WHAT IS EASY, MEDIUM AND HARD

I am a putting together a target number suggestion list today (going with Easy, Challenging and Hard). As this came up in another thread, I am curious what do tiers like this mean to you. For example if something is labeled easy, how often do you expect a skilled, versus an unskilled, versus a highly skilled person to succeed? What sort of tasks do you associate with easy, with challenging and hard (and what is you preferred terminology)?
 

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Celebrim

Legend
This really depends on the genre expectations.

In SIPS, the genre expectations are that you are the Peanut's Gang or similar young people operating in a world where adults are remote and largely uninvolved. Something that is Easy in SIPS is something like eating a meal without spilling your water glass, doing a basic arithmetic problem, running across a flat field of wet grass without falling down, or if falling down realizing you are uninjured and getting up without breaking into tears. These are the sort of things that are rarely even tested in an RPG of casually realistic heroics. And of course, what is Easy difficulty if your game is simulating members of the Justice League, is another matter.

Of course, it's possible to have a comprehensive system that tries to simulate the whole range of zero to super-hero, but quite often such systems get unwieldy and break down at the edges despite the designer's best intentions. For example, D&D does zero the super-hero but has all sorts of problems at very low levels or very high levels, resulting in the notion of a 'sweet spot' - the power levels where the games rules and assumptions actually work as intended.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Without more to go on, I think I’d default to thinking about success rates. Something like Easy: 75% success rate, Medium/Challenging: 50%, and Hard: 25%.

Not knowing the genre or setting or general expectations makes it tough to go much beyond that basic take.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I'd set the metric based upon a Guy Competent in field

Easy: Guy only fails if distracted, injured, hurried, under fire or otherwise has issues.
Medium: Guy fails less than half the time
Hard: Guy fails less than 3/4 of the time

I'll note that these are a step off from Twilight 2000 v2.0...
Average guy was skill three in his competence, so T2K Easy is my Medium; T2K Average is my hard, and T2K hard I'd call formidable or very hard.
 

niklinna

Legend
I am a putting together a target number suggestion list today (going with Easy, Challenging and Hard). As this came up in another thread, I am curious what do tiers like this mean to you. For example if something is labeled easy, how often do you expect a skilled, versus an unskilled, versus a highly skilled person to succeed? What sort of tasks do you associate with easy, with challenging and hard (and what is you preferred terminology)?
Depends on the system. Harder things are ideally both more taxing to perform, and more likely to fail (possibly but not necessarily more likely to have heavier consequences on failure), and there should be some amount of player ability to make the tradeoffs. Some systems explicitly handle both: Blades in the Dark excels here, Torg Eternity has a variety of limited resources players can spend to improve their odds.

Many systems don't provide for players to make tradeoffs. Pure odds-of-success is pretty standard in such popular systems as Basic Role Playing and D&D. At least 5e has Inspiration dice, and some class features & spells, but nothing's really tied directly to difficulty and a sense of effort. As for specific target numbers or percentages, that's heavily genre-dependent so I won't try to be that specific.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I am a putting together a target number suggestion list today (going with Easy, Challenging and Hard). As this came up in another thread, I am curious what do tiers like this mean to you. For example if something is labeled easy, how often do you expect a skilled, versus an unskilled, versus a highly skilled person to succeed? What sort of tasks do you associate with easy, with challenging and hard (and what is you preferred terminology)?
If it's easy I start with 'don't roll' and then think about situational stuff like time pressure, poor tools, or man eating pachyderms. From a rolling perspective I'd say that a 'skilled' PC (by which I mean one who has invested some points/ranks/stripes/snot stacks into the skill) might succeed somewhere around 75% of the time with minor situational difficulties and scale from there. The notion of 'challenging', for me, is usually whatever the target 'average' skill roll gets you in a given system, so around 50% success with minor situational difficulties factored in. 'Hard' is probably set closer to 25% success rate.

Those are just very rough numbers of course. If a game has useful 'help' rules I'll factor that in. I'll also adjust based the level to which PCs in a given game are supposed to experts in their chosen skills right off the hop. So playing zero-hero D&D style stuff I might set the bar higher than I would playing, say, Night's Black Agents. Things also change if the game in question (like PbtA for example) aims it's mechanics for what I'm calling challenging at a success with complications type of result.

Really, the system in questions and genre expectations probably affect these numbers for me more than any generic notion of difficulty in RPGs.
 

