Difficulties To Easy?

I’ve run a couple of sessions of STA and have found the PCs can regularly accomplish Difficulty 2 tasks fairly easily and Diff 3s a lot of the time. Anyone else have this issue? (PS, my players used the online tool for their characters).

Yes. But they’re heroes. :slight_smile:

I’d say that difficulty 2 tasks are quite “standard”. Particularly easy tasks are difficulty 1, as difficulty 0 tasks are only rolled when the players want (or need) to generate Momentum. I consider the following as my guideline:

Difficulty 0 → Story-Support; for Players to generate Momentum
Difficulty 1 → Very easy tasks, Players will accomplish most of the time
Difficulty 2 → Standard, Players will often accomplish
Difficulty 3 → Hard, but not too difficult, Players will accomplish often
Difficulty 4 → Hard task, Players will need to invest at least some resources (Momentum, Determination) to beat
Difficulty 5 → Very hard task, Players will need to invest resources to beat

Note that this is only the base difficulty. When most tasks have a difficulty of two (e.g. firing a phaser at someone), this is the base difficulty of two. The difficulty may rise to three, four, five or more by traits (e.g. hazardous environment) or use of Threat by the GM.

Further, I think that the notion of “difficulty 2 is standard, but fairly easy” is fitting the game as STA, in my understanding, aims to be a quite cinematic game. This is what I meant with “they’re heroes”. Starfleet Officers are highly trained experts, top notch and able to do things ‘normal’ citizens of the Federation cannot dream of accomplishing.

That being said, if your players need the challenge – just try raising every difficulty you encounter in the rules or pre-generated missions by one. It will make your game harder (some times considerably) to beat, but might improve your experience. :slight_smile:

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Agreeing with MisterX.

Many times I will not even require my players to roll tasks. IMO if a player rolls a task that means that task has dramatic purpose. Failure will enhance the story and dramatic tension.

The Modiphious line of games, at least the ones I have played, differs from most other RPGs I know in that the PC’s are not stumbling babes in the woods until the manage to claw themselves up a few levels. In STA (and other M games) the PC is a fully competent bad ■■■ right out of the gate. They will generally get it right unless impacted by circumstances beyond their control.

So firing and hitting the target is easy for them, unless the environment, personal injury or other external trait makes it more difficult.

Climbing the cliff is easy, unless the ground is shaking or there is a torrential downpour.


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Remember you also want to throw some easy challenges at them so they can start accruing momentum and have to start making decisions about when to spent it once things get harder.

Taking a look at the chances of success:
A character with an average Attribute of 9 and an average competency in a Discipline of 3 has a Target Number of 12.

A D1 task would succeed with 0.6 + 0.4x0.6 = 84%. That is for a rather routine task with little risk and a character with very average competency.
A D2 task would succeed for the very same character with 0.6x0.6 = 36%. That is quite the difference! D2 is significantly harder to make and has a much higher failure rate for such an average character.

But what about the character’s best competence?

A character can have at start of the game Attribute 12 and Discipline 5 - and some Talents that allow re-rolls or additional dice, etc.
Looking only at the chances of success without any additional dice and re-rolls, the Target Number is in this case 17.
A D1 task would succeed with 0.85 + 0.15x0.85 = 98%. For such a maxed-out character D1 is next to no challenge at all.
A D2 task would succeed with 0.85x0.85 = 72%. That is double the success chance an average character has!

This is intentional. Starfleet crew members are supposed to be very good at their specialist field of expertise. Even without considering Focus or re-rolls or buying additional dice for Threat or Momentum, the success chances reflect this quite well. - And under very stressful circumstances, tasks with D3+, the experts can bring their Talents and Focus to bear to master even those.

But offside their main field of competency, you can get every STA character struggling on a D2 task (see above even on an average field of competency, 36% chance is not that great).

If you challenge characters on their weakest fields, which could mean Attribute 7 and Discipline 1, it is even more likely they won’t succeed:
D1 (TN 8): 0.4 + 0.4x0.6 = 64%. One ouf of three attempts will fail.
D2 (TN 0): 0.4x0.4 = 16%. Five out of six attempts will fail.

I don’t think that this is too easy on the player characters.

I imagine this topic has been discussed before, but given that I’m new to the system and forum, I’m glad to see it (re?)surface.

In my browsing of reviews of the game and system, there seems to be a lot of contention that it’s too easy for PCs, even at higher difficulties. This has not been my experience, and I have at least one theory on why.

