Most of the things character do during a story require no mechanical adjudication. For these tasks, the desired result is achieved with no meaningful risk of negative consequences. For these sorts of activities, the player indicates what their character wishes to undertake or achieve and they work with the GM to describe the results. If the distinction between failure and success is not interesting - for example, a situation where a character might simply retry until they succeed - no mechanical resolution is needed.
For some tasks, however, the GM may indicate that success for the character is sufficiently uncertain, and the consequences of failure sufficiently meaningful, that undertaking the task is a gamble. For these situations, a mechanical method of generating a result is used, as outlined below.
Step 1: Initiation
The player outlines a desired result for the character. This involves indicating the character's goal, determining which of the character's resources (e.g. advantages, abilities, skills, equipment, powers) are relevant, and describing, in general, how those resources might be used by the character to achieve the desired result.
Step 2: Clarification
The GM determines the difficulty and describes potential consequences of the action. This difficulty is determined through a common-sense determination by the GM, with input by the players, as to how difficult the requested task would be in light of the character's resources.
The table to the right contains detailed probabilities for the base types of difficulties. An expanded table, with more examples, is at the end of this page.
|Two Common (2,2)|
Easy - 1 Effect
Easy tasks only require one effect. This means that any sufficiently-simple task can be performed merely by rolling a single die at or above the target number. Many basic actions that require little attention are easy tasks, and for people with reasonable training, these sorts of tasks are typically performed without thought. Typically a GM shouldn't ask for a roll for an easy task unless it's being taken as part of a multi-action.
Adding an easy action to an attempt reduces the probability of success by about 1 to 3%, depending on the difficulty of the other actions. Adding a second easy action can reduce the probability of success by another 5 to 10%
Below are some examples:
- Holstering or unholstering a weapon.
- Moving a small distance.
- Popping out of cover to take a shot.
- This does not include the action to take the shot itself, just leaning out of cover.
- Activating a communications system.
- This assumes a basic familiarity with communications systems and normal communications conditions.
- Driving a car normally.
- This assumes the basic competence any licensed driver possesses and reasonable road conditions.
- Speeding through light traffic in a police car with sirens blaring for most police officers.
Common - 2 Effect
Using a piece of equipment or supernatural ability to do what it was designed to do is typically a common task. People attempting common tasks have typically trained for them, but they represent sufficiently complex uses of the ability that a non-zero chance of failure exists.
Adding a common action to an attempt approximately halves the probability of success.
- Speeding through traffic for most people.
- Seriously injuring a non-moving person at decent range with a gun for people with firearms training.
The probability of a four-person team all succeeding at a common difficulty task is approximately equal to the probability of one person succeeding at a hard difficulty task.
Hard - 3 Effect
Hard tasks are within the preconceived range of ability of a piece of equipment, skill, or power, but represent an advanced or otherwise more difficult form or use. These are actions that may be trained for, but represent the more difficult or complex end of that training.
- Speeding against traffic for a good driver
- Overtaking an average person through traffic for a good driver.
- Killing someone with a gun for a person with firearms training.
The probability of a two-person team both succeeding at a hard difficulty task is slightly better than the probability of one person succeeding at an overwhelming difficulty task.
Difficult - 4 Effect
Difficult tasks are ones which go beyond standard training, requiring the character to seriously stretch their abilities. Characters attempts difficult actions should expect failure.
- Jumping a motorcycle off a ramp and onto a boat by a reasonably skilled motorcyclist.
- Knocking someone out with a blow to the head for someone with basic hand-to-hand skills.
Overwhelming - 5 Effect
Overwhelming tasks are ones which go so far beyond standard training as to be nearly impossible. Typically, these are actions of last resort. A GM should use this difficulty in situations where they think an action is highly unlikely to succeed, but they don't want to outright forbid the attempt.
Multi-Action - Multiple Effects
A character may attempt multiple actions simultaneously, either out of a desire to multi-task or because one of their actions is dependent on another one succeeding. In this case, the GM sets a difficulty for both actions.
- Running through a busy train station (common) while drawing a weapon (easy) requires both a two-wide and one-wide set.
Step 3: Going for It
The player decides whether they wish to go forward with the gamble. If so, they roll their dice and look for sets.
All attempts use 8 dice, rolling against a target number of 5.
Two or more people working together can make a task easier. As always, consider the specific situation and the powers involved, but two people working together on the same task might each experience a difficulty of one less if the two of them work together.
An attempt may be bolstered using WP, representing the extra effort that a character might put into some actions. The WP is not spent, but bet. On a success, the WP is retained, though no extra is gained. On a failure, the WP is lost. Betting 1 WP gains an attempt an extra die while betting 3 WP gains an attempt two extra dice.
