Choosing Difficulties

There are two possibilities for assigning difficulties to a specific action: a difficulty number or an opposed roll. Generally, the adventure specifies the difficulty and what skill is needed, but the Game Master may come across circumstances that were not foreseen. In such cases, use these guidelines to decide what to do.

Certain circumstances (typically involving a character attempting a task without a force actively opposing her, such as climbing a wall or piloting a boat) may call for a static difficulty number. In these cases, select a standard difficulty or use a special difficulty. Circumstances involving an actively opposing force call for an opposed difficulty.

Standard Difficulties

A standard difficulty is a number that the Game Master assigns to an action based on how challenging the Game Master thinks it is. Existing conditions can change the difficulty of an action. For instance, walking has an Automatic difficulty for most characters, but the Game Master may require someone who is just regaining the use of his legs to make a Very Difficult running roll to move even a few steps.

The numbers in parentheses indicate the range of difficulty numbers for that level.

Automatic (0): Almost anyone can perform this action; there is no need to roll. (Generally, this difficulty is not listed in a pre-generated adventure; it is included here for reference purposes.)

Very Easy (1–5): Nearly everyone can accomplish this task. Typically, only tasks with such a low difficulty that are crucial to the scenario are rolled.

Easy (6–10): Although characters usually have no difficulty with these tasks, an untrained character may find them challenging.

Moderate (11–15): There is a fair chance that the average character will fail at this type of task. Tasks of this type require skill, effort, and concentration.

Difficult (16–20): Those with little experience in the task must have a lot of luck to accomplish these actions.

Very Difficult (21–25): The average character only rarely succeeds at these kinds of task. Only the most talented regularly succeed.

Heroic (26–30), Legendary (31 or more): These kinds of tasks are nearly impossible, though there’s still that chance that lucky average or highly experienced characters can accomplish them.

Opposed Difficulties

An opposed difficulty (also called an opposed roll) applies when one character resists another character’s action. In this case, both character generate skill totals and compare them. The character with the higher value wins, and ties go to the initiator of the action.

In an opposed task, since both characters are actively doing something, both the initiator and the resisting character use up actions. This means that the resisting character can only participate in an opposed task either if he waited for the initiating character to make a move or if he was actively preparing for the attempt. Otherwise, the Game Master may allow a reaction roll of the appropriate skill as a free action in some circumstances, or he may derive a difficulty equal to 2 times the target’s appropriate opposing skill.

Special Difficulties

There are two special and optional difficulties: Wild Die Only and Derived.

Wild Die Only: The standard difficulty of an action may be so much lower than a character’s skill value that rolling and totaling dice would waste time. However, the Game Master may feel that the situation is such that a complication could greatly affect the outcome of the scene. In such cases, the game master may require the player to roll the Wild Die. A Critical Success result indicates that some special bit of good fortune occurred, while a Critical Failure indicates a minor complication. Any other result shows that the result is successful, though nothing special.

Derived: Any time one character does something to another character or animate creature or object, the base difficulty equals 2 times the target’s relevant opposing attribute or skill and add the pips. Game Masters may further modify derived values, as the situation warrants. Derived values do not get the unskilled modifier if they are determined from the governing attribute.

Example: Your character attempts to intimidate a thug. The Game Master could use the standard intimidation difficulty of 10 or she could derive one from the thug’s willpower skill, or, if he doesn’t have one, the governing attribute, Presence. If his Presence has a die code of 3D, then the base derived difficulty is 6.

Generic Modifiers

The modifiers offered in a skill’s list or a pre-generated adventure may not cover all the Game Master’s needs. When conditions arise for which there aren’t pre-established modifiers, use the chart herein to help at those times. Game Masters can add these modifiers to opposed, standard, or derived difficulty values.

Good Roleplaying Modifier

Game Masters should reward good roleplaying by lowering the difficulty a few points. The better the roleplaying — and the more entertaining the player makes the scenario — the higher the modifier the Game Master should include.

Unskilled Attempts

Remember that someone without training or experience might, with blind luck, do better than someone with experience — but generally only that one time. There is no guarantee of future success. When a character defaults to the attribute, figure in not only a difficulty modifier of +1, +5, or more, but also adjust the result accordingly: the result won’t happen as precisely or stylishly as someone with skill.

Preparing

A character willing to spend twice as much time to complete a task receives a +1D bonus for the die roll for every doubling of time, up to a maximum bonus of +3D. However, the character can do nothing else or be otherwise distracted (such as getting shot at) during this time.

Rushing

A character can also attempt to perform an action that normally requires two or more rounds (10 seconds or more) in less time. The difficulty increases depending on how much less time the character puts into the task: +5 for 25% less time, +10 for 50% less time, and +20 for 75% less time. A character may not perform any task in less than 75% of the normally needed time. Thus, to rush an hour-long surgery into 30 minutes, the difficulty increases by +10. Of course, not every task can be rushed. If in doubt, the Game Master should ask the player to justify how the character can speed up the task.

Generic Difficulty Modifiers

+16+ Overpowering disadvantage: Something affects the skill use in an almost crippling fashion (repairing a vehicle without any proper tools).

+11–15 Decisive disadvantage: The skill use is very limited by circumstance (trying to find someone in complete darkness).

+6–10 Significant disadvantage: The skill use is affected negatively (tracking someone through drizzling rain).

+1–5 Slight disadvantage: There is an annoying problem (picking a lock by flashlight).

-1–5 Slight advantage: A tool or modification that makes the skill use a little easier (really good athletic shoes for jumping).

-6–10 Significant advantage: A tool or modification that makes the skill use much easier (rope with knots is used for climbing).

-11–15 Decisive advantage: A tool specifically designed to make the job easier (complete language database used for languages).

-16+ Overpowering advantage: An exceptional tool or modification that specifically makes the skill use much easier (complete set of wilderness tools and equipment specially designed to help with survival).