Uncertain Tasks

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DanDare2050
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Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Sat Jul 22, 2017 10:56 am

In Traveler 2300 there is defined "uncertain tasks". The player rolls some dice and so does the GM. The GM's roll is kept secret. A combination of the two rolls ends up with the GM giving the player the truth, some truth or no truth. In general I found the idea didn't work because of the implementation about telling truth.

Here is what I found to be a better way to go:

Uncertain Skill Checks

This is a skill check where the character cannot always be certain that they have succeeded.

[edit for clarity]

A skill check involves 2 d6, a boon or bane d6 and a modifier.

For uncertain tasks the game master rolls one of the d6 check dice in secret, the player rolls the other d6 check dice openly. The actual result is calculated normally by the GM, adding the GM's secret dice to the players open dice along with any modifiers. The result is a success or failure in the normal way but the player only has their dice roll and modifiers to give them a clue.

A boon or bane is rolled openly by the player but again the player does not know how it is actually applied because they cannot see the GM's secret dice roll.

Use Cases

When the character is doing something like repairs. They don't know for sure if the repairs actually succeeded. Even if they roll a 6 with no modifiers then the GM may have rolled a 1, and their repairs failed. The truth may be found by testing the repair (A second uncertain task - diagnosis). However if it was a failure the GM may only have it show up later. Similarly for medical intervention or surgery, or for constructing a mechanical device, building a brick wall or a bridge and so on.

When the character is trying to search for something. The target may or may not actually be present. If it is present and the check is a success then they find it. Otherwise they don't find what they are looking for but don't know if its just not there or they failed. If there is more than one of the searched for thing they will only find one on a success unless they are grouped together. Similarly with trying to spot an ambush or notice "something interesting".

When the character is trying to gather some information. If the information is to be found where the character is looking, then they may be given the information, part of the information, misleading information or no information. On a success with effect +1 or more the information is given. Effect 0 gives partial information. Effect -1 gives misleading information. Effect -2 or worse gives no information. If there is no information to be found where the character is looking then success gives the character knowledge the information is not present. Failure gives no information.

When the character is trying to do a diagnosis. The character is trying to find the nature of something by examining it. Success will give the character accurate information. Failure with effect -1 will give the character no information. Failure with effect -2 or worse will give false information.
Last edited by DanDare2050 on Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
ShawnDriscoll
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Jul 22, 2017 11:20 am

I've never done any secret roll as a Referee. Before I start a game with players though, we decide if task difficulties are known by players or not. If we decide they are unknown, then the effects are unknown as well. Players are told they passed or failed basically, but not by how much or by how successful they were. It adds more surprises for the players. NPCs could be telling lies to players and the players don't even realize it. Or they're being followed the whole time, and not knowing it until it's too late.

Or sometimes, we decide that I'll announce the difficulties before players make their rolls. Then they can tell me their effects. Sometimes, the effect of a roll is all I really need to know, if we are playing in that style.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:52 am

1. The mechanism I propose does not change the rules or the odds of success.
2. The character may be unsure if they have succeeded or not but will have some level of confidence or doubt. The player can experience the character's uncertainty through this mechanism. For example the target number is 8+, no mods, and the player rolls 5. If the GM rolls 1 or 2 its a fail, 3 through 6 is a success. The player has 2/3 confidence that they succeeded.
3. In some circumstance the character knows they definitely blew it or nailed it, and so does the player. For example the target is 8+. The player has no mods and rolls a 1. No matter what the GM rolls the best they can get is 7, fail, effect-1. Alternately the player has a mod of +1 and rolls a 6. No matter what the GM rolls the worst they can do is roll 1, giving a success at 8, effect 0.

If task difficulty is unknown the player has no basis to estimate their likelyhood of success, and the character has no feedback about the likely hood that they got it right after completing the task, which means their action is a complete stab in the dark.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:19 am

Your way probably is a player and a character thing.

