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Rules Clarification - Multiple Things

If I need to ask you guys some rule clarifications, should I put them all in one thread as I need to ask them or make a new thread for each one? Of course, I won’t ask a question unless I’ve researched it thoroughly first.

This question has to do with ranged attacks and cover. Am I correct that “cover” is only calculated as soak and is not part of calculating Difficulty Number? That seems counter-intuitive but the only rules I can find for ranged attacks treat cover as soak and not as DN increase.

That’s correct. Being in Cover doesn’t make it harder to see or hit your position per se, it makes it harder for the damage to reach you because presumably the material absorbs some portion-- represented by the Cover dice–of the blow.


Many thanks @Maxspire.

Guess this is as good a place as any to ask another question. 2D20 is not really set up to do secret rolls on behalf of the PCs, correct?

For example, having PCs roll for awareness tips them off that something may be going on, but you can’t roll on their behalf because you have no way of knowing if (and how much) Momentum they might spend on it?

Cover is not increasing the Difficulty at all. It is more or less “solid” cover that reduces the damage suffered. If you are going for concealment, that could apply on top of that, by adding to the Difficulty.

For example, one opponent hiding in man-height grass is hard to spot, that is +1 Difficulty, but no cover at all. Another opponent cowering behind a fallen tree, that is no increase in Difficulty, because you can still spot him easily, but the tree might be hit instead of your target, so Cover Soak applies.

One aspect of this kind of handling of Cover is rarely used in Conan, but much more often in Mutant Chronicles and Infinity: you can destroy cover. You can shoot it to bits, losing one die of Cover Soak after the other. That happens in Infinity and MC3 due to the modern firearms and high fire rate quite regularly. Which, in turn, prompts the PC to run for not (yet) destroyed cover - and this is a good situation for the GM to spend Dark Symmetry Points / Heat (both the same as Doom in Conan) to interrupt and shoot the PCs while still without cover.
(Like in Ghost in the Shell - the original anime - the final fight against the tank/remote. Cover gets destroyed quite quickly in this kind of combat - and Infinity, and MC3, try to model such a kind of shoot-out.)

In Conan there are situations where you would justify reduced visibility and thus give +1 Difficulty, and others where you justify the damage soaking material, giving +2[CD] or +4[CD] Cover Soak.

And don’t forget the Create Obstacle Momentum spend, which is Immediate (could be done at any time, could be paid for by generating Doom instead of spending Momentum for PCs), and Repeatable (you could raise the Difficulty by +1D for 2 Momentum, +2D for 4 Momentum or +3D for 6 Momentum - +3D is the maximum).
This could be narratively interpreted as getting partially or wholly out of sight, making the shot more difficult for the opponent.

I really like this Create Obstacle Momentum spend, as it is open for PCs even when there is no Momentum available, generating Doom instead, and as it offers a chance for the GM to keep their important NPCs around a bit longer, before they get slaughtered.

Exactly - although you find in some 2d20 RPG adventures some “hidden Difficulties” which caused - rightfully so - a bit of complaints.

The 2d20 mechanics have a strong “meta-game” aspect, the whole Momentum/Doom/Fortune resource dynamic is not a thing anyone in the game world, not even the PCs, are aware of. It is only for the players assuming in their application no longer the character impersonation point of view, but the point of a “director” or “author” deciding about the fate of the PC.

This is very common in narrative systems, where you have such a kind of resource - and here we have three, Momentum, Doom and Fortune.

To make any kind of informed decision about whether to spend Momentum or the even more costly Fortune, players NEED to know the Difficulty before the roll is made. Keeping that secret or - even worse - taking the players agency away and “making the roll for them” is not an element you usually find in such narrative games with player (not PC) resources like Momentum and Fortune and for Immediate spends Doom, too.

Especially the - in some systems weirdly kept secret - notice, awareness, observation, perception tasks are in 2d20 usually rolls versus a set Difficulty, unless there is someone or something opposing the PCs’ attempt to search for something.

A set Difficulty is obvious, you tell the players the Difficulty, they decide whether to buy additional dice or apply Talents (there are some that could reduce Difficulty for some skills - like Craft, when it is about repairing something).
Here the question is: do you have an idea how to proceed when this Observation test fails?

