HeroQuest RPG Campaign Issues

Recently, one of the readers of this blog made a comment about using the HeroQuest RPG for a game set in Tomino’s Universal Century setting (from Mobile Suit Gundam). He asked about using HQ2 and how to make certain themes the focus of his game:

“For Tomino’s UC, I want to make combat between mechas important, but definitely not the focus of the game: themes like proto-transhumanism implied by the New Type concept; the social and political tensions between the Colonies and the Earth government; the horror and futility of full-scale war; should be at the forefront.”

Personally, I’m completely unfamiliar with Mobile Suit Gundam, so my answers here are going to be fairly generic. Having said that, I think that will have value from the perspective of adapting whatever setting you are interested in playing within.

I also wanted to talk about this as it definitely got my mind churning in regards to this element of HQ2 campaigns. After all, a narrative game like HeroQuest seems like an ideal set of rules to highlight certain campaign issues and bring them to the forefront—to have them be a direct influence on what happens in the game.

The Purely Narrative Outlook

Of course, most campaigns have some kind of focus, even if it’s just “dungeon-crawling for profit.” From a purely narrative outlook, focusing a campaign on a specific set of issues can be as simple as ensuring that NPCs and adventures have those issues as their core elements.

For example, if I want to have “avoid things man was not meant to know” as a core theme of a modern-day investigative campaign, then I’m going to create adventures that are about people searching for secrets and the inherent dangers in finding those secrets out. NPCs will include occult specialists, rare book dealers, cultists, and so forth. An adventure could be about the search for a missing person, only to discover that they unearthed an ancient ritual and summoned something that was hostile to them, and they are now on the run trying to keep one step ahead of that being while it relentlessly hunts them.

This is fairly easy to do from that purely narrative perspective.

Using the example provided in the original comment, this approach means that the adventures and storylines you provide to the players will be focused on those themes. For example, if you want to highlight “the horror and futility of full-scale war” then you could present the players with adventures where they have to accomplish a goal in the aftermath of a large battle, where they experience that aftermath first-hand. Put them in a situation where they are in a position to help the survivors, but have a mission objective that means they cannot spare the time/resources to do so. Have them make the choice between rescuing survivors and obeying orders, and then offer scenes where the choices the PCs made come back to haunt them.

For the social and political tensions between the Colonies and the Earth government, is there a way to have the PCs travel incognito between those two societies? If so, let them see the stereotypes and insults that each group applies to the other, and also show them that those stereotypes are gross exaggerations and (in many cases) completely false or based on a lack of understanding of the other group’s situation.

The Mechanic-Based Outlook

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have the mechanics reflect the same issues. If done poorly, this can bog down the game with extraneous modifiers or sub-systems that don’t add anything to the play experience. If done well, it adds another layer that reinforces the themes of the game.

Fate Core

The Fate Core RPG, for example, does this with “Campaign Issues.” When setting up a campaign, the group is encouraged to “decide what threats and pressures inherent to the setting will spur the protagonists to action.” These are listed as two issues that become aspects and “will be available to invoke or compel throughout the entirety of the game.”

This is a nice way to reinforce the themes of the game and give it mechanical weight. Using the example above about war, the campaign aspect could be “The horror and futility of full-scale war.” During a mission, when those PCs see the aftermath of a large battle while on a mission, the GM can offer the players a fate point to render aid to the survivors even though that’s outside of their mission parameters.

Further, NPCs can have relevant aspects reflecting their prejudices against the colonies or the Earth government that make it easier or more difficult for the PCs to influence, intimidate, or otherwise interact with them.

HeroQuest 2E doesn’t have aspects, though, and lacks an immediate mechanical “hook” upon which to hang this kind of campaign focus. That doesn’t mean that there are no ways to reflect it in the game with the existing rules, however.

HQ Resistances

The easiest way to do this is to adjust Resistances to reflect the themes of the campaign. Bumping a Resistance by one “level” (e.g. from Moderate to High) when engaging in a contest that directly relates to a campaign theme will definitely reinforce those themes.

For example, if you want to reinforce the tensions between two societies, you could increase the Resistance any time the PCs attempt any kind of social contest with members of the alternate society. Brokering a peace between the two factions is going to be more difficult than normal, and the Resistance should reflect that.

HQ Consequences

Another way to do it to use different methods of determining consequences at the end of contests. For example, if you’re trying to show the horror and futility of full-scale war, whenever the PCs take part in a large battle, you can use the Climactic Scene Consequence Table, which increases the punishment taken by the PCs at the end of a contest. Even if they succeed, they are going to be hurt.

(This works just as well in social interactions when reinforcing the themes tensions between two societies.)

If you really want to the PCs to feel the effects of a battle regardless of the outcome, you can use the Pyrrhic Victory Results Table. In order to make the campaign not come to a screeching halt at the first defeat, however, you may want to treat “Dead” results as “Dying” so that the PCs have a chance to survive long enough to understand the dangers of war.

If you want to be really brutal, you can combine the increase of the Resistance method with the increased consequences of the Climactic Scene or Pyrrhic Victory tables.

But of course I recommend using those methods only when it comes to reinforcing those particular negative themes.

But that’s the stick method. If you’ve got more positive themes that you want to reinforce, then you can do the reverse. A theme of “Friendships are more valuable than gold” can be reflected by a reduction in Resistance when the PCs are acting in the spirit of true friendship, or when they are supported by their friends. You can also lower the consequences from a failed contest when the PCs are acting in the spirit of the campaign themes.

(I know that there is no specific rules for this in HQ2, that provide a reverse version of the Pyrrhic Victory Results Table, for example, but it’s easy to extrapolate or simply bump down the level of consequence from a contest to reflect this.)

Flaws

The final method you can use is Flaws. These reflect very specific elements, though, so they can’t necessarily reflect every campaign theme you might want to incorporate.

But if, for example, you are trying to ensure that the tension between two societies cause difficulties during the campaign, giving every PC a “Prejudice against [society]” Flaw is one way to do it. This way, characters need to overcome their own prejudices in order to accomplish their goals when working with people from that other society. You can even allow the players to spend Hero Points to buy down their Flaws over time to reflect their better understanding of the other society and their changing attitudes toward those people.

Conclusion

HQ2, at first glance, seems to lack specific mechanics for reinforcing campaign themes in the game. However, as with so much in the HeroQuest RPG, the tools are already there—it’s just a matter of applying them to accomplish what you need for your particular game.

I’d love to hear about other people’s efforts with HQ2 and how they adapted the rules to reflect campaign themes or other similar elements to make the game sing for them. Tell us about it here in the comments.

HeroQuest and Eclipse Phase – Miscellanea

Over the last few weeks, I’ve posted about using the excellent HeroQuest 2E rules to run a game set in the Eclipse Phase setting (post 1, 2, 3).

This week, I’m going to cover some of the various bits that I’ve left out until now. I’m not going to go into too much depth on these, but I’ll cover the major elements that will help you to play the game with HQ2.

Mental Health

Characters in HQ2 don’t have a Lucidity score and don’t receive mental stress points. Instead, any time that they fail a challenge in a conflict that inflicts mental stress points in EP, their “injury” should represent an appropriate mental effect.

