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Dodd81

How many times do you let a player attempt a task?

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If you have a player who says they are going to hack into a computer, for example, and then fails - as the GM do you allow other players to try? Or that same player to try again?

I've had instances in my games where it just feels like a succession of dice rolls until the players get the outcome they want.

Any advice on how to handle this?

Thanks.

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It depends on the check and on the result of the roll. Generally speaking, I go with the logic rule, meaning that if it makes logical sense that they could try to do the thing multiple times, then I let them (within reason) and let the rolls decide when the player has had enough attempts. Advantage makes the following check easier, but disadvantage makes it harder, and a fail, disadvantage tends to mark failure. In social checks, this cold be people deciding they've had enough and refusing to talk anymore. If they're trying to pry open a door, it could be that they are too tired to keep going, or they simply decide that the door won't move. If you think they're spending way too much time on the same check (such as having everyone go because SOMEONE has to succeed) then you get to say "No, you cannot do it again. You have tried and failed." Then it falls on them to find some way to change the circumstance to justify another roll.

We'll take Hacking as the example.

The player goes up to the terminal to slice into a local crime lord's network. Roll 1: He fails, but has three advantage. So, he didn't get into the system, but he can use the advantage to do one of two things: A) He can attempt the Slice again with some Bonus Dice because he's starting to break the code, but the gang knows there's a breech somewhere, or B) He can use the advantage to hide his attempt and keep from alerting the gang to the failed slice.

With that outcome resolved, there's nothing stopping him from trying again, so he does. Roll 2: Fail, Disadvantage. Well, the terminal is fine, but the gang is definitely alerted to the presence of a slicer, and may already know the access location depending on how much disadvantage they have.

Not much time, so in a desperate attempt to crack it, he tries again. Roll 3: Success, Advantage. Now he is in the system, and could possibly have bought his team more time before the Gang tracks them down in the system.

Another example about prying open a door.

The player wants to brute force his way through a sealed door. He gets up, grabs the door, and with all his might *rolls* fails to open the door and strains himself a bit in the process (fail, disadvantage). He could not open the door, and thus no one else would likely be able to. Another player gets an idea and grabs a large piece of metal he tries to wedge into the door to act as a lever. He can roll again (with Bonus since it's a lever) and fails with advantage. The door is still closed, but he warps the metal and opens up some good hand-holds, so the situation has changed, and thus the first player is allowed to try again. Roll: Success, and the door opens.

I never allow extra rolls in combat (for obvious reasons) and I don't allow the "pass the magic item around till one of us unlocks it" strategy if it makes no sense or does not contribute to the story. At the end of the day, YOU have the final say on whether or not they get to make the check again or at all, so use your own judgement and stay consistent with it. 

Hopefully something in this wall of text has been helpful!

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It depends on the situation and roll, but typically you want the roll to matter. If they can attempt over and over until success, with no fear of failure or collateral problems, why roll at all? Just do it. 

So options:

Bomb-o: The data you're looking for isn't accessable via this terminal. It's security level is just too low it's not even on the right network.

Step up: You can try again, but the methods you'll be using are going to have to be more agressive, so the difficulty will be harder.

Time up: The firewalls on this system are really nasty. It's going to take time to find a node that will allow you to pivot around. Trying again is going to be a roll that represents an hour of work.

Obvious consequences: You're gonna have to get really agressive to crack this. If you do it, success or failure, a sysadmin will know about it, unless you generate results you can use to prevent it.

Skill change: There's a hardware block on this system. You'll need a Mechanics check to remove it.

 

See? Get creative. And this method can work for a lot of different checks.

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3 hours ago, Dodd81 said:

If you have a player who says they are going to hack into a computer, for example, and then fails - as the GM do you allow other players to try? Or that same player to try again?

I've had instances in my games where it just feels like a succession of dice rolls until the players get the outcome they want.

Any advice on how to handle this?

Thanks.

Once. I don't set up plot choke points with rolls though.

Always ask when you are designing a session do you really even need dice to be rolled? I find as I've GM ed longer n longer there is far less need for dice rolls than many people bother with imo.

If so, insure there's more than one option for skinning the narrative cat. Consider different skills applied in different ways to accomplish the task.

