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Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

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Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby whitebeard » Monday November 9th, 2020 1:19am

I started to reply to a fantastic set of posts about who the Witch Lord may have been when he was alive (here http://forum.yeoldeinn.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=5492). Instead I realized my reply really should be its own topic.

There are many open questions in these forums about the Lore and Setting for HQ which involve searching for hints in Old World Fantasy Warhammer, or obscure HQ publications, etc. The Witch Lord post mentioned above is one. The Unofficial Cartography effort is another. And I'm sure there are MANY more examples to be found in the forum.

In contrast, I approach the lore from a completely different perspective. I REALLY enjoy the ambiguity of the HQ world.
    The complete lack of a map
    An often vague sense of what is going on elsewhere
    Uncertainty about how much time has passed between missions
    Not sure exactly how you fit in to it all
    That you will never see/fight Zargon/Morcar.
    You are pawns in a larger world doing ("important") side missions.

To me not pinning anything down gives it all a firm pulp fiction Sword and Sorcery vibe like Howard's original Conan short stories. Furthermore I believe this was done deliberately by Baker and I absolutely love it!!

While I understand the desire of others to find details and uncover potential new and expanded canon. For me personally these features SUBTRACT rather than add to the game. Does anyone else feel this way?

I even take this a step further. Once my players completed the base missions, we have bounced around story wise through modules. Specifically we have alternated between missions in KK and homebrew simultaneously and just don't worry about inconsistencies in equipment from one adventure to the next. And I would have no problem starting ROTWL before we finish KK. We even decide which hero each player will control on a per mission basis.


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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby Cael Darkhollow » Monday November 9th, 2020 3:16am

whitebeard wrote: The Unofficial Cartography effort is another.

In contrast, I approach the lore from a completely different perspective. I REALLY enjoy the ambiguity of the HQ world.
    The complete lack of a map
    An often vague sense of what is going on elsewhere
    Uncertainty about how much time has passed between missions
    Not sure exactly how you fit in to it all
    That you will never see/fight Zargon/Morcar.
    You are pawns in a larger world doing ("important") side missions.

While I understand the desire of others to find details and uncover potential new and expanded canon. For me personally these features SUBTRACT rather than add to the game. Does anyone else feel this way?


It looks like you are in error at the very least on the first item on your list, "complete lack of a map," several maps appeared in HeroQuest Products, the most important being the Warhammer Old World map that was on the back of Return of the Witch Lord Questbook (UK version) which unambiguously sets HeroQuest in the Warhammer world as official canon.
Map included in Return of the Witch Lord (UK version)
Image

Map included in the HeroQuest Sticker Book
Image

Map included in two of the HeroQuest novels: the Screaming Spectre, and The Tyrant's Tomb
Image
The only slight ambiguity on this HeroQuest area map is the phrase "The HeroQuest World is based loosely on the Warhammer World which is the copyright of Games Workshop and used with their permission."

Also Morcar/Zargon was shown illustrated in the Sticker book as well, contradicting the 5th item on your list. I mean I guess you could argue that the novels, sticker book, Magazines such as the marvel winter special etc. are not canon or are at best loose canon because they are not strictly game materials, but the Return of the Witch Lord expansion pack is official game material, and the Warhammer map on it's back cover is set in stone inarguable canon.

I get your point, you like the relatively small amount of background information available in the HQ game, and the wiggle room that provides you to create your own setting backstory or role playing scenarios.
But if you look at all published HQ materials, the direct ties to Warhammer fantasy are clear and undeniable, which unlocks all of that product as official or canon back story for HeroQuest. Some people really enjoy that, and set their HeroQuest games firmly in the Warhammer fantasy setting. Others ignore it or don't really know about it and prefer to leave their HeroQuest setting more generic or homebrew their own world.

Much the same as has been done with Dungeons & Dragons settings; some Dungeon Masters prefer to only strictly use official printed materials for their settings remaining true to D&D canon, while some use only the parts they like, and others abandon the official D&D settings completely in favor of their own imaginary worlds.

So, yeah I disagree completely with your last sentence
whitebeard wrote: "For me personally these features SUBTRACT rather than add to the game."

I feel a detailed world setting published by the manufacturers and designers of HeroQuest (GamesWorkshop) and released by the distributors (Milton Bradley) that any HeroQuest player can reasonably access only enriches the game by allowing the community to all have the resources and discuss it as a shared world, and the players to explore it themselves in fine detail.
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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby Kurgan » Monday November 9th, 2020 4:34am

Yeah, if you just stick with what came in the NA boxes as "canon" then you have one impression. If you lived in the UK and followed the development of the material there, you have a different one.