The 2d20 system is an interesting one that’s easy to use once you’ve run through it, but the probabilities aren’t as intuitive as your standard d20 systems, or percentile systems. I feel the same way about getting into STA as I did getting into 7th Sea - when the GM handed down a difficulty, I had no clue gauging my odds of success. “Okay, so I’m rolling 5 dice and keeping 2… uh… what are my odds?” So on Week 2, one of the group members brought some handouts with charts that helped visualize probabilities for various combinations.

STA could really use charts like this. With so many moving parts (Momentum/Threat, Advantage/Disadvantage, etc.) it’s easy for a difficulty to bump from 1 to 2, or 2 to 3, and I think many players (or GMs!) might not realize how much of a jump those are. One number difficulty nudges can quickly translate to 30% higher or lower chance of success. Understanding that could inform decisions, whether it’s the GM deciding to spend that Threat or not, or the players realizing that yeah, it’s time to spend that precious Determination.

The closest I’ve found to date, and granted I haven’t looked much, is an anydice program that lets you plug in numbers and look at probabilities. I find the most useful output is to adjust numbers, hit “Calculate”, view “Table”, data “At Least”. Hat tip to https://www.reddit.com/user/c__beck/ on Reddit for the program, and apologies if I’m just re-linking a tool that everyone already knew about anyway, though I didn’t see it in a quick forum search.

As far as why there seems to be a lean towards “too easy,” I can only guess that people in larger groups have a lot more Momentum to work with because more players means more chance of beating easier rolls and putting Momentum in the bank. I for one can’t contribute to that, because my dice karma is so horrid (and it’s documented as such), I won’t risk D0 rolls because I don’t want my character to pilot shuttlecrafts into barns on a regular basis. “Commander, I would ask if you were drinking before flying, but what I really want to know is, how did you manage to find a barn in a Starbase?” I have my ways, Sir.

At any rate, I’m sure as we play more sessions, we’ll get a better idea of how the Momentum ebb and flow works, and maybe that will smooth things out. I still feel strongly that it would help to give tools and visuals to people at the table so they can map the numbers they see into chances for success, and make better informed decisions about what their characters would do in a given situation. If such things exist, I’d love pointers; if not, maybe I’ll see about making something myself and linking it here.

I don’t know whether it can be easily translated via the various services around the net, but at least the figures are, in parts, self-explaining (and the Krauts around will get it, anyway): a German roleplaying webzine took a look on the stochastics of the 2d20 system back in 2017.

Again, there are at least some charts. :slight_smile:
At the end of the article, the author links an excel spreadsheet document that he said generates charts for any given combination of target number / dice / foci.

However, the author doesn’t count in Momentum, at least not in numbers.


I thought there was a note in the core rules that D1 was an average difficulty task. I could be wrong . . .

I have my players roll easy tasks to generate Momentum and Complications and tougher ones to round out the plot. I know Starfleet officers are the best of the best but without a chance of failure/Complications, well, why play? :slightly_smiling_face:

Yes. D1 is the average Difficulty.

Unless otherwise noted, most Tasks will have a basic Difficulty of 1, though more routine or straightforward Tasks may have a Difficulty of 0, […]

The GM should only ask for dice rolls when it really impacts the story. That is, most of the time, in critical phases. :slight_smile:

For easy task, the interesting option, narratively, is not that they fail. If it’s standard, then, yes, there might be a chance to fail. But it is more interesting to see the players succeed at costs, meaning that there’s some complication. At least imo. YMMV. :wink:

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Good article, thanks for the link, @MisterX . The charts were very helpful to visualize probabilities, and the author does a good job of highlighting the “lean” of the system.

It was the author’s comments and opinions that got me to thinking - one GM’s (or player’s, or table’s) view of appropriate difficulty might be vastly different than another’s. For example, the author seemed to believe that it was too easy for relatively untrained people to accomplish easy tasks. I happen to disagree - thematically, in Star Trek anyway, we see main characters able to do most anything they need to do unless there are situations making things harder. Maybe in the world of Conan, life should be harder. :slight_smile: Though even this brings up an interesting “meta” question - do people believe their PCs should be on par with the main characters of the various shows?

I’d be very curious what the game designers thought when they designed the system and ran the numbers. Should players feel heroic? Should easy things be, well, easy for everyone? Only for the best trained? What should the fluidity of Momentum be?