Make sure you're checking for the correct outcome. I always use the locked door example, are you intending to just pick a lock? Probably not, you're trying to get through a locked door and you're using narrative dice to describe that event. Succeed and you're in, succeed wildly and you disable the building's alarms in the process. Fail, you're in but broke your tools, fail miserably, you're in but were heard and are ambushed by security, the alarm starts sounding, etc.

One opton allowing for multiple checks is exactly like combat, require multiple successes to achieve the goal during an structured encounter. So when the shootout is raging in the data center, the slicer needs 10 successes to DL all the info. That might take 1 round for an elite hacker, or 5 for a not so much.

It's called the narrative dice system so narrate with the dice, don't just generate pass/fail checks.

Edited by 2P51

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Once per scene. For a check to be rolled there has to be some consequence to that roll, thus rolling to tie your shoelaces isn't particularly interesting, but rolling to defuse a bomb is. The consequence for failure is oblivious; on a fail it becomes rapidly apparent that you simply don't have the tools to disarm this bomb in time. With threats, the time that the player has to react to this information becomes more and more scarce, imposing setback or difficulty increases to the next check (such as an athletics check to chuck it out of a window/get clear of the explosion.) and despairs, well, the bomb will go off in seconds round. What do you do?

The important thing with every roll is that the consequence for failure should always be apparent. You either do have the tools to make the check or you don't and I would almost never allow the players to repeat the check, and on the few instances you do, the consequences for those checks should ramp up. You attempt to diffuse the bomb again, there must be some secret to this mechism, but your aware that by doing this you will have no chance to get clear of the blast radius. Or that your repeated insistence on turning the NPC over to your side without new information will only frustrate them, upgrading repeating checks twice on the second attempt, and closing them off completely on the third unless it is part of a larger social encounter such as a negotiation.

What I do encourage is different checks. The PC is unable to open the safe with their current information but with the advantage you notice that this guy seems to have some contact details put on one side that could indicate a potential informant. Or maybe another PC preforms a perception check to find some kind of code that could provide enough clarity to make another perception check. Though it's worth noting however that the safe was alarmed and that whoever has owned this particular item is very aware that someone is attempting to open it so that the next check will be upgraded.

The key thing is to build a narrative. If a character is unable to accomplish something with the tools they have, then prepare for them to have to engage on a different route or alternatively have them uncover additional information that can make the check easier. Sometimes even something as simple as a skill challenge (Achieve 5 successful and different checks before you undergo 3 failures) using a different skill set each time can help build tension across a complicated scene such as a chase. Use the advantages and threats to produce new information in the scene that steadily builds up on the tension until something happens. Sometimes, though, just having a limited number of actions that count down can make the players think more critically on their plan of action; after all some checks within a scene will be inherently easier then others.


 

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If you have a unique sort of check that's being made frequently, sit down and make yourself a custom results chart. Use combat as a guide, lots of times a 'miss' in combat is super useful and a 'hit' sux. It helps wrap your head around making other kinds of results options for different skill checks.

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I allow repeats, but vary how. I select either not repeatable, repeatable without penalty, repeatable with added difficulty (each time), or repeatable with upgrade in difficulty (each time).

  • Repeatable without Penalty: Locked in a jail cell using Athletics to throw your sock tied to your belt towards the set of keys on the guard's desk nearby with no guards anywhere in the area.
  • Repeatable with Upgrades: The same action above, but the guard is sleeping at his desk.
  • Repeatable with Upgrades: Trying to disarm that bomb, again.
  • Repeatable with Difficulty: Picking a lock. You can keep trying but at some point you may realize it's beyond your skill.

I've also toyed with a Discipline check to keep trying at repeated actions. Not the first re-try, but especially for those cases where someone just keeps rolling an action that I've already declared Repeatable without Penalty.

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When I first started GMing one of the rookie mistakes I made was allowing players to retry failed task many times, and I was specifically bad about it with computer checks. What I've learned to do now is use time as a resource.

For example, so I have a player trying to slice a computer network, they fail. Then that's it, they no longer have enough time to try to slice network again. However, if they have a fair amount of advantage on the check, I will offer to let them retry the check using that advantage. Also, if a player has a talent that cuts computer slicing time in half, or something like that, I would allow them to attempt to try a second time, so that those talents have more weight in the game. 

