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Monday, September 21, 2020

Situations: The Basics

Technically, I’ve written before about replacing skill rolls with situation rolls, as well as when and how to use them. Even did a pamphlet explaining some details. But I never described the core mechanic this succinctly.

When a player wants to do something, there’s basically three possibilities:

  1. Player can’t succeed (no roll needed)
  2. Player could succeed, maybe (make a roll)
  3. Player should succeed (no roll needed)

If the character is trying something that either definitely needs special knowledge to even try, or that is flat out impossible normally, that’s Situation #1,

Almost anything else falls under Situations #2 or #3, based on whether the character is untrained or trained. If there’s a risk, it’s usually Situation #2.

High ability scores can upgrade Situation #1 to #2, or #2 to #3. So might some player suggestions. Low ability scores or unusual hazards might kick a #3 down to a #2. They might even kick a #2 down to a #1, if the player is also cursed.

The roll itself depends on personal preference, but it’s best if there’s as little futzy bits as possible. That’s why I prefer 5+ on 1d6. 9+ on 2d6 would also work. Anything that’s roughly a 1 in 3 chance is good. Another option is to key it to level, either using the attack roll or the saving throw. Roll under ability score would work, too, but this has the bad consequence of making ability scores too important.

Pick a simple roll and stick with it. Your job as GM is just to decide which situations are #1, which are #2, and which are #3, and what seems like a reasonable way to upgrade from one level to another.

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  1. This is basically how classic traveller works. Every roll is an 8+ on 2d6 with possible situational, skill, and attribute modifiers.

    1. Sounds like the opposite of what I'm talking about, but since I've never read/ran Traveller, only played it, I don't know. Does Traveller:

      1. Ditch modifiers to rolls,
      2. Skip most rolls, and
      3. Allow high ability or skill characters to skip rolls?