For example, characters who are asphyxiated may take mental stress damage in EP if they fail a WIL test. In HQ terms, a character who is asphyxiated must engage in a simple contest against a Resistance determined by the GM, using any appropriate ability that reflects the character’s ability to remain calm in such a stressful situation. In this particular case—being asphyxiated—if the character fails the simple contest, then they cannot take any action and also take an appropriate “injury” based on how badly they failed the contest.

Other situations in EP are simply listed as automatically inflicting mental stress. For example, an async who stays in a pod, symthmorph or infomorph form without psychological assistance automatically takes 1d10/2 mental stress damage each month.

I personally would hesitate to automatically inflict “injuries” on characters without it being the result of a failed contest. You could choose to do that, but then you’re introducing something into HQ2 that isn’t in the core rules and doesn’t—I feel—add anything to the game. Rather, I would give the character at least a fighting chance by letting them engage in a simple contest against an appropriate difficulty. You can use the amount of mental damage listed in EP as a guideline on how high the Resistance should be for any particular contest (i.e. the higher the damage listed, the higher the Resistance selected for the contest).

Psi Abilities

Some players may choose to play characters with Psi Sleights—mental powers that allow the character to do very special things with their mind.

I’m just going to go quickly through some of the key elements in Eclipse Phase and show how they can be reflected in HQ2.

  • Morphs and Psi (core rules, pg. 220): Infomorphs or synthmorphs do not allow the use of Psi powers. When inhabiting a pod morph, the character receives an automatic penalty of -6 to any Psi Sleights.
  • Morph Acclimatization (core rules, pg. 220): As in the EP rules, for 1 day after the character has resleeved, they will suffer the effects of a single minor derangement. In HQ2 terms, the character receives an additional minor flaw that should be described as one of the derangements from the EP core rules (pg. 210).
  • Morph Fever (core rules, pg. 220): For each month the async stays in a pod, synthmorph or infomorph form with psychological assistance by a psychiatrist, software, or muse, the character must roll a conflict against an appropriate Resistance using any ability that is relevant to keeping their mental cool in this situation.
  • Psi Drawbacks (core rules, pg. 220-221): Asyncs automatically gain some additional Flaws when they gain their powers. The first flaw is a Vulnerability to Mental Stress. The second Flaw is one of the options listed under the Mental Disorder negative trait in EP. The third Flaw is Vulnerable to Infection by Insurgent Viruses.

Psi Sleights

Most the rules in EP about the use of Psi Sleights do not apply when using HQ2. In many cases, Psi Sleights work just any other ability, but there a few wrinkles that I will talk about here.

Passive sleights in EP are designed to be activated and then provide a static bonus to other skills. For example, the Ambience Sense sleight provides a +10 modifier to all Investigation, Perception, Scrounging, and Surprise Tests.

In HQ2, these passive sleights would be used entirely as augments on other abilities. You can choose to use automatic augments or roll them, as per your own preference in your games. In this way, passive sleights work similarly to Common Magic on page 110 of the HQ2 core rules.

Active sleights will almost always be used as part of a contest. For example, the Drive Emotion sleight would require the async character to succeed at a contest against an appropriate Resistance representing their struggle to influence a target’s emotional state. Success on the test could be rolled into an augment on a future test to get the target to do something (e.g. a major success to make a target feel fear would result in that target receiving an automatic bump down on abilities used to later resist an intimidation attempt by the character).

Most of the psi sleights listed in the EP rules can be used in HQ2 without issue. For those that present unusual conflicts, use common sense and apply the closest HQ2 solution to achieve a similar result that has a comfortable level of abstraction for you.

Psychosurgery

This is a great example of how the HQ2 contest mechanics can seamlessly replicate an element of EP. In the EP rules, psychosurgery is handled as an opposed test of the Psychosurgery skill against the target’s WIL. If the psychosurgery succeeds and the target fails, the surgery is effective and permanent. If the surgery and the target both succeed, but the surgeon gains a better result (i.e. wins the contest), then the surgery is effective but temporary. And if the target wins the contest, the surgery is ineffective.

Mesh and Hacking

As with everything else, you can use the EP rules for Subversion to provide a framework for how difficult a task might be (i.e. help you determine an appropriate Resistance).

For example, the Subversion examples table on page 259 of the EP core rules shows that there is no modifier to give orders to drones, interact with entoptics, make online purchases using user’s credit, open/close doors, start/stop elevators, move/manipulate cameras, sensors, use device functions. In HQ2, this means that you would use the base (Moderate) Resistance when a character engaged in a contest to achieve one of these effects.

For those effects listed on the table with a -10 modifier, just use a High Resistance (HQ2, page 125, Resistance Class Table). For those effects with a -20 modifier, use a Very High Resistance. And for those effects with a -30 modifier, use a Nearly Impossible Resistance.

Resleeving

In the core EP game, all characters normally suffer some negative effects for the first day when resleeving. The table on page 272 of the EP core rules shows the effects from the Integration Test and the Alienation Test (plus another table with a host of various modifiers that may apply to those tests).

Here’s how I would translate the table to have it reflect how things work in EP.

Integration Test Consequence Table

EP Result EP Effect HQ2 Result HQ2 Effect
Critical Failure Character is unable to acclimate to the new morph— something is just not right. Character suffers a –30 modifier to all physical actions until resleeved. Complete Defeat Character is unable to acclimate to the new morph— something is just not right. Character cannot take any physical actions until resleeved.
Severe Failure (MoF 30+) Character has serious trouble acclimating to the new morph. They suffer a –10 modifier to all actions for 2 days plus 1 day per 10 full points of MoF. Major Defeat Character has serious trouble acclimating to the new morph. They suffer an automatic bump down on all physical abilities for 5 days.
Failure Character has some trouble acclimating to new morph. They suffer a –10 modifier to all physical actions for 2 days plus 1 day per 10 full points of MoF. Minor Defeat Character has some trouble acclimating to new morph. They suffer a –6 penalty to all physical actions for 3 days.
Success Standard acclimation period. The character suffers a –10 modifier to all physical actions for 1 day. Marginal Defeat Standard acclimation period. The character suffers a –3 modifier to all physical actions for 1 day.
Excellent Success (MoS 30+) No ill effects. Character acclimates to new morph in no more than a few minutes. Marginal Success No ill effects. Character acclimates to new morph in no more than a few minutes.
Minor Success
Critical Success Lookin’ good! This morph is an exceptionally good fit for the character. No ill effects; gain 1 Moxie point for use in that game session only. Major Success Lookin’ good! This morph is an exceptionally good fit for the character. The character gains a +3 bonus to all physical actions while in this sleeve.
Complete Success

Note that I’ve moved what in EP is considered a success but still results in a penalty for a day to a Marginal Defeat in HQ2. This keeps the scale on the same level for all elements in HQ2 and ultimately provides the same kinds of results.

Reputation and Social Networks

I touched on this a bit in last week’s post, as far as outlining that a character can have a relationship with one or more of these social networks as shown in an appropriate ability. The Community rules in HQ2 provide a great framework for how a character can gain resources (favors) from their social networks and how it affects their relationship. There is no need to translate every detail of how the social network rules work in EP over to HQ2. Rather, I would just replace the existing EP rules with those that already work well in HQ2 and just use those as is.

