Setting difficulties levels and tasks that "have no effect"

I was wanting to get some other view points on this subject. How do you other GM’s handle it when the players want to attempt a scan, hack something, manipulate something that is impervious to that particular method or angle of approach. I have been making the difficulty a difficulty 0 (it seems appropriate, atleast to myself, that putting the information into the console or piece of equipment requires little to no skill check) and allowing the players to roll to generate momentum and revealing that the task dies not reveal any ground breaking information, or access is denied from the opposing ship etc. I have recently had a player that has also GMed complain that this is the wrong use for difficulty 0 tasks. Also the same thing has been said that tasks difficulties are too high looking at the book each complication in the scene adds 1 difficulty.
Mind you the tasks usually attempted are to hack into an opposing ship or network ( from a extremely long distance - out of their sensor range) and take full control of all its systems, or transport a select individual off of the sheilded opposing ship at warp and How do you handle this with your groups?

I handle tasks (including difficulty 0) the following:

  1. only actions with a reasonable chance be successful (i.e. are possible), can be rolled, and
  2. of these, only actions with a reasonable chance to fail, have to be rolled.

Actions that fail the first criterion automatically fail. Actions that pass the first criterion, but not the second, are difficulty 0 tasks. Thus, a difficulty 0 task is a task that not only can be successful, but actually will be successful (no matter what), because there’s no reasonable chance to fail the task.

Difficulty 0 tasks are tasks that are so easy and/or routine that there’s no actual chance to fail. So they do not need to be rolled. They actually can be rolled, with the chance to create Momentum – yet also the risk to create Threat.

Also see p.80 of the Core Rulebook for a sidebar on difficulty 0 tasks.

Your way of dealing with difficulty 0 tasks is, thus, indeed a bit unconventional. Yet I understand the rationale behind it. Difficulty 0 is designed to speed things up: no need to roll, because the outcome is fixed – but you can if you want (to take the chance and risk).

So, is it wrong? Probably not. If you and your group agree with handling impossible tasks just like difficulty 0 tasks, this looks like a fine house rule to me!


Exactly. Those D0 task are always an ensured success, it is only the question of how good or how quickly you get this success - and that is where the generated Momentum and Momentum spends for quick execution or more information come into play.

If it is a task that is impossible, you don’t roll at all. It is impossible to succeed.
If it is a task that has a handful of difficulty raising elements, a high Difficulty, like D4 or D5 (the maximum) is in order - which will prompt the PCs to assist each other, use Advantages to reduce the Difficulty and spend Determination, so they might succeed anyway in a single action on a D5 test.

If it is a task that is supposed to be hard, complicated and might take a long time, but still could succeed (it is not impossible), use the extended tasks with Workload and Resistance. That takes a few steps to resolve - and allows the opposition to discover the attempts and do something about that.

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Tasks are a mechanic that is intended to be used when a “character’s success is in doubt or when failure or complications are interesting”.

When trying to hack an alien system, complications might be interesting. A successful outcome does not necessarily mean that you hack the system. It can also mean that the characters learn that the system is unhackable. Nevertheless, Momentum or Advantages may arise from the attempt. Maybe the characters gain some other bit of information that may be helpful later.

So even if you know beforehand that hacking is not possible, the outcome of the task may still be interesting and potential valuable for the GM or the players. So there is actually merit in letting the players roll for tasks you know are impossible.

The same logic applies to scans, or trying a method you know the thing is impervious to. Just think about if the result is interesting or potentially valuable, that’s how I do it. But I would then use Difficulty 1 or higher since these are “proper” tasks.

D0 Tasks are designed for things that always succeed. This might apply to a simple scan or a speech from a captain.


I’d view it this way:

If the characters would know that what they’re trying is totally impossible, I’d just tell the players that and not let them roll at all.

