In The Dark Eye, you always roll one or more D20s for checks. A check succeeds on any result less than or equal to the associated score. A higher result fails. Exceptions to this core rule are explained where necessary.
Attributes are a hero’s basic foundation and provide a measure of specific characteristics. Each hero has eight attributes: Courage, Sagacity, Intuition, Charisma, Dexterity, Agility, Constitution, and Strength. The first four attributes are the character’s mental attributes; the other four are physical attributes.
The higher the attribute’s value, the better the hero performs with that attribute. At the start of the game, attributes usually range from 8 to 14. However, some heroes might start with values that are lower or higher, and the game offers chances to raise attribute values later on.
The following overview explains the eight attributes in greater detail. Abbreviations for each of the attributes appear in brackets following the attribute’s name.
The Eight Attributes
Courage (COU): Courage is a measure of the hero’s bravery and determination. Higher values represent a greater ability to resist magical spells and liturgical chants, and to stand tall in the face of danger. Courage is also a component of faith, because it makes it possible to believe in that which cannot be seen, despite what others may think or say.
Sagacity (SGC): Sagacity represents general knowledge, the ability to think logically and analytically, and the quality of the hero’s memory.
Intuition (INT): This represents the hero’s hunches and level of empathy, and also shows how well the character can cope with stress and make the right decisions in such situations. Knowing how to guide others is also a function of Intuition.
Charisma (CHA): Charisma includes personal magnetism, charm, and persuasiveness. You can sometimes derive a hero’s physical attractiveness from Charisma, but it is not a specific indicator of good or bad looks. Someone who is not noted for physical appearance can still be thought very attractive, and there are real beauties that seem to have no charisma at all.
Dexterity (DEX): Dexterity measures the nimbleness of a hero’s fingers and overall hand-eye coordination. This attribute reflects how well the character can use lock picks, practice crafts, or shoot a bow.
Agility (AGI): Agility measures the hero’s bodily finesse, reflexes, reaction speed, and flexibility.
Constitution (CON): Constitution represents a hero’s stamina. Higher values grant more life points and greater resistance to poisons and diseases.
Strength (STR): Strength is raw muscle power and how well a character can use muscles to good effect.
You roll attribute checks on 1D20. The score being tested is the specific attribute—a GM can call for a check on Sagacity, to see if a hero remembers a past event, or Courage, to see if the character stays brave in the face of danger. If the result of the roll is less than or equal to the attribute in question, the roll succeeds. Rolling higher than the attribute normally results in failure. Attribute checks are always used when the outcome of a situation is uncertain and no other skill seems appropriate.
Attribute Check Modifiers
Circumstances can make attribute checks more (or less) difficult. In such cases, the GM applies a modifier to the hero’s attribute. This modifier affects one check only. A bonus is indicated by a plus sign (+), while a penalty uses a minus sign (–). A check of Courage +3 means the hero’s Courage temporarily rises by 3 points, while a Sagacity check –5 lowers the character’s Sagacity by 5 points. Remember that these modifiers apply only to the check. A hero does not really grow stronger, braver, or more agile from a positive modifier. The modifier exists only due to circumstances.
Whenever you roll a D20 and get a result of 1, you mustimmediately roll again, to check the attribute in question once more. This second roll, called a confirmation roll, uses the same modifiers as the original check. If you succeed at the confirmation roll, you achieve a critical success. This means that the character performs extraordinarily well. If the confirmation roll fails, you still succeed at the original attribute check, just in a regular way. You may not spend FtP on confirmation rolls! The effects of rolling a critical success are up to the GM. An adventurer trying to kick in a door might succeed in doing so and also knock out the monster waiting behind the door. A hero rolling a critical on a Charisma check might impress a merchant in a bazaar so much that the merchant adds a little present to the purchase. Descriptions of skills, magical spells, and liturgical chants include more examples.
You can just as easily roll a botch, which happens when you roll a natural 20. Just as with a critical success, you must roll a second time against the modified attribute to confirm the botch. However, rolling a success on the confirmation roll means the check simply failed and was not a botch, after all. If you fail the confirmation roll (or even roll another 20, which confirms the botch immediately), the tides turn against you and something terrible happens, as determined by the GM. Rest assured that whatever happens will be worse than just failing the check. The consequences of a botch should not be lethal, but injuries, panic attacks, and embarrassing or even dangerous situations are all acceptable results.
Remember that you cannot use FtP for confirmation rolls!
Attribute Values Below 1
Should the EAV ever drop below 1, you cannot attempt the attribute check in question. Since you cannot roll less than a 1, the hero is simply unable to succeed with the action.
Attribute Values Above 19
Due to certain circumstances, heroes can have EAVs of 20 or more. In such cases, a roll of 20 is still a failure and a potential botch. However, the confirmation roll must be another 20 for a botch to occur. In all other cases the check simply fails.
Attack and Defense
The D20 is also used in combat situations. To attack a foe in close combat, make a check against your hero’s Attackvalue. To attack with bows or throwing knives, make a check against the Ranged Combat value instead. To defend against a close combat attack, roll against either your Parry or Dodge value. Roll these checks just like regular checks; you succeed on rolls less than or equal to the value in question. All rules in this chapter regarding checks (bonuses, penalties, criticals, botches, and so on) apply to attack and defense rolls, too.
