When a character uses a skill, he makes a “skill check.” Most of the time, the process of determining success or failure is straightforward (see below); other times, additional rules are required. This section covers the basic rules for all types of skill checks.
Most of the time, when a character simply tries to accomplish a set task, he makes a “standard skill check” against a difficulty number set by the Game Control. This number is referred to as a Difficulty Class (DC), and it generally falls between 10 and 60. The player rolls 1d20 and adds his character’s skill bonus to obtain a skill check result. If the result equals or exceeds the task’s DC, the character succeeds; otherwise, he fails. Some skill checks do not have DCs; instead, the result determines an effect as noted in the check’s description.
|Table: Result Caps|
|Ranks in Skill||Result Cap|
At any time, a character’s skill rank determines the maximum result he may achieve with the skill, otherwise known as his “result cap,” as shown on Table: Result Caps. This is a hard limit that may not be exceeded with any character option, modifier, or other rule, except as follows. The result cap is lifted with a threat (see page 96).
- When a character spends one or more action dice to boost a result that begins above the standard result cap, the combined action die result is added to the result cap to determine the check result.
- If the character scores a total result of 75 or higher, no matter what his skill rank is, he scores a “Triumph” (see page 97).
Example 1: Kevin has an Analysis skill rank of 8. He rolls a 19 and has +14 in miscellaneous modifiers — including his attribute, insight, synergy, gear, and other bonuses — so his check result adds up to 41. His result cap is 40, however, so his final result is reduced to 40.
Example 2: Following Example 1, Kevin spends a number of action dice, adding the total action die result to 40, not 41. If Kevin’s total result breaks 75, he achieves a skill Triumph.
Result caps are occasionally modified by character options and other rules. If a character’s result cap with any check ever drops below 5, he may not use the check under the scripted circumstances until it once again rises to 5 or higher.
Each skill check is defined in its description as either “active,” “secret,” or “passive.” Active skill checks represent the character intentionally doing something that quickly reveals failure (e.g. trying to leap over a wide crevasse), while secret skill checks represent him deliberately doing something with which failure isn’t immediately evident (e.g. attempting to influence someone), and passive skill checks represent him doing something subconsciously (e.g. noticing someone sneaking up on him).
When a character makes an active skill check, the player rolls the die to determine success, and the result is therefore obvious to him. He may gain a synergy bonus and spend action dice to boost the result (see page 96 for information about synergy bonuses). Further, an active skill check always requires a set amount of time to complete, as noted in the skill description. Finally, the character may have the option to “take 10” or “take 20” with an active skill check, as defined in the skill description (see page 102).
When a character makes a secret skill check, the GC rolls the die to determine success, and the player is not informed of the result until and unless it becomes obvious (when a presumably sabotaged item is found to function properly, for instance). The character may gain a synergy bonus with a secret check. Further, a character may spend action dice to boost a secret check result, but does so at his own risk, as he isn’t aware of the result before he boosts it. If a secret check results in a threat, the GC is obliged to ask whether the character wants to activate it. Finally, like an active check, every secret check requires a set time to complete, and the character may have the option to “take 10” or “take 20,” as defined in the skill description.
When a character makes a passive skill check, the GC rolls the die to determine success, and the player is not informed of the result unless its success informs him of something (depending upon the GC, the character may not even realize that a failed check, or a check that provides no information, has occurred). The character may not spend action dice to boost a passive skill check result, though some specific passive checks allow for critical successes (in which case, the GC will ask the character if he wishes to activate any threat rolled). The character never gains a synergy bonus from other skills when making a passive skill check. Further, passive skill checks are commonly, but not always, free actions (taking no time to perform and happening as a matter of course). Finally, unless the GC or a rule states otherwise, the character may not “take 10” or “take 20” with a passive skill check.
Some players may rebel against passive and secret checks, citing that when they stop rolling dice, they stop having fun. This is a fair argument, and the Game Control is well within bounds to allow the players to roll their own dice for either or both check types, though he does so at some risk. Passive checks are frequently made without the character’s knowledge, and it’s a difficult roleplaying task to ignore their occurrence at the table. Likewise knowing one’s approximate result in either case (sans discretionary modifiers).
But there is an upside. With the GC rolling fewer dice and consulting character sheets less often, the game is likely to speed up a bit. This is a tradeoff every Game Control must weigh, factoring in house rules and his own unique tricks of the trade. GCs intending to roll all passive and secret checks themselves might benefit from taking down at the start of the evening each character’s skill bonuses in one or several skills he expects to use. A worksheet is provided on page 491 for this purpose. Regardless of the GC’s decision concerning who rolls the dice, all other rules for active, passive, and secret checks are critical to game balance.
