Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Dramatic Odds for Dramatic Tasks

The PCs have finally tracked down the evil cultists and cornered them in their lair, interrupting the summoning ritual before it can be completed. As most of the heroes move to engage the cultists in combat, the professor rushes towards the pentagram in the centre of the room, reciting a guttural incantation from an ancient grimoire in the hope that he can close the magical rift. While he chants, an infernal entity begins to take form within the pentagram - will it break free before the professor can banish it?

In order to give the professor a challenge, the GM decides to treat this final showdown as a Dramatic Task.

But what is the professor's chance of success?

Calculating the Odds

Working out the probabilities for a standard task is fairly straightforward: An Extra with d6 in the appropriate trait would obviously have a 50% chance of success, while a Wild Card with d6 would have a 75% chance of success. But what is their chance of succeeding at a Dramatic Task? What if the character has one or more bennies? What if others are helping with Cooperative Rolls?

The probabilities for Dramatic Tasks are not easy to predict, and miscalculating the challenge can turn an important encounter into an anticlimatic cakewalk...or a total party kill. To make the process easier, I've written a Dramatic Task Simulator tool.

Using the tool, we can see that an Extra with d6 in the appropriate trait would only have around a 2% chance of success! The odds for a Wild Card are somewhat higher, but still not great:

Wild Card with d6: ~8%
Wild Card with d6 and 1 benny: ~14%
Wild Card with d6 and 2 bennies: ~19%
Wild Card with d6 and 3 bennies: ~23%

If the character has Wild Card allies making Cooperative Rolls with d6 in their traits, the chances improve further:

Wild Card with d6: ~13%, ~18% or ~23% (for 1, 2 or 3 allies)
Wild Card with d6 and 1 benny: ~20%, ~27% or ~33%
Wild Card with d6 and 2 bennies: ~26%, ~34% or ~42%
Wild Card with d6 and 3 bennies: ~32%, ~40% or ~48%

Of course the odds increase significantly when the character is more skilled. If the professor has Knowledge (Occult) d8 and the Scholar Edge (granting a further +2), even without allies his odds would be as follows:

Wild Card with d8+2: ~41%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 1 benny: ~58%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 2 bennies: ~69%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 3 bennies: ~77%

The tool also includes options for tweaking the mechanics. For example you could rule that failure on Clubs means losing 1 success (instead of resulting in total failure of the task), which would have the following odds:

Wild Card with d8+2: ~56%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 1 benny: ~68%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 2 bennies: ~76%
Wild Card with d8+2 and 3 bennies: ~81%

You can also adjust the length of the task. For example I sometimes run 3-round Dramatic Tasks (requiring 3 successes), for situations that aren't quite so crucial. On other occasions I'll run a full-length Dramatic Task, but allow for partial success, similar to the Social Conflict rules.

By adjusting the mechanics and looking at the odds based on the traits of the PCs, you can help make your Dramatic Tasks appropriately challenging for the players.

Cooperative Rolls with Alternative Skills

When making a Cooperative Roll, you should normally use the same skill as the lead character. However I will often allow those making Cooperative Rolls to use a different skill if they can justify how it would help.

For example, if the Dramatic Task involves picking a lock before a guard patrol walks past, one character might use Persuasion or even Taunt to distract the guards, buying time for the main character to complete their Lockpicking attempt. As the objective of the Dramatic Task would be to pick the lock before the guards arrive, slowing down the guards would be just as useful as speeding up the lockpicking effort.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

House Rule: Combining a skill with a trick/test

In some situations you may wish to perform a trick or test of will that, based on its description, would appear to heavily depend on a combat or arcane skill.

When this occurs, use the lowest of the two traits. If the skill normally requires the use of a tool or weapon, has a limited range, or expends a resource, then those restrictions still apply, as do any penalties which would normally apply to the skill (such as range, cover, etc). However you receive a +1 bonus to the roll, and in the case of an arcane skill, any penalties are also reduced by the PP cost of the power (although this never provides a positive bonus).

If you roll 1 on the skill die, then the action is resolved as if you were actually using the combat or arcane skill, without the +1 bonus. 

Note: This is based on a throw-away proposal I made on the Pinnacle forums in the past. The subject came up again recently, and I had to really dig around to find my post, so I'm repeating it here.


You want to shoot at the ground and make your opponent dance: Expend a point of ammo and roll the lowest of Shooting and Intimidation with a +1 bonus. The result must be high enough that it would have hit if it were a Shooting roll. If you roll 1 on the skill die, but the Wild Die was successful, resolve the action as a normal Shooting action - you accidentally shot them. 

You want to carve your initials onto your opponent's shirt: Roll the lowest of Fighting and Taunt with a +1 bonus. The result must be at least equal to their Parry, and you must be within melee reach. If you roll 1 on the skill die, but the Wild Die was successful, you accidentally cut through their shirt and into their flesh - resolve as a normal Fighting action. 

Your only offensive spell is a firebolt, and you don't want to kill the guard who's chasing you - so you decide to shoot the tree next to him and spray him with hot splinters: Expend 1 PP and roll the lowest of Spellcasting and Agility (trick) with a +1 bonus, ignoring 1 point of penalty (from the PP) for range/cover/etc. If you roll 1 on the skill die, you suffer backlash, and if the Wild Die is successful you accidentally hit the guard directly with your firebolt.