ABSOLUTE SUCCESS: 101+ vs. 111+

There has been some discussion in the forum and in the blog of the RMU 101+ success rate vs. the RM(#) 111+ success rate. I always liked the idea of having absolute success being more difficult to attain, i.e.: 111+ and here are some reasons why.

Adventurers in the gaming world, any world not just RM, are of heartier stock. They have attributes, qualities, skills, items, what not, that set them above the rest of the average society. There is something that makes them better suited to the adventuring profession than the average Joe and that is why they are adventurers. If not, then ANYONE could be an adventurer and no one would be in town to make society work. There wouldn’t be a society. If the average individual succeeds on 101+ in their real-world, average lives, then the rigors and dangers of adventuring should be more difficult for that same person to achieve that same success. In the adventuring world, when compared to the average world, 101+ simply won’t cut it. An average person not suited for adventuring should have to try harder to gain the success an adventurer gains because they wouldn’t have the better than average stats or items or blessings the adventurer has.

RM is D100, percentile. With that, 55% is roughly average. I say roughly because the fumble range varies with different weapons, maneuvers, difficulties, and take up the lower end of the range and open ended rolls take up the upper range of the dice rolls, so for the sake of argument and for keeping the numbers easier to manage, I’ll say 55-ish. If a player can roll a 46+ and break the 101+ threshold for Absolute Success, it’s easier than flipping a coin. To me, that isn’t an accurate representation of the type of game RM (any edition) was developed to be. The skills and the development of those skills, the stats and modifiers, lend to the “need” to develop skills with DP’s, unlike other game systems which simply require the “choosing” of a skill category (Parry, Power Strike, Back Stab, etc.) but that is a completely different game mechanic and not one based on percentile. In all fairness, it’s comparing apples and oranges, or maybe lemons and limes… very similar, but definitely not the same thing. This comparison will come up again at the end and may be clearer by then.  Hopefully.

By having Absolute Success at 111+, the DP’s become more valuable as the player has to determine how many 5%-ranks are “enough” and if the value of purchasing skill ranks 11-20 at a 2% value at the same DP cost is worth the investment. Is it more important to invest in a new skill or to continue with just one or two more ranks in the existing skill?

The players who have invested 10 ranks at 5% have a 50% chance of success right off the bat (assuming the DP was available to invest that heavily into a skill), then add stat bonuses and other possible bonuses for a value respectably above 50%, say 60%-65%. Remember, the “average adventurer” is already a cut above the “average citizen.” Even with above average stats 65-74 range, the stat bonus is still +0. *- I don’t have the chart in front of me to be more precise.

Stat bonuses, level bonuses, and “other” bonuses (Saddle of Riding, Boots of Traceless Passing, Cloak of Camouflage, +10 Lock Picks, etc.) have a wide and varying range so conservatively I’ll suggest 10%-15%? Any player willing to spend more DP in skill ranks 11-20 should have a better chance of succeeding than someone who has only invested lightly and that PC would hopefully (ideally) have the items to augment that skill. It should be more difficult for the 5-ranks PC to achieve Absolute Success than it is for the 15-ranks trained PC regardless of the numerical value Absolute Success has been assigned, 101+ or 111+. By having only 101+ as the threshold, it just became considerably easier for the lesser trained PC to achieve what the better-trained PC can achieve and for the better trained PC, anything over 101+ is irrelevant.

RM2 has plenty of ways to get additional bonuses added onto a skill to help the adventurer break the 111+ threshold. Special Items Category (+5 to +20 magic or non-magic item). Skill at Arms or Skill at Magic background option table for example: +10 to +25 to a stat bonus, +25 to all Adrenals, etc. At level 5, when a PC could have 10-12 skill ranks (50%-54%), then add in Stat Bonus (+10 to +15), and then add in Profession Level Bonus (possibly +5 to +15), cracking that 111+ threshold shouldn’t be difficult for an adventurer, save for an unfortunate dice roll of course.