Another thing I tried to do, if I have a player who is trying lots of checks such as slicing a computer network and looking for all kinds of information and/or ways to control the system, I will often break it up if other players want to try things. That way one player isn't just trying check, after check, while the other players are idle, waiting, sometimes losing interest while the slicer is rolling checks for every little thing he/she can possibly think of. 

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On 1/22/2019 at 8:04 AM, Dodd81 said:

If you have a player who says they are going to hack into a computer, for example, and then fails - as the GM do you allow other players to try? Or that same player to try again?

Depends on the task and the context.

 

For hacking, sure. Each failed attempt + negative results is going to add difficulty to the next attempt. Or treat it as you need x successes to hack in and you have y rounds before the badguys show up and shoot at you.

Edited by GroggyGolem

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Mostly just the once, but a fail with a good amount advantages may be allowed to spend them to try again ("I just realized what I was doing wrong!").

During structured time, depending on the task, I can let them try every time they have an action to spend, as it wouldn't be structured time if time wasn't a critical factor. This usually applies to trying to acheive something (opening a door, climbing a wall, slicing a computer, decorating a cake) during ongoing combat. The sooner they succeed, the sooner they can contribute to the fight, or just run away.

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8 hours ago, penpenpen said:

Mostly just the once, but a fail with a good amount advantages may be allowed to spend them to try again ("I just realized what I was doing wrong!").

During structured time, depending on the task, I can let them try every time they have an action to spend, as it wouldn't be structured time if time wasn't a critical factor. This usually applies to trying to acheive something (opening a door, climbing a wall, slicing a computer, decorating a cake) during ongoing combat. The sooner they succeed, the sooner they can contribute to the fight, or just run away.

Yeah I made up my house rules more for narrative when you have all the time in the world then structured. Now, **** you for making me think I should just use advantages for a retry! Much simpler and quicker.

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It totally depends on the specifics of the check. Sometimes you only get one chance to do a thing (like a pilot check maneuver or something), or sometimes the dice results preclude trying again (having something break on a Despair necessary for the check). 

However, in situations where something is probably infinitely repeatable as a check, like trying to climb a wall, or lift something, or fix something, etc. First, unless it's in structured time, I'd ask to make sure the check is really necessary. If you can just handwave it and move on, then I'd suggest not having the check determine actual success or failure, but determine success without penalty, or success at the expense of some strain, or a setback die to all checks tied to a certain attribute for the rest of the session, or something. This is especially good to do with checks that are "succeed or the adventure ends" or "succeed or the adventure stalls while you make 20 checks until you pass so we can move on" in nature. For instance, when you have that inevitable wall every party member has to climb. No one wants to sit there while your low brawn zero athletics party member rolls 20 times to get up the Hard wall check. Just have everyone make the check once, and dole out strain to those that fail, but everyone gets over. 

However, if you're in structured time (re: combat) and how long the check makes matters, but it seems like a repeatable check to you, I'd actually reduce the difficulty of the check once for each additional consecutive time the same PC tries to make the check. Failed the first time? Cool, but you did make some progress, and are a bit more familiar with the task. If you try again, it'll be a bit easier. This can make for dramatic moments in a scene, for instance, it's during combat, but your slicer character needs to climb a wall to gain access to a console on a platform above to do the epic thing. Naturally, your slicer character has relatively low brawn and athletics. It's a hard check to get up the wall, and you fail the first time, which might get narrated as, well, you get a few feet off the ground, but  it's slow going. Next turn, you're already halfway there, so make another check at Average difficulty, which you can maybe manage, and you get up. 

If you use this method, there is a built in limit to how many times someone might repeat a check, since itll eventually downgrade to Simple. 

However, keep in mind most combat encounters are under 5 rounds. Also, you shouldn't necessarily use any of these techniques all the time. Consider the type of adventure you're trying to have. Sometimes a failed check can take the story in an interesting, unexpected direction. There are also lots of resources online for reading about "failing your way to victory", where GMs can get into the mindset of how to handle failed checks. But sometimes, it might be easier to handle it one of the above ways instead. 

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