Players roll a d20 dice add have to roll under their target number of the ability they are using in the contest. If they do roll the target number or below they Succeed and if they roll over the target number they Fail. A roll of '1' is a Critical and a roll of '20' is a Fumble.
The GM or another player rolls the resistance on a d20 dice. Again they have to roll under a target number and could get one of the four results, Critical, Succeed, Fail or Fumble.
Those results are compared on a chart to get whether the player has won or lost the contest and at what magnitude the Victory Level is.
Victory Levels are:
Critical vs. Fumble = Complete Victory.
Critical vs. Fail or Success vs. Fumble = Major Victory.
Critical vs. Success or Success vs. Fail or Fail vs. Fumble = Minor Victory.
All Ties = Marginal Victory [Lowest roll result wins].
Fumble vs. Fumble = Tie.
Critical vs. Fumble = Marginal Defeat.
Success vs. Critical or Fail vs. Success or Fumble vs. Fail = Minor Defeat.
Fumble vs. Success or Failure vs. Critical = Major Defeat.
Fumble vs. Critical = Complete Defeat.
Getting a high level is good and getting a low level of defeat is bad.
So far so good.
The trouble comes when the results Tie.
The most common one is the Success vs. Success. Now in the rules it states that the lowest roll wins the Marginal Victory.
Now the probability of getting a Success vs. Success tie is quite high and it does occur often in each session. It then boils down to what was rolled and the lowest roll wins.
This is one of the 'whiff factors' with HeroQuest as it makes the whole contest about who rolls lowest and not about the level of success.
Far too often a player is making a crucial move in game and the stakes are high. The player is in a simple contest and rolls against their ability. They roll a '8', well below the target number so therefore a success and look to win the contest. However the GM has rolled a '4', below the target number and below the player's roll as well. Unlucky? Well yes but it does suck as both the GM and the player have rolled successes.
So here is a fix.
Over the weekend at Conception 2009 I ran four different HeroQuest games using this new fix and it seemed to work. Most of the players were new to the system though a few were old favourites of my games.
Now in any contest there is usually someone that starts it off or initiates it. We will call them the Instigator.
Contests will run as normal using the chart below using the first column [labelled 'Player'] for the Instigator of the contest. More often than not it will be the player that starts a contest. They are always looking for a fight!
The different success results compared will show what the Victory Level is at the end of the contest.
If there is a Tie though the Instigator wins the Marginal Victory. There is no comparing of the dice results or numbers just a comparison of the Success Results.
A player is making a crucial move in game and the stakes are high. The player instigates a simple contest and rolls against their ability. They roll a '8', well below the target number so therefore a success and look to win the contest. The GM has rolled a '4', below the target number and a success. The contest result is a Tie, Success vs. Success. As the player instigated the action though they win the Marginal Victory.
If the the player was defending against an action the GM instigated the player would have scored a Marginal Defeat instead.
Now if the contest was between players instead of a GM vs. Player situation and it seems that both instigated the contest than I would rule that the contest ends in a Tie. The players would have to be happy with that result or instigate another new and different contest instead.