Challenges

Challenges are obstacles for the characters to overcome. They are often physical in nature, e.g. locked doors and towering cliffs, but they can be mental activities such as hacking a computer system. They can even extend into the metaphysical and require the characters to find solace and peace from their inner demons. Players can tackle challenges directly with raw power, they may seek clever ways to circumvent the problem or they can simply turn away and take another route.

The process of overcoming challenges is one of the most rewarding in role playing. A good challenge will push the characters to be inventive and find novel ways to solve the problem, leaving players with a real sense of achievement when it is finally overcome.

Overcoming Challenges

Challenges are opportunities for players to use advantages outside of the normal combat, discovery or social situations. They push players into finding new and imaginative ways to use advantages as they tackle problems at the very limit of their capabilities. Within the game a challenge is anything requiring one or more actions to overcome. Simple ones will have a resistance score and more complex problems will need extended actions to address.

Challenges are normally narrative actions and will take a scene or longer to complete. For extended actions each individual action will take a round or a scene and often a session or a whole day may be required to complete a complex task. Attempting anything but the simplest, movement-based challenges in combat is generally not possible. However, occasionally a challenge will be incorporated into a combat encounter, forcing the characters to do battle while disarming a bomb or handling a similar imminent threat.

Improving the Odds

When characters lack sufficient advantages to tackle a problem or when the consequences of failure encourage a safety-first approach, players can stack the odds in their favour in a variety of ways.

The most obvious way is to concentrate on an action. The Game Leader might not allow this for all types of action - it is hard to see how concentrating could help when leaping across a chasm. Concentration is also tiring and with extended actions Game Leaders may decide its repeated use is not possible. A concentrating character is disadvantaged should the adventurers be attacked.

By being prepared, characters can make tasks easier. Though concentrating might not be possible when leaping a chasm, characters can clear the run-up of obstacles, warm up their muscles and carry out a few practice jumps away from the edge. Simple preparations should earn characters 1d6+0 situation bonuses for their efforts. It is also possible for one character to act as a pathfinder, such as the expert in climbing who goes first and secures a rope for everyone else to use. The rope and similar preparations can be used by other characters as mundane equipment.

Another strategy is for characters to take their time over the problem. Rather than attempting to pick the lock in a scene the characters may extend the time scale of the action. This may leave the characters open to danger from passing monsters or to starvation and exposure.

Team Work

There are two sides to team work: the players and the characters. A good challenge is one in which all the players become involved. Situations where one player is busy making a series of actions while three others are doing nothing leads to frustration and boredom. Team work and co-operation should be encouraged and everyone in the group should be able to throw in ideas and ask questions. Even if their characters are not present, players should get involved because a role playing game is a social activity and is at its best when the group is working as one.

When it comes to specific actions by the characters there are situation bonuses for assisting actions without the Aid Other keyword. These will make it harder for characters without relevant skills to contribute directly to the actions. Sometimes, rather than combining advantages in the same action, characters can find other ways to work together. It may be easier to rig a rope and pull the aged professor up the cliff instead of trying to assist her climbing action.

Status Effects

Characters may be able to use status effects to help overcome challenges. Magic spells or advanced technology may improve characters' abilities temporarily or may simply mitigate the consequences of failure. Game Leaders should pay attention to the time it takes to attempt each action and how long the status effects last. If characters are not careful they may find their status effects running out at inopportune moments. As the length of a scene or session is not precisely defined, Game Leaders should not be too exact about timing. Instead they should use the timing of status effects as a tool to build tension and as a way to engage characters and players who have no other way to contribute.

Lateral Thinking

Players often come up with ingenious ways of solving problems which is something the Game Leader should encourage and reward. When players propose an unexpected solution the Game Leader's role is to question their logic and point out flaws in their plans but not to arbitrarily declare it unfeasible. Game Leaders should remember the purpose of challenges in the game is to entertain the players and not to make the characters perform a series of arbitrary tasks.

Setting Challenges

Challenges come in many different forms and can range from the simple locked door to complicated problems made up of several sub-challenges. Yet all challenges have common ingredients: headline, details, numbers and consequences.

The headline is a summary of the challenge, a single phrase to give the players a sense of the problem facing them. For example: "a wide chasm blocks your path" or "the book is written in an unknown tongue."

Once players are presented with the headline they may wish to gather more information about the problem facing them. These details may simply add colour to the situation, e.g. the flowing river at the chasm's bottom or the book's shaky handwriting. Other details will be more pertinent to the problem like the height and width of the chasm or whether the book is written in a Greek or Arabic alphabet. The more complicated the challenge, the more details the characters will wish to know. Discovering the information they need may require the characters to undertake a whole series of actions before they can even attempt to overcome the challenge.

