NUMENERA Task Resolution (CYPHER System)
Raymond Long's blog: 2016-Mar-05
Gaming > Action resolution

NUMENERA, a CYPHER System game by Monte Cook, has totally different rules for PCs and NPCs. The two character types have entirely different personal stats (though the damage inflicted by weapons are common to both).
To attempt a task, a PC makes a test, which has a difficulty level. A PC's stats can reduce this level. To succeed, a PC must roll the task's level x3 or more on D20. NPCs don't usually make rolls.
An NPC has a level. When a PC opposes an NPC, the difficulty level of the PC's test is the NPC's level. To hit, pickpocket or persuade an NPC, you need to roll against the NPC's level. To resist the NPC doing the same things to you, roll against the NPC's level. NPCs can have different levels for specific abilities. An archer might have level 3, but level 5 for shooting.
This system has three great virtues:
1. To attempt an action, you don't need a relevant stat. You can attempt to climb without a Climb skill.
2. Every task has a difficulty (but see below).
3. The ability for characters to oppose each other's abilities is built into the system.
This is just about the simplest system possible that has these three virtues. Skill rolls in CALL OF CTHULHU are even simpler, but they lack these three virtues.
The great drawback of this system is its inability to match PC against PC, or to match an NPC's level against another level (the difficulty of a task, or the level of an opposing NPC).
Another potential weakness is a tendency to use exactly the NPC's level for the difficulty level of any test. This doesn't take into account the difficulty of an action, as distinct from a person's powers of resistance.
Circumstances or techniques used in attempting an action should be able to change its difficulty. For instance, trying to get a captive to talk should be easier using torture than just shouting. The difficulties should be maybe level-1 with red hot irons, and level+2 with shouting alone.
Also, some actions are innately harder than others. I'd say picking someone's pocket without being noticed is difficult if you're not skilled in it. As a result I'd say the difficulty of picking an NPC's pocket should be level+2, ie. 30% less likely to succeed than an attempt to hit the same NPC.
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