If the characters would know it would be nearly impossible, I’d let them have a D0 roll to determine just how nearly impossible it would be (and bank some momentum in the bargain) and then the actual attempt would probably be D5 (or even harder depending exactly what it is)

If the characters wouldn’t have any way of knowing that it’s impossible until they try, I’d let them attempt it without giving them the exact difficulty, and if they succeed I’d give them an explanation as to why it didn’t work (with any momentum they could maybe even get some clues as to any alternate approaches that could potentially work instead)

yes I have referred to this section. Thank you everyone for the input… The other question I guess would be given that scenario of attempting to scan or connect to something from a safe distance that is not possible by the rules on difficulty 0 tasks using the console or sensors in a simple enough way while it is not possible against a “specific” target would a difficulty 0 be needed to make sure they do not alert the opponent? The attempt to connect has no effect but the trying to do it unnoticed has a chance of a adverse effect. should this be 1 statement of it has no effect or result and then roll to see if It goes unoticed with success only meaning the element of surprise is still in play? or a difficulty 0 for trying it since it is an easy enough attempt but has no effect and a chance of causing another issue if critical failed

Difficulty 0 tasks are there to generate Momentum and/or Threat in case the players want to take the chance. If no Momentum is needed and/or the players do not want to risk to generate Threat – then there will be no rolls. Difficulty 0 tasks are always optional.

If there will be a roll, no matter what, it’s not a difficulty 0 task.

I’m not sure if I understand this correctly. Even if you know that there isn’t anything interesting to discover, let the players do a D1 task anyway because the task has the potential to backfire. If they fail, they get noticed by the target. If they succeed, they find nothing. But finding nothing can in fact be helpful information.

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I will add a house rule: if you feel that players only want to gain momentum and ask for a roll that they know will be useless, like the engineer performing a routine ship diagnostic after a mission briefing not related to the ship, I always reply something like that: “Sorry, the screen time of the episode is limited, your scene was cut by the director, no roll needed no momentum gain, the ship is fine”

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Is that actually a house rule? - Any Task roll is only done if the GM decides it is justified.
That means, if the GM does not see the need for any dice roll, no dice are rolled.
And D0 Tasks are only rolled, if the GM allows it, too. Players cannot demand to roll a D0 Task.

At the Gamemaster’s discretion, a character can still choose to roll the dice against a Difficulty of 0 and can generate Momentum as normal (because zero successes are required, every success generated is Momentum), but this comes with the normal risk of Complications as well.

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It’s a house rule because I also apply that to diff 1-3 tasks that players will try to do only to increase momentum when they know it’s useless but still want to do it, because they are good at it and know that it will generate momentum. I allow only logical tasks, even if I know that they are useless for the scenario, if the player think that it can be useful.

That doesn’t actually make sense at all. If players need (and want) Momentum, their best way is to find a difficulty 0 task that they’re good at and that is useful, becaus a) they will get a useful benefit for (almost) nothing and b) they have the best chance to gain Momentum. Even if they’re good at it – difficulty 0 will (statistically) always generate more Momentum than difficulty 1–3 (or higher, for that matter).

In my humble opinion, GMs should be encouraged to allow difficulty 0 tasks if they’re dramatically appropriate (ranging from a quick sensor sweep to an inspirational speech). Players get Momentum for adding to the Drama/Narrative – a fair deal. Also, there’s always a 10% (at least) chance that such a roll will generate at least two Threat.

In case the players try to max out their Momentum pool by difficulty 1+ tasks – even better. Their Momentum pool is hard-capped at six. This means the more Momentum they already bank, the less is their chance to not generate Threat in the way.

Not quite. Complications can also render tasks impossible or increase the Threat Range or modify the attributes/disciplines used or… basically everything you can imagine and reasonably explain.

So, while it can not every complication in a scene need to increase the difficulty. And even if a trait does increase the difficulty, it does not necessarily increase all activity. E.g. a “Subspace Interference” Complication might increase the difficulty of tasks to communicate – yet it does not make it harder to hit enemies with a phaser.

