Any action a character wishes to perform costs them some effort and (usually) carries a chance of failure. The effort a character spends doing the task is represented by spending points from their Fatigue Pools, and the chance of failure is represented by rolling a die against some target number.
When making Difficulty Checks, players roll a different set of dice depending on how stressful, risky, and unusual the situation is.
- When the character is on familiar ground and performing a task that has become routine, roll 5d4.
- When the character has some experience with a task and plenty of time to work, roll 2d10.
- When the character is trying something new or under moderate pressure, roll 1d20.
- When the chracter is way out of his/her element or under extreme stress, roll an *open* d20.
Open d20: On a roll of 2 through 19, simply count the roll as normal. On a roll of 1, record the 1, roll a closed d20, and subtract the result. On a roll of 20, record the 20, roll a closed d20, and add the result. For example, if Susan rolls a 1, 20 she would get 1 - 20 = -19, which is the worst possible result. If Susan rolls a 20, 17 she would get 20 + 17 = +37, which is one of the best possible results.
Open d20 rolls give even a skilled person a chance at wiffing badly and even a bumbling amateur a chance at a lucky hit.
The basic mechanic for resolving Difficulty Checks is for all players involved to roll the appropriate dice, add the total level of their directly relevant Skills, subtract the appropriate fatigue penalties, and then compare totals. Higher totals are better and will usually result in some kind of victory. When a character is struggling against nature or inanimate objects, the GM will indicate what total the character is trying to beat.
Attempting to make any Difficulty Check first requires spending some nominal amount of effort, referred to as N in this section. For example, attacking with a medium weight sword has a N of 3 Wind. Dodging that same attack has an N of 5 Wind.
The most common difficulty checks will have standard Ns that can be looked up on a table. Other Ns can be calculated by considering the duration, intensity, and kind of effort required to perform the action. Longer durations will tend to suggest longer-term effort pools; e.g., driving a car for 5 minutes requires Wit; driving a car for 5 hours requires Focus; driving a car for 5 days requires Sanity. Higher intensities will tend to suggest larger Ns; e.g., swinging a medium-weight sword only takes 5 Wind, but swinging a two-handed bastard sword might take 12 Wind. Some particularly challenging difficulty checks might draw on multiple effort pools. Playing championship tennis, e.g., requires both Wit and Wind; serving a ball at speed might have an N of 4 Wind and 2 Wit.
Attackers and Defenders
Difficulty checks typically feature an "attacker" (the active player who chooses to initiate the check) and one or more "defenders" (the other players, who must rise to the attacker's challenge or suffer negative consequences). When it is unclear who should play the role of the defender, the defender will generally be whoever scores the lowest on the difficutly check. When a lone character is struggling against nature, that character will always take the role of the defender.
Consequences for Defenders
If a defender wins the difficulty check, by scoring a total that is at least as high as the attacker's total, then the defender suffers no further consequences...the only loss to the defender is the nominal effort N that has already been spent.
If a defender loses the difficulty check by even one point, then the defender will suffer additional penalties. The penalties get worse (and are named) for every full set of 10 points that the defender fails the roll by. For example, the 'zeroth' penalty applies when you lose a roll by less than 10 points. The 'zeroth' penalty is always 2N effort. Thus, if Jack is dodging a medium-weight sword (N = 5) and fails by 4 points, Jack would have to spend N + 2N = 15 Wind.
The first penalty applies when you lose a roll by somewhere between 10 and 19 points. This penalty is sometimes called a "flailing defense," because it suggests that you have to make a desperate effort to get out of the way, straining muscles and losing initiative. The exact penalty varies depending on context; dodging a medium-weight sword with a flailing defense might cost 8N Wind + 2N Stamina = 40 Wind + 10 Stamina. Making a flailing defense against someone who's shooting at you with a gun might cost 40 Wind and 10 Stamina and -still- result in you taking a small flesh wound, e.g., a loss of 10 Health.
The second penalty applies when you lose a roll by somewhere between 20 and 29 points; the third penalty applies when you lose by 30 to 39 points, and the fourth penalty applies when you lose by 40 points or more. These penalties are very, very bad. If they involve equipment, you should not count on being able to use that equipment ever again. If they involve a deadly weapon, you will take Health damage based on that weapon's Low (2nd penalty), Medium (3rd penalty), or High (4th penalty) damage ratings. Any of these penalties could lead to serious Wounds; High-level damage from a deadly weapon is likely to kill you.
The chart below shows how losses by defenders translate into consequences for those defenders:
|1||Successful Defense||0||Spend N|
|0||Ordinary Defense||10||Spend N + (2N)|
|-1||Flailing Defense||20||Spend N + (2N) + First Penalty|
|-2||Bad Defense||30||Spend N + (2N) + Second Penalty|
|-3||Terrible Defense||40||Spend N + (2N) + Third Penalty|
|-4||Catastrophic Failure to Defend||-||Spend N + (2N) + Fourth Penalty|
Suckage Points and Thresholds
Suckage points are optional demerits that your character can take to boost a failed roll upward by a couple of points. In combat, you might pay for suckage points by falling to one knee, dropping your weapon, damaging your armor, dislocating your shoulder, etc. In everyday life, you might pay for suckage points by spending double the retail price, taking twice as long to finish a task, churning out an ugly-ass piece of electronics that still manages to perform its intended function, etc.
