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Chapter 4: Task Resolution

4.1 What is Task Resolution?

During the process of general play, there will be situations where the outcome of a particular event is not guaranteed. In these situations, a task resolution is called for. There are three different types of task resolution: active, passive, and interactive. Task resolution can be based on Attributes, Skills or, in the case of an interactive task resolution, Affinities. The basic process involves rolling 1d20 and adding this value to whatever the task is being based on.

An active task resolution occurs when two people (whether they are Player characters or Non-player characters) are matched against each other, for example arm wrestling or hiding from someone. To resolve an arm wrestling contest, you would perform a task resolution on the two character's Strength Attribute. The highest total value (of Strength plus 1d20) wins. In the event of a tie, either treat as a draw or, if that isn't appropriate, add another 1d20 to each total. In the case of one person hiding from another, this would be a task resolution between the hider's Evade Skill, and the searcher's Awareness Attribute.

A passive task resolution occurs when someone attempts to achieve a certain objective, and is not in direct competition with someone else, for example, jumping a gorge, searching for a hidden object or trying to remember something. In these cases, the GM assigns a difficulty to the task and if the total of the Skill or Attribute plus 1d20 equals or exceeds the difficulty set than the activity succeeds. Table 14 gives suggested task difficulty levels.

Table 14: Task Difficulties
Difficulty Task Description
5 Trivial
10 Very Easy
15 Easy
20 Average
25 Above Average
30 Challenging
40 Difficult
50 Very Difficult
60 Formidable

If the character's Skill or Attribute alone exceeds the difficulty, the task automatically succeeds (unless the GM deems that there is a risk of Fumbling, see section 4.2, below). No matter how low a character's Skill is, there is always some chance of success because of Criticals (see section 4.2, below).

4.2 Critical and Fumbles

To allow everyone a chance of success at any task, Avatar allows the occurrence of criticals. A critical occurs when a 20 is rolled on the die, and allows the die to be rolled again. If the next die roll is also a 20, the die can be rolled again, and so on until a 20 is not rolled. Each die rolled counts towards the total - so if a 20 is rolled twice followed by a 6, the total value is 46.

A fumble occurs when a 1 is rolled. A fumble does not mean an automatic failure: add 10 to the Task Difficulty, and re-attempt the task. The value that caused the fumble does not count towards the new Task Resolution. If the next Task results in another fumble, add another 10 and attempt the new Task. In this way, everyone has a chance of failure.

Under stressful situations, the GM may decide there is a greater chance of fumble - expressed as the risk of the Task. Normally the risk is 1, but if the situation is dangerous, rushed or stressful the risk can rise as high as 10 (more if the GM is a sadist...). A fumble occurs on any value up to the risk value. If a critical occurs, the risk goes down to 0 for all subsequent die rolls.

For example, Fairn has a Skill of 12 in Pick Lock, and is attempting to break into a door in a remote castle. The lock is simple, and the Task Difficulty is only 15. Suddenly, a guard comes down the corridor. The GM looks at Fairn's demeanour and see's that he is Impulsive and Fearful. The GM rules that the risk has just gone up to 10. Trouble. Fairn's character rolls 1d20 and gets a 4. A fumble. The difficulty has just gone up to 25. Fairn's player rolls again, and gets a 9. Another fumble! The difficulty is up to 35. The next die roll is a 20 - a critical! Just what was needed. The total is at 32, and the Risk falls to 0 - a 3 or better is needed for success. Fairn's player rolls a 5, giving a total of 37. A success, just. Fairn opens the door just in time.

In Active Task Resolutions, a fumble results in 10 being subtracted from the fumblers total. For example, Fairn has a Gambling Skill of 23, and is gambling with two locals with Gambling Skills of 12 and 6 respectively. The first local rolls a 4, getting 16. The second local rolls a 14 for 20. Unless Fairn fumbles, it'll be a success. Fairn rolls, and gets a 1. A fumble! It's just not Fairn's day. Fairn rolls again and gets an 8. His total is hence 23 - 10 + 8 = 21. Fairn wins anyway. Just.