Attributes are the basic measure of heroes, and skills represent their learned abilities. Characters with magical powers also learn spells and rituals, and Blessed Ones learn liturgical chants to harness and focus divine powers. These skills rely not only on attributes, but also on a hero’s personal experiences. To represent this, every skill has a value of its own that measures the character’s finesse with that skill and also helps determine the Quality Level (QL) of a successful skill check. The higher the hero’s skill value, the better the hero is at that skill.
A skill check consists of three linked attribute checks. All of the above rules for checks apply, but there are additions and exceptions, as follows.
- Every skill, spell, or liturgical chant is linked to three attributes. The hero must make a check against each of these attributes. The player can roll these checks in any order, or can make all three checks at once using 3D20 (but each die must be clearly assigned toone of the three attributes).
- Each part of a skill check is an attribute check, and the rules for attribute checks apply. If an EAV ever falls below 1, success is impossible.
- When making skill checks, the player has a pool of skill points (SP), equal to the skill rating (SR) of the skill in question, which can be spent to adjust failed die rolls into successes. Leftover SP determine the QL or degree of success. For example, if the second EAV in a skill check is 12 and the player rolls a 14, the player can spend two SP to reduce the roll to a 12, making it a success.
- Once spent, SP are no longer available to adjust other rolls for that specific skill check. A hero with SR 10 starts with 10 SP. If 6 SP are spent to pass the first roll, only 4 points are left to adjust the remaining two rolls. Spent SP are not lost forever. When characters use those skills later during the adventure, they get their full amount of SP again.
- Normally it does not matter how low a player rolls during a skill check, as success is reward enough. The only exception to this rule is the critical success, which is determined differently than a critical success for a regular attribute check.
- If you run out of SP while making a skill check and cannot adjust one or more rolls into a success, you fail the skill check.
- It doesn’t matter if you spend all SP or are able to save some—if all of your rolls pass, the skill check is successful. However, the more SP you can save, the higher your QL, and therefore the better the result.
A skill check is more than just success or failure. It is very important to know how many skill points (SP) you have left after a check. The more SP the hero can keep, the better the result of the skill check.
The number of SP left over from a successful skill check determines the Quality Level (QL) of the success. This shows at a glance how well the hero succeeds. Depending on the situation, QL can influence subsequent actions and checks. For spells and liturgical chants, for example, a higher QL might change the magical/divine effect, thus making it stronger or persist longer, and so on. The Quality Levels chart shows the relationship between leftover SP and QL.
Succeeding At a Check With 0 SP Remaining
As the chart indicates, a success always has at least a QL of 1, even if no SP remain. This is important mostly for two things—potential modifiers for subsequent skill checks related to this success, and cumulative checks, which are explained below.
As with attribute checks, skill checks can have modifiers. A rock face can offer handholds of alternating good and bad quality, a well-known plant might be easier to identify, and crafting a weapon from various magical metals can be a tough challenge even for a skilled blacksmith. Penalties and bonuses apply to all three rolls of a skill check. A bonus raises all linked EAVs by the amount of the bonus, while a penalty lowers all three by the amount of the penalty. If any linked attribute drops below 1 as a result of a penalty, the skill check fails automatically. Modifiers can apply to any skill check, as well as checksfor spells and liturgical chants.
Just as with attributes, skill checks can result in a critical success. However, a skill check achieves a critical success only if you roll 1s on at least two of the three dice rolls. This is called a double-1, and not only does it override a failure of the remaining roll, it means you achieve a better than normal success. Specific effects depend on the check and the circumstances, and the GM decides exactly what happens. For example, a critical success on a Streetwise (Asking Around) check could lead the hero to an important clue, while a critical success with a Climbing (Mountains) check could mean the hero masters the rock face in half the expected time. Rolling a triple-1 results in an automatic success with
spectacular results. The hero’s action is the talk of the town, and people remember it years later. It might even be this triple-1 roll that sets the hero on the path to greater fame and glory.
Of course, you can instead botch a skill check, by rolling a double-20. This results in an automatic failure with some nasty side effect. For example, a hero trying to use Streetwise (Asking Around) could end up in an ambush, or a character trying to climb that infamous rock face could slip and sprain an ankle. If you roll a triple-20, well… add that to the list of things you want to avoid by any means. The side effects of this automatic failure are disastrous, such as, for example, starting to glow brightly and stink after botching an invisibility spell. The GM decides the outcome, but it should make the hero’s life pretty difficult or perhaps even more dangerous.
Skill Starting Values
Skills are either active or inactive. Active skills have a skill rating of at least 0. Characters cannot make checks with inactive skills. To change an inactive skill into an active skill, you must spend adventure points to raise the skill rating to 0 or higher. Normally, all mundane skills start out active, and all spells, rituals, liturgical chants, and ceremonies start inactive, but this depends on the hero’s profession package.