If you're like me, starting with the US edition, you can piece together some other material (with few contradictions) from the 1st & 2nd edition EU material, the Japanese game system, Marvel Comics special, White Dwarf Magazine, sticker album, computer games, and novels. [ Edit: I've modified my view on this a bit, while possible to create a fan harmonization of the different sources, it's not a perfect fit. ] I obviously don't take it all together, because then I would have to conclude that Mentor/Zargon are the same person (or just happen to look alike), that Sir Ragnar was a traitor and was executed. So while filling in the details is cool, I'm with you in terms of leaving some stuff ambiguous. My "head canon" places the NA version as the base (even if it's really like the third version of the game, not the original) with much of the extra material that doesn't contradict it, from the other sources incorporated in.

I haven't read the novels. I only saw the sticker album this year. Most of this stuff I had no idea it even existed (even the EQP and BQP were just a picture on an ad flier with a few sentence description) until 2002-2003!

This takes me back to other franchises, like Star Wars (good luck keeping up with that and having it all "straight"). Or like the Matrix... when those came out there were a lot of confusing things but people were like "oh, you have to consume all this supplemental material and then it makes sense" and I was like "well if it isn't explained adequately in the movies we got, then they failed."

The board game should make sense on its own. If you want to "know more" then sure, grab one of these other promotional things, but since it wasn't included with any actual game, to me it's optional, its not the same level of "canon" even if at some point somebody in charge intended it to be. Even so, each region is like its own canon. I love the Japanese game system but it's clearly on a different trajectory than the others. And back in those days, we didn't really mix and match them like we can so easily now.


One sentiment I think IS arguable though is the idea that because HeroQuest (in the UK) was "loosely set" in the same world as Warhammer fantasy, that "unlocks" the whole product as canon. No. Warhammer Fantasy is HUGE, and it isn't just one thing either, if I recall. It too has evolved and changed over time, and isn't just "one thing" anymore. So to know what's "canon" in Hero Quest, do we have to merge all of the Warhammer fantasy (and the different versions of 40K too? ) together? What about Advanced Hero Quest? As with so many other fictional entertainment franchises, it's not exactly clear how everything fits together or even if it is really intended to. What advantage is there in doing this? I guess more money for the companies involved for the obsessive collector (granted so much of this material is "out of print" now and doesn't earn the owners anything but good will when purchased). But I can enjoy three different flavors of ice cream without necessarily blending them all into one big mound of brownish gray.

I think it's a point well made that if you are "looking for ideas" you can certainly crib from those related or semi-related franchises pretty easily. But if you don't, no big deal. "Loosely" doesn't mean "is identical, full stop." I like to imagine Battlemasters is part of it too, maybe Space Crusade as well. But for the most part, I play as if those things don't exist, and the players in my games don't need to know it either.

If someone wants to sit down and be the Pablo Hidalgo (the continuity guru for Star Wars these past several decades) of Hero Quest and try to write the definitive chronology and so forth, be my guest. But what purpose does it serve? The reason they create writers bibles for tv shows is to try to keep continuity straight and prevent guest writers from going off the deep end and contradicting established lore. When it comes to fiction like this, why does it matter if some authority figure says "well this story 'really happened' and this one didn't"? I get less upset then if somebody throws in a quest where there's an Orc Bard, because there's nothing stopping me from ignoring that "lore" in the quests I play or make on my own. But I realize some fans may take it a lot more seriously. Somewhere there's a guy lying awake at night trying to rationalize some problem of continuity until somebody at the company resolves it for him officially.

So I like the maps, they're cool. They help flesh out the illusion of the size and scope of the world without really changing anything in the actual quests played. But are there really skaven warriors, space elves and chaos gods out there that I have to worry about besides Zargon and his minions? Depends upon the mood I'm in, really. Nothing more.

I say the world is your oyster. You take the stuff you like, and leave the rest, and make up whatever you want to fill in the gaps. The creative-aspect of the game gives you that freedom, so you don't have to cram Warhammer Fantasy lore in there if you don't want to, anymore than you have to use D&D, or HeroScape, or whatever else might be possible to make "fit." To make another analogy, when I'm playing Donkey Kong Country, I'm playing that game, I'm not thinking about how Super Mario Bros 3 fits into this, even though Mario and Donkey Kong obviously are part of the same "universe." (Maybe that's a bad example because there are just so many different games with those characters now with very little effort at consistency between them)

I could go on and on and you don't have to care, but if I were a D&D fan, would I think I had to burn all my old books when a new edition came out? No, I'd more than likely just pick the edition my friends and I liked the best (or could afford) that weekend and play that. Maybe we'd play something else another time. Unless this is some official Magic the Gathering, Pokemon Edition tournament where they are saying I can only use my 5th edition, 2nd series, 8th season cards or go home, I always have a choice. But even so, there's nothing telling the players "hey, you have to incorporate all the Warhammer stuff in here because it's loosely based on the same world setting." Especially when most of the players never even knew that! Its cool to imagine if Lone Wolf or Greystar the Wizard could beat Sigmar in a fair fight.

