Play the Game: Contests

  1. Survival
  2. Play the Game
  3. Conflicts

Jacob-angel.pngFor most non-combat activities, players will use simple die rolls to determine an action’s success. Characters either fail or succeed based on that roll.

Abilities and reactions

When a character acts, or when the world acts against a character, that character’s player will often have to make an ability roll or a reaction roll. In each case, the player must roll d20 less than or equal to that number. For example, if goblins are sneaking up on Toromeen, Tony Barlow will have to roll d20 less than or equal to Toromeen’s perception. Since Toromeen’s perception is 4, Tony will have to roll less than or equal to 4 on d20.

Situations will often call for modifiers to these rolls. For example, if the goblins are being noisy, the Guide will give Toromeen a bonus to the roll, making it more likely that Toromeen will notice the goblins before they surprise him.

Contests: Failure

What does it mean to fail an ability roll? It means that your character’s action was unsuccessful and further attempts are discouraged. The rules do not say why they didn’t succeed. The reason can be anything you want, as long as it means that your character’s attempt was unsuccessful. The obvious reason is that your character failed. But it could also be that your character was in too much of a rush, or that something (or someone) got in your character’s way.

The default explanation is that your character failed, but if you wish to narrate the unsuccessful attempt differently, you may. Keep your narration to one or two sentences, and do not create an argument. If any of the other players raise an objection to your narration, your character simply failed.

When a contest involves weapons, a failure also means that the loser takes damage and might be injured. Weapons do their normal damage to the loser, and for every die of damage one of the lost points will be an injury point. If the potential damage is one or two dice, a successful evasion roll negates the injury point requirement. If all damage can be and is applied to verve, no injuries result either.

The Adventure Guide may also rule that some contests which don’t involve weapons are dangerous enough to merit damage.

Each action is a single roll

No matter how long an obstacle is, overcoming it is a single roll. Whether a player’s thief scales a 20-foot wall or a 200-foot wall, only one roll is required to complete the climb. If, for example, the character climbs a hundred feet, has an encounter, and then climbs another hundred feet, their first climbing roll suffices for the second hundred feet. Similarly, a character making a roll to find information about an event in the underworld doesn’t make that roll every night. They make it once, and the contacts start flowing in (or not, depending on the success of the roll). They don’t need to roll again for that event.

A failed roll cannot be re-rolled, not even by another character, unless the task is reframed as a different task. The only exception is that if an individual player character has attempted a task once, a group of player characters can also attempt the task once. If a group effort has been attempted once, then an individual can also try once.

Difficulty adjustments

The size of the obstacle may affect the difficulty of the roll. Climbing a 200-foot wall will have more penalties than climbing a 20-foot wall, for example.

Obstacle size

If an obstacle’s size affects the difficulty of an action, apply penalties for larger obstacles. Usually, penalties increase as size doubles:

Size: 1 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 1024
Penalty: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sometimes, the obstacle and penalty will increase together: an obstacle size of three will mean a penalty of three. Rarely, the penalty will double rather than the obstacle size, so that you’ll read up rather than down. See Jumping for an example.

Sizes will be multiples of a reasonable no-penalty size. Distances will often be based on 10 foot sizes. Climbing a 20- to 39-foot wall is a penalty of 1. Climbing a 40- to 79-foot wall is a penalty of 2. If the wall is 80 but less than 160 feet, the penalty is 3, and so on.

Similarly, searches of a 20 by 20 foot area or 20-foot diameter circle incur a penalty of 1 on the perception roll. Searching a 40 by 40 foot area incurs a penalty of 2.

When confronting obstacle sizes greater than normal, where and when failure occurs often matters. If an ability or reaction roll failure will directly result in damage, and the damage depends on where the failure occurs (for example, when climbing a wall, the height of the fall determines the damage), then the amount of the obstacle overcome must be determined randomly. For example, if a thief fails to climb an 80-foot wall, a d8 might be used to determine in which ten feet the fall occurred.

