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under the hood

Ability checks and the cost of success

Our method for solving ability checks and adventure situations.

While developing Primo Contatto we found ourselves at a decisive crossroads: make our own game from scratch, or building on the shoulders of giants. Knowing that on the one hand it would make the game familiar to many and on the other it would inexorably drive away a few players hungry for more radical alternatives, we have chosen to inherit the basics of the d20 System. This choice enabled us to dedicate most of our energies on three aspects that we really care about in a role-playing game. While we already presented the first aspect with the article "Primo Contatto: our approach for a flexible game system", here we will focus on the second: ability checks.

Our characters are not ordinary people. Worldly life may be an integral part of the game, but the real adventure will be savored when the world tests the limits of our favorite alter egos. A mechanic that enstablishes the outcome of an action we believe is the basis of a role-playing game. With d20 System we start from a solid base: a roll of the d20 indicates successes or failures of an intention, but with Primo Contatto we decided to take one step further. Game masters will be able to manage crucial moments of their adventure by fixing the final outcome in advance and delegating to players characters the opportunity to calibrate, with their d20, what price will be paid to advance on the next situation.

Gameplay example - The unstable portal

Author's note: in the following situation the player characters will end their adventure by sealing a dangerous alien portal. Their ability checks will determine how much damage the portal will do before its final closure.
Game master: “Bright flames blaze in the stone circle. The MTM of Tiara Cobalto synchronizes with yours and multiple indicators appear on your screens. The portal must be stabilized: Alejandro, this will be an Audacity ability check. You can use advantage to represent the help of your group but Destiny is not on your side: you will have to subtract it from the roll before reading the final result.”
Alejandro [rolls 2d20+Aud-Des and gets 5]: “A misfortune that the hyperium turns out to be exhausted right in the moment of need...”
Game master: "Unfortunately, the hyperium has completely burned out. The breach does not close and a fiery hand emerges from the unstable portal, as if drawn from another dimension. A creature of molten magma makes its way into our world, not yet satisfied with its last, freshly eaten meal.”

Ability checks are the knots and crossroads of our adventures. As a game master we can diversify our repertoire with many useful tools and using them at the right time can help us create truly memorable moments. Success or failure are two ideal outcomes for common situations, but success at a cost we believe is the best way to maximize the satisfaction and enjoyment of all players at the table.

[Photo © Pixabay]

Flavio Published on 11/10/2021
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