Challenges

Overview

Challenges are a way for the GM to have the players solve problems that are not essentially combat-based. There are three major types of challenges: Exploration, Interaction, and Information.

These challenges mostly exist when you don't want to take a lot of individual detail about a given challenge. An Exploration challenge, for instance, doesn't involve a direct map of the region being explored, it just posits in broad terms whether or not the party gets from Point A to Point B, and what might happen to them along the way.

All challenges involve a character's Skills. The players must use their skills to "beat" the challenge by gaining enough Victories, as a party, to beat the challenge's Victory Threshold (typically, one victory per character). Gaining a Victory involves rolling a your skill against the challenge's Difficulty.

The challenge can also lower the character's point total, by achieving its own Victories. When a character fails to get a Victory, the challenge gains a chance to achieve its own Victory, by rolling its own "attack" against what the player just rolled. If it achieves victory, it lowers the party's Victories by one. If the party's score drops below 0, you fail the challenge.

Your Skills And Skill Abilities

Every job has three skills: Exploration, Social, and Knowledge. Every skill check is 1d20 + your level + a stat. On the job's page, it will list the stat that modifies your roll, while you are that job. For instance, Thieves add Agility to their Explore skill checks, but Machinists add Intelligence to their Explore skill checks.

A job may also have a Skill Ability (or two, or three…), which is an ability you use INSTEAD of rolling a die. You can use each ability once per appropriate challenge, so a thief with Dash can use that ability once in a given Explore challenge. The ability has its effect automatically, and replaces your roll.

Rise and Fall as a Party

In general, the entire party is in the same bucket. FFZ assumes that you're not going to leave friends behind, and that you want to keep the group together, so the challenge is against all party members, all at once. Victories one character makes count toward the entire party's victories, and if one character fails, the entire party will fail.

Levels of Complexity

Most challenges involve trying to achieve one Victory for each character, with the challenge ending if the challenge scores a Victory on every character. More complex challenges may require two or three Victories per character, but the chances of succeeding in these challenges drops dramatically.

Challenge or Check?

A skill check can be used for fairly simple, binary solutions, questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no." A challenge involves more drama and variation, where you might totally succeed, or you might totally fail, or the result might be somewhere in between.

You can use checks with skills, or with stats.

  • Vigor can be used for tests of strength or power, such as making a long jump or prying open a prison cell's bars.
  • Agility can be used for tests of speed, accuracy, or dexterity, such as hitting a distant target, or sprinting beneath a falling gate.
  • Vitality can be used for tests of endurance or stamina, such as surviving without water in the desert, or throwing off an illness.
  • Intelligence can be used for tests of knowledge or logic, such as figuring out a riddle or remembering a bit of lore.
  • Mind can be used for tests of willpower or perception, such as noticing that the duke is nervous, or resisting an attempt to change your opinion.
  • Spirit can be used for tests of charisma and luck, such as flirting with a barmaid, or betting on a coin toss.
  • The Exploration skill can be used to figure out what lies ahead of you, in any given direction. It can tell you that down the left-hand passage, it looks cool and moist, like frogs and amphibians might live there, giving you a hint as to what might be down there.
  • The Social skill can be used to figure out what an NPC's reaction might be to your action. It can tell you that the duke will respond well to flattery, while the barmaid is only interested in coin.
  • The Knowledge skill can be used to hint at what a hidden thing may be. It can tell you that the True Name of the Demon Xagrath was last known by the Mad Prisoner of the Sky Tower, or that the secret that the constable is hiding is something she feels guilty about.

Challenge Types

Exploration

Most of the time, getting from Point A to Point B isn't much of a challenge — there are roads, and paths, and people you can ask for directions along the way. However, when exploring the trackless wilderness, adventuring into regions where there's monsters, or when delving into troublesome dungeons, exploration can become risky. It's in these situations — where the exploration is dangerous — that the GM may call an Exploration Challenge.

An Exploration Challenge uses the party's Explore skills to beat the Challenge Score of the region. As the party explores, the region fights back by whittling away their resources, exposing them to dangers, and being generally difficult to deal with. If the party succumbs to the wilderness, the challenge is failed, and the party won't be able to reach Point B in this way again. If the challenge is succeeded, the party is able to cross.