If the failure does not directly result in damage or the damage does not depend on where the failure occurs, it may still be determined randomly; however, the Adventure Guide also has the option of placing the failure near an adventure other than the one the character had been trying to reach.

If the obstacle size is greater than one, the time required to overcome the obstacle will be proportionately longer.

Players can choose to divide their actions into smaller actions.

Difficulty levels

Often it will be easiest to consider difficulties using a common-sense term such as “easy” or “difficult”.

Difficulty Bonus Difficulty Penalty
Difficult Difficult
Easy 2 Very Difficult 2
Very Easy 4 Extremely Difficult 4
A Snap 8 Nearly Impossible 8
Incredibly Easy 16 Practically Impossible 16

Difficulty adjustments: Skills

Skills may modify ability rolls and reaction rolls, if the skill distinctly applies to the action being attempted. For example, the Guide might decide that knowing some bit of historical trivia requires a reason roll. If your character has a field bonus of one in History and a relevant skill, you gain a bonus of 1 to the roll. Most often, rolls that skills apply to will be ability rolls.

Careful attempts

Normally, attempts are assumed to be made over the course of one round or some other normal, but quick, time period. If a character chooses to spend more time—one minute instead of a round, ten minutes instead of a minute, or one hour instead of ten minutes—they can gain a bonus of 1. If they spend even longer—ten minutes, an hour, or a whole 8-hour day—carefully setting up their attempt, they can gain a bonus of 2. It is up to the Adventure Guide whether or not any particular action can benefit from careful attempts and what the base time period is.

Contested actions

In some cases, two or more characters will attempt to do the same thing, or keep the other from doing something. In such a case, each player makes a roll vs. the ability or reaction in question.

If both fail, the side that was trying to do something fails. If one side was resisting and one side was acting, the acting side fails. If both were trying to achieve the same goal, both fail to achieve the goal. They have battled to a draw. If both succeed, they keep trying until they give up or only one succeeds. If one succeeds and the others fail, that’s the winner. If more than two sides are involved, those who lose do not get to keep trying.

Contested actions can, if both sides keep succeeding, take longer than uncontested actions, along the scale of: immediately, one round, one minute, ten minutes, one hour, one day, two days, three days, etc. Start with however long the action would take if it were uncontested.

If all sides in a contested action cannot fail, double each participant’s final rolls (before any mojo are applied) and increase the time period to the next level.

Players can request a doubling of both final rolls if their opponent cannot fail. This also increases the time period to the next level.

Providing assistance

Characters can sometimes grant their field bonus to other people, in lieu of that person using their own field bonus. An herbalist can grant their field bonus to the injured; a speechwriter can grant their field bonus to someone making an oratory roll; a navigator can give their captain their navigation field bonus in place of the captain’s.

The character granting the bonus makes their roll first (usually an ability roll). If successful, the people they were assisting can use the field bonus of the assistant. If the assistant tries to provide a bonus to more than one person, the number of people is the obstacle size.

For example, an herbalist with a wisdom of 15 and a field bonus of +2 in Healing Craft treats the wounds of three people who have lost survival or gained injuries in a fight. The herbalist must make a wisdom roll of 16 or less: 15 for wisdom, +2 for their field bonus, -1 for the obstacle size. If the herbalist is successful, the three patients each gain +2 (the herbalist’s field bonus) to their health roll that night to regain survival and/or heal injuries.

Or, a politician who has the skill Oratory in the field Political Science, but who only has a field bonus of 1 in Political Science, might hire a speechwriter who has a +3 field bonus in Writing Craft. If the speechwriter makes their wisdom roll when writing the speech, the politician can use that +3 in place of their own +1 when making their oration roll.

A roll can only be assisted by one field bonus at a time.

If a failed attempt at assistance involves a weapon, damage results as normal for a failed contest. For example, a character under surgery risks injury if the surgeon fails their Medical Science roll.

  1. Survival
  2. Play the Game
  3. Conflicts