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Yepesnopes

The challenge die

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I wanted to grab some impressions from GMs about when to use the challenge (red) die. The book gives a "very clear" description of which is the intention of this die.

"Challenge dice represent the most extreme adversity and opposition. These dice may be featured in place of Difficulty dice during particularly daunting challenges posed by trained, elite. or prepared opponents. Challenge dice can also be added to a pool by investing a Destiny Point into an important skill check."

It seems clear that they appear as result of skills and talents in opposed situations.

 

But then, the game presents some sub-mechanics, in particular "PILOTING AND STELLAR PHENOMENA OR TERRAIN" and also "DETERMINING FEAR DIFFICULTY", where the challenge die is introduced as an extra gauge for the task difficulty (aside from the set back dice and the difficulty dice), and it is not necessarily (or not at all) linked to the skills or talents of an opponent.

 
To keep long things brief, are you using the challenge die in other ways aside from those stated in its description? For example, when the PCs perform a task where a potential catastrophe can occur (Despair)? I mean, including challenge dice without the need to spend DPs, more like in an intrinsic thing, like in the "PILOTING AND STELLAR PHENOMENA OR TERRAIN" sub-mechanic?
 
Cheers,
Yepes

 

 

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If the task is inherently dangerous even if no one is shooting at you, use the challenge die.  In other words, the potential consequence for failure is dire.

 

Negotiating with someone who wants to kill you.

 

Slicing an alarm system.

 

Hot pursuit through an asteroid field.

 

Leaping a bottomless pit.

 

How many challenge die?  Just one, I think -- the point is that if you get Despair, your worst fear comes true. The point is to induce anxiety in the player who is rolling it and either relief if they succeed or genuine despair if they do not (but, as always -- "fail forward"...)

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How many challenge die?  Just one, I think -- the point is that if you get Despair, your worst fear comes true. The point is to induce anxiety in the player who is rolling it and either relief if they succeed or genuine despair if they do not (but, as always -- "fail forward"...)

 

Good post, and one is probably enough in most cases.  Math-wise, it's an 8.5% chance, which I think would be plenty for most dangerous situations.  If you really need to be threatening, then you can spend a DP to get 2 and bump it up to around 16%.

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An interesting wrinkle is that you're always going to have challenge dice in a pool when you're making an opposed check against someone with any kind of skill, even if the situation is less than harrowing. In this case, Despair is Murphy's Law.

 

To wit, haggling wtih a junk dealer for some hyperdrive parts?  Despair might mean it craps-out right when you're being chased by the Imps. Have fun running around the ship screaming, "it's not my fault!"

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I think if there is a situation where a catastrophe can happen, then I wouldn't just add a Challenge die. I would spend a Destiny Point to do so, indicating that bad juju is brewing.

This is what I was thinking. So long as your game has the back and forth of the Destiny points, isn't this exactly what this is for? If you start doing it arbitrarily for any time things could go really bad, it cheapens the whole idea of Destiny Points.

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I think if there is a situation where a catastrophe can happen, then I wouldn't just add a Challenge die. I would spend a Destiny Point to do so, indicating that bad juju is brewing.

Spending a Destiny Point to upgrade the difficulty of a check is actually called out in the rules as just such a thing, with the presence of the Challenge die reflecting that a given task is not quite as simple as it might initially seem.  It's part and parcel of what the Destiny Pool is there for.

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An interesting wrinkle is that you're always going to have challenge dice in a pool when you're making an opposed check against someone with any kind of skill, even if the situation is less than harrowing. In this case, Despair is Murphy's Law.

 

To wit, haggling wtih a junk dealer for some hyperdrive parts?  Despair might mean it craps-out right when you're being chased by the Imps. Have fun running around the ship screaming, "it's not my fault!"

Good points

 

Probably most opposed checks a PC makes are going to involve at least one or two Challenge dice even before you factor in the spending of Destiny Points.

 

And it was discussed on a couple episodes of the Order 66 podcast that the effects of a Despair (or Triumph for that matter) don't have to be immediately apparent to the players.  Only that what resulted from the Despair should have some relation to the task that generated it.  So having Joe-Bob's blaster suddenly run out of ammo when Freedle the Slicer rolls a Despair while trying to slice into a Black Sun data storage center wouldn't be kosher, but spending that Despair to have a couple of security guards (alerted that something was up by a silent alarm) show up just as the PCs are leaving the room is perfectly legit.

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This is what I was thinking. So long as your game has the back and forth of the Destiny points, isn't this exactly what this is for? If you start doing it arbitrarily for any time things could go really bad, it cheapens the whole idea of Destiny Points.

