Skip to Primary Menu Skip to About OSR+ Menu Skip to OSR+ Support Menu Skip to Main Content

Rolling for Success

Sometimes the GM will ask for an unopposed check that doesn't have a pass-fail result: that is, the GM doesn't have in mind a specific target number (TN) to resolve your action, and he just wants to measure your performance. This is called a success check. 

Such a check could represent a situation where you can't fail, but the degree to which you succeed may vary depending on the circumstances. For example, cooking a dish fit for a king when you have the skill Crafting (Cooking), or trying to suss out archaeological clues from an ancient crypt if you are a Tomb Raider.

In this case, make an unopposed attribute check and roll as high as you can. How well you roll determines how much narrative control you have over the outcome.

Success Check TABLE
target numberoutcomeResult
Poor (6 or less)You do a bad job and the result is not what you intended. The GM narrates a disadvantage.GM Disadvantage
Average (7+)The results are as expected, but there's a catch. The GM offers you a choice of disadvantages.Success at a Cost
Good (11+)The results are as expected.Clean Success
Exceptional (13+)You did a great job and you get what you wanted, and then some. The GM narrates an advantage.GM Advantage
Extraordinary (17+)The results are incredible and you get to narrate an advantage.Player Advantage
Legendary (21+)Your results are out-of-this-world. You get to narrate two advantages.Player Advantage x2
Note that these results are not cumulative. If you roll a 13, you only get the Exceptional result and not the results of Good, Average, or Poor.)

Interpreting Success

You run a restaurant and roll to cook a meal for a new guest. Let’s see how your guest fares:

Poor (5+)

A meal has certainly been made, but it's not good. The food is bland, the presentation is sloppy, and it leaves your guest with indigestion. He is not coming back.

Average (7+)

Your guest is sated but he's not impressed. The food was serviceable, but also forgettable because there's nothing special about it.

Good (11+)

Your guest is bursting at the seams. His plate is licked clean. The service was top-notch and the food well prepared. He decides he'll be coming back soon!

Exceptional (13+)

Your guest is speechless at the taste of his first bite. He says this is one of the finest meals he has had in recent memory. Your mastery of fine dining will make your joint his favorite dining establishment in town.

Extraordinary (17+)

Your guest sheds a tear upon finishing the last bite. Never in his life has he tasted such perfection. He becomes totally loyal to your restaurant and lavishes it with praise at every opportunity, telling anyone and everyone he knows that there is no finer food in all the realm than your establishment. Soon, customers line up from far and wide to get a taste of their own.

Legendary (21+)

Your guest spreads word of his legendary experience: It is said, somewhere in the mountains, if you look for the winding smokestack from a tiny hut at its highest peak, a chef resides who was touched by the gods themselves. This genius is a maker of divine sustenance, such that if any mortal were to take a single sip of his soup, their soul would be renewed to live another hundred years. The legend of the gods' cook is whispered among his patrons in the west and far east and every place in between, but few have firsthand knowledge of his power, for the gods' cook only serves a handful of guests once a decade, as the fortune he amassed in his lifetime is greater than coffers of an entire kingdom.

Options for GM Advantage

Whereas ordinarily the GM is expected to act neutrally and provide fair outcomes for all, when the GM narrates an advantage for you, he becomes a big fan of your character. Like the use of a fate point on the player side, the GM shifts the scales of the narrative in your favor. For example, these are some examples of GM advantage:

  • You're granted advantage on a similar roll next round
  • You create a temporary global story tag that anyone can use going forward
  • You get an extra attack roll
  • Your contact is so intimidated he spills all the beans rather than just what you asked for
  • You find extra and unexpected treasure

In the restaurant scenario above, for example, the GM could decide that your guest gives you a large tip or tells you an important bit of information about your rival restaurant.

Options for Player Advantage

Creating player advantage in a success check is akin to creating narrative advantage with a fate point. Imagine yourself as holding a bonus fate point that you have to use on the spot, except its use is restricted to whatever might logically result from the success of your action.

For example, on an extraordinary success in the above restaurant scenario, you might declare that your guest is in fact a food critic whose review will attract new customers.

Options for Success at a Cost

The following is specifically GM-facing, but because players are encouraged to be the authors of their own doom, it's worth understanding how the GM decides to narrate success at a cost on the fly.

In the case of success at a cost, the GM looks at the nature of your action and the desired outcome, and then offers a choice between two GM disadvantages.

If You Want To Be...Then the Risk Is...Example GM disadvantage
CarefulOverkillYou disarm the security system, but also short power to the whole building. The guards don't know you're inside, but they know something is up!
ForcefulIneffectivenessYou intimidate the gangsters to flee the scene, but only because they plan to regroup in greater numbers later.
InfluentialConfusionYour boastful speech about your exploits convinces the evil Queen to spare your life, but now she commits you to the task of defeating her powerful rival, an ancient dragon.
MethodicalMisapplicationThe ritual succeeds and you resurrect the king, but the powerful magic goes out of your control and also brings his royal subjects back to life... as undead.
PreparedSurpriseYou fortify a ruin to hide from the man-eating raptors, but you don't realize it's because the creatures are spooked by the ghosts that live there.
SneakyExposureYour disguise flawlessly matches the lookalike, but you discover the lookalike is inside.
SpeedyDelayYou elude the assassins with the explosion, but the screaming crowds that result delay your escape to the train, which is now leaving early.
This table is inspired by Rob Donoghue and his approach to risk in RPGs.

In addition, harm (suffering physical damage or being subjected to a peril) and attrition (losing some resource crucial to the effort) are also potential outcomes, if the above doesn't fit.

Are you sure?