Stat Tests can be considered the Active Use of Character Stats to overcome environmental obstacles, problem solve, or push forward narrative actions. Sometimes referred to as “rolling vs a stat”, a successful stat test is ALWAYS one where the sum total of the roll is greater than 20.
To determine the sum total of a Stat Test roll 1d20 and add the value of the particular character stat requested/required, then apply any Advantage (+) or Disadvantage (-) modifiers to the outcome.
|1d20 + Stat + Advantage – Disadvantage||Outcome|
A natural roll of 1 on the d20 is always a failure, even when the sum total is greater than 20 (due to high stat values combined with advantage modifiers). In some cases GMs may want to treat this as a “critical failure” and apply further negative consequences.
A natural roll of 20 on the d20 is always a success, even when the sum total is less than or equal to 20 (due to low stat values combined with disadvantage modifiers). In some cases GMs may want to treat this as a “critical success” and apply further positive outcomes. However, in instances where a natural 20 is the ONLY chance of success this should never be considered a “critical success”.
Failure of stat test does not always have to mean a failure to progress or achieve the task at hand, it may simply result in significant setbacks or consequences being applied to that progress. This is at the GMs discretion, with the severity of the consequence possibly scaling by the magnitude of the failure (i.e. how much lower than 20 the sum total was).
Example: Braking the chains holding a captured prisoner may be a required narrative element or be redundant as a simple pass or fail (if the player has effectively unlimited time spend on attempts to break the chains and could just keep rolling). Therefore, in order to keep the narrative moving, the GM allows the character to use his axe to break the chains, regardless of passing or failing his strength test. However, on a minor failure causing damage to the axe or on a major failure inflicting some amount of damage to the prisoners wrists.
Stat tests may be required by a particular skill or can be requested at the discretion of the GM as required by the task at hand. However as a guideline, stat tests should only be used if the task is difficult enough to warrant a chance of failure and/or where failure would result in a tangible consequence.
Example: walking through a field with even and level ground would rarely if ever require an Agility test, but climbing up a weathered rope ladder would likely require an Agility test, as the chance of a misstep is possible, and doing so could cause fall damage.
Likewise if a task is completely inappropriate or effectively impossible, as in there is no chance of success on a stat roll (outside of a natural 20), the GM should forgo a stat test all together. This is particularly important to avoid a ridiculous argument at the table that a natural 20 can somehow break the laws of physics.
Example: a human could not, under any normal circumstances, run through the thick stone walls of a castle (though it may be amusing to see them try and take significant collision damage…). Therefore, a successful Strength test would have no effective use and could simply be skipped by the GM.
When stat tests are required in combat they are generally treated as instants, especially if they require some sort of physical action (i.e. a strength test to shove past a barrel that’s blocking a hallway while on the way to attack someone).
In some cases stat tests may involve several consecutive rolls or averaging two or more stats into one roll.
When two individuals are competing against each other to achieve an Active Use of one of their Character Stats, a separate type of stat test called a stat roll-off may be required. A good example of the difference would be a single individual attempting to lift a large rock would require a Strength stat test where as two individuals competing in an arm wrestle would require a Strength stat roll-off. In some instances a stat roll-off might involve each individual using a different stat such as when attempting to tame certain animals.
Regardless of which stats are involved when a stat roll off is required, each of the individuals rolls a D12 and adds that to the stat in question. After advantage and disadvantage modifiers are take into account, individual with the higher number wins the roll-off.
In the event of a tie it is considered a stalemate, which could necessitate another roll depending on the situation. All stat roll-offs are subject to the discretion of the GM as required by the activity at hand. When stat roll-offs are required in combat they are generally treated as instants for the individual that started the process requiring the roll-off, especially if they require some sort of physical action (i.e. a strength roll-off to wrestle past an enemy that is blocking a hallway while on the way to attack someone else).
Some Examples of Possible Stat Roll-Off Scenarios
|Strength vs Strength||arm wrestle, wrestling match, actively attempting to prevent someone from getting by you|
|Strength vs Stamina||trying to forcibly move someone that refuses to move|
|Charm vs Wisdom||trying to sweet talk a noblewoman into leaving the bar with you so that you can rob her blind in the back alley|
|Stamina vs Stamina||a long distance foot race between two individuals with relatively equal movement stats|
|Intellect vs Intellect||a battle of wits, a riddle contest (though something like this could also just be facilitated through role playing elements set out by the GM)|
|Avoidance vs Perception||a non stealthy trying to sneak past a guard while his back is turned|
|Initiative vs Initiative||a test of reflexes (such as with a Ward-off)|
|various vs Resolve||intimidation and/or persuasion|
As with stat tests, if a GM decides that a particular contest is so one sided as to not be worth even rolling (i.e. a Giant arm wrestling a Halfling) they may simply determine an appropriate outcome.
