Abilities, when is a roll required?

For abilities like "Hack the Impossible" I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be setting a difficulty and requiring a roll or not.  Just reading the ability, you'd think not, but most stuff in the game that affects another person or "thing" requires a roll.  I feel like I read somewhere that if an ability affects the user, no roll is required.  If an ability affects some an outside target, then a roll should be made.

Obviously the complications come when you ask "If Hack the Impossible requires a roll, how is it any different from using hacking as a skill?"

Thoughts?

Comments

  • I tried to look this up in the books I have, hoping to help you but I can't find it.  Where is this ability listed?
  • I have exactly the same difficulty.  Any insights from more experienced Cypher GMs?
  • Found this as part of The Strange (Player's Guide pg 70), under Works The System:
    Tier 1: Hack the Impossible (3 Intellect points). You can persuade automatons, machines, and computers to do your bidding. You can discover an encrypted password, break through security on a website, briefly turn off a machine such as a surveillance camera, or disable an automaton with just a moment’s worth of fiddling. Action.

    Looking at it as if I were the GM, I would interpret this ability as changing the time it takes to perform these 'hacking' actions independently of the difficulty. For example, someone who is Trained in Hacking could make the roll and accomplish it, but it would take them 10-20 minutes worth of time to do so. A PC who has this ability with the same Hacking skill would be able to make that same roll within the space of an action's time. Therefore, in a pinch situation, this ability would let them get out of a security door that slammed shut, or turn off a deadly machine that just switched on, while a PC without would have to work around the time involved to do so.

  • Thanks for the reply ToastyJustice.  I put the question to twitter and received a variety of replies which seem to fall into one of two interpretations -

    1) When a PC uses a special ability, they must pay the point cost specified by the ability but then also make a Task roll as normal with a difficulty specified by the GM or by the enemy level.  The benefit of using the special ability over a normal skill Task roll is that the special ability takes much less time to resolve. (See ToastyJustice's reply above as well as this twitter reply.)

    2) When a PC uses a special ability, they must pay the point cost specified by the ability and the affect simply occurs without the need for a Task roll.  (See this twitter reply and this one.)

    As I've tried to reason through it myself, I've found that option 1) seems to be what the rulebooks point towards.

    Page 189 of the Cypher rulebook states that -
    Every action performs a task, and every task has a difficulty that determines what number a character must reach or surpass with a die roll to succeed.
    This sentiment is repeated on page 190 in the definition of a Task -
    TASK: Any action that a PC attempts. The GM determines the difficulty of the task. In general, a task is something that you do and an action is you performing that task, but in most cases they mean the same thing.
    Hack the Impossible is, itself, defined as an Action (The Strange: Players Guide p.70) -
    Tier 1: Hack the Impossible (3 Intellect points). You can persuade automatons, machines, and computers to do your bidding. You can discover an encrypted password, break through security on a website, briefly turn off a machine such as a surveillance camera, or disable an automaton with just a moment’s worth of fiddling. Action

    So there seems to be an implication that for those Special Abilities that operate as Actions, there ought to be a Task difficulty set (which might be 0).

    I have issues, though, when you try and apply this logic to a Special Ability like Resonance Field (Cypher System rulebook p.32) -

    Resonance Field (1 Intellect point): Faint lines in a color you choose form a tracery over your entire body and emit faint light. The effect lasts for one minute. Whenever a creature within immediate range makes an attack against you, the pattern energizes to block the attack. You can make an Intellect defense roll in place of the defense roll you would normally make. If you do so and you get a minor effect, the creature attacking you takes 1 point of damage. If you get a major effect, the creature attacking you takes 4 points of damage. Action to initiate. 
    How does a GM even go about establishing a difficulty for that Task roll?  Is it simply 0?  

    I do wish there was a little more clarity on this issue but my background in roleplaying is in D&D where there tends to be (some would say constricting) clarity on exactly how many of the rules operate.  

    Your ongoing discussion and help on this issue is greatly appreciated.
  • I've actually used Resonance Field, so let me break that down, starting by looking at how the action is stated:
    Resonance Field (1 Intellect point): … The effect lasts for one minute. … Action to initiate.
    Note that the wording here is different – instead of simply, Action., it clearly specifies that this ability is 'initiated' using an action, and then the effect lasts for one minute after that. The task is simply creating the field, which affects yourself.

    So, except in extraneous circumstances, the task level is 0, because you have the ability to do so. Therefore the task in this step is usually ignored as per the replies in option 2 above. Typically doing something that affects yourself or an ally is trivial, the target is willing so there is no resistance to it that causes the need for a difficulty level.

    Onto the rest of the power, in case that part is not clear in terms of tasks/actions:
    … Whenever a creature within immediate range makes an attack against you, the pattern energizes to block the attack. You can make an Intellect defense roll in place of the defense roll you would normally make. …
    This occurs as a separate event where a creature attacks the PC within immediate range. The task is then that the PC must defend against the attack. Instead of dodging using a speed defense action, the field allows them to block it using an intellect defense action. This task is distinct from the activation, with the difficulty typically set by the creature's attack.

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