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"Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

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"Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Kurgan » Thursday December 31st, 2020 8:58pm

I've been toying with the idea of creating some additional Mercenaries that do more than just fight. Having a weak character that has only one or two spells sounds tempting, like a maverick wizard or cleric in training. I was thinking about this when looking at the Wizard miniature from Dragonstrike and good uses for him in HQ.

The trouble with this idea as with other types of Mercs is that I don't want the Heroes to just turn these guys into pure cannon fodder. Consider, if a character had 1 healing spell, or 1 fireball spell, it would be tempting to have him just rush in, use it, and then let him get killed. He's used up his usefulness, right?

So then the idea comes up of "recharging" or "reclaiming" spells. This seems like a potentially game-unbalancing, difficulty-destroying option. So I had an idea, but it's not fully fleshed out.

I was thinking you could hire some (expensive) Mercenaries that have the ability to "recharge" certain of your Skills/Spells, but in a limited fashion (not just once, but maybe every other turn, or as long as they have a certain number of mind points available or some other criteria). In other words, to keep it balanced, but keep them valuable rather than fire and forget.

Consider the poor men at arms who have to do all the work for the Heroes and get thrown to the wolves!

Any ideas? One idea was this:

Cleric's assistant:

Can recharge your heal-allies skill every other turn. Has 2 Body points, and carries a staff.

I thought about having a Paladin's assistant that generates Holy Water, but that seems like he'd give you way too many (and my system already gives the Paladin a new Holy Water vial every Quest, so Undead would never be a challenge after that!).

Or maybe the whole thing is a bad idea, maybe Magic should be kept a rare, elite thing that only certain characters can use, period, and the fact that you can't easily recharge spells makes them that much more special (but I don't want the Wizard/Cleric/Paladin, etc to play so conservatively that they end every Quest with hardly any spells used, while their allies get crushed). You can't buy Spell Scrolls, but finding enough of them can turn any character into a Wizard, at least for one quest...
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Oftkilted » Friday January 1st, 2021 2:53am

The challenge is there is no “timer” or pressure mechanism forcing players to speed thru a game. So 2 turns? Not an issue.

And with NA monsters fights can extend to multiple turns. (I’ve been in fights where it took 3-4 turns due to bad dice rolls.) that basically sounds like taking the power level of the Wizard or Elf and cranks it up seriously. “No problem ... just wait two turns and I’ll get the Genie back ...” or “Give me two turns and we’ll have the Pixie back to search the rooms again ....”
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby lestodante » Friday January 1st, 2021 9:22am

It remember me some cards I am working on (actually this project is in stand-by since some months).
With one of this you can give the Man-at-Arms an artifact or even a spell scroll!
Please note I created this cards in Italian and translated on the fly in English just to post a preview here, so there can be typos in the text.

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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Pancho » Friday January 1st, 2021 10:19am

Nice. Lestodante your cards always have the coolest art.


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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Davane » Friday January 1st, 2021 1:23pm

Kurgan wrote:I've been toying with the idea of creating some additional Mercenaries that do more than just fight. Having a weak character that has only one or two spells sounds tempting, like a maverick wizard or cleric in training. I was thinking about this when looking at the Wizard miniature from Dragonstrike and good uses for him in HQ.

The trouble with this idea as with other types of Mercs is that I don't want the Heroes to just turn these guys into pure cannon fodder. Consider, if a character had 1 healing spell, or 1 fireball spell, it would be tempting to have him just rush in, use it, and then let him get killed. He's used up his usefulness, right?

So then the idea comes up of "recharging" or "reclaiming" spells. This seems like a potentially game-unbalancing, difficulty-destroying option. So I had an idea, but it's not fully fleshed out.

I was thinking you could hire some (expensive) Mercenaries that have the ability to "recharge" certain of your Skills/Spells, but in a limited fashion (not just once, but maybe every other turn, or as long as they have a certain number of mind points available or some other criteria). In other words, to keep it balanced, but keep them valuable rather than fire and forget.

