Difficulty Values (DV’s)

The odds against the character’s success in any task he wishes to accomplish using his natural attributes, skills, or trade abilities are represented by a Difficulty Value (DV). The GM determines these, according to the situation, the measure of any particular obstacles that may exist, the prevailing light and or weather conditions and the nature of the activities or skills used, as follows.

The base DV’s for all of the more common uses of all the formal skills and trade abilities included in the game can be found in the “GM’s Notes” in the descriptions of the trades and skills. The passages in which the information concerning them can be found contain the tag “DV” in the first couple lines, picked out in bold-faced type.

Many DV’s with which the GM must deal are fairly straightforward, easily determined, and common enough in usage that the GM may soon simply remember the information on which they are based, and the method for determining them. These act as signposts to tell the GM the manner in which DV’s should be determined for less common situations, at need. Like anything else, the more the GM has to do it, the easier it becomes to determine.

In many cases, especially where two skills are interacting, the character or NPC providing the resistance, force or action attempting to thwart the task undertaken provides a DV simply equal to his AV with that skill. This is particularly true for Contested Rolls, as follows, which are designed to take a closer look at such situations and resolve them in a little more detail.


General DV’s

While many of the DV’s for the uses of skills and abilities are defined in their descriptions, sometimes the difficulty a character is facing in the task he wishes to attempt might not be so clear-cut or easily determined. When the GM does not have a simple solution already in hand for a DV, when the application of the skill, attribute, or ability is a little unorthodox or unexpected, as only the GM can discover for himself through play, a basic frame of reference is needed.

For this purpose, a general “Degree of Difficulty” scale at right is used. The titles for the degrees are handy benchmarks against which the task at hand can be compared. How difficult should the task in question be for the character? Easy? Moderately challenging? Fairly difficult? Complicated? Or very nearly impossible? If it is a “Piece of Cake” the GM should consider whether he should require a roll of the dice at all, simply allow the character to succeed while the GM marks down his SP.

These benchmarks should give the GM an idea of the order of magnitude in which the DV should fall, once he has decided which of these benchmarks best suits the task at hand. The range of numbers is easy enough for the GM to use. The GM can roll a d10 or d20 (as applicable) in any category if he likes.

General “Degrees of Difficulty” for DV’s

Degree Base DV Relative DV’s
A Snap/Piece of Cake 1 – 7 up to (AV ÷ 2)
Easy/Elementary 8 – 15 from (AV ÷ 2) to (AV)
Moderate/Routine 16 – 31 from (AV ÷ 2) to (AV x 2)
Challenging 32 – 47 from (AV x 2) to (AV x 3)
Formidable/Intricate 48 – 63 from (AV x 3) to (AV x 4)
Impossible 64+ from (AV x 4) to (AV x 5)+


Alternately, when the GM wants to make sure the challenge is commensurate with the character’s ability (AV), he can use the same labels and come up with a means to generate a DV that serve his needs for a fair challenge in the “Relative DV’s” column. These are based on the character’s own AV, as indicated, so the DV is properly and proportionately balanced against the character’s own ability.

Either way, when it comes to determining how sheer the cliff face is for the Climber, how well hidden the trap is for the Knave to find, how intricate the trap is for the Artificer to disarm, or how complex the lock is for the Roberdsman-Knave to pick, this is a good framework for determining the DV’s.

In all of the examples cited above, the DV represents a static physical challenge at a specific location. Once the DV value for such a thing has been determined, it should retain that value on later occasions if the PC’s should come through and have to deal with it again. This is especially true of things such as traps one may find in an ancient tomb. The PC’s may have a reason to return and when they do, the dangers they encountered first are most likely going to be in the same state they were left, their DV’s unchanged, traps disabled, locks open, etc., unless the place is tended by someone or something that wants to make sure that the defenses remain in play or return to play as soon as possible. It may well be that the PC’s SL’s and AV’s have improved in the time lapsed between encounters with the obstacle, in which case the task of over-coming it becomes easier as a natural benefit of that increase.

Of course, in a site that is being occupied and maintained, when the NPC who put the obstacle there discovers that his protection has been violated, his deterrent overcome, the GM is more than justified in increasing the DV if the NPC has the means or resources to put a stronger protection or deterrent in place. It may well be that the original obstacle gets modified in some way, or added to.

Levels of Potence

For the purposes of comparing the relative effectiveness of certain obstacles the characters encounter during the game, or things they may create through the use of their own skills, a series of progressive numerical ratings is used called Levels of Potence, or simply Potence (POT). Potence is a numerical rating that measures the literal potency of such substances as alcohol (beer, wine, etc.), poisons, naturally occurring venoms, combustibles or corrosives, or the concentration, deadliness, and virulence of diseases, even the strength of the bond a glue creates. POT is also used to indicate the Level of Complexity (still commonly referred to as Potence) of any device such as a lock or trap, or other Artificer or Mechanician’s “machine” (machine being used here in the medieval sense of ANY mechanical tool or device), and also the strength of a magick (in which case POT is counted in “points”).

It is also used to indicate the magnitude of damage of a wound inflicted in battle, or the damage potential of a blow launched in battle if the optional BP rules are in play.

When a character tries his skills against one of these things, the Potence which he chooses to create or that against which he is working, especially in the cases of locks and traps, combustibles, corrosives, distilling alcohols, concocting poisons, magickal dweomers, and so on as an Alchemist, the Potence becomes the base DV with which the thing can either be created or disabled/destroyed. Of course, other factors likely apply, usually according to the size or number of functions of a machine, the amount of a substance made, etc., as described in the applicable skill’s description.

