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Opposed checks: Determining who is the active and passive participants


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#1 Yepesnopes

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 12:46 AM

 Hello all!

I have a question mainly aimed to GMs regarding the opposite check rules.
When I first read the core book I found the principle behind opposite checks very interesting; you have an active participant and a passive one, and the mechanic’s aim is to give a “slight” advantage to the active participant. Great! Sadly, when you do the maths you immediately see that this “slight” advantage the developers wanted to give to the active participant of the opposite check is total crap, but that is not my concern.


My doubt arises on the decision of who is the active and who is the passive participant. Firstly I thought it was a very natural an easy chooice. The one who performs an action and /or is aware of the environment is the active participant, while the one who “just happens to be there” is the passive.

For example in a party, character 1 is trying to slip poison in the drink of one of the attendant’s vs some characters standing around in the party drinking and chatting. I would say the character 1 is the active participant and the rest are the passive participants of the opposite check, so for example Skullduggery vs Highest Observation.
Yet another example, a shady character is sneaking out of a well trying not to be seen by the characters walking around the courtyard. I would say the shady character is the active participant while the rest are the passive participants of the opposite check. I would think then that the check is Stealth vs Highest Observation (or so).

Yet I have observed around the published adventures that this is not the case. In the published adventures, in the 95% of the situations active participantr = PC, while passive participant = NPC whatever the situation is. For the GMs who are familiar with the Edge of Night scenario you will recognize the above examples as moments of the adventure where a NPC is trying actively to do something and the PCs are just there by chance and totally oblivious to the situation; yet following the scenario text, the PCs are treated as the active participants and the checks are suggested as PC Observation vs NPC Skullduggery and PC Observation vs NPC Stealth respectively for examples 1 and 2.

My idea is that they do it like this because it is more fun for the players if they roll dice than if they do not, although it may mean not following the core mechanics (at least as I interpret them).

This issue will not be a big deal of course if the opposite checks mechanics would be symmetrical upon passive participant / active participant swapping, but it is not the case in the WFRPG third edition.

Do you interpret the rules as I do? And in this case, how do you resolve this situations? What I do is ignoring the scenarios opposite check passive /active participant suggestion and apply (my interpretation of the) the core rules. When this implies that a NPC is the active participant, I allow the PC to roll the challenge and misfortune die.


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#2 Matchstickman

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 01:15 AM

I largely agree with your 'more fun' interpretation.

From my perspective as a player (I've not GMed in WFRPG) but I think they could have worded them that way so the PCs get to do something. I know that if I had spent an advance on observation that 'only' adding a misfortune die to any 'adventure scripted' rolls that an NPC makes is not a big draw for me to play again. However if I am rolling dice and using my skills (if only passively) I feel like a more active participant and am more likely to be drawn into the adventure.

 

Just my tuppence worth.



#3 RARodger

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 04:33 AM

I try to use the rule of thumb that it's always from the players point of view. There are times where it makes more sense for it to be an NPC, but still aiming to keep it on the PCs as much as possible.



#4 phild

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 05:27 AM

For me its an issue of convenience.

Generally, the players can make a roll without interrupting the narrative too much. However, if I'm stopping to roll every few minutes it can get quite disruptive. I've got enough to think about as it is!

However, I would also vary it by context. If an NPC is trying to sneak past a PC who has been on guard all night, that's very much a passive observation, so the NPC will roll stealth (plus I don't want to alert the PC to the fact that something might be going on). In this situation, the relative bonus to the active participant reflects the fact that the observer has to be on watch for several hours, whilst the sneaker only needs to be stealthy for a few minutes. However, if a PC knows that someone is hiding in a burning house and is specifically looking to see if anyone sneaks out of the flaming ruin, that's an active observation.



#5 valvorik

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Posted 18 July 2012 - 07:30 AM

All other things equal, Players roll dice so are the active ones at my table.  That is unless we are in "encounter mode" and this round's action is the NPC trying to intimidate etc.

It's important to remember the Competitive Check option in the rules however, when both PC and NPC roll and compare (no challenge dice) - this does mean the fun Chaos Star no longer appears (which eliminates one of the sources of greatness of system) but removes any concern that converting the NPC's stats into challenge dice isn't equitable or doesn't adequately allow them to bring their neat skills and tricks to bear.



#6 gruntl

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 03:02 AM

 You are correct in that it's not symmetric. I also let my players be the active character in opposed tests, it's more fun and they tend to roleplay a lot more when doing active tests. I think this is the natural way of doing things, given the core rules, but it's certainly not clearly put.

You're forgetting something important about the NPCs, they get to add black dice to opposed tests with their aggression/cunning (and training). This means that even a run-of-the mill NPC has a chance to oppose a PC (at least once, then all the nice black dice are spent). The PC's have other tricks to use to boost their chances of course, but this normally erodes their resources (once per session abilities, costing stress/fatigue and so on). Use the ACE budget aggressively and you'll find that most opposed tests become a lot trickier. Also remember that the ACE budget resets at rally phase.



#7 k7e9

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 04:43 AM

I just have to agree with everyone, the players are (almost) always the active participants of a check at my table. There are very few exceptions to this rule of thumb. It's more fun and exciting when the players roll.

It should be noted that very often the active participant has the upper hand, especially when trained or has a high stat in the characteristic used. Always letting the players be active will probably result in a higher degree of success on the PC side of the table.

Often I don't let the players roll if they don't ask for a roll. For example if the players wish to roll Intuition to see if someone is telling lies, I won't let them roll unless they ask to (hence actively using skill and earning the advantage of being active). If they don't ask for a roll, they won't get the chance to detect the lie either. This is because if I ask for the roll, they'll know (or suspect) that the NPC lies, even if they fail the check.



#8 dvang

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 07:09 AM

The "story" is about the PCs, from the PCs' perspective, as such they are, for the most part, the 'active' participants of the game.



#9 Yepesnopes

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 08:43 PM

 I agree with you defenitely, the PCs are the center of the show and most of the time when they have fun the GM have fun. Yet in my opinion, this does not make them by default the "active" part of every oppossed check, and by doing so the core rules feel a bit flawed, specially in situations similars to those I described in the examples.

I will stick to the core roles and ignore the "house rules" presented in the scenarios. I will though give the PCs the chance to roll the negative dice of the opposite check arising due to their characteristics and skills when they are the passive part of the check.

These weekend I have a marathon of WFRP 3rd ed, I will see how it goes.


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