Maps

Maps are largely unncessary if dealing with exploration entirely via Exploration Challenges. However, they can be fun in and of themselves. Maps generally come in two types: wilderness and dungeon. Wilderness maps enable movement in any direction, and each region of wilderness is uncovered as the party explores it. Dungeon maps are more limited, generally passages stretching between decision points. When using maps, you may want to include a party's Explore skills to give them advice or information about their exploration: you may hint at what lies down one passageway, or enable them to learn information about the wildlife they pass through in the wilderness.

Interaction

Dealing with NPC's in general is a simple matter of exchanging dialog — one character says one things, and another character responds. However, when dealing with conniving politicians, or when trying to convince a reticent character, or when slyly talking one's way out of becoming goblin stew, there might be a chance to fail, and consequences to experience. In these situations — when there is a clear winner and loser in conversations — a GM might call an Interaction Challenge.

An Interaction Challenge uses the party's Social skills to beat the Challenge Score of the given situation. As the party wheels, deals, talks, and charms, the NPC group might do the same thing, whittling away at the reputation of the party and generally making them unable to accomplish anything. If the party cannot successfully deal with the NPCs, the challenge is failed, and the party won't be able to deal with those NPCs successfully in this way again. If the challenge is succeeded, the NPC group agrees with the party, and the party gets the group to go along with the plan, at least this time.

Dialog

If you don't just want to talk it out in-character, and the Interaction Challenge is too abstract for you, you may consider dialog as a series of branching decisions. Give the party a few options to choose from, let them come to a decision (perhaps using Interaction skills to advise them on the possible consequences of their actions), and choose one, going forward with that answer.

Information

Characters generally notice the obvious. The GM simply describes what your characters see, taste, touch, and you describe how your characters react: drawing weapons when enemies approach, or eating that aromatic pie cooling in the window. Sometimes, however, things may be hidden from one side or the other, or the party may need to learn information with bits and pieces at a time, piecing together a mystery. In these situations — when there is hidden information, or when the party needs to piece together clues — a GM may call an Information challenge.

An Information Challenge uses the party's Knowledge skills to beat the Challenge Score of the threat. As the party explores, the information fights back by becoming more obscure, or growing more distant with time. If the party can't piece the clues together or notice enough, the challenge is failed, and the party won't ever discover the information in this way. If the challenge is succeeded, the party gains the knowledge required.

Puzzles

If the Information Challenge is too abstract for you, you may consider posing a puzzle to your players, sing the Knowledge skills to grant hints about the solution to the puzzle. The puzzle need not be actually related to the exact in-world mystery: the GM can present the players a Hangman puzzle, for instance, to represent trying to find a killer before he strikes again, with each "correct letter" yielding some information for the party that might help them stop the killer.

Example Challenge

The GM has a party of six characters running through a danger-laden abandoned mine. The party approaches a room with a hazard: the room is full of poison gas. The party may be able to navigate through the room, but the risk to their lives is very real. As the party enters the room, the GM describes it, and tells the character with the highest Mind score: "Something doesn't smell right down here. As you sniff the air, you notice that the room is filled with a faint-smelling gas, and it makes you ill as you breathe it in. You realize that the party is pressing into an old shaft, filled with poisonous gas."

The party discusses it a bit, and decides to try to go through the room anyway. The GM calls for an Exploration Challenge to get to the room's exit without dying from inhaling the poisonous gas.

Each character rolls their Explore skill, or uses their Explore ability. Some beat the challenge's Difficulty, others do not. The thief, for instance, hustles quickly to the other end, gaining two Victories with their Dash ability. The soldier and the white mage, meanwhile, simply holds their breath and plunges in. The Black Mage and the Red Mage struggle, however, and fail to gain a Victory.

When they fail, the GM rolls the dice for the challenge, and the challenge beats the rolls of the Black Mage and the Red Mage. The GM describes the round: "The thief simply darts as quickly as possible to the other end, dragging the white mage and the soldier behind her. The black mage and the red mage get lost, however, and start to breathe in some of the poisonous gas. After this round, the party has a total of 2 Victories. You need 6. If you fall below 0, you will fail."

The challenge continues until the party achieves the Victories it needs, or until they they drop below 0 Victories.

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