Without more to go on, I think I’d default to thinking about success rates. Something like Easy: 75% success rate, Medium/Challenging: 50%, and Hard: 25%.

Not knowing the genre or setting or general expectations makes it tough to go much beyond that basic take.

I am more interested in what the terms mean to people in general across systems (as most games seem to use language like this). But in my case it is horror (lethal horror) and a dice pool skill system against a target number, with character ranks generally ranging from 2d10 take the single lowest result, 1d10, 2d10, and 3d10 (all the latter of which are take the single highest result). TNs range from 2-10. Situational Bonuses can move those ranks up to 6d10 max but the system is pretty stingy with the bonuses, so 6d10 would be rare.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I am more interested in what the terms mean to people in general across systems (as most games seem to use language like this). But in my case it is horror (lethal horror) and a dice pool skill system against a target number, with character ranks generally ranging from 2d10 take the single lowest result, 1d10, 2d10, and 3d10 (all the latter of which are take the single highest result). TNs range from 2-10. Situational Bonuses can move those ranks up to 6d10 max but the system is pretty stingy with the bonuses, so 6d10 would be rare.
What kind of genre expectations are you working with? Are the PCs playing average joe types or something more like experts in their fields?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I am more interested in what the terms mean to people in general across systems (as most games seem to use language like this). But in my case it is horror (lethal horror) and a dice pool skill system against a target number, with character ranks generally ranging from 2d10 take the single lowest result, 1d10, 2d10, and 3d10 (all the latter of which are take the single highest result). TNs range from 2-10. Situational Bonuses can move those ranks up to 6d10 max but the system is pretty stingy with the bonuses, so 6d10 would be rare.
Good start, but what do you want the feel to be? Competence, like the players are Constantine fighting devils, or more poor shmucks that are in way over their head? There really shouldn't be a universal idea of what's easy. It's gonna change with your tone.
 

I dig the DCC RPG system's definitions, which go something like this:

Very easy: a child could do it.
Easy: a regular adult could do it
Medium: only someone with training could do it
Hard: it would take a hero to do it, someone with exceptional ability
 

Good start, but what do you want the feel to be? Competence, like the players are Constantine fighting devils, or more poor shmucks that are in way over their head? There really shouldn't be a universal idea of what's easy. It's gonna change with your tone.

In terms of tone this is lethal horror, no where near constantine. I'd say its close to something like the Exorcist. You can fight demons. you can actually get quite good at fighting demons. But a fall down steep stairs could still kill you. They aren't Ash or anything (actually not getting to ash level survivability or action is one of may guiding criteria).
 

What kind of genre expectations are you working with? Are the PCs playing average joe types or something more like experts in their fields?

See my other post, but characters are basically grounded monster hunters. It is supernatural but more at the Rosemary's Baby level of supernatural. Think poltergeist, the exorcist, dracula, that sort of thing. They aren't necessarily average joes (characters can be spirit mediums for example). But they aren't unrealistically resilient or resistant to damage. One or two good hits can kill you. The game is designed around paths that are similar to classes. One of the paths is oriented towards combat, and I am making a point of not letting that path get to Ash levels of action (they can get a little bit more tough, increase their Maximum Wounds by 1 at higher levels (and everyone else only has 2 Max Wounds), and they can get a handful of additional attacks and attack or damage bonuses, but much of what I am doing right now is pairing them down so they are sufficiently gritty while still feeling like people of action. Hopefully that gives a good overall impression of the genre expectations.

However skills range a lot so my suggested TNs for easy, challenging and hard, are going to apply mostly to things outside combat like driving through a hazard or programming a computer (combat TNs are usually just the Defenses of whatever you are attacking, whereas other TNs are selected based on difficulty).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
In terms of tone this is lethal horror, no where near constantine. I'd say its close to something like the Exorcist. You can fight demons. you can actually get quite good at fighting demons. But a fall down steep stairs could still kill you. They aren't Ash or anything (actually not getting to ash level survivability or action is one of may guiding criteria).
That kinda sounds like Constantine, to be honest, but sure. There's also a bit of zero to hero going on here, which means that your easy/medium/hard isn't just looking at objective difficulty but also standing in as challenge gates for leveling. That's a tricky road to follow, not sure I know of any that get it right.
 