My way is just a character thing. My narration will be reliable or unreliable, or somewhere in between, depending on their roll.
paltrysum
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby paltrysum » Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:19 pm

I usually have them roll behind the screen and depending on the effect, give them positive or negative feedback. E.g., roll to repair the faulty jump drive. If the player rolls high and has an effect of 3 or more, they are very certain that they did a good job on the repairs and believe the jump drives to be in working order. If the player rolls with an effect of -2 to 2, they are pretty certain it should work now. Obviously they are in for a little surprise if they rolled -1 or -2. If they fail with -3 or more, they don't have a good feeling about the work they did.

Other uncertain rolls receive no feedback at all or false feedback. I once had the psion in our group roll a 2 when doing a life scan on the cargo modules in their hold. He got a false positive. He was certain he detected life in one of the modules, making the crew believe they had a stowaway. Four hours later after opening most of their modules and finding nothing, they were left scratching their heads. :lol:
"Spacers lead a sedentary life. They live at home, and their home is always with them—their starship, and so is their country—the depths of space."
DanDare2050
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:14 am

paltrysum wrote:
Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:19 pm
I usually have them roll behind the screen and depending on the effect, give them positive or negative feedback.
That will work but has a very different feel. It puts the emphasis on the game master to tell the player how their character feels about their success, because they have no information to base that on.
The proposed method lets the player decide how their character feels about their success, because they have information to base that on.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:35 am

DanDare2050 wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:14 am
paltrysum wrote:
Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:19 pm
I usually have them roll behind the screen and depending on the effect, give them positive or negative feedback.
That will work but has a very different feel. It puts the emphasis on the game master to tell the player how their character feels about their success, because they have no information to base that on.
The proposed method lets the player decide how their character feels about their success, because they have information to base that on.
Tell a player how their character feels? That shouldn't happen. That's Hand of God stuff. I would hope players don't want Referee's telling them what their characters feel or what they're doing. "You guys walk up to the Senator and say, 'Blah blah' to him." It's up to the players to decide what their characters do and say in the game.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:23 pm

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:35 am
DanDare2050 wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:14 am
paltrysum wrote:
Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:19 pm
I usually have them roll behind the screen and depending on the effect, give them positive or negative feedback.
That will work but has a very different feel. It puts the emphasis on the game master to tell the player how their character feels about their success, because they have no information to base that on.
The proposed method lets the player decide how their character feels about their success, because they have information to base that on.
Tell a player how their character feels? That shouldn't happen. That's Hand of God stuff. I would hope players don't want Referee's telling them what their characters feel or what they're doing. "You guys walk up to the Senator and say, 'Blah blah' to him." It's up to the players to decide what their characters do and say in the game.
Well that's precisely what has to happen with the completely hidden dice roll. GM rolls dice then says to player "Ok, your character feels pretty confident they fixed the main gasket on that piping correctly"
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:34 pm

DanDare2050 wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:23 pm
Well that's precisely what has to happen with the completely hidden dice roll. GM rolls dice then says to player "Ok, your character feels pretty confident they fixed the main gasket on that piping correctly"
"The leaking from the pipe has stopped."
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby paltrysum » Tue Jul 25, 2017 4:54 pm

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:34 pm
DanDare2050 wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 1:23 pm
Well that's precisely what has to happen with the completely hidden dice roll. GM rolls dice then says to player "Ok, your character feels pretty confident they fixed the main gasket on that piping correctly"
"The leaking from the pipe has stopped."
I get your point about "hand of God" and all, but there's a problem with the "leaking from the pipe has stopped" approach when it turns out the leaking has not indeed stopped. It engenders distrust among the players. They feel they can no longer trust any outcome if some degree of certainty or uncertainty is not attached. Players might begin to get the feeling that the universe is aligned against them.

Furthermore, perhaps it is a hand of God thing. I put in a new water heater at my house two weeks ago. I was "reasonably certain" I did a good job. Turns out I rolled a 7 instead of the required 8. I had the power company come out and examine it and it turns out it was leaking a small amount of gas. He fixed it. Whew! I guess his Mechanic-3 trumped my Mechanic-0. :D

Had I "rolled a 5" and smelled a slight tinge of gas, I might have been less certain that I did a good job, and even though the hot water was flowing, I might have had an inkling that the job could have been done better.

