Aug 29

Yes/No, but Little Wizards: Another look at Interesting Outcomes

 

This article is very much a synthesis of two previous posts. Both looked at ways to make the outcomes of skill checks interesting, and ease the process of narrating the results.

 

First there was Totally Yes/No and But which expanded the graduated outcomes in HeroQuest 2.

 

The second post was Little Wizards and Making Failure Interesting from earlier this month.

 

As my Tales of the Hero Wars campaign is played primarily using my beloved HeroQuest 2 rules, then it was inevitable I would want to combine the two approaches. In HeroQuest terms, many of the Little Wizards outcomes fit in different places within the hierarchy of results. While I want to keep the structure of the HeroQuest results, I am sure that the Little Wizards suggestions can help me narrate a broader range of outcomes.

 

Before taking a detailed look at each of the Little Wizards results, it is worth reminding ourselves of the two different approaches.

 

The HeroQuest Way

Any roll in HeroQuest will produce the following possible outcomes, either Victory or Defeat:

Complete Victory    = Yes, TOTALLY

Major Victory            = Yes AND . .

Minor Victory            = YES

Marginal Victory       = Yes, BUT

Marginal Defeat       = No, BUT

Minor Defeat             = NO

Major Defeat             = No, AND

Complete Defeat     = No, TOTALLY

 

There is also the Tie outcome, but I simply discard those in favour of the Heroes.

 

In addition to HeroQuest’s simple descriptions listed above, I have added my narrative outcomes as described in my previous post.

 

The Little Wizards Way

In contrast, the excellent advice in Little Wizards only dealt with ways to make failures interesting. These suggestions were:

 

  1. Not that Way
  2. Obstacle
  3. Complications
  4. Setback
  5. Tough Decision
  6. Another Player Narrates

 

There are some great possibilities here, especially that last option where the GM simply turns to another Player and asks them to narrate the outcome. Judging by the way my Players seem to enjoy messing with each other, this result is sure to be a lot of fun.

 

For a more detailed discussion of these ideas, please refer to my previous post.

 

 

Synthesis

So, how to fit the Little Wizards suggestions into the HeroQuest hierarchy of outcomes? I shall look at each of them in turn and see how they can be used.

 

1. Not that Way

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No, you cannot pick the lock

 

The first of the Little Wizards responses is the easiest to place, as it is clearly the simple “No” result. Whatever the Player was trying to do cannot be achieved that way.

 

As this works so well for the simple “No”, then it can be equally effective for the simple “Yes”. Whatever the Player was trying to do can be achieved the way they described it.

 

In terms of narrative, this is the simplest option for the GM. The Player has told you what they were trying to do, and you quickly narrate it back to them as a success or a failure. There are no additional narrative twists to these results, just a simple “Yes” or “No” outcome.

 

2. Obstacle

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No, but your initial attempt reveals a needle trap. You may try again, by attempting the much harder task of overcoming both mechanisms.

 

The second Little Wizards option is to introduce an obstacle, which makes the attempted task harder. This is specifically intended to allows for a retry at a higher difficulty.

 

This is clearly a “No, but” response. The initial attempt fails, but the Player may try again. For the narrative, the structure is straightforward, simply requiring the addition of a obstructing factor that raises the difficulty for the next attempt.

 

3. Complications

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No, and a guard just walked around the corner.

 

This option adds an external complication into the situation. The task has failed, and the situation has worsened further. This clearly falls into the “No, and” category of responses.

 

However, the basic premise of adding complications to the plot will work in another set of HeroQuest results: the “Yes, but”. Overall, this is a better outcome than the “No, and” result, as the locked door is now open. Yet, it allows the GM to complicate the plot despite the low-level of success achieved by the Player.

 

In terms of the narrative, this is also dependent upon the GM thinking fast to find a suitable external complication. This is worth the effort, as it will add interest to the overall story.

 

 

4. Setback

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No, and your lock pick is broken.