And much as every table will have a different idea of how often PCs should succeed or fail, they will probably also have ideas surrounding how frequent rolls should be, or what rolls should mean. Should rolls be rare but meaningful, or is part of the fun of RPGs lobbing handfuls of dice around? I’ve certainly played in both kinds of game. I happen to subscribe to the theory of “if there isn’t an interesting story to tell for failure, don’t call for a roll,” but that’s one person’s opinion.

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Also remember that this system is not D&D. D&D was originaly ran with the intent of your players failing a large percent of their tasks often a 50/50 chance or lower. The STA system is based on player sucesses a majority of the time. If you are wanting to through a bit more challenge into the mix though, try adding team work to the mix EX to accomplish a certain yask both the science, con, and engineering officer must all roll a difficulty 2 roll to perform 1 task together. The task succeds with a certain amount of pre determined successes (6) but there is a larger chance for complications as well as having them succeed on the task if you up the difficulty to 3 that is 9 sucesses they need to “perfectly” succeed. I generally make it so that the task will succeed as long as successes > failures but it will be a success at a cost if the full difficulty is not meet

In STA, other than in Conan or Infinity, player characters often are not alone to accomplish a task.
You have your crew support and very often for tasks on board of your ship, the ship will assist, too.
That makes even D2 tasks for medium competent crewmembers often successful.

In an STA adventure the challenging circumstances, Traits that raise the Difficulty, Complications etc. make things harder even for tasks in the best, the maxed-out field of competency of a player character.

And being planet-side, without crew support, without ship support, that makes things harder all the time.

In Mutant Chronicles player characters start out significantly less competent than in Star Trek, and with the inclusion of “advanced skills” which, if you have no expertise in them, raise the Difficulty and the Complication Range, things are much rougher for the player characters - which fits the general mood of Mutant Chronicles well.

Star Trek player characters can easily start out as Lt. Commander, Commander or the Captain of a ship. That means, they are supposed to be quite experienced, brilliant at their job, got promoted to their current rank, so I would expect them to succeed, maybe with a complication, but I don’t expect them to fail, unless the circumstances are not in their favor. (Traits, Complications, Heat, etc.)

Well, for me: definitely.

The game, to me, simulates an unmade TV show - the players are the heroes of the show and should be just as competent as those in the other shows. They should ultimately be successful in their activities - what is interesting is how they get there.

I keep describing it as a game simulating the television series, not as a game simulating life in the world of the series - which arguably, is what the FASA version of the game was trying to do. Last Unicorn’s putting that front and centre in their GM advice really planted that idea in my head, and STA reflects it very well.


Perfect way to describe it. LUG Trek had a lot of great information setting wise. The rules were just a tad clunky for me. But LUG Treks timelines and the babble were great. They also had an unreleased product called Spacedock which is a goldmine of ship fluff. They had ship designs down to model/type of warp coil. Not needed with STA, but for in game engineering technobabble it can’t be beat.

I just checked this out, and love that they actually have a Maneuvers table. This would be great for RP.

I’m going to have to disagree there: Spacedock was a very heavy-handed solution to a fairly bad set of starship rules in Icon itself, but took things to the other extreme. Too many tables and too many calculations. I remember ship statistics taking up 3 pages of A4… (And I say that as someone that loves a lot of Steve Long’s other work, especially in Champions.)

I agree on the background material: IconTrek was one of the best-written Star Trek games. The Way of D’era is a favourite. And the design work was very impressive - especially the TOS rulebook, which looked like it was published in the late 60s, right down to the artwork.

Decipher’s Coda (Icon 2nd edition) did a much better job of handling starships. Coda ships were a compact set of moderately abstract stats, derived from tables of broad component categories (you might have a Class 4 warp drive and Class 3 shields for example) and the combat system was pitched almost perfectly for an RPG - not too detailed for GM use and not too simple for the players. Range was handled with zones, pick a manouvre to get closer or further away, then another to bring weapons to bear, and it had the best approach to breaching shields I’ve seen. The ship design system was quite neat too. On the downside, it was difficult to get more than a couple of players involved in starship combat, and the background material was much more generic than Icon’s and of less interest to read - very much a Decipher product.

Back on track, I can’t speak for Spacedock (I never got as far as the combat rules), but it wouldn’t be too difficult to convert Coda’s manoeuvres into tasks for STA. Some of the more complex tasks might require cooperation from multiple characters.

You disagree that Spacedock was clunky but was great for fluff and technobabble?

I’m confused

Oops, I read it as you were saying Icon itself was “clunky”, and recommending Spacedock as an improvement. Sorry I misunderstood that - I think I was a little tired yesterday :slight_smile: