Don’t Roll Twice for the Same Thing

Don’t Roll Twice for the Same Thing

Don’t Roll Twice for the Same Thing

When you face danger, you make an Action roll. Also, you can roll Effect to resist a bad outcome. However, don’t roll both for the exact same thing.

For example, Arlyn is dueling a Red Sash on the roof. The Red Sash drives her back with a flurry of feints and slashes, and there’s a danger that Arlyn will be forced over the edge during the skirmish. Arlyn’s player makes an Action roll to see how her counter-attack goes and if the danger manifests. She rolls badly and the danger manifests. This means that Arlyn is forced over the edge and falls off the roof.

But she can roll to resist, right? Yes. She can resist the harm that results from the fall (using Force, presumably). But she shouldn’t roll to resist being forced over the edge. That’s already been determined by her Action roll. The resistance roll answers “how bad is the fall?” Does she simply take some stress and catch herself on a railing on the way down, or does she end up with a lasting effect as she breaks her leg when she hits the street?

Here’s another example:

Cross is sneaking into the Red Sash’s temple, trying to elude the notice of their guards. He rolls Prowl and gets a result that the danger manifests. A guard notices him! But how much? How alerted is he? Cross’s player can roll to resist the effect. If he pays the resulting stress cost, then the guard hasn’t raised the alarm or seen Cross’s face, but the danger did manifest, as a result of the Action roll. So this is the classic case where the guard and his partner say, “Hey, did you see that?” “What?” “Something over there by the pillar.” “Probably nothing.” “Yeah, I’m gonna check, though.”

If Cross’s own Effect roll is enough to overcome the obstacle, then he hears that conversation in the distance behind him as he slips inside the temple. If he hasn’t overcome the obstacle yet, then he’s hidden behind the pillar as the guard strolls over to investigate.

In other words, the Action roll determines whether something happens or not. The Effect roll determines how much of that event manifests or how bad it is. Don’t roll both Action and Effect to determine the same thing. Each roll has a concrete result that affects the situation.


There have been some good conversations about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d weigh in with an “official” bit of text about it. This will form the basis for a similar section in the book.

48 thoughts on “Don’t Roll Twice for the Same Thing”

  1. Great!

    Something that had me worried: sometimes during a scene I’m asking for three tests. Taking your example of the duel on the temple’s rooftop:

    “Murder test to duel with the sash, she tests Finesse to see how many segments in the “duel with Mylera” we tick. Also she took a bad effect from the action roll, Force test to resist it.” 

    Is this legit? 

  2. Adam Blinkinsop Yeah, it’s different. They both address a similar area of gaming, but the methods aren’t quite the same.

    For the BW players:

    In Blades, when you roll a complete effect and overcome the obstacle, that’s like Let it Ride.

    If you roll an incomplete effect, it’s like you just started a Linked Test.

  3. The clear differentiation in that last paragraph is key, thank you. Action rolls determine whether something happens or not, while Effect (resistance) rolls only determine to what degree something happens.

    So in the extended example in the QS with the Dimmer Sisters’ death vapors, the cutter resisted the effect—diminishing it’s death effect to a temporary knock out—but that roll didn’t negate the effect in the fiction altogether. The cutter could not have rolled an Action to negate the fictional effect entirely because it was already the manifesting danger from the Whisper’s Attune action roll. I think it may be confusing that when resisting, taking stress does not allow you to retcon the fictional event away.

    There’s no double jeopardy for fictional dangers manifesting. Once an action roll confirms they happen, they happen.

    If I’m thinking about this correctly, then in the Unseen firebomb example, the GM says something nasty happens, but action rolls have not confirmed it, so players can either challenge that the firebombing even took place by making appropriate action rolls, or they can accept the event and use a crew resistance roll to see how bad it was.

    This difference might be an interesting way to meaningfully use present and past tense in play. Maybe everything’s present until action rolls solidify certain things firmly in the past.