Gear

I also touched on the idea last week that I personally prefer the abstract nature of gear in HQ2. But gear in EP is a whole element of the game, and there are those who would prefer to delve into this in more detail.

I’ll be honest, this is something that just doesn’t interest me that much, and so I’m not going to into how to replicate it in HQ2. Depending on how detailed you want the gear subject to get, you can probably avoid adding any new subsystems to the HQ2 rules.

One possibility is to use gear as automatic (or rolled) augments on existing abilities. Another is to give a character a specific ability bonus (HQ2 core rules, page 51) if they have gear that is appropriate to what they are doing. This will give the edge to those who spend time selecting the right gear, but it doesn’t take up a lot of time and the rules remain simple and in alignment with the rest of the HQ2 rules.

Conclusion

And that’s it for my EP to HQ2 conversion. As I was delving into this, I was surprised at how easy it was to convert such a dense and complex game into a very abstract rules system. But I think that I’ve demonstrated that, while there is some work to be done at the beginning going through the key elements of EP and figuring out how the rules of HQ2 can replicate the general feeling (if not the same mechanics), it’s not actually a difficult job for the GM.

Transhumanity’s Fate was a book that took the EP setting and married it to the Fate Core rules. Once the HQ2 SRD is released, I would love to see a version of EP that used the HeroQuest rules. I think it would be a great resource that would showcase HeroQuest to new players who are unfamiliar with this excellent set of rules.

So what’s your take on this? Would you consider playing Eclipse Phase with the HQ2 rules? Was there anything here that was unclear or that you felt was missing? I’d love to keep this discussion going, so please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

HeroQuest and Eclipse Phase – Part 3

This is part three of a series of posts (1, 2) I’m doing about using the HeroQuest RPG rules to run a game set in the Eclipse Phase setting.

Last week, I talked about character creation and how characters created in HQ2 will have four Keywords: Background, Faction, Focus, and Morph. Of these, the Morph Keyword will change whenever the character switches bodies, but the other three Keywords remain with the character throughout the campaign.

This week, I’m going to talk about the steps of character creation in HQ2, and provide an example of how this might work using the material in the Eclipse Phase books. In these examples, I make extensive use of the core Eclipse Phase rulebook, the Transhuman sourcebook, and the Morph Recognition Guide.

How to Handle Keywords

One question that has come up is how I’m approaching Keywords in this conversion. Are they Packages or Umbrellas?

I actually prefer a mixed approach to Keywords, as some fit more as Packages, and others are more appropriate as Umbrellas.

  • The Background Keyword should be used as a Package. It highlights the experiences that the character had in the past, and provides a description of what the character had learned. However, improving those individual skills that came from past experience should be done separately.
  • The Faction Keyword is also a Package. It encapsulates the key elements of your character’s personality, outlook, and goals. However, each of those elements, while related to one another, do not directly affect a character’s improvement in one or more of those abilities.
  • The Focus Keyword can be used as an Umbrella. As a character gains experience in their chosen profession, they make use of their skills in a related way. Therefore, raising the Keyword improves all related abilities under it, though a character may choose to focus on improving just a few select abilities.
  • The Morph Keyword is definitely an Umbrella. A character can improve the overall Morph, which raises all abilities under it, but can also add new implants or other modifications—which are new breakout abilities.

On a related note, I tend to make raising an Umbrella Keyword more expensive. I generally set the cost at 3 Hero Points, plus 1 Hero Point per breakout ability. Yes, this means that the more breakout abilities you have, the more it costs to raise the Keyword. This forces a decision on the players as to whether they want to keep spending 3 Hero Points to raise just the keyword, or break out a couple of key abilities that they can raise and still save a point. But once the decision is made to break out some abilities, it becomes more and more expensive to raise that initial Keyword as new breakouts get added.

Now, using the List Method of character creation in HQ2, the character receives 10 additional abilities. Some of these abilities may be breakout abilities from his Keywords, while others might be additional, separate abilities.

Character Creation

For the purposes of this merging of setting and system, I’m going to be using the List Method of character generation in HQ2. This does not mean that you cannot use the Prose Method or As-You-Go Method in your own game. I’m just using this method because I find it translates well between EP and HQ2.

As mentioned last week (and above), the character should choose four Keywords: Background, Faction, Focus, and Morph. Note that the Morph selected is the one the character inhabits at the beginning of the game and can be considered the character’s default morph whenever they are not on a mission or have been ego-cast to another location.

In the example I used, the character selected Earth Survivor for the Background Keyword, Reclaimer for the Faction Keyword, and Wrecker for the Focus Keyword.

Because I envision this character as someone who actually survived on Earth, hiding out in the ruins of civilization, he still inhabits his original body. So for the Morph Keyword, I have selected the Flat.

So here are his Keywords, with the descriptions from the Transhuman book to give a sense of what each Keyword represents and encompasses:

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor
Unlike a small percentage of transhumanity, you did not escape off-world during the Fall, nor were you lucky enough to be killed. You survived for years, eking out an existence in the post-apocalyptic desolation of Earth while hiding from, and even fighting, the machines and twisted transhuman puppets that still lurked there. Only recently was your body rescued by reclaimers.

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer
You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker
You are optimized for killing machines. You either excelled at fighting TITAN constructs during the Fall or you continue to hunt them down in the aftermath.

Keyword (Morph): Flat
Flats are baseline unmodified humans, born with all of the natural defects, hereditary diseases, and other genetic mutations that evolution so lovingly applies.

Additional Abilities

Eclipse Phase has other elements that can be selected during character generation in addition to what I’ve already identified above. For example, in EP you can spend character generation points to gain positive traits (or get character generation points back by selecting negative traits).

The traits in EP can be used as additional abilities. Some examples include:

  • Brave
  • Common Sense
  • Danger Sense
  • Direction Sense
  • Eidetic Memory
  • Fast Learner
  • Hyper Linguist
  • Improved Immune System
  • Math Wiz
  • Pain Tolerance
  • Rapid Healer
  • Situational Awareness
  • Striking Looks

Note that in EP, some of these traits are attached to your Ego (e.g. Common Sense), and some are attached to your Morph (e.g. Rapid Healer). Those that are part of your Ego could be listed as breakout abilities under an appropriate Keyword (any except Morph), or could be listed separately from any Keyword as standalone abilities.

Traits that are called out as Morph Traits in EP should generally be listed as breakout abilities under your Morph Keyword, because when you switch bodies you no longer have access to those abilities until you return to that specific Morph.

Reputation Networks

The interaction of characters with the various reputation networks is a key element of Eclipse Phase. Taking a relationship ability with a network establishes a connection between the character and that particular network only.

A relationship ability can be listed under an appropriate Keyword, or can be listed as a separate, standalone ability. For example, our example character above is a member of the Reclaimers. He could take Reputation Network: EcoWave as a breakout ability under his Reclaimers Keyword. If he decided he also wanted to take Reputation Network: The Eye to represent his ties to Firewall, he’d probably just list that as a standalone ability not tied to any particular Keyword.