That kinda sounds like Constantine, to be honest, but sure. There's also a bit of zero to hero going on here, which means that your easy/medium/hard isn't just looking at objective difficulty but also standing in as challenge gates for leveling. That's a tricky road to follow, not sure I know of any that get it right.

It has been ages since I have seen the film constantine, but my memory was something much less grounded than say the Exorcist (I could be way off). So just going by memory on that one. Definitely not an influence though (more influenced by things like Jacob's Ladder, Suspiria, Nosferatu, The Howling, etc (if that gives an idea).

I wouldn't say it is zero to hero. You start out pretty competent in what you do, but you don't get considerably better (you improve but your health basically stays the same, some skills increase a bit, you have some new class abilities along the way). You do have levels, but they only go up to 10 and the difference between say a 2nd level character and an 8th level character isn't very extreme: it is more like the difference between people in real life as they advance in a career than say a hero in a fantasy RPG or a action oriented Horror RPG
 

Easy 90+% , there has to have been something bizarre happen to fail
Challenging 75%. It may take some work but you get there in the end. Often.
Hard. 51% This is a risk to do. It really is. Be very sure you want to do this. Many ways it could go wrong.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Bedrockgames, have you looked at the dice schema you're using? 75% success rate is a 10 on 3d10k1. 50% success rate goes from a 5 on 1d10 to an 8 on 2d10k1. You might not have much granularity here. Especially if you're even considering allowing up to 3 extra dice (even if rare, I assume 1 extra isn't that rare, and that moves the needle significantly).
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Competence should probably be looked at two ways. First, you have competence for general tasks or non-specialized tasks. This would probably include combat if I'm reading your touchstones correctly. Second, you have competence in terms of the PCs specialties, whatever those are. You can use the same system for both and just set the dials differently based on the rules for char gen (so allow more 'spend' on those specialized skills, or whatever). You also have the benefit of knowing what you want combat to feel like, so you can also turn those dials when it comes to monster stats, armor and how damage is handled. Even if you have characters with high combat skills, they'll still hesitate if the actual combat system is harsh and unforgiving.
 

@Bedrockgames, have you looked at the dice schema you're using? 75% success rate is a 10 on 3d10k1. 50% success rate goes from a 5 on 1d10 to an 8 on 2d10k1. You might not have much granularity here. Especially if you're even considering allowing up to 3 extra dice (even if rare, I assume 1 extra isn't that rare, and that moves the needle significantly).

Granularity isn't a particular aim here. This is more a game for simplicity and speed of play. I find a rank of 0 ranks to 3 ranks works pretty well for what I am after and keeps the dice pools down to a reasonable level (presently the game has a soft cap of 6d10, and hard cap of 10d10). This is system I have used for ages, so I am not building the system itself (this is just a new iteration of the core system). What I am trying to do is fine tune how I talk about the different challenge levels so my language and numbers match peoples expectations as best as possible.

I have a number of probability charts I use working on this. The current one I use gives the probabilities for 2d10 take the lowest to 10d10 (all taking the single highest) for TNs up to 10 but also including probabilities for multiple "Total Successes" (10 results). The numbers are rounded up (which is an important consideration as that has some 100%s that are not actual 100% chances---I have other charts that handle the rounding in different ways). But overall this is the one I like to use (a player put this one together for me).

The best a character can have in a skill is 3d10. Even leveling won't take that higher. But they can get bonuses for situations and tactics, and some path abilities will also confer bonuses in some cases. But those bonuses will never exceed 6d10 (only monsters are going to roll up to 10d10 on things).

Presently I have been leaning on TN 4 for easy, TN 7 for challenging and TN 9 for Hard (I used to say 8 for hard but I think 9 is closer to what I mean by hard). The default TN is a 6 (and I have to admit I get a little OCD about that being one number away from a Challenging TN of 7, but I haven't been able to talk myself into lowering it or bringing it to the default). But if someone can make a good argument for TN 6 being challenging that would certainly streamline my TN advice.

EDIT: Also just to put those numbers to some probabilities clearly:

Easy: 4 (unskilled 49%, low ranked 70%, Medium ranked 91%, High ranked 97.30%)
Challenging: 7 (unskilled 16%, low ranked 40%, medium ranked 64%, high ranked 78.4%)
Hard: 9 (unskilled 4%, low ranked 20%, medium ranked 36%, high ranked 48.80%)

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