4.3 Interactive Task Resolution

The third form of Task Resolution is interactive. These are cases which involve situations which can be role-played to some degree. In these instances, the player is expected to act out, to some extent, their character's actions and the GM will set a Difficulty based on this. In addition, the player should gain bonuses for their Demeanour and Concept affinities.

For example, Fairn is attempting to persuade a guard that he has every right to be in the castle, because he owns it (a blatant lie). Fairn's player points out that Fairn is Subtle, Courteous but Truthful. The GM gives +4 for Subtle and Courteous, but -4 for Truthful. The player words his lie, and the GM rules, given the quality of the lie, that the Difficulty is 15. The player needs an 11 or better to convince the guard.

The GM should decide on the Difficulty based on how well the player performs and how likely the other person (or people) involved are likely to respond. If, for example, the person who Fairn was trying to persuade is in fact the owner of the castle, Fairn's chance of success is slim at best. A Difficulty of 60 or more would not be unreasonable.

4.4 Group Task Resolution

When Task Resolution is required for two or more people who are co-operating or kibbutzing, a combined skill value can be worked out. In order to do so, start with the highest of the Skills, and add a bonus for the next highest Skill. If the highest Skill is equal to, or no more than 4 higher than the next, 5 is added. If the highest Skill is 5 to 9 points higher then add 2. If the difference is 10 or more, add 1. Having done this, compare the new total with the next lowest Skill until all have been combined.

However, the more people that are involved in a Task, the greater the chance of catastrophic failure because of the difficulty of coordinating a large number of people working together. The Risk for a combined Skill Task Resolution is half (round down) the number of participating people (of course, this can still rise higher, if the circumstances warrant it). Because of this, if an individual knows very little about a particular subject they may actually make matters worse by trying to help.

People who are used to working together do not suffer this problem. For example, a crew of sailors who have sailed together many times before do not have to suffer the higher Risk value, because they are used to working with each other, and it is a less difficult task to co-ordinate them.

Table 15, below, summarises this method for combining multiple people's Skill or Attribute value into one compound value.

Table 15: Combined Skill Values
Difference between Skills Modifier
Total exceeds next Skill by 10+ +1
Total exceeds next Skill by 5 to 9 +2
Total exceeds next Skill by up to 4 +5

For example, let us take Fairn's gambling match from earlier. Fairn's opponents are in fact secretly collaborating, and hence their Skills are combined against him. Fairn's Skill is 23, and his opponents are 12 and 6. 12 is the highest of his opponents Skills, so we use this as our starting point. The next highest Skill is 6 less than this, so we add +2 for the other person's contribution, making their total 14. Since there are only two participants, the Risk is still 1. The Task can now be resolved as a Skill of 23 versus a combined Skill of 14. Fairn is still the most likely person to win.

Another example, Fairn is attempting to cross tricky waters with three other people. Their Sailing Skills are 29, 25, 25 and 8. The highest Skill is 29, and the next highest 25. This is within 4, so the total becomes 29 + 5 = 33. The next highest Skill is 25 which is 8 less than the current total, so that adds another 2, taking the total to 33 + 2 = 35. The final Skill is 8, which is more than 10 different and so only adds +1. The final combined skill value is 35 + 1 = 36. Because 4 people are involved, the Risk is 2.

4.5 Task Assistance

As well as working together to resolve a certain Task, there are also situations where one person may assist another individual, for example, an expert climber might be able to offer assistance to a less skilled climber without it being a valid situation for Group Task Resolution.

In any such situation, the person being helped may be task assisted by one person only. The amount of assistance can be determined using Table 15: Combined Skill Values. If the person task assisting has a higher Skill, or their Skill is no less than 4 below the Skill being task assisted, the person being assisted gets +5. If the task assisting Skill is between 5 and 9 less than the task assisted Skill, they get +2. Otherwise, they get a +1.

