Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quick and Dirty Ability Checks (D&D house-rule) #OSR #ODND #DCCRPG

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of skill checks. It's crunch in my ice-cream that I don't like. One of the things that differentiate, to me, "modern" and "old-school" is how a simple thing like a search is attempted. A d20 roll is just not engaging or interesting to me. It created a bad habit in gaming, "I search the room," rolls a d20. It encourages impatient players, who just want to cut to the chase (or Encounters with a capital E.) That is not D&D that I want to play. So I had to figure out what to do when it comes to what most players habitually do, search this, climb that, open this, get around that. In my attempt to engage the players. I have been encouraging my players to be deliberate about their actions, how they do it and how long they are willing to try it. I've been trying out My Quick and Dirty Ability Checks for S&W and DCC and it's been working really well. The first trick is to determine if a roll is necessary at all. Then if it is, then determine the difficulty. Then determine if an element of luck (or fate?!) is involved.
It works like this. The Players describe how and what their character are doing. If it's not life or death, or at the very least dangerous for someone, then go ahead let them do it. Pretty simple. But if there is a chance of failure, I use these magic numbers based on difficulty and compare it to an appropriate Ability Score:
  • EASY: LESS than 6 fails.
  • ROUTINE: LESS than 9 fails.
  • MODERATE: LESS than 13 fails.
  • HARD: LESS than 16 fails.
  • IMPOSSIBLE: LESS than 19 fails.
You'll notice there is direct correlation with those numbers and ability modifiers, but I wanted to use actual scores for the checks. So if a character wants to pry open a standard door, I'll deem it being HARD and ask for their strength. If they're strong enough, it opens. No rolling, just deliberate actions from the players and outcomes based solely on GM's discretion.
If there is an element of luck and/or danger, only then do some dice come in play. I roll an appropriate number of d6s, and compare the totals to ability scores:
  • EASY: 1d6
  • ROUTINE: 2d6
  • MODERATE: 3d6
  • HARD: 4d6
The bell curve is intentional. If the total is equal-to or more than their ability score, it is a failure. (Higher the better for the DM!) This works excellently for group checks. If the group is sneaking past some Unamed Spawn from Hell's Ending (Hard!) I'd roll 4d6 (only once!) and compare it to the PCs Ability Scores. Let's say I roll a 15, I'd then ask if anyone has a Dex (or Agility) of 15 or less? If someone does, they get spotted.
Another example came into play last week when a group of PCs were climbing out of a steep tunnel that had been greased but had knotted ropes. Since there was an element of danger (Routine), I rolled 2d6. I rolled a 6. Everyone with 6 or less slips, those that failed their save fell. Two died from the damage, one didn't. Quick and Dirty.
Putting the dice in the hands of DM does two things, it forces the players to be creative and role-play and the DM has more discretion on success or failure. Don't add or subtract ability modifiers, they're already factored in. Do factor in circumstances and Class/Monster Abilites by increasing or decreasing the difficulty. Sneaking past some sleepy Gate Guard would be ROUTINE, while sneaking past The Multi-eyed Crawling Eye of Oblivion would be HARD if not IMPOSSIBLE.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of The Fantasy Trip approach, xdie vs. a stat.