House Rule: Effort

The neatest thing, conceptually, about effort is that it allows the players a whole lot more agency in their success or failure in an endeavor. Toss a lot of effort at a sticky problem and it becomes a whole lot more manageable. In reality, it often ends up being the source of a fair bit of heartache when the roll goes south anyway. A 1-5 on a task that the player has scrounged situational assets, training, and effort to bring down to a difficulty 2 is still a failure. Particularly on defensive rolls, the concept of 'use effort to avoid damage' frequently turns into 'use effort and still take damage.' Mechanically it works out fairly well (except in combat with defensive rolls) but it can be demoralizing and draining over a long session.

I'm considering, not necessarily in this campaign but possibly in the next, trying out Effort as something you can add after the die is rolled rather than before (implicit in this is that task difficulties would be hidden somewhat more often).

Conceptually, this would seem to bring Effort in line a lot more with the way that it's described. Being able to try just a little harder, push yourself that extra bit, and juuuuust reach the thing you want feels really good to me as a DM from a storytelling perspective. In fact, the way Monte described using effort in the recent blog post on defense  works best if it's an either-or rather than frequently both (frequently enough that a bad streak can make it 'every roll in a combat') .

There are some easy counterarguments, the main one being that this adds quite a bit of power to the players; as in, they would be able to accomplish a whole lot more when they could save pool points on every clear success OR clear failure. Additionally they would succeed more often because they would have those points to spend and 'know' to use them on every edge case. That doesn't bug me a ton on its face; I'm certainly capable of ramping up the peril, consequence for failure, and sheer number of challenges to fit their new power. It is, however, a significant change.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this though. I've given it some thought but I know I'm missing some big potential problems.


  • Our group discussion has hit on a refinement - after the roll you can use one level of effort if you have it to use, and only to success (so, not to damage on an attack). It represents 'stretching the last few inches' to achieve a goal without completely changing the mechanic. We're going to mull it over for another week or so and then consider giving it a try. I'll add on here if we do and what the results are.
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