Consider the poor men at arms who have to do all the work for the Heroes and get thrown to the wolves!

Any ideas? One idea was this:

Cleric's assistant:

Can recharge your heal-allies skill every other turn. Has 2 Body points, and carries a staff.

I thought about having a Paladin's assistant that generates Holy Water, but that seems like he'd give you way too many (and my system already gives the Paladin a new Holy Water vial every Quest, so Undead would never be a challenge after that!).

Or maybe the whole thing is a bad idea, maybe Magic should be kept a rare, elite thing that only certain characters can use, period, and the fact that you can't easily recharge spells makes them that much more special (but I don't want the Wizard/Cleric/Paladin, etc to play so conservatively that they end every Quest with hardly any spells used, while their allies get crushed). You can't buy Spell Scrolls, but finding enough of them can turn any character into a Wizard, at least for one quest...


An alternative approach is to make the "fire and forget" approach somewhat punitive. A character who "lets" their Mercs die should find it much harder to recruit new Mercs going forwards. One way to represent this is to have a death premium for future Mercs, or for retaining existing Mercs.

Then there's the option to embrace the "fire and forget" mentality for magical Mercs. Perhaps these Mercs only hang around long enough to use their abilities and once they are done, they leave the Quest and need to be rehired for following adventures.

Finally, Magical Mercs could charge for ability use - they have a retainer fee to act as normal Mercs, with relatively poor stats if they are not combat oriented, and charge extra per use of their abilities. This could be independent of whether their abilities are usable more than once per quest, and may even have a cumulatively increasing cost per use to limit how often their abilities can be used per quest.

Whether you use any of these ideas or not, I'd recommend keeping Magical Mercs as specialists - that is, they have a limited set of abilities to use, probably only a single spell at most. Maybe a Wizard that can only cast Ball of Flame, a Cleric that can only cast Water of Healing, and so on.

If you really wanted to have some fun - you could have magical Mercs draw a single spell when hired, and this is the only spell that they can cast. That way, the Merc might be a Genie specialist, or they might have Pass Through Rock. It's all down to luck.
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Kurgan » Friday January 1st, 2021 3:30pm

These are some good ideas (and nice cards!). I do use the Evil Wizard cards to maintain a sense of danger just hanging around the Quest (sometimes too much so, the first time I played it I acted like I HAD to use a card once I had three instead of "may use"... now I typically use them as Zargon to beef up the "boss" character at the end).

That you could have a reward for retaining a merc, and a disadvantage for wasting him is appealing to me. Setting up continuity is nice, though since my gaming group often shuffles out people I tend to let newcomers have a hero that was "upgraded" by somebody else if they want. If you give an artifact to a man at arms and he gets killed, there's a risk of losing that Artifact when a monster claims it (making it a special treasure near the beginning of the next quest), so all the more reason to cover his back!

The idea that they use their magic and then vanish ("escape") sounds good and removes that temptation to let them be fodder. It's a round-about way of giving you the ability to buy spell scrolls, with the risk that you could lose the Merc before he gets a chance to use it, but can also potentially cover more ground.

The "new hire is more expensive" based on your reputation thing is pretty logical and I really like it. How you treat your mercs affects the price of future mercs. I already like the idea of presenting it as "these are the guys who showed up in front of the inn for hire." It might be a bunch of 1 body point scouts this time or it could be a couple of swordsmen and maybe a long-bowman if you're lucky.

Randomness is something I've incorporated more and more into my game, not to make it seem like there's no skill, but to make the Heroes have to adapt to many different situations. So Treasure, Combat, Equipment (searching racks), Scrolls (searching Sorcerer Tables or in some cases Bookshelves), Potion (alchemist benches) are almost always good (occasionally a ruined scroll or poison bottle will come up, but rarely) and more opportunities for these between quests. I haven't used the parley rules (Lone Monster deck) yet, but I plan to, and that's just a riskier treasure search to avoid combat.