Gear

In normal HeroQuest, gear is only listed as an ability when it can be used to solve problems and doesn’t necessarily fall under another one of your abilities—or when you want to have an additional ability for your gear in order to use it for augments.

EP has a lot of gear, and whole bunch of rules around the acquisition, modification, and use of various pieces of gear. HQ2 abstracts all of that a great deal, and this is where some people may find that the HeroQuest rules don’t provide enough “crunch” to grab hold of and use. Personally, I prefer gear to be very abstract—more of a narrative hook than anything else—because I like to focus on the characters themselves, not what they are carrying.

So I recommend sticking with the HQ2 way of dealing with gear. If a character wants to take a piece of gear as an ability, then they are certainly welcome to do so (keeping in mind that it takes up one of their starting abilities).

Flaws

I generally prefer for characters in my games to have at least one flaw, and they may take up to three (as per HeroQuest rules).

The negative Traits listed in EP have some good Flaws:

  • Addiction
  • Bad Luck
  • Blacklisted
  • Combat Paralysis
  • Edited Memories
  • Genetic Defect
  • Implant Rejection
  • Low Pain Tolerance
  • Mental Disorder
  • Mild Allergy
  • Neural Damage
  • Psi Vulnerability
  • Slow Learner
  • Timid
  • Weak Immune System
  • Zero-G Nausea

Obviously, some of these need additional fleshing out when being recorded on the character sheet. For example, if the character selects an Addiction, the Flaw should name the addiction and provide some context (e.g. Severely Addicted to Controlled Painkillers).

Example Continued

So continuing to develop the character I started last week, I’ve got my four Keywords, and now I need to list my ten breakout abilities.

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor

  • Kinetic Weapons
  • Freerunning

Unlike a small percentage of transhumanity, you did not escape off-world during the Fall, nor were you lucky enough to be killed. You survived for years, eking out an existence in the post-apocalyptic desolation of Earth while hiding from, and even fighting, the machines and twisted transhuman puppets that still lurked there. Only recently was your body rescued by reclaimers.

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer

  • Bioconservatist
  • Reputation Network: EcoWave
  • Pilot Groundcraft

You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker

  • Infiltration

You are optimized for killing machines. You either excelled at fighting TITAN constructs during the Fall or you continue to hunt them down in the aftermath.

Keyword (Morph): Flat

Flats are baseline unmodified humans, born with all of the natural defects, hereditary diseases, and other genetic mutations that evolution so lovingly applies.

Other Abilities:

  • Reputation Network: The Eye
  • Reputation Network: Guanxi
  • Danger Sense
  • Fast Learner

Flaws:

  • Inopportune Mood Swings

Assigning Ability Ratings

Now I assign Ability Ratings to the character’s abilities. I assign a rating of 17 to his Earth Survival Keyword (it’s an important part of who he is), and all other abilities start at 13.

Then I assign 20 points to the ratings, with a maximum of 10 on any single ability.

And finally, his flaw is rated the same as his highest ability.

Keyword (Background): Earth Survivor               17

  • Kinetic Weapons 2M
  • Freerunning 19

Keyword (Faction): Reclaimer                             13

  • Bioconservatist 15
  • Reputation Network: EcoWave 15
  • Pilot Groundcraft 16

Keyword (Focus): Wrecker                                 17

  • Infiltration +3

Keyword (Morph): Flat                                       13

Other Abilities:

  • Reputation Network: The Eye                             13
  • Reputation Network: Guanxi                               13
  • Danger Sense                                                   13
  • Fast Learner                                                      13

Flaws:

  • Inopportune Mood Swings                                 2M

This is a good, starting EP character that I could use in a game right away.

Next Time…

I still intend to put together a handful of sample characters and an appropriate character sheet, and there are a few other topics I want to touch on before I’m done. Hope to see you again next week.

HeroQuest and Eclipse Phase – Characters

Last week, I talked a bit about using the HQ2 rules to run a game in the Eclipse Phase RPG setting. This week, I’m going to explore how to represent EP characters in the HQ2 rules.

Character Creation

The elements of an Eclipse Phase character include the following:

  • Character Concept
  • Background
  • Faction
  • Focus
  • Morph
  • Traits
  • Psi Sleights
  • Money and Gear
  • Reputation
  • Motivations

In the HQ2 version, we’re going to use four Keywords to describe your character:

  • Background: This is who you are on a basic level (or at least who you were before the game begins). It’s how you were born and raised, and defines your initial “place” in the EP setting.
  • Faction: This is how you identify yourself within the setting, and where you fit in the best. It takes over from Background and covers who you are now that game has started.
  • Focus: This represents your occupation(s), hobbies, interests, etc. It describes what you do now with your life when you are not on a mission for Firewall (or whatever).
  • Morph: This is the body you inhabit, along with any special modifications. This keyword is replaced whenever you switch to a different body.

If you wish your character to wield Psi, you will select an additional Keyword [Psi Talent]. I’ll get into also the Psi details in a future post.

A Note on Skills

In Eclipse Phase, the character’s capabilities are defined by specific skills, such as Deception, Free Fall, Infiltration, Research, or Unarmed Combat. In order to make the conversion as direct as possible, I will be using EP skill names as a short-hand for breakout abilities. This does not, however, preclude a player from coming up with a more descriptive and flavorful name for a breakout ability, or adding something not defined here but which is appropriate for an ability in HeroQuest.

Background

Your first choice of Keyword is your background. The best source for these keywords are in the Transhuman book under Background Packages.

For example, you are creating a character and decide that the Earth Survivor background sounds good to you. You note down “Earth Survivor” as your background Keyword, and perhaps record the basic description:

Unlike a small percentage of transhumanity, you did not escape off-world during the Fall, nor were you lucky enough to be killed. You survived for years, eking out an existence in the post-apocalyptic desolation of Earth while hiding from, and even fighting, the machines and twisted transhuman puppets that still lurked there. Only recently was your body rescued by scrappers or reclaimers or your egocast unwisely accepted by a trusting receiver.

Later, when you are defining your 10 additional abilities, you can note down one or more breakout abilities, using the descriptions of the skills listed under Earth Survivor in the Transhuman book as examples of the kinds of things your character learned.

For example, you may choose to note down Freerunning and Scrounging as breakout abilities, and give each one a couple of additional points.

Don’t ignore the suggested Motivations as potential breakout abilities. For example, Earth Survivor has Reclaiming Earth as both a positive and negative motivation for a character. So you could take a breakout ability like “Motivated to fight for humanity’s home” if your character believes humanity should try to reclaim Earth, or “Earth is lost to us” if your character believes humanity should abandon Earth as a ruined memory.

The backgrounds listed in Transhuman include:

  • Colonist: Command Staff
  • Colonist: Flight Staff
  • Colonist: Security Staff
  • Colonist: Science Staff
  • Colonist: Tech Staff
  • Drifter
  • Earth Survivor
  • Fall Evacuee: Enclaver
  • Fall Evacuee: Underclass
  • Hyperelite: Media Personality
  • Hyperelite: Scion
  • Indenture
  • Infolife: Emergent Uplift
  • Infolife: Humanities AGI
  • Infolife: Machine AGI
  • Infolife: Research AGI
  • Isolate: Separatist
  • Isolate: Survivalist
  • Lost: Disturbed Child
  • Lost: Masked Normalcy
  • Original Scum
  • Re-Instantiated: Civilian Casualty
  • Re-Instantiated: Infomorph
  • Re-Instantiated: Military Casualty
  • Street Rat
  • Uplift: Escapee
  • Uplift: Feral
  • Uplift: Standard Specimen

Faction

Your second choice of Keyword is your faction. Again, the Transhuman book has faction packages that provide many great examples of potential breakout abilities.

