Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

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The Angry Monk
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Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:55 am

Just wondering if anyone has used the Ability Check chart at the back of the BFRPG rulebook for other skill checks a la Tunnels and Trolls. So if a character wants to search for secret doors in a room that is in a 1st level dungeon, the character can use the ability bonus for his or her Intelligence minus 1 (level of the dungeon) and add that to the roll of a d20. Compare that to the character's level target number to see if there is a success (rolls of 1 or 20 might have other effects). That way a character's checks increase with his or her level and some tasks might be simpler or harder.

Thoughts?
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Clever_Munkey
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 10:59 am

The way I rule it is this:

If the chance of success is based mostly on something outside of a characters control (e.g. searching for almost anything, breaking something, disabling a trap, being surprised) then they have a chance of 1 to X on 1dY, sometimes with some relevant ability modifier added to that range. Higher Y means the task is harder, and higher X makes it easier.

If something is outside of a character's control it may not matter how perceptive, or strong they are, although these things might certainly help.This assumes that characters are more or less consistent with how they search, break things, etc. Sometimes a door is just really jammed in there, or the secret door has almost no seam. (This is also consistent with how the core Rules uses these rolls. Whether it was intended that way or not Solo would have to say.) These rolls can usually be avoided by taking a smart action, or being creative (e.g. Using water to search for a hole, or drying out a swollen door.)

If a character has a class feature or background that would help them complete a task, or they have special training, then they get a percentage. This primarily applies to thieves, and other "specialist" classes, but also Cleric and MU spell/magic item creation. The percentage is defined before the situation arises at character creation (if using background skills), or in the rules. The percentage is usually unmodified.

A character's class shows special training in their relevant areas, and this assumes any situational difficulty can generally be overcome by their training. Failure indicates that they had not trained for that situation, and may require leveling up before they can try again.

If a character lacks specific training in a task, but a character would get better as they adventure, then I use the ability score target number table (e.g. lighting fires with wet materials/under extreme pressure).

As a character adventures, it's expected they get better at adventuring, and that is reflected in the table.

If a character lacks specific training, but the character would not get better as they adventure, then I roll under the ability score (e.g. Attacking while swinging on a rope).

These are based solely on a character's natural ability, and would not improve without training, and usually requires a teacher.
Last edited by Clever_Munkey on Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:23 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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The Angry Monk
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 11:57 am

Yeah, I was using a range on a 1d6 to adjudicate abilities or skills. However, with T&T the GM could set the challenge rating of a task based on a level. Perhaps smashing down a door is always a level 1 challenge, but as adventurers increase in levels, they become more proficient at hitting the door with just the right amount of force. However, perhaps there's a door or a trap that is harder than the usual wooden door or pit. Then the GM is able to increase the difficulty by increasing the level. Or as an elf increases in levels, his or her ability to detect secret doors gets easier (the elf has become more experienced and used to seeing "ordinary" secret doors). I know it is adding a layer of crunch that other players may not want, but that ability check chart just intrigues me with its uses.
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:00 pm

There are a few more reasons I use the range on a d6.

1. It's easier. I don't have to worry that one door is "more stuck" than another. They are all stuck. Looking for food/traps/doors/etc. is similar. If one door is more stuck, or more secret than another, then I feel like I must be able to give a reason if asked.

2. I also think it's generally more realistic (admitting that realism should not be sacrificed for fun, and this stems from my own perception of reality).

In the military a sniper is trained to detect changes in an environment based off of a baseline set by observations made throughout the previous hours, days, or even weeks. When trained people try to judge someone's emotions and thoughts accurately, they first try to observe a baseline behavior before interacting with the person. Diagnosing certain diseases also requires a baseline, or at least knowing what "normal" is (special training).

In all of these cases the observer has some familiarity with the subject, and/or tools that has been built up over some period of time, and is detecting changes to that subject. In exploration the goal is to become familiar with the subject then make a deduction in a short amount of time.

In your game, adventuring may be enough to become better at detecting "ordinary" secret doors. I can easily see the logic there. It makes sense.

I've just always assumed that searching for a secret door involves looking for seams and abnormalities in a wall which the party has little concept of "ordinary" for. If a secret door might be given away by different architecture, or by gouges in the floor that are abnormal, then I give those clues to the party, and they can deduce that there is a door there themselves. If there were "ordinary" secret doors, then I don't think they would remain secret for long.

Similarly, not all stuck doors are stuck the same way. Swollen, wedged in the frame, etc. each of which can happen differently, and affect different doors in different ways. I simply assume that the characters don't know which way that is.