Because consequences get significantly worse as you cross over each 10-point threshold, it usually makes sense to spend suckage points if you are within a couple of points of the next threshold up. For example, if the attacker beat you by 21, you would ordinarily suffer the Second Penalty, which would involve Health damage. Fortunately, you can get back up to the First Penalty by spending 2 suckage points, improving your failure from -21 to -19, which is on the happy side of the -20 threshold. It usually *doesn't* make sense to take suckage points to try to cross large amounts of failure space. For example, if the attacker beat you by 19, you would ordinarily make a flailing defense, which is annoying, but won't kill you. You could try spending 9 suckage points to get back up to -10...but then you'd have dented armor, no weapon, a prone position, and warts on your face. All things considered, just losing 45 Wind would probably serve you better.
What exactly the consequences are depend on the task you are attempting.
First: 8N Wind 2N Stamina. At GM's option can substitute getting knocked prone, disarmed, etc for some of fatigue
Second: First Consequence + First Hit
Third: First Consequence + Second Hit
Fourth: Third Hit
Example weapon entry
Guns have 4 types of hits, each consequence is just that degree of hit.
Example Weapon Entry
For many cases you can realize you are failing at something and call off your effort. In this case you reduce the consequence by one or two levels. However if you set out with an intense effort, you may not be able to back out in time to avoid consequences.
For example if you are trying to build/repair something
First Consequence: May not always imply actually failing the task. You might for example burn yourself, but still finish, or you might break an important piece, or get yourself really fed up (loss of wit/focus), not realize you are not getting anywhere and spend a lot of time on it
Second Consequence: Make a total hash out of your parts, break important tools, injure yourself noticably
Third Consequence: Your device might blow up, short out power to the area you are working, or severely injure yourself
Fourth Consequence: Burn down the area you are working, crippling injury (cut hand off in a saw or the like)
The results of the failure will be determined by what you are attempting. If you are building something a minor failure might be breaking some important parts, a moderate failure be making a hash of all the peices and maybe shocking yourself as well, and a catastrophic failure be burning the building down. If you are being attacked, the attacker's weapon will say how much damage you take. For example, for the broadsword, this damage is:
Characters can take different attitudes towards a task: Relaxed, Ordinary, or Intense. The rules above assume an ordinary effort; choosing to take a relaxed or intense attitude towards the task affects your effort spend and imposes a bonus or penalty on the check. Taking a relaxed attitude halves the value of N, to a minimum of 1, but gives your character -10 on the check, or a -20 in life or death situations like combat where missing something can be *really* bad. Adopting an intense attitude costs an up-front additional payment of 3N effort. E.g., if you take an intense attitude toward swinging a standard sword, it will cost you N + 3N = 20 Wind up front. An intense effort has no immediate effect on your penalty effort spend, but it does make you less likely to be able to break off an unsuccessful attempt half-way through. An intense attitude gives your character a +5 to the difficulty check.
As you get tireder it becomes more difficult to avoid slipping up and having bad things happen. This is modeled by having the size of the thresholds shrink with your fatigue penalty. The relevant fatigue penalty is determined by what the nominal effort spend is from: mental for wit, physical for wind. For a character suffering a fatigue penalty the thresholds are not 10 apart but instead (10 - fatigue penalty, minimum T). By default, T = 3. If you have negative Stamina or negative Focus, T is reduced to 2. If you have negative Health or negative Sanity, T is reduced to 1.
So, for example if your wind is completely empty, giving you a fatigue penalty of 4, the thresholds would change to 0/6/12/18/24, making more serious failures much more likely. In fact as you can probably see, for evenly matched, well rested opponents, the more serious consequences will never come into play, they only enter when you get tired enough that your edge slips.
It is also possible for the attacker to suffer a consequence. Attacks will have a fumble threshold which is usually fairly minimal. If the attacker fails to beat the fumble threshold, they suffer a first consequence, each threshold by which they miss the fumble threshold upgrades the consequence. In general, when an attacker misses a fumble threshold, no meaningful attack is made, the defender either automatically gets a good defense, or may not have to spend any effort at all.
Every action has a fumble threshold, if it is not specified, the threshold is probably 0 or lower (indicating that even an unskilled person has no chance of fumbling unless they are tired or otherwise impaired).
|4||Throwing a punch, attacking with a simple, low recoil weapon|
|8||Attacking with a sword, shooting a typical firearm|
|12||Attacking with a greatsword or polearm, shooting a high recoil pistol|
|16||Attacking with a flail, shooting a rocket launcher|
Fumble thresholds are increased by your fatigue penalties, Mental+physical for physical tasks, 2*Mental for mental tasks. Yes I am aware this is a double jeopardy situation since skill rolls already take penalties from fatigue, when you get tired mistakes become much more likely.
In certain situations it can be useful to have another person help with a skill check or it can be useful to apply more than one of your skills to a check. In this case the second person rolls an aid check. The aid target is the higher of 30 and the check you are aiding. The aid bonus is determined by what percentage of the target the aid check hits. For every ten percent of the target in excess of 20% the aid gives +1, so +1 for 30%, +8 for 100%.
Mathematically the aid bonus is of the form form bonus=f(aid result/max(main result, 30)). A generic bonus to be used on all aid checks until we come up with something betters is f(x)= min(8, floor(10(x-.2)))
Things to consider
We could allow people to make social attacks, say with manipulate or intimidate, the nominal defense effort and damage would be determined by how much leverage you have on the person (and how much you can bring to bear given the social situation you are in), and the damage would be to wit, focus and sanity
It might be cool to have the thresholds specify suckage points instead of penalty effort, with the penalty effort being the default, but some fraction of it could be traded in for other suckage as the situation indicates.