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Old 12-21-2021, 02:54 PM   #1
FF_Ninja
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

I've got a few ideas of my own, but I wanted to poll the grognards and see if anyone had some go-to methods for modifying difficulty checks. I know that GURPS: Campaigns has a section that gives a descriptive range between +10 and -10 for difficulty, but I was wondering about the process that might lead a GM to end up at their final modifier.

My initial thought would be to curate a checklist of factors that would typically affect difficulty incrementally, and by how much. I haven't been able to find a checklist that exists for that purpose, sadly.
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Old 12-21-2021, 03:05 PM   #2
khorboth
 
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

The flow of the game is more important than strict correctness.

Try to be familiar with the likely modifiers ahead of time, but we all know there will be surprises.

10 seconds per +/-1 modifier is too much time spent figuring it out at the table. Just make a note and look it up later.

So... If you're not sure on something that's likely to be a +/- 3, and it'll take about 30 seconds to find, look it up. If it'll take a minute, guess.

Be transparent with the players. Tell them that you're guessing and you'll have a better answer at the next session. You don't have to be the almighty god of the rules.
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Old 12-21-2021, 03:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

It occurs to me that many skills have their own list of modifiers baked in. That is certainly a lot to manage on the fly.
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Old 12-21-2021, 03:33 PM   #4
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

Action 2: Exploits uses BAD (Basic Abstract Difficulty p.4). You might look there.
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Old 12-21-2021, 03:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

A bit of advice that Dungeon Fantasy: Dungeons gives but which might also be useful in other cinematic genres is to assign a -1 penalty per "nasty qualifier". Balancing on a slimy ledge is at -1; balancing on a slimy, twisting, smoke-obscured ledge is at -3. No connection to realism, of course, but in some types of game a quick answer is better than a good one.
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Last edited by ravenfish; 12-21-2021 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 12-21-2021, 08:40 PM   #6
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

I generally remember most negative modifiers and I tend to keep the last pages of Basic open (around p550). And the important ones come up so often that I no longer have to even think about them. I'm also a stickler for consistency because I hate how often I see other GMs seem to lean on making things easier or harder for some players; If falling 15 feet causes this penalty, then it will always cause that penalty. And if I realize I'm wrong (because I am, a lot), then when I realize it I'll point it out for everyone and if the penalty change would have mattered (95% of the time is does), I'll give the player(s) affected character/impulse/destiny points or some other reward to make up for not being able to change the past (very rarely the past can be changed).

For positive TDMs, I generally have the rule of +4 for stress-free situations where a roll is still required, but generally if I think the roll would be "easy" and the character isn't rolling against a default, then I'll just say "you succeed, now..." or something similar.
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While I do not think that GURPS is perfect I do think that it is more balanced than what I am likely to create by GM fiat.
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Old 12-21-2021, 09:50 PM   #7
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kirbwarrior View Post
For positive TDMs, I generally have the rule of +4 for stress-free situations where a roll is still required, but generally if I think the roll would be "easy" and the character isn't rolling against a default, then I'll just say "you succeed, now..." or something similar.
I typically try to roll skills even if the chance of success is very high. There's always the chance for an exceptional result if their magnitude of success is high enough, and players love to roll.

Alternatively, I occasionally just allow them to "Take 11" if they want to ensure a middle-of-the-road result and the task can be done with zero stress and extra time.
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Old 12-21-2021, 10:29 PM   #8
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FF_Ninja View Post
I typically try to roll skills even if the chance of success is very high. There's always the chance for an exceptional result if their magnitude of success is high enough, and players love to roll.
I'd like to recommend Basic 343 "When to Roll". Excessive rolling can actually get in the way of gameplay and/or drag it down. And it's not like we require rolling for walking or opening a door which are technically DX+10 rolls (every second for walking).

But also, every roll invites the possibility for failures and critical failures. And that doesn't always make sense. You can get some silly situations (check out how often you're "supposed" to roll Piloting!).
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Old 12-22-2021, 01:21 AM   #9
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

As a general rule I use skill checks only when failing them would create an interesting situation either for action or roleplay, so I avoid any roll for common or basic situations.
During the game then I move in a general +2/-6 area, using positive bonuses as prizes for well acted or unexpected solutions, and if the player's idea is REALLY good then I award an automatic success.

It works for me because it keeps the flow going and forces a little pro-activity to players that in this way are not just waiting for their turn to roll dices.
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Old 12-22-2021, 04:33 AM   #10
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Default Re: What are some of your best GM hacks for applying difficulty check modifiers?

I use a combination of:
1) how deep into the adventure the PC's are.
2) the quality of the enemy they are dealing with at that point (boss or elite vs mook).
3) The finances of the enemy. Are they going to have good locks or standard, ect...

Then I'll give a modifier that 'feels' right. It gets easier over time & now when an encounter happens & I don't have the modifiers prepared, I calculate it automatically.

It's like an improvised BAD as jmurrell mentioned up-thread.
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