A Flaw with benefits
One of the aims of sprinkling Interludes into my Campaign is to explore new rules and see if there is anything that I can steal and turn into a Rules Widget for HeroQuest 2. The latest Interlude was run using the Fate Accelerated Edition rules.
One feature of FAE that appealed to me was the specification of a Trouble for each character. This struck me as a very clever idea, and thus something to import into HeroQuest 2
Abilities in HeroQuest 2
HQ2, how I love thee!
There are so many features to HeroQuest 2 that I love, but the one that is relevant to this article is the way in HQ that anything can be an Ability. Objects, physical traits, skills, spells, relationships and personality traits are all treated in the same way. There is a simple elegance to this feature.
Inevitably, it then became another area of the rules that I wanted to adapt. In an episode of the excellent Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, Robin D. Laws outlined some of his design philosophy when he was creating HeroQuest 2. This included the fact that he did not want to include Flaws in the game. As I recall, this revolved around not wanting to reduce the fun of playing and to avoid any attempt at mini-maxing, where savvy Players try to squeeze the maximum benefit from the system by adopting weak Flaws.
Flouting Robin’s laws
Adapting from my experiences with Hero System, I decided to introduce Flaws to the game, as they seemed a good way to make the life of the Players more complicated. Typical Hero System Flaws, or Disadvantages as they are known, include Reputation, Hunted and Watched. Despite Robin’s warnings, I believe that these abilities all provide the GM with useful tools to draw the Player deeper into the game. They also make the plot more complicated. Plus, Flaws help me shift the spotlight between the Players as various Flaws kick in and different obstacles appear to hinder the Players.
Frankly, I like the way that the assorted Flaws of the Heroband serve to fence the Players in a little. Sometimes, this lack of options can force the Players to be more creative. I am conscious that Flaws need to be handled carefully, so the Players probably have a good deal from me. Objectively, I might need to invoke them a little more to make taking a Flaw something to consider carefully.
Yet, I do invoke them enough to keep the Players on their toes, and to feel that the choices that they made in choosing these Flaws are still relevant to the current situation in the game. Handled with care, the addition of Flaws has enhanced our game.
A midway point
The problem first appeared when Players kept asking if they could use one of their Flaws as an Ability. The whole point of a Flaw is that it is not a bonus, so for the Player to roll on a Flaw as if it were any other Ability rather defeats the purpose. A Flaw is supposed to be a problem, and thus not something the Hero uses to overcome an obstacle,
Which brings us back to FAE. Troubles in FAE are the ideal middle ground between the standard HQ2 Abilities, and the Flaws from my own Rules Widget.
I also felt the need to have a fresh category of Ability to label the Troubles. By having a distinct title, it is clear to the Players that these Abilities work a little different to the standard ones. It is essential to have Player buy-in on the idea of an Ability that the GM can use against their Hero. The label makes this possibility clear from the start, and thus avoids any ill-feeling at the table.
A Troubling Rules Widget
A new rule is born
The Rules Widget for Troubles is only small, and it builds upon the Flaw house rules that I already use. Essentially, a Trouble is a standard HeroQuest 2 Ability that the GM can also use to create problems for the Hero. It is labelled on the character sheet as a Trouble, so that it is clearly a different category of Ability.
To balance out the potential problems that a Trouble can cause, it is given a bonus to its rating. This bonus was initially +1, but as I write this article I realise that this is not quite good enough. So, a +2 bonus for a Trouble is the new rule.
Advancement in HQ2 is based around +1 increments, so the +2 bonus for a Trouble represents two “free” advances to the Ability. The intention is that this bonus would be enough to make a Trouble an attractive concept, but without making them broken or unbalancing the game. This will only become clear as we use Troubles in our game.
At the Table
Troubles are only a recent addition to my GM toolkit, and have only been created twice. As I do not invoke Flaws very often, I have not had a chance to use a Trouble against a Hero either. Thus, the true impact of the Troubles Widget remains to be seen.
However, I liked their application in FAE, and I am sure that they will work in a similar way for HQ2. Doubtless, when the cycle of our campaign turns again, and we are back to character creation, then Troubles are likely to feature a little more. I can see how I would require each Hero to take a Trouble, when I would not do the same for outright Flaws.
So, do you use anything similar in your game? Let me know in the comments below.