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Gillum the Stoor

When is the Difficulty of a Skill Test Determined?

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I would have thought that a skill test's difficulty is determined at ST.1, but I have seen others suggest ST.6.

I have an almost possible scenario the depends on this timing.  (It involves two cards that wouldn't be in the same scenario.)

Suppose I draw the Eager for Death treachery weakness.  It has the following revelation ability:  "Test willpower (2). Increase this skill test's difficulty by 1 for each damage on you. If you fail, take 2 horror."  Suppose that I have no damage, so the difficulty is 2.

Suppose there is a Monster enemy and that I draw a medallion token under the rules for The Devourer Below (easy):  "-3. If there is a Monster enemy at your location, take 1 damage."

In this case, I will take 1 damage at ST.4.

Does the difficulty now increase to 3 (due to my damage), or was it already fixed at ST.1?

Edited by Gillum the Stoor
Correction

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It's a good question. I have a a better scenario to showcase it. Suppose you're playing Mark Harrigan and you run into Eager for Death (which is a treachery, but not a weakness, by the way). Does using Sophie (take 1 direct damage to gain +2 to your skill value) increase the difficulty of the test?

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I can't find anything that states when the difficultly of a skill test is fixed, which makes me think that anything that occurs before ST.6 could change the difficulty.

Quote

Compare the investigator's modified skill value to the difficulty of the skill test. (Rules Reference, Appendix II, ST.6)

Quote

Some abilities cause values or quantities of characteristics to be modified. The game state constantly checks and (if necessary) updates the count of any variable value or quantity that is being modified. (Rules Reference, Modifiers)

In the case above, this would mean that taking horror using Sophie immediately increases the difficulty of the test. The game state is constantly checking the amount of horror on Mark and updating the variable value that is the test difficulty accordingly.

That's my interpretation, although if you hadn't asked the question I'm not sure I would have thought about it and may have just set the difficulty during ST.1. If ever I draw Eager for Death while playing Mark I'll know who to blame when I fail by 1 😛

Edited by Assussanni

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One of the new Dunwich Legacy cards sets its difficulty explicitly based on the state of something at the beginning of the test.  That implies pretty strongly that a variable difficulty is otherwise evaluated during ST.6.

 

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2 hours ago, Buhallin said:

One of the new Dunwich Legacy cards sets its difficulty explicitly based on the state of something at the beginning of the test.  That implies pretty strongly that a variable difficulty is otherwise evaluated during ST.6.

 

I am not sure.  I think that you're referring to a card with a revelation ability that has you do a few things ("you may do A and/or B") before the skill test, which has a variable difficulty X determined "when this test begins."  That clause may be there to emphasize that the difficulty is determined based on game state at the beginning of the test rather than at the time the card was revealed.

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I am agreeing with everyone else here, its not explicit so I believe its step 6.

I can also imagine a skill card or fast effect that lowers the difficulty of a skill test existing at some point.  That would be a good reason to set it at step 6, flexibility.

I could see it as a niche Survivor ability or a general one across roles.

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Skill cards typically increase your skill value.  I am not sure why one might instead reduce a test's difficulty instead.  I suppose that there may be some specific situations in which those would have different effects, but they seem pretty niche and might limit the card's benefit (or the benefit of that new feature).

Even if such a card were developed, it could always include text to specify the timing point, such as, "At the end of the skill test, reduce its difficulty by 5" or something like that.

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There are already cards like that. The best example is Fine Clothes. By the way, the benefit of reducing a skill test's difficulty over increasing the skill value is that, if you reduce the difficulty to 0, the only way you can fail is automatically, because modifiers won't make your final skill value negative. It also makes it easier to trigger "if you fail by X or less" effects and reduces the maximum impact of treacheries with "for each point you fail by" effects.

Edited by Khudzlin

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1 hour ago, Khudzlin said:

There are already cards like that. The best example is Fine Clothes. By the way, the benefit of reducing a skill test's difficulty over increasing the skill value is that, if you reduce the difficulty to 0, the only way you can fail is automatically, because modifiers won't make your final skill value negative. It also makes it easier to trigger "if you fail by X or less" effects and reduces the maximum impact of treacheries with "for each point you fail by" effects.

There are assets but no skills, that I can find.  There is at least one event -- Expose Weakness -- that can be played as late as after ST2 of a skill test.  Even then, does "next attack" include the one that is currently being worked out?

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11 minutes ago, CSerpent said:

There are assets but no skills, that I can find.  There is at least one event -- Expose Weakness -- that can be played as late as after ST2 of a skill test.  Even then, does "next attack" include the one that is currently being worked out?

Expose Weakness probably wouldn't work during an attack because - as you note - it specifies the "next attack". It's a pretty atrocious card anyway so it's rather academic.

Anatomical Diagrams, however, would work (and is an excellent card), and could be played after step 1 or step 2 of a skill check.

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2 hours ago, Gillum the Stoor said:

I am not sure.  I think that you're referring to a card with a revelation ability that has you do a few things ("you may do A and/or B") before the skill test, which has a variable difficulty X determined "when this test begins."  That clause may be there to emphasize that the difficulty is determined based on game state at the beginning of the test rather than at the time the card was revealed.

That's possible.  But in this case I think it's more than that.  Since the card in question sets the difficulty based on something that could easily change during the test, it locks the test at something that it might not otherwise be.  AHLCG doesn't tend to go for the rule reminder text on the cards, though I'm sure someone will offer up some examples where it does :D

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7 hours ago, Allonym said:

Anatomical Diagrams, however, would work (and is an excellent card), and could be played after step 1 or step 2 of a skill check.

