Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Skill Rolls in AFF2e

In which I talk about the way in which I handle Skill Rolls in AFF2e, especially the ‘problem’ of what to do with low SKILL characters who are meant to be experts in a particular Special Skill. In short, don’t roll, and if you do roll, roll high unopposed.

1. Special Skill Points represent competency. This is independent of general SKILL levels. As per AFF2e p.25:
1 = Basic Training
2 = Fully Trained
3 = Expert
4+ = Master

2. Don’t roll the dice. Adventurers should succeed automatically when using Special Skills within the bounds of their competency. The dice should only be rolled when Adventurers are acting under unusual stress or attempting tasks beyond their competency. This means that an Adventurer with SKILL 5 and a Special Skill of 4 is far more able than an Adventurer with SKILL 8 and Special Skill of 1. In mundane situations, the first Adventurer will rarely be called on to roll the dice. As a ‘master’ most tasks will be within the bounds of his competency. The second Adventurer will only automatically succeed at tasks within the competency of someone with basic training. But when the situation is not mundane…

3. Roll the dice. The dice should be rolled when the situation is unusual or perilous, or when an Adventurer is attempting a task beyond their competency. In these situations there will be no difference between the chances of success enjoyed by the two adventurers described above. The Adventurer with SKILL 8 is able to make up for his lack of professional expertise in such a situation by his or her sheer grit, natural talent, ability to work under pressure, and/or downright heroism. The Adventurer with Special Skill 4 can make up for his lack of natural talent with his professional training. So, in such situations, does the Adventurer succeed or fail?

4. Does the roll beat 14?  All non-combat tasks should be resolved by rolling 2d6, adding SKILL and Special Skill, adding or subtracting any modifiers, and attempting to equal or beat 14{*}. This means that a character – let’s call him John of Salamonis – with an effective SKILL of 7 (an average human – SKILL 5/6 – with some training Special Skill 1/2) succeeds just a bit less than 60% of the time.

5. Modifiers to Effective Skill (see Capping Effective Skill)

A Legendary Feat [-8]
As an example, this is the modifier to an Awareness test if a sneaking character is invisible. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis, and most people and creatures of Titan, to 0. This means that, if the Referee rules the action possible at all, the chance of success is just under 3%. An Adventurer would need an unmodified effective Skill of 11 before this chance is improved (to 8%).

Almost Impossible [-6]
As an example, this is the modifier applied when fighting in darkness. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 1. Again, this means that the chances of success (vs. a target number of 14) is just 3%. However, expertise and talent tells more quickly, with Adventurers with an unmodified effective SKILL of 9 having an 8% chance, rising to nearly 17% at 10, and nearly 30% at 11.

Extremely Difficult [-4]
As an example, this is the modifier applied to Swim or Dodge tests when encumbered by a very heavy weight. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 3, which means that he has an 8% chance of success.

Difficult [-2]
As an example, this is the modifier applied with fighting while drunk. This would reduce the effective SKILL of John of Salamonis to 5, which means that he has a 30% chance of success. He will fail more often than not, but will succeeding often enough.

…er, but hang on. What about positive modifiers? What happens when things are easier than normal? In most cases, I argue that this should mean that Referee simply rules that the Adventurers succeed. Even the chances of our everyman, John of Salamonis, shoot up to over 70% with a +2 modifier, over 90% with a +4 modifier, and 97% with a +6 modifier (assuming double 1 is an automatic failure). The exception is, of course, effective SKILL in combat, in which positive modifiers do play a part (though I propose capping effective SKILL for human/mortal scale Adventurers at 12). In this case, the roll is not to beat a target number of 14, but the Attack Strength of the opponent, which can be much higher. The modifiers for combat are well detailed on p59 of AFF2e.

But note. Combat is the only place for ‘opposed rolls’ when I run AFF2e. When Adventurers are engaged in a contest vs the environment the roll is unopposed. Equal or beat 14, with modifiers for difficulty. In all non-combat contests vs NPCs, Adventurers likewise roll to beat 14, with modifiers for difficulty. I do not construct NPCs symmetrically to Adventurers. They have SKILL and STAMINA scores for combat, but their non-combat expertise is handled by key words and associated modifiers, which apply to the effective SKILL of the Adventurers, not the NPC. So, if an NPC description has that the NPC is keen eyed, I will also write that all Sneaking tests conducted against that NPC are at -2, for example. I don’t have to give him Awareness 6 to make up for a feeble SKILL score. Or the other way round – If Adventurers and NPCs are not symmetrically constructed I don’t need to worry about the effect of giving an NPC a high SKILL score – this only represents combat effectiveness, as per the original gamebooks.

It really does make statting up NPCs a piece of cake.

{*} The AFF2e rulebook has a suggested target number of 15, which means that there is a big difference between the default ‘roll low’ system and the alternative ‘roll high’ system. With a target number of 15 for the ‘roll high’ system, a character with effective SKILL 7 would succeed just over 40% of the time. In the default system, a character with an effective SKILL of 7 would succeed in rolling 7 or under 60% of the time.


  1. Some great points there. I love your NPC statting method. It does make it a piece of cake. I'm also for auto success for certain skill levels to stop someone spending all their xp on skill increases and ploughing through everything. Makes working on special skills more attractive and rounds characters out a bit. I also love your stat calculations. What seems like minor modifiers can create huge swings in probability, so you need to be careful. And good point for noticing that if something has a positive modifier, it might as well be successful . Takes out all that tedious dice rolling.

    1. Stuart, I've just seen your post on the AFF2e forum regarding automatic success for certain Special Skill values - it appears we were thinking along similar lines!

      But you got there first...

    2. Great minds think alike. your version is an improved version, especially when it comes to simplifying NPCs.

  2. Also, it seems a bit off that most NPCs in the world (who have a skill of 5 and a special skill of 2 in their chosen profession according to the Heroes' Companion) would only succeed at their jobs 58% of the time if doing your job required a roll. They should be able to perform their duties without too many rolls, otherwise their skills would have to higher or the tolerance for incompetence on Titan is higher.

    1. 58%? That's a real good chance! Well, compared to WFRP1e, where, by the book, mundane NPCs have a 30-40% chance of success when 'tested'.

      I've come to believe that if a character - PC or NPC - is meant to be skilled in a particular area then under most conditions there should not be a 'test', just an automatic success. 'Tests' should be reserved for skill use under 'adventuring stress' and the like, and even then what counts as 'stress' or out of the ordinary conditions ought be determined by 'narrative' skill level.

    2. Narrative? I mean the skill level in the fiction of the game world, rather than the mechanics.