2.3 Contest Procedure

You choose an ability relevant to the conflict at hand, describe exactly what you are trying to accomplish, and how. Your GM may modify these suggested actions to better fit the fictional circumstances, and describe the actions of the NPCs or forces on the other side of the conflict.

2.3.1 Resolution Methods

The Basic resolution methods are as follows: Automatic Victory

Sometimes, your GM may not call for a contest at all, in which case you are simply victorious in overcoming the story obstacle at hand. This may be because defeat in the conflict to overcome the story obstacle would lead to uninteresting results or a narrative dead-end, such as when finding an important clue is essential to the progress of an adventure.

Your GM might also do this in cases where, within the fictional context, the particular ability you have brought to bear on the story obstacle is such that overcoming the story obstacle should be a trivial matter under normal circumstances (e.g. – a professional hunter bringing in the evening meal in a forest filled with game animals). In such cases, defeat would simply not be credible unless your GM wanted to introduce some further complications to the story. Generally, your GM will only use automatic victory when you have a relevant ability to justify its application.

For cases where overall victory may be a given, but the degree, timeliness, or cost of that victory may be interesting concerns, consider the Advanced rules in §2.19. Simple Contest

The simple contest QuestWorlds‘ primary resolution mechanic for overcoming story obstacles, and is used the most often. It also provides the foundation for other types of contest, including several Advanced ones. As such, it receives both an overview of key concepts here as well as a more detailed treatment in §4.

At is most basic, a simple contest can be summarized as follows:

  1. You and your GM agree upon the terms of the contest.
  2. You roll a D20 vs your relevant ability, while your GM rolls a D20 vs the resistance.
  3. Your GM compares the success or failure of the two rolls, and assesses your overall victory or defeat.
  4. Your GM then narrates the outcome of the conflict as appropriate.

If you enter into conflict with another player rather than a story obstacle presented by your GM, you both roll your relevant abilities for the contest instead of against a GM-set resistance, and your GM interprets the results, as described above.

2.3.2 Framing the Contest Contest Framing Overview

When a conflict arises during the game, you and your GM start by clearly agreeing on:

  • What goal you are trying to achieve. We call this the prize.
  • What the story obstacle is you are trying to overcome.
  • What tactic you are using to and overcome it.

This process is called framing the contest. Conflict: Goals vs Obstacles

Contests in QuestWorlds don’t simply tell you how well you performed at a particular task: they tell you whether or not you overcame a story obstacle, which moves the story in a new direction. Unlike some other roleplaying games, a contest in QuestWorlds does not resolve a task, it resolves the whole story obstacle.

If you need secret records which are stored in a vault within a government compound, your goal is to get the information – while the fact that it is secured against your access is a story obstacle you must overcome to attain that goal. Overcoming that story obstacle may involve many possible tasks, evading guards, lock-picking, forging credentials, etc. – but the contest doesn’t address those individually. The contest is framed around the entire conflict against the story obstacle as a whole.

In a fight, your story obstacle may be the opponents themselves, who you are fighting to capture or kill. Just as often you are seeking another goal and you might just as easily attain it by incapacitating or evading your foes. In this case, beating the enemy is a task, not the story obstacle. For example, if an ally has been accused of treason by the King, your goal could be to prove the ally’s innocence. The power of the King threatening your ally is a story obstacle to be overcome, and a trial by combat could be a contest to resolve the conflict with an ability like "Knight Errant."

In a court trial, your goal is likely a particular verdict, while the story obstacle might be the opposing lawyer, an unjust law, or even the justice system itself. In this case, jury selection, a closing argument, revelatory evidence, or legal procedural challenges are tasks, not the entire story obstacle. The overall conflict encompasses all those things.

A conflict to overcome a story obstacle moves the story forward when it is resolved. If it is merely a step toward resolving a story obstacle it is a task and not a conflict. While those component tasks may be interesting parts of narrating tactics and results, your GM should be sure to look for the story obstacle in conflict when framing a contest.

If there is no story obstacle to your actions, your GM should not call for a contest but simply let you narrate what you do, provided that seems credible.

For example, you are traveling from one star system to another. In the next star system you hope to confront the aged rebel who holds long-forgotten secrets that could bring freedom to the galaxy. Your GM feels there is no useful story obstacle for you to contest against, and so lets you describe heading down to the spaceport to secure a ship, meeting the captain and crew of your vessel, and traveling to the next world. Your GM encourages you to summarize what happens quickly so you can get to the meeting with the old rebel. Your GM knows that will be the real story obstacle, convincing the old rebel to part with their secrets. Tactics

You either choose an ability that represents any ‘key moment’ in overcoming that story obstacle, or a broad ability that lets you overcome the whole story obstacle. We call this choosing a tactic.