But Anatomical Diagrams is an fast Event that could easily be played before ST.1.  I certainly agree that allowing the difficulty to change after ST.1 (all the way to ST.6) may affect how fast Events like that work (and when and how you might choose to use them), but I don't think that the existence of such Events argues this question one way or another.

6 hours ago, Buhallin said:

Since the card in question [one with a difficulty explicitly based on the state of something at the beginning of the test] sets the difficulty based on something that could easily change during the test, it locks the test at something that it might not otherwise be.  AHLCG doesn't tend to go for the rule reminder text on the cards, though I'm sure someone will offer up some examples where it does :D

This is a fair point.

I think that all these contributions underscore the importance of knowing exactly when the difficulty is determined.  I wish the rules were more clear on this point.

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8 minutes ago, Gillum the Stoor said:

But Anatomical Diagrams is an fast Event that could easily be played before ST.1.  I certainly agree that allowing the difficulty to change after ST.1 (all the way to ST.6) may affect how fast Events like that work (and when and how you might choose to use them), but I don't think that the existence of such Events argues this question one way or another.

Wasn't really my point, as I feel that the rules entries quoted by @Assussanni above make the issue unambiguous. Variables update constantly and there's no reason whatsoever to assume that test difficulty is set in stone (the fact that nothing anywhere implies that it might be locked at any point means that it isn't locked at any point - the rules can hardly be truly exhaustive in covering every possible (mis-)interpretation).

However, if you are looking for card design that does directly imply that test difficulty must be variable once a test is initiated, look to Double or Nothing. Skill cards are committed in step 2 of a skill test - if the difficulty of the test were immutable from the beginning of a test, this card would not function. 

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I looked for a Skill card (which could be played only after ST.1) that modified the difficulty, but I hadn't found one.  I agree with your other points (Assussanni's), but I think that Double or Nothing is especially compelling.

I think that I was thrown by the fact that the skill type (if not difficulty) is set at ST.1.  But I suppose the fact that ST.1 mentions type and not difficulty is yet another argument that ST.1 does not define difficulty.

An interesting card here is Money Talks, which is an Event that changes the skill being tested.  It can be played only "when you initiate a skill test" - before ST.1

The implication here is that there could be no other Event like Money Talks that is just "fast" (playable at any window) or a Skill with sucha power.

Edited by Gillum the Stoor
Clarification

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39 minutes ago, Gillum the Stoor said:

...Double or Nothing...

I don't believe we all forgot that one.

This card clearly modifies the difficulty post step 1.  I think that is a clear indicator of being able to do it.

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Yeah, just to wade in on this too: there's nothing in the rules explaining when the difficulty of a test is set *because* it's not. It's variable, as @Assussanni, @Allonym, @Jobu and others already note. Just like investigator skill value, difficulty value can be affected throughout a test... 

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2 hours ago, zooeyglass said:

Yeah, just to wade in on this too: there's nothing in the rules explaining when the difficulty of a test is set *because* it's not. It's variable, as @Assussanni, @Allonym, @Jobu and others already note. Just like investigator skill value, difficulty value can be affected throughout a test... 

Ah, but ST.5 does set the total skill level.  So it's kind of odd that it doesn't also set the difficulty.  It would be academic, but in the interest of completeness.

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27 minutes ago, CSerpent said:

Ah, but ST.5 does set the total skill level.  So it's kind of odd that it doesn't also set the difficulty.  It would be academic, but in the interest of completeness.

Not really, the total skill level is calculated in ST. 5 but that's just to make things ordered and straightforward (i.e., it's saying "don't worry about doing all the maths until this step").

It doesn't "lock in" your skill total to be immutable at that point (there's no text stating "after doing so, your skill value can no longer be changed" or anything, and therefore the rules regarding Modifiers still apply unchanged). If it did lock in your skill level at that time, Lucky! wouldn't do anything.

Edited by Allonym

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2 minutes ago, Allonym said:

Not really, the total skill level is calculated in ST. 5 but that's just to make things ordered and straightforward (i.e., it's saying "don't worry about doing all the maths until this step").

It doesn't "lock in" your skill total to be immutable at that point (there's no text stating "after doing so, your skill value can no longer be changed" or anything, and therefore the rules regarding Modifiers still apply unchanged). If it did lock in your skill level at that time, Lucky! wouldn't do anything.

True, but still, why isn't the difficulty given a similar point for the maths?  It creates confusion when one gets it and the other doesn't.

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Not questioning any conclusions here, but I think that there are two kinds of things that can affect the final difficulty or skill value:  those that do so directly ("Double the difficulty of this skill test" or "Get +2 to your skill value for that test") and those that do so indirectly (e.g., by giving you horror, when difficulty is affected by horror).

I think that, regardless of when difficulty or skill value is determined (if either ever really is fixed before ST.6), a direct change could still occur later on (if relevant ability could be invoked at that time).  Thus, Lucky! would always add to the skill value at the time indicated.

Perhaps ST.5 is indicating the point in time at which the difficulty becomes immutable relative to indirect changes.  It does refer to a (final?) accounting of "all active card abilities that are modifying the investigator’s skill value."

I think that ST.5 could have also included "determine skill test's modified difficulty" and does not do so perhaps because difficulty modification is much less common that skill-value modification.

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As I think about it some more, the existence of cards like Double or Nothing or Lucky! don't go to the answer to my original question.

Even if the rules specified that a skill test's difficulty were determined at ST.1, cards such as those would still make sense per the golden rule.

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For consistency, I feel like it should be evaluated the same way as the skill value. If cards like Fire Axe, Madam Labranche, and Dark Horse can all be used in combination to boost skill value before the test result is evaluated, it makes sense that the difficulty of the test would also re-evaluate in a similar way.

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