When a character uses a skill, he makes a “skill check.”
Standard Skill Checks
Most of the time, when a character simply tries to accomplish a set task, he makes a “standard skill check” against a difficulty number set by the Game Control. This number is referred to as a Difficulty Class (DC), and it generally falls between 10 and 60. The player rolls 1d20 and adds his character’s skill bonus to obtain a skill check result. If the result equals or exceeds the task’s DC, the character succeeds; otherwise, he fails.
Some skill checks do not have DCs; instead, the result determines an effect as noted in the check’s description.
At any time, a character’s skill rank determines the maximum result he may achieve with the skill, otherwise known as his “result cap,” as shown on Table 2.4: Result Caps. This is a hard limit that may not be exceeded with any character option, modifier, or other rule, except as follows.
- When a character spends one or more action dice to boost a result that begins above the standard result cap, the combined action die result is added to the result cap to determine the check result.
- If the character scores a total result of 75 or higher, no matter what his skill rank is, he scores a “Triumph”.
|Example 1: Kevin has an Analysis skill rank of 8. He rolls a 19 and has +14 in miscellaneous modifiers — including his attribute, insight, synergy, gear, and other bonuses — so his check result adds up to 41. His result cap is 40, however, so his final result is reduced to 40.
Example 2: Following Example 1, Kevin spends a number of action dice, adding the total action die result to 40, not 41. If Kevin’s total result breaks 75, he achieves a skill Triumph.
Result caps are occasionally modified by character options and other rules. If a character’s result cap with any check ever drops below 5, he may not use the check under the scripted circumstances until it once again rises to
5 or higher.
Active vs. Secret vs. Passive Skill Checks
Each skill check is defined in its description as either “active,” “secret,” or “passive.” Active skill checks represent the character intentionally doing something that quickly reveals failure (e.g. trying to leap over a wide crevasse), while secret skill checks represent him deliberately doing something with which failure isn’t immediately evident (e.g. attempting to influence someone), and passive skill checks represent him doing something subconsciously (e.g. noticing someone sneaking up on him).
Active Skill Checks
When a character makes an active skill check:
- The player rolls the die to determine success, and the result is therefore obvious to him.
- He may gain a synergy bonus and spend action dice to boost the result.
- An active skill check always requires a set amount of time to complete, as noted in the skill description.
- The character may have the option to “take 10” or “take 20” with an active skill check, as defined in the skill description.
Secret Skill Checks
When a character makes a secret skill check:
- The GC rolls the die to determine success, and the player is not informed of the result until and unless it becomes obvious (when a presumably sabotaged item is found to function properly, for instance).
- The character may gain a synergy bonus with a secret check. Further, a character may spend action dice to boost a secret check result, but does so at his own risk, as he isn’t aware of the result before he boosts it.
- If a secret check results in a threat, the GC is obliged to ask whether the character wants to activate it.
- Every secret check requires a set time to complete.
- The character may have the option to “take 10” or “take 20,” as defined in the skill description.
Passive Skill Checks
When a character makes a passive skill check:
- The GC rolls the die to determine success, and the player is not informed of the result unless its success informs him of something (depending upon the GC, the character may not even realize that a failed check, or a check that provides no information, has occurred).
- The character may not spend action dice to boost a passive skill check result, though some specific passive checks allow for critical successes (in which case, the GC will ask the character if he wishes to activate any threat rolled).
- The character never gains a synergy bonus from other skills when making a passive skill check.
- Passive skill checks are commonly, but not always, free actions (taking no time to perform and happening as a matter of course).
- Unless the GC or a rule states otherwise, the character may not “take 10” or “take 20” with a passive skill check.
Skill Checks with Multiple Characters
Opposed Skill Checks
When a character vies or competes against someone else with a skill, he makes an “opposed skill check.” Each character involved makes a standard skill check with his most relevant skill (e.g. Athletics for everyone in a foot race, Notice for one person and Sleight of Hand for another when the second character is trying to secretly swipe something off a table in the first character’s line of sight, etc.).
