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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Improved Situations

The Set-Up:
Long-time readers will remember that I settled on a universal mechanic to resolve situations: roll 1d6, and if the result is 5+, the situation changes, for good or ill.
  • Surprised on 5+
  • Drop item on 5+
  • Slip over edge of pit on 5+
Also, instead of rolling ability checks (1d20 or 3d6 under Str, Int, etc.,) I let PCs with high ability scores skip a situation roll where relevant, or allow a roll when normally failure is automatic.

The Problem:
I also don’t use skill lists. I use backgrounds. If a character used to be a chef before becoming an adventurer and is served poison stew, they get a chance to notice the stew smells funny, like no stew they would have made. And backgrounds are rated in years of experience. PCs can use whichever is higher: an ability score, or years of experience in a relevant background.
I want to integrate these two things better, and also allow some distinctions for things like “untrained” vs. “just started training (0 years experience)”.

The Solution:
A table, of course.

Odds Success Roll
Extreme automatic
High 3+ on 1d6
Med 5+ on 1d6
Low 6 on 1d6
Impossible auto failure

You don’t record dice rolls for most situations, since players will always come up with ones you don’t expect. They will either be auto success (something anyone can do, typically, like open an ordinary unlocked door) or auto failure (non-spell caster trying to improvise a spell.) Other times, you record that something has High, Medium, or Low odds of success. The table gives the appropriate dice roll.

If something would improve those odds, look up the base roll on the table and shift up one line. So, if a fighter starts training in magic (using the research rules ,) the odds of successfully casting a known spell from a scroll shift up from Impossible to 6 on 1d6.

If something would lower those odds – PCs deliberately spilling a barrel of oil on a ledge to foil pursuit – the base roll shifts down one line: auto success (Extremely High odds) becomes 3+ on 1d6. This can include doing something anyone with training could normally do, but under extremely difficult conditions, or with improvised, substandard tools.

The ability score table also uses similar ratings for different ranges: less than 8 is Low, 9 to 12 is Normal, 13+ is High, and so on. (See the mechanics neutral table for an example of this.) Having the same rating or better as the listed odds shifts them up one level. So, if the odds of crossing a rickety bridge successfully are normally High (3+ on 1d6,) a character with High Dex of 13 would succeed automatically.

An Extremely High ability score shifts the odds up two lines. An Extremely Low ability score shifts the odds down one line. For the sake of fairness, only shift auto success down if there are also bad circumstances. Don’t make Str 3 characters roll to open ordinary doors. This will also help those still in training for a skill or profession: someone who just started training in lockpicking (less than a year of experience) can pick ordinary locks without a roll, same as any locksmith, unless the lock is extremely old (dungeon lock) or complicated. Even then, they can use Dex or Int if either is higher than 0 to determine if the roll shifts up or down.

I’ll probably be tweaking this process and the wording some more over the next several months, but this is something I’m considering for the upcoming talents and abilities PDF.

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