Your tactic might describe your using an ability that helps you overcome a task within the story obstacle: sneaking past the guards, picking the locks, choosing the right jury or skewering your opponent with your foil. Or, your tactics might describe using a broad ability like "Ninja", "Lawyer", or "Fencer" to overcome all those challenges that might form part of the story obstacle. Either way, if you succeed at that roll, you overcome the whole story obstacle. Or by failing at that roll, you fail to overcome the story obstacle, not just fail at one task.

When deciding on your tactic, focus on how your unique abilities would help you overcome the story obstacle. This as the "key moment" where we focus on your PC. Use this moment to reveal your PC’s strengths to the group.

Your GM will determine if your tactic passes a credibility test. If you try to jump a 100 meters gap or run faster than a speeding car, your action is not credible and your GM will ask you to choose a different tactic.

Credibility depends on the genre, as what is not credible in a gritty police procedural might be in pulp where you might be able to leap from a bridge onto a speeding train. If in dispute, your GM should discuss with the group whether they consider your tactic credible for the genre.

Extraordinary abilities in some genres give you the capability to do the incredible. For example in a superhero genre you might fly or be invulnerable to bullets, in a fantasy genre hurl magical lightning bolts. A genre pack for the game should help define what incredible tactics are allowed for that game as part of an Extraordinary Powers Framework.

The GM can narrate the remaining tasks that make sense of the story depending on your success with that roll, or have them occur ‘off-stage’ for speed. Think of the way TV or Cinema often cuts to the key moment of drama in a break-in, over showing us the whole heist from beginning to end. No Repeat Attempts

A contest represents all of your attempts to overcome a story obstacle. If you lose it means that no matter how many times you tried to solve the problem, you finally had to give up. You can try again only if you use a new tactic to overcome the story obstacle.

2.3.3 Resistance

Your GM chooses a resistance to represent the difficulty of the story obstacle.

When setting resistances it is important to understand that whilst traditional roleplaying games simulate an imaginary reality, QuestWorlds emulates the techniques of fictional storytelling.

Understanding this distinction will help you to play the game in a natural, seamless manner.

For example, let’s say that your GM is playing a game inspired by fast-paced, non-fantastic, martial arts movies in a contemporary setting. You are running along a bridge, pacing a hovercraft, piloted by the main bad guy. You want your character, Joey Chun, to jump onto the hovercraft and punch the villain’s lights out.

In a traditional, simulative game, your GM would determine how hard this is based on the physical constraints you’ve already described. In doing so, they would come up with imaginary numbers and measurements. Your GM would have to work out the distance between bridge and hovercraft. Depending on the rules set, they might take into account your relative speed to the vehicle. Then they would use whatever resolution mechanic the rules provide them with to see if Joey succeeds or fails. If you blow it, your GM will probably consult the falling rules to see how badly you injure yourself (if you land poorly), or the drowning rules, if you end up in the river.

In QuestWorlds, your GM starts not with the physical details, but with the proposed action’s position in the storyline. They consider a range of narrative factors, from how entertaining it would be for you to succeed, how much failure would slow the pacing of the current sequence, and how long it has been since you last scored a thrilling victory. If, after this, they need further reference points, your GM can draw inspiration more from martial arts movies than the physics of real-life jumps from bridges onto moving hovercraft. Having decided how difficult the task ought to be dramatically,your GM will then supply the physical details as color, to justify their choice and create suspension of disbelief, the illusion of authenticity that makes us accept fictional incidents as credible on their own terms. If they want Joey to have a high chance of success, your GM describes the distance between bridge and vehicle as impressive (so it feels exciting if you make it) but not insurmountable (so it seems believable if you make it).

In other words, in QuestWorlds your GM will pick a resistance based on dramatic needs and then justify it by adding details into the story.

Resistance numbers are derived from a base resistance, which is modified according to the resistance class, as per the following table: RESISTANCE CLASS TABLE

Class Value
Extreme Base +M2
Huge Base +M
Very High Base +9
High Base +6
Raised Base +3
Moderate Base
Low Base -3
Very Low Base -6
Tiny Base -9 or 6, whichever is lower
Rock-bottom Base -M or 6, whichever is lower

By default, the base resistance starts at 14.

It is often easier to remember that resistances follow the usual range of incrementing by 3: +3, +6, +9, and then incrementing by masteries etc. than remember the resistance names. Similarly resistances decrement by 3: -3, -6, -9 and then decrement by masteries with a floor of -6.

