Routine game actions in routine situations almost always succeed. As discussed prior, generally speaking, a character shouldn’t have to roll to determine if they drove successfully to work, or cooked a basic meal. However, when the action becomes dramatic or extraordinary, players and the gamemaster should roll dice for the resolution.
It is important to know whether characteristics and skills succeed when danger threatens, or if they fail miserably in the face of stress. Dice allow crises and decision points to be resolved without the constant intervention of the gamemaster.
Dice rolling is what turns Basic Roleplaying into a game system, not just a case of “Mother May I?” with the gamemaster taking the role of mother.
However, a gamemaster does not necessarily need to roll against themselves. If a non-player character is attempting to do something to another part of the environment, whether it’s lifting a rock, convincing another non-player character of something, or leaping a chasm, the gamemaster may always just decide what the result is instead of rolling, but can always roll for a random result if desired. This keeps the dice rolling to a minimum and focused on the players’ actions.
|06–07||1||Per ability||Per ability||96–00|
|08–10||01–02||Per ability||Per ability||96–00|
|11–12||01–02||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|13–17||01–03||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|18–22||01–04||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|23–27||01–05||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|28–29||01–06||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|30||01–06||Per ability||Per ability||97–00|
|31–32||01–06||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|33–37||01–07||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|38–42||01–08||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|43–47||01–09||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|48–49||01–10||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|50||01–10||Per ability||Per ability||98–00|
|51–52||01–10||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|53–57||01–11||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|58–62||01–12||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|63–67||01–13||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|68–69||01–14||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|70||01–14||Per ability||Per ability||99–00|
|71–72||01–14||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|73–77||01–15||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|78–82||01–16||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|83–87||01–17||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|88–89||01–18||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|90–92||01–18||Per ability||Per ability||00|
|93–95||01–19||Per ability||Per ability||00|
3.1 Success or Failure?
The most important question in a roleplaying game is: “Do I succeed, or do I fail?” The next most important is: “How well do I succeed or fail?” Basic Roleplaying provides an easy-tounderstand system to measure these chances, using dice rolls to these questions. Some skills (especially combat skills) are inherently dramatic and/or dangerous. These are always rolled for. Players and the gamemaster use percentage dice (D100) most of the time to determine success or failure.
Most of the time, when it’s necessary to determine an attempted action’s success or failure, the players and the gamemaster need to make a percentage dice roll as described in 1.2 Dice and Reading Dice Results. Characteristic rolls are described in 2.4 Characteristic Rolls and use the same system as skill and combat rules (described below).
3.2 Skill Rolls
All characters have trained abilities described in 2.6 Skills, with ratings ranging from 00% (no chance of success) to 100% or higher (almost always succeeding). A character’s skill points are added to the skill’s base chance for a total chance of success. The process is simple: the player or gamemaster announces that a character will attempt a skill. A percentage dice roll is made. If the roll is equal to or less than the chance of success, the skill succeeds (with appropriate results). If the roll is over the chance of success, the skill fails.
There are two other conditions to keep in mind when attempting a skill roll: difficulty and the special success. These are described below.
Difficulty: Use of a skill isn’t always cut and dried. It’s more difficult to drive a car in the dark during heavy rain than it is to drive it in the middle of day in perfect weather. A wide variety of conditions (weather, distractions, equipment, etc.) can affect whether it’s easy or more difficult to use a skill. To simulate this, skills can be modified in the following ways.
- Automatic: When it’s completely certain that the character will succeed, and when there’s nothing major at stake (no life-or-death situation, no challenge, etc.), the skill automatically succeeds. Don’t even bother to roll.
- Easy: Some combination of circumstances, conditions, or other assistance has made it easier to perform the skill. In this case, double the skill chance. Dice should still be rolled even if the skill chance is now over 100%, however, as there’s still the chance of a special success or a failure (both are described below).
- Normal: This is the standard, meaning that any conditions, circumstances, etc. are negligible and won’t affect the chance to use the skill.
- Difficult: If a skill would be made more difficult by some circumstance, condition, or other situation, divide the skill chance in half (rounding up).
