Sunday, August 14, 2016

S&W WhiteBox House Rules (4): Attribute Tests

This is the fourth in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with Attribute Tests. Cheers!

Attribute Tests: The test roll I use is based on the "roll 2d6" NPC reaction table found on page 12 of Men & Magic. Rolling 2d6 for general tests or checks has been a commonly used house rule for ages. For my games, I simply wanted to make use of the attribute modifiers to place increased importance upon attribute scores during character creation and game play.

Pardon the digression ... My first exposure to roll 2d6 was actually through Holmes Basic (page 11) and Moldvay Basic (pages B21 and B24) circa 1981, as I did not discover original D&D until later in my gaming travels. At any rate, plenty of folks smarter than I have talked about 2d6 rolls in detail from many different perspectives, including P_Armstrong here (way back in 2009), Delta here, JDJarvis here, Peter Fröhlich here, Eric Diaz here, and JB here. JB references my (rather silly and not very serious) thoughts on the matter, which are found here.

There you go. Probably more than you ever wanted to read about 2d6 rolls. Now on to the attribute show...

An “attribute test” is a dice roll influenced by one of a character’s six attributes: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, or Charisma. The Referee determines when a character makes an attribute test, and which attribute applies (use common sense). Sometimes the Referee rolls the test secretly—when the outcome of a situation isn’t immediately obvious to the character, for example—but most often the player rolls the test.

To make an attribute test, roll 2d6 and add the character’s appropriate attribute modifier. The higher the result, the better the character performs the action. The Referee looks up the result on a test resolution table applicable to the test. For extremely risky or outrageous—but possibly achievable—actions, the Referee might want to penalize the test by -1 or -2 to reduce the odds of success.

The Referee should call for an attribute test only when there is a need to resolve the outcome of an important action or situation involving a character that is not already explicitly covered by the rules. An easily achievable or plainly impossible action doesn’t warrant an attribute test—just decide what happens, logically, based on the circumstances, and inform the player of the result.

Table 32: Generic Attribute Tests
2d6 +/- Modifier
2 or less
Catastrophic Failure. Character fails so badly that a -1 penalty applies to the next attribute test made that day.
Failure. Character fails or is otherwise thwarted, stymied, hindered, or prevented from performing the task.
Uncertain Success. Character thinks he succeeds—doubtfully confident, if you will. Referee rolls 1d6 in secret: 1-2 = failure, 3-6 = success. Alternatively, the character succeeds, but with some mitigating factor applied by the Referee.
Success. Character succeeds at the task.
12 or more
Exceptional Success. Character succeeds so greatly that a +1 bonus applies to the next attribute test made that day.

I also use attribute tests for learning spells, casting spells off of scrolls, and a few other situations. I will detail these specific tests in future posts. My house-ruled wizard's Arcane Study class ability also employs an attribute test (discussed here).