The Basic Skill Test
The basic skill test is the unifying rules mechanic that does everything in OpenQuest. Roll a D100 and compare the result against a skill and depending on the result, apply the effect of success or failure.
To make a skill test, the player first describes what their character is doing. Then they roll a D100 and compare this to the relevant skill’s score. If the dice roll is equal to or less than the skill’s score, the attempt is successful. The player then describes the character’s success. If the total is higher than the skill’s score, then it has failed. The Referee then describes the result of the character’s failure.
Under normal conditions, a skill test is asked for when the character is placed on the spot and must make a successful action under pressure.
Unstressed Skill Tests
If the character has lots of time, has the tools of their trade and is in a sufficiently relaxed environment and state of mind, they complete the task to the best of their ability.
For example, an apprentice potter (Craft 20%) will, day in day out, produce a couple of pots of passable quality if working at their Master’s workshop. Of course, work beyond the skill of the character is still out of their reach, unless the player decides to take the chance with the dice and ask for a skill test.
A local noble wants an artistic piece of pottery for a grand celebration later in the month. The noble’s servant comes to the potter’s workshop, looking for the Master, who is out. The apprentice, seeing a chance to gain a good reputation, takes the commission. Knowing that his regular work will not be up to scratch, the player decides to roll the dice in the chance that he can produce something of the standard the noble expects.
If the Outcome is Hazardous
BEFORE THE SKILL TEST IS MADE, the Referee should also outline what any potential hazards there are if the character should fail. Players should be allowed to choose an alternative course of action. Also, the Referee should not apply extra penalties if the skill test is failed, or even fumbled (see below).
The Basic Skill Test Procedure
Overall, the procedure is as follows.
- The Referee calls for a skill test and asks the player to roll against a specific skill to resolve the current situation.
- The player describes how their character is tackling the task at hand.
- If there are any hazards or penalties for failing the task, the Referee should declare them, and the player should be allowed the option to plot an alternative route for their character, which may allow them to change the skill being used.
- If the character has any active magic from spells or items that gives them a bonus or penalty, apply this to the skill now.
- The Referee decides if the situation modifies the difficulty of the skill roll. Whether there is a bonus or a penalty (but not both and not multiple modifiers) to be applied to the skill before the player rolls the dice. See Difficulty below.
- The player rolls D100 and compares it against their skill, which may be modified.
- If the roll is lower or equal to the skill’s value, they succeed. The player describes how the character succeeds.
- If it is higher, they fail. The Referee describes how they fail.
- If they succeed and both dice are the same number, then the result is a critical success.
- If they fail and both dice are the same number, then the result is a fumble.
If you roll equal to or lower than your modified skill total, you are successful.
You can now describe what the character does as they succeed.
The character gets an automatic success if the modified skill is over 100%, but you still roll to see if you get a critical success.
If the dice roll on a skill test is successful and both dice are the same (i.e. ‘11’, ‘22’, ‘33’, etc.), then a critical success is achieved.
Critical success has an outcome that far exceeds the expectation of the player. It’s the best possible result based upon what skill the character used to perform the test.
The actual result of a critical success during a skill test is up to the player. It usually achieves one of the following results:
- The result is to a higher standard.
- With more style, impressing any audience they may have.
- The character gains additional information or insight from the task thanks to their brilliance.
- If the character is causing damage as a result of the skill test, they cause maximum damage and ignore any armour or protection that their opponent may have.
The Referee can moderate the critical result, vetoing or suggesting more reasonable outcomes if the player tries to narrate more success than is reasonable, but the player always suggests the effect.
If the dice roll on a skill test is higher than the modified skill, then a failure occurs. The Referee narrates the failure and its effect.
Note: The Referee should take care not to penalise the character with multiple effects for failing. The result of failing should be straightforward and as a direct result of the character’s actions.
If the Referee has previously outlined the risks of failure, then they should implement that as a result. They should not suddenly change their mind.
Failure of a basic skill test should never stop the character from progressing through the adventure. There should always be options and possibilities, even when the player fails a skill test. A process which is known as failing forward.
Here are some examples of fail forward situations.
- The characters fail to pick or force a locked door? Their efforts make enough noise to alert a patrol of passing guards, who now come crashing through the door ready for trouble. The characters must think fast, do they respond with violence or make up a convincing story and fast talk their way past the guards?
- The characters all failed their Perception skill tests to notice an iron key hidden in a rubbish pile while searching a room earlier, and now that they have found a locked chest. Will they break it open or get their lock picks out?