For example, the same character that you decided was an Earth Survivor is now at the step where you choose your Faction Keyword. You decide that your character wants to reclaim earth, and so you choose Reclaimer as your Faction. The Reclaimer has this description:

You are dedicated to rescuing your species’ homeworld from the ruin engulfing it.

Again, the description of the Reclaimer Faction has example motivations and skills that you can easily repurpose as breakout abilities from your keyword.

The factions listed in Transhuman include:

  • Anarchist
  • Argonaut
  • Barsoomian
  • Belter
  • Bioconservative
  • Brinker
  • Criminal
  • Europan
  • Exhuman
  • Extropian
  • Hypercorp
  • Jovian
  • Lunar
  • Mercurial: Infolife
  • Mercurial: Uplift
  • Nano-Ecologist
  • Orbital
  • Out’ster
  • Precautionist
  • Preservationist
  • Reclaimer
  • Ringer
  • Sapient
  • Scum
  • Sifter
  • Singularity Seeker
  • Skimmer
  • Socialite
  • Solarian
  • Titanian
  • Ultimate
  • Venusian

Focus

Your third Keyword choice represents your skill set and occupation at the beginning of the game.

Continuing the example from the previous section, you decide that the character is focused on ridding Earth of the machines that present such a danger to anyone visiting the surface of the planet. You select Wrecker as your Focus. The Wrecker as this description:

You are optimized for killing machines. You either excelled at fighting TITAN constructs during the Fall or you continue to hunt them down in the aftermath.

The foci listed in Transhuman include:

  • Academic
  • Activist
  • Assassin
  • Bodyguard
  • Bot Jammer
  • Combat Async
  • Con Artist
  • Controller Async
  • Covert Ops
  • Dealer
  • Ego Hunter
  • Enforcer
  • Explorer
  • Face
  • Genehacker
  • Hacker
  • Icon
  • Investigator
  • Journo
  • Medic
  • Pirate
  • Psychosurgeon
  • Savant Async
  • Scanner Async
  • Scavenger
  • Scientist
  • Smart Animal Handler
  • Smuggler
  • Soldier
  • Spy
  • Techie
  • Thief
  • Wrecker

Morph

Finally, you need to select the current body that you inhabit. This is most likely your “default” body, the one you spend most of your time in when you are not on a mission. This body likely stays at your home (wherever that is), and probably has a couple of customization options installed.

When you switch to a new body, you replace your current Morph Keyword with the new one representing the body you now inhabit. If you’re running a campaign where the character switch bodies on a regular basis, you can jot down the Morph Keywords on index cards. That way, the player simply grabs the card for that particular morph and is ready to go. The Morph Keyword on the character sheet is ignored until the character returns to that particular body.

The Morph Recognition Guide is the best book for all information about the various morphs available to characters in the EP setting. Obviously, not all morphs are appropriate for all campaigns, and some morphs may not be available at all to starting characters.

I’m not going to list all the morphs here—there are 104 available in the Morph Recognition Guide. The GM should make a basic list of morphs available to the characters during character creation, and the players should select from that list.

Why So Many Keywords?

A character with four Keywords seems like a lot. However, each Keyword represents a host of abilities, such as skills, contacts, motivations, knowledge, attitudes, and so forth.

Furthermore, EP is a rather dense setting, and character creation can be difficult for those who not already very familiar with all the various elements that make up Eclipse Phase. But if the GM provides a list of Keywords based off the packages in the Transhuman book, including the 1-2 sentence descriptions of each, a new player can quickly create a character by picking one Keyword from each list, and end up with someone who fits perfectly into the EP game.

In fact, the breakout abilities don’t even need to be defined right away (see the “As You Go” method of character generation in the HQ2 core rulebook). This allows the player to start the game with a small number of abilities, and only when they feel that something about their character needs to be defined with more detail will they name a particular breakout ability.

Conclusion

That’s all I’m going to cover this week. Next week, I’ll talk about the other elements of EP characters and how they can be represented in HeroQuest. I’m also working on a HeroQuest/EP character sheet, and I’m planning to create a handful of characters, though I will probably save that for a later post.

See you next week.

HeroQuest RPG and Eclipse Phase

A Major Announcement

As I mentioned last week, a very exciting announcement was recently made on the BRP forums. The rules for the HeroQuest RPG will be released under an open license, which means that anyone will be able to legally publish supplements for the game.

In a previous post, I talked about the lack of genre packs and adventures being the biggest challenge to the game’s popularity. This announcement solves that issue. Chaosium will no longer need to dedicate resources to further supporting the game, as third parties will be able to do so legally and without the endless hassles of license approvals.

I think this is a wonderful announcement, and I cannot wait for Chaosium to release the System Reference Document so that we can see the support from third-party publishers that this great system deserves. Further, it means my own ideas about potential HQ2 products have just gained some solidity. The current license was the major obstacle I had against further work on my ideas, but having the rules under an open license changing things dramatically.

Using HQ2 for Eclipse Phase

I’m a big fan of the Eclipse Phase setting. It is a brilliant creation that grabs me and demands that I play around in it.

Having said that, I’m not the biggest fan of the system. Some people have really hated on the system from the beginning, but I don’t think that’s it’s a bad system at all. I think it’s perfectly serviceable for most campaigns that one might want to run in the Eclipse Phase setting.

However, it’s not the easiest system to learn, there are a lot of moving parts, and some elements of the game—such as switching bodies—are not easily implemented in the middle of play.

The designers of the game understood this complaint and released a Fate Core version of the rules some time ago. It streamlines many elements and, for those who love Fate, it works very well.

But while I like Fate, I’ve come to realize that it’s not my preferences when it comes to lighter, more narrative games. Rather, HeroQuest firmly occupies that spot in my mind. And so I’ve been thinking a lot about a HQ2/Eclipse Phase game recently.

The Elements of Eclipse Phase

Eclipse Phase is a deep game with many interconnected elements, reflected in the mechanics of the original rules. Each person’s Eclipse Phase campaign will focus on some elements over others, and many will skip certain elements completely.