When I first saw that 111+ was the Absolute Success threshold, many moons ago, I thought it was ingenious. Players had to invest more into becoming very good, not simply lucky with a dice roll. With open-ended rolls, there is still a chance for the lesser trained PC to reach Absolute Success. Sometimes someone just gets plain lucky and succeeds. It happens in real life all the time – Dumb Luck. Compare this to the Olympics. Any number of athletes (or PCs) can train (buy skill ranks), be good enough to make the Olympics (or to go Adventuring), and complete the race (or slay the bad guy). But the athletes who put more time training (bought more skill ranks) will have a better chance of getting a medal (ranks 11-20, that extra 2% chance). Yes, physiology (RM stats) will have an impact, but completing the race is not the same as getting a bronze medal (partial success), getting a silver (near success), and getting the gold (absolute success). Fumbled dice rolls? Certainly. The Korean speed skater favored to win but fell twice. Lucky open-ended rolls? The USA cross country ski team that edged out for the gold. Women’s Hockey, USA vs. Canada. I would argue two fantastic teams each with 20+ ranks in skills, superior stats, great equipment, coaching (Tactics)… and it came down to a shootout! A real knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out donnybrook! In the end, one could say the game winner came from the player who invested just a couple more ranks into the 21-30 range of skill ranks in Shooutout skill and that extra 1% helped her edge out the opposing goalie.

I’ve had players over the many years I’ve been playing, actually say “I’m not going to buy any more ranks. 50% chance is good enough,” and that is roughly 50% total after all the stats and bonuses have been added in, not 10 ranks at 5%. By lowering the threshold to 101+ it reinforces that 50% breakpoint and while it will certainly free up DP for other skills, I think it cheapens the value for the players who want to invest more DP into skills so be a specialist of sorts and it actually discourages investing deeper into skills. By having the lower threshold, there is no longer a need to invest. This tends towards the DPs being spent on more skills rather than specializing in a skill. Everyone is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

Consider the lemons/limes analogy once more. Any PC can get the Parry Skill, the Power Stoke skill, the Tumbling skill simply by selecting it at level-up. Then every single player who opted for the skill can do it with the exact same chance of success (D20 vs. 15). That isn’t skill development in the same sense that RM develops skills. There is no chance to get better at parrying. There are no points to invest in it to help you become better at parrying after you’ve chosen it. Lemons to limes, RM offers the opportunity for anyone to learn a skill but they have to invest in that skill for it to be of reliable use to them. Rolled a 37? Luckily, you invested deeply in Locate Secret Opening and had 75 points total to add to your roll.

Lowering the Absolute Success value, to me, feels like RM is moving away from skill development and more towards jack-of-all-trades. It’s a stretch of the imagination, I’ll admit, and I’m adding poetic license to illustrate my point, but if all the players only aim for 50% because they only need to roll 51+ to succeed, then they spread out those skills and aim for 50% across the board. With the stat, level, and professional bonuses tacked on, that equates to purchasing fewer ranks in any skill to reach the 50% threshold.

12 Replies to “ABSOLUTE SUCCESS: 101+ vs. 111+”

  1. I tend to see the difference between 101 and 111 as more significant and I think I know why.
    First up, buying 2 ranks per level is not normal in my games. I think Character Law calls it Rapid Development or something similar to buy two ranks per level.

    Buying one rank in many skills over two ranks in a more narrow range makes a big difference to total skill bonuses. A 5th level character is not looking at 50-54 plus stat and prof bonus, so maybe a total of +75. I see more like 30 for skill plus extras so a total of about +55. In either a 101 or 111 system that is touch and go for a ‘normal’ difficulty task under stress.

    You tend start characters at about level 5 but I start characters at level 1. This means that a character attempting anything even slightly difficult is left needing an open ended roll every time at the lower levels. Dropping from 111 to 101 means that successes happen at least sometimes without needing an open ended.

    Finally, there is the ‘Eleventy-one’ factor. I am possibly the only fantasy role player out there that doesn’t actually like Tolkien and the 111 break point seems like a pointless nod to Bilbo and the starting point of LotR.

  2. Two ranks per level is pretty normal in my games, but I also start at first level and am not opposed to absolute success coming down to 101+. Think it’s too easy? Make tasks more difficult. Simple locks should be easy to pick (barring bad rolls, of course), but it’s easy enough to start introducing more difficult locks as players advance. RM has enough offsets in the way of modifiers to keep players from turning into jacks of all trades (although RMU may shift that balance, which would in my mind be a Bad Thing).

    Oddly, I’m also not a huge fan of Tolkien. I admire his world-building to a degree, but the rest I can take or leave. I suspect I’m one of the few fantasy RPG types who also doesn’t care for elves…

    1. I tend to see elves as orcs that went to public school.

      I like to be able to use a wide range of difficulty factors and reducing the success bar to 101 means that a greater range of difficulties can be used by the GM sooner and there still be a chance of success.

      I am going to write something about skills and skill learning on Tuesday.

