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Thinking about a number of questions on here that have been to do with ability test modeling, I was thinking that there would be a lot of potential in a system that, rather than operating on a difficulty + success/failure or critical/success/failure/fumble model, produced a result describing how well the character performed (a scale might go abysmal, pitiful, poor, decent, good, excellent, superb, amazing), and left it up to GM interpretation to decide what sort of consequences would arise from that level of performance in the particular situation.

What existing systems use a mechanic like this? What are the details of their particular implementations?

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Fudge. Solar System. FATE. Sorry, too lazy right now to make a complete answer with system details and such. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 17 '11 at 21:48
FATE uses a verbal scales (some variations) but it usually is just a coating over a numeric system. Like a "Good" attempt doesn't mean the GM just makes up stuff, it means "4". Closer to the question might be the Amber RPG, which uses rankings, but relies on GM fiat to determine when situational advantages are enough to swing favor. –  CodexArcanum Feb 17 '11 at 22:13
@Codex Yes, but "Good" means "4" which means… something the GM makes up. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 17 '11 at 23:11
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The most obvious is Warhammer FRP 3E. The dice pool is still functionally a numerical system, but on multiple axis: Do you succeed at the fundamental task? (Axe vs Swords) Do you have beneficial or harmful side effects? (Eagles vs Skulls) Or wild results (Sigmar's Comets vs Chaos Stars)? Or Cost Extra (Fatigue drops & Extra Time Hourglasses)? There is a lot of room for narration, but also, many abilities have very mechanistic effects which the GM must then narrate how they occurred.

Similarly, One-Roll Engine (Reign, Monsters and Other Childish Things, and several others) games have a 2-axis dice pool system. I don't find it memorable. So I just looked it up, again. width is number of dice which rolled matching each other, and indicates speed; height, the number which matched up, is quality. And a success requires at least 2 dice to match which exceed the difficulty.

Another which does variable levels of success and failure is WWG's Storyteller system. The number of successes over the difficulty indicates quality of success. In some uses it is very mathematical; in others, very much up the the GM how much quality.

FATE and Fudge: both use the same ladder system, and encourage the GM to deal with the excess levels of success by narrating that.

To some degree, a great many games have some guideline at "better roll = describe better success" rather than the boolean Success/Fail, and a "Special Fail/fail/succeed/special succeed" is the most common. Many have suggestions (often in table-roll form) for special failures. A number add a marginal result.

My favorite, tho, is from Rogue Swords: Fumble, Fail, Marginal, success, overkill, critical. Fumbles hurt, and so do overkills; the difference is merely whether or not the action succeeded.

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FATE specifically uses shifts to change how quickly you complete a task, and depending on what you're doing extra shifts give you spin, which is a +1/+2/etc on your next action. Furthermore, actions let you apply aspects, so it might not be described in terms of great or good as much as describing what actually happens.

Donjon only does failure by GM interpretation, but each success/failure lets you declare one fact, and depending on what you're doing, carry dice over to your next action.

EABA has a similar idea to FATE's time chart, but it applies to a lot of things - you'd use it to determine what you need to succeed, so it could be a binary pass fail, but depending on your result you get information to describe what happens instead.

One Roll Engine has quality of success and speed of success as different elements, as well as hit location and damage during combat. It works well in combat, less so outside of combat unless you're trying to do simultaneous actions.

Millenium's End is a percentile system that knocks the success up in quality if it beats the result by 30%, it gives you a bit more, but when comparing opposed results it gets really interesting and quite descriptive. Millenium's End also has an overlay system for combat which lets you describe in detail how a gun shot or sword swing would play out, including the results of the injury. Other systems like HârnMaster are also similar, although I don't know them in as much detail.

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