Adventure Trove Skills & Task Resolution
In the previous article about Adventure Trove, I gave an example of basic task resolution. The player was presented with a problem, and he succeeded admirably by leveraging his specialties. The consequences for failure would indicate that he was going to have to blindly approach each squad until he found the correct sergeant. Let’s look at a different task, Navigation. You will note if you look at Theoren’s sheet again, that he doesn’t have the Navigation skill. It is a member of the Practical skill group, and Theoren’s trained skill groups are Active and Martial, so it’s a skill he is completely unfamiliar with. Now that he’s found the target, and claimed his mark, he has to figure out how to get proof of death back to the patron in order to get paid.
Normally, the consequences of failing a roll are more dependent upon the needs of the story, but with an unfamiliar skill, the consequences are usually a little more dire. Also, he’s less likely to succeed in using his average Reason score of 2 (based on Intellect), as he needs to roll higher than a 4 on such a test. This is called a desperation check, and it occurs in specific instances where the chips are stacked against you.
Luck can carry any hero fairly far in a roleplaying game, but the idea is that having even one rank in a skill has a tangible benefit. In fact, just being familiar with a skill has a tangible benefit. Because the base task resolution mechanic is forgiving, untrained individuals are penalized for their lack of training. So, making an unfamiliar, untrained skill test requires the hero to see 5s or better to count a die as a success.
Every skill test is made up of an aspect contribution, and a skill contribution. The two Aspects for Intellect are Reason and Wits. Theoren is not better at either side of Intellect, so his score is written as 2, meaning he can use 2 dice for either type of roll. As every character has every attribute, this forms the base of the pool. Not every character has training in every skill however. It’d be rare to find a character who did. So to account for that skills are either familiar to the hero or unfamiliar to him.
Skills belong to Skill Groups, with other related skills. When a character chooses a Profession template, he or she gains familiarity in at least one, but more likely two, skill groups. Skills a character puts training into become familiar as well. Characters attempting to learn unfamiliar skills pay a surcharge on the first rank, to represent the extra effort required to learn them.
Here is Theoren’s character sheet again, truncated to show just his Attributes and Skills.
Theoren Manslayer, Human Assassin
Strength 2 (Muscle 4), Agility 1 (Dexterity 2), Perception 1 (Acuity 3), Intellect 1, Presence 1 (Confidence 3)
Athletics 3, Notice 2, Surveillance 2, Survival 3, Stealth 2, Weapons: Axes 3, Weapons: Knives 2
Other Skills (Active, Martial)
Brawling 3, Riding 2, Search 2, Tracking 2
Theoren has familiarity with the Active and Martial skill groups. Those skill groups encompass the skills Acrobatics, Athletics, Brawling, Riding, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Tactics, and Weapons. He has training in Athletics, Brawling, Riding, Stealth, and Weapons, but he never learned how to pick a pocket, tumble properly or the science of warfare. If put in a position where he needs to roll one of these untrained, or even if he wishes to use a weapon type he has no training in, he doesn’t suffer less chance of success based purely on his unfamiliarity.
However, when put on the spot about Navigating back to civilization, he has to roll 2D6, and hope at least one of them comes up 5 or better, because even though the task is easy with a TN of 1, failure could be bad. Especially if he rolls a pair of 1s.
Here we are concerned with Dice Pool Quality. If you roll more 1s than successes on any roll that fails it is a critical failure. This works hand in hand with the interpretation of 6s in the dice pool. If you roll one or more 6s on a roll that fails, the GM can interpret that as a marginal failure, and if you roll an equal or greater number of 1s on a roll that succeeds it can be interpreted as a marginal success. We discussed before how 6s on a roll that succeed make it exceptional.
So normally rolling a critical failure would be bad, and make things more desperate (in this instance a trained character would probably be lost in the woods and stumble into an encounter before finding his way out). For Theoren however, a critical failure would mean that he probably stumbles into a large group of soldiers, and the leader of the expedition. Remember when I said unfamiliar rolls have more dire consequences? A critical failure on such a roll should result in the most desperate situation possible, particularly results which would increase the tension or the drama.