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Using skills without rolling dice

 
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AFDia
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:48 pm    Post subject: Using skills without rolling dice Reply with quote

What do you think about creating an equivalent to the "take 10" rule of DnD or the "take the average" rule of Hollow Earth Expedition?

My first quick thought was a very simple rule like:
"You can take die-type/2 as a result instead of rolling the dice if the GM allows it and if it's not a stressful situation (so you can't use the rule on opposed rolls etc). Wild Cards add +1 to the result (to represent the Wild Die)"

Of course you can choose to roll if you want or need a higher result for a raise (but then you can also fail the roll)
Such a rule would avoid rolling too much dice (because easy tasks can be done from skilled guys without rolling dice) and it would consider the actual skill level.

In short a Wild Card will succeed usual tasks (TN 4) with a d6 skill and Extras will succeed usual tasks with a d8 skill.

Do you think it is FFF or don't we need such a rule?
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Theophage
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess I'd like to hear some examples of use.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Typically these rules are used to resolve routine situations without making a role. Something many GM's do with storytelling, hand waving, or a quick ruling. I don't remember when the take 10 or auto success mechanic first cropped up or in which system. Take 10 & 20's are well known because of D&D.

As an example; say I'm in a SW Pirates game and I need to bring my ship into Harbor and anchor her. If I have a very experienced and skilled crew (average Boating of dCool I could just say half of 8 is 4 which is a success. Drop anchor and ready a shore party aarrgghh! This would not be suitable for a situation with any negatives to the roll, like damage to the ship, bad weather, or night sailing.

I'm of the opinion that this type of rule is the result of game systems that try to have a rule for every possible situation. This encourages the thought that every significant action needs to have a die role. So people looked for a mechanic to handle situations that should automatically succeed. The other extreme of the is when you want a small chance for failure a player can "take 10" and negate it.

I have told a player that they just succeed in a situation because "It would not benefit the story to have a failure here" only to have the player insist on rolling to "see how well he succeeds". After failing the roll I felt compelled to 'honor the dice' by working in the effects of a failure where I didn't anticipate or want one. It was a loose loose situation.

This is why some groups prefer systems like SWEX that don't try to account for everything. It also explains the longing grognards have for the good old days where you said what you wanted to do and the GM told you if you needed to roll some thing.
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Tuesday
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use a similar, but simpler rule:

If there's no stress or penalty for failure, and it's part of your schtick, you succeed.

Put another way, I never make people roll unless failure would be *at least* as interesting as success.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuesday wrote:
I use a similar, but simpler rule:

If there's no stress or penalty for failure, and it's part of your schtick, you succeed.

Put another way, I never make people roll unless failure would be *at least* as interesting as success.


Seconded.
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AFDia
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuesday wrote:
I use a similar, but simpler rule:

If there's no stress or penalty for failure, and it's part of your schtick, you succeed.

Put another way, I never make people roll unless failure would be *at least* as interesting as success.


This is how I handle it now.

The reason to change this very easy way to handle such situations is that I think the skill die should play a role.
Therefore I would change this rule a bit to:
Quote:
If there's no stress or penalty for failure, and you have the appropriate skill-level, you succeed.


Some examples:
A hero with d6 boating can command small ships (+0 handling) without a chance to make significant things wrong, a hero with d8 boating can also handle ships with -1 handling and so on. The same goes for driving and piloting.
As long as you doesn't succeed automatically, you have a chance to make minor mistakes which could lead to problematic situations.
Of course you can also handle this by saying "If it's not funny, I don't let them roll", but then it doesn't matter if the captain doesn't have boating at all or if he is a master captain with d12 boating, and you have to make a decision anyway, which vehicles can be handled without problems with a certain driving skill.

Another example could be Notice:
Who doesn't think that rolling notice (TN 4) in a 5 player party is senseless? In 99% of the time anyone of them will succeed and he will tell the other players what he has seen.
If you drop rolling notice at all in such situations, the players could stop taking the notice skill, because they doesn't have to roll it anyway.

A last example where the rule doesn't catch is Stealth:
Because failure can lead to many problems and it's alway stressful, the player must roll and can't take the average.
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Jordan Peacock
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AFDia wrote:
Therefore I would change this rule a bit to:
Quote:
If there's no stress or penalty for failure, and you have the appropriate skill-level, you succeed.


Although I haven't formalized it as a house rule, I think that's roughly how I've been dealing with it now.

Still, "when not to roll the dice" is an area that I have LONG had trouble with, in any RPG system I've run. I'm pretty sure I err on the side of asking my players to roll dice too often - particularly for Notice and other information-gathering checks.

On the one hand, I want to speed things along, and not subject the "plot" (such as it is) unnecessarily to the whims of fate. Most of the time, our games are not so boring and my PCs are not so powerful that the game needs a botch here and there just to jazz things up. The group's pilot has d6 Piloting and the Ace ability, and it's clear weather, so - sure, he lands the plane, and we move along with the plot. Later on, he has d8 Piloting and, yeah, sure, it's stormy, and there are a few bullet holes in the tail, but I really don't need this landing to be a benny-sink, so I'll just narrate a bit about the storm and a brief moment of terror for the passengers ... but they make it, free to explore the abandoned airfield. Etc.

However, it's hard to be certain just how much hand-waving I can get away with. I want to make sure the players feel that they've spent their points wisely. I don't want a situation where one guy figures how he can "game" the system by buying every non-combat skill at d4 ("I have Piloting!"), and the GM'll give him just as much leverage in the situation as the guy who specialized at d12. And even though it may be to some degree illusory, the dice feel like an impartial arbitrator, and there's a noticeable difference between rolling a d4-2 vs. a d12.

The online campaign I've been running has led me to try some other approaches. Basically, I've got all the players' character sheets in front of me on a second monitor (files updated electronically in between sessions), so I can click a tab and see what a given player's Notice is.

If there are complicating factors, I probably ought to roll. E.g., the party's Mr. Sleuth being specifically distracted by something else at the moment, so there might genuinely be a reason for Mr. Brick [no Notice skill, but not currently occupied, and actively looking around] to pick up on it instead. But, all things more-or-less equal (and the plot really demands that the players get some sort of clue right now, or this is going to be an unfair adventure), I might as well just give it to whomever in the group has the highest Notice.

How I can differentiate things, however, is to figure out ... okay, Mr. Sleuth has d8 Notice, AND Alertness, and he's also got, eh, d4 Tracking (which he picked up because it seemed like the closest thing on the list to forensics, and he had a skill point left to spend). I could play things up by narrating it such that not only does he find this clue, but he finds it in such a way that's particular to his character. That is, suggest that he's found it through noticing something obscure, Sherlock Holmes-style.

It could well be that if there were some way to quantify how much information I gave the PCs, and someone did a statistical analysis, I'm only giving the PCs about as much information as I would have if the group's "lookout" only had d4 Notice. If that's the case, it's not a fact I'd want to advertise. (After all, who else but the GM is going to know, anyway, what COULD have been in some alternate gaming universe?) But at least I can dress it up a bit, and give a sort of verbal thumbs-up to the PC who actually bothered to invest above-and-beyond in the requisite skill. (All right! You rock!)

Anyway, it's something I still work on, and I listen very carefully to the grumbling of players (to each other, but, hey, I'm still in the "room") after the session wraps. Wink
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jamused
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think CORPS is the first game I saw where there was an explicit auto-success mechanic where not just any character attempting it would auto-succeed. In CORPS, you had a stat+die roll vs. difficulty, so if your stat was >= the difficulty, you succeeded...even if the test was in combat (e.g. the difficulty was the opponent's dodge or whatever). I liked that so much I swiped it for my home-brew, though now I play SW almost exclusively.
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John Q. Mayhem
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

AFDia wrote:

Another example could be Notice:
Who doesn't think that rolling notice (TN 4) in a 5 player party is senseless? In 99% of the time anyone of them will succeed and he will tell the other players what he has seen.
If you drop rolling notice at all in such situations, the players could stop taking the notice skill, because they doesn't have to roll it anyway.


The way I handle this is by saying, "hands up for a Notice check!" and having the first player to raise their hand make the check. I also do this for other checks, like Boating, and for any checks a friendly NPC (like and NPC pilot) might be making. Sometimes, to mix it up, I'll have it be hands up to be the one the enemies aim their big gun at Wink

Everyone pretty much enjoys it.
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Lord Lance
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

x John Q. Mayhem: nice the "Hands up!" feature! Mr. Green

x Jordan Peacock: however, rolling notice it's useful 'cause you, the Master, can give some advantage if the roll is higher. Example: highest roll is 12: group spotted enemy while real far away, so they can hide. Highest roll is 8: combat starts at very far distance, so at least a couple of turns of bows rolls. Highest roll is 4: combat starts at quite near distance, so at maximum 1 bow roll, and then melee.

This are my 2 cents about the roll questions:
1st: players like to roll. They feel they have "control" upon the game: I think if you simply "tell" the story, sometime they start to think "you, Master, play on your own".
2nd: fumbles are funny to describe and play, and they bring some unespected (even for the Master) directions to the story. So I often take the "1" in the skill as fumble, eventually a minor one, but with game impact. So, you wanna roll every time, night and day? Beware, if you come with a "1", you can expose the whole group to penalties...

