Skill Checks

Combat isn't the only time dice are rolled in Laurels & Loot; they are also used to decide the outcome of many different activities that player characters, NPCs, and other creatures may attempt. Skill Checks are an integral part of play during Encounters, Exploration, and even Downtime, and are used to determine success or failure of many common actions as well as the more creative things a party of player characters can come up with.

Skill checks always make use of a single d20 die, and consist of attempting to achieve a result equal to or greater than a designated target number called the Difficulty Class (or DC for short). Modifiers to the die roll are applied based on a character's Ability Bonuses, Inherent Abilities, Acquired Skills, and sometimes even the equipment used by the character. Some skills require that particular equipment be used to have any chance of success; some can be attempted with makeshift gear or no equipment at all.

Some skill checks are commonly referred to as Saving Throws. Technically, Saving Throws represent an attempt to react to some event initiated by either an opponent or the environment. Mechanically, these are no different from any other ability check. Both involve a d20 roll with modifiers applied attempting to meet or exceed a specified target Difficulty Class. ; The two terms can be used interchangeably.

Setting Up a Skill Check

Two factors go into determining what DC to set for a particular skill check: the associated player Ability, and the approximate degree of difficulty. The Ability chosen should be the one determined to be most appropriate based on these guidelines:
  • Strength (STR) checks are used whenever the activity attempted involves brute power. Some examples include lifting or shifting heavy objects, forcing open stuck doors (or even crashing through locked ones), swimming against a current, or clinging to a rope or cliff edge.
  • Dexterity (DEX) checks are used if the activity requires agility, precision movement, fine manual dexterity, or balance. Some examples include attempting to pick a pocket or palm a small item, traverse a narrow ledge, climb a wall, or moving stealthily through a forest or among the shadows of an urban alley.
  • Constitution (CON) checks are used when the situation implies tests against stamina, physical health, or resistance to diseases or poisons. Some examples are checks to see if a contagious disease is contracted, the ability to run for prolonged periods, and being able to resist the ill effects of consuming tainted or toxic foods.
  • Intelligence (INT) checks are used for tests of knowledge, analytical thinking, and problem solving. Searching a space for hidden secrets, recalling knowledge about a creature or particular NPC that may have been acquired in the past are common examples.
  • Wisdom (WIS) checks are appropriate when a character's willpower, common sense, or awareness are tested. Sensing something out of place in a location, noticing subtle changes in the behavior of an enchanted associate, and detecting the unnatural movement of the bushes ahead where an ambush awaits are all examples. Being able to resist the attempts by a user of magic to alter your behavior or instill fear are others.
  • Charisma (CHA) checks are appropriate in situations where the character's outward demeanor, appearance, personality, charm, or bearing should be determining factors. Instilling fear in an opponent with a threat or even a menacing glare, explaining to the city guard that you're not really up to anything illegal, or even negotiating a better price for goods bought or sold are all examples.

  • Once the proper ability is selected, the degree of difficulty must be assessed. Table ?? suggests starting points for base DC values based on degree of difficulty:

    The first and last entries in the table are extremely important to remember. If the Gamemaster decides there is absolutely no chance that an attempt to do something can succeed, or if they decide that, given the circumstances, and perhaps time available, success in inevitable, it is not necessary - and in fact undesirable - to require a roll of dice for a skill check.

    A Gamemaster should not feel constrained to use these values exactly; there are times when a DC of 8 or 9 seem more appropriate than 7 or 10 for a mildly challenging task, or when 16 just isn't difficult enough. As long as there is some consistency in the establishment of DCs, a wider variation will be more interesting for the players. The values in Table 9 should be looked upon as starting point guidelines by the Gamemaster, not "etched in stone" allowable values.

    Modifiers to the Ability Check Roll

    There are a number of things that can affect the bonuses or penalties that a player applies to the d20 result when making an Ability Check. Inherent Abilities and Acquired Skills can add modifiers, as can the possession and use of particular equipment. Lack of specific equipment may even make a check unnecessary, as the activity is impossible without it. Conditions currently in effect on the character may also change the modifiers or even preclude the need to roll a check. For example, unconscious characters can't dodge things, so they don't even get a chance to try a DEX-based dodge check when the dragon breathes fire at them. Inherent Abilities, Acquired Skills, equipment, and Conditions will all explicitly indicate their effects on skill checks.


    The Laurels and Loot Rule System is published by Bob O'Brien
    It is available to all in accordance with the Creative Commons (Attribution) license
    (Creative Commons 4.0 International License)

    Laurels and Loot Rules are derived in part from the following sources:
    Knave 2.0 TTRPG System Rules published by Ben Milton
    in compliance with
    (Creative Commons 4.0 International License)

    The banners on these pages was composed with art attributed to:
    b0red from Pixabay (treasure chest image)
    Gordon Johnson from Pixabay (laurels image)

    The side panels are composed with art attributed to:
    Evelyn Chai from Pixabay (dungeon passage)


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