If the conditions and situation are different from those usual, the Referee may modify the skill to reflect the difference in difficulty. Modifiers are added or subtracted from the skill for the duration of the test. A penalty will make the test harder while a bonus makes it easier.  Only one modifier is used during a test. (See When a Referee Should Apply Difficulty Modifiers below for guidance on this.)

 Difficulty Modifiers

Difficulty Skill  Modifier What the modifier means
Easy +50% The character should have an almost certain chance of success.
Simple +20% While success is still by no means certain, the character has a boost to their chance of achieving their goal.
Normal +0% The skill is unmodified since normal conditions apply.
Difficult –20% Significantly hindered in their chance of success.
Hard –50% Suffering a severe setback that may put success beyond their reach.

Impossible Success And Automatic Failure

Any skill modified to 0 or less will automatically fail when tested. Roll dice anyway since the character can still fumble.

Any skill modified to 100% or higher will almost always automatically succeed when tested. Roll the dice anyway since the character can be still make a critical success or fumble if the player rolls a 00. This rule of 00 being an automatic fumble does not apply to a character who is a Master of the skill.

When the Referee Should Apply Difficulty Modifiers

Modifiers should only be applied when they have a significant effect on the character’s chance of success. They should not be doled out for every skill test since this cheapens their dramatic impact. Only apply a modifier when it is essential and brings something to the story.  Resist the urge to hand out +10% here and take -5% there. These little modifiers do not add much to the player’s chance of success and bring needless fiddly addition and subtraction into play.

There are three areas where the Referee should modify the player’s skill before a skill test.  The Referee should consider all three areas and decide which of them provides the deciding factor, and only apply the modifier based on that.

For example, if the player has roleplayed his character to the hilt while influencing a guardsman in the pouring rain, it is the roleplaying for which the Referee awards a +50% bonus and not the rain, which would have dampened the enthusiasm of the guardsman to -20%.  So, only +50% applies to the player’s roll.

The three areas are:

  • As a result of the task being inherently easy or difficult.
  • As a result of planning.
  • As a result of good roleplaying.

As a Result of the Task Being Inherently Easy or Difficult

Some things are just naturally easier or harder to do than others.

For example, climbing a cliff with natural handholds and with the proper equipment (e.g. ropes and iron spikes) is an unmodified task.  Doing the same climb in the pouring rain makes it Difficult (-20% to the skill) and if the character has also forgotten his ropes and spikes, then this makes it Hard (-50% to the skill).

In comparison, climbing a cliff where there are numerous ledges, and where the character can rest and actually ‘walk’ up the cliff in places becomes an Easy (+50%) skill test.

As a Result of Planning

The players have outlined how their characters prepare to perform a task well in advance. If their plan is a sound and good one, you should make the skill test Easy. Conversely, if the players have given no thought as to how their characters approach a complex task which does require preparation and planning, then make the resulting skill test Hard.

As a Result of Good Roleplaying

Usually, this happens with skills that involve some form of communication, like Influence.  When the player describes the action of their character and roleplays the exchange between their character and the non-player character(s). If the player was entertaining, kept in character and added to the fun of the game, the Referee may award them a +20% or +50% bonus.  In exceptional circumstances, where the player reduced everyone to tears of laughter or was outstanding in their portrayal of their character, the Referee may waive the necessity for the skill test entirely. Remember, good storytelling always comes before any dice rolling.

Modifiers for Magic

Suppose the character is under the influence of a magic spell or item, that gives them a penalty or bonus to the skill they are using. In this case, the modifier for magic is added or subtracted after the modifier for difficulty.

Like modifiers for difficulty, apply one modifier in any given skill test. Pick the most powerful one, be it a bonus or a penalty.