My only interest in Warhammer at this point is that I might be able to crib a few miniatures from it to make the Remake set a bit more "classic" (Chaos Warriors and Fimirs, yo). But then as I'm looking it appears the stuff is pretty rare and expensive (or metal) so maybe it won't be so easy. 3D printing & sculpting... yo!
Last edited by Kurgan on Thursday January 28th, 2021 12:31am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby whitebeard » Monday November 9th, 2020 2:55pm

As additional material is delegated to more content creators by executives to sell products we certainly do gain something. I'm also pointing out that when they do we are also losing something else. When more details about the world are filled in it becomes known. There are fewer surprises and more hurdles required to shoehorn in new content. And it is possible that this can be less fun (like good orcs and orc bards for example )

When you go back to your very first experience with HQ, what was it that made it so awesome? Can you even really remember? For me, I discovered this ambiguity was actually a BIG part of it and I certainly did not realize it in the moment. As we consume more in any fantasy universe our experience with it also evolves. With that slow evolution it becomes something else and it can be difficult to understand later on how or why things have changed since our first magical encounter. Perhaps you are unable to recapture that same excitement and wondering why? I only recently read Conan for the first time (a few years ago) and the ambiguity and discontinuity in the spaces between Howard's stories was not frustrating and instead something that struct me as awesome. I drew the parallel immediately to the HQ Base set and have not let go.

So to re-phrase my question "Do you Embrace Ambiguity in HQ? If so how? Or am I alone?"


This is not supposed to be an argument. But since so much was stated about the "map", I will add this:
It is clear that HQ was established as a product without the use of any map. The fact that a map did not show-up until the 3rd box set says a lot. I do not have ROTW and furthermore I expect that when my my copy of HasbroQuest arrives it likely will not have a map either (because it is not required and is the property of GW).

Similarly there are maps of Howard's Hyborian age as well, but the role it plays in the stories is virtually irrelevant. The most we ever really get is a hyper local description of a place and the idea that somewhere else is "to the North" or whatever. This is precisely because they are short stories and Conan was only ever written in this way by Howard. Corporate expansions of Conan after Howard's death may be cool and all, but what is it about them that causes them to always fall short? Was there a reason Howard never wrote Conan novels?

In contrast, book series like The Hobbit, LOTR, or D&D books like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms are all about moving on a known map with very specific campaign events happening concurrently. Something about short stories sets a "Sword and Sorcery" vibe while these other books are "Fantasy". And for me playing HQ hits more as Sword and Sorcery.


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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby Kurgan » Monday November 9th, 2020 3:13pm

If they give us a new backstory to the "hero quest world" and it "sucks" compared to this old explanation? Short answer: I'll stick with the older explanation. ;)


As for LOTR, it is true that Tolkien "intended" lots of things, but he didn't even publish "the Silmarillian" in his lifetime and all of that "History of Middle Earth" stuff was published by his son after his (JRR's) death. And in fact, as Tolkien scholars have all pointed out, some of the material blatantly contradicts itself. You could say that was the author trying to mimick the sometimes contradictory nature of myths and legends in his 20th century fantasy fiction, or simply a case of changing his mind over time and retconning his own work (behind the scenes, since most of it was not ever intended to be seen by his reader audience). So "now" that stuff is all "canon" but was it when these books were new on the shelves? Readers would have gone decades before learning that material and some may simply have rejected it in favor of the impressions in their imagination that the actual books gave them. I think it's similar here. The "death of the author" is a big debate out there still, last I checked.

As a Star Wars fan I've had to deal with all those years of George Lucas saying "I always intended" (and changing his mind a million times about it) then selling it off to other people who basically rewrote the whole thing, a couple of times too. As a fan I just pick and choose what I like and ignore the stuff that I find too stupid to justify rationalizing.