In the case of a multi-action, if any of the attempted actions fail, the gambled WP is lost.
Effect is calculated as on Wild Traveller, with the ability to squash sets.
A critical is rolled when a set of ones is rolled.
Multi-Actions and Criticals
In the case of a multi-action where some actions succeed and some fail, at least one of the failures should be considered a critical failure, and WP is lost as per a critical failure. If all actions succeed, WP is gained as with a critical success, and the player may pick which successful action is a critical success.
If the required effect is produced, the desired result is achieved. The GM incorporates this result into the chain of events.
A critical success is a success where a set of ones is also rolled. The character gains a point of WP, added to the general pool, and, if possible, the GM provides them with a minor bonus to their action. Players are encouraged to suggest bonuses. The gained WP is added to the general pool.
If the required effect is not produced, the desired result is not achieved. The GM provides a different result based on the logic of the situation. This is not necessarily a negative consequence, merely the in-game effect of someone attempting to accomplish something and failing to do so, though maintenance of the status quo is usually not an interesting result.
A critical failure is a failure where a set of ones is also rolled. The character loses a point of WP and, if possible, the GM describes an additional negative effect beyond just failure. A critical failure doesn't have to imply a complete impasse, merely an additional obstacle that needs to be dealt with.
The WP must be lost from either the general pool or a goal that is related to the action. If the character doesn't have suitable WP to lose, the GM, if possible, should impose an additional, significantly negative effect.
Combat differs from normal task resolution only in the expectation that most or all characters will simultaneously be attempting actions.
Unlike many systems, there is no use of initiative. Instead, the GM describes the scene, the players suggest actions for their characters, with a discussion of difficulties and possible complications, and then players roll dice for any actions that require mechanical resolution. Often, in the interest of keeping the game moving and fairness between players, combat may proceed in rounds in which each character has the opportunity to perform a single action or set of actions via a multi-action, but in some cases the GM may wish to break out of this for greater flexibility.
Attacks by NPCs are not rolled by the GM. Instead, an NPC attacking a PC is handled by the GM by describing to the player the consequences to the character of not dodging or otherwise preventing the attack from causing damage. Once the player determines how they will attempt to avoid the damage, assuming they wish to avoid it, the GM determines a difficulty for this attempt. As such, many combats will result in multi-actions being taken, in which a character simultaneously attempts to damage others will avoiding damage themselves. A failure on an attempt to avoid damage results in the damage being taken, a success results in it being avoided, a critical failure may result in a more serious wound or detriment, and a critical success may result in some additional advantage being realized, if appropriate.
- Tom is supernaturally tough and a decent fighter, so avoiding taking damage from a thug's punch is an easy task for him. Unfortunately, there's three of them. As such, for him to completely avoid being hurt, he needs to succeed at three easy tasks, in addition to whatever aggressive actions he may wish to take.
- A criminal is running away from Rose down an alley, and she wants to shoot him, injuring him badly enough to slow him down, but not so badly she kills him, as she still has plans to question him. She's capable at handling a gun, but this is a somewhat detailed request, so the GM says it's going to be a hard task to injure him in the way she specified.
- If Rose succeeds, the criminal is slowed to a limp at best.
- On a critical success, the player might be given the opportunity to describe in more detail the condition of the criminal after being shot.
- If Rose fails, then she might miss him. She might wound him too little to slow him, but enough to leave a trail of blood if she loses sight of him. Or she might mortally injure him, giving her on a minute to ask one or two questions before he dies.
- On a critical failure, she might kill him instantly. Or she might miss entirely, potentially hitting an innocent bystander.
- Alex wants to dash across a road and into a building on the far side, that's being protected by a sniper inside. The sniper is pretty good, but Alex is supernaturally coordinated, and the road has two some cars in it that Alex can use for cover, so the GM agrees it's a common task. Hearing this, Alex decides to try for something more difficult, and asks whether he can also toss a grenade into the same floor as the sniper as he runs across the road as an additional common task, given his coordination, and the GM allows it.
- If Alex succeeds on both tasks, he makes it across the road, and the grenade goes off on the same floor as the sniper, with the GM deciding the consequences.
- On a critical success, the GM might allow the player to decide some of the consequences of the grenade exploding, such as whether the sniper was injured, intimidated, etc.
- It wouldn't have been unreasonable for Alex's player to have decided he'd rather attempt a common action, hoping for a critical success, than specifying his desired result and having to roll against a hard difficulty.
