Skill contests – a damn fine example of play

Hello all! Following up on the description of the new skill system, I thought it best to put together an example tying it all together. If you need a refresher on the mechanics, you can go here first.

Dwyrion the Dwarf (race) is a Foppish Noble (background), and he’s also a Rogue (class). Dwyrion, confident that he can extricate himself from any danger with his intellect and charm, has decided to slip away from his bodyguards and take a stroll through the site of an ancient battle. This has rapidly proved to be a mistake, as almost immediately, he is accosted by a hill tribe that has come to scavenge metal from the corpses of long-dead soldiers. Acutely aware that he can’t fight his way free, Dwyrion decides that the best course of action is to talk his way to safety.

With that, a Skill Contest begins.

Because this is a social challenge, Dwyrion’s relevant attribute is his Presence, which has a score of 1. He, like all heroes, has the basic Skill Action Tenacity. His Foppish Noble background grants him the actions Noble’s Gambit and Do You Know Who I Am? Finally, his Rogue class provides him Always A Contingency. Dwyrion’s running short in Influences, which are used to modify Skill Checks – he only has two Research remaining, no Inventory, and no Contacts.


This is a moderate contest, and so Dwyrion is faced with 1 Obstacle and 2 boosters, in addition to a contest modifier. The modifier is revealed: Repercussions. All of the GM’s actions in this contest will be increased by 1. The Obstacle and its two boosters remain concealed.


To begin the contest, Dwyrion and the GM roll the Tier Die – at the Adventurer Tier, this is 1d6. Dwyrion’s die comes up 4; the GM’s a 5. The Dwarf doesn’t like his odds. Contests are won and lost on their action scores, and even with his high roll on the Tier Die, with the difficulty of the contest being so high, there’s a chance that the Hill Tribe will ignore his pleas and feast on his bones.

The best start our Dwarf can manage now is an Action Score of 7 (combining his roll of 4 with Noble’s Gambit Action Score of 2 and his Presence of 1). Dwyrion acts first, as he’s the one who initiated the contest. He opens with Noble’s Gambit. Dwyrion decides to capitalize on Gambit’s bonus and spend Influence to boost his score even higher; he spends 1 Research Influence (Research may only be spent when playing an Action, and is replenished when taking a Long Rest, to the tune of 2 + Wit), increasing his Action Score to 8.

The GM chooses a response, in this case of the Wrinkle type, which can be played to counter a Skill Attack. The GM’s Action Score is a 10 (5 from the roll, 4 from the Enough Words Wrinkle, and 1 from the Repercussion effect), which is two higher than Dwyrion’s. Because his Gambit is trumped, Dwyrion crosses off the Research he used in his opening, and then loses one additional point. He has no remaining Influence.


The Dwarf begins to sweat. He’s only got one Skill Action that can be used to counter the Wrinkle, his Do You Know Who I Am? Interrupt. Even then, his Action Score is insufficient: combining the Action Score of 8 (4 from his roll, 3 from the Interrupt, and 1 from his Presence Score). Dwyrion plays the Interrupt, resigned to his fate. Though he’s to be killed, cooked, and eaten by the Tribesmen, he’ll at least go to the light knowing that he’s not large enough to feed the whole tribe.


The GM reminds Dwyrion that this is a social contest. The effect of the Interrupt triggers, and Dwyrion is able to re-roll his Tier Die for this challenge. Because he rolls with Advantage, Dwyrion gets to roll a d8, rather than a d6. Dwryion makes a plea to the gods, and then the die is cast. A seven! His new Action Score is 11. (7 from the roll, 3 from the Interrupt, 1 from Presence). The GM’s second booster is unable to counter a Skill Interrupt, and the contest concludes.

Dwyrion the Dwarf is safe, for now.

Skill systems revisited

After taking a hard look at Let Thrones Beware’s skill system, we decided that the roll-under-difficulty system wasn’t sufficient. After all, one of the main features in the game is a break from the roll-to-hit-armour-class that’s so ingrained in the industry. After much contemplation, a new skill system was born!


