Taking Action

When characters are doing routine tasks like walking down the street or talking to someone they just have to state what they are doing. Only when a character is attempting something important, where their success or failure will have a real impact on the game, do players need to take an action.

Actions use potential to activate advantages whose dice values are combined together, possibly with a situation bonus. In order to succeed in an action the character must score more on their dice (including modifiers) than the resistance action scores on its dice. For many actions the degree of success, i.e. the difference between the two scores, is important.

Taking an action is broken into six steps.

  1. Declare the action's focus or goal.
  2. Select advantages that are appropriate and available.
  3. Determine who is resisting.
  4. Decide any situation bonuses.
  5. Roll the dice and calculate the dice score.
  6. Resolve the outcome.

1. Action Focus

Each action must have a clearly defined focus or goal such as "I try to dodge the attack" or "I run across the street." It is this focus which is used to judge whether the character's chosen advantages are appropriate. More complex actions such as "I run across the street, kick open the door and shoot the person inside" should be broken down into individual actions with separate goals.

Actions fall into several distinct action types and can have different effects. Normally the type of action and its intended effects are clear from the action focus. However it is sometimes necessary to clarify with the player exactly what they wish to do as the type and effect of the action may make a difference to which advantages can be played and the difficulty of the action.

2. Appropriate & Available

The advantages used in an action must be appropriate and fit with both the action's focus and the other advantages being used. Common sense should help decide which are suitable for the action. A shotgun is a perfect advantage when trying to kill someone but does not make a very good tool for first aid.

Sometimes two advantages may be individually appropriate for a task but not together in the same action. A private eye could use either their Charm or their Intimidate advantages to question a suspect. Both are appropriate for the action but using them together does not make sense.

What Is An Appropriate Advantage?

Characters can use advantages that are appropriate to the action's focus but what counts as appropriate? This is left entirely to the Game Leader and the group to decide. Making these decisions is as much a part of the game as playing a character.

These discussions are also part of the creative process that is at the heart of all role playing games. Deciding the magic spell Zap! can be used with a Spite advantage because the character's magic power thrives on inflicting pain adds just as much to the game as their back-story about being from a lost tribe.

The beauty of role playing games is that they create a shared world in the imagination of the players which is unique to that particular group of players. Another group playing exactly the same adventure would have a similar but distinct world of their own. This is why the group as a whole, not the Game Leader, decides what advantages are appropriate. Everyone playing has a stake in the shared world and everyone has a right to guide and shape that world.

"There is no right or wrong way to combine advantages" — The Golden Rule

The style of a game is reflected by which advantages are considered appropriate for an action. Dark, gritty and realistic games will tend to be more restrictive whereas action-film, gung-ho space-opera type games will tend to allow almost any combination. Which style a group leans towards is a matter of taste and has no impact on how the game works as long as it is applied equally to the characters and monsters. However, there are a few game mechanics that push advantages towards being used in certain ways. The + (Keyword+) keyword is the prime example and appears to conflict with the golden rule.

The Skill+ and similar keywords are used when the advantage does something over and above a normal action. For example, the Stunning Blow advantage does life damage and potential damage in the same action. The Skill+ keyword makes the advantage more limited than, say, a Brawn advantage because it cannot be used on its own. This is the cost the character pays for the additional power that the advantage gives. If these costs were routinely ignored it would give an unfair boost to characters with those advantages.

Keeping the game fair is essential for the continued enjoyment of all the players. Whenever a player argues that an advantage should be usable despite its keywords, the overall impact on the game needs be considered as well as its appropriateness. The golden rule always applies but, in these circumstances, a higher threshold should be expected in justifying the advantage's use.

Available Advantages

Characters can only use available advantages in an action. These are generally the advantages on their character sheet that have not been discarded. Some keywords such as Freq. (specify) may limit how often an advantage can be used without penalties but it is still available. Magic or technology may make other characters' advantages available and some locations may make advantages available.