 

This option is the internal, that is Hero-focused, version of the previous one. Thus, it is another “No, and” outcome, with the impact on the Hero or their equipment. Anything that will make the Hero less capable of performing the same task again would be a suitable choice.

 

As before, this will be equally suited to the “Yes, but” outcome in HeroQuest. Likewise the narrative only require the GM to pick how the Hero has been impaired. Choosing from a limited set of options is fine, as the Players will respond differently each time, and thus keep the story varied.

 

5. Tough Decision

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No, and you set off the trap. Will you keep your fingers in the lock and let the needle hit you? Or do you leap back and let it hit the warrior behind you?

 

The focus of this option is to give the Player two difficult choices. At first, this seemed like a “No, totally” outcome, but then I remembered that the Player still has some degree of choice as to the final outcome. This keeps this outcome in the “No, and” category. The door is not unlocked, and something terrible happens. Only now, the Player is forced into a choice to determine exactly what happens.

 

Unlike the previous two options, this could also be suitable as a “Yes, but” result. The negative consequences are somewhat harsh, so it is a matter of taste whether you want to be this cruel to the Players. Perhaps the outcomes could be a little less painful for the “Yes, but” version.

 

After careful consideration, I like the roleplaying opportunities of the decision-making part of this outcome. This sort of choice can reveal a lot about a Player and their Hero, so I shall keep the “Yes, but” option too.

 

This is the hardest of the narrative options, so probably should be a rarer outcome. Harming self vs. harming another would be the simplest format, but even this can require a lot of improvisation by the GM. Ensuring that these choices are equally tough makes this outcome even harder. In a sense, any two bad outcomes should be enough, as the value to the game here is in the choice, not in the balance of outcomes.

 

 

6. Another Player Narrates

Player: Can I pick the lock?
GM: No. [Turns to another Player] Tell us what happens.

 

This is perhaps the most entertaining, and fun, Little Wizards option. I love the way that this option does so much for the game. It brings another voice to the table, has the potential to take the story in new directions, can surprise the GM and moves the burden of narrative around the table.

 

In terms of the HeroQuest results, this option is suitable for all of them except the simple “Yes” or “No” outcomes. These make poor choices for this option as the outcome is so simple that there is little for a Player to add to the narrative.

 

The Combined Way

Bringing the two versions together gives us this revised table:

 

HeroQuest ResultNarrative Option
Complete Victory1-4 = Yes, TOTALLY
5-6 = Yes, TOTALLY another Player narrates the outcome
Major Victory1-4 = Yes AND . .
5-6 = Yes AND . . another Player narrates the outcome
Minor VictoryYes, it happens that way
Marginal Victory1-2 = Yes, BUT an external complication is introduced
3-4 = Yes, BUT you suffer an ongoing penalty
5 = Yes, BUT you must make a tough choice
6 = Yes, BUT another Player narrates the outcome
Marginal Defeat1-4 = No, BUT you learn more and may try again at higher difficulty
5-6 = No, BUT another Player narrates the outcome
Minor DefeatNo, it cannot be done that way
Major Defeat 1-2 = No, AND an external complication is introduced
3-4 = No, AND you suffer an ongoing penalty
5 = No, AND you must make a tough choice
6 = No, AND another Player narrates the outcome
Complete Defeat1-4 = No, TOTALLY
5-6 = No, TOTALLY another Player narrates the outcome

 

I added a d6 roll to randomise the results to keep things interesting. I would roll the d6 at the same time as I roll for resistance to avoid delaying the game.

 

Conclusion

This should add to the variety of narrative outcomes from the graded results. There is more that can be done with this table, but for the moment I am confining myself to the Little Wizards outcomes. Once I have playtested an expanded version of this table, I shall post another article on the topic.

 

What narrative options would you add? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Happy Gaming
Phil

 

Something for the Weekend next week: Trollbabe and the Hero

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