High Quality Role Playing
It's Ben's game, but I love it. Here's the run down.
High Quality Role Playing (HQRP) is an old-school fantasy RPG where you play regular folks in a fantasy world dealing with the kinds of horrible threats that adventurers normally deal with. Yes, this means that you may be a tenant farmer facing off against a 1000 year old vampire or a blacksmith trying to con a dragon. If you’ve ever, say, had your first level Red Box D&D character fight a wolf, this isn’t that different. HQRP isn’t publicly released yet, but Ben tells me it’s “close”.
HQRP is laser focused on that kind of gritty, super tense old-school play where you’re armed with a pitiful array of feeble equipment and meager skills where absolutely every threat can kill you horribly in one blow.
Character generation is random and quite fun. There are no stats as such; instead you determine your social class and role and a few traits which then determine what your character is good at and what they own. The “good at” is relatively freeform. So, for example, Ben’s blacksmith, who is a war veteran and a coward is good at hammering things, appraising metal work, and lying down pretending to be dead. He has a spear and helmet. This is a pretty good character in HQRP. Jonathan’s character is a ditch digger. He’s good at digging and he has a shovel and a wheelbarrow. A few characters can do magic, though it’s always a rather risky kind of magic that typically requires you to do something costly or difficult, such as sacrifice your memories or pull out one of your own teeth.
There is also a random adventure generator that gives the basic location, situation, and enemy. For example, you might be on a mission in the forest facing wolves, or underground dealing with a dragon because of your own foolishness.
But the real beauty of HQRP is the resolution system, which is at once super simple and brilliant. To do normal things, you do them. When doing difficult things, you roll dice. Rolling dice is always risky, and while you can achieve great success, you can also fail horribly. You will almost certainly have to roll dice eventually, and doing so is a moment of delicious tension and possibility. Avoiding the dice roll is, however, just as fun as you strive to find a way to get over the pit or escape the town guard using only the mundane resources you have at hand. That’s the essence of HQRP.
Now the academic part. I look to The Old School Primer as my source on what old-school play is, so here’s how HQRP fits with the principles of the primer:
Rulings not rules: HQRP has a minimum of rules and they are purposely open to interpretation. For example, is a blacksmith good at enduring heat? Is swimming across a rushing river “difficult” or “insanely difficult”? The game emphasizes clear communication and discussion on these kinds of issues, resulting in a straightforward roll of the dice where everyone knows what’s at stake.
Player skill not character abilities: HQRP characters just aren’t that impressive. There’s no way what’s on your sheet is going to get you through alive, which forces the player to come up with creative solutions and then try to put them into action. This is fun.
Heroic, not super heroic: OK, yes, you’re playing a bunch of illiterate tenant farmers with no real weapons up against a horror older than time. True, you are probably going to die. But if you’re clever and lucky you might just pull through and score a treasure larger than any person in your village has ever imagined. To my taste, that’s pretty darn heroic.
Forget game balance: In one game, the opposition was wolves. They totally kicked our ass! In another game, the opposition was Satan. I actually got off pretty well in that game.