As well as advantages being available, characters must have the potential to activate them. With a few exceptions, all advantages used in an action require either dynamic or static potential to be used. An advantage may be used for free if it is the character's free resist advantage being used as part of a resistance action. The Free keyword on an advantage enables it to be used without potential but the keyword is rarely used. The Free [specify] allows another advantage to be used for free in conjunction. For example, the Powered Armour has the Free [Brawn] keyword which allows the character to used the Brawn advantage without potential as long as the Powered Armour advantage is being used in the same action. Of course, both the Powered Armour and the Brawn advantages need to be appropriate for the action.

Characters can use dynamic potential instead of an advantage. They can concentrate or make a potential action. Concentration is only possible in a narrative action when at least one advantage is being played. A potential action can be used in narrative or standard actions when no advantages are being played. In both cases, only a single dynamic potential can be used in this way, adding a maximum of 1d6+0.

3. Who Is Resisting?

How the resistance is set depends on the action's focus.

Resistance Actions
When a character is targeting another creature with their action, the target gets a resistance action. This also applies when the attacker is an environmental factor such as an avalanche, or a status effect like being On Fire. The simple rule is that if it affects a character they get a resistance action against it. This applies even if the character is unconscious or dead, though there will only be a very limited number of advantages appropriate and available in those situations.
Inherent Difficulty
Actions directed at inanimate objects or the universe in general such as kicking down doors or operating computers are opposed by the task's inherent difficulty. This is set by the Game Leader based on the circumstances and the action's goal.
Some resistances are set by the rules of 6d6 RPG. These are known as meta-resistances and include actions focused on moving, removing status effects or recovering life advantages.
In a narrative resistance, the Game Leader does not set a fixed target score or a number of dice to beat and instead uses only their judgement to decide the results. Narrative resistance is often used for discovery or social actions where the line between success and failure is not clear-cut. This allows Game Leaders to take into account the player's role playing, the advantages played, the dice score and needs of the narrative and the overall fun of the game.
Minimum Resistance

All actions have a resistance and even the easiest action can be failed, at least in theory. If no other resistance applies and no situation bonuses are relevant there is a minimum resistance score of one. Beating this is trivial for most actions but if a character is relying on a single four CP advantage (1d6+0) or just a Potential Action (also 1d6+0) there is a chance of failure. The minimum resistance applies to actions with a degree of success and therefore subtracts one from the action's dice score.

4. Situation Bonus

Bonus Environment Familiarity
- Perfect. Everything prepared and no distractions; an operation in a fully-equipped, fully-staffed, fully-funded hospital. Practised. Used the equipment previously, knows exactly what is for.
1d6+0 Inconvenience. Not ideal but perfectly normal; dealing with the routine problems of a slightly underfunded department. Exo-cultural. Minor cultural differences; keyboard in a foreign alphabet.
2d6+0 Hindrance. Working under manageable but difficult circumstances; piloting a plane in bad weather. Knowing. Knows what the equipment is for but never used it; stick shift versus automatic.
3d6+0 Poor. Significant and unavoidable problems; stripping an engine with only half the necessary tools. Aware. Aware of the equipment's purpose; different programming languages.
4d6+0 Serious. Lacking most or all the normal facilities; searching a basement with only a book of matches for light. Conceptual. Conceptual knowledge about the equipment's purpose; bathroom plumber and the city's sewerage system.
5d6+0 Disastrous. Something only worth attempting if there is no other option; repairing a crashed plane in the middle of a desert. Guessing. Only the most basic idea; disarming a bomb based on watching movies.
6d6+0 Catastrophic. All but impossible; surgery using a sharp stone, in the dark, in the middle of a rain forest. Alien. Totally beyond comprehension; a caveman encountering a computer.

A character's advantages are not the only factors affecting the outcome of an action; outside influences also play their part. Some are very common, such as cover or range, but at times events conspire to produce a unique set of circumstances that aids or hinders the character. All these factors are classed as situation bonuses and grant one or more 1d6+0 to the action dice. It is common for an action to acquire multiple bonuses (e.g. range and cover bonuses) and there is no limit to the number of bonuses an action can receive.