For me, here are the core elements of Eclipse Phase that I want to play with in most campaigns I run:

  • Bodies are temporary: People will switch from body-to-body as required by whatever job they need to do. Most people will travel by farcasting to their destination and downloading into a body when they arrive. Different jobs or missions will require different physical capabilities, and characters will change to the most appropriate body that’s available.
  • Death: Related to the transient nature of bodies, permanent death is no longer a major issue. Especially for characters in high-risk jobs (e.g. all of them), death is an expected occurrence and backups of the character’s ego is a regular task.
  • Muses: All characters have a dedicated AI inside their head that handles many day-to-day tasks.
  • The Mesh: The Eclipse Phase version of the internet is a lot more than just a network of computers. The ability to meet and even live in VR is a major element of the setting.
  • Habitats and Planetary Settlements: The variety of places in which humanity dwells is important, providing many reasons for travel and a great opportunity to explore and experience new places.
  • Hypercorps: The various corporations and their (often conflicting) agendas provide great opportunities for adventure.
  • Political Blocs: Same as above, except that these are various political factions that rub up against each other and the hypercorps.
  • Social Networks: People the character knows and social groups with which they interact.
  • Reputation: The character’s social capital and how it is reflected among the various social groups that measure and track reputation (e.g. @-rep, c-rep, e-rep, f-rep, etc.).
  • Gear: In core Eclipse Phase, gear is an important element. It represents weapons, armor, electronics, clothing, tools, etc.
  • Implants: Implants include cybernetic, bionic, genetech, and nanoware enhancements to a character’s morph.
  • Psi Powers: Mental abilities that are acquired due to infection by a strange nanovirus released during the Fall.
  • Firewall and Existential Threats: Belonging to an organization that fights against the strange, alien threats to humanity, and all the various ways those threats manifest.

The Mechanical Bits and Pieces

As I said above, the Eclipse Phase system is decent, but can get overcomplicated when representing all the various bits and pieces of the setting to allow the players to interact with those bits and pieces mechanically.

The most common element in Eclipse Phase where this happens is switching bodies. One common issue that comes up in online discussions of EP campaigns involves players acquiring and upgrading a particular body, and then not wanting to farcast to any other location because they can’t take their body with them.

But this is not just a matter of players spending character resources on their bodies and not wanting to lose that benefit. There is a player time cost for interacting with all the rules for upgrading and customizing a body. And switching bodies can be an interruption to the game while players collect the information they need to play in a different body (though the designers have certainly published a number of tools that make it faster and easier to do than it was when the game was newer).

HQ2 has all the tools needed to represent those setting elements within the core rules. It’s usually just a matter of looking at those tools in a particular way.

So What’s Next?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do a deeper dive into Eclipse Phase and show how HQ2 can be used for EP campaigns. I’ll take a look at the various mechanical elements of EP and demonstrate how to represent them with the HQ2 rules without creating any new subsystems and changing how the rules themselves operate.

I hope you’ll enjoy these articles.

The missing element of HeroQuest

Back in 2011, a roleplaying game by the name of Other Worlds was released by Signal 13 (i.e., Mark Humphreys). Some of the ideas for Other Worlds actually came out of early development of the HeroQuest 2 rules, but the ideas diverged and ultimately we got two different, but similar, games.

I own both games (of course), and there are certainly elements of Other Worlds that I really like. It’s well-written, and the rules certainly work with no major issues. My preference, though, still runs to HeroQuest 2E.

I had considered listing the things that I prefer in HQ over Other Worlds (OW), but those are really just my own opinions and naturally different people will have different preferences. So instead, I’m going to list some core differences between HQ2 and OW, and anyone reading this can determine which sounds better to them.

This is not a comprehensive list, just a bunch of elements that I feel are the major points of comparison between the two sets of rules.

  • While HQ2 uses a single d20 for resolution, OW uses percentile dice.
  • The characters’ ability ratings in HQ2 are on a 1-20 scale. The ability ratings in OW are on the same scale as the percentile dice (starting as low as 10 for children or apprentices or as high as 50+ for legends and/or demigods).
  • In HQ2, the d20 rolls is compared to the character’s relevant ability rating. In OW, the relevant ability rating is added to the character’s d100 roll to arrive at a total.
  • In HQ2, the result of the player’s roll (critical, success, failure, or fumble) is compared with the GM’s result (critical, success, failure, or fumble) to determine the overall outcome of the contest. In OW, the total of the player’s roll is compared with the total of the GM’s roll, with the higher roll winning the contest.
  • HQ2 characters often use Keywords as a short-hand for a group of abilities, resulting in fewer overall abilities in the sheet. In OW, characters tend to have a much larger number of abilities, as keywords are not used.
  • The way the rolls and the scale work with a d100 roll in OW means that contest results tend to be more “swingy” than in HQ2. Humphreys has stated that he designed it this way so that results would “be more decisive and unpredictable” than the more common partial victories/defeats that occur in HQ2.
  • OW doesn’t track injuries like in HQ2. Rather, all contests result in a flaw (for defeats) or new temporary ability (for successes).

In comparing these two games, I have found that the pace of game play in OW to be noticeably slower due to the much larger number of abilities that a player has to manage, as well as the need to add large numbers (e.g. rolling a 78 on the d100 and adding it to the character’s ability rating of 46). The math will not slow down some groups, but it still isn’t as fast as comparing the die roll on a d20 with the ability rating to see if it is higher or lower.

On the other hand, I’m not the biggest fan of Masteries in HQ2. I really wish there was a more elegant, official way to keep the simplicity of the d20 roll and still easily use numbers above 20 for the ability ratings. I know there are a few different workarounds out there, but I haven’t seen any that I feel are a real improvement.

So what’s the missing element?

So what does the core rules for Other Worlds have that I feel is an important missing element in HeroQuest?

The OW rulebook is written to provide the GM (and the players) what they need to start playing the game pretty much right away, in the setting that interests them the most. There are a series of “Genre Snapshots” in the book that cover cultural and professional archetypes, as well as examples of special powers for different genres of games, including fantasy, horror, pirates, science fiction, superheroes, and wild west.

Conversely, the HQ2 book really lacks the same kind of material in the core rules. The section “Creating Genre Packs” has a small handful of unrelated examples of various elements (for example, a single occupational keyword from a science fiction setting, a single cultural keyword and single religious keyword from a fantasy setting, a single magic framework for a pulp-inspired setting, a tech description for a single high-tech weapon, a single psychic talent, a single species keyword, and a single sample creature).

Certainly, there is word count dedicated to explaining how a GM can do the work to develop all of these things him/herself, but if you’re not playing a fantasy game set in Glorantha, there’s nothing there for you to use immediately to get a game going.

The most unfortunate part is the statement near the beginning of the section, “Moon Design Publications will also produce setting packs for various popular genres, and continue its series of HeroQuest supplements set in the world of Glorantha.” But since the HeroQuest 2E core rules were released, only a very small number of third-party materials for other settings have ever been produced. Some of these were well done, like the excellent (but no longer available) Nameless Streets by Alephtar Games, but others were extremely disappointing, like (the also no longer available) Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Dungeoneering and Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Monsters (a pair of PDF supplements that I can’t imagine inspired anyone to convert their D&D game over to HeroQuest).

Recently, the Superluminary setting book for Other Worlds was released. Labelled as “a space opera toolkit for Other Worlds,” it provides some great information on designing a space opera setting. But more importantly, the book includes a huge number of pre-configured setting elements that can be dropped right into a game to get a campaign off the ground as quickly as possible. Furthermore, after providing templates for all kinds of homeworlds, professions, special elements like cybernetic implants, alien artifacts, and advanced technology, starships, alien species, robots, psionics and other special powers, and factions, it wraps the whole thing up with a chapter on a pre-defined setting called “The Merovinthian Sector” that contains yet more archetypes and can be used immediately to jumpstart a game.