- The group’s Sorcerer failed their Language skill test to decipher an ancient text about an ancient Demon they are about to face. The adventurers still face the horror, but they do not know its weaknesses or the spell that the scroll outlined.
Failure should not be a barrier to resolving the adventure but instead should open interesting difficulties to resolve.
Whenever a skill test results in failure and both rolled dice are the same number, the character has ‘fumbled’ the test.
A fumble is the worst possible outcome of the skill test based upon the player’s original description of what their character was planning to do.
The actual result of a fumble is primarily up to the Referee to decide. It usually results in one of the following mishaps.
A fumble need not lead to damage and the demise of the character, but should always cause the character to suffer a significant disadvantage.
Unlike a simple failure, fumbling should be a dead end to play, to emphasise how bad things are. All the character can do is dust themselves off and take another route to success.
There are specific Critical Success and Fumble results for weapon skill tests in combat and magical casting skill tests, described in the relevant chapters (Combat and Magic).
Opposed Skill Tests
Opposed skill tests are made by both characters who are in direct competition with each other. Both characters make the skill tests, as usual, rolling 1D100 and attempting to roll equal to or under their skill.
One Character Succeeds
If one character succeeds their skill test and the other fails, then the successful character has won the opposed skill test.
Both Characters Succeed
If both characters succeed, then whoever rolled the highest in their skill test wins the opposed test. If one character rolls a critical, while the other rolls an ordinary success, then the character that rolled the critical, which is a higher level of success, wins.
Both Characters Fail
Whoever rolled the lowest in their skill test wins the opposed test.
In the case of ties for both the player wins.
Difficulty Modifiers in Opposed Skill Tests
Only one side of the opposed skill test is modified. Either whoever has the clear advantage or clear disadvantage. You do not modify both sides.
Magic in an Opposed Skill Test
Both sides can use magic in an opposed skill test, which generates skill modifiers. Like a normal skill test these modifiers are applied after the difficulty modifier.
Opposed Tests Results
|Player / Opponent
|Highest Roll Wins
|Highest Roll Wins
|Lowest Roll wins
Skills at 100%
Characters with skills at the limit of 100% are Masters of that skill and under normal circumstances do not fail and quite often can perform tasks that are deemed impossible by ordinary people.
Skill Tests and Masters
Characters who have 100% with a particular skill never roll to test their skill, and the outcome is an automatic critical. Because they do not need to test their skill, they never fail or fumble skill tests with that skill.
Opposed Tests vs Masters
In opposed skill tests characters with skills at 100% nearly always succeed. There are two cases that need consideration.
If the player character is a Master and their opponent is also a Master. In this case, the player rolls the dice as normal, and if they get a critical, they win the contest. Otherwise, they tie, and the contest is a standoff with neither side getting any advantage.
If the opponent is a Master and the character is not. The player rolls the test for their character’s skill. The Master has already considered to have a critical by the fact that they are at 100%, so the Referee needs not roll. If player rolls a critical, the player character wins by the barest and most amazing of margins. If the player succeeds, the Master wins in less style than they normally would, which might be impressive in its own right to any crowd watching. The player character rolls a fail or fumble, they fumble.
Characters Whose skill is Modified to 100%
Characters who during a basic skill test or opposed skill contest have their skill modified to 100%, are not treated as Masters. While a modified skill of 100% still guarantees them a success, unless they fumble a roll of 00, they still have to roll to see if they get a critical.
Group Skill Tests
Sometimes the Referee will call for everyone around the table to make the same skill test. These tests are made as individuals. For example, a Perception Test to notice the bandits hidden in the bushes on either side of the path the characters are currently travelling along. Those characters who make their tests can act on the information that it provides. Those who don’t can’t. Characters can also critical or fumble as normal. Determining Surprise in the Combat chapter is another example of this.
Characters will often help each other during skill tests. Often such assistance will break a deadlock where a character cannot successfully do a task on their own. Only one assistance may be taken at a time, but it may add to the modifier that the character making the skill test has already gained. Note: If the character is doing this in combat, they act on the turn of the character they are helping. They lose their own turn. Therefore, they cannot assist if they have already acted in that round.
- Choose an appropriate skill, which need not be the same as the skill which the character they are assisting is using. Make the skill roll and narrate how your character is helping.
- The Referee determines if the character is actually in a position to help.
- If the Referee approves, add +20% to the skill of the character you are helping.