You could set D4 Difficulty, the players are low on Fortune, you are high on Doom, the players are reluctant to generate lots of Doom for additional dice, maybe their characters have low Observation skill and a very low chance to succeed anyway.
The consequence is, that they don’t even try it, or they ask for Voluntary Failure, giving you a Doom and getting a Fortune to fail without being forced to roll, maybe, some Complications on top of the failed test anyway.

That is the problem with high Difficulties. They tend to discourage even attempting them, unless the consequences are immediately life threatening for the characters. - In general, not a thing I can recommend.

My recommendation is, setting the Difficulty lower, at D1 or if there is another cause that could make it a bit more difficult, at D2. There is still a chance of failure - but Conan includes the Fail Forward option, so the PCs could fail their rolls, still succeed with a kind of basic success, but get an automatic Complication on top of that. That way you ensure that the PCs get the relevant information necessary to keep the story moving, and the Complication makes for an interesting twist.

Low Difficulty goes hand in hand with Obtain Information Momentum spends. At D1 they get basic information, more detailed information, obscure facts easily overlooked, etc. cost Momentum, 1 Momentum for each additional detail they might discover.
That way you might keep things still hidden, if not enough Momentum was generated or the players decide not to spend it. - And there are some Talents that give Bonus Momentum just for such spends as Obtain Information, very useful, so as a GM be prepared to let the players use those Momentum spends.

If you have a hidden trap or such a thing, well concealed, maybe, you could still let the PCs make a D1 test, but give them gradually the information, like:

  • Basic success at D1: “the floor creaks differently here to over there”,
  • 1st point of Momentum: “you heard very soft metallic clanking noise when you set your foot forward”,
  • 2nd point of Momentum: “you notice some dust falling from the ceiling, as if something heavy was moved slightly there”.
  • 3rd point of Momentum: “it’s a trap! There is a heavy object about to fall down right where you are standing!”

That is a more gradual approach than simply setting a D4 Difficulty which might intimidate anyone even trying it.
And all the time the players can decide to spend their resources, use Momentum for Obtain Information etc.

Shameless self-quote.
In this case, the more Momentum was spend for more information about the trap, the easier it gets to avoid it.

Spending 3 Momentum, knowing exactly what is about to happen, this is a D0 Acrobatics test - no roll necessary, but maybe you generate Momentum from that.
Spending 2 Momentum, you have a hunch that something comes from above, a D1 Acrobatics test to get out of the way.
Spending 1 Momentum, you know that something got activated, so you are “on the jump” already, D2 Acrobatics to actually avoid the dropping death trap.
Having the Basic success at D1, you know the fact, that the floor creaked differently, that could be a trap door opening under you or something else, you are somewhat aware, but have no real clue of what is about to happen, which is a D3 Acrobatics test, when finally the death trap drops.
Having NO success at all at the D1 Observation test, you think everything is perfectly safe, when all of a sudden a massive weight drops and tries to smash you into a pulp, a D4 Acrobatics test is in order to survive that - somehow.

Notice: Here the Difficulties go high, as high as D4, because this is an obviously life-threatening situation. That is what Fortune points are for, and some luck on the dice - buy some more, generate Doom, if you want to live!

In effect, there WAS a kind of “hidden difficulty” involved, but not directly. It was modeled using the Obtain Information spend to determine the risk and Difficulty of the following Non-Observation action.
The players didn’t know about this death trap, they didn’t know about the massive damage their PCs would receive. So they had their fate in their own hands - spend Momentum to Obtain Information, or keep your Momentum and have a hard(er) time later.

Another point regarding Obtain Information: You can NEVER “overspend” on Obtain Information.
If there is only a single or maybe two additional facts to be found, spending more Momentum on that will be refused by the GM. Momentum is always useful, you cannot waste it.
If there is nothing else to be noticed, then say so as the GM.

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The other way for using Observation type tests is with an active opposition. Like someone sneaking up to a PC on watch during camp hours or so.

In that case it is even easier. You don’t need to tell the player a lot, simply ask for a D1 Observation test, or at night watch maybe D2 due to the darkness. Tell them it is an opposed test against “something else”, so they can consider to spend Momentum, generate Doom, use Fortune.
And you need to declare how many extra dice you will buy for spending Doom - which is the usual way in handling opposed tests. Both sides need to declare any and all additional dice bought for Doom, Momentum or Fortune (which counts as one of the max +3d20 bonus dice allowed).

Then you and the PC make your dice rolls, calculate the Momentum and compare it.