How I wish something like this existed for HeroQuest 2E! Unfortunately, as much as HQ2 and OW share many similarities, the two games are different enough that it would require conversion work to use Superluminary with HeroQuest, thus defeating the whole purpose.

A call to action?

As a fan of HQ2, as someone who ran a demo game at GenCon the last time I was there (literally the only HeroQuest game on the entire roster), I’d love for more people to find and enjoy this great system. But the best way for that to happen is for the publisher to throw some resources behind it and provide a product that people can grab and start playing right away. There is already the HeroQuest: Glorantha book, but where is the HeroQuest: [Space Opera Setting] or HeroQuest: [Modern Espionage Setting] or HeroQuest: [Superhero Setting] or HeroQuest: [Post-Apocalyptic Setting].

Which of course raises the question, if I want these things to exist, why don’t I throw my own hat into the ring? There is a HeroQuest Gateway license for a reason, and others have certainly given it a try.

Why not me?

That’s a good question, and one I’ve been considering for the last while. The real answer is that I’m working on my next novel and I don’t need any distractions to take me away from that right now.

But then, I’m actually preparing for an espionage campaign that I will run for some of my friends. So maybe I’m doing some of that work already.

But if an official HeroQuest setting book came out that wasn’t for Glorantha, but instead was for a completely different property, I can say that I’m almost guaranteed to buy it, sight unseen.

In the meantime, maybe I’ve got an idea that I can’t get out of my head. Maybe.

What about you? What kind of book would you like to see for HeroQuest that isn’t tied into the world of Glorantha? What genre would be well-served by HeroQuest? What would make you drop everything and start running a HeroQuest campaign if only there was a book that you could grab that had all you needed at your fingertips? Tell us about it in the comments.

HeroQuest and Supers – Part 3

This is the final part of a series of posts (part 1, part 2) on using the HeroQuest RPG to run a superhero game.

Example Characters

For these characters, I’m using the character write-ups on Marvel.com and the Marvel Universe Wiki.

Spider-Man

Here is Spider-Man’s 100-word write-up, taken from his entry on Marvel.com and edited slightly to fit into the 100 words:

Bitten by a radioactive spider, high school student Peter Parker gained the speed, strength and powers of a spider. Taught that with great power comes great responsibility, Spidey vowed to use his powers to help people. Peter can cling to most surfaces, has superhuman strength and is 15 times more agile than a regular human. His acrobatic leaps and web-slinging enables him to travel rapidly from place to place. His spider-sense provides an early warning detection system, enabling him the ability to evade most any injury. Peter is an accomplished scientist, inventor and photographer who lives with his Aunt May.

I’ve underlined the abilities in the above paragraph so you can see where they came from. Here is Spider-Man’s list of abilities:

Origin:
Bitten by a radioactive spider
With great power comes great responsibility
Vowed to use his powers to help people

Powers:
Speed, strength and powers of a spider
Cling to most surfaces
Superhuman strength
15 times more agile than a regular human
Acrobatic leaps
Web-slinging
Travel rapidly from place to place
Spider-sense
Evade most any injury

Regular Life:
High school student
Scientist, inventor and photographer
Aunt May

Note that some people might break out scientist, inventor and photographer into three separate abilities, I’ve chosen to leave them into one overall skill-set ability here. Both are valid options.

Of course, this description leaves out his constant wisecracking, which has often been used to save his life as he drives a villain into to blind rage, forcing them to make mistakes.

If I was going to use the List Method of character generation, I would take a different approach. Here is how I might define Spider-Man using this method:

Spider-Powers [keyword]

  • Proportionate strength of a spider
  • Superhuman agility
  • Web-slinging

Secret Identity [keyword]

  • Aunt May
  • High school student
  • Scientist, inventor and photographer
  • Continuous wisecracking banter

With great power comes great responsibility

Note that both Spider-Powers and Secret Identity are keywords, and he has one separate ability that doesn’t really fall under either keyword, With great power comes great responsibility.

You can see how the List Method compresses a bunch of abilities under the keywords. For example, I didn’t call out his Spider-sense or his Wall-crawling abilities, as the keyword covers that and they don’t really need to be broken out unless the player wants to raise them above the keyword.

In this kind of game, I would probably rule that the keywords cannot be raised on their own—only the breakouts can be raised. This allows the player to better focus their game-version of the Spider-Man character on the specific things he or she is finds most interesting.

Thor

This is a bit harder to boil down to only 100 words, but I’m going to give it a try. Again, the write-up below comes directly from Thor’s entry on Marvel.com, edited to get it down to 100 words.

As the Norse God of thunder and lightning, Thor wields the enchanted hammer Mjolnir. He’s quite smart and compassionate, and also self-assured—he would never stop fighting for a worthwhile cause. As the son of Odin and Gaea, Thor’s strength, endurance and resistance to injury are greater than the majority of his superhuman race. He is extremely long-lived, immune to conventional disease and highly resistant to injury. His flesh and bones are several times denser than a human’s. Thor is trained in the arts of war, being a superbly skilled warrior, highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat, swordsmanship and hammer throwing.

Here is Thor’s list of abilities:

Origin:
Norse God of thunder and lightning
Son of Odin and Gaea
Superhuman race

Powers:
Enchanted hammer Mjolnir
Strength, endurance and resistance to injury
Extremely long-lived
Immune to conventional disease
Highly resistant to injury
Flesh and bones are several times denser than a human’s

The Man Himself:
Quite smart
Compassionate
Self-assured
Never stop fighting for a worthwhile cause
Trained in the arts of war
Superbly skilled warrior
Hand-to-hand combat
Swordsmanship
Hammer throwing

Once I listed his abilities, I see that there are some redundancies. For example, his resistance to injury is listed under two abilities, and his combat skills have a lot of overlap. If this was a player designing a character, I might encourage him or her to adjust the description to get rid of the repetitive bits and perhaps add something about being in the Avengers, or his relationship to the Warriors Three, or something else like that.

I’m going to skip the List Method here, as it will be similar to what I did with Spider-Man above, compressing some of the abilities under keywords. But the gist of the character will be the same.

Iron Man

This one is a bit different, as Tony Stark himself is a human being with no superpowers of his own (even though he is a genius). All his super abilities come from the armor that he invented and wears.

Captured by terrorists, billionaire industrialist Tony Stark created an advanced suit of armor to save his life. With a new outlook on life, and accompanied by his assistant Pepper Potts, Tony uses his money and intelligence to make the world a safer, better place. Tony has a genius level intellect that allows him to invent sophisticated devices. He also possesses a keen business mind. The armor includes many rays, bolts, missiles and projectiles, sonic generators, magnetic field generators, a laser torch built into the finger of Tony’s gauntlet, and the armor’s surface can generate an electric charge to dispel attackers.

I had to go to the Marvel Universe Wiki to get additional information on Tony’s armor, and it was a struggle to keep this one down to 100 words. In the end, I compressed all the various weapons (repulsor rays, pulse bolts, mini-missiles, explosive shell projectiles) into “rays, bolts, missiles and projectiles” as we don’t need a high level of granularity for what amounts to the same overall effect (doing damage). The specific details of which attack Tony is using at any given time can remain part of the player’s and GM’s narrative.

