Skill and Save Rolls in Against the Darkmaster

And now it’s time to play!

No surprises for Rolemaster gamers, in the QuickStart of Against the Darkmaster (VsD), Skill tests are resolved against an easily-memorizable Action Resolution Table (above). For comparisons between this table and others—and how they might be used for narrative purposes—I direct you to Peter R’s recent discussion about Maneuvers in RM games. All that remains to be explained here is that, in VsD, actions are resolved through the character rolling an Open-Ended d100; adding modifiers for Skill, situation and Difficulty; and referring to the GM for the result. VsD gives some rough characterizations for levels of Difficulty, and the mechanical components attached to the descriptions are essentially in increments of ten with a jump from Heroic (-50) to Insane (-70).

I prefer to set my own Difficulties by “increment.” For Level 1 characters, the table is punishing enough—the probability for success is just north of 25%, and, even then, “success” usually means a Partial Success, which almost never allows the character a clean resolution. If one thing is complicating the Action Resolution, I give the roll -10, if two, -20, and so on. Of course, some dangers might qualify singly as -20 or more, and I take these into consideration. My point here is that I don’t necessarily trust myself nor want to take up too much time fussing over what might be an appropriate level of difficulty, so this is my method.

The same is true for any test which involves an NPC. Unsurprisingly, the QS contains rules for Conflicting Actions, which amount to “opposed rolls.” I do use these, sometimes, but it’s more economical to use the NPC Level to set a Difficulty. Is a PC attempting to Deceive a Level 5 con-artist? Well, it’s hard to Deceive a deceiver, isn’t it! The Difficulty modifier is -50. Anyone who remembers my discussion of Skills in VsD will recognize that this value equates to two Ranks per Level in the corresponding “skill” (for any more than this, I’m going to have to multiply Ranks over 10 by 2, then Ranks over 20 by 1). Let’s say that the NPC has been unlikely to develop this specific quality. Fine, perhaps 1 Rank per Level, then, Level x 5. Unskilled? Well, then obviously nothing. But what about Stat bonuses? Yeah, well, what about them? I don’t care; this is an NPC. But, sure, if it isn’t much trouble for you, as a GM, go ahead and toss them in. My point remains: I don’t need to take time, even if it’s just a moment, to make this determination at the gaming table.

The VsD Helping rules, in my own game, have a much wider application than what at first might be expected. I don’t prefer to have my PCs “piling on” rolls for Perception and Lore Skills (for an elaboration of this and “passive” Perception, see my comments in this post), but everyone can Help, even, usually, belatedly. To Help, every aiding character must describe how that person is Helping and succeed at a relevant test. Every success in this way awards a cumulative +10 to the activity roll for the main character attempting the test.

I like to use Helping to simulate other narrative aspects as well. In my play-by-post format, two PCs were passengers on a river ship suddenly beset by a storm. One PC used his Charisma to motivate his followers to help the shipmen steer the boat away from the riverbanks; the other PC did something more direct by seizing a spar and attempting to physically press the hull away from the rocky river edge. If either succeeded, that character would contribute a cumulative +10 to the GM’s roll for the sailors of the ship to keep from crashing. (What happened, you say? The ship smashed and sank.)

Save Rolls are pretty straightforward. An OE Roll is added to the character’s SR bonus in an attempt to beat a Difficulty which is 50 + Level of the effect x 5.

A shorter entry this time. This is because next is Combat! Unsurprisingly, this might be the most involving analysis yet.


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