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 gamemaster 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 gamemaster assigns to an action based on how challenging the gamemaster thinks it is. Existing conditions can change the difficulty of an action. For instance, walking has an Automatic difficulty for most characters, but the gamemaster 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 pregenerated adventure; it is included here for reference purposes.)

Very Easy (1–5): Nearly everyone can accomplish this task. Typically, tasks with such a low difficulty only are rolled when they are crucial to the scenario.
Easy (6–10): Although characters usually have no difficulty with this task, an untrained character may find it 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 this type of action.

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 a slim chance that lucky average or highly experienced characters can accomplish them.

Generic Standard Difficulties

Level Number
Automatic 0
Very Easy 1–5
Easy 6–10
Moderate 11–15
Difficult 16–20
Very Difficult 21–25
Heroic 26–30
Legendary 31 or more

Opposed Difficulties

An opposed difficulty (also called an opposed roll) applies when one character resists another character’s action. In this case, both characters 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 gamemaster may allow a reaction roll of the appropriate skill as a free action in some circumstances, or he may derive a difficulty (see the derived entry under “Special Difficulties” for an example).

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 totalling dice would waste time. However, the gamemaster 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. Gamemasters 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 street urchin. The gamemaster could use the standard intimidation difficulty of 10 or she could derive one from the urchin’s mettle skill, or, if he doesn’t have one, the governing attribute, Charisma. If his Charisma 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 pregenerated adventure may not cover all the gamemaster’s needs. When conditions arise for which there aren’t pre-established modifiers, use the chart herein to help at those times. Gamemasters can add these modifiers to opposed, standard, or derived difficulty values.

Generic Difficulty Modifiers

Modifier Situational Example
+16 or more Overwhelming disadvantage: Something affects the skill use in an almost crippling fashion (repairing armor 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 candlelight).
-1–5 Slight advantage: A tool or modification that makes the skill use a little easier (a springy surface 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 (a well-stocked set of herbs and bandages for healing).
-16 or more Overwhelming 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).

Good Roleplaying Modifier

Gamemasters 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 gamemaster 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.

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