The character with the highest skill check result wins the competition. Equal results are considered a tie unless this provides no clear result, in which case the winner is the character with the highest skill bonus. If the characters possess equal skill bonuses, a random 1d20 die roll determines the winner.
|Example 1: Kevin and five others are racing toward a closing security door. Each makes an Athletics/Maneuver (Foot) check. The character with the highest result reaches the door first, the character with the second-highest result arrives next, the character with the third-highest result comes after that, and so on. If two or more characters’ results are equal, they reach the door simultaneously.
Example 2: Kevin tries to slip past a minion. He makes a Sneak/Hide check and the minion (who is on guard and watchful) makes a Search/Perception check. If Kevin’s result exceeds the minion’s, he slips by unnoticed; otherwise, the minion spots him. In this case, since equal results produce an unclear result, comparing skill bonuses breaks the tie.
When making an opposed check, the character may not take 10 or take 20.
Cooperative Skill Checks
When multiple characters work together to perform one task, the GC may ask for a “cooperative check.” In this case, one character performing the task must be chosen as the leader of the attempt. Each other character is called a helper. Determine all characters involved in a cooperative check and their roles in the task before rolling any dice.
First, the leader makes the skill check relevant to the task, generating the base check result.
Then, each helper makes the same skill check with a DC determined as follows.
- If the skill check has a set DC, each helper’s DC is 15.
- If the skill check has no set DC, each helper’s DC is equal to the leader’s check result minus 10 (minimum 15).
The leader gains a synergy bonus to his check result equal to the number of successful helpers (to a maximum +5 bonus per check, no matter how many helpers are involved). For each helper who scores a critical success, the leader gains an additional +1 bonus with his check result (this bonus is unnamed and can exceed the +5 limit).
If even one helper’s skill check results in a critical failure, the entire task is ruined and must be started again.
The leader’s final skill check result — after all helper bonuses are applied — determines the cooperative check’s outcome.
The maximum number of characters may work together to perform each check is noted in each skill description.
When making a cooperative check, neither the leader nor any helper may take 10 or take 20.
Team Skill Checks
Sometimes, the entire team performs one task as a unit and individual success is irrelevant. Alternately, allowing each team member to make his own check might increase the chance of success above the scripted odds. In these cases, the GC may ask for a “team check.”
Each time the players ask to make a cooperative check, the GC may instead force them to make a team check. This is most common with Investigation, Notice, Search, and other exploratory skills, when it is more balanced to simply make one roll instead of many.
A team check operates like a standard skill check, except that only one character makes the check for the entire team. The situation at hand determines the character to make the check, as follows.
- If only one character must succeed for the entire team to reap the benefit (e.g. one character can make a team Notice/Awareness check and inform the others of what he finds), the character with the highest relevant skill bonus makes the check.
- If every member of the team must succeed to reap the benefit (e.g. every member of a team must succeed with simultaneous Security/Disable checks at different locations), the character with the lowest relevant skill bonus makes the check.
In either case, if two or more characters qualify to make the check, the team may jointly choose which of the characters makes it.
Directed Skill Checks
When there’s time, it’s often a good idea for a character with a high skill bonus to offer some pointers to the rest of his team. This is a “directed skill check.”
A directed check operates like a standard skill check, except that it takes 10 times as long and the GC makes the roll for the player, in secret.
With success, each other character who watched the entire directed check without interruption — and without taking any actions of his own — gains a +2 synergy bonus with the next identical skill check he makes (e.g. producing the same item, performing the same task, etc.). This bonus lasts until the end of the current scene, or for a number of minutes equal to the tutoring character’s ranks in the relevant skill (whichever ends first).
With a threat, the GC informs the player of the result and asks him whether he wishes to activate it as a critical success. With a critical success, the bonus lasts until the end of the following scene, or for a number of minutes equal to 2 × the tutoring character’s ranks in the relevant skill (whichever ends first).
With failure, the time is wasted and none of those watching gain any bonus.
With an error, the GC may secretly spend a number of action dice to inflict a –1 penalty per die spent upon all identical skill checks until the end of the current scene.
A character may only benefit from a directed check if the tutor’s ranks in the relevant skill exceed his own by 4 or more.
|Example: Kevin tries to tutor his three teammates in the finer points of the Analysis skill’s Authenticate check. He possesses 8 ranks in the skill and his teammates respectively possess 0, 3, and 7 ranks in it. Only the first two teammates benefit from Kevin’s directed check.|
Skill Check Modifiers
Unless otherwise stated, the following modifiers may apply to any skill check of any type.
