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Skill Check Difficulty and Rules

Skill Checks are used in the Atomic RPG System for many things. There will be many times when players will want to use Skills to determine the success or failure of their character’s action. These Skill Checks will mainly occur during Turn Time, but may also be used during Real Time or Battle Time.

The Atomic RPG System makes Skills an important part of any character. Skills have more meaning and affect the game as much, and in some cases more, than combat.

In the Atomic RPG System Skills Matter

The first thing that all players of the Atomic RPG System need to know is that each Atomic RPG System Skill counts. Games like Dungeons & Dragons have allowed players to roll against a skill challenge over and over until they succeed. This is not the case in the Atomic RPG System. A player will get one chance to roll a Skill Check against any given challenge. If the player succeeds with the Skill Check roll, they can continue on and tackle the next challenge. If the player fails a Skill Check roll, the character has failed at whatever they were attempting. They cannot roll against the challenge again until, and unless, the situation surrounding the Skill Check changes. This mechanic makes Skill Check rolls important and exciting, and making the Atomic RPG System more fun!

Example of How Skill Checks Work

The player wants her character to climb over the wall to the city to bypass the guarded gates. When night falls, she attempts to use the Athletic Skill and roll a Skill Check to attempt to climb over the wall. The player’s roll fails, and her character can no longer attempt to climb the wall. The player cannot roll again in an hour, tomorrow, or even next week in most cases. The player will need to find another way.

To change the situation, the character can head back into the village and buy a ladder to go over the wall. The situation has now changed, so if they can make it to the wall while carrying a big ladder undetected, the player can attempt to use the Athletics Skill to climb over again. Of course, this will present a whole new set of issues the player must deal with.

If the player just keeps failing to tackle a particular Skill Check they can attempt to climb the wall once again if they train up the Athletics Skill. The character has changed their circumstances due to learning more about athletics or becoming more skilled.

GM Skill Check Guide

There are two ways Skills are presented in the Atomic RPG System.

Turn Time Skill Challenge

A series of Skill checks in a Turn Time Encounter such as traveling through a city in the midst of a riot. For Turn Time Challenge Skill Checks will be either Easy, Moderate, or Hard. The Skill Check Numbers are auto calculated and can be found at the top of the Skill Section on the Character Sheet.

The formula used in the background is Level + Character Tier + Challenge Difficulty.

Easy, Moderate, or Hard checks should be used by the GM 90% of the time. Even if not strictly Turn Time, the GM will give a basic difficulty. 

Single Skill Check

Skills used as a single check such as when a PC wants to do one small thing such as jumping a small chasm during Battle Time. 

Below is a table to reference when working with Skill Checks. This should help GM’s in the Atomic RPG System to be able to set appropriate challenge levels to Skill Checks during game play. Consider the task at hand and how challenging it is for the character, then use the appropriate check score as a starting difficulty to roll.

Easy, Moderate, or Hard checks should be used by the GM 90% of the time. Even if not strictly Turn Time, the GM will give a basic difficulty. 

Important Note

Single Skill checks should only be used when the Easy/Moderate/Hard method will not work or are not appropriate.

Trivial5Track a wagon that passed by 5 minutes ago on a muddy road.Perception/Nature
Very Easy10Climb a knotted rope.Athletics/Nature
Easy15Identify the difference between a male and a female deer.Nature/Scholar
Difficult20Realize the street waif you are trying to get information from is lying to you.Social/Subterfuge
Hard30Pick the lock on the door of a nobleman’s quarters.Subterfuge/Crafting
Very Hard40Remember the detailed history of a King who died 300 years ago.Scholar/Social
Extremely Hard50Notice a well-concealed secret door at night during a heavy rainstorm.Perception/Nature
Nearly Impossible65Understand and explain the secret intentions of a secret sect of undead worshipers.Religion/Social
Almost Impossible80Hack into the central banking system and clean out a competing corporation’s funds without leaving a trace in 30 seconds.Subterfuge/Scholar
Impossible95Defeat a gazebo.Athletics/Social

Note: This does not address the Crafting Skill. Please reference the Crafting Skill directly for those difficulty checks and other rules.

Skill Check Critical Success

It is important that the player and the GM role play out rolling a natural 20 on a d20 on a Skill Check.

It is a lot of fun to roll such a good Skill Check and should be rewarded through good role play. Also, GMs should give their players more than they expected with Skill Check Critical Successes. This will only enrich the Atomic RPG System and the adventures.

Here are some examples of rewarding the player's luck to create a great game.

Skill Check Fumbled Failures

As important as it is to highlight the fantastic successes of characters, it can be equally as entertaining to throw a spotlight on their bad luck. Some of the most memorable situations in gaming come from epic fails rather than successes.

When a player rolls a Skill Check of a 1 on a d20, this is a Fumbled Failure. The player and the GM are both encouraged to role play out the missteps and the accidental misfortune that befell the player. GM's should not go out of the way to make a player feel bad about a failure; rather, GMs should focus on the unexpected situations that may occur. Whatever the outcome, it should be the opposite of what was hoped for.

The goal with failures is not to humiliate a player, never that. The goal when dealing with players is to present unexpected situations to deal with in the game.

GM Skill Check Modifiers

In the Atomic RPG System, part of the GM’s job will be to set appropriate Skill Check numbers.

First try to use the Easy/Moderate/hard Skill Check method.

If that does not work use the table above and the individual Skill pages on the Atomic RPG System website to get an idea of what numbers should be.

