GM Question About Calling for Skill Tests

Hi All!
I love this system and am really looking forward to GMing a game - but before I do, I need to resolve a brain cramp I am having about how to call for skill tests from the players, and how to describe the difficulty. Here is a sample situation from Jeweled Thrones of the Earth:

“A sarcophagus may be opened with a small creak, but doing so releases an unpleasant cloying powder into the face of the person opening it if they do not detect and disarm this trap first with a Daunting (D3) Thievery test.”

So, if a player says something like “I want to check this thing for traps before trying to open it”, am I to tell them to make a D3 Thievery test? Is it understood that they cannot change their mind after hearing the difficulty? What if the player instead says “I use Observation to check the sarcophagus for traps”?

Perhaps I do not tell them the difficulty or the applicable skills? If I do not share the difficulty of the task though, it seems like they will not know when to use their Fortune, etc, which could frustrate them.

Any thoughts from folks with experience running the game on how they lay out skill tests for the players?

Thank you!

Keep in mind that I literally have not played this game yet, but in the scenario you describe above, I’d probably go with a D3 observation test then perhaps do an easier thievery test if they find the trap. But I guess it may be a matter of how many rolls you want. Based on playing other systems, I try not to be a slave to specific skill tests written into adventures if players come up with viable alternatives on their own. But that’s my personal GMing style.

Thanks for the reply Hyrkanian - and I definitely agree about being flexible with creative uses of skills! Would you tell the player the difficulty level of the task in this case?

Thanks again!

Bopped around the interwebs for a bit. My current understanding is that the flow should go something like this:

Player: I want to search this sarcophagus for traps.
GM: OK, how will you be doing that?
Player: I am going to use my [Thievery, Observation, Insight, potentially even Alchemy or Sorcery could apply] skill.
GM: OK checks notes that will be a Daunting (D3) skill test. Let’s roll!

Don’t hesitate to correct me if that seems like an incorrect way to handle skill use though, anyone! :slight_smile:

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Player: I am going to use my [Thievery, Observation, Insight, potentially even Alchemy or Sorcery could apply] skill.

In my opinion, players should not say “I use [Skill] to do…”. They should narratively describe what they are doing, and the GM determines the skill. If the narrative description is very detailed, you could even knock off 1 Difficulty. Depending on the description, you could of course use a different skill.

So when a player says (very wisely), they would like to check the sarcophagus for traps, I would let them make a D3 Thievery test. I always announce the Difficulty, because it is relevant to the players so they can decide to buy additional dice or something.

I see no harm in letting the player change their mind about checking the traps. Because if they don’t do it, the situation does not change. Also, they can’t infer from the D3 Thievery test that the sarcophagus is actually trapped. So if someone wants to search for traps, always let them roll, no matter if there are traps or not. Knowing that something is not trapped is also useful information.


Our first couple of sessions I just told the players the difficulty to help get us used to the system. Now I describe things and let them decide. Once they commit to the action, but before they roll dice, I tell them the difficulty in case they want to add a couple more d20’s.

It is completely up to you. Sometimes I find that simply calling for the test and not telling them the difficulty can increase the tension of a scene. Other times (especially in combat) it is easier and honestly fairer to let them know what kind of challenge they are facing for every attack.

I do it like this.

Player: I want to look for a trap
GM: OK make a D1 Observation test.
Player rolls. Narrates the skill test (optional)
GM narrates the outcome.

Player: I want to see if I can disarm the trap
GM: Ok make me a D3 Thief test.
Player rolls. Narrates the skill test (optional)
GM narrates the outcome


Further remember that Momentum can be spent to “Obtain Information”, so if the players use that Momentum spend, then ask about the sarcophagus, you have to answer truthfully. Granted you can leave certain information out, but you would owe them a “Something about the sarcophagus seems odd” at the very least, tipping them off that they should be careful with it. By the rules, if they ask if it’s trapped and use that Momentum spend then the GM would have to tell them that it is, no check required. At that point they could then use Thievery (or other valid skill) to remove the trap at the difficulty described.


As a GM if my players rolled some momentum and used it to obtain information about the trap I might even be willing to lower the difficulty by 1 as they learned something useful.

Just wanted to say thanks to all who responded above - your input is really helpful!

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