Advantage and Disadvantage
Stat rolls are assumed to represent attempting to do something under normal conditions and are therefore unmodified. However, in some situations a GM may decide that a particular activity requiring a stat test or stat roll-off is more or less difficult than normal. In these cases GMs may assign advantage (less difficult) or disadvantage (more difficult) to the dice rolls at their discretion, such as “you’re nursing a serious hangover so I’m going to give you -3 disadvantage on the agility test to jump from one moving wagon to another”. This could also be denoted by a particular skill or ability, such as “cause X effect if passing an agility test, with +1 Advantage per rank of the skill”.
GMs may also wish to grant advantage as a means of rewarding a particularly clever or creative approach to a problem, such as character describing in detail how thoroughly they searched the room for hidden treasures. Conversely, disadvantage could be used as a means of penalizing a poorly thought-out plan or as a subtle nudge that maybe a different approach would bear better results.
Regardless of applying to a stat test or a stat roll-off, advantage is always added to a dice roll and disadvantage is always subtracted from a dice roll.
- Stat tests: advantage or disadvantage is applied as a direct modifier to the d20 dice roll (i.e. a -2 Disadvantage for a Wisdom test result in a stat roll of 1d20-2+Wisdom)
- Stat Roll-offs: advantage or disadvantage is applied as a direct modifier to the d12 dice rolls, but as a separate modifier calculated for each participant (i.e. +1 Advantage for an Initiative vs Initiative stat roll-off, results in the instigator of the stat-roll off receiving 1d12+1+Initiative while the non-instigator would receive only 1d12+Initiative)
In cases where there is both advantage and disadvantage applied from different sources, a quick calculation can be used to determine the overall modifier, where advantage minus disadvantage equals the total modifier.
Example: A rope ladder slick with rain water imposes -2 disadvantage to a players agility test to climb it during a storm, however the player has magical gloves of climbing that grant +1 advantage to climbing rolls, therefore the net modifier would be -1 disadvantage).
Outside of stat rolls, there may be times where the terminology of advantage or disadvantage is used. If their is ever confusion over how to apply advantage and/or disadvantage, simply remember that advantage ALWAYS makes the chances of success MORE likely, while is disadvantage ALWAYS makes the chance of success LESS likely.
The amount of advantage or disadvantage applied is at the GMs discretion, however when constructing a campaign the table below can provide a general guideline. It can also be used to convert from other gaming systems such as 5E SRD.
|Very Easy||+10 Advantage|
|Very Hard||-15 Disadvantage|
|Nearly Impossible||-20 Disadvantage|
Note: If converting from 5E SRD, use a conversion of: 10 – DC = RoS +/-
Advantage and disadvantage modifiers are a very useful tool for GMs to improvise when the rule set simply can’t address every circumstance that might occur in an adventure. However, when used in an improvisational manner, GMs should typically only grant between 1 and 3 points of advantage or disadvantage, and certainly rarely higher than 5. GMs that go beyond these limits too frequently may leave players feeling as though their stats, and their decisions, don’t really matter.
Example: Climbing a rope would normally require a character to pass an agility test. However if an unexpected rain storm has made that rope slick, the GM may decide that this is more difficult than normal, and therefore apply -3 disadvantage to the Stat roll. Likewise if someone has tied knots in the rope to make it easier to climb the GM might choose to apply +2 advantage to the roll.
Additional caution should be exercised when using advantage and disadvantage to indicate a leaning one way or the other during a stat roll-off, as the stat difference between the two characters involved is already taking into account a measure of advantage and disadvantage. Advantage and disadvantage may however still be appropriate to use in a stat roll-off if there is a difference in the size of the participants (see Creature Sizes).
Example: If two human barbarians are having a wrestling match, and one is obviously more muscular, this theoretically should already be taken into account by the relative difference in their Strength stats, therefore no advantage or disadvantage is required. However if the same human barbarian is wrestling an ogre, the human may be given -2 disadvantage due to the size difference.
Assisted Stat Tests
At times a character may find a particular task is beyond their ability to complete, or so unlikely as to not be worth the risk of failure. In cases such as this, players may choose to work together, with one or more player character assisting the character that is attempting the stat roll. The GM can deicide whether or not this is appropriate in any given situation. For example, it would be appropriate to allow a second character to assist with a strength test for pushing open a heavy door. However, if their was a complex latching mechanism on that door which required agile hand movements to open, it would be unlikely that a second set of hands would make the required agility test any easier.
When a valid assisted stat test is taken:
- add half of the assisting characters stat (rounded down) as advantage to the character who is leading the effort.
Example: A minotaur (with strength 15) and an halfling (with strength 10) are attempting to get through a heavy door built by giants. Though the latch is simple enough, it is 10 feet up and only the Minotaur can reach it. So he attempts to open the latch and then push on the door. Because the door is so heavy the GM decides to apply -5 Disadvantage to the minotaur’s strength test. He rolls a 10, which normally would be sufficient (10+15=25 > 20), but due to the disadvantage this results in a failure(9+15-5=20 <= 20). Trying a second time the halfling puts his back into it as well, granting 1/2 of his 10 strength as advantage. This +5 advantage effectively cancels out the -5 disadvantage, and the minotaur this time rolls a 9. With the halflings help (9+15+5-5=24 > 20) they are able to open the door, and for the rest of the campaign the halfling can now freely mock his minotaur friend for not being able to open doors without him.