The Skill Challenge in EP

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Azathoth Azathoth's picture
The Skill Challenge in EP
I may not be in the majority, but there were some things I liked about D&D4E. One of those things is the Skill Challenge. It's a system that provides a clear framework for playing out important non-combat encounters without being subjective to GM whim or relying on a single roll. In a game like EP where there is not as huge an emphasis on combat, I thought the same basic template may work well. For those not familiar, this means the PCs need to achieve a certain number of successes (say 8, but the number depends on the complexity/difficulty) before accruing half that many failures (say, 4). Primary skills will be the workhorse in the encounter, but secondary skills may provide a bonus to your next roll or to an ally. So, for your perusal, I have taken one of the example Skill Challenges from the DMG4E, and applied EP skills: Urban Chase Bystanders panic as you plow your way through the crowded streets of the habitat, hot on the heels of(or hotly pursued by) your quarry. The PCs need to catch or escape from an individual in a crowded urban environment. Setup: To catch up with or to escape from the NPC, you have to navigate the cityscape faster and smarter than your opponent. Complexity: 5 (requires 12 successes before 6 failures). Primary Skills: Freerunning (or Free Fall in zero-g), Climbing, Swimming, Perception, Interest: Urban Design (or similar) Freerunning/Free Fall: You cat crawl a ledge, vault over a crowd, or jump a wall to close or lengthen the distance between you and your opponent. a failed check indicates that you take a spill. Climbing: You scale a building, taking the high road to gain an advantage in the chase. A failed check indicates that you get banged up. Perception: You spot a shortcut, notice a hiding space, or otherwise aid your cause. Using this skill doesn’t count as a success or failure for the challenge, but instead provides a +10 bonus or a –10 penalty to the next character’s skill check. Interest: Urban Design (or related): You know enough about the layout of urban habitats to use the environment to your best advantage during a chase. Success: If the PCs get their 12 successes before failing 6 rolls, they have successfully caught or eluded their target. Failure: The PCs lose sight of their quarry and have to work harder to find her later, accessing spime feeds or networking to gain aide. If the PCs were being chased, their pursuers catch up with them, and a combat encounter starts immediately. I'd like to hear thoughts on how the general concept works when applied to EP, how the specific example works (maybe suggest more Primary and Secondary skills that help cyberpunk it up), and suggestions for other skill challenges (like the Negotiation, the Interrogation, Lost in Space, and whatever else you can think of!).
Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
You are talking about something a lot of games already have, not only D&D 4th... Extended actions/rolls, I think was the common name in english (but I can be mistaken). They have a great problem, though: it requires a lot of rolls. When we are talking about opposing rolls (for example, the freerunning contest you mention) it isn't a great issue, but I completely refuse to devote 10 minutes to see the hacker of the team rolling infosec tests again and again until he manages to get a margin of success of 500 or so. The other players have a right to play, and that! And anyway, there is the awesome Rule Zeroth: CHEAT! That means don't look all the corebook for the difficulty of a certain action, enumerate some "modifiers" and then say "you have a -20 from X, Y and Z, which negates the bonuses... You said your skill was 70? You need a 60 or so to suceed". Challenging. Or I could have said "you need an 80", if it's not really an important roll but I want to distract the player's attention from something else. Don't be storyteller, be a magician! ^^
Tyrnis Tyrnis's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
I've never played D&D4E, so not familiar with it from there. It doesn't seem like this would be a particular problem, but I don't think I'd use it during sessions because it just leads to more dice rolling for no real return. One of the things I _like_ about EP is that it's pretty quick in play. For your urban chase, for instance, that's normally a contested roll between the hunter and the quarry. If you don't want to resolve it with a single roll of the dice, that's fine, but why require a minimum of 12 rolls? That seems pretty tedious to me. If you want to draw out the chase a little, why not simply rule that the first person to win the contested roll 3 times accomplishes their objective? You get to add additional narrative to the chase and can potentially build some suspense up between rolls, but it's few enough that the people not rolling aren't getting bored. Now, I could see something like this being a useful guideline for long-term projects during downtime -- morph design could probably benefit from it, as could larger scale fabrication and assembly.
Azathoth Azathoth's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
If it's common in other systems, I'd love to see how other games handle them also. It's something I'd really like to explore bcs I find other methods a tad bit arbitrary. That is one thing that struck me, it does seem like a lot of rolls. I stuck with the 12/6 from the DMG, but it seemed high to me. But, if you have 4 PCs participating every round, it's a minimum of 2 rounds (where they fail miserably), and a maximum of only 5. That's not so bad compared to combat. In combat you can have the same situation like Xagroth described with the hacker, but here it's the combat oriented player who spends an hour fighting while your socialite cowers in a corner. Xagroth also mentions "margin of succes of 500", and while his argument seems to generally be against this sort of encounter, that does suggest a much better way of adapting the Skill Encounter to EP mechanics: accumulated MoS rather than accumulated successes. :)
Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
Yeah, I'm against having too much rolls, but the MoS accumulation can be useful, maybe with some changes, like Dark Heresy uses. In this case, if your skill is 60 and you roll 12, you get 1 "MoS", but if it's 59 you would get 5, and a double would grant you 7 (the max +1). In a chase, I would say that the pursued has an advantage of 5, if I want it to be quick, and the chases ends: a) if the chased reaches 10 "MoS" more than the chaser, or b) if the chaser reduces to 0 the difference between their "MoS". Yes, a chase would be over in about 3-4 rolls (or even in one), but it's an event that requires tension, and interrupting a vibrant description to make too much rolls, to me breaks the atmosphere. For less action-oriented tasks, however, it's good to have the player make 10-15 rolls and accumulate full MoS. As for how other games manage lots of rolls, there is a diference between those games and Eclipse Phase (and other d100-based games): they only roll one dice per test, or one dice represents one result if you prefer. In a d100 game, however, you would need to pair dices... and how do you that? You would need to have onle color per dice, then check which is the units, etc... or make one roll with several d10 (each one of one color), note the results and the color associated, then roll again for the units... But I think it's better (and quicker) to roll x times 1d100.