Between those two resources, a GM should be able to set Skill Checks for most normal situations.

First and foremost GMs should use the Easy/Moderate/Hard Skill method for most of what they do. These should usually be applied to activities such as predicting the weather, sneaking past guards, and other similar “regular” activities. 

Tackling Static Skill Checks Throughout a Campaign

For static number checks, like jumping a 2 space gap. That will always be a 10. This means that a 1st level character should have the same checks as a level 20 character to do the same thing.

Hard Skill Checks at level one will get easier, so high level characters can do more things because so many of the checks will be easier. This is important for the feeling of growth and an increase in the character’s power. This means a 1st level character might have trouble jumping that two space gap. At level 20, however, jumping that gap should be a breeze. The player feels good and powerful because they can now easily handle something that was once hard.

This doesn’t mean that they will not face harder and more challenging situations. The point is that the situations should evolve with skill difficulty. It should not just be that the same exact skill check situation gets harder.

Second, this will set attainable goals for growth of the characters. This is important so players will know what and where they want their Skill Points. A target that is always moving may be unattainable by some players so they will “not even bother to try”. However, if they know that a Subterfuge of 30 will pick the lock on an average house, they have a goal to shoot for. The player may focus and work to get their Subterfuge Skill to that point even if their character is not “ideal” for the task. This way the player knows that they have gotten good enough to break in.

There will come times when players do the unexpected or tackle a challenge in an intelligent way. In these cases the GM is encouraged to add GM Modifiers to a specific roll. In the Atomic RPG System, it is very easy to figure out what to add, or subtract, from a situational skill roll. A GM should use the player’s Tier and the bonus or penalty they have for a skill check.

GM Skill Check Modifier
Situational Bonus

Oftentimes a GM will want to reward a player for handling a skill situation well. If the player has a pretty smart idea, they should gain a bonus to the skill check. If the player comes up with an absolutely brilliant idea to a skill situation then the GM can give them double their Character Tier as a bonus to that one roll. This is a great way to reward players for imaginative and intelligent Atomic RPG System gameplay.

A Level 7 Character is Tier 2. A Major Bonus would give a +4 to their roll. 

GM Skill Check Modifier
Situational Penalties

There also come times when a GM will need to “punish” players that are foolhardy or impatient. If the player is doing bad things or something that would obviously negatively affect the skill situation, they should receive a penalty of their Character Tier to their Skill Check. Other times players might be appearing to sabotage a particular skill situation. These can be dealt with by giving a penalty to the skill roll.

A Level 7 Character is Tier 2. A Superior Penalty would have a -10 to their roll. 

Players and GM’s both appreciate the simple and easy method of adding situational bonuses and penalties to skill situations in the Atomic RPG System. There are no complicated tables, equations, or volumes of contradicting game information. GM’s simply decide if this is “outside of the ordinary” and if so, if it should be a small or big bonus. Best of all, these modifiers scale with a character so they will always have impactful meaning in the Atomic RPG System.

Player Cooperation - Aid Another

Multiple characters can work together to figure something out. This is called Aiding Another.

To successfully Aid Another character the character helping must make the same check the as the one rolling the Skill Check. If they succeed then the player rolling the Skill Check can add their Character Tier to their roll.

However, if the character helping fails in the check, the player will get a penalty to the roll of their Character Tier. Only one player may Aid another at a time. 

Two Skills Are Better Than One

For many Skill Check rolls in the Atomic RPG System, the GM is encouraged to try to use two possible applicable skills to accomplish something. The reason for this is that it allows more players at the table to participate and feel like they can contribute. It also blurs the arbitrary line that has been drawn in classic RPGs where characters were either good at skills or good at fighting. In the Atomic RPG System, players get the best of both worlds! Players can be good at combat and skills.

This method of using two different Skills represents a character’s ability to be good at something for different reasons.

Here is a handful of examples that GMs can use as examples of allowing a Skill Check under a choice of Skills:

Skill SituationPrimary SkillSecondary Skill
Tell a lie.SubterfugePerception
Set a trap.SubterfugeScholar
Cross a river.AthleticsNature
Determine honesty of NPC.SocialReligion
Learn information about a polar bear.NatureScholar
Give a rousing speech.SocialReligion
Jump off cliff into water and Reduce Falling Damage.AthleticsNature
Determine effects of powerful magic item.ScholarReligion
Find food in the area.NatureScholar
Disable a mechanical trap.SubterfugeScholar

There are many more situations where two Skill Checks could be offered. The GM will need to find the most appropriate Skill Checks to use.

Another benefit of using this method is that the GM can use appropriate Skill Check difficulties instead of sliding them up or down for a specific character. Instead, more static Skill Check difficulties remain in the game, giving the players a good idea of what they can and cannot accomplish.

Player Versus Player Skill Checks

Most of the time in the Atomic RPG System, player versus player interactions are mostly role play-based. That means the players should resolve disputes with discussion. Normally this is the way player versus player conflicts should be resolved.

However, there may be situations when players may want to have a Skill Check roll off. This is ok, but it should not be forced by the GM. If the players derail or delay the game beyond reason, then the GM can step in and force a Skill Check roll off. It is vitally important that players work through in-game conflicts as normal humans do. This will help to build bonds among players. This will also help to foster a very strong and healthy RPG group.

There can also be situations where a player might enter a Skill Check roll-off with an NPC. Most of the time the GM should use the Easy/Moderate/Hard method but on occasion the player might have to roll skills directly against an NPC as well.

Are you a GM looking for Skill rules? Click below!

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