Damage is a temporary negative, representing an additional required action on all relevant rolls. If an arm is slightly hurt, or more seriously hurt on someone who is particularly tough, an additional minor action might be required for firing a gun. With a moderate head injury, an additional common action could be applied to all attempts. With a serious leg wound, an additional hard action could be applied to all attempts to move.
An attempt to perform an action while injured can have consequences. A failure to succeed on the injury action means that the character wasn't able to cope with the injury, which implies a negative consequence to the injury: bruised muscle becomes sprained, and hard to use, or a stitched wound reopens. A critical failure would be even more serious. A success on an injury action with a failure on the primary action means the wound is kept safe, but the primary action fails or critically fails.
Healing damage is resolved through the story, with skills coming into play where appropriate.
If an opponent is hurt, this should be applied to their actions by the GM and may reduce some difficulties in dealing with them. For example, chasing down a man with a leg wound should be easier than chasing down a healthy man. Similarly, dodging gunfire by a man with one broken arm, attempting to fire a pistol one-handed, should be easier than dodging gunfire by an uninjured man.
Fatigue becomes more of an issue as people exert themselves longer. If a character's fatigue starts to become an issue, add an additional action to the attempt to represent the effect of fatigue, with a difficulty determined by the character's ability to cope.
Advantages influence actions, either by making them easier, or by making something possible. An advantage might be a skill or talent a character possess, it might be a piece of equipment, or it might be a magical advantage. Using an advantage simply requires including it in the description of your action. The GM should take this into account when figuring out if the action is possible and what the difficulty of the action is.
An advantage is typically given a name and described in a few words or sentences, depending on the complexity of the advantage. The more powerful the advantage, the longer the description should probably be.
Advantages come in three types: minor, significant, and major. This type indicates the expected influence of the advantage on the game. Advantages can often have limitations associated with them, which should be taken into account when deciding how powerful they are. The importance of a limitation depends on how frequently the limitation can realistically be expected to occur in the campaign.
A minor advantage is one which provides only slight assistance, or which provides a substantial edge in very limited circumstances.
A significant advantage is one which frequently provides meaningful assistance, or which provides a decisive edge in the right, very limited circumstances. The ability to look like someone else, the ability to hide in shadows, the ability to craft magical artifacts, powerful firearms, the ability to monitor someone's emotions, the ability to bind a contract, a disintegration gun, absorbing skin, human strength telekinesis, etc.
A major advantage is one which frequently provides a decisive edge or powerful assistance, or an overwhelming edge in limited circumstances. The ability to read someone's thoughts, the ability to read someone's memories, the ability to teleport yourself more than a short distance, etc.
The type of an advantage is relevant to the question of whether the advantage is sufficiently flexible to allow it to perform an action or be used to assist an action. GMs should give more leeway to contentious uses of major advantages than significant advantages, and similarly greater leeway to contentious uses of significant advantages than minor advantages, though rewarding creativity should always be a GM goal.
See Example Advantages below for more examples.
Players are given charges in return for completing in-game objectives, as a source of magical power, to represent new wealth, or anything else the GM desires. A minor charge can be used to purchase a minor advantage. A significant charge can be used to purchase a significant advantage. A major charge can be used to purchase a major advantage.
Charges can be combined, but this may require an extensive amount of work, particularly to construct a major charge. Five minor charges can be combined to make a significant charge. Five significant charges can be combined to make a major charge.
Advantages can represent anything: physical prowess, mental acuity, skills, equipment, magical powers, professions, social contacts, financial resources, etc.
- [Minor] Equipment: High-Quality Binoculars. These have excellent optics, allowing good vision from far away.
- [Minor] Skill: Tracking. You know how to follow a trail.
- [Significant] Power: Eye for Talent. You have the magical ability to sense when someone else is a talent, though not always what it is (this might be the benefit for a critical success).
- [Significant] Talent: Perceptive. You're more aware of your surroundings than most people.
- [Major] Power: See the Past.
Professions and Professional Skills
- [Minor] Profession: Computer Programmer.
- [Minor] Craft: Carpentry.
- [Significant] Profession: Bodyguard. You can handle yourself in a fist fight, are decent at reading a room, and have some skills applicable for intimidation.
- [Major] Profession: FBI Field Agent. A profession can be a major advantage if it's determined to include, as this might, crime scene investigation, advanced driving, firearms training, and so on. If limited in the description to, for example, merely knowledge of FBI procedures, with any other benefits handled through other advantages, that could be a minor advantage.
- [Minor] The ability to gently move and manipulate light objects within your line of sight.
- [Minor] Having a telekinetic arm that's as strong and long as an actual arm.
- [Significant] The ability to use small objects normally anywhere within your field of view.
- [Significant] The ability to powerfully repulse someone near you.
