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CPA: Skill Checks

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In CPA, characters have skills which are attributes that symbolize their knowledge and ability with a certain vocation, craft, trade, field of study, or school of magic.

However, when actions are risky, or when conditions are stressed, dangerous, or pressured, the GM may command the player to roll dice to make a skill check to see roughly how well that task goes.

The basic concept of a skill roll is, when called, to roll 2d8 + your skill level to try to achieve an intent. Examples include:

Skill Check Procedure

  1. Intent:A player declares an intended action with an intended approach to this action. Examples:
    1. "I want to jump off the ground all the way to the moon."
    2. "I want to try to use my welding torch to open the hatch on the crashed vehicle."
    3. "I want to try to intimidate the club's security guard with my strength."
    4. "I want to try to get the giant squid to calm down so it doesn't bite me."
  2. Premise:The GM declares whether or not a roll is needed for this intended attempt, what that roll can be, and what the target number is. Examples:
    • "No, you cannot jump to the moon without some ultra-tech ion boots or something similar."
    • "Since you've worked with these tools in your background and you're not under pressure right now, no need to roll. You easily and cleanly cut off the hatch with your welding tools."
    • "Sure, you can roll Brawl or Athletics to try to intimidate the guard by crushing his hand. Difficulty...12."
    • "You are 2000 meters under an ocean of oil, with a damaged vaccuum suit, a mortal wound, and you want to try to pacify the giant alien squid? Roll Animals with disadvantage, TN 16."
  3. Helping:
  4. The game already assumes that everyone who wants to help the active player does. If you want to add +1 to an ally's roll, look into the Leadership skill and Commander talent.
  5. Approach:
  6. The player is encouraged to explain their roll with reference to the character's in-story details, to help the GM think of anything that could be achieved without a roll. Example:
  7. Roll:
  8. The acting player rolls two dice, usually 2d8, and adds their total plus the relevant Skill Level and any other modifiers.

General categories of results on skill checks:

Result Outcome
Critical Success! Two 8's on your d8s and result >= TN The player achieves their goal in a heroic way--that is, with a major bonus.
  • If you rolled the maximum value on your dice but this still did not meet or exceed the target number, then this is counted as a normal success.
Significant Success, result >> TN The player achieves their intent and gets a minor helpful bonus effect.
Success, result is equal to or 1-2 points higher than TN The player generally achieves their intent as is reasonable.
Near Miss, result is 1 or 2 less than TN: The player either only partially achieves the intent, or may achieve it but at a cost or penalty.
Failure, result << TN The player cannot achieve the intent with this approach, and receives a minor penalty. They cannot retry this approach.
Critical Failure! Two 1's on your d8s Regardless of the sum total, this attempt ends in disaster. The intent is not achieved at all, the situation worsens significantly, and the player receives 1 XP.

Examples of common bonuses and complications:
Element Bonus Complication
  • You feel the gentle arms of the angel guiding your mind, and you can cast this spell either with an SP cost discount or with the benefit of healing 2 health points.
  • By taking advantage of a nearby gravity wave, you're able to save 2 hyperium rods and increase the speed of your trip through hyperspace to the Centauri system.
  • You're able to find the key vulnerabilities of this structure and you can demolish it by using only 1-kg package of plastic explosives instead of the 4kg that was expected.
  • You fall while attempting to climb the cliff. Your choice is either to hit the ledge for a hard 2d6 damage, or push off and hope that there is nothing bad in the dark waters below.
  • While the jump to hyperspace goes smoothly, a sudden gravity wave slams into your vessel, overloading the hyperdrive. You have a split-second to decide whether to jettison the fuel or hope you can survive its explosion.
  • While attempting to make a 180 degree drift-turn to avoid the cops, the rubber on your truck's back left tire rips off completely, severely decreasing your speed.
Time The task is much quicker than expected. The task takes far longer than expected.
Items You discover a useful item while accomplishing the task. While working on the task, your tool's battery explodes due to a manufacturing fault, destroying the tool, your materials, and hurting you.
Context While accomplishing the task, a crowd of curious, friendly creatures assembles to watch.
  • You accidentally raise the alarm and are locked out of the computer system.
  • You lose control of the spell, and you can either release it with way too much power or strain yourself for HP damage to keep it under control.