Further, Players can always decide to roll 5d20 (6, if there’s at least another player in the scene), even more with GM’s permission. With a competent character, even difficulty 6 or 7 tasks will be successful in (very roughly) 20–40% of the time – and that’s without any foci!

What difficulties are you throwing at them?

So for more simple basic tasks D1 - D2. The current problem has been like the illustration listed above. In the heat of battle 2 ships squaring off. Should the players be able to take “master code” command of the enemy ship shut down their sheilds, life support, power etc. at a difficulty 1 or 2? Or should the captain be able to hail them and convince them to surrender at a difficulty 2 when they seem to have the upper hand in a fight. Or a telepath try to “psychically force” someone on the opposing ship to lower their sheilds or shoot their commanding officer be a D2? Or attempting to pull and drag a large enemy (as an Ocompa) charging them from one location into a pit in another

this I did know. it is only complications pertaining to the task at hand. EX to transport an enemy off a ship at warp - the fact they are at warp + 1, the enemies shields are up + 1 and the enemies are on high alert status +1

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Well, actually: This depends on the style of play you and your players agree upon; if they like to have some kind of a “story mode” you could have all tasks at difficulty 1 or 2. But I’m under the impression that that is not what you asked.

By comparison: The basic difficulty of hitting with a ranged attack is 2. Hack into a ship to disable its core functions should not be so easy as to fire a phaser, right? Judging by the table on the GM screen, this is difficulty 4+ – I’d go to 5 or even 6.

That being said, I, personally, would rule that this is a completely impossible task, as the ships shields are up. The players would first have to achieve an appropriate Trait that allows to even try to hack.

The situation itself reminds me a bit of Shadowrun when WiFi emerged – players were constantly hacking & deactivating cyberware of opponents as the rules stated that cyberware was always hooked up to other 'ware or the user’s brain via wifi…

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Right, I will add that impossible roll 6+ can’t be rolled, you have to manage to lower the difficulty by creating advantages. To hack a ship that could include beaming a team once shields down, to transmit shield frequencies (-1) to install a previously made hacking module on ship (-1). Then you can roll against a difficulty of 5. If the hacker has created an advantage “romulan code specialist”, the roll is diff 4.

Why not? Another House Rule?

You can roll 6 or more successes, even without spending Determination.
Buying +3d20 dice makes a pool of 5d20 against the leading character’s TN and Focus.
Assistance by one character adds this character’s roll of 1d20 against their TN and Focus.
Assistance by the ship adds the ship’s roll of 1d20 against the ship’s TN and Focus.
That are seven dice - albeit two of those against different TNs.
Six successes are rather reliable possible.

On the other hand, the Difficulty range a GM should set is recommended as D0 to D5. A higher Difficulty is a very rare and very extreme kind of task.

And as I see it, such a kind of task is too important and too unique to let this one be done with a single dice roll.
Those are the cases for using the Extended Tasks mechanic - with Work, Resistance, Magnitude, and starting with a lower Difficulty than D5, but with a possibly higher Resistance and workload.
These Extended Tasks run in several iterations - and at each iteration, to use the example of someone wanting to hack the opponents’ ship, this task attempt could be discovered, things could escalate or due to Complications the task could become more difficult or even actually impossible or unnecessary.
Extended Tasks provide a better pacing in story beats for such important, one of a kind actions.

I have re-read the rules and even if it says page 78 thar you have to choose the difficulty between 0 to 5 but say also that it can go higher. I’m quite sure that I had read somewhere, perhaps in living campaign scenarios that you can’t roll a D6 task, but apparently it was abandoned. A D5 task is very rare in a scenario, the moment where you don’t want to fail, where you use medals and determination. From my pont of view anything higher, should not rely on luck, but on a plan, an important part of a scenario, I like gated challenges on page 80, if I haven’t planned an extended task.

by the book you can roll a 6+ difficulty. it is recommended that these are few and far between though. But as I translate that, 6+ difficulty and the like has a lot more to do with the players attempt at something crazy