Face-To-Face Tests and the timing of "Success"

In my game last night, a question came up about adding momentum to rolls and then it occurred to me as to whether or not you could use Momentum or Heat to add to the Momentum tallies in a Face-to-Face test. So that got me looking into how Face-to-Face tests (hereby referred to as F2F) work in Infinity and… well I had questions.

Before I get started, note: I mean the F2F mechanic in Infinity, not the version from later games like Struggles in Conan which have WAY more detail.

So, aside from various talents that allow extra momentum to be earned or extra dice to be rolled in a F2F test, there is only one place that describes how a F2F works.

Page 31, Core Rules. Face-to-Face tests.

When two characters are in direct opposition to each other, each character involved in the task performs a skill test. The character who achieves the greatest quantity of Momentum succeeds, achieving their goal. In the case of a tie, the character with the highest Expertise in their skill wins.

If there are no other factors involved, the difficulty of a face-to-face test is usually Simple (D0). For example, if two characters are running a race the winner will simply be whichever character has the better skill test.

Face-to-face tests with higher difficulties represent situations in which it is possible for everyone participating in the task to fail. For example, if two characters are both trying to be the first person to solve a Challenging (D2) puzzle, it is possible that neither of them will be able to solve the puzzle.

If either side has some circumstance which would make the test more challenging for them than for their opponent, simply adjust the difficulty of their check. (Remember that success is determined by the total Momentum generated; not the total number of successes rolled.)

Ok, so, ignoring gear. talents etc that can add bonus momentum here is the question…

How much momentum is generated by the success of a Face-To-Face test, knowing that unlike later versions of this mechanic there is no mention to the loser’s result cancelling out any of the momentum generated by the winner. And similarly, there is no mention that said Momentum used in the comparison isn’t just used up entirely regardless of the difference.

As an extension to this, when is the timing of the “Success” of a face-to-face test? Is it when the individual rolls are made verses whatever their initial difficulty is? or is it after the momentum values have been compared.

I ask, because many talents and gear specifically require that a “Success” needs to be registered before they kick in. For example, anything with Expert X.

Here’s a concrete example. NPC-1 makes a Stealth check with TO and as a reaction is opposed by NPC-2 using Observation and a Multispectral Visor 2, both tests are made against Difficulty 0. TO says you gain 2 momentum on Stealth Tests pass/fail so NPC-1 tests and gets 2 results lower than their TN totalling 4 Momentum. NPC-2 rolls and also gets 3 results lower than their TN… is it at this point that the Visor kicks in? are those results considered a success in its own right, knowing that as a face to face test the ultimate success of the Test is not calculated yet.

This might seem like nit-picking but the timing of when a Success is declared can have HUGE ramifications here. If the success is on the individual positions of the F2F rolls then what stops a person dumping the Group Momentum into their total as Group Momentum can always be added on a successful roll, but can never be used to turn a fail into a success. Or does only the ultimate comparison of momentum kick in the success condition?

If the latter is true I would point out that in the above situation that means NPC-2 with the Multispectral gained no benefit from that piece of gear and thus loses the F2F 3 to 4. But if the individual roll are considered Successes they would win 5 to 4 with both parties potentially then skewing the final comparison by dumping momentum on those results.

So at this point you may ask… what’s wrong with being able to dump momentum into that comparison? and the answer is as the GM you should always invest the total amount of Heat that you have in any face to face test. Don’t roll extra dice, just dump in everything. Without any reduction of Momentum from the looser the GM will succeed so long as they can contribute 1 more Momentum to a F2F roll than the players so in a situation with a Group Momentum pool anytime they can put in 7 more momentum they win that tie. And as that is then considered a victory they could (unless Momentum used in a F2F check vanishes into thin air) immediately bank all that they bid straight back into their heat pool.

Now, hopefully all that made sense and that I have simply missed a sidebar somewhere, but im looking for official clarification on timing here before I go grabbing the more detailed mechanics for Struggles from Conan and the unofficial errata that says Group Momentum can’t be used prior to determining success in a F2F roll.

  • Raith
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Ooh, good question!

My guesses would be that the success/fail of the individual test is decided against the difficulty of the test, based on the roll’s outcome, thus triggering Expert gear (so on a D0 test, your Expert gear is pretty much guaranteed to kick in). And that the loser’s Momentum cancels out some of the winner’s (so that in a foot chase, they might be just behind you, or they might have tripped over their bootlace at the start - one of those would give more karma/Momentum etc). Or at least, that’s probably how I’d play it.

Good point about the Momentum/Heat dump, though. Although it could be argued the the GM isn’t necessarily trying to ‘beat’ the players - and if the players blow a bunch of Momentum on winning a face-to-face test, then they haven’t got it available when, say, the aggrieved merchant’s pupnik bodyguard attempts to rip their arms off.

Good point about the Momentum/Heat dump, though. Although it could be argued the the GM isn’t necessarily trying to ‘beat’ the players - and if the players blow a bunch of Momentum on winning a face-to-face test, then they haven’t got it available when, say, the aggrieved merchant’s pupnik bodyguard attempts to rip their arms off.

Yes, it can be argued that the GM should be considerate here. And there is a lot of mechanical spends during a game where I ask myself “what does the NPC get from doing this?” or “why would an NPC be testing Observation vs a specific zone with a hidden PC?” etc. But it is always better if the mechanics can clearly put limiters rather than pure GM experience, which not all GM’s might have to the extend I do. Or be so considerate of their players.

But! As I said in my original post, there is no actual rule in the Infinity RPG that Momentum used on the F2F roll is cancelled out and more importantly even if it was players could freely spend ALL the momentum in their group pool and with the right gear and talents, say a Multispectral Visor 3 plus three ranks in Acute Senses, be looking at essentially having +12 Bonus momentum (6 from a full group pools, 3 form Expert 3 and 3 from the talent) on that F2F roll before a single die is rolled and as a D) test a “success” would be registered just by rolling as 0 Successes on the dice is still a pass.