Untrained Skill Checks
When a character possesses 0 ranks in a skill, he is considered “untrained” with it. Any character may make an untrained skill check, simply making the check with a skill bonus calculated with 0 skill ranks. His error range increases by 2.
When a character possesses two skills that work well together, such as Athletics and Acrobatics, his knowledge of one may assist him when he makes a skill check with the other. This is handled with a “synergy bonus.”
All synergy bonuses work the same. For every 5 ranks the character possesses in a skill, he gains a +1 synergy bonus with each skill check listed in the skill’s description (maximum +5).
|Example 1: Kevin possesses 7 ranks in the Falsify skill. He gains a +1 synergy bonus with Ambush, Appraise, Authenticate, Harassment, and Tracking checks.
Example 2: Kevin possesses 14 ranks in the Analysis skill. He gains a +2 synergy bonus with the Chemistry, Detect Search, Forgery, Haggle, Mathematics, Modify, Programming, Research, and Sabotage checks.
Synergy bonuses are granted by skills with passive checks, but they are never granted to passive skill checks (remember that the player — who typically keeps track of his own synergy bonuses — is often unaware when a passive skill check is being made).
Each skill check's description lists the skills that typically grant synergy bonuses to each check, though a player may make a case to his GC to allow a synergy bonus not listed in a skill’s description. The GC should only allow synergy bonuses he finds logical and supportive of the situation at hand.
Like all named bonuses, synergy bonuses do not stack, so only the best available synergy bonus applies to each skill check.
The Game Control can apply a “discretionary modifier” to reflect miscellaneous situations at hand. This modifier may range from –4 (for the most abject conditions) to +4 (for the most favorable).
|Example: Kevin climbs a cliff in a light wind, so the GC applies a –2 discretionary penalty.|
No more than one discretionary modifier may apply to any single skill check. When multiple circumstances apply to a single check, the GC should factor them all into a single discretionary modifier that doesn’t fall outside the –4 to +4 range.
|Example: Kevin climbs a cliff in a light wind (–2) during a tremor (–2), so the GC applies a –4 discretionary penalty.|
With interpersonal skills like Impress, the GC is encouraged to factor good roleplay into his discretionary modifiers, though he should err on the side of caution. As a rule of thumb, no roleplaying bonus should exceed +2 (total).
When a character benefits from more than one named modifier of the same type (discretionary, synergy, etc.), only the best of the bonuses and the worst of the penalties with the same name apply.
|Example: When making a skill check, Kevin gains a +1 synergy bonus from one skill and a +2 synergy bonus from another. He gains only a +2 synergy bonus with the skill check.
Example: When making a skill check, Kevin gains a +1 synergy bonus and suffers a –3 synergy penalty. He suffers a –2 synergy penalty with the skill.
If two or more like-named or same-source modifiers with time limits affect a character at the same time, the best of each bonus and the worst of each penalty apply until each duration ends, after which the next best bonus or penalty takes its place. This process continues until no bonuses or penalties with durations remain.
Unless otherwise stated in their description, unnamed modifiers stack with all other modifiers all the time.
Unless otherwise stated, three special results are possible with every skill check, as follows.
Threats and Critical Successes
Every skill possesses a threat range. The threat range of all skills begins at 20, though it may increase or decrease due to feats, conditions, and other factors.
When a character succeeds with a skill check and rolls a natural number within his threat range (an actual roll of the number on a d20), he scores a threat. His result cap is lifted for this check. Further, he scores a potential critical success. If a threat range is “reduced beyond” 20, the attacker may not score a threat with the skill check.
|Example 1: A character with the Diplomat feat makes a Networking/Contact check, which increases his threat range by 1. The character’s threat range with the check is 19–20.
Example 2: A character makes a Sense Motive/Detect Lie check targeting a Con Artist with the 100 moves ahead ability, which reduces the acting character’s threat range by 2. The acting character has no threat range with this skill check and may therefore not score a threat.
To activate a threat as a critical success, the character must spend 1 or more action dice. A critical success overrides a threat, negating the threat’s effects and replacing them with the effects of a critical success. A critical success also lifts the check’s result cap.
If the character chooses to spend no dice, the skill check remains a threat.
Unlike in Spycraft 1.0 and most d20 games, a natural 20 is not an automatic success; a character’s skill result must still equal or exceed the DC in order to succeed.
Special Note: When a standard NPC scores a threat with a skill check, it may only be activated as a critical success if the NPC possesses the prodigy quality (see page 448).
Errors and Critical Failures
Every skill possesses an error range. The error range of all skills begins at 1, though it may increase or decrease due to feats, conditions, and other factors. An error range may not decrease below 0.
When a character fails a skill check and rolls a natural number within his error range (an actual roll of the number on a d20), he suffers an error — a potential critical failure.
|Example 1: A character makes an untrained skill check, which increases his error range by 2. The character’s error range with the check is 1–3.
Example 2: A Snoop with the no worries ability makes a Search/Perception check while using Tradecraft gear. The ability decreases his error range by 2. The Snoop’s error range with the check is 0.
To activate an error as a critical failure, the character’s opponent — usually the GC — must spend one or more action dice. A critical failure overrides an error, negating the error’s effects and replacing them with the effects of a critical failure.
If the GC chooses to spend no dice, the skill check remains an error. Many rules have additional effects when an error is suffered.
Unlike in Spycraft 1.0 and most d20 games, a natural 1 is not an automatic failure; a character’s skill result must be lower than the DC in order to fail.
Special Note: Any negative skill check result operates like an error and may be activated as a critical failure.
- Main article: Triumphs
When a character succeeds with a skill check and scores a total result of 75 or higher, he scores a “Triumph.” In addition to the base effects of a Triumph:
- Each time a Triumph occurs, the disposition toward the skill user of each standard character who witnesses the Triumph as it happens — including each standard villain — increases by 2 grades until the end of the current mission (see Disposition, page 457).
- Once per session only, the disposition of each special character toward the skill user who witnesses the Triumph as it happens — not including villains — increases by 1 grade until the end of the current mission.
Special Note: During an opposed check when both participants score results of 75 or greater, only the highest (winning) result may generate a Triumph.
Multiple Skill Attempts
Some skill checks may be tried over and over again; others offer the character only one chance to succeed. Refer to each skill check description for the specific circumstances under which it may be retried.
Taking 10 & Taking 20
If the character is reasonably confident in his abilities and under only marginal pressure, he may choose to “take 10.” Instead of rolling 1d20 when making his skill check, he calculates it as though he’s rolled a 10.
Taking 10 requires twice the time listed in each skill description.
Alternatively, if a character has plenty of time, he may choose to “take 20.” Instead of rolling 1d20 when making his skill check, he calculates it as though he’s rolled a 20.
Taking 20 requires 20 × the time listed in each skill description.
|Example: Kevin has an Analysis skill bonus of +9. When he takes 10 with a 1-minute Analysis check, it takes 2 minutes and his check result is 19.
A few restrictions apply when taking 10 or taking 20.
- The character may not take 10 or 20 when:
- He’s distracted or endangered (per the GC’s discretion).
- His error range is 1–2 or worse (after all modifiers are applied).
- Making any skill check possessing the Concentration tag.
- The character’s result cap still applies when he takes 10 or 20.
- The character may not score a threat when taking 10 or 20.
- The character may not spend action dice to boost a skill check result when taking 10 or 20.
Sometimes a character must complete more than one action at once — simultaneously performing two computer-related tasks or opening a lock while standing on a precarious surface. In these situations, he may choose to perform up to two actions during the same time period. At least one of these skill checks must require at least one full round to complete, and the character must be able to plausibly complete both tasks together, per the GC’s discretion (e.g. he may not attempt two skill checks that each require both hands, nor may he drive two vehicles at once).
While multi-tasking, the character may make one additional half action skill check per round, albeit with the following penalties.
- The character suffers a –5 synergy penalty with each skill check he makes while multi-tasking, including each of the two skill checks that prompts the use of these rules. For every 5 ranks the character possesses in the Resolve skill, this penalty is reduced by 1 (to a minimum penalty of –2).
- The error range of each skill check made while multi-tasking increases by 3.
- If the character scores a threat with any skill check made while multi-tasking, he must spend one additional action die to activate it as a critical success.
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