Friday, July 8, 2016

Easy skill or ability checks

* image selected simply based on my love of halflings

A recent discussion over on the Basic Fantasy RPG forums got me thinking about ability checks (you can go read it here ).

In BFRPG many of your basic checks are resolved using a single d6: opening doors, checking for secret doors, etc.

BFRPG follows along in this manner with trap detection as well:

And yet again with secret doors. You seeing a pattern here?

Now in all these examples someone with a high ability score gets a modifier, but the user entr0py posited the idea of instead giving the player additional dice to roll. So you would need to roll a "6" on a d6, but if you received a +1 modifier due to a high ability score you get to roll 2d6 and try to get a single "6". I think the number play out close enough in probability to make this a viable comparison. Please note I am not a math guy, in fact I hate math, so I did a few quick Google searches and called it quits. Probabilities appeared pretty close - not perfect - which I am ok with, this is a game and not rocket science.

I am split on the whole natural ability and experience battle. I think natural ability is a point, but in the end experience wins the day. Maybe it is because I am old. So I like the idea that experience counts for something. So following along with entr0py's idea, what if we gave additional die on rolls based on levels? It makes abilities important but also makes gaining levels important as well.

Let's say that for every 3 levels you get an additional die when performing actions that logically your character would have experience with over their adventuring career. For those who think every 3 levels is too quick, use ever 5 levels or every 6. My campaigns seem to putter out around 5th or 6th level so I do not think every 3 levels is too fast. Your mileage might vary. GMs could easily add or remove a die to control the difficulty of the situation, I would say never dropping below d6.

I think if you have added backgrounds (see ) or simply had players come with a biography for their characters, this could be used as a guide as well. Character's background says his parents were fishermen? Give that guy an extra die on any check involving the ocean, boats, or fishing.

For example-
Wulfgar is running from skeletons and comes across massive boulders blocking his way. The player wants to move a few boulders out of his way to allow Wulfgar to escape certain death. Wulfgar gets the standard 6 on a d6 for this check. His high Strength gives him an additional die, so he can roll 2d6. Wulfgar is also 3rd level the GM deems that feats of strength would be par for the course for a Fighter and provides the player with an additional d6. Wulfgar's player now gets 3d6 to attempt to get a single 6.

I think you could even replace Thieving skills with it. Another "homebrewing thieving skills" example-
Kenric attempts to pick a lock. He gets the base d6 roll, needing a 6 to be successful. As a GM I would argue that picking a lock "fits" within the scope of his class so I offer him another die, now he rolls 2d6, still needing just a single 6 to succeed. The player notes that he has a +1 for his high Dexterity score. He now has 3d6 to roll and get a single 6.

Cleric is digging through ancient texts to try to find an obscure prayer to help combat some evil creature terrorizing his town?
Heimlich wants to find an obscure passage in the church's library. He gets the normal d6, but his exceptional Wisdom gives him an two dice. He now rolls 3d6 on his check.

This process might not be perfect but I think it provides a viable method of utilizing natural ability AND experience is a super fast method that a GM can easily manage at the table without comparing tables and charts.


  1. One dice needing a 6 = 83.3% of success.
    Two dice needing a 6 = 69.4%
    Three dice " = 57.8%
    Four dice " = 40.5%

    So an extra die is better than bumping needing a 6 to needing a 5 or 6. But three and four dice are less effective than needing 4-6 (50%) or 3-6 (66.6%).

    1. I'm not following your math here. You will only every need a single 6 to be successful, never multiple dice on the same roll.

    2. Uhm, no...the probability of rolling a six on one die is 1/6 or 0.17%

      When we add we have two choices, add one to the roll, meaning a 5 or 6 six succeeds or adding a die and needing a 6 on either die to succeed.

      The odds of rolling a 5 or 6 on one die is 2/6 = 1/3 = 33%.
      The odds of rolling a 6 on one or both of two dice is the same as 1 minus the odds of not rolling a six on both dice. The odds of not rolling a six on each die is 5/6. The odds of not rolling a six on either die is 5/6*5/6= 25/36 or 69%. Therefore the odds of rolling at least one six are 1-0.69 = 31%.

      You are better off rolling 6 or better on 1d6+1 than at least one six on 2d6.

      For +2 the odds become 0.5 when adding to the die (4,5,6 succeed) but only 42% for at least one six on three dice.

      At +5 the single die automatically succeeds while the six dice have a 72% chance of success (figured as 1 - (5^6/6^6).

  2. Statistics are evil so I like this idea Matt. Statistics are the biggest killer of gaming fun btw.

    1. Add an added bonus I realized that if you happened to roll multiple 6s on a single roll (say you rolled 3d6 and rolled 2,6, and 6) you could use this as a quick margin of success for the narration resulting from the roll. Not only did the guy succeed, but he succeeded with style.

  3. I like this idea quite a bit. The math is probably better than adding 1/6 chance with every "bonus" (background or situational). Makes negative modifiers to X in 6 situations manageable too...just roll multiple dice and treat it like Disadvantage rather than Advantage.

    1. Yep, I was really surprised when I began to look at how it worked, surprisingly simple and easy to manage in-game. Plus it does not make me have to think too hard...a difficult thing at my age. :-)

  4. You should check Blades in the Dark. It runs with a very similar system that you propose.