Thursday, January 4, 2018

Task resolution in White Box

Raider attempting to pick a lock, something he will most likely fail at doing. -Matt

I have been running a White Box campaign lately, going strong on our ninth session tonight...that's pretty good for me - don't laugh. One of the things that used to bug me was the Single Saving Throw mechanic. It seemed odd to me, having mostly grown up with AD&D, to reduce all these down to a single die. Over time though, my viewpoint on this has changed, and so too has my use of the Saving Throw mechanic.

I know I did not come up with this, I've probably seen it somewhere before. A quick Google search gave me this link Tenkar's thoughts on saving throw mechanics (hey, I'm inherently a lazy guy.) So I know it has been done before, but I thought I would formalize it by writing it down. I have been using the Saving Throw for task resolution in my game and I think it has been working fairly well.

Note: For actions where success or failure are unimportant, success is the most likely outcome, or I as the GM find either outcome boring I will simply allow the character to perform the action without a roll.

For all other instances, I use the following table (mostly, but I freewheel things often):

  • Any modifiers for an ability that seems to fit the situation are added to the roll. Thus a high Strength would help someone trying to flip a table a bad guy is standing upon. A high Dexterity would help in walking a tight rope. Or a high Wisdom might allow a character a better chance to decipher a hastily note written. 
  • I also take into account if the character class would be helpful. A thief would know sneaky stuff, a mage magical type stuff, clerics know godly stuff. Now, you might say this is redundant because the saving throw is class based, but I give them a little more oomph if the task is something that would be familiar for any one of that class.
Then I apply a very liberal task modifier using the below as a guideline. This is a spur of the moment thing and I take in account many factors (environment, haste, lighting, familiarity, etc). I am fairly fluid on these, so don't be betting the farm on my picking one:

  • -10   Inconceivable! 
  • -5    A very difficult task, one the character has never done or has no knowledge of
  • -3    A hard task but one that has a slimmer of possibility
  • -1    Difficult, but certainly possible
  • +1   Fairly easy
  • +3   Done many times before

And that is about it. Nothing too fancy and it takes me a fraction of a second at the table so it does not slow the game down.

* Please note that I still require Thieves to use their Thievery resolution as displayed on page 19, despite the picture above on this post. I just used it to tease one player in my game. 


  1. Could you give a couple of examples of tasks your resolve with saving throws?

    1. Sure.

      Brother Walther (cleric who studied at a large religious college (in his background), +1 due to high Wisdom) finds some old tomes, written by an ancient religious cult. He attempts to glean their meaning. I ask him for a Saving Throw, adding any Wisdom modifiers (because he is smart) and I also give him another +3 to his roll. I figure that as a Cleric and in his studies he might have come across examples of this language or at might be somewhat familiar with the culture or writing. Those are modifiers to his roll, for a total of +4

      Haegar is being rushed by three thugs and he wants to flip the tavern table over at them, more of an attempt to slow them and allow an escape than an attack. Haegar is a big warrior type, these guys are minions, and it sounds kinda cool, something heroes would do in a movie. I might just let him do because it is cool. Or I might make him roll, his foes are idiots, he is a big guy, and it sounds cool. I say we give him a +5 on that roll.

      Vin (MU, dumb) wants to try to figure out what a magic wand does. He meditates over it for an hour, weaving magic ether to try to understands its powers. He's a magic user, so thats a bonus, but he is an idiot so his dumbness sort of negates that. Plus he's never done anything like this before, so I decide to let him try but give him a big -5 to his roll.

      That said, honestly I do not get that much into the weeds on this. Mentally I sort of tally the pros and cons for the action and give it a modifier that feels right.

  2. I also take into account if the character class would be helpful.

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