Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Simple DIY D&D Task Resolution System

System-agnostic modules have a hard time with difficulties for tasks.

You can write "AC: 8 or 12" and write "Atk: +4" or "HD: 8" but explaining how hard something is supposed to be can be difficult since task resolution systems vary wildly from game to game.

Some don't have them, some use d6s, some use individual mechanics, some use DCs.

Here's one you can use in any game with the 3-18 ability score spread and a class/level system.

How hard is it to get across the ledge without falling?

"Getting across the ledge is a simple Dex check for a 4th level thief"

Meaning it's a roll-equal-or-under Dex for a 4th level thief.

Thief over 4th level? +1 to your Dex for the check for each level over.

Under 4th level (any class)? -1 to your Dex for the check for each level under.

In addition...

Not a thief? -5 to your check. (If it's a specialty task, -10).


"Intimidating the Lieutenant is a simple Cha check for a 6th level fighter, barbarian, paladin, etc"

"Understanding the scroll is a simple Int check for a 9th level wizard."

"Discovering the tree is hollow is a simple Wis check for a 4th level ranger or druid"

"Noticing the lance is broken is a simple Int check for a 6th level fighter, barbarian, paladin, etc"

"Eating the pies is a simple Con check for a 7th level halfling."

Design note:

This seems easier for me than DCs because I usually back-engineer the DC or check modifiers from this information anyway.

I thought about using the point at which the check becomes automatic (i.e. +so much it's not worth rolling) as the baseline--like "This check is automatic for a 12th level wizard" and then you just subtract but it's harder to come up with that. (Even though it "feels" cleaner.) You find yourself figuring for who it is supposed to be a challenge and then adding numbers.

Note also that--in terms of expected success rate--there is a difference between checks based on a class prime requisite vs. those based on an unrelated score--a simple Dex check for a thief will be in the 75% success range whereas a simple thief Int check will average out lower (slightly above 50% usually).


  1. What does 'simple' mean here? Is it 'simple task' vs. 'complex multiple-roll task'?

    (This seems like a much cleaner way to model DCs; I usually ended up just ballparking DCs around 20 and ignoring the rolls because I couldn't be bothered to actually come up with numbers, so this feels more at-the-table-usable.)

    1. I dunno it just seemed simple. Simple to come up with? Doesn't seem worth going into.

    2. I immediately thought 'complex task for a...' which made me think 'complex (3) task' meaning 'you need to succeed three times to make it work.'

      Or maybe 'contested task', which is, I dunno. I'm too tired to invent a contested task resolution mechanic right now.

    3. Contested task res is easy as fuck. d10+stat v. d10+stat
      d10+stat+level v. d10 +stat+level/HD
      d10+stat bonus v. d10 + stat bonus

      vastly outclassed (by 10) parties can win on fumble/crit

  2. I would usually require a flat check, regardless of level or class, modified for the situation - slippery ledge, encumbered character, etc.

    This works well in a system where stats never improve and checks are made using a dice combination with no curve.

    Opposing stat checks are easy too. Each contestant rolls a check, lowest number wins, assuming both pass their checks. If one should pass and the other does not, the contestant who passes auto-wins. Should both fail their checks, something detrimental (and hilarious) should happen.

    Of course in systems like 3E where you can expect high level characters to have stats over 20, this system eventually breaks down. How someone with a stat above 20 should fail any checks made against it is beyond me, and frankly makes little sense in the game.

    1. Well if you don;t want one class to be better at some things than another or if you don't want their level in that class to matter, that's a fine system.

    2. Right, like in the current draft of D&D next, "this is a simple task for a wizard" or "this is a simple task for a knight" might be the baseline, without the level qualifier, because with the flatter advancement, level is less important to skills. Harder challenges might be "figuring out this complicated mechanism is a simple task for a brilliantly smart thief." And if you want to back-engineer that to an actual DC, it's pretty easy to do that. An interesting approach.

  3. What I dig is how you can label the challenge vs. the preferred class AND required attribute. When writing adventures specific to our group I feel this gives me a simple way to think up ways our given party might overcome a given challenge.

  4. The only problem I can see is that, for tasks with a high difficulty, you could end up being better off if you're not the required class.

    For example, for a task for a 12th level wizard, a 1st level wizard would get -11, but a 1st level thief would only get -5.

    I can think of two possible solutions:

    i) Have a set penalty for not being the right class but too low a level, which is lower than the penalty for being the wrong class.

    ii) Specify that characters of the wrong class get the level penalty if that's higher than the penalty for being the wrong class.

    1. I meant to include another thing, hold on...

  5. When I used to play 3.5 quite a bit I got tired of thinking of the DCs and how their was a constant need of escalation to keep shit challenging..

    When I started playing C&C it was nice to have that simple mechanic of 12/18 for Target Numbers. Makes things a hell of alot easier.

  6. This seems like a slightly more detailed version of how they do it in 4e; for each level, say if it's easy or hard, and instead of "skill training" you just say what class finds it easy or hard, and then adjust for other classes.

    It would have been nice if the old escape dcs and stuff in 3.5 had been instead been put in that form:

    "escaping from being entangled with nets is a simple task for a 9th level thief"
    "escaping from manacles without interfering with the lock is a simple task for a 19th level thief"

    Picking the lock when you're in them? Doesn't say, but I'd make it a hard task for a 14th level thief, just judging by the old rules.

    Sort of makes it a wash then whether you escape artist your way out or pick the locks, probably intentional.

    Anyway, it's nice because it lets you know "right, I've got a load of level 10 guys, they can handle ____this___ range of stuff easily."

    Doesn't solve the escalation problem, just puts it where you can see it, like putting levels on monsters.

  7. This is basically the system I've been using but mine is a mess of modifiers instead of lvls. Your version is elegant - I am stealing it.

    My players seem to like it as they can judge their chances well. Also I find some stuff should be thief specific - locks, pick pockets, make them at least marginally more useful.

  8. It won't work - there is not enough room in the system you suggest for the players to get into fist fights over who does what, something a traditional part of gaming skill challenge resolution.