  4. Great Examples John!

    I think its important to note in the text what Duam is suggesting about the possibility of three (related) rolls. Where a poor action roll sees a related danger manifest. This then requires an effect resist roll in addition to a possible effect roll to see just how well the PC overcame the original obstacle.

    The example with Cross illustrates this perfectly, though it help to qualify it in the instructional.

  5. John Harper Ok, so if instead, a thug is trying to stab her in the heart, and she fails her action roll, she has been stabbed in the heart. She rolls to resist, pays the stress and suffers no ill effects, really, despite having been actually stabbed in the heart.

    This feels weird. Is the way to avoid this carefully framing the action so she’s stabbed in the chest area rather than specifically her heart? Or can we shift the location of a sniper’s round from eye to creasing her scalp?

  6. Michael Atlin Yeah, you have it right. Don’t say “you get stabbed in the heart” and then also say “and nothing happens.” That is, indeed, weird.

    If you threaten a direct knife to the heart (because this enemy is a deadly killer) and it happens, then how can Arlyn resist that harm? If the character has no way to resist in the fiction, then they can’t roll to resist. If they do, then they can.

  7. Think of resistance the same way you think of actions. A character can’t say, “I jump to the top of the building. I made my action roll. I did it!” They require the means to do it. Same goes for effect rolls.

  8. Jennifer Fuss No, it’s the same rule. You get to say “No, that doesn’t happen,” when you roll effect and pay the stress. If you don’t roll effect (for whatever reason) then you don’t get to say that.

  9. Good conversation once again, everybody. I feel like we’re getting good at mining out the assumption clashes so I can write text about them for the final game.

  10. I think the dimmer sisters death vapors may have lead me astray. I was thinking of them like a knife to the heart or a bullet to the brain, but the fiction around resisting magical death vapours is much spongier than steel. 

  11. Yeah, stress mechanics are totally about player’s empowerment. 

    The feel of roguish joy after denying an outcome with stress or even better, a devil’s bargain was palpable. 

  12. Which now hits me: is a perfect way to reflect the mood of the game. Traditionally the GM figure has been placed in a position of omnipotence, he controls the world and the flow of the game, some older games even give him the name of a god.

    With stress and db mechanics, players are “rebelling” from traditional GM-player dynamics, their characters effectively sneaking away from Fate’s dreadful hands. 

    Maybe I’m being too romantic…

  13. “You get stabbed in the heart.”

    “Hm, whiffed that Effect roll. I’ll pay stress.” My interpretation is paying stress here means NOT getting stabbed in the heart. The worst-case scenario is stated as part of the trigger of the Effect roll, but it doesn’t necessarily happen.

    In the earlier example, failing an action roll could manifest the danger of getting pushed off the roof. But maybe we know this particular scoundrel’s got cat-like reflexes and has slathered on Pembril’s Anti-Inertial Tonic, so it actually is the falling, rather than the landing, that hurts (by losing position, by wasting time, by knowing the guard will now alert everyone else). That’s a case when the danger just is. The GM’s empowered to deny an Effect roll or stress to resist, too. I would never do it for anything that applies a recovery clock, but there are cases where it’s the right choice.

    Along with all this I think there probably needs to be a distinction in terminology between danger (stuff that happens on bad Action rolls) and, um, Bad Stuff (triggering resistance-oriented Effect rolls).

  14. I’m not sure how to feel about this, I was under the impression that stress was a way to empower players to re-narrate a scene, this ruling seem to be taking that away, also it seems like to contradicts this example from the quick start: 

    “Daniel’s character, Cross, is losing a fight with an

    assassin sent by The Unseen. The GM describes

    how the assassin slips past Cross’s defenses and

    puts a dagger through his eye. Daniel rolls his Force

    effect to resist, and gets a 1-3: a diminished result. He

    can take 4 stress or a knife to the eye, his choice.” 

    Here it seems like the danger is a knife to the eye, or was the danger that the assassin “slips past Cross’s defenses” (side note: google really wants me to change that to defences.)