 

If the challenge is informed by the fiction, it is not arbitrary. Asteroids are dangerous -- the GM does not need to spend a DP to make them dangerous. That's already in the rules. Rather, I see DPs being spent the same way PCs use them -- with the element of agency. It's the Hutt's Enforcer that pushes himself and upgrades his attack roll.

 

(The issue of back-and-forth Desitny points I mentioned in another thread, but in the context of RAW, I could totally see the GM spending DP every time he introduces a challenge die -- for any reason -- just to get rid of the things since the RAW assumption is that players will spend them like water...)

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To wit, haggling wtih a junk dealer for some hyperdrive parts?  Despair might mean it craps-out right when you're being chased by the Imps. Have fun running around the ship screaming, "it's not my fault!"

I try to keep the Despair related directly to the result. So the haggle might be successful, but might include some sort of background check, or might come with certain caveats or conditions (so potentially, the parts could be faulty, but I'd prefer something more about Negiotiate rather than Mechanics or Computers). I think making the hyperdrive shut down in the middle of an escape is more the realm of Mechanics. Perhaps the parts dealer won't deal with you further; you ruined his business by not giving him the full, appropriate price. He has a family to feed, you know!

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To wit, haggling wtih a junk dealer for some hyperdrive parts?  Despair might mean it craps-out right when you're being chased by the Imps. Have fun running around the ship screaming, "it's not my fault!"

I try to keep the Despair related directly to the result. 

 

I would argue that getting a bum hyperdrive part thanks to a Despair on the roll is directly related to the result--you just didn't see the effect of it right away.

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I received my dice pack that I ordered after reading through this thread, and something jumped out at me when I was looking through it. You only get 1 Challenge die in each dice pack. You get two triumph, but only one challenge. Might be nothing, but I'm reading into it as how rarely we should be using them for difficulty.

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I try to keep the Despair related directly to the result. 

 

I would argue that getting a bum hyperdrive part thanks to a Despair on the roll is directly related to the result--you just didn't see the effect of it right away.

 

Moreover, keeping that Despair in your hip pocket to pop up later lets it live up to its name. Nothing more fun than watching players stressing over when the other shoe is going to drop.

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With despair I think it is appropriate to just mention that you will use it later, this way it looms over the PCs for a while and from real life experience (as in life does actually suck at the moment), despair does have a habit of hanging about until the brown stuff really does it the spinning air mover.

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Firstly, I apologize for necroing this thread, but I had an experience tonight with my first ever Session that I think would add some perspective on this.  This was something one of my players specifically brought up afterward.

 

There were a lot of rolls made tonight on a lot of different challenges.  I would say that in most situations, I kept things pretty simple - 2 maybe 3 Difficulty Dice.  On the rare occasion, I would have them roll only 1 DD, and quite often I felt the task they wanted to do was inconsequential and just gave it to them for free.  That was mostly on Perception checks for just figuring out the general layout of things, however.

 

For a few instances, I used a Destiny Point to upgrade one of the Difficulty Die to a Challenge Die.  They immediately felt the added pressure on an emotional level.  I was pleased with that as that's what they are supposed to do.  But quite frankly, I only did this because all the Destiny Points were in my control, and I needed to use them so that they could in turn use them for their advantage.  Basically, I was giving them the opportunity to participate in more of the game, whether the situation called for it or not.  I honestly don't care about them as the GM.  But I know that the players need them to be in play as a resource for some of their talents, and as a simple boost during something they feel is important - almost as a security blanket.  So, I use them only to facilitate that for them.

 

However, there were a few situations where I specifically called for a Challenge Die without the use of a Destiny Point.  But there was always a specific reason why I did that.  To illustrate my point, there were several instances where they made a Computers check to look up some information about one thing or another.  Normally, I would just put 2 or 3 DD depending on what they were looking for.  If the information is obscure, it's more difficult - thus 3 DD instead of 2.  Something average - I used 2.  If it was extremely easy to find general information - 1.

 

But a few times, I upgraded one of those DD to a CD without using a DP - again, depending on the nature of what they were doing.

 

I explained it as such:  hacking the FBI mainframe is not only extremely difficult... it's also extremely dangerous.  Essentially, I felt that the actions they were taking during specific moments carried with them an inherent level of danger that could yield further consequences beyond "You failed, and it effects your performance on your next check."  Hacking the FBI mainframe, for instance, could lead to legal consequences in the utmost dire of ways.  They didn't do that, but it's to illustrate that what they were doing carried inherent levels of danger that the DD simply do not represent.

 

I mean, it's one thing to lock pick a door.  It's something else entirely to lockpick the same door without bothering to check if it's rigged with an alarm.  If something is inherently more dangerous - I did not feel the need to use a DP to make it so in the mechanical narrative, because I was not actively trying to alter the course of the narrative.  I was simply assessing what they wanted to do.

