Ability checks and difficulty levels

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UniversalHead
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Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by UniversalHead »

Hi - I've only played a few games of DCC though I'm an old hand at GMing. We've recently started up a game of DCC Lankhmar and I've realised there are a few areas of the rules I'm a bit rusty with. Foor example, some confusion has begun around ability checks.

I know I can make characters take a Luck check to roll equal to or under their luck to succeed, but:

- can I do this with other ability scores, or are all other ability/skill checks done against a DC number?

- is it better to announce the DC number, or just get them to roll and then tell them if they succeed or not?

- when making a Luck check, in what circumstance do I get them to roll equal to or under their ability, or to use a DC?

Many thanks for any help.
Jim Skach
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by Jim Skach »

Yes, you can do this with other abilities. It all depends on how you like to roll....pun intended.

I, personally, do not let them know the DC most times. But to some extent this depends on how you handle luck. I tend not to tell them how much luck a character would need to expend to turn a failure into a success. So giving up the DC would go against that. But I also know a lot of judges, many I respect, that don't fret about that stuff - so telling them the DC would not be an issue.

For Luck, I almost always use the roll under. In fact, I'm not sure other than playing at someone else's table or directed to by a module for a very specific reason, would I do this. I really like the way a low luck and that roll under check is so....direct...visceral...

IMHO, YMMV, etc.
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GnomeBoy
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by GnomeBoy »

UniversalHead wrote: Tue Apr 07, 2020 4:21 pm- can I do this with other ability scores, or are all other ability/skill checks done against a DC number?

- is it better to announce the DC number, or just get them to roll and then tell them if they succeed or not?

- when making a Luck check, in what circumstance do I get them to roll equal to or under their ability, or to use a DC?
I tend to lean heavily on roll-under checks, particularly things where there is no time pressure on the character.

I will usually announce the DC they need. It creates suspense, since players can run the odds in their head and know when they've got a tricky roll in front of them. It also let's them know how much Luck they have to spend if they want to do that. Briefly, I don't find Luck being what it's advertised to be if you don't have at least some approximate idea on how much to burn. I don't always reveal the amount, but I will give at least some kind of ballpark indication if the amount is not obvious. Announcing the DC is the equivalent of a roll-under check, since in a roll-under they know what numbers they're working with...

When to roll under, and when to use a DC? I just go with my gut on that. Not sure how to completely qualify that for you...
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Raven_Crowking
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by Raven_Crowking »

I am happy to announce the DC ahead of time.

Most of the time, I use the standard DC 5/10/15/20 framework, with occupations/classes roll 1d10 if they don't fit the type of action the check is calling for. Sometimes I will bump that up the dice chain, and if a character shows a particular talent for something (because of repeated wild successes), I may bump them permanently even further up the dice chain for that type of roll.
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UniversalHead
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by UniversalHead »

It's very interesting that people seem to be so flexible with the rules; it's only this time around that I've realised there's actually very little guidance in the book (and not much online either). Guess it's all part of the old OSR sensibility, but a bit more advice would be handy.

I don't think I'd ever want PCs to burn luck without knowing how much they needed to burn. Given the scarceness of the resources (in non-Lankhmar games anyway) that would lead to a lot of annoyance and frustration for the PCs, and sort of defeat the point of burning luck to 'save' them in a particular crucial situation.

I think I much prefer PCs knowing the DC number they need - as you say, it creates suspense.
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by Jim Skach »

UniversalHead wrote: Wed Apr 08, 2020 12:57 pm It's very interesting that people seem to be so flexible with the rules; it's only this time around that I've realised there's actually very little guidance in the book (and not much online either). Guess it's all part of the old OSR sensibility, but a bit more advice would be handy.
It has been the ethos of DCC since it's beginning. Go ahead, try to make Doug follow rules...I dare you....I think the only time I've seen rules really heavily...enforced?...in any way is in running tournaments - where the goal is to provide a standard experience across all the tables for those competing. Ironically, even that can shift - there are meetings about how to interpret occurrences across all tables prior to the tournament; in theory those decisions could change from year to year (though unlikely it is possible).

To be clear about a couple of things:
1) Some of this is situational. That is, in convention games, I'm more likely to provide the DC or let the players know the meta information about how much Luck to spend. Flexibility is key.

2) Both approaches create tension; just at different points and in different ways.

3) As you can see here, guidance and opinions are not in short supply. However, it's less likely that you will get an absolute answer - that is, like this instance, people have different approaches (sometimes the same person will use multiple approaches on the same issue) and the trick is to determine which combination of things works best for you and your group.
UniversalHead
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Re: Ability checks and difficulty levels

Post by UniversalHead »

Thanks, I'll keep that in mind! I am old school style myself when it comes to roleplaying (I started in 1978) so I don't mind winging things most of the time, but it's good to know the rules before you break 'em! :)
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