The object of this review, ‘Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha’ is a 34-page long chapbook written by Robin D. Laws as a fundraiser for the Kraken convention in Germany.
Developed from an idea originally pitched by Fabian Küchler, this very small and short supplement is actually meant to be guide to gamemastering in the world of Glorantha, and more particularly to the Heroquest Glorantha roleplaying game.
On a more personal note, I am fairly new to the world of Glorantha, and this is with very few expectations that I am going to approach this book. Basically, what I need for my future games can be summarized in two points: how to lay out a plot in Glorantha, and how to engage my players with this cyclopean setting.
In this book, Robin D. Laws takes the screenplay approach and cuts a scenario in four distinct parts which will be made of obstacles:
- The premise, or basically the problem that will get the characters to gather and to go adventuring together.
- The point of no return, or the encounter that will definitely push the party forward.
- The escalation, or an event that makes the party realize that things are much worse than they originally thought.
- The resolution, or the final scene in which the heroes will have to shine and outdo themselves.
All these explanations are punctuated with many examples and also a couple of charts that greatly help picture the author’s point.
However, what I particularly enjoyed in his explanations is this push toward moderate improvisation, toward a better malleability in presenting the obstacles to the characters, but also toward more collaboration between the players and the GM, especially at the beginning of each session.
And this leads to the next part: players’ engagement in a game.
Many GMs can attest that there’s nothing worse than prepping up a game to finally have players who are not interested in what is going on in the session in the least. This is why all along this book, Robin D. Laws provides many pieces of advice regarding on how to hook up players in order to have them participate more pro-actively during each session.
And basically, it all revolves around the “emotional stakes” for each character, a central feature around which some of his other designs revolve around, like the Gumshoe system and the DramaSystem.
The bottom line is for the player to find a reason for her or his character to step forward and go on such or such quest, or adventure, instead of rejecting it. This would ultimately lead to having players be more pro-active during a session, and less submissive to events thrown at them by the GM.
But the author goes further in giving tips on how to modify already published scenarios by adding these emotional stakes into them in order to make them their own.
To conclude, Robin D. Laws’s Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha is a fantastic book that shines by its simplicity. Taking the screenplay approach of dramatic plot structure, this supplement is an amazing tool of new and veteran GMs to use in Greg Stafford’s world, but not only.
To be fair, in almost three decades as a RPGer, I’ve grown used to seeing and reading many of books on GMing advice, some which had been absolutely relevant to my needs and others which were definitely not what I needed.
But here, Robin D. Laws is offering us yet another proof of his talent. In 34 pages, he manages to harness and synthesize the few key elements a GM needs to keep in mind when running a game, mainly plot malleability and player engagement.
I thought I’d read a GM guide to HeroQuest Glorantha, but in fact I discovered what looks like an amazing digest version of Robin’s Laws of Good Gamesmastering, the 2014 reboot.
The points he develops in this chapbook are short, spot-on and clear. They manage to formulate the features I’ve way too often strived to put in my games in a very simple way.
I’ll finish with this: Sharper Adventures in HeroQuest Glorantha is the GMing guide that all GMs need, for any kind of games, as beyond the plot construction structure advice it provides, this book focuses on and cares about the central element to any game, your players and everyone’s fun around the gaming table.
Visit The Kraken website to know more about this fundraiser: http://www.the-kraken.de/fundraiser.html