 

We got into a bit of an argument about it afterward, because the player felt that I was increasing the difficulty arbitrarily - that I was supposed to use the DP to put a CD into play.  He felt that I was making things more difficult than they needed to be.

 

I explained that changing a DD to a CD was not an increase in difficulty, but an increase in consequence risk based on the inherent nature of the action itself.  I didn't choose the action for them.  They chose the action.  I responded to the action based on reasonable standards.

 

To me, using a DP is kind of like the GM is actively trying to alter things out of the players' favor - maybe as a means to reign in on what's happening to the story.  It's requesting a minimal amount of control over the narrative that likely won't happen... but it could.  This has nothing to do with something that is already inherently risky beyond the normal results.

 

My player wanted to see the specific rules for all of this, which I couldn't provide at the time.  We looked at some things, but I don't think the issue was resolved for either perspective.

 

I think he had this notion in his mind that a Despair is already represented by the possibility of garnering 3 Threats on the Difficulty Dice.  And, he isn't wrong... but he sort of was incorrect.

 

1 Despair can replace 3 Threats.

3 Threats cannot replace 1 Despair.

 

To further examine this, I rest on this interpretation as correct because, hacking the FBI mainframe is always difficult and is always dangerous.  A Destiny Point may not always be available.  It is for this reason alone that I feel a GM should be able to separate the use of a Destiny Point and the Challenge Die.

 

I would be interested in more feedback on this topic if anyone has anything to add.

Edited by Raice

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I think Challenge dice find their way into an appropriate number of dice pools as is at my table.  Between Opposed checks, Adversary talent, the Stellar Phenomenon rules, and DPs, I'm not sure there is much need beyond that as they all happen pretty frequently as is. 

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But a few times, I upgraded one of those DD to a CD without using a DP - again, depending on the nature of what they were doing.

 

I do this regularly, so I agree with what you did.  However, I usually have a background reason in mind for why, and it almost always relates to using an opposed skill check.  Using your example of hacking into the FBI, that would be an opposed check based on the capability of the FBI programmers who put in the security protocols.  IMHO, those programmers don't necessarily have to be "active", but their security protocols are, and that is what the players are rolling against.  In short, there's almost always a "behind the scenes" opposition driving my decision to upgrade a check.  Sometimes the players ask about it, and I'll either explain it right there, or assure them there is a reason that might be revealed in time.  That way they don't think it's just arbitrary.

 

The other time I might upgrade is the classic example of climbing a cliff above lava.  It's not that if they get a Despair they will fall in, but there might be other factors like toxic gasses or heat exhaustion causing Strain or even Wounds that might kick in with a Despair, that aren't as easy to account for with just Threats.

 

Or another example, a booby-trapped lock.  The lock might only be PP to pick, but if they don't reveal the booby-trap with a successful Perception roll, they can still get poked by a poisoned needle.

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The rules suggest you don't use them arbitrarily - as posters above said, they are meant to be used for opposed checks (which are fairly rare in this system compared to many), specific talents like Adversary or Nobody's Fool, and through GM use of Destiny Points, the latter of which is part of the ebb and flow of every game anyway.

 

As a simple rule of thumb, I decide if I'm going to use a DP by asking myself 'does this check have the potential for an 'Oh Noes!' moment?'  If it does, and I have DP to spend, I do so.  There's only a 1 in 12 chance of catastrophe in this way, but it keeps the game interesting. And it doesn't feel arbitrary because it's part of the rules and players can spend points too.

Edited by Maelora

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The rules suggest you don't use them arbitrarily - as posters above said, they are meant to be used for opposed checks (which are fairly rare in this system compared to many), 

You don't have a lot of opposed social check type stuff?  Just curious.

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Oh yes, we do - the AOR group has two diplomats, so they tag-team on social combats :)

 

But in general, you're making opposed rolls in certain situations, not in every situation (like combat, say).

Roger dodger. Oh, and I'm glad to see you back from your exile on Dagobah....

Edited by 2P51

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Oh yes, we do - the AOR group has two diplomats, so they tag-team on social combats :)

That could have some very interesting connotations, knowing your group :lol:

(said in both jest and good humor, lest one think I'm being too prickly :P )

 

 

Hahaha! :) No, I'm playing straight, for once.

 

One player plays our version of a Leia character, and another plays her protocol droid.

 

Neither are much good in a  fight, so I make an effort to make the diplomatic encounters engaging for them.

 

The AOR group tends to be more straightforward for us - it's the F&D team who have the moral complexities and the um, more adult scenarios...

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