  3. Not fans of Tolkien? Heretics! (I am required by law to say that, being a medievalist and all).

    I’m with Peter on this one. Making the threshold 111 just makes those earlier levels so much more frustrating. And you also have to consider ordinary people trying to do things. If 111 is the threshold, then ordinary people (with minimal to no stat bonuses) are going to have a harder time being competent at anything. One has to wonder how anything would get done.

    Just my 2 cents of course.

  4. My players are highly specialised concerning their skills. With advancing levels it turned out that keeping maneuver rolls interesting is quite a challenge. I decided to calibrate the maneuver difficulties to the parties skill set. I select the difficulty so that the party has a specific chance to succeed. For average checks half the party has a decent chance to succeed. For easier checks nearly everyone has a chance. For very hard checks only the most skilled member has a realistic chance to succeed. I did a small spreadsheet where I enter the character skill bonuses. As a result I get 5 difficulties per skill. From -2 (much easier than average) , over 0 (average), up to +2 (much harder than average).

    This system made it much easier to design adventures. I can plot them without considering the party level or specific specialisations. Nevertheless the roll are still interesting for my players, even if they have a high skill bonus.

    1. So are you using a system where if you wanted a lock to be ‘hard’ to pick then the player needs to roll something like 80+ regardless of the actual skill bonus of the characters.

      If the plot called for a weak lock the the target number may only be 60+?

      1. What I do is I define that it should be a ‚hard‘ lock. Based on the party‘s set of individual ‚pick lock‘ skills my spreadsheet figures out if it should be a ‚medium‘ maneuver or a ‚absurd‘ maneuver by keeping the chance to succeed constant. This has the advantage that rolls are still interesting even if you have a character with +90 pick locks.

        This ‚calibration‘ how I call it is done per individual skill.

  5. @Spectre Do you differentiate much between partial successes and near successes?

    I personally felt the near success band did not add much to the game.

  6. Sorry for the long delay folks. My area was hit with a bad storm (80+mph wind 8″ rain, then snow. Power outages for 4+ days now.)

    I’m glad to see great discussion taking place. Everyone’s ideas and gaming mechanics work great for their games and that’s what should always be followed, but let me reply to some really good questions that were brought up. Please keep in mind, this is the method we use and that I feel works great for our group.

    2 Ranks per level. Buying 2 ranks per level is very common in my game. I encourage players to invest into those skills that are “affordable” because those are the skills that “come more naturally” to that profession. Those are the bread and butter skills for that profession. An Assassin should buy 2 ranks in Sense Ambush, Use/Remove Poison, Ambush. The burglar should buy 2 ranks in Pick Locks, (Lock Lore maybe), Tightrope Walking, Rope Mastery. (Burglars are compared to “2nd Story Man” in RMC-I), the Baker should buy 2 ranks per level in Cooking, ummm… Food Lore, Herb Lore? Whatever else would be pertinent to a Baker. LOL Those professionals attempting the pick lock skill would (should) have the better stats (Agility/Reasoning) with appropriate stat bonuses to augment the skill and maybe, possibly, a set of +5 or better lock picks, as well as the profession’s level bonus for Subterfuge skills, and so on as the adventuring continued. Even the lower level PCs are getting decent bonuses to help augment Pick Locks, but it falls back to lower skills = more challenge to succeed.

    Peter, you use a level-less system too? I can see where level bonuses would differ here and make the 111+ system not well suited. A little off topic here, but how do you handle the Level bonuses that professions would normally receive?

    Starting levels. Whether level 1 or level 5, if the PC has fewer skill ranks, it equates to lower skills, less time training and perfecting that skill. Even a level 5 PC who decides to buy Tightrope Walking for the first time will buy 1, possibly 2 ranks in the skill. If a level 5 Burglar decides, “Hey, I’m going to try to walk across a rope today” he will, as well he should, be just as bad at it as a level 1 PC with 1-2 ranks in Tightrope Walking. Fewer skill ranks, lower skills equates to having a challenging time to succeed, even for something Medium Difficulty (+/- 0) , but sometimes someone gets lucky. Even blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. The early levels are supposed to be mildly frustrating. The PCs are just beginning their adventuring life and have little or no experience. They are level 1 and the adventuring life is challenging. If it was easy, anyone could do it. The growing pains are real and I love the lower levels for this fact. I gear the challenges for my group of Level 1’s in the Medium to Easy difficulty range. That seems commensurate with what that group should be tackling. Their rolls, unbeknownst to them, are getting +20, +10, +0 added on. Anything easier than that, I just have them roll to see if they’ve fumbled.

