Failure on natural 20

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Philipp Tsenin 1 year, 8 months ago.

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  • #550

    Arturo Caissut

    Guyst, tricky question: let’s say that a Tier 1 Glaive has the insane idea to attack a Dark Fathom, which as you may know is a Level 7 war machine with a black hole in its chest (I love this game for stuff like this). Level 7 means Difficulty 21, since I’m a bad person I won’t tell the player that the Difficulty makes this big guy out of the character’s league, so the player doesn’t even think of applying Effort: the glaive holds its panache with a firm grasp, with a swift move he gets close to the Dark Fathom and tries to impale it right above one of its arms, threatening risen against the Nano of the party which is unconscious on the floor. A die is rolled and -BAM!- natural 20. Now, the Cypher System doesn’t allow for automatic success on rolls, it’s one of the key concept here: this means that the Glaive doesn’t succeed in his attack. Still, according to common practice and Dice Justice, a major effect should be expected in this case: 20 is 20 and both player and character deserve something to happen.

    How would you handle this? I was considering the following possibilities:

    1. The panache hit feels like a caress and the Dark Fathom is not bothered at al. However it gets distracted, confused: maybe aeons of sleep have impacted on its “mind”, it is still “sleepy” and dealing with two characters at a time started a recalibration procedure. This translates in the foe being stunned for two rounds, giving the Glaive a chance to grab the Nano and drag him away from the battlefield.
    2. The Glaive misses the target, but while getting close to the Dark Fathom he steps on a weak point on the floor, a crack ensues and the floor collapses under the Dark Fathom weight. The foe is unharmed but the characters are for now safe, since it fell downstairs and it cannot reach the characters (for now).
    3. Nothing happens: the taget is miss and the Dark Fathom crushes the head of the Nano with a sound not different from corn becoming popcorn in the microwave.


    I think you get the point: how do you deal with failure that still implies a major (or minor for that matter) effect? I would hate option 3, but there may be instances where choosing the “fair route” (represented here by options 1 and 2, i.e. the major effect is granted while not going against the simple math 21>20) is not easy or it doesn’t make sense.

    Care to share your insight?

  • #551

    Philipp Tsenin

    Wow, tricky question indeed 🙂

    How bad of a person are you, not to tell your players one of the main conepts of the system (effort, I meen)? 🙂

    Regarding your question, I woulld chose the 1st one (no dmg, but some effect on an enemy).

    The second one is good too, but I think that the fact that the foe can not reach the players and they are safe is too much of a luck, even for natural 20.

    The third one is meh. Plus I also think that natural 20 should give luck even on failure.

  • #552

    Arturo Caissut

    Sorry, I explained myself badly: I don’t mean that I didn’t explain effort to them, just that I prefer not giving them a difficulty value, just clues, e.g. “Seems to be a really tough guy” not “Hitting it would require rolling higher than 18”. 🙂

    So you basically agree that we as GMs owe something to the player for a natural 20 even if technically they wouldn’t succeed, right? In combat this is easily done, I’m wondering on other less trivial examples (that I cannot think of, being not trivial).

  • #553

    Philipp Tsenin

    Oh, I see now, sorry for misunderstanding.

    Speaking about other (non-combat) tasks. Let’s take climing for example. And not to torment ourselves with trying to make something up, let’s take the most difficult climbing task from the corebook. This being “glass or similar surface”.

    This is lvl 10 task, so even if the PC rolls natural 20, it will be far from achieving the goal. But, as you said, I belive that GM owe player something for a critical succeess roll (no flying dwarves, of course, but nonetheless). In case of lvl 10 task, the PC will fail, of course, but something extraordinary should happen Let’s say, after unsuccesfully trying to climb he glass wall with his bare hands, the PC accidentally activates control panel that flashes with strange symbols in the glass. Now if he can pass the task of dealing with the controls, thee panel can give him other meen to surpass this impossible obstacle (the glass strts to move asides in a surtain place, loike liquid, revealing a narrow pass).

    Now, let’s assume, that the PC is specialised in climbing and has a pick, that is an asset in climbing task. All this makes it lvl 7 task, which is still not enough for our poor d20. But in this case the resolution for a critical success is much more obvious: the PC hits th glass wall with he pick so hard, that a long curvy crack aappears in it’s surface. Now with this crack the task is one step (or maybe even wo steps) easier.

    I think you always can come up with something. At least, nobody sais that  you can not use Deus Ex Machina. You roll 20 on impossible task? Manwë’s Great Eagles for the rescue! (ooops, wrong setting:-)


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