As for "telling a player how they feel," you don't want to take that out of context. I'm not telling them that they "feel they should sell their starship," or they "feel like they should change political parties." I'm telling them they performed an action and have a subjective degree of confidence one way or another if they rolled extremely poorly or well. If it's in the broad middle, they get more of a "the leaking pipe has stopped" response. In any case, if that's hand of God, so be it. They seem to have fun.
Last edited by paltrysum on Thu Jul 27, 2017 3:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Tue Jul 25, 2017 10:35 pm

paltrysum wrote:
Tue Jul 25, 2017 4:54 pm
I get your point about "hand of God" and all, but there's a problem with the "leaking from the pipe has stopped" approach when it turns out the leaking has not indeed stopped. It engenders distrust among the players. They feel they can no longer trust any outcome if some degree of certainty or uncertainty is not attached. Players might begin to get the feeling that the universe is aligned against them.
Players get most of their "certainties" from their natural rolls. If they roll a 12, they'll be pretty certain enough, I bet. If they roll a 2, well they'll be certain it didn't work. Then there is the in between stuff that gets rolled. It encourages players to use Chained Tasks, or to change Timeframes, if they want more certainties.

It's definitely a tone setting for the game, that the players agree on, before starting their game.

Depending on what the players rolled (without them knowing what the Effect or Difficulty was):
The stopped leaking pipe will eventually start leaking again (maybe a day later, or some time during Jump Space?)
The stopped leaking pipe was fixed, but a spill was never cleaned up (slippery when wet, power outage, a gob of stuff floating around in the dark in zero-g to be found later in someone's face or helmet).
The pipe is still leaking.

Again, this all depends on the tone of the game the players are after, agreed upon before starting a game.

I never tell players what they are doing. They tell me what they are doing.
I never tell players where they are. They tell me where they are.

Players know if their characters are hungry or tired or not. I don't tell them that they are hungry or tired.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:07 am

ShawnDriscoll I think there is a bit of talking past one another going on here.

Consider the base mechanic.

There is a target number (average is 8+)

Roll 2d6, maybe a boon or a bane, and add a possible modifier to the result.

Looking at the dice roll the player knows with certainty if they met the target or not. They also may consider the level of effect because they can see the margin between their roll and the target number. The game master does not have to say anything, but will probably build on the result. Even if the GM is silent the player has knowledge about how things have gone.

Now consider the uncertainty mechanic.

There is a target number (average is 8+)

Roll 2d6 (one is kept hidden by the game master), maybe a boon or a bane, and add a possible modifier to the result.

Looking at the dice the player may know with certainty or some level of confidence if they met the target or not. They will know the range to consider effect (it will be between +1 and +6 of what they can see). The game master does not have to say anything, but will probably build on the result which they can perfectly see. Even if the GM is silent the player has some knowledge about how things have gone.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:41 am

DanDare2050 wrote:
Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:07 am
ShawnDriscoll I think there is a bit of talking past one another going on here.

Consider the base mechanic.

There is a target number (average is 8+)

Roll 2d6, maybe a boon or a bane, and add a possible modifier to the result.

Looking at the dice roll the player knows with certainty if they met the target or not. They also may consider the level of effect because they can see the margin between their roll and the target number. The game master does not have to say anything, but will probably build on the result. Even if the GM is silent the player has knowledge about how things have gone.
For that play style, I'm just looking for the Effect of a roll.
DanDare2050 wrote:
Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:07 am
Now consider the uncertainty mechanic.

There is a target number (average is 8+)

Roll 2d6 (one is kept hidden by the game master), maybe a boon or a bane, and add a possible modifier to the result.

Looking at the dice the player may know with certainty or some level of confidence if they met the target or not. They will know the range to consider effect (it will be between +1 and +6 of what they can see). The game master does not have to say anything, but will probably build on the result which they can perfectly see. Even if the GM is silent the player has some knowledge about how things have gone.
The Difficulty is the target number in Second Edition.