A Brand New Skill System

The basic mechanic in Let Thrones Beware is the contest. There are two basic types of contest: combat and non-combat. Combat contests are resolved using Combat Maneuvers, and non-combat contests are resolved using Skill Actions. Both types of contest are resolved in similar ways, though each has its own peculiarities.


Resolving non-combat contests
To win a non-combat contest, a player will need an Action Score that is higher than the Action Score of the GM. An Action Score is a combination of the roll of a Tier Die, an attribute score, and a Skill Action. The GM’s Action Score is calculated by adding a Tier Die with an Obstacle Score.

Players have access to three types of Skill Actions: <SkA>, <SkC>, and <SkI>. These actions are roughly analogous to Obstacle, Wrinkle, and Setback actions in the GM’s inventory. At the beginning of a non-combat contest, the initiator (be it player or GM), leads with a SkA (or Obstacle). The second party in the contest may follow by playing a valid response, so long as the action score of the response is higher than the initiator’s action score. At the end of the exchange, the party with the highest Action Score wins the contest. Ties go to the initiator of the contest.



  • An SkA/Obstacle can be countered by an SkC/Wrinkle action, or by an SkI/Setback action.
  • An SkC/Wrinkle action can only be countered by an SkI/Setback action or an SkC/Wrinkle action of a higher tier (e.g. an Adventurer tier SkC may be countered by a Champion tier Wrinkle).
  • An SkI/Setback action can only be countered by a SkI/Setback action of higher tier.


  • Contact – Usable once per Long Rest. Force GM to redraw the last Obstacle. Played when Obstacle revealed. The number of Contacts you can maintain depends on your charisma, and once used, a Contact is exhausted until a long rest ( Presence + 1 ).
  • Inventory – Used once, then discarded. Removes +1 from Obstacle Score. Can be played at any time. Rewards from adventuring, but you can only carry so many ( Strength + 2 ).
  • Research – Used once, then discarded. Adds +1 to Action Score. Must be played on player turn. Regenerated by Wit on Long Rest ( Wit + 2 ).



Resolving combat contests
Combat contests are resolved in a similar way, though there are differences (for example, while fighting we refer to the Action Score as a Force Score to keep things separated cleanly). The principle difference between combat and non-combat contests is that winning a combat contest does not mean the fight is over. Rather, it means that you will inflict some amount of damage on your target. This may be enough to incapacitate your foe, but oftentimes you will need to win several exchanges before the enemy is defeated. Another difference between combat and non-combat contests is that unlike non-combat tests, where it’s usually someone else’s turn after a contest is resolved, in battle, each combatant has several moves which she or he may expend in a row; a character can initiate several contests in a row, or might choose to forgo a contest in order to move to a more advantageous position before or after attacking.


In addition to an Action or Force Score, most Skill Actions and Combat maneuver have attached effects. Effects trigger when the action to which they are attached is used to win a contest. For the most part, only the last action played will trigger effects, but certain keywords will modify this rule (such as Stackable, which triggers an effect whether or not it is attached to the last maneuver played, and Determined, which triggers an effect whether the character won or lost the contest).


Constructive Failure – Losing a contest
Should a a player non-combat contest fail, this doesn’t mean that the player did not accomplish the chosen task. Instead, the task is completed, but some misfortune befalls the instigator. If the same door is being unlocked, it trips an alarm, causing guards to rush to the scene.

Players shouldn’t make more than one check for the same action; it’s no fun to roll 13 times before discovering that the innkeeper holds the only clue to the Black Knight’s true identity.
Should a player lose a combat contest, his or her character will suffer damage as indicated by the adversary’s attack, but the character will remain in the fight until incapacitated at zero hit points.

A bunch of effusive thanks, and an updated Quickplay Adventure

Over the past few weeks, the Quickplay adventure has seen well over a hundred downloads. I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for the support and encouragement. I was expecting a dozen downloads at best, so it’s safe to say that my expectations have been wildly exceeded!

I’ve received a lot of great feedback from the community, and I’ve capitalized upon some excellent observations and suggestions; I’m pleased to announce that I’ve completed a revised version of the Quickplay Adventure that provides clarification for a number of game and setting elements.

With no further adieu, I give you the new adventure: Download the revised version here!

The quickplay has been updated again – the new version is here: Quickplay rev3