Incidental Actions - What category

How would you classify a skill test taken by a character that is more or less subconscious such as noticing something when not necessarily looking for it or remembering a piece of lore without actually concentrating on it? By the book the only action that makes sense is the Skill Test under Standard Actions but that doesnt seem right given they arent really putting any effort into it but rather it is happening on its own. Free Action? But Free Actions arent allowed if there is a skills test. Does this fit in between somewhere, just a test the GM can call for and it really doesnt apply as an action at all? I can see this being possible even during another character’s turn when what they are doing might or might not be noticed by someone else.


Sounds like you are looking for a more passive test? like passive perception or similar.

I would never put anyone’s anything in someone else’s turn. The few times the game has it I don’t really like it (ie riposte), but that is more due to the player getting more dice “screen time”.

For me each player should get their screen time to enjoy the game. Interrupting one players time for another isn’t cool to me.

I have two things to say.

  1. I think you are over analyzing the game to the point of paralysis.
  2. Have them roll 2d20 vs their skill, call it a minor or free action. Don’t generate momentum. Don’t allow addition of dice. OR Just decide it they know it, see it or whatever depending on where the story is and how critical it is.

How important is it for them to notice that crack in the wall? How important is it for them to remember that water flows downhill?

How important is it for them to notice the guy sneaking up behind them? Does it take an action to try? If so what kind? Or do you check in the other guy’s turn…but you said you didnt like tests taking place in another characters turn.

I dont believe im over analyzing anything. Browsing the responses to my questions will reveal others have the wrong interpretation of some of the rules as well. I’m just trying to learn the game.

For something akin to passive perception it is a skill that wouldn’t really require an “action”. It is passive because it happens without them having to do anything. That being said there isn’t something like this in the game because it is up to the GM to decide to call for when such things are needed or when they can just explain the problem and give the player a chance to react.

As a GM I sometimes call for tests like this as the situation is starting to unfold and then allow that to decide how it progresses. This includes when players are trying to do something sneaky around each other that they don’t want the other PCs to notice.


Sneaking up on them? That is a struggle. So now we are rolling a sneaking guy vs the group. (*Standard actions) SKILL TEST, both sides.

NPC attempts to sneak up on their turn and rolls stealth at an appropriate difficulty.
PCs roll Observation as a group. 2d20 + Assistance at appropriate difficulty.

When I say “How Important” I mean it is going to vary scenario to scenario, gm to gm, moment to moment.

Knowing the rules is fine. Needing to know every exact rule exactly as it is supposed to be will paralyze you. As you say some people don’t always know the exact rule, despite that they still manage to play and enjoy the game.

I am the first person so say I have a decent understanding of the rules and still don’t know them all. My players come up with things pretty much every session I am not 100% sure how to work based on the RAW. Make the call. move on.

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Rorouni- thanks, very helpful.

Ogedei- you miss my point. Yes of course it’s a struggle but a standard action? Seriously? To accidentally hear something you dont know is there requires a major part of your attention and effort in a turn? If they did detect the sneaking foe they couldnt attack because they gave up their standard action…listening? Just doesnt work. I think the gentleman above has it right.

And I dont take offense but find it odd you dont consider actually understanding the rules of a game your playing to be important.

I believe what Ogedei is saying that there is no need to have rule for every possible situation. This is causing absolutely unnecessary burden on both GM and the players. The system of Conan is narrative-based in my opinion and the framework set in the books is enough to decide on the fly every situation without having to stop the game to check rulebook after rulebook.

This is what I love of the more narrative-based games compared to my ex-loves - D&D for example. There, you are quite narrowed and locked into the battlemap mindset, rules over rules and etc. Here is a breeze.

But I agree with you that the core rules should be learned so you can address situations on the fly.


A struggle does not take away a Standard Action for both parties. Only the sneaking character uses a Standard Action to sneak, the other participant in the struggle (i.e. the player character) should use a Free Action to notice them.

When making a melee attack and the target defends, it is also a struggle but it does not cost a Standard Action to defend, just a Reaction. But that is only because the defender chooses to defend and actively does something.


@rgrove0172 I do not think you need to have a 100% grasp on a ruleset to play the game. I am not even sure it is possible, especially if you play more than one game. This is further complicated by the idea that it is nearly impossible to write a set of rules that encompass every situation and idea every group of players will come up with.

If our goal is to know every little nuance of the rules before we ever roll a die, we will never play.

Let’s go back to your sneaking guy.
Is the sneaking guy sneaking up to attack?

  1. Roll Struggle.
  2. Start combat giving advantage to whoever has the advantage.

Just following them? Are the players paying attention? Have them roll an observation test for each segment of the journey. They can decide if it’s a minor or standard action. You can use this to determine how long and how likely they are to see the follower.

I don’t believe anything says you can’t roll a skill test for a minor action. Simply put, if the outcome is in doubt, roll a test.

I am not trying to dissuade you from asking questions, just encouraging you to play.

I worded my answer poorly. It should really say, “Skill test” both sides.

As GM I’m only accounting for action types once combat has actually been joined, and I believe this is RAW. Prior to that whether a struggle for surprise takes a free action or standard is immaterial. Someone observing something may take an instant if its passive, but if they’re actually actively searching I default to approximate real time measurements.