If the PC had less Momentum than your NPC, well, then everything is fine, probably nothing, maybe a squirrel was disturbed by something, no worries.
If the NPC had less Momentum than the PC, then tell the player what they observe, hear, smell, etc. They still might want to spend Obtain Information Momentum spends to get more information about this situation - like, how many are approaching, where exactly are they positioned, are they armed - are they even human?
On a tie you give the PC the basic information that there is someone or something approaching. (If there is some Momentum in the group Momentum pool, they might want so spend some for Obtain Information, though.)
Or you break the tie by spending 1 Doom in favor of the NPC, so the PC barely notices something approaching, when it strikes! (But without any additional Momentum - but still counting as a surprise attack, activating the Unforgiving weapon Quality, etc.)

So in case of an opposed roll, there is even less need to keep things hidden from the players.

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Okay well we had our first get-together last night. First time running it and first time for everyone else playing it. Two guys have never played any rpg before. Everyone seemed to really like it! I was surprised how quickly they picked it up, especially the guys who are completely new to rpgs in general. Of course, that makes me think it might be easier coming in to rpgs with a clean slate and no prior conceptions of how mechanics might be based on prior experience.

Anyway, not too many issues came up. I still struggled with Ambush to Exploit. Not that I don’t get it, but it was just annoying to bridge the two steps. Well, more than two steps (ambush to exploit to pierce) so I just skipped all that, let the players book the Momentum, and moved on with the scene.

Another point of rules clarification - on teamwork/assisted tests, if the leader clears the DN, do the assistance still roll even though they’re not required in the hopes of booking Momentum, or do they not roll because the leader succeeded by himself? I don’t see that being clear in either the Improving the Odds section or the reference section.


If other characters assist a leader by any kind of action, they roll their 1d20 versus their own TN.
If the leader succeeds, they might add Momentum (which sometimes is necessary if it was an opposed test - like a check for surprise).
If the leader fails, the successes of the assisting characters don’t count, but if they roll a Complication, that will apply - so they need to roll anyway.

Suppose it’s a DN2 with no struggle. Leader rolls 2D20 and gets 2 successes, clearing the DN. Do the assistants still get to roll even though he beat the DN by himself? I can’t find black and white on this particular point.

Absolutely. That’s one of the best ways for player to gain Momentum.

Page 100, core book:

In order to assist with a skill test, you must describe
how your character is assisting the test’s leader. If the
gamemaster approves, each participating assistant rolls
one d20 using the character’s own attribute and skill ranks
to determine if any successes are scored, with additional
successes from Fortune or other talents applied. The
leader makes his skill test as normal. Assistants may not
use any means to roll additional dice, though the leader
may use Momentum, Doom, Resources, Fortune, or other
methods of gaining extra d20s. Because other characters
roll these dice, they do not count towards the limit of
three bonus d20s applied to a single task. However, any
character providing assistance cannot do anything else
while assisting, because providing assistance takes time,
concentration, and effort.

Everyone involved in the task, leader and all assisting characters, make their dice rolls.

As I wrote a few posts above: the assisting character might roll additional successes to generate Momentum or they might roll Complications - important even if the leader failed to roll any success.

Everyone who declares the Assist action has their action set and must roll. You cannot “cancel” that if you see the leader already succeeding. If you want to Assist, you agree to bear with the risk of rolling a Complication.

In practice, you let all the assisting characters roll their dice BEFORE the leader rolls any dice. That way no one gets to worm his way out of joining the risk.

Yeah that’s the section I’m talking about.Okay so without specifically saying it, the game contemplates that the assistants roll either with or before, but not after, the leader. Clears that up.

They could roll after the leader does the roll - but everyone who declared to assist, MUST roll - to partake in success, failure and Complications.

In a game at home recently there had been two characters assisting in searching some temple’s priest’s quarters, so two rolled their dice, one success, one Complication, then the leader rolled, double Complication! - Of course all three of them got the trouble I rained on them, because if you decide to assist, everyone involved is subject to the consequences.

There is actually no “rolling after the leader”, as you don’t determine the outcome of the action unless every dice result by every character was determined.

So, in time, one assistant might roll first, then maybe the leader, then the other assistant. The outcome is determined for everyone involved, and only after all dice results are gathered.

There is no separate resolution of the leader’s action, and “then” the assists, it is all part of the very same Skill test. It is a single skill test, all successes, failures and Complications are added. The only special rule is, that the leader needs to roll at least a single success for the assisting character’s successes to count. But Complications count anyway and for all.

