with my Axe."  MJ or Walt or somebody a while back posted about an idea for getting responses. That's to make incorrect assumptions. So, if a player says, "I hit it," you say, "So, you're trying to kill it?"

If your guess is incorrect, the player will correct you appropriately (because people love to do that). He'll say, "No, I'm just trying to chop off it's tail so it'll leave me alone." This is a lot better than telling the player that they're doing it wrong. It gives them an opportunity to look like the smart guy, and you get what you need.

Mike
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Scripty
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« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2003, 11:22:33 AM »

Quote from: Brand_Robins
Sounds perfect to me. I'm also glad that you're in it for the long haul. Getting used to HeroQuest hasn't always been easy for me, but so far it's all been worth the effort.


Thanks for the encouragement. HeroQuest is VERY different from any rpg I've ever come across before. It's also causing me to rethink a number of things and re-evaluate old modes of preparation and narration. I think this is a good thing, BTW.

Sorry to take this thread off on a bit of a tangent. But, when you mentioned that a string of Simple Contests is okay, it caused me to re-evaluate my understanding of the rules up to that point. I now see (for the most part) how it works. Re-reading the adventures has also helped a great deal, as I have been able to see how the effects of winning and losing a contest can carry-over to stats, relationships and even other contests. I'm slowly coming to terms with all this, but it's taking a bit longer than I had anticipated.

Thanks to everyone for all the help.
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Scripty
Member

Posts: 286


« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2003, 11:26:03 AM »

Quote from: Mike Holmes
Promting. Try that.

If a player says, "I hit it", then don't follow up with, "but what are you trying to do?". That's what gets the, "I hit it with my Axe."  MJ or Walt or somebody a while back posted about an idea for getting responses. That's to make incorrect assumptions. So, if a player says, "I hit it," you say, "So, you're trying to kill it?"

If your guess is incorrect, the player will correct you appropriately (because people love to do that). He'll say, "No, I'm just trying to chop off it's tail so it'll leave me alone." This is a lot better than telling the player that they're doing it wrong. It gives them an opportunity to look like the smart guy, and you get what you need.

Mike


Great suggestion, Mike. That would also promote the group-think that I'm going for in HeroQuest. Sort of like the band analogy that Ron uses. We had it when we played Donjon and even Feng Shui. I'm not so sure what the logjam is here, but I do know that my interpersonal skills are certainly providing the default resistance.

Prompting is a great approach. I will most certainly use that.

Thanks.
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Scripty
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« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2003, 05:25:51 AM »

Well, the last session of my HeroQuest/Hyborea game went quite well. I worked with the player who had played the Aquilonian earlier and he is now playing a character he likes better. Initially, he was trying for a D&D style magic-user. Although I personally have no problem with players creating magic-wielding characters in Hyborea, I stressed that the game world did not have Clerics, Paladins, Wizards and Sorcerers ala Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms at the start of the campaign. Hence, I think a disconnect occured when he attempted to use his magical abilities to a greater effect than their agreed-upon scope. Now, he is playing a martial artist from Khitai and is having a much easier time fitting into the setting. He also seems to appreciate that his abilities fit more into his concept (a D&D monk) than his earlier attempt.

Beyond that, I think I finally grokked the system. I am at least boosted enough in my confidence to say, "I can run a game with the HeroQuest system." I owe a good deal of thanks to everyone on this board whose advice and experience have helped me a great deal to understand what I was missing. Most especially, I would like to thank Mike, Ralph, Ron, RacounteurX and Brand_Robins for their patience and consistently excellent insight. Mike's explanations of the difference between "task-based resolution" and "conflict-based resolution" really was the final step in me being able to run the types of games that I have read about on this forum.

HeroQuest is (or seemed a couple of nights ago) to be everything I have heard it was. The system not only supports, but practically demands that you inject drama and conflict into what other systems distill down to a series of "I hit him, I miss/He hits me, I miss".

The players were also enthusiastic (for the first time) about continuing play with this system in this, and other, settings. One player had done research and deduced that Glorantha was the same setting as the old RuneQuest game. That makes one player that is interested in roleplaying in Glorantha now. The player who had played the Aquilonian earlier was so interested in the system that he discussed the possibility of him running it for other groups. He felt he understood it well enough to use it for a variety of genres/settings himself.

As an update on how the party is doing, it would seem that they have steered the game in a darker direction. The Hyperborean sold out the location of his clan's magical "standing stone" to a rival clan in exchange for their sorceress removing an evil curse from the Hyrkanian that was slowly turning him into a giant spider. The Khitai martial artist accompanied the group north to Hyperborea to avoid a group of raiders in northern Zamora. Suffice to say, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. The whole thing climaxed with the sorceress' clan ambushing the Hyperborean's clan while being led by the Hyperborean himself. The Hyperborean encountered his own father on the raid. A fierce combat ensued which resulted in the Hyperborean cutting off his father's arm and leaving his father to wallow in disgrace rather than finishing him off and allowing him to die honorably. The Hyrkanian's soul was wrenched from his body and forced into a Cimmerian slave's body by the evil sorceress, who was incapable of removing the curse of a wizard as powerful as Yara. The Khitai learned a good deal about his murky past from the scrying of the sorceress. He also fought bravely in the clan's ambush and is now considered "almost a man" by the evil Hyperboreans, who had initially thought him a merchant of some sort.