evapor8 evapor8's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
Not wanting to threadcrap and miss the point, but aren't skills challenges done like this just a strung out dice pool mechanic? Having played Heroes, rolling multiple dice and counting success/fails seems similar (I am aware that Heroes counts slightly differently). Would this work for me? In a narrative context maybe. A roll per roof in the chase, or per specific key 'cinematic' action to give the player a sense of doing something. But as some others have commented, multiple rolls back to back could get tiresome. Actually, maybe you could tweak it to use a pack of playing cards? Whilst the chance does change every time you remove cards from the deck it could suggest a greater achievement against the odds?
Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
evapor8 wrote:
Actually, maybe you could tweak it to use a pack of playing cards? Whilst the chance does change every time you remove cards from the deck it could suggest a greater achievement against the odds?
Cthulhutech uses a similar system (poker-like rolls using a number of dices equal to the skill value, and add the value of the related attribute to produce a result between, usually, 5-6 and up to 65-70) in one suggestion for alternative game rolls (instead of dices, a poker deck is used). The problem I see with the deck of cards is that it might require more space than the dices, but aside from that, how would you translate a porcentual-based rolling system into a card-based one? Too much work for me, at least ^^
Rada Ion Rada Ion's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
Azathoth wrote:
If it's common in other systems, I'd love to see how other games handle them also.
Well I don't know how D&D 4Ed. does it, because I have not played D&D in about 25 years. I think it is the OGL d20 system but I have never used d20 for that system. I know when White Wolf did their reboot of the World of Darkness they made a similar system that is very nice, I mean similar in that it uses accumulated successes to determine outcomes. You roll ten sided dice, one for each skill+attribute+modifier level +etc (special powers what ever), and 8-10 are successes. It's nice and clean and quick and easy, and it works. It made combat more simplistic, but it worked. So for instance Joe Blow has a 3 in mechanic (average), a 2 in Strength and a tool kit with a +2 for auto repairs. The task at hand is fixing a damaged engine with a -2 modifier for insufficient parts and materials, and he needs about 6 successes to complete the task. Each roll is about 30 minutes of time. So Joe here is rolling 3+2+2-2 for a pool of 5 dice. If each roll netted him one success in this example, it will take him 3 hours to complete. Not sure that could work in EP really, but then again I like the system EP has right now, so I wouldn't bother making it any more complicated for my games, but maybe you can devise a good way of making this work for yours. Good luck.
godmoney godmoney's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
For me, I like the gaining a certain level of MoS idea. That way you could use different skills to achieve success. Say you were trying to run away, your opponent saw you. You could then attempt to hide, blend in, skipjack, stop and talk/stall for time, jump in someone's car, etc. First to a certain level determined either arbitrarily or set amount (say 100 MoS) is successful.
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi!?!
Herbo Herbo's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
For extended "Race" or "tug-o-war" challenges in any game system I run lately I've tended to do a variant on the Warhammer Fantasy 3E tracker, only I don't pull out my card stock strips for EP. I just decide how big it all needs to be on a whim, draw circles on a post-it, assign starting locations and have people start doing their checks. Which ever group pulls the situation their way or gets to the end first wins. And rather than just having a glut of dice hitting the table, each tug or advancement is queue for some narrative from either myself or the other participants. I also use a deck of index cards with various locations or conditions on them that I pull out for stuff like chases through a habitat (ie "Crowd of Break Dancing Synths Ahead!: -10 Free Running, +10 Infiltration, +10 Deception (Synth Morphs Only), -10 Deception (Biomorphs Only)). Obviously there's nothing wrong with the even more simplistic MoS v MoS resolution system, but for more drawn out affairs it helps me to narrate more effectively if I can drag it out a bit and get some queues from the dice/cards/whatever. Otherwise I tend to "Andrew gets away" a lot which makes me feel hollow and sad afterward :-P
Azathoth Azathoth's picture
Re: The Skill Challenge in EP
Just wanted to necro this to say I've found two other systems that have a well-defined frame work for these sort of extended skill tests. FATE2 has "challenges" which use a ladder of varying degrees of success (competent, solid, significant; which could translate into a MoS of 10, 20, 30 in EP). Each rung of the ladder has a certain number of boxes, and when all the boxes are full on one rung the overflow goes to the rung above it. The goal is to reach a very high MoS by building on smaller successes. JAGS revised has a rather robust system called Drama Rolls. There are many different kinds, including opposed or unopposed Dramas (the simplest just requires 3 rolls), but essentially you add MoS from one roll to the next and try to beat a target or your opponent's rolls. There are lots of variables and special moves (like gambling) to make it engaging and feel less like just a die pool of three percentile dice. In my own games I tried tallying straight MoS vs MoF and found that it was a little heavy on record keeping so it interrupted game flow, and was very easily won (or lost) with one or two high rolls. Then I went more with the D&D framework of X successes before 3 failures. My players responded very well to both versions, but I may incorporate some of the ideas from FATE and especially JAGS next time!