Not to get bogged down in semantics and I agree with your analysis (and will follow it) but there is nothing in the rules expressly mandating it.

Suppose we’re at the table and you give me a DN1. I choose a straight up 2D20 roll but I just happen to roll one die before the other. The first die is a success. If you as a GM want to require me to roll the second (gambling on a complication and potentially 2 Doom vs me getting 1 Momentum), fine. But unless I’ve missed something there is nothing in the rules demanding that all dice be expressly rolled and counted at once. At least as far as assistance goes, but I haven’t seen it anywhere.

Depending on the circumstances (and I suppose in most cases) I as the player would want to roll the second die because the odds of me getting momentum are greater than 5% (the odds of me getting a 20/20).

Like I said it’s semantics but there is no rule requiring it. Which makes sense. Say you’re trying to staunch someone’s bleeding and you yell at me to come help. I comply but before I do anything you’ve already padded him up, applied a tourniquet, whatever. I haven’t even attempted to help, so no roll is made. Same case with an attempt to spot an ambush. You’re way out front and spot it before I even get there.

That is not, never, an option. If you roll a Skill test, you will roll at least 2d20. At the table you might roll them one after the other, but the Skill test is only finalized, if you roll ALL the dice of your pool you announced you would roll (the same applies if you buy additional dice for Doom, Momentum or Fortune (which counts as a bonus d20, too)).
You cannot simply roll one after the other and then suddenly in the middle of rolling your dice pool stop to reduce the risk of getting a Complication.

Similarly in Assist rolls. ALL involved characters declare their part in the Skill test - either as leader or as assistant. ALL roll their dice - in any sequence they choose. ALL dice in this skill test are evaluated. Only then the test is resolved.

You don’t have the choice to roll your dice pools “piecemeal”. You have to roll all dice you declared in the first place. For a normal Skill test, that is the system defining 2d20 roll.

That would require a Skill test on its own, a separate action, so if that one did not start, no dice roll necessary.
BUT: if you had declared your roll as an Assist - which IS an action - you will have to roll your 1d20 for the Assist. If you didn’t, the whole action couldn’t be resolved.

You might want to introduce this piecemeal/hindsight rolling as a house rule, if you like, but that is it then - a house rule.

Not necessarily. Just saying it’s not explicitly written plus it seems like a momentum factory if you have 4 players rolling an assist against a DN1, one of those players rolling 2D20 and 3 rolling 1D20.

It absolutely is but it’s super important to drop the idea that players having momentum is somehow bad, or it’s somehow a precious resource. It is meant to be earned and spent and flow like water. If I had to hazard an educated guess, in a recent session my players likely earned and spent a hundred or more Momentum. If players don’t get Momentum easily then things stall out because they horde it. That’s not how the system works.

Remember as well, when it comes to the Assist action - as the GM you can either tell them no or you can ask the player how they assist with the task at hand. I’ve allowed assist on a Lore check because the two characters discussed things back and forth, I’ve disallowed assist on an Observation test because the player couldn’t tell me how they were helping the other character see things better.

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For sure - I actually really like the assist mechanic for several reasons. A big one is it lets each character (the leader) take center stage in his/her skill set. E.g. Othwald is out front tracking while the others keep their eyes peeled. The rules also suggest using it for observation checks, lore checks, etc. which seems more efficient.

It mostly avoids “group checks” (which I Hate), where everyone rolls a thing and odds are that someone succeeds in which case why bother rolling. The D&D rules are one of the worst rules in the game, IMO.

For something like Stealth, I allow the “Increase Scope of Success” spend to cover people (1 momentum per additional person). For something like Observation the obvious use is “Obtain Information” as the Leader speaks to the rest and they figure things out.

One of the main things I love about the 2d20 games is the Momentum system :slight_smile:


Page 117 states:
*Long range is defined as objects and creatures two zones away from a character’s current zone. A character can use a Standard Action to move to a point within Long range. Long range is a distance of two zones and imposes a +1 step of Difficulty on all actions when attacking from this range.

What am I missing here? If it takes a standard action to move to a point within Long Range, and you can take only one Standard Action per turn, then the last sentence doesn’t make sense because you can’t attack from long range unless you use a missile weapon. In that case, the difficulty is controlled by the type of missile weapon, conditions, etc.