DV Modifiers

The GM is very likely to have to deal with the characters when they are operating under less than optimum conditions fairly often in the game. Arranging such circumstances to make the events of the game more interesting and challenging is part of his job as GM, after all. When facing difficult circumstances, the characters chances for success at the tasks they attempt are going be impaired. When trying to determine whether to adjust the AV or the DV to reflect these circumstances, the GM needs only one basic rule of thumb: modifiers to a character’s AV’s are applied only when the GM determines that the character is in such a state that his own native ability to perform is impaired (wounded, exhausted, drunk, drugged, etc.); modifiers to the DV are applied when the external factors, the surrounding environmental circumstances, are such that they make the task more difficult to accomplish.

General DV Modifiers

Defending during the attempt

+1/2 DV **

Struck during the attempt

– (STR of foe)

Action attempted in rain or icy, oily, or other slippery conditions

+1/4 DV (rain), +1/2 DV (ice)

Maximum care and extra time is devoted to the attempted action

up to -1/2 DV for up to double the time required spent in the attempt

All the modifiers are cumulative. If a character is Fatigued, forced to use his off-hand and Seriously Wounded simultaneously, ALL those penalties apply. As the AV is primarily the player’s responsibility, it is the player who is expected to adjust his character’s AV’s to reflect the current state of his health and his physical reserves of energy. The GM is very likely require the AV be adjusted and the d100 check be made again if the player should forget or ignore this responsibility.

A character may be defending himself while riding on horseback and attempting his skill, and all those factors will need to be accounted for in the DV, as well. DV’s are the responsibility of the GM, so he will have to get used to taking just a moment to check the modifiers to see what applies, if anything before proceeding with determining the chance of success and rolling the dice.

“Progressive” Bases for AV’s, DV’s and Modifiers

The term “Progressive” is used in a number of instances throughout the text in reference to the basis or modifier for either an AV OR a DV. These are based on the number of points of difference in some thing on which it is based, per point of that difference, so that it is only 1 for the first point, but 3 for the second (1 + 2), 6 for the third (1 + 2 + 3), 10 for the fourth (1 + 2 + 3 + 4), 15 for the fifth (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5), and so on, and so forth. Using the term “Progressive” to describe it identifies it by type for the reader’s benefit so this explanation need not be repeated over and again.

This is NOT to be confused with the “Progressive Hex” in the context of magick. While progressive in nature, in this context it indicates a magick with very special attributes and effects that grow progressively greater over time.

Optional Rules: The Effects of Movement & Encumbrance

For use only in those games for which the GM has approved and implemented these Optional Rules. The player should check with him GM to find out what rules are in play.

Both the players and the GM should be very aware of the tools, gear, provisions, armor and weapons with which they load characters down, for these can quickly become a hindrance unlooked-for if an emergency should suddenly arise. In regards to the load a character carries, his effective AV for any and all skills, abilities or actions that involve a physical component or action (GM’s discretion, including Low and Common Magick) will be reduced by 1/4 for each level of his ENC being used, as shown on the following table.

  • IF the character himself is moving (walking, running) while trying to accomplish some skill, the speed of movement reduces his effective AV to complete such actions as might conceivably be attempted while moving (GM’s discretion), according to the rate of his movement capability he is moving, as shown on the following table.

The penalties for ENC and movement are entirely independent of one another and should be assessed separately as they occur, and are actually compounded where circumstances dictate, according to the character’s situation. The character is penalized in AV in these cases because these are factors which affect the character’s own body, by his own choice, and have a direct bearing on the amount of concentration and coordination the character may bring to bear on the desired task or action while so burdened or occupied.

When the character is located on a moving cart or wagon, or while riding along on his mount or even standing in the saddle of a moving mount, the DV for the skill(s) attempted will be affected, rather than the AV.

Movement Rate ENC Rate Penalty
Up to “Zero” Up to “Zero” (none)
“Zero” to “Walk” “Zero” to “Light” -1/4th
“Walk” to “Trot” “Light” to “Semi-” -1/2
“Trot” to “Run” “Semi-” to “Heavy” -3/4th’s
“Run” to “Sprint” “Heavy” to “Extreme” (AV 1)

In these instances, the mph’s of movement are subtracted from the character’s AV, although when the road is particularly uneven and/or pocked or rocky, this may be modified at the GM’s discretion according to how bad he perceives the conditions to be. When modifying the DV penalty for the road conditions in this way, the GM should be sure he takes the time to verbally illustrate just how bad the character is being bounced around for the player so he understands just how difficult it will be to accomplish his task. Properly informed, he may choose another line of action.

  • IF the character is trained as an Acrobat, however, DV penalties for moving/unstable surfaces are reduced by (character’s Balance AV), and the AV(s) for any and all actions attempted are limited to no greater than that same Balance AV.
  • IF the character is a Horseman and wishes to exercise any skills from horseback, DV penalties for moving/unstable surfaces are reduced by (character’s Horsemanship AV), and the AV(s) for any and all actions attempted are limited to no greater than his Horsemanship AV.

Acrobat and Horsemanship together govern actions while standing in the saddle of a moving mount, and in this case, the lesser of the two AV’s (Acrobat or Horsemanship) provide the governing number for the AV(s) of any actions attempted.

In the event of any PC wishing to Track or Forage from the saddle, he must be bare of head in order to exercise the full AV for his Search and Sentry Perception skills, his coif pulled back, no veils wrapped around his head, no piles of folded linen, veil and wimple which might otherwise be considered appropriate for a lady or other woman of means. Only the smaller pill-box style caps and smaller muffin caps or the little forester caps associated with Robin Hood pose no difficulty for the use of sensory skills. The speed penalty noted above must also be considered (as applicable).