Degrees of Success
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we don't always win. But not all failures are equal—sometimes we mess up a little, sometimes we mess up catastrophically. Sometimes, we even have a chance to prevent failure—at a small, extra cost.
This chapter introduces degrees of success, allowing you to judge the scale of success and failure accordingly.
Success & Failure
When you attempt an action that has a chance of failure, compare your result to the DC and check the list below to see just how well you did.
- Critical Success: You succeeded by 10 or more on a skill check, or rolled a natural 20 on an attack. Things have gone perfectly. You achieve your goal and something else happens in your favor.
- Success: You achieve your goal.
- Minor Failure or Success at a Cost: You failed by 1, 2, or 3. You can choose to succeed, but something bad also happens as a consequence.
- Failure: You failed by 4 or more. Something bad happens—you take damage, gain Stress, lose a hit die, a Condition worsens, etc.
- Critical Failure: You failed by 10 or more on a skill check, or rolled a natural 1 on an attack. It's all gone badly for you and you suffer a second consequence in addition to the normal failure effects—you take extra damage, lose a hit die, drop an item, etc.
Krazak is critically hit by an enemy. He takes damage for failing to dodge, then additional damage (the crit damage) for critically failing—two consequences.
When a character succeeds, something good happens and they get what they wanted.
Here are some example boons that you might apply when a character succeeds in their efforts—one boon for a success, and two for a critical success.
|1||You restore some hit points|
|2||You gain a hit die|
|3||You find some extra gold|
|4||You gain a favor from an ally|
|5||You regain a spell slot|
|6||You deal extra damage|
|7||You heal some mental stress|
|8||You may spend a hit die to recover some hit points|
|9||You may switch places with a nearby ally|
|10||You can move to an advantageous position|
|11||You learn a piece of rare information|
|12||You (temporarily) lose one level of exhaustion|
|13||A magic item regains one charge|
|14||The locals hear about your achievement|
|15||You apply a condition to your enemy|
|16||A god notices your achievement|
|17||A condition improves|
|18||You gain advantage to your next roll|
|19||Your enemies are intimidated by you|
|20||You move your enemy|
When a character fails an action, something bad happens. Here are some consequences you might apply when a character fails a roll—one consequence for a failure, and two for a critical failure.
|1||You or an ally take damage|
|2||An enemy reacts and takes an action|
|3||You gain some mental stress|
|4||Take a notch on your weapon/armor/item|
|5||You lose an item|
|6||One of your conditions worsens|
|7||Your torch goes out|
|8||An NPC becomes hostile to you|
|9||You lose some gold|
|10||You learn some misinformation|
|11||Your enemy becomes enraged|
|12||You gain the attention of the local guards|
|13||You drop your weapon|
|14||You stop and fall prone|
|15||You are poisoned or diseased|
|16||You are imprisoned|
|17||A crowd turns against you|
|18||A higher authority learns of your misdoings|
|19||A god punishes you|
|20||You lose some ammunition or hit dice|
Success at a Cost
When you fail by a narrow margin, you can choose to instead succeed at a cost. You get what you want, but something bad happens to you as a consequence.
This may require some negotiation with the GM—if you can't both agree on the cost, you can't succeed. Check the Offerings table below for some inspiration.
|1||25% or 50% of your total hit points|
|2||One or more hit dice|
|3||One or more spell slots|
|4||An item gains a notch|
|5||You gain a condition|
|6||You gain the attention of the enemy|
|7||You are moved into a disadvantageous position|
|8||You lose an item|
|9||Gain a level of exhaustion|
|10||Lose some gold|
Examples of Play
Here are two examples of using degrees of success—one to demonstrate Success at a Cost and how negotiation works, and another to show critical failure in action.
Chansi is trapped on a collapsing ledge over a dark abyss. Luckily, her friends have thrown down a rope for her to climb to safety.
- GM:The ground is crumbling beneath your feet, Chansi. There's a rope hanging ahead, over the abyss.
- Chansi:I leap out and grab hold of it.
- GM:Ok, that's a DC 15 Strength check.
- Chansi:I should be able to use Athletics for this, so that's... (rolls 14) augh, so close!
- GM:Very close indeed, the rope barely slips past your fingers. You have a chance to Succeed at a Cost...
- Chansi:Damn, I can't fall into the abyss. Perhaps... something falls out of my bag as I grab hold? Those old mushrooms I picked up earlier maybe?
- GM:It has to be something precious to you.
- Chansi:Ah. Well I was really hoping to use this healing potion later...
- GM:Perfect. For a moment you fall, barely catching the rope at the last second with your other hand. But as you hang, you hear a small rip from your bag and your healing potion tumbles into the abyss below.
- Chansi:Augh, I really needed that potion...
Viridan has bluffed his way into a meeting with a local lord, hoping to convince the lord to lend his support to the defense of a nearby village.
- GM:Lord Erasius looks at you coldly, Viridian. "And why should I trust you, stranger?"
- Viridian:Hmm. I want to convince Erasius that I'm nobility with access to the king. If Erasius will support us, I can put in a few words to boost his reputation.
- GM:Ok, that's a tricky lie. You haven't had time to prepare this, so it's an off-the-cuff bluff—make a DC 25 Charisma check.
- Viridian:Can I use History with this?
- GM:Yes, you know enough about the local lands to throw around a few names.
- Viridian:Great. That's... (rolls 13) not good.
- GM:No, it isn't—it's a critical failure. Erasius can see right through your lies, and—as a second consequence—he's extremely offended. "You come into my home and dare lie right to my face? Perhaps some time in our dungeons will extract the truth from you. Guards!"
- Viridian:Son of a...