HeroQuest narrator tips

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Here are some pearls of wisdom I've learnt from narrating a HeroQuest campaign. In essence, my tips are:

Relax

It's very easy to get involved in debates over 'The One True Way' to play HeroQuest. Don't. Remember, HeroQuest is just a game, and a HeroQuest session is about you and a bunch of mates getting together to have fun. Don't worry too much about whether you're doing things according to the letter of the rulebook, or whether some obscure offering from Greg's wastebasket contrdicts what someone's just said. If people are having fun, it's a good game.

Learn to say 'Yes'

HeroQuest is a game of improvisation. There are no defined skill lists, feat lists, or whatever. PCs will improvise their abilities as they go along. You should allow, nay, encourage this. It can take some getting used to (it did for me), particularly if you're used to the more traditional games with fully defined abilities.

Practice saying 'yes.' Next time a player asks you if a PC can use ability X to do Y, say 'yes' first, then worry about whether it makes sense. How much sense it makes determines the improvisational modifier. Only if no-one can see how it makes any sense at all should you change your answer to 'no.'

To rehash an old debate: do the Orlanthi have magical slingstones that explode on impact? Yes. Do they have monoliths at which they pray to summon storms? Yes. Do they call both of these things 'Thunderstones'? Yes.

Easy, isn't it?

Extended contests are about decisions

I think extended contests are wonderful. The AP bidding mechanism can turn a boring set of dice rolls into an exciting, involved bit of roleplaying. It does this by allowing the player to make a decision each round, and for this decision to have a real game-mechanical effect. After seeing extended contests, does anyone really want to go back to the bad old days of having fights being endless repetitions of 'I attack,' 'I parry,' 'I attack,' 'I parry'?

But it's the decision that's important, and this requires a bit of care in using extended contests. In particular:

Describe the action, then determine the AP bid

Each round in an extended contest, get the player to make a decision about how their character will act in that exchange. Once they've made that decision, they can then describe how the character will act. Once you've got that far, you can then fix the size of the AP bid. In my experience, doing things this way around keeps the contest interesting for all concerned.

If there aren't any decisions, don't use an extended contest

The corollary of the above is that extended contests shouldn't be used when there are no meaningful decisions to be made. I wouldn't use extended contests for things like arm wrestling or staring matches, no matter how climatic they are, simply because I can't envisage what different AP bids will look like. What's the real difference between 'I stare at her: 2AP bid' and 'I stare at her: 15AP bid'? Without decisions, extended contests degenerate into pure dice-rolling exercises; in those cases, use the simple contest mechanic and get it out of the way.

As a half-way position, the symmetric nature of the results table means that extended contests work if only one party is bidding. If a PC is climbing a cliff, the cliff shouldn't make AP bids -- what decisions can it make?

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