I too would like to play the games as written, but as with others I've embraced the freedom to rewrite the story as I see fit, while not denying the company and creative minds in it that gave me the tools to do that. |_P

If this were a book (and not a choose your own adventure book) then it's going to have things that violate the entire spirit of the original medium, like giving the characters fixed names and fixed histories and fixed actions in a fixed chronology and so forth. But having a fairly static world in which the dynamic DIY characters fit in isn't a bad thing. Again, you're free to tinker with it, even more so with the NA version that doesn't provide as many explicit ties to Warhammer fantasy. Just like I'm going to rewrite the Remake to bring back the classic elements (Chaos and Fimirs most obviously, and Mentor is NOT Zargon), others may do what they like. I would fully expect an EU player to set the glossy new rulebook of 2021 printing date aside and substitute his classic UK instructions instead with all its conventions.
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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby Anderas » Monday November 9th, 2020 3:41pm

whitebeard wrote:I started to reply to a fantastic set of posts about who the Witch Lord may have been when he was alive (here http://forum.yeoldeinn.com/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=5492). Instead I realized my reply really should be its own topic.

There are many open questions in these forums about the Lore and Setting for HQ which involve searching for hints in Old World Fantasy Warhammer, or obscure HQ publications, etc. The Witch Lord post mentioned above is one. The Unofficial Cartography effort is another. And I'm sure there are MANY more examples to be found in the forum.

In contrast, I approach the lore from a completely different perspective. I REALLY enjoy the ambiguity of the HQ world.
    The complete lack of a map
    An often vague sense of what is going on elsewhere
    Uncertainty about how much time has passed between missions
    Not sure exactly how you fit in to it all
    That you will never see/fight Zargon/Morcar.
    You are pawns in a larger world doing ("important") side missions.

To me not pinning anything down gives it all a firm pulp fiction Sword and Sorcery vibe like Howard's original Conan short stories. Furthermore I believe this was done deliberately by Baker and I absolutely love it!!

While I understand the desire of others to find details and uncover potential new and expanded canon. For me personally these features SUBTRACT rather than add to the game. Does anyone else feel this way?

I even take this a step further. Once my players completed the base missions, we have bounced around story wise through modules. Specifically we have alternated between missions in KK and homebrew simultaneously and just don't worry about inconsistencies in equipment from one adventure to the next. And I would have no problem starting ROTWL before we finish KK. We even decide which hero each player will control on a per mission basis.



Absolutely. The ambiguity, those unresolved links and hints, they produce this engagement some of us feel. The Cartography thread is one of the best examples. How often was I searching on this or that map for a little name or hint for a quest. Hours or days wasted, and I like to think of myself as an adult man. My wife has an opinion but I won't share it.

It would never have happened if MB had given us a catalogue, here, map, positions, chapter three are all important characters, chapter four are all monsters, there are not more than these in the world... blam, motivation gone. Thanks for the catalogue, it's practical to use, have a nice day, I certainly take a look tomorrow or next week....

No, in Heroquest they did what a good book author does. They let you discover the world piecemeal, if you really dig. Or not, if you don't. No world building book author ever gives you all the reasons and connections at the beginning, instead you discover his world during the story.

That's what keeps us engaged here. That's what makes me coming back.


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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby Cael Darkhollow » Monday November 9th, 2020 7:50pm

there certainly is a sense of adventure in the unknown, the blank spaces on the map, beyond the known country. Unexplored places. Here be dragons.
Our basic curious human nature which demands to know what is in that forest, that cave, beyond that hill or even on other worlds. I understand it.
HeroQuest epitomizes adventure into the unknown. Anyone playing a HQ quest for the first time has no idea what will be there beyond the first door.

What I don't understand is the animosity towards GamesWorkshop Warhammer fantasy setting. Plenty of Warhammer references and creatures are in HeroQuest and it's sister game Battle Masters, both released by Milton Bradley, both owned by Hasbro and both designed by GamesWorkshop. The setting is clear in both games with places, names, and monsters identical. Both games are in fact "kiddie" versions of more the complex Advanced HeroQuest (which came out the same time as HQ) and Warhammer Fantasy Battle (which dates earlier and all draw from), both owned solely by GamesWorkshop. Later Warhammer Quest would join the other two. There are fewer setting references in the "kiddie" simple versions because they are less complex and less in depth, it isn't strictly necessary to play, the games are targeted at 10 year olds, but they ARE there.
Seems stupid to me to deny that an official setting for HQ exists when it directly says so in printed HQ materials.

The old World of Warhammer Fantasy that HeroQuest is based in, or even loosely based in, is more than big enough to imagine whatever you like. Or you can use official printed materials so everyone can share the same gameworld, Or you can discard all of the background setting and invent your own that's ok too.

D&D the original roleplaying game which HeroQuest certainly is derivative of, only developed official campaign settings because some players wanted them, to see the worlds the game's creators were playing in. But the game can be played without the official settings just as well, as the game designers clearly intended, just invent your own. HeroQuest is D&D lite, no doubt about it, and can be played the same with or without the official setting.

