Skill Checks and Variable Player Powers

Skill Checks and Variable Player Powers

How do you perform Skill Checks without a Game Master/DM?

Whether it's leaping over a waterfall, sneaking past a sleeping grizzly, taking a long shot with a bolt action sniper rifle, or setting a cabin ablaze, I wanted all player choices to be tested without the need for another player to act as Game Master. The tests were going to be simple and intuitive. Without a DM, the standard for the task and the penalty for failure would have to be presented on the game board. We ended up designing a Skill Check system that would require a single D6 and use the varied character's skills as roll modifiers.

Variable Player Powers
Variable Player Powers (© Bantam Planet LLC)

The five skills are Agility (AGL), Strength (STR), Malice (MAL), Sneak (SNK), and Will Power (WIL). All Skill Checks are presented using iconography, rather than walls of text or cards. This makes them easy to understand and even easier to implement anywhere in the game. The icons consist of the same triangles that make up the background of each skill's icon and are color-coded to determine what skill was being checked. The number inside each triangle displays the difficulty level. A player must roll a single D6 and add their character's corresponding Skill Level to the dice roll as a modifier. To the left of the triangle are displayed two bits of information: 1) if the Skill Check itself is an action, and requires the player to spend an Action Point ("Grit") to attempt it, that action will be listed; and 2) any penalties for failure are listed as well. See the excerpt from the rulebook below for more information...

Action Skill and Checks Excerpt
Actions & Skill Checks (© Bantam Planet LLC)

To mitigate bad dice rolls (which I've had my fair share of in the past), I implemented the fifth skill-Will Power-to allow for re-rolls. Every character starts at 4 Will Power, and players can spend Will Power to re-roll for failed attempts. If players push their limits and reach 1 Will Power, they suffer one damage. Will Power can be restored through the Reflection Action, which is essentially meditation, or by sleeping in a cabin or a campsite. When your character has a Low Will Power it can affect their ability to pass Skill Checks or react to random events that may occur.

Mountains Agility Check
Agility Checks in the Mountains (© Bantam Planet LLC)

Above you will see an in-game example of two Skill Checks. These checks have no text, so they are tied to the Movement Action of moving from one Acre to another (every space on the board is referred to as an "Acre"). They are both Agility Checks, and one has a penalty of 1 Damage, while the other has a penalty of DEATH! I'll let you figure out which one is which. Lastly, one has a red dotted arrow pointing away from its Skill Check, this means that if the check is failed the player suffers the penalty and moves to where the arrow is pointing. This simulates that the player failed to scale the cliff and fell downhill. Some players will use this to their advantage because if you are trying to climb down from the cliff and fail, you still end up where you were trying to go, but just with a few bumps and bruises. You will also see that the shelter of the campsite and the cave allow you to ignore the effects of Frostbite. The campsite also allows you to heal 1 health (otherwise known as "Vigor") and restore 1 Will Power for every night spent there.

We've found that the Skill Check mechanic is a widely applicable and intuitive mechanic. It allows players to tell elaborate stories and attempt courageous feats with a single D6 and no Game Master. It is one of the many mechanics that make up the foundation of our Immersive Tabletop Simulator system.

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