    Difficulty Factor. I/we use this all the time. Medium Difficulty +0, Light +10, Hard -10, Easy +20, etc. but that affects all PC’s across the board, Level 1’s and level 5’s alike. The lock is Hard? -10 to roll to pick the lock. Lock is easy? +30 to rolls to pick that lock. The playing field is level again. Whether you are highly skilled or a novice, that lock is +30 to pick and that lock is -10 to pick. If the player invested in Lock Lore, I’ll give a little bonus to the lock pick skill as well. The more skilled PC will have a better chance to pick the lock on the first attempt but that’s not to say the novice can never pick that lock, it will simply take more attempts. The novice trying to pick a hard lock should have a hard time doing it. It’s a hard lock!

    I/we do differentiate between the Partial, Near, Success, and Absolute success degrees and this is probably why I’m such a fan of the 111+ Success model. This is all referenced from RMC-II. I also discovered this weekend that I have been using the incorrect terminology. My apologies. 76-90 Partial Success, 91-110 Near Success, 111-175 Success, 176+ Absolute Success.

    There are degrees of success and the opportunity to try again with a bonus to the roll, so even the raw novice has a chance to succeed, if not on the first attempt or by open-ending, then on the subsequent attempts. 76-90 range, the PC can try again with a +20 to +30 to the roll. That certainly helps the novice. 91-110 Near Success, the PC can try again with +30 to +50 to the roll. Then there is the success range where the PC succeeds. LOL. There is also the Absolute Success range that rewards great attempts and that adds a bonus. There is a bonus for attempting to pick that same lock in the future, or tightrope walking was so profound it gains you notoriety. Maybe not something a burglar wants.

    RM isn’t punishing the lower skilled PC with the 111+ threshold. There are varying degrees of success and a bonus to attempt again. The bonuses varied depending on the skill and what was described in RMC-II. I feel that RM is helping the novice PC reach the success range by allowing additional attempts with bonuses and not simply saying “close, but it’s considered a complete fail, try again with no additional bonus.” It just takes the novice 2 or 3 rolls where the skilled player succeeds in 1 or 2 rolls. It isn’t hard set like D&D where you roll vs. a target number. Ex. D20 vs. 15. Yes/no, succeed/fail. There’s no “almost succeeded” value. You roll a 14, you failed as badly as if you rolled a 2. In RM, you rolled 91, close, you can feel the tumblers clicking into place, but you’re just missing it, you think you can get it though. You can make another attempt at +20. Here, story comes into play. Does the player have enough time to make another attempt? The guards are making their rounds…. Try again at +20 and risk getting caught, or come back another day?

    1. Spectre: i hope you are safe and didn’t suffer any damage from the storm.

      I think perhaps you are more anenable to partial successes because you are so generous in giving second chances with significant bonuses. If you just use the core rules though, i don’t think they are so generous (RM2 ones weren’t), which adds a greater level of frustration.

      I’m not sure which method is best, but at least i understand now why your players don’t get as frustrated.

    2. I have ‘professional bonuses’ by the rank rather than by the level.

      So if you got +2/level in RM2 then you would get +2 per rank for the first 20 ranks. This makes lower level characters slightly more capable (a character that did start with 4 ranks in a key skill would get +8 as a prof bonus compared to a single +2) but the total bonus would still max out at +40. That cap is reached sooner. In addition it has a big impact in skills where a high level character buys just a single rank in a skill.

      I had a thief that found a +20 spear. I bought a single rank in Spear (+5) my stat bonus was +23 and my professional bonus was +40. So I instantly went from zero to +88OB. Under my own rules that would have been +20 weapon, +23 stat, +5 skill, +2 professional for +50OB.

  7. Hurin, Thank you. Sadly another heavy storm on its way today. The chief is assigning emergency crews to man all stations and apparatus. My house is going to get hit again and the insurance adjuster still hasn’t been out to my house yet.

    The Partial and Near successes are from RMC-II. There is a section that gives the results from varying levels of success for a good number of skills. It certainly does help the lower skilled PC’s make some headway. They can still fail with Failure, Absolute Failure, and Blunder. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Thankfully I’ve only seen someone fail that miserably twice in my gaming life. One was a Blunder on locate Secret Opening.

    Peter, I like the way your method aids new players, then self-balances at higher levels. I may take a look into something similar to that for my group. They are still level 1 PC’s at the moment.

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