If something makes an action easier the character or attacker gains a situation bonus, and if it makes it harder the resistance gains a bonus. Each bonus adds 1d6+0 to the dice of the attacker or defender. Dice are never removed. If something makes it harder for the resistance, dice are added to the attacker's roll, and vice-versa.

Environment & Familiarity

Routine actions can suddenly become a lot harder when performed in unusual circumstances. These may be caused by issues such as weather, noise or bad light, but may also be due to the availability of equipment, staff training and maintenance levels. Sometimes even having the right tools for the job is not enough, you need to know what they are and how to use them. A fighter pilot attempting to fly an alien spaceship is going to find it a lot harder than the alien pilot. Familiarity only applies to complicated systems such as aircraft or computers or a human doctor trying to treat an alien creature.

5. Calculating the Dice Score

The player adds up the dice value of the advantages they are using plus any situation bonuses, and then rolls the dice. The amount scored on the dice is added up along with the dice modifiers to get the final total known as the dice score. For example, playing three advantages of 1d6+1, 1d6+0 and 1d6+3. Three d6 are rolled scoring a 4, a 2 and a 6 for a total of 12. The dice modifiers are added: +1, +0 and +3, to reach a grand total of 16.

The dice keyword affects how the dice score is calculated. It may require any dice which rolled low (e.g. ones or and twos) to be rerolled. Their original values are ignored and the values from the reroll are used to calculate the dice score. The Dice keyword may also instruct high values to explode, e.g. sixes on the dice. The original six is added to the dice score and those dice are rerolled, adding the second value to the total score as well. Dice are only ever rerolled once.

The Double [Specify] keyword allows the specified advantage to be counted twice in an action. Treat this as if an additional advantage of the same value is being played, e.g. a doubled 1d6+2 advantage adds 2d6 to the dice and +4 to the dice score.

6. Resolving the Outcome

All actions are opposed by a resistance. Depending on the situation this may be set by an opponent using potential and advantages to defend themselves, or it may be a fixed resistance score, such as the difficulty of climbing a cliff. Regardless of the situation, there is always a minimum resistance score of one.

Some actions are either successful or they are not, e.g. either the character makes the leap across the chasm or they plummet to their death. Any action that scores more than the resistance is successful.

Degree of Success

Where the measurement of the action's success can vary by wide margins, such as how far a ball is thrown, the outcome is driven by the degree of success. This is the action score minus the resistance score. If the result is zero or negative, i.e. the resistance score is equal to or larger than the action score, the action has completely failed. A positive difference indicates the action was successful and the size of the difference is how big a success it was.

The most common application for this is physical attacks where the degree of success is the amount of life damage dealt to the opponent.

Success + 4

For situations where the character can succeed by varying amounts but in well-defined fixed units, for example how many apples the street urchin can steal, the success + 4 scale is used. If the character beats the action score they have been successful and gain the minimum possible level of success (one apple). For every additional four points by which they beat the resistance their level of success improves. A result of five means two apples were stolen; for nine points it is three apples, 13 points for four apples and so on.

This scale is used for dealing potential damage.

Successful Movement

When a character is taking an action with a movement effect their action score only has to equal the total movement resistance to complete the movement.

Completing An Action

An action is only completed when the character has either attempted or achieved everything they stated as their action focus. Also, the character and everyone affected by the action (e.g. targets) must have made all their dice rolls, spent their potential and updated their character sheets as necessary. This distinction is important with opportunity actions which interrupt the normal flow of play. For example, a character's movement may trigger an opportunity action with their first step but the other players cannot act until the character has completed their action.

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open/mechanics/core/five_steps.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/04 16:01 by tregenza
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The 6d6 RPG tabletop store is owned and operated by Chris Tregenza. Who also owns and runs Myomancy, a site about ADD / ADHD medication, Autism and Dyslexia Treatments and also site called Poosk. Chris also provides copy-writing, web design SEO advice to sites like Dingles' Games pathfinder rpg resources.