Of course the entire fantasy genre for gaming is entirely derivative of Tolkien's world of Middle Earth. We would be fooling ourselves to think otherwise. You could just as easily place your HQ games in that setting. Moorecock, Howard and quite a few others have given us fantasy or swords & Sorcery worlds that have an obvious influence on our fantasy games too.

The 2nd edition HeroQuest that Hasbro is currently making for release had to abandon the official setting of the classic game 1st edition for obvious copyright reasons because they are no longer working with GamesWorkshop. It remains to be seen if they will leave it a generic fantasy setting or install a new official setting of their own. Only time will tell. And players will still do with it whatever they like.
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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby j_dean80 » Monday November 9th, 2020 9:41pm

I don’t get the repeated phrase I keep seeing of “HeroQuest is D&D Lite”. HeroQuest is not a RPG at all. It is a dungeon crawler. It is a board game with specific rules, turns, actions, dice movement. You give your character a name but it already has set stats. It would be closer to the game Risk, turn by turn fight it out game. You could give your Risk army a name if you’d like.
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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby whitebeard » Monday November 9th, 2020 11:04pm

j_dean80 wrote:I don’t get the repeated phrase I keep seeing of “HeroQuest is D&D Lite”. HeroQuest is not a RPG at all. It is a dungeon crawler. It is a board game with specific rules, turns, actions, dice movement. You give your character a name but it already has set stats. It would be closer to the game Risk, turn by turn fight it out game. You could give your Risk army a name if you’d like.


That's understandable. Back in the day of the Basic D&D red box starter set, Dungeons and Dragons was very much a hack and slash dungeon crawler. The sample adventure printed in the intro book clearly pointed everyone in this direction. Very few people played it in the way you see it done today on YouTube... The "Stranger Things" depiction is probably more accurate for most of us.

I believe Steven Baker called it "D&D in a box" or "RPG in a box" or something similar in his interview. D&D grew out of table top wargaming and that's where Steven Baker approached it from. D&D also has "specific rules, turns, actions, dice movement" and this is where they are similar. For sure as written it is not an RPG, but it is certainly an immersive Sword and Sorcery game. Baker took what he thought were the best elements of D&D, enhanced them and put them in a box.


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Re: Embracing Ambiguity in HQ

Postby whitebeard » Monday November 9th, 2020 11:50pm

Cael Darkhollow wrote:there certainly is a sense of adventure in the unknown, the blank spaces on the map, beyond the known country. Unexplored places. Here be dragons...


We're still missing here. My point is the NARRATIVE of the first 14 base quests. Poof suddenly you are in Melar's Maze, later in the Bastion of Chaos, then off to fight the Witch Lord. The longest "campaign" in there is 3 quests, a novella among short stories.

^^^^ This feels like reading Conan ^^^^

When we admit so many new and specific details, we slowly build a LOTR / D&D campaign setting. It's not about expanded details being good or bad, just that they FEEL DIFFERENT. Embracing a lack of specific overarching detail can be loads of fun too. Do you remember when it was this way? Was that part of the fun for you? It was for me.

I had not been enjoying Kelar's Keep but I blame that on the lack of imagination in the scenarios (the early quests) I've played. Basically they do not alter the rules in truly creative ways like the base 14 quests... But here again KK is not actually on a map anywhere and it receives super local detail without precluding any kind of other future campaign.

In the future we could jump to an Elven Wood Realm on the front lines of the battle with chaos... but not if we drew a map which shows that no such location exists.

Cael Darkhollow wrote:What I don't understand is the animosity towards GamesWorkshop Warhammer fantasy setting.


I don't understand this comment and I hope that my above comments make my view point more clear. If you feel any animosity towards your interpretation, perhaps you should re-read all of my posts because it is not there. Personally I play and love Classic Warhammer Quest, Silver Tower, and Space Hulk. But HeroQuest has significant deviations from Warhammer (Zargon/Morcar and Mentor being the biggest) so they are very much different and "loosely based" as you say. Realistically, MB needed minis and grabbed a bunch of monsters and chaos servants... so we get Zargon leading the forces of "Chaos". It is easy and works so well! And if you are willing to create your own minis all you need to do is replace Chaos with Dread and Fimir with Abomination, you can publish the same game without GW. If they were REALLY meant to be the same from the start, they would have just grabbed the lore and called the EWP Nagash or whatever.

They are "loosely based" and perhaps it was "meant" to be that way.

For some who come to Ye Olde Inn looking for answers on these topics, perhaps the answer is "you might actually be happier without any answers." I know I am.


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whitebeard

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