Freedom Amongst The Countless Stars
At those times when there’s a chance that a character may fail at an action, that character must make a skill check. The player decides what she wants her character to do and which skill is best for accomplishing the task (sometimes with the help of the gamemaster). The gamemaster determines a suitable difficulty number, which the player must meet or beat by rolling the number of dice in the skill and adding the results.
Untrained Skill Use
If a character doesn’t have dice in the skill required to attempt an action, she generally may use the die code of the attribute under which that skill falls. This is sometimes referred to as defaulting to the attribute or using the skill untrained or unskilled. The gamemaster may include an unskilled modiﬁer to the diﬃculty. This modiﬁer takes into account that people who aren’t trained or don’t have experience in certain tasks usually have a harder time doing them. Typically, this modiﬁer is +5, but it could be as low as +1 for simple tasks or much higher for complex plans. The gamemaster may rule that some situations, such as building a spaceship or performing brain surgery, are impossible for anyone to attempt without the proper training and the correct skills.
A die code shows how good a character is in a particular area, how harmful a weapon is, how useful a Special Ability or tool is, and so on. Each die code (also known as a value) indicates the number of six-sided dice you roll (1D, 2D, 3D, 4D, 5D, etc.), and sometimes an added amount of “+1” or “+2” — referred to as pips — you add to the total result you roll on the dice.
An Advantage, Special Ability, or piece of equipment may provide a bonus to the roll. If the bonus is in the form of a die code (such as +1D), then you add the listed number of regular dice to the amount you would roll. If the bonus is in the form of a number (such as +2), then you add the amount to the total that you rolled on the dice.
Whenever any player, including the gamemaster, makes any roll, one of the dice must be different from the rest (in size or color). Designated as the Wild Die, this odd die represents the vagaries of life — like the direction of the wind aﬀecting the ﬂight of a bullet — that are too small to warrant their own difficulty modifiers.
If the player has only 1D to roll, then that one die is always the Wild Die.
If the player rolls a 6 on the Wild Die, this is called a Critical Success and she may add the 6 to her total and roll the Wild Die again. As long as she turns up Critical Successes on that die, she may continue to add them to her total and continue to roll. If she rolls anything other than a 6, she adds that number to the total and stops rolling.
If the player rolls a 1 on the initial toss of the Wild Die, this is called a Critical Failure, and the gamemaster may chose one of two options for the result, depending on the gravity of the situation.
- The Critical Failure cancels out the highest roll. Then the player adds the remaining values, and the roll is determined normally.
- Add the dice results normally, but a complication occurs. The gamemaster gauges the significance of the complication by the total generated — from a funny, “nearly didn’t do it” result for a high total to a serious, “we have a problem” obstacle for a low total.
When using the second option, make certain the complication chosen relates to the task attempted. It should serve as an extra, minor obstacle the characters must now deal with or, more often, as a place to insert a bit of comic relief. Only on rare occasions (such as numerous poor decisions by the players) should a complication be without solutions or even deadly. The complications can also serve as opportunities to bring nearly invincible characters down to a more reasonable level.
Note: Unlike rolling a Critical Failure initially on the Wild Die, no complications occur when a 1 shows up on later tosses of the Wild Die in the same roll.
Improving a Roll
The average person fails at average activities nearly half of the time. Characters aren’t average people, so they need ways to beat those odds. Thus, they have Character and Fate Points, which represent those surges of adrenaline, sudden insights, and other unexplained helpful acts of chance.
Players may not trade Character Points for Fate Points, nor may they trade Fate Points for Character Points. A player may only spend her Character and Fate Points on her character’s rolls. She may not spend more Character or Fate Points than the character has listed on her sheet. Except when allowed by the gamemaster for exceptionally cinematic situations, players may not use Character Points and Fate Points on the same roll.
Whenever a player makes any roll (attribute, skill, damage, Special Ability, and so on), he has the option to spend Character Points to increase the total rolled. He may spend one Character Point for each extra Wild Die he wishes to roll.
A player may choose to spend Character Points before or after he makes a roll — or both — but always before the gamemaster determines the result. The gamemaster need not tell the player whether he should spend more points to improve a roll.