Finally, remember that circumstances are unpredictable and unknowable. Special circumstances could cause changes in difficulty, or problems even on success. It might take experience to learn the effects of Z-particle fields. Try your best out there!

Common skill Target Numbers:

Below are common skill Target Numbers (TNs or DCs). Always remember that a player character with skills and a background can perform their basic skills successfully in normal conditions without needing to roll.
Target Number (TN): Description
8 Simple tasks that aren't guaranteed, such persuading a friend to help move furniture, or running through a dark room without tripping.
10 Standard professional challenge such as shooting a moving target, repairing a damaged engine, or climbing a short rock wall.
12 A difficult project, such as safely landing a space ship on a stormy planet, or embedding a magical rune into a steel shield, or a long jump from one rooftop to another.
14 A dangerous masterwork, such as performing a daring vehicle jump, crafting a sword from demon bones or scaling a rough wall by hand.
16 The ambition of a master. Extracting a confession from a career criminal, landing a helicopter on a small island in a hurricane, or deciphering an alien computer system.
18 Difficult for a master--fighting a dragon, magically turning back time, restoring a broken computer system from a dead civilization in an irradiated haze.
20 A demigod reaching beyond her grasp. Stunning achievements in areas that remain beyond a mortal's control. Super-heroic jumps, persuasion that can change the roots of someone's personality, building a machine that is effectively magical.

Magic and Psionics:

Casting magic and psionic spells is similar to a normal skill check, but with the following differences:
  1. Unless specifically stated otherwise, casting is always dangerous and rolls cannot be skipped.
    • Level 4, 5, and 6 spells are increasingly exponentially dangerous.
    • This is because magic originates in other dimensions that mortals can never fully understand.

  2. To cast, a caster must spend Energy Points (SP) commensurate to the spell's level regardless of outcome.
    • Usually, maximum Energy Points = 5 + your total arcane skill levels. For example, if you have level 2 in Teleportation and level 2 in Necromancy, you would have 5 + 2 + 2 = 9 Energy Points maximum.
    • All casters can regenerate Energy Points at a base rate of 1 per 4 hours of meditation or rest. Casters who have levels in the Meditation skill can regenerate Energy Points equal to their skill level in Meditation per hour of meditation.
    • Particularly successful or unsuccessful castings may provide Energy Point discounts or surcharges.
    • There may be other ways to refresh Energy Points as well, notably via mana potions and pacts with gods and demons. Explore and discover.
  3. Spells cannot be attempted by people without arcane skills.
    • Only those with "the gift" and years of formal arcane training may attempt spells.
    • A small minority of people posess "the gift" and may be aware or unaware of it. They can be identified with use of the Metaphysics skill.
    • People who have "the gift" but are not formally trained risk permanent brain damage or extradimensional posession by attempting to cast.
    • People with the "Caster I" talent are considered to have both the gift AND years of formal training to prevent such outcomes.

  4. Casting magic requires a visible sign.
    • This could be pointing or hand gestures, brandishing of a staff or wand, glowing eyes, or some other visually obvious sign.
    • By default, it is an obvious 1-handed gesture, arm out and palm extended towards the target area.

  5. Some ongoing spells require maintenance of concentration.
    • The typical caster has a maximum concentration of 1.
    • If subjected to any distraction during concentration such as taking damage or vehicle turbulence, a binary Meditation check must be rolled immediately vs. the enemy's attack TN.
    • If the check is failed by any amount, all active concentrations are dropped immediately.
    • By default, the caster must be conscious to maintain concentration.
    • Concentration may also be occupied by non-magical activities such as computer programming, vehicle piloting, intense athletics, etc
    • To end a spell you are concentrating on, you simply stop concentrating (no action cost).

  6. All spells can be cast as rituals, but some spells have a minimum ritual requirement.
    • Ritual means that the casting involves a significant amount of time as well as verbal and gestural actions.
    • Rituals require a clean, quiet and safe workspace.
    • The success chance of rituals may be improved with direct performance of art or music, expenditure of valuable items, prayers to favorable deities, and other factors.
Arcane Spell Levels Energy Point Cost Casting Target Number Chance for success with +X Chance for success with +8
1 1 10 +1: 56% +8: 100%
2 2 12 +2: 44% +8: 95%
3 3 14 +3: 33% +8: 84%
4 4 16 +4: 23% +8: 67%
5 5 18 +5: 16% +8: 44%
6 6 10 +6: 9% +8: 23%