- [Major] The ability to manipulate any object normally anywhere within your field of view.
These weapons assume a modern day campaign, and should be adjusted dependent on context.
- [Minor] A knife or dagger.
- [Significant] A handgun.
- [Significant] A rifle or shotgun.
- [Major] A highly powerful, returning magical dagger that has the optional ability to knock people unconscious.
A weakness is a negative that either increases the difficulty of certain tasks or provides an additional action that must be accomplished as part of attempts in some circumstances. For example, a slightly bad back might represent itself as a pervasive injury, a constant easy task that has to be added to activities which would strain it. On the other hand, possessing generally poor health might increase the difficulty of attempts to resist disease.
A weakness should be built in the same manner as an advantage: describe it in text, then determine whether it is a minor, significant, or major weakness, using the same guidelines of frequency and severity. Taking a weakness allows for the purchase of an equivalently serious advantage.
Compulsions are negative drives, things which temp the character. If a player has established that a character has a certain compulsion, and the character is in a situation to act it out where negative consequences might arise, the player can request to have the character make a compulsion check. In general, a player-requested check should be a common task. Bolstering WP cannot be gambled on a player-requested compulsion check.
If the character succeeds, they resist the temptation. If the character has a critical success, they gain a point of WP as normal. If the character has a failure, they give in to the compulsion, and some minor, negative in-game consequence should arise. If the character has a critical failure, they lose a point of WP as normal, and some serious, negative in-game consequence should be applied.
As such, player-requested compulsion checks are expected to gain WP, to balance the possibility of negative consequences that might occur on a failed roll.
In some situations, where a character faces serious temptation, the GM might call for a compulsion roll, possibly at a higher difficulty. This should only be rarely applied, in cases of strong temptation of a regularly-used compulsion, or where multiple compulsions are involved.
Compulsions are not purchased, but are instead established through play, in the same manner as drives.
Willpower is expressed in points called WP. WP may be won or lost on gambles, and may be used to bolster actions, as described above. WP that a character possess is divided into pools, one of which is the general pool, and the rest of which are drives.
All characters have a general pool of WP. For most characters the base amount is 5 WP, but additional base WP can be purchased with a major charge. Additional WP may accumulate in the general pool as a result of WP won during gambles.
A rest lasts a few hours. During a rest, any WP above the base amount may be redistributed to a drive. If the general pool has less than the base amount of WP, it recovers to the base amount.
In a case where a worn-out party is able to grab a few minutes to catch its breath, allowing the recovery of one point of WP, if said point does not increase the general pool to its base amount, may be reasonable.
A drive represents a long-term goal, value, or project. A character may have any number of drives, through 3-5 is likely the most reasonable number. Any amount of WP can be stored in a drive.
WP stored in a drive may be used to pay off WP losses from critical failures or be put up as collateral when bolstering attempts, so long as the successful completion of the actions in question would further the goal, value, or project represented by the drive.
- Stay alive
- Protect my daughter
- Get rich
- Own a country estate
- Uphold justice
- Find my father's killer
- See myself as a good person
Completing a Project
Many drives are indefinite in nature, continuing forever, but those which represent projects - a quest for revenge, the search for a specific treasure, or the desire to rule an empire - can be fulfilled. If this happens, the WP can be redistributed however the player desires. Where reasonable, if the player wishes the GM may allow them to set aside the WP for a brief period - unusable but undifferentiated - to give the player time to think of a new goal.
WP can be rearranged during an extended vacation. For every two points of WP removed from one drive, one point can be added to another. An extended vacation lasts for at least a week, and might need to be longer, or contain a solid justification for life reprioritization, if significant WP changes are being made.
Vulgar actions increase the difficulty of a roll by creating a second action that has to be attempt along with the first. The difficulty of this second action is represented by how vulgar the effect is and how many witnesses there are. A failure on this action results in a paradox effect, with a success meaning that cohesion of experience between the character and the witnesses is maintained. A critical failure on a paradox roll would result in a more powerful or dangerous paradox effect, with a critical success more appropriately being applied to the primary magical action.
The GM should periodically distribute XP charges as a story reward, which can be used to purchase or improve advantages. A minor charge every session might be appropriate.
Supernatural abilities can also be improved or purchased with tass.
Tass comes in the form of one or more minor, significant, or major charges, and may be used to purchase supernatural advantages, given a resource that would provide for either the consumption of the tass or the construction of supernatural equipment. A minor tass charge can be converted into a point of WP given appropriate resources.
Mundane equipment, unless highly unique or extremely expensive, is plentifully available to Delta Green PCs, and therefore does not need to be assigned as a specific type of advantage.
Extended Probability Table