[Runequest] Highlevel combat

Bruce Mason mason.bruce at gmail.com
Tue Nov 9 02:39:31 EST 2010

On 8 November 2010 14:20, Styopa <styopa1 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Sounds more like your issue isn't with the route of Strengthening
> Enchantments, but instead with high level play in general - which is fine,
> YGMV.   But whether you use Hero Points, Strength Enchantments, or whatever,
> I think it's implicit in the mechanics that at a certain point, humans are
> just to intrinsically frail to survive what's happening.
> Basically: RQ is a reality-based system.  Unsurprisingly, as the situations
> become more and more fanciful, the system fails to perform enjoyably.
Yes and no. It shares the conceit of most fantasy writing that if the
protagonist is stepped on by a giant then the protagonist will die. Or less
extreme, if Conan gets a crossbow bolt in the head then he won't survive. Of
course in a novel the author has control over this so Conan would surrender
and plot his escape later or Jack would manage to dodge the giant's stomp.
The question then is how to model this in a game.

The earliest games gave no 'protection' to characters. In D&D and RQ etc,
the characters who survived were the ones who got lucky with their dice
rolls. Essentially it was a multiple universe idea: out there are a huge
number of characters who might end up as Conan but only one or two who will.
D&D rewarded surviving characters by increasing their HPs, making them
harder to hit, awarding magic items plentiful healing magic and resurrection
spells. RQ did it by increasing access to Divine Intervention plus plentiful
access to magic, healing and resurrection but not by expanding HPs. This
meant that a RQ character could never flat-out survive a giant's stomp or
falling off a cliff. Later editions of D&D tried to rationalise expanding
HPs as luck, endurance and so on. However D&D tended to break the convention
that a crossbow bolt between the eyes kills. I would say that the type of
fantasy fiction that inspired RPGs original is similarly grounded in realist
conceits. (There are specific genres which are more like superhero fantasy.)

What Hero Points and equivalents do is to give limited protection to
characters to reduce the risk of 'random' death due to bad dice rolls. A
hero point won't save you from death from being stomped by a giant but will,
like a story, give you a chance to get out of the tricky situation alive. On
the other hand their protection is limited.

It's not high level games that I dislike. I managed to run Dragonlance twice
under RQ3 using hero points. They do tend to put the system under stress and
I must admit for asthetic reasons, I don't like modifications for high level
games that depend on massive amounts of magic, magic items or hit points. I
personally prefer a high level character to look much like a low level one
only more skilled, more experienced and capable of surviving by their wits.
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