The numbers are the scores the characters need to beat in order to overcome the obstacle. A locked door may just have a single resistance score, but more complicated challenges consist of extended actions with a resistance score, a target score and a time scale for each action. Challenges often have multiple scores, one for each way of tackling a problem, e.g. picking a lock or breaking a door down. A challenge may also have several parts to it - climbing down the chasm, crossing the river, climbing up the other side.

Challenges have consequences for success and failure. These might be very basic, where a locked door either opens or it doesn't, but if the lock has an alarm or a trap things will be very different. Success might not deliver the results the character expects. A professor deciphering strange hieroglyphics may crack the code only to accidentally summon something from a dark dimension.

A key consideration when setting challenges is the time scale each action will take. Characters under time pressures due to deadlines or out of fear of wandering monsters will wish to overcome the challenge quickly by speeding up their actions and accepting the additional resistance. Relatively easy but slow challenges can become tricky when attempted at speed. When combined with some external time limits or pressure, the Game Leader can increase the tension and excitement of the game.

Special Rules

Challenges can often incorporate special rules made just for the situation. These can take any form the writer desires and challenge-specific rules always trump the core rules if there is conflict. Special rules are a good way of introducing novelty and of dealing with situations that would be too complex or slow using the standard rules.

Environmental Challenges

Bad weather, noxious fumes and radioactivity are just some of the environmental threats characters may face. Unlike other challenges the characters must simply survive the threat until they can leave the area or until the weather and circumstances change.

Environmental challenges operate like hazards with the Start Of ... keyword. The characters are 'attacked' every round or scene or day they spend in the environment. This is a narrative action and characters must resist it. The consequences for failure will vary according to the environment but may involve life damage or the character gaining status effects. This might in turn make escape from the environment or resisting its effects more difficult, leading to a downward spiral the character cannot escape.

How Difficult?

Considering the inherent difficulty of a task is a good starting point for setting challenges. This not the only or even the main consideration and Game Leaders need to use their judgement to pitch the challenge at the appropriate level for their group. Key to setting the difficulty correctly is remembering the purpose of a challenge is to entertain. Too easy challenges will quickly bore players, especially if they occur repeatedly. Impossible challenges will frustrate players and it is better to simply tell players the task is impossible due to magic or alien technology than to allow them to repeatedly fail at a task.

To assess the difficulty of a challenge, consider the likely abilities of a character facing it. Every character is limited by their advantages and potential. Starting characters will have six potential (four dynamic and two static) but potential is only useful if the character has suitable advantages. If the character is an expert on a particular subject they will be able to deploy all six potential on advantages. A talented non-expert will probably be able to play four advantages and an average character only two advantages. Players can improve their situation by taking more time and preparing.

On average, when faced with a challenge, most characters will be able to muster 4d6+0. Setting the resistance at 14 (an inherent difficulty of Challenging) will give characters approximately a 50/50 chance of success. When planning challenges thought must be given to who in the party of characters will tackle them. Locked doors or ancient manuscripts are challenges only an expert will need to tackle. Once they have succeeded, the challenge is not an issue for the other party members. Obstacles such as narrow cliff paths or chasms pose a challenge for each party member. When a challenge will be overcome by just one character, presumably the character most suited for the task, the difficulty can be raised. When every character, including the weakest and least suitable person, has to overcome the problem the resistance needs to be set lower.

The 6d6 RPG is a game about situations and adapting to them. If a party of characters is struggling with a challenge to the point that the game is not fun for the players, the Game Leader should adapt to the situation by being generous with situation bonuses. Or the Game Leader can take a narrative solution. Once one character has succeeded or when it is clear the party can overcome the problem given enough time and dice rolls, the Game Leader quickly describes the rest of the task and moves the game on to the next part of the adventure. There is no benefit to making players carry out every single action once it is clear what the outcome will be. Challenges are for entertainment, not exercises in rolling dice.

Example: Secure House

This house belonged to a security freak. All the doors and windows are steel reinforced and have multiple high security locks.

Breaking in - 10 / 20 (Scene)
Picking all the locks on one door or window - 7 / 15 (Scene)
Example: Chasm

A 30' deep, 15' wide chasm with a river at the bottom.

Easy
Handholds exist on both sides of the chasm walls.
Easy
The river is slow moving and about 2' deep.
Moderate
The river can be followed south, into a natural tunnel.
Moderate
The handholds are well worn, suggesting a lot of use.
Hard
Movement and a brief glimpse of a pair of large bulbous eyes can be seen to the south.

Ascending or descending the chasm walls is an extended action: 4 / 20 (Round). The river at the bottom is easy to cross. If the characters find themselves in a fight, the river has a MR 2 and the chasm walls an MR of 4. Leaping the chasm has a resistance of 15 but must be done in a single action. Failing a climb action results in the character falling and being attacked with an impact of 2d6+0. Failing the jump leads to an impact of 3d6+0.

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open/mechanics/core/overcomingchallenges.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/11 11:50 by darth_tigger
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