With a minimum 12 Momentum on a F2F test you can spend 6 of that on various Momentum Spends/countering the amount lost to the GM’s roll and still refill the group pool instantly. This in turn encourages a GM to spend ALL their Heat on thier portion of the F2F roll just to police the amount of Momentum in the group pool.

I feel that this is a really vicious loophole that should be closed, as it breaks down the Momentum/Heat cycle almost as badly as players just buying max dice and assisting on every test and saying “damn the consequences”.

  • Raith
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Official rules response:

Group Momentum is not added to your total; you can spend it as if it were, but it doesn’t actually add to your total. Consider this errata.

Bonus Momentum granted by talents and gear (and anything else specifically labelled as Bonus Momentum) is added to your total in a Face-to-Face test before you compare each side’s total to determine the winner - that is indeed part of the intention of bonus Momentum of this sort, that it’s used to get an edge in opposed situations like this.


Thanks, @Modiphius-Nathan!

So, if I’ve read it right, you can spend Group Momentum to trigger the benefits of Momentum Spends, but could not add it to the ‘Momentum count’ for the opposed roll - that’s all on you and your gear.

(And anyone who does have Multispectral Visor 3 and Acute Senses 3 is functionally a high-definition sensor post in their own right!)

That’s correct.

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Ok, good to see an “Official Errata” statement on the Group Momentum.

However, there was 1 other missing part I need a comment on.

Rules As Written, there is no cancelling out of the Winners Momentum in a F2F by the Losers result. This can result in some very interesting pay-offs. Sure, the victory will have a higher amount of Momentum to immediately spend on their attack/task/whatever or bank but the defender suddenly banks a bunch of Momentum/Heat as compensation for loosing.

To use my example above… NPC-2 with the Multispectral and 3 results gets 6 Momentum used for the Comparison. NPC-1 with stealth gets 4 Momentum. According to your errata they compare results 4v6 so NPC-2 wins the Face-To-Face.

With no mention of cancelling out, NPC-2 gets 6 Momentum to Bank/Spend on their result and NPC-1 gets 4 to bank as they still Succeeded on their initial test inside the F2F Comparison.

Alternatively, as they lost the F2F test I guess you could also interpret that as they failed so their total is wiped out, giving whomever is involved in a F2F roll an overwhelming incentive to make sure they win.

Honestly, I am sort of liking the idea that both totals of Momentum stick around, its a nice consolation package… but… in the aftermath of such test’s (aka future rounds/ rolls) things get really bad. After that first fail a GM could bank those results as Heat, which can then be spent on dice for the next test which if they still fail any successes will go back into their Heat pool and very quickly you have a vicious cycle starting up where the GM’s heat feeds itself to the point that you bring in a Nemesis that just spends Heat to make Infinity Points for Automatic 1’s. Players can do similar, but the cap of 6 Group Momentum really limits how long this cycle progresses verses the limitless cap of the Heat Pool.

I think cancelling out is the way to go, but as I said… its not written in the Inifnity book in such a fashion.

  • Raith

P.S. Can we get an “Official Errata” PDF or something for Infinity? We have one for STA (not sure where I downloaded it from but I have one) and I feel Infinity really could use some Errata given how “early” in the 2d20 system the Core book was written.

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I don’t get to make that sort of bigger decision completely on my own (I don’t work on any specific line, so my time has to be rationed between projects), but I’ll pass it on.

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Good point. I’m with you on thinking cancelling is the way to go (Momentum and anti-Momentum cancels out? :slight_smile:), but it would be good to know what the official thinking is.

Cancelling out is the method most consistent with the way subsequent games have done it, and leads to fewer unforeseen circumstances. As a houserule, it’s how I’d approach the matter were I running Infinity right now.


Sometimes I wish there where one 2D20 book as base book and then each setting book worked off that, that way they could do a 2nd edition without necessarily invalidating anything that went before

Each book has tiny twists on the 2d20 system to make them themed better. I prefer that approach than a single universal system.

I will be going with the cancelled out Momentum as a house-rule. It is the only utcome I can see that doesn’t explode the various pools to much. An official ruling would be great though, there is already a lot of things in the mechanics a GM has to interpret so reducing that is always best.

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It’s interesting that the cancelling of momentum isn’t called out in the rules specifically. That’s how we’ve been playing it since the beginning. Reading the Face-to-Face rules it seems intuitive that is how it should be done, yet it isn’t specifically written there.

So you can have an NPC with TO Camo trying to hide, and you can have an NPC using an MSV to seek. One may fail and one may succeed, but both of them would gain momentum for the pool in the attempt.

It’s also worth pointing out that my group uses a house rule for bonus momentum. I think it’s been mentioned that this rule is part of the 2d20 rules for other systems, but I can’t recall completely. Infinity is the only 2d20 system we play.

Our group plays that bonus momentum CANNOT be added into the group pool. It MUST be spent on the roll that generated it, or it is lost.

This means that the bonus momentum generated from your combi-rifle MUST be spent on that shot from the combi-rifle. You cannot bank it. It also means that if you make a stealth check with your TO camo, you MUST use the bonus momentum from the TO camo on your stealth check to hide. You can’t bank that either. This goes for bonus momentum generated from talents, etc.

We find that this works really, really well. There are many talents and a lot of gear that add bonus momentum. This rule makes it so that you can’t use a piece of gear that’s really good at one thing, and turn it into momentum to succeed at something completely different.

Believe me, my players have NO TROUBLE maxing out their momentum pool with this house rule in play. They do just fine.