Extra Wild Dice gained from spending Character Points each work like a normal Wild Die except that a Critical Failure counts as a 1; it does not adversely aﬀect the roll. Because of the special nature of Character Point Wild Dice, the player may wish to roll these dice separately from his normal Wild Die.
Once used, the character loses the point. Players get Character Points for their characters by overcoming obstacles, roleplaying well, and having fun. They can also use Character Points to improve skills.
Each players’ character has a personal moral code, generally involving a sense of honor and justice. The devotion to this code is represented by Fate Points. Violating that code takes a little bit away from that nature, which is represented by a loss of Fate Points.
When a player feels she needs even greater help for her roll, she may spend a Fate Point to double the number of dice she normally gets for that roll. However, the player only rolls one Wild Die. Furthermore, anything that’s not part of the character — weapon damage die codes, equipment bonuses, and so on — is not doubled. A player may use only one Fate Point per roll per round.
Players may only spend Fate Points before making a roll. Furthermore, double the initial number before applying any die code penalties and bonuses. Once used, the character loses the Fate Point — but he may earn it back at the end of the game if it was used for a deed that supported his moral code. However, if the character used a Fate Point to go against his moral code, the gamemaster may decide that it costs an additional Fate Point.
In some situations, two or more skills may suit the task at hand. The gamemaster can declare that only one is suitable for the current circumstances. Or he can choose the primary one and decide which other skills are appropriate secondary, or related, skills that the character can use to improve his chances with the primary skill. The gamemaster sets difficulties for each skill. The character ﬁrst performs the related skills, and then he attempts the primary one. To determine the related skill’s modifier to the primary skill, the gamemaster subtracts the difficulty from the total rolled with the related skill; this determines the number of result points from the roll.
Then he divides that number by 2, rounding up, to get the modifier to the total rolled with the primary skill. The minimum related skill modifier is 1. If the skill total was less than the difficulty, the modifier is subtracted from the primary skill total. If the skill total was equal to or greater than the diﬃculty, the modiﬁer is added to the primary skill total.
The character may perform the related skills and the primary skill successively, but the related skill modifier is only good for the one initially intended attempt and the character must make that attempt within a short time of using the other skills. Should the character decide to perform the primary skill and the related skill at the same time, he takes the multi-action penalty.
Example: Your character has to carefully place some charges on a wall. You decide that the character ﬁrst examines the wall for weaknesses (using the search skill). Once examination has been completed and the search roll has been made, your gamemaster lets you know that you beat the diﬃculty by four points. This gives you a result point bonus of +2. You apply the modiﬁer to your demolitions roll only, which must take place immediately after your character’s examination of the wall.
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.
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 25% 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 gamemaster should ask the player to justify how the character can speed up the task.
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.
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.
If the total rolled on the dice is greater than the diﬃculty, the attempt was a success. Ties generally go to the initiator of the action, but certain circumstances dictate otherwise (such as the use of some Special Abilities or determining the amount of damage done). The description of the ability, challenge, or activity explains the results.
Result points refer to the difference between the skill roll and the diﬃculty. The gamemaster can use the result points to decide how well the character completed the task. The gamemaster may allow a player to add one-half of the result points (rounded up) as a bonus to another skill roll or eﬀect. One-ﬁfth of the result points from an attack roll can be included as bonus to damage. (Round fractions up.)
As characters tackle obstacles, they’ll find ones that they can’t overcome initially. Gamemasters must rely on their judgment to decide whether and when a character may try an action again. For some actions, such as ﬁrearms or running, the character may try the action again the next turn, even if she failed. For other actions, such as repair (any kind) or con, failing the roll should have serious consequences, depending on how bad the failure was. A small diﬀerence between the diﬃculty number and the success total means the character may try again next round at a higher diﬃculty. A large diﬀerence means that the character has made the situation signiﬁcantly worse. She will need to spend more time thinking through the problem or ﬁnd someone
or something to assist her in her endeavor. A large diﬀerence plus a Critical Failure could mean that the character has created a disaster. She can’t try that speciﬁc task for a long time — perhaps ever. This is especially true with locks and computer programs.