All contests use the base number + resistance class, except for contests to determine augments.

Augmenting always faces a moderate resistance, this is always the unmodified base value.

2.3.4 Die Rolls

To determine how well you use an ability, roll a 20-sided die (D20). At the same time, your GM rolls for the resistance.

Compare your rolled number with the TN to determine the result, a level of success or failure for the roll (not the contest as a whole).

  • Critical: If the die roll is 1 (even when the TN is 1), you succeed brilliantly. This is the best result possible.
  • Success: If the die roll is greater than 1 and less than or equal to the TN, you succeed, but there is nothing remarkable about the success.
  • Failure: If the die roll is greater than the TN but not 20, you fail. Things do not happen as hoped.
  • Fumble: If the die roll is 20, you fumble (even when the TN is 20). You fail miserably. This is the worst result possible.

Note that whatever your result the outcome will depend on comparing your roll with your opponents. So you might *succeed, but still lose the prize. At the same time, your GM should take into account your result when narrating the outcome, and not use your incompetence as a reason you failed to gain the prize if you succeeded, instead focusing on the resistance‘s superiority despite your success.

2.3.5 Outcome

Your roll and that of your GM’s roll are compared to determine your overall outcome which will be either victory or defeat for the contest as a whole.

If you have a better result than the GM, then you have a victory and you gain the prize set out when the contest was framed.

If you have a worse result, then you are defeated and do not gain the prize.

If you both have the same result, the better roll wins.

If your rolls tie, then it is a standoff.

A critical is a better result than a success which is, in turn, a better result than a failure, which is a better result than a fumble.

Your GM describes what happens, based on their interpretation of the outcome. Better Roll

QuestWorlds supports two options for the "better roll": the highest roll, or the lowest roll. Some groups prefer lowest roll, some higher. The preference toward "low is better", is often because 1 is a critical and 20 a fumble, and toward "high is better" because the winner has rolled a higher number. Groups wanting higher abilities to win out slightly more often should use higher roll.

We also use the phrase "worse roll" to indicate the losing roll. Confusing Ties

Your GM will describe most tied outcomes as inconclusive standoffs, in which neither of you gets what you wanted.

In some situations, ties become difficult to visualize. Chief among these are contests with binary outcomes, where only two possible results are conceivable.

Your GM can either change the situation on such a tie, introducing a new element that likely renders the original prize irrelevant to both participants, or they can resolve the ties in your favor as a marginal victory. Bumps

A bump affects the degree of success or failure of your die roll. A bump up improves your result by one step, changing a fumble to a failure, a failure to a success, or a success to a critical. Bump ups come from two sources: masteries and hero points (applied in that order). A bump down reduces result by one step, changing a critical to a success, a success to a failure, or a failure to a fumble. Bump downs come from one source: masteries.

Bumps always affect results not outcomes, although the outcome could change as a effect of gaining a different result. Bump Up with Mastery

If you’re engaged in a contest against a resistance, and you have an ability of 10M versus a resistance of 10, you enjoy an advantage. You get a bump to your die roll from that mastery.

You get one bump up for each level of mastery your PC has greater than your opponent’s. So against a resistance of 14 a PC’s ability of 7M is treated as 7 vs. 14 but we bump the result one step in the favor of the PC; a PC’s ability of 3M2 is treated as 3 vs. 14 but we bump the result two steps in favor of the PC.

This reflects the fact that an ability above 20 would always succeed on a D20. Because each mastery represents automatic success (apart from a fumble) on a D20, you roll against the remainder, and treat the mastery as a bump. So on an ability of 27 is 7M, which means a target number of 7 and bump the result; an ability of 43 means 3M2 or a target number of 3 and bump the result twice.

Opposed masteries cancel out, each contestant reducing their rating by the same number of masteries until only one or neither of them has masteries. If you have two masteries, then you enjoy the same great advantage over an opponent with a single mastery as someone with one mastery has over an opponent with no masteries. If you have an advantage of two or more masteries over an opponent, you can pretty much count on pounding them into the dust.

This allows QuestWorlds to represent large differences in ability or resistance. Bump Up with Hero Points

You can spend a hero point to bump up any result by one step. You may only bump your own rolls, not those of other PCs or supporting characters—with the exception of sidekicks and retainers, which, as extensions of your character, you may spend hero points on. You can decide to use a hero point for a bump after the die roll results are calculated (including any bump ups from masteries).

You can only spend one hero point per roll.


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