When a character vies or competes against someone else with a skill, he makes an “opposed skill check.” Each character involved makes a standard skill check with his most relevant skill (e.g. Athletics for everyone in a foot race, Notice for one person and Sleight of Hand for another when the second character is trying to secretly swipe something off a table in the first character’s line of sight, etc.).
The character with the highest skill check result wins the competition. Equal results are considered a tie unless this provides no clear result, in which case the winner is the character with the highest skill bonus. If the characters possess equal skill bonuses, a random 1d20 die roll determines the winner.
Example 1: Kevin and five others are racing toward a closing security door. Each makes an Athletics/Maneuver (Foot) check. The character with the highest result reaches the door first, the character with the second-highest result arrives next, the character with the third-highest result comes after that, and so on. If two or more characters’ results are equal, they reach the door simultaneously. Example 2: Kevin tries to slip past a minion. He makes a Sneak/ Hide check and the minion (who is on guard and watchful) makes a Search/Perception check. If Kevin’s result exceeds the minion’s, he slips by unnoticed; otherwise, the minion spots him. In this case, since equal results produce an unclear result, comparing skill bonuses breaks the tie.
One last restriction: when making an opposed check, the character may not take 10 or take 20 (see pages 97 and 98).
When multiple characters work together to perform one task, the GC may ask for a “cooperative check.” In this case, one character performing the task must be chosen as the leader of the attempt. Each other character is called a helper. Determine all characters involved in a cooperative check and their roles in the task before rolling any dice.
First, the leader makes the skill check relevant to the task, generating the base check result.
Then, each helper makes the same skill check with a DC determined as follows.
- If the skill check has a set DC, each helper’s DC is 15.
- If the skill check has no set DC, each helper’s DC is equal to the leader’s check result minus 10 (minimum 15).
The leader gains a synergy bonus to his check result equal to the number of successful helpers (to a maximum +5 bonus per check, no matter how many helpers are involved). For each helper who scores a critical success, the leader gains an additional +1 bonus with his check result (this bonus is unnamed and can exceed the +5 limit).
If even one helper’s skill check results in a critical failure, the entire task is ruined and must be started again. The leader’s final skill check result — after all helper bonuses are applied — determines the cooperative check’s outcome. Two additional restrictions: first, only so many characters may work together to perform each check, as shown in each skill description and on Table 2.9: Using Skills (see page 103); second, when making a cooperative check, neither the leader nor any helper may take 10 or take 20 (see pages 97 and 98).
Sometimes, the entire team performs one task as a unit and individual success is irrelevant. Alternately, allowing each team member to make his own check might increase the chance of success above the scripted odds. In these cases, the GC may ask for a “team check.”
Each time the players ask to make a cooperative check, the GC may instead force them to make a team check. This is most common with Investigation, Notice, Search, and other exploratory skills, when it is more balanced to simply make one roll instead of many.
A team check operates like a standard skill check, except that only one character makes the check for the entire team. The situation at hand determines the character to make the check, as follows.
- If only one character must succeed for the entire team to reap the benefit (e.g. one character can make a team Notice/Awareness check and inform the others of what he finds), the character with the highest relevant skill bonus makes the check.
- If every member of the team must succeed to reap the benefit (e.g. every member of a team must succeed with simultaneous Security/Disable checks at different locations), the character with the lowest relevant skill bonus makes the check.
In either case, if two or more characters qualify to make the check, the team may jointly choose which of the characters makes it.
When there’s time, it’s often a good idea for a character with a high skill bonus to offer some pointers to the rest of his team. This is a “directed skill check.” A directed check operates like a standard skill check, except that it takes 10 times as long and the GC makes the roll for the player, in secret (see page 89).
With success, each other character who watched the entire directed check without interruption — and without taking any actions of his own — gains a +2 synergy bonus with the next identical skill check he makes (e.g. producing the same item, performing the same task, etc.). This bonus lasts until the end of the current scene, or for a number of minutes equal to the tutoring character’s ranks in the relevant skill (whichever ends first).
With a threat, the GC informs the player of the result and asks him whether he wishes to activate it as a critical success. With a critical success, the bonus lasts until the end of the following scene, or for a number of minutes equal to 2 × the tutoring character’s ranks in the relevant skill (whichever ends first). With failure, the time is wasted and none of those watching gain any bonus.
With an error, the GC may secretly spend a number of action dice to inflict a –1 penalty per die spent upon all identical skill checks until the end of the current scene.
A character may only benefit from a directed check if the tutor’s ranks in the relevant skill exceed his own by 4 or more. Example: Kevin tries to tutor his three teammates in the finer points of the Analysis skill’s Authenticate check. He possesses 8 ranks in the skill and his teammates respectively possess 0, 3, and 7 ranks in it. Only the first two teammates benefit from Kevin’s directed check.