I kept his sonic generators and his magnetic field generators as separate abilities, as I can see some creative uses of these different abilities in various situations, so I felt it was worth it to give them their own abilities. Other players and GMs might combine those to get a few more words to use for another ability.

Here are Tony’s abilities.

Origin:
Captured by terrorists
Billionaire industrialist

Special Equipment:
Advanced suit of armor
Rays, bolts, missiles, and projectiles
Sonic generators
Magnetic field generators
Laser torch
Electric charge to dispel attackers

Tony Stark:
New outlook on life
Assistant Pepper Potts
Make the world a safer, better place
Genius level intellect
Invent sophisticated devices
Keen business mind

Character Summary

All three of these characters are playable as written, and as a GM I would find it pretty easy to run a game with players selecting any or all of these.

However, as I mentioned previously, it’s important for all the players to be on the same page regarding the narrative specifics of these powers. For example, Spider-Man has Superhuman strength as an ability, and Thor has Strength, endurance and resistance to injury as an ability. But Thor’s strength far exceeds Spider-Man’s, though their actual ability ratings may not be very far apart in the game.

So the players need to have a few notes that define the range of these abilities and what they mean. This doesn’t have to be comprehensive, especially if the players are all familiar with the heroes (and villains) that show up in the game. This is where something like the Marvel Universe Wiki is very useful. The players can jot down some key definitions on the back of the character sheet so that it is handy if the question comes up in a game.

For example, the player of Spider-Man may want to note that his superhuman strength can lift up to 10 tons optimally (up to 25 tons max) and that he can use his web swing-lines to travel anywhere from 40 MPH to 110 MPH (depending on which source you reference), and Thor’s player should note that Thor can lift in excess of 100 tons.

Villains

But what about the villains? Well, one of the great things about HQ2 is that villains don’t need full stat blocks like heroes. Instead, the Resistance is used when the villain opposes the hero.

Note: I’ve been running games for a very long time, so don’t generally use the entirely optional Pass/Fail Cycle to determine the Resistance, because I don’t really need it. I know that some people are offended by the very existence of the Pass/Fail Cycle, but since it’s an optional tool that is explicitly noted as only being used when the GM isn’t sure what the Resistance should be and “…can envision equally entertaining story branches from either result…” it means that it can be safely ignored if you don’t like it.

Villains often also have powers they can bring to bear on the heroes, and more importantly, they have weaknesses the heroes can exploit. Luckily, HQ2 already contains a perfect tool for GMs to manage this, in how it suggests you describe fantastic creatures (HQ Core Rules, page 105).

For your villain, the GM can note Significant Abilities (those abilities that describe key elements of the villain) and Exceptional Abilities (special abilities that the villain can bring to bear to increase the Resistance). I would also add a third category and suggest the GM also notes Weaknesses (those elements of the villain which, if the heroes engage the villain on that axis, would lower the Resistance).

Here are some examples to show what I mean:

Dr. Doom

Here is Doom’s write-up from Marvel.com for both his Powers and his Abilities:

Powers: Doom can exchange minds with others. He possesses some mystical abilities, such as casting bolts of eldritch energy and invoking mystical entities (principalities) for additional support.

Abilities: Doom is a genius in physics, robotics, cybernetics, genetics, weapons technology, bio-chemistry, and time travel. He is also self-taught in the mystic arts. Doom is a natural leader, a brilliant strategist, and a sly deceiver.

Doctor Doom’s weakness has always been his arrogance. He truly believes he is better than every other living person, and he refuses to accept that any failures of his plans are due to mistakes made by him.

Now the above is actually fine when it comes to running Doom in a game, but if I was going to boil those down to elements that I could use in a “stat block” (as much as such a thing exists in HQ2), I would probably list it like this:

Doctor Doom

Significant Abilities: physics, robotics, cybernetics, genetics, weapons technology, bio-chemistry, time travel, the mystic arts, natural leader, sly deceiver, doombot army

Exceptional Abilities: Brilliant strategist, switch real self with doombot double

Weaknesses: Arrogance and pride

So if the heroes are going up against Doom, the Resistance would generally be Moderate on the Resistance Class Table (or whatever Resistance the GM feels is right for the situation) for anything that was opposed by Doom’s Significant Abilities. The Resistance would be High if they were trying to work against his strategic planning ability, which is one of his Exceptional Abilities. And the Resistance would be Low if they came at him through his arrogance or pride.

Thanos

I’ve always liked Thanos as a villain. Here is his write-up from Marvel.com:

Powers: Thanos possesses the superhuman physiology of all Eternals, granting him superhuman strength, endurance, reflexes, and agility. His skin in nearly invulnerable, particularly against heat, cold, electricity, radiation, toxins, aging, and disease, and he can survive indefinitely without food or water even before his “curse” from Death left him immortal, unable to die. His mind is also invulnerable to most forms of psychic attack, and can project a psionic blast of energy as well as blasts of plasma/cosmic energy from his eyes and hands.

Abilities: Master strategist, adept in sciences far beyond Earth technology, some mystical knowledge.

Thanos has a couple of weaknesses. First is the fact that Thanos, despite having actually successfully conquered the universe more than once, ultimately leaves an opening for his own defeat. According to Adam Warlock:

“A man always seeking ultimate power and losing it as soon as he attains it! Why? Because deep in his soul he knows he is not worthy of it. Three times you have triumphed over incredible odds to gain the ends you desire…and three times you have subconsciously supplied the means to your own defeat.”

Another weakness is Thanos’ obsession and love for Death. And a third is his emotional state, as described on Marvel.com, “…a melancholy, brooding individual…”

Here is how I would list Thanos for HQ2:

Thanos

Significant Abilities: superhuman strength, endurance, reflexes, and agility; nearly invulnerable skin, survive indefinitely without food or water; invulnerable to psychic attack; psionic blast; plasma/cosmic energy blast; mystical knowledge; highly advanced technology

Exceptional Abilities: Immortal and unable to die; master strategist

Weaknesses: Melancholy; obsession with Death; provides means to his own defeat

Magneto

Magneto is either a hero or a villain, depending on when in the Marvel Universe the game is set. For this example, I’m going to use him as a villain.

Magneto’s description in the Marvel Universe Wiki is pretty wordy, so I’m not going to copy it all here. Instead, I’m just going to stat him up as I would for a game.

Magneto

Significant Abilities: Master strategist; expert on genetic manipulation; engineering genius; immune to mental attacks and manipulation (helmet); control of electromagnetic spectrum energies; driven by mutant cause

Exceptional Abilities: Control over magnetism

Weaknesses: Honor to his enemies; protective of mutants

Note that I put his protectiveness over mutants as a weakness rather than as an ability. This is just a GM choice based on the fact that heroes might use this against him if they were trying to stop one of his villainous schemes.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this gives a HeroQuest GM some ideas on how to run a superhero game using the HQ2 rules. It’s actually easier than it might seem at first, and the narrative strength of HQ allows a great deal of flexibility, which is a core part of any comic book superhero story.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!


Note: All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941–2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. The reference to these characters or the Marvel Universe is not a challenge to these Trademarks and Copyright.