Mercs I see happening to supplement uber hard quests (EQP, BQP & EQP solos, and even Dark Company once I have enough minis to make it practical), even before they're mandated in certain packs, but also once the Heroes have gotten too much gold and "bought everything." I like the idea of limiting it to champions to hire, but I'm taking the lead from the EU version that "champion" could be a few quests completed (3 harder or 5 easier). I'd start with straight up fighting men and make the magic ones something rarer.

Speaking of letting Mercs do things. I think I would allow a Merc to pick up something dropped by a fallen Hero, but not use it, he would simply give it to the next living Hero he encounters. The WOM rules I believe state that a dead Hero has the option to either remove all his Mercs from the board or let them continue fighting on in his stead for that quest. They could claim his gear (to keep it from falling into the hands of monsters) and thus present another useful function.
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby cynthialee » Friday January 1st, 2021 6:37pm

I used to have a Character called Apprentice Wizard.
He had 1 more Body Point and 1 less Mind Point than the Wizard. He starts play with 1 Scroll Spell Typically Water of Life or Flame Blast but he has a great power in that he can learn spells on the fly.
Every Spell cast in the same room as him he has a chance to Copy said spell. Roll a Combat Dice and if the roll is anything other than a Black Shield the Apprentice learns the spell and the card is passed to the Apprentice. He may now cast the spell at a later time. Should he roll a Black Shield he doesn't get the spell.
This includes Elf Spells, Chaos Spells, Storm Mage Spells and Druid Spells.
Limited to the same gear as the wizard, but as he is still young and spry he can use 1 handed melee weapons.


(At least that is what I think I had him written up as....)

Cost to hire this NPC is 125 Gold per mission
after 5 missions he becomes a Wizard and is no longer available for hire
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If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby Kurgan » Saturday January 2nd, 2021 11:03pm

Interesting. In the Game System, Quest 6 the Elf & Wizard get their spells taken away but they can find and reclaim them. At the time this struck me as wrong because I always thought of the Magic as some kind of inherent trait that got used and was recovered after rest or something. I also didn't like the idea of spell scrolls. But the more I think about it (it's just a game mechanic, after all and we know magic while it doesn't follow physics, still needs to have rules and limitations in your world) the more I'm okay with it. The de-magicified Alchemy mod I made basically treats them not as spell books or scrolls that self destruct after being used (and you forget the magic words?) but more like materials that get used up, or devices that have to recharge or be reset, and certain skill is required to use them in the first place. This gives a kind of explanation for how you can choose different spell colleges or "lose" spells like in this case.

So a Wizard being a quick study or being able to gather materials could make sense. If he is just a scribe who can copy down the magic words from a book or from hearing them and use them, but somehow the magic drifts out of his mind after that or weakens his inner strength, well you could go on with your imagination to create an explanation. The point is having a magical merc is cool I just wanted to make sure it didn't break the game too much. ;) Thanks for the replies, keep 'em coming!
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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby lestodante » Sunday January 3rd, 2021 4:41pm

Kurgan wrote:At the time this struck me as wrong because I always thought of the Magic as some kind of inherent trait that got used and was recovered after rest or something.


AGREE!!! It is nonsense unless you think to spells as scrolls they use to cast their magic.
And Spell Scrolls in the quest packs are some kind of "simplified" version of the spells, so even a Barbarian can use them.


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Re: "Magical" Mercs? Feedback wanted

Postby cynthialee » Monday January 4th, 2021 8:02pm

We have long only allowed the Elf and Wizard to use spell scrolls. No Barbarians or Dwarfs are reading scrolls at our table. Just doesn't jib with how we have always played.
Home brew spell casters and the new spell caster Necromancer coming out with the new reboot of course could use them.

But a Barbarian reading the ancient words of power and manipulating the Arcane into personal power!? No!
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If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.
~Sun Tsu The art of War~


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