3rd: often in my games I use a feature called "Privilege of the Class". So, when there's a Notice Roll coming up, to spot some enemy hidden in the wood, or a strange tree conformation, I ask only the "Scout" character, and eventually the "Druid" character in the group to make a roll, 'cause they are the only ones capable to discern the details in the wilderness surrounding.
Same thing, reversed: if a low class citizen is lying to the group, I only ask the notice roll at the "Noble" and the "Thief" character to make the roll: they have advantages to discern the details in the human behaviors, 'cause the live a lot of time in contact of other people.

After giving the Privilegiated Classes the chances to shine in the story (eventually rerolling with bennies if they fail and they don't want to take this shame), sometime I offer to the other classes a roll, to give the party a "second wind".

It's like a "Common Knowledge", applied to all the skills, and it's a very nice feature, 'cause the players see their PGs shining when is "natural" and "best fitted" that they should shine. It's like in the movies, when you see the scout spotting the enemies, the warrior running first in melee, and the mage catching the solution of the riddle...
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UmbraLux
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
Still, "when not to roll the dice" is an area that I have LONG had trouble with, in any RPG system I've run. I'm pretty sure I err on the side of asking my players to roll dice too often - particularly for Notice and other information-gathering checks.
I may fall on the other side of that - potentially too few rolls. I try to follow the "only roll when failure is interesting" rule. That means I don't bother with rolls they would simply repeat until a success unless another factor (such as a time constraint) makes it interesting.

Perception rolls, as you point out, fall into a category of their own. Failure (not observing something) isn't interesting unless the 'unobserved' will bring the PCs' attention to it on its own. In other words, ambushes and traps* may be worth rolling for but spotting a clue or door usually is not.

*I don't consider all traps worth rolling for. It's usually more interesting to let them work out a way of bypassing an obvious trap than to simply zap them for some arbitrary damage. I prefer traps to be interactive in some way, not simply pass / fail checks.
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Lord Skudley
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lord Lance wrote:
x John Q. Mayhem: nice the "Hands up!" feature! Mr. Green

I have to agree, I'm gonna start using that...


Lord Lance wrote:
After giving the Privilegiated Classes the chances to shine in the story (eventually rerolling with bennies if they fail and they don't want to take this shame), sometime I offer to the other classes a roll, to give the party a "second wind".

It's like a "Common Knowledge", applied to all the skills, and it's a very nice feature, 'cause the players see their PGs shining when is "natural" and "best fitted" that they should shine. It's like in the movies, when you see the scout spotting the enemies, the warrior running first in melee, and the mage catching the solution of the riddle...

Mind if I steal that Idea too? I've done something like that once in a while, but never really thought about it.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lord Lance wrote:
x Jordan Peacock: however, rolling notice it's useful 'cause you, the Master, can give some advantage if the roll is higher. Example: highest roll is 12...


I would like to clarify that I had matters such as "clues" - that is, "bits of information to drive the plot along" - in mind, not Notice vs. Stealth to avoid an ambush.

Generally speaking, in life-or-death situations, combat, or other cases of competition, the dice are still essential. I was more referring to situations (largely non-combat, non-controversial, without time pressure or clear-cut reward for "over-achievers") where I think I may be over-relying on the dice as decision-makers.


UmbraLux wrote:
*I don't consider all traps worth rolling for. It's usually more interesting to let them work out a way of bypassing an obvious trap than to simply zap them for some arbitrary damage. I prefer traps to be interactive in some way, not simply pass / fail checks.


Amen on that! I feel that traps should make things more interesting. I'm no fan of the "sadistic Dungeon Master" approach (Grimtooth's Traps, et al.).
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Lord Lance
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jordan Peacock wrote:
I would like to clarify that I had matters such as "clues" - that is, "bits of information to drive the plot along" - in mind, not Notice vs. Stealth to avoid an ambush.


I use a similar idea with clues. Example: suppose the PCs HAVE to find a note with the name of the murder, in a book.
The all fail the notice / investigation roll.
How do you handle?
I dinamically modify the adventure, giving them another chance: there is a "BUT"... everytime I do this, the story gain a "DANGER LEVEL".
So now the note with the murder name is in a pouch of a hired gun sent to kill one of them!
The survive, but they fail / they forgot to search the body...
So here a new "DANGER LEVEL": the murder now know the PCs are on his trails, so he organize a full ambush...
And so on.


x Lord Skudley: You are welcome! I love to share ideas with other Masters!
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Lord Inar
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that often gets mentioned about skills is that for certain situations, failure doesn't always mean failure, it might just mean it takes longer.
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