- Impossible: If it’s simply impossible for the skill to succeed, such as a normal human attempting to leap 100 meters into the air unaided, or solve a crossword puzzle in absolute darkness, no roll should be allowed. The skill attempt just fails, with any appropriate consequences. The gamemaster may either declare no roll can be attempted, or let the player roll and describe how badly they fail in the attempt.
Section 6. Spot Rules covers a few situations where difficulties are applied, though for the most part these should be obvious and assigned by the gamemaster where appropriate. For example, the gamemaster may announce that fighting in near dark makes all skills Difficult, half their normal chance.
Special Success: Not all successes are equal. Sometimes a skill use is ‘just right,’ and the result is better than normal. In this case, the result is called a special success. A special success is equal to one-fifth (1/5) the chance of success, rounded up (use the final chance if modified by a difficulty). For example, a skill of 60% means that any roll of 01 through 12 is a special success (as 12 is 1/5 of 60%).
In normal skill use, a special success means that the skill succeeded especially well and should have an enhanced result. The exact result should be left up to the gamemaster to determine, but as a rule of thumb, it should be twice as good as a regular success. In combat, a special success does additional damage, and is described in 5.13 Special Successes.
3.3 Skill vs. Skill
Often, one character attempts a skill that must be countered by a non-player character, or vice versa. This is known as an opposed skill roll and describes a situation such as a player character using Stealth to move undetected versus a nonplayer character using Listen to detect intruders. In these cases, all acting parties should make their appropriate skill rolls and compare the results:
- If all parties fail, the consequences are either obvious, a stalemate is achieved, or no one achieves their goal.
- If only one party succeeds, the successful skill is accomplished without challenge.
- If the rolls are successful and tied (same quality of result), the character with the highest skill rating is successful.
- If more than one party succeeds normally, the highest successful quality of roll (a special success is better than a success) is the one that achieves the desired result. In this case, the lesser successful result is shifted. If it is a normal success, it becomes a failure.
Think of levels of success as a three-stage affair: special success > success > failure, with the “>” meaning “is greater than.” When comparing levels of success, one level of success essentially cancels an opposed level of success.
- Special Success vs. Special Success: Each degrades by two levels of success; becomes two failures (though an experience check is allowed, as the rolls are still ‘successful’).
- Special Success vs. Success: The special success becomes a success; the (normal) success becomes a failure.
- Special Success vs. Failure: The special success achieves double the intended result (as appropriate); unopposed by the failing roll.
In cases where both parties fail, the gamemaster can determine whether it means both parties fail their goals or the acting parties somehow foul each other and create a stalemate that must be resolved to proceed. For some opposed skills, the results are obvious. For example, two characters are using Throw to hit the same target. Both fail their rolls: both miss.
In other cases, the results can be more nuanced and up to the gamemaster to determine. For example, a failed Stealth roll opposing a failed Listen roll might mean that the sneaky character makes noise but is still not noticed by the listener. It might also mean, though, that the listener somehow moves into the path of the sneaker so that they cannot sneak any further without being noticed.
When a stalemate occurs, the best option is to change the conditions or circumstances, such as using a different skill, creating a distraction, changing tactics, etc.
3.4 The Resistance Table
Some actions require more than skill or natural ability: obstacles must be overcome for the character to succeed. In these cases, call for a resistance roll. Resistance rolls pit characteristics or other measurable quantities against one other. For example, a heavy rock might be SIZ 15. To lift it, a character needs to roll their STR versus the rock’s SIZ on the resistance table.
To make a resistance roll, cross-index the active characteristic to the passive characteristic on the resistance table (above). The active characteristic is the party or force trying to influence the passive characteristic, the one resisting any change. The cross-indexed value is the percentage chance the acting force has of success.
For success, one of the sides—active or passive—must roll D100 equal to or less than the indicated number. If the passive force is not attempting to resist, then it does not roll. For example, a character with STR 13 (the active characteristic) has a 40% chance of picking up that SIZ 15 rock (the passive characteristic). The rock doesn’t do anything to resist, so it’s not going to roll against the character. If the roll is 40 or below, the rock is lifted. A roll of 41+ means the rock is just too heavy. The character can rest and try again later.