Interesting themes were introduced into the story by the character's actions. For one, the Hyperborean completed a betrayal of his family and clan that was only hinted in his character concept. His people are defeated, and it is his fault. The Hyrkanian, who earlier had seemed to be exploring "Honor" as a prevalent theme, completely traded over honor for his desire to remain alive in order to enact vengeance on an old enemy.

A lot happened last game. A lot. There are really too many highlights to list here. A few of the finer points were when the Hyperborean (at the end of the raid) chopped off his former clan's shaman's head and then animated it using an amulet he had originally stolen from said shaman. The evil sorceress took her rival's animated head as a trophy. The Hyrkanian also, for some strange reason, "seduced" the sorceress even though he was slowly transforming into a spider. Of course, the sorceress was more than willing as this allowed her to tap not only the Hyrkanian's life energy but also take into her some of Yara's power. This odd twist of events has certainly introduced a means to make the sorceress a recurring element of the storyline (and then some). The Hyrkanian has also earned the enmity of the Cimmerian slave's wife who, herself, is a slave of the evil sorceress. Fending off the Hyrkanian's advances in her husband's former body, the Hyrkanian has definitely earned himself an enemy that wants him very, very dead. The Hyrkanian's player summed it up nicely. "That's fine. She can come after me. I should die for this, but only after I have my revenge on Black Qadir." Black Qadir is, of course, the rival Hyrkanian for whom he is searching (and body-hopping as it would seem).

And that's not to mention the kung-fu style bounty hunters that are scouring Hyborea for the Khitai. Apparently, he fled Khitai because, as a slave/bodyguard, to a Khitai sorcerer he had not only fell in love but seduced the sorcerer's daughter. The ensuing manhunt should yield plenty of future battles of the Kill Bill variety.

Overall, it went well, I think. The synopsis above does not do it justice. Ron's article on Thed encouraged me to push the envelope and respond openly when the players themselves pushed the envelope. I think in this last game that the envelope is officially mailed. To mimic Nicholas Cage's line in Raising Arizona, "Well... It ain't Drizzt and Elminster..."

Thanks everyone for your patience and help. This is a really great system. As a comparison, I played AD&D with a group the following evening. The difference was night and day. Although the D&D system does a number of things well, it pales in areas of cinematic action and drama when compared with the above HeroQuest session. A climactic battle in the D&D game took over an hour to complete. The climactic battle in HeroQuest took about half an hour, and was focused on the players the WHOLE time. The D&D session was riddled with miffs, fumbles and waiting for my next turn. We did with one night of HeroQuest what would have taken a month or more of D&D play, if it would've arguably had been possible in any effect.

That's pretty much it right there. Night and day. It's good to finally see the sun.
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Brand_Robins
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« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2003, 09:29:01 AM »

Quote from: Scripty
Mike's explanations of the difference between "task-based resolution" and "conflict-based resolution" really was the final step in me being able to run the types of games that I have read about on this forum.


I'd like to second this. A lot of my early thought about HeroQuest was influenced by Mike Holmes on the HeroQuest rules list, as well as by Ron’s work in Sorcerer and Chris “bankuei’s” constant helpfulness. Jeff Kyer also deserves mad props – those four people together have turned me into a HeroQuest junky.

Quote from: Scripty
Interesting themes were introduced into the story by the character's actions. For one, the Hyperborean completed a betrayal of his family and clan that was only hinted in his character concept. His people are defeated, and it is his fault. The Hyrkanian, who earlier had seemed to be exploring "Honor" as a prevalent theme, completely traded over honor for his desire to remain alive in order to enact vengeance on an old enemy.


Kick. Ass.

See, before I wanted to be in this game because I thought it had potential. Now I want to be in it because it is awesome at this very second.
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- Brand Robins
Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2003, 09:30:13 AM »

Wow. No, really that's all I got. Just, wow.

Why does the next session always seem so far away? Sigh...

Mike
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Scripty
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« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2003, 11:53:49 AM »

Thanks for the encouragement. I was merely posting the results of the game for the sake of continuity. I didn't know anyone was actually following it. Perhaps I should do a more in-depth write up? The little synopsis above didn't do it justice. Especially in regards to the Cimmerian slave-girl, who has been so brutally wronged that even the Hyrkanian's player wants to see her mission of vengeance succeed. The sorceress, known as Malnetha, also added some interesting elements to the story, as she got to tap a rival's magical relic (the standing stone), a giant spider minion, the downfall of her most powerful enemies, her rival's animated head, and an embryo inside her composed of her own life-force and the Hyrkanian's combined with the magical energies of Yara and, by extension, Yag-Kosha. She certainly didn't leave the scene empty handed. The players also enjoyed slaying the Hyperborean's former mentor, whom the player had humorously named Bilgates (pronounced Bill-Gah-Tays). It was a dark humor, but an entertaining one when the Hyperborean animated Bilgates' severed head and presented it to the sorceress as a trophy. No more scrying with ram guts and bones for the sorceress. She'll be getting her mystical updates straight from the undead mouth of her rival from now on.

Like I said, this group liked their Hyborea the way I like my eyeliner... black, black, black...

You can really do A LOT in 3 and a half hours with HeroQuest, especially when epic battles can pass in the blink of an eye. Next time, I'll try to make time to do a better write-up if you guys (or any gals) are interested in following along.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2003, 12:02:14 PM »

Yay!

Everyone hug. I think it's time for this thread to be closed. Further implications or updates to the game in question can be taken to new thread topics.

Best,
Ron
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