My philosophy in searching for food is a little different. To me the range on a d6 represents, first and foremost, whether there is food at all, and then whether the character is familiar with that general location (not necessarily the biome/environment although that might also have an effect). In most cases I assume characters know whether something is edible.
Last edited by Clever_Munkey on Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:25 am, edited 3 times in total.
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The Angry Monk
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:48 pm

Clever_Munkey wrote:It's easier. I don't have to worry that one door is "more stuck" than another. They are all stuck. Looking for food/doors is similar. If one door is more stuck, or more secret than another, then I feel like I must be able to give a reason if asked.
All good points. And you're correct. Most of the time the doors will be all stuck the same amount. However, the players may get better at unstucking them. That's where the ability check chart comes in. Or, you do have a special door and you want to beef it up.

In T&T the challenges could be a whole range of things: swinging over lava, jumping from pillar to pillar, trying to intimidate an NPC or creature, etc. What I like about the T&T rules (and to some extent the modern versions of D&D) is that the difficulty can range on a sliding scale. If a third-level fighter with a Charisma score of 18 is trying to intimidate a goblin, he can add +2 to his d20 roll (+3 bonus subtract 1 for monster level) and his target is 16. However, if he tries intimidating an ogre, then he subtracts 1 (+3 bonus subtract 4 for monster level) from his roll, and his target is still 16. At level 4, his target drops to 15.

Does this make sense?
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 4:26 pm

The Angry Monk wrote: All good points. And you're correct. Most of the time the doors will be all stuck the same amount. However, the players may get better at unstucking them. That's where the ability check chart comes in. Or, you do have a special door and you want to beef it up.
While I certainly subscribe to the idea that anyone can get better at almost anything, I also feel that practice on its own is not enough and getting better requires at least some level of teaching, introspection, or analysis (i.e. specialized training).

SWAT teams, for instance, have a door breaching specialist who trains regularly in breaking doors with several kinds of tools for different kinds of doors, and types of entry. They are probably much better at breaching doors than most people, but at that point it's probably a "class feature." :lol:

As to having a tough door: Part of this is covered in the core rules; "locked doors roll the same range on 1d10. Metal bars can sometimes be bent on a roll of this range on 1d20." I also feel that stuck doors are supposed to be noise makers. I expect the party to get through stuck doors. If I don't want them entering easily, then it can be locked, barred, hidden, buried in rubble, barricaded, wizard locked, or otherwise prevented from opening.
The Angry Monk wrote: In T&T the challenges could be a whole range of things: swinging over lava, jumping from pillar to pillar, trying to intimidate an NPC or creature, etc. What I like about the T&T rules (and to some extent the modern versions of D&D) is that the difficulty can range on a sliding scale. If a third-level fighter with a Charisma score of 18 is trying to intimidate a goblin, he can add +2 to his d20 roll (+3 bonus subtract 1 for monster level) and his target is 16. However, if he tries intimidating an ogre, then he subtracts 1 (+3 bonus subtract 4 for monster level) from his roll, and his target is still 16. At level 4, his target drops to 15.

Does this make sense?
Certainly, and that is a quick unified way of doing it. (For social interactions I actually use the reaction tables.)

However (in my games) leveling up means getting better at a class(es), and adventuring only.

Assuming the task is possible, and there is a reasonable chance of failure, and there are consequences to failing, then I ask these questions:

-Is there a specific class or background feature that covers the task?
If yes then use those odds.
Modify in extreme situations.

-Does anyone who adventures perform this or a similar task regularly? Or does the task pertain to a specific class, but there are no predefined odds of success?
If yes then use the target number.
Add relevant ability bonus.

-Does the character lack specific training, and the odds of success depend primarily on luck, and/or unknown/uncontrolled factors?
If yes then roll range on 1dX.
Extend range by ability bonus if exceptional talent would help.

-Does the character lack specific training, and the odd of success depend primarily on their natural abilities or talents?
if yes then roll under ability score.

Obviously this is not a unified resolution mechanic. It has the benefit though of always keeping specialists in a task better than non-specialists, with people getting better at the things they actually train in. I also don't have to worry about small situational modifiers. I've already decided that the task is difficult enough to warrant a roll. Also small details go unnoticed by those that are not trained, so they can't make use of that information. Trained specialists can make use of that information, which is already reflected in their increased chance of success.
Last edited by Clever_Munkey on Wed Jun 21, 2017 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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The Angry Monk
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:00 pm

Right on. Thanks, Munkey.
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:53 pm

If you haven't yet, you may also want to check out this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1865&p=51968&hilit ... ice#p51968

There seems to be a spectrum to what people accept as improvable and not. This was just my point on that line, and my interpretation of the game design.
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The Angry Monk
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:56 pm

Thanks, Clever_Munkey. I will be reading this thread thoroughly.
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Re: Using Ability Checks for Other Skills

Post Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:07 pm

And no matter how Angry Monk does it, he's a great DM. He ran us through The Zombraire's Estate a couple weeks ago to give the hard working (but incredibly handsome despite his age) regular DM a break.
Teaman is the sole proprietor of Sharp Mountain Games at drivethrurpg.com. (Soon he'll be able to purchase the name brand peanut butter!). Come take a look if you have some time.

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