In general, the side controlled by a player is the one that should roll, whether active or passive. If there is a condition where it is uncertain as to who should roll, let the passive side, the defender, roll.
One of the most common uses for resistance rolls is STR vs. SIZ. To pick any of these things up, a character matches STR (the active characteristic) against the object’s SIZ (the passive characteristic). Following is a list of the sizes of the relative SIZ of average objects:
|Concrete and steel wall||35–55|
|Small air vehicle||40|
|Medium land vehicle||60|
|Air vehicle, jet fighter||80|
|Air vehicle, airliner||110|
The resistance table isn’t just for picking things up, however. Use it in a DEX vs. DEX race to determine who wins between two characters with an equal MOV characteristic. Following are other ways to use the resistance table:
- Arm wrestling is straight STR vs. STR.
- Squeezing through a hole in the wall pits a character’s SIZ vs. the hole’s SIZ, only in this case, the character wants to lose.
- Drinking someone under the table is CON vs. CON.
- A psychic battle (or even a stare-down) uses POW vs. POW.
- Trying to resist a poison pits the poison’s potency (rated as potency, see 6.10 Poison) against the poisoned character’s CON.
- Getting noticed when another person is also trying to be noticed is APP vs. APP.
The resistance table is for use when a raw characteristic is pitted against another, working on the principle that two equal forces have a 50/50 chance of winning if pitted against one another. The rest of the time, use a skill vs. a skill, or best judgment.
|POW of Attacking Force|
|POW of Defending Force||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11||12||13||14||15||16||17||18||19||20||21|
If characters succeed in using skills during challenging situations, those skills should have the chance to improve. Practice makes perfect. On the character sheet are small checkboxes next to each skill. The first time a skill is used successfully in an adventure, the player should check the box, indicating that the skill has been used successfully and is eligible for experience.
Keep in mind the following:
- Subsequent uses of the skill in the adventure do not count towards experience: one successful use is enough.
- Successful use in two different specialties is two experience checks, not one. For example, successful rolls in Knowledge (Occult) and Knowledge (History) are two different skills and are eligible for separate experience checks.
- Using a skill when it is modified to Easy (double normal chance) does not count.
- Using a skill in a non-threatening, non-adventuring situation where nothing is at stake doesn’t count. For example, attempting to Hide when no one is looking doesn’t merit a skill experience check.
At the end of the adventure, the gamemaster asks each player to make an experience roll for each skill successfully used and checked. An experience roll is a roll higher than the skill chance (a reverse of the normal procedure). The idea that as a character gets more highly skilled, it gets harder to improve. If the experience roll is higher than the skill, the player then rolls 1D6 and adds this total to the skill. For example, if a player is making an experience roll for a skill of 35%, any roll of 36 or greater is a success. If the player rolls a 36–00, add 1D6 to the character’s existing 35% skill. A roll of 100 is always an improvement, even if the skill is higher than 100%.
A character can learn from a teacher with dedicated study and an adequate amount of time (decided by the gamemaster). At the end of that period, have the teacher attempt a Teach skill roll and a roll on the relevant skill to be taught. If the Teach skill is higher than the teacher’s skill value, it is reduced to the skill’s value for the purpose of instruction. If both skills are successful, the student character may make a successful experience check and check for experience as described above. This is subject to the gamemaster’s approval and may involve money being spent, and a character cannot learn more than one skill at a time in this fashion.
When a skill has been successfully checked for experience, erase the current skill value and write the new total on the character sheet. Repeat this process for each skill checked successfully, until completed.
Generally, this is done at the end of a single adventure, though the gamemaster can allow for multiple chances for skill improvement for a longer adventure that provides several distinct ‘downtime’ periods where the characters can rest and reflect on what they have accomplished.
In the case of a long period—months at the least—between adventures, the gamemaster may also allow characters four ‘free’ experience checks of their choice, representing activities they undertook in this downtime. These checks are treated as regular experience checks and must be rolled to see if they result in actual skill improvement.