The Gamesmaster should be careful to distinguish between situations that require Group Task Resolution, and those that are covered by task assistance. If the circumstances involve one problem being tackled by a group (navigating, sailing or searching, for instance), then Group Task Resolution is required. If the circumstances involve several individuals undertaking the same task (climbing or swimming, for instance), task assistance is called for.

There are, of course, several situations in which neither Group Task Resolution nor task assistance are appropriate - it is unlikely that one person can help another person Dodge, for instance.

4.6 Heroic Fumbles (Optional)

Whilst the standard system for Fumbles is adequate, many people feel that there should always be a possibility of matters going not just wrong, but titanically wrong. To cover this option, Avatar incorporates an option for heroic fumbles. In this rules variant, rolling a 1 means the worst possible event occurs. GM's should employ their ingenuity and evil disposition to determine the exact effects of a Heroic Fumble. Some suggestions for Heroic Fumbles in combat situations are provided in Table 39.

If heroic fumbles are used, then the standard Fumble rules are generally ignored. However, the GM may still use the standard Fumble rules when the Risk of a Task is higher than 1, as a heroic fumble only ever occurs on a 1.

4.7 Life and Fate

As many people will know, there is a long and trusted tradition in RPG's called fudging. Fudging occurs when the GM alters the die roll in the players favour, for the sake of atmosphere and fun. Avatar provides a legitimate mechanism for fudging because it is assumed the player characters have great significance in Shadow, and hence unknowingly influence the outcomes of their lives.

Player characters start with as many Fate Points as were left over from character generation (see section 3.1). From this point onwards they will not know their Fate Point total. Whenever the GM Fudges for a character, the GM should subtract one (or more, if the circumstances deserve it) from their Fate Point total.

After each session a player has been involved in, their character's Fate Point total is halved (this prevents a character's Fate Point total from getting too high). The GM should then secretly award between 0 and 4 Fate Points to each character, according to how well the player played in that session. This should be judged on how well they contributed to the scenario, and how well they played in character. The following broad guidelines can be used:

0 Fate Points:
If the player (not the character) has been nothing but trouble, and has essentially ruined the session for everyone, no Fate Points should be awarded.
1 Fate Point:
To someone who has tried to participate, but has done little to merit a more substantial award.
2 Fate Points:
To someone who has been a good contributor, or has played in character, but contributed little. If they did not contribute much to the session because they couldn't reasonably do anything, award 3 Fate Points instead.
3 Fate Points:
For a player who has played in character well, and contributed to the adventure in interesting ways, or to anyone who you feel was an entertaining enjoyable contributor to the session.
4 Fate Points:
Only if the player's performance was consistently in character and their contributions were so incredible that you end up telling anecdotes about their antics for the next few months.
A character's Fate Point total can never exceed 8, and in general will not exceed 6, averaging to about 4. This total represents whether the forces of destiny are looking down on them favourably or not. Because of this, Fate can also be used as a luck attribute.

To make a luck roll, multiply the characters Fate Point total by 3 and add 1d20 (Criticals and Fumbles do apply). If the GM allows, the player can roll the die, but should still not know their Fate Point total.

The exact interpretation of this roll is left to the GM to determine, but totals of 30 plus will clearly benefit the character, and 40 or higher is quite phenomenal.

A communal luck roll is also possible, by nominating one player to make a luck roll on the total of the party's Fate Points plus 1d20.

If the GM wishes, they can spend a character's Fate Points on other things besides fudging. The exact specifics are left to the GM to decide. As an example, if a particular player has been searching for a certain Poison, but cannot find it, the GM might eventually decide to spend one of the character's Fate Points to have them find it somewhere by coincidence. As ever, the player should be unaware that Fate has been used.

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Last Updated: April 16th, 1999