  15. Yeah, Chris, I see how that could be confusing. I’ll need to clean up those examples so they show the decision-making process a bit better.

    That example is confusing if you assume that there’s a secret master list of things that can and cannot be resisted with an effect roll. But there isn’t. This group decided that Cross could resist a knife to the eye, by using his Force and being a badass (presumably he’ll have an awesome scar). Another group might balk at the idea, and say, “Nope, a knife to the eye is not a thing you can resist.”

    But I see in that in condensing the example without that group-judgment step, it looks odd.

  16. What I mean is, in that example, the assassin did slip past his defenses and did stab Cross. When Cross’s player resists and takes the stress, he’s saying, “Nope, this deadly assassin doesn’t cripple me with a knife wound to the eye. I’m just that awesome. A knife wound to the eye isn’t that bad.” So, you’re right, it is a re-narration. But it’s within the bounds of what’s established by the action roll. The effect roll doesn’t “undo” the eye attack. It diminishes that attack to something that isn’t crippling and Cross carries on.

    Cross can’t “use Force” to rewind time so that the knife attack didn’t happen. That’s not what a resistance roll does. It’s the character resisting the thing that’s happened to them, and diminishing the consequences.

    The player gets to say “No, that doesn’t happen,” but it’s in reference to the consequences of the action. This is another hidden assumption in the text. I’ll revise things to make this clear.

  17. Yeah John, awesome. I think Resist and Consequence need to be added to the glossary along with already established key words like obstacle, danger, action and effect

  18. Ok, now I’m a bit confused. I was under the impression that you only rolled Effect to 1.) determine how  many segments you ticked off the appropriate Progress Clock (to move towards your goal or prevent your targets goal), or 2.) determine how much stress it costs to entirely avoid the effect of a manifested danger (as it says on p.7 of the quick start).

    John Harper, are you saying that you can roll Effect to lessen (but not negate) a manifested danger in the fiction without spending stress? Or did you mean, “It diminishes that attack to something that isn’t crippling and Cross carries on [by spending stress]”? 

  19. I think there was an implied “by spending stress” there.

    I also think it’s important that when you spend stress, you negate the effect of whatever was terrible, and you modify the fiction in a way that everyone agrees is appropriate. With lethal magical vapors maybe you die and then get right back up. But it’s harder to swallow getting stabbed in the eye and not caring. Maybe one group is fine with it; lost an eye, big deal. Another might decide that there’s a giant badass scar over his eye. And a third might decide that the stress means blocking, dodging, or just being so damn tough that the stab to the eye becomes a little graze next to the eye.

    Whatever works for your group will do, I think.

  20. Hmm, what if you resisted with something else?  Would resisting with finesse (or maneuver?) be dodging out of the way?  or would that be rolling twice for the same thing?

  21. I think creative ways of Resisting are a wonderful undiscovered emergent nature of play. It would be all to easy to ascribe to ‘the one way’ of dogmatic play of a certain action equals a certain effect and subsequently a certain effect to resist (or not) with.

    Explore folks! Try something new in play and tell us about it! I think resisting a knife in the eye with finesse is brimming with creative promise.

  22. Yeah, Vasco Brown I meant “It diminishes that attack to something that isn’t crippling and Cross carries on [by spending stress]”? 

  23. Cool , this helps out alot. So if I spend stress its just a modifer to help. On the resist roll to help try and negate alot of the problem that has already happened.

  24. OK , Like you said Cross has been heard sneaking into the Sash Temple. But on the Resist roll he can spend a stress to add a dice to the roll. To try and help the result of the roll. So that the result of the actoin roll was not as bad as it had appeared to be.


  25. No, that’s not correct.

    Cross rolls an Effect to resist the danger of the guards. The result of the effect roll tells us how much stress Cross must spend to avoid being discovered.

  26. And if he pays, he will still have been heard (since that’s the established fictional threat) but not have been discovered, because it is being discovered, not being heard, that is the danger.  Right?

Comments are closed.