The simple check is a regular skill check as explained in the rules above. The outcome of this check depends on whether the hero succeeds at the check. If the hero succeeds, the leftover SP determine the QL
Retry: The GM decides whether the hero may try again. If so, each attempt suffers a cumulative –1 penalty. The GM also decides how many attempts the hero may make. However, if one of the linked attributes drops to an EAV of less than 1, the action fails and the hero gets no more chances to attempt the task at hand. Furthermore, this penalty lasts for 24 hours. After that time, the hero can start fresh and make another attempt at the action without penalty (for the first roll, at least).
Success: The hero succeeds, and the leftover SP (if any) determine the QL.
Failure: The task at hand is not accomplished.
Critical: A critical can have various effects, depending on the skill. See the specific skill description for examples.
Botch: A botch results in various mishaps, depending on the skill. See the specific skill description for examples.
How this is written: Check on Skill (Application); for example, make a check on Body Control (Jumping).
The competitive check allows you to compare two contestants, and the one with the higher QL wins the check. In case of a tie, the task either remains undecided or else victory goes to the passive contestant (if there isone). The passive contestant is always the one reacting to an action, such as city guards who might notice a hero trying to sneak behind their backs, or a hero who might sense that a trickster is telling lies. Compare the QL of the two contestants and subtract the lower level from the higher to determine the final QL of the check. Modifiers apply in the same way as with simple checks. It is possible for contestants to have different modifiers.
Retry: not applicable
Success: Compare the QL of the contestants; the highest QL wins the check. Ties lead to either an unresolved situation or victory for the passive contestant.
Failure: The task at hand is not accomplished, and the passive side wins. If both contestants fail, the passive side still wins, but only barely (as if succeeding with QL 1).
Critical: Win the contest automatically, regardless of any success or failure by the other side. However, if both sidesroll critical successes, the situation remains unresolved.
Botch: A botch means an automatic failure for the botching side, unless both contestants botch, which again leads to an unresolved situation.
How it is written: Competitive check on Skill (Application) vs. Skill (Application); for example, a competitive check on Stealth (Hiding) vs. Perception (Spot).
Sometimes it takes a certain amount of time and more than one skill check to accomplish a task. In such cases, the GM calls for a cumulative check. This consists of multiple skill checks of the same kind, wherein the hero must accumulate a total of 10 QL in order to accomplish the task at hand. Along the way, the hero can achieve a partial success by collecting 6 QL. This partial success helps the hero but doesn’t ultimately accomplish the given task.
The GM decides how many checks must be made, how long the entire task will take to accomplish, and how much time must pass between individual skill checks (called the check interval). These intervals can be defined as actions, combat rounds, minutes, hours, days, or even weeks, depending on the task.
If the hero is unable to collect the necessary 10 QL after making all permitted skill checks, the skill attempt fails. Some skills list prerequisites for attempting cumulative checks and, of course, modifiers may apply (if so, they apply to all the individual checks comprising the cumulative check). Note, however, that modifiers may change if the overall situation changes in the time between any two skill checks, such as if you lose important tools or acquire better ones.
There are some situations in which you can pause cumulative checks and continue them at a later time (such as when building a house, studying a magical tome, and so on). The GM decides whether this is possible. In addition, the hero might need to collect QL by using different skills. A hero who wants to forge a new spear, for example, might need to use the skills Woodworking and Metalworking, since the weapon consists of both materials. In these cases, the hero must accumulate a number of QL (though not necessarily the same
number) for each skill. Only after collecting all QL for all skills is the task—in this example, forging a spear—accomplished. The hero can choose which skill to use for each roll. The GM has the final say as to which skills you need to accomplish a certain task. Sometimes you must combine many skills to create special objects like magical artifacts or holy items, or to perform certain skills, spells, and liturgical chants.
Subsequent Roll: A failed skill check imposes a –1 penalty to the next skill check and still counts toward the total number of checks possible. Penalties are cumulative and modify all successive skill checks until the cumulative check is finished.
Failure: You do not gain a QL in the individual skill check. If you fail to collect the requisite number of QL by the end of the cumulative check, you are unable to accomplish the task.
Critical: Gain twice the QL normally awarded by the skill check. Remove all penalties accumulated so far due to failed checks.
Botch: The cumulative check fails, and all collected QL is lost. The hero must start over.
How it is written: Skill (Application), time between rolls, as in Metalworking (Goldsmith), 4 hours
Some challenges are beyond the abilities of a single hero. Instead, a group of heroes must work together to achieve certain goals, such as performing an extreme feat of strength pushing aside a huge stone or breaking down a massive door, or researching something in a library, or rowing a dinghy. When several heroes use skills to work together, the procedure is called a group check. Group checks can be competitive or cumulative checks,
but never simple checks. In group checks, add up the combined QL of all participating characters. Not all tasks can benefit from an infinite number of characters, so the GM sets the maximum number of heroes who can participate. All rules for individual skill checks apply, including modifiers, criticals, and botches. If any of the participating heroes’ players botch a roll, the group discards all QL collected thus far, and all participating characters share the side effects of the botch.
Core Rule page 17