Ok here we go onto the nuts and bolts of the system, starting with character generation
The chapter starts up with a overview of the sort of Parameters (Setting, Mode, and Premise) that a Narrator can use to set up a game of HeroQuest. This is so the players are on the same page of as the Narrator and also to show the sort of games that HeroQuest can deal with. It might be teaching old hands to suck eggs, but for new players and narrators coming to the game from a more combat orientated game such as D&D it does give considerable food for thought.
Characters at their most basic in HeroQuest are simply a list of Abilities with numbers next to them. ‘If you can solve a problem its an ability” and HQ2 encourages you to write colourful descriptions of abilities, which I like and I’ve found in Con games gives players more scope to get into contests. If you are coming from other systems its worth noting that HeroQuest does not have characteristics or other stats, just these descriptive abilities.
During the overview there’s a big grey highlight box entitled ‘Keywords’ , which explains the three possible methods of using Keywords in HeroQuest. Keywords at their most atomic level are groupings of abilities. In HW and HQ 1 they were a basic part of the system. Keywords are a package of related abilities that define a species, occupation or magical approach. HQ 1 used these extensively because each Keyword neatly defined a unfamiliar Gloranthan idea. For example a Gloranthan character has a cultural/species keyword, an occupational keyword and magical keyword. Most cultural keywords have the cultures main language, knowledge of its history and a couple of other abilities associated with it.
In HeroQuest 2 there are three options for using them.
- Keywords as Packages: The keyword has an associated rank and all abilities within the Keyword have the same rank. So when the Keyword rank increases so does the abilities within it.
- Keywords as Umbrella: Similar to the above, but the abilities increase separately. This was the approach used in HQ1.
- Keyword free: You don’t bother having keywords at all. This approach apparently works best with genres where everyone is familiar with the character concepts and abilities that characters can have, for example in a modern game.
HeroQuest has the option of having Flaws and Robin discusses the ins and outs of using flaws. Basically Flaws are treated like abilities, which then provide negative modifiers or are the basis of a contest in cases where they apply. 1st equal to best ablitiy, 2nd equal to 2nd best, 3rd equal to 3rd.
HQ2 still keeps three approaches to character creation, Prose, List, and As You Go.
In the Prose method, you write a 100 word description of your character and extract your abilities from that. In the list method you simply list your most important ability (which may be a keyword) and then a further ten abilities. Finally if you are creating your character As You Go, you get stuck into play and fill out your ten abilities as you discover them during play.
One thing HQ2 does is drops the lists of Occupations that HQ1 had. Understandable since this is a generic book and it would considerably up the page count with a sample of occupations for various genres. Also I reckon it would create a considerable crutch on creativity, diverting players into picking a ready made archetype rather than engaging their imagination and creating something truly unique.
Once you’ve chosen your abilities you assign them numbers. 17 for your best ability and 13 for every thing else, then 20 points to distribute between them.
Some abilities will end up over 20, and are marked with a mastery rune (a sort of W symbol). For example 25 is noted as 5w. I’ll explain masteries in more detail in the next part of the review (Pt 3 Rules) but for now they denote abilities where your character under normal circumstances automatically succeeds.]
One thing that is a big change from HeroQuest 1 is that Masteries are now relative rather than on an absolute scale. For example in a Superheroes game you would still measure the Super Heroes abilities on the 1-20, with masteries denoting a level above normal Super Heroic abilities.
Here’s an example character, a Gloranthan Newtling from my HQ2 Con game ‘Rubble in the Rumble’, which was generated using the List method without Keywords
Overall I find this iteration of the rules to be much more streamlined and to the point than previous editions. I was pleased in how straight forward and easy it is to set up a character. Even with Keywords you still end up with a much less uncluttered character sheet than HQ1. Which for con games, where you risk loosing the players everytime they stare down at a character sheet overburdened with abilties, is a good thing.