Re: [HeroQuest-rules] Re: Keywords: What Are They?

From: Mike Holmes <homeydont_at_m5mGbqfLoIU5zO12pMHpe0j-hVSNnfxSWyO6EyhCmKfZy-ErX-lwXrcrGTH_X0jCBSABh>
Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2004 12:39:02 -0500

>From: Alex Ferguson <>

>It seems not unreasonable, and I'd certainly not question anyone's
>continuing attachment to their curved bar or similar support, but
>important consideration seems to me quite a reach. Strictly speaking,
>can something be a minimum competency if it's an ability that most
>people with that keyword don't have at all?

Not sure I get the question. I think that they do have the ability in question at an effective 17. This isn't the same as having it separately, because you still need to pay a HP to make the ability appear at 17, I believe (or whatever the keyword level is at, or the actual cost). The use is the same, however. I think a reasonable, and effective solution is just to read it literally, and say that you can't use a non-enumerated ability unless you spend the HP to make it appear at the keyword level. So, if my character has the Foot Soldier keyword, but it doesn't include the Dagger Fighting ability, then instead of having an Improv mod off my close combat ability, I can instead pay the point and say that our unit has had basic Knife Fighting training. Yes this requires the player to be able to spend HP on such in play - I allow that per normal as an extension of the "Develop in Play" method of chargen.

This fixes the potential problem with, say, Affinities where the player would be able to use them all at keyword level in theory, just by getting the keyword (someone did mention improvising them, however...).

>And if one allows this, how
>frequently is it going to arise as regards putting an actual or even
>conceptual 'cost' on increasing keyword ratings? Giving some notional
>cost to this still seems conceptually useful to me, if only for the
>sakes of 'common currency', and perhaps countering RR's "thin edge of
>the wedge" worry.

Well, I bring it up partially to say that this is an argument against having such a cost. I mean, the problem is that if you set up such a rate that there will always be an optimum way to spend. That is, if you, say, based the cost on the number of included abilities, then it's still a good deal to buy the keyword up because the player is also buying up any abilites that he has yet to buy up from that level (number unknown), as well as the "ability" to use the broad ability as a default. So, from a balanced cost POV, some keywords are worth even more than those high costs that were proposed. The only counterargument is that players wanting instant gratification will spend on less abilities now because of the "opportunity costs" that you otherwise inflict.

Basically, it's going to be impossible to balance in a way that won't eventually lead to weird player behaviors. I think that the designers made a brilliant decision to say that broad abilities are just not alterable with the same mechanics. I mean, given play time, I think it's realistic (thematically appropriate) that a character in the same part of his life over even months really doesn't experience a change in his overall competency levels. I think it also makes the narrow ability increases more believable. It's much easier to buy characters getting better in such small areas in the short term.

Long term, I think that it makes total sense to have the character develop broadly. Think about Conan, who early in life has few keywords, picks up warrior, and then becomes more and more experienced with the Traveler Keyword, and eventually picks up enough leadership to become king...These changes all happen "off screen" and in broad ways. And followers tend to follow their development in parallel to some extent. I'd say retainers, no. But Sidekicks should advance as much.

>This interpretation could also be argued to mean that if you increase a
>'keyword rating', you _only_ increase the effective rating of those at
>that, minimal, rating, not the other abilities you've already increased
>separately. This has a certain attractiveness as regards descriptive
>parsimony, in theory, though I suspect players would write every ability
>on their own sheets anyway, for the sakes of having all the 'tags' there
>for reference.

While I can see the potential attraction, and it would work with my pay or you don't have it, method, I think I'm fine with the normal method. It's very tempting, but I think that it's getting too fidly with something that looks like it'll work well as is.


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