So hiding the Difficulty (the Travellers don't really know how thorough their computer network was hacked just by staring at the screens), some genius computer Traveller rolls a 12 after DMs were applied. He knows he did his best. Maybe he could have done better with his forensics if he took/had more time? The Difficulty was 14+, so he missed something.

No extra die roll involved. The players are not thinking about target numbers. They are thinking about how I narrate an Effect mostly.

In some cases, a player will know that their Traveller can do something, from knowing the difficulty level of opening a certain kind of safe or sealed airlock, etc. For those cases, no roll is needed. No skill check.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:49 pm

Shawn, I'm not sure what you are on about. I'm talking about a simple mechanic, not play styles. You can have whatever play style you like. The base traveller mechanic is not a play style, its just the Rules As Written. That's all I'm discussing here.

There are the following mechanics that could be used for dealing with uncertainty:

Hide the target.
Hide the roll.
Hide part of the roll.

You can combine those (say hide the target AND hide part of the roll) but I'm not sure there is any useful combo.

Hide the target

After the roll the player knows how well or bad they did but no idea if they succeeded or failed. The character's perspective is, I'm doing something, I have no idea how hard or easy it is, and I have no idea if I have succeeded, but I do know I put in some good / bad work. I'm not sure of any real life situations like the character's perspective so an example would be good.

Hide the roll

Before the roll the player knows the odds. After the roll the player has no more information. The character's perspective is, I'm doing something, I know how difficult or easy it is but I just have no idea how I went. Again, I'm not sure of a real life example of this but I get a feeling there are times when this happens to people, like throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean.

Hide part of the roll.

Before the roll the player knows the odds. After the roll the player knows sometimes for sure how they did, and sometimes a probability for how they did. The character's perspective maps directly to the player's perspective on this. This is a very common real life experience. Roll 6. If GM secret roll is 1 I failed. "I have tracked down the main source of a bug in the code and fixed it, I'm reasonably confident the problem is dealt with but I feel there is a small chance that I missed something."
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 am

I'm talking about play style.

You're talking about play style and an added mechanic to the game.
paltrysum
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby paltrysum » Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:59 am

Been thinking about this one a bit. What do you do when your players spend sixteen straight weeks on a 100-ton ship? Or insist in four straight days of activity with no sleep? Or other things that would adversely affect one's health or sanity? Do you tell them what they're feeling then?
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:23 am

paltrysum wrote:
Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:59 am
Been thinking about this one a bit. What do you do when your players spend sixteen straight weeks on a 100-ton ship? Or insist in four straight days of activity with no sleep? Or other things that would adversely affect one's health or sanity? Do you tell them what they're feeling then?
Do I as a Referee tell them how their Travellers feel? No.
Do I have players that insist on not ever sleeping and will not role-play such situations? No.

My players' Travellers might mention how fatigued they are to other Travellers. Maybe one of the players will say, "Exhausted and not seeing as sharp as he used to because of the last few days, Engineer Wayne gets up from his station to check in on the current condition of their alien-rigged life-support."

Players track/role-play their own situations. Things like fatigue, encumbrance, hunger, sanity, cleanliness, sickness, and injuries.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby DanDare2050 » Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:43 am

ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 am
I'm talking about play style.

You're talking about play style and an added mechanic to the game.
No, I'm purely talking about a mechanic.
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby ShawnDriscoll » Wed Aug 16, 2017 12:36 pm

DanDare2050 wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:43 am
ShawnDriscoll wrote:
Thu Jul 27, 2017 12:47 am
I'm talking about play style.

You're talking about play style and an added mechanic to the game.
No, I'm purely talking about a mechanic.
Have any players tried the mechanic?
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Re: Uncertain Tasks

Postby Kal99 » Fri Aug 18, 2017 10:14 pm

DanDare, I love this concept. My Traveller campaign won't be starting for a couple of months - if you acquire any anecdotes about how this works in practice between now an then I'd love to hear them.

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