Age Of Dragons: Challenge Resolution

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Age Of Dragons: Main Page -> Challenge Resolution

Overview: Narrative based challenges[edit]

A Challenge occurs when one or more characters has to overcome some sort of obstacle, but one that does not directly fight back. Any non-conflict situation can be treated as a challenge.

For example, all of the following can be treated as Challenges:

  • Trying to smash down a thick stone wall.
  • Speaking to troops before a battle, to fortify their will.
  • Casting a complex spell.
  • Creating a work of art.

Energy Pools[edit]

A key concept in challenges is Energy Pool. A challenge deals with one of the three energy pools: Physical Energy, Mental Energy or Soul Energy.

This energy pool is key, as it is used to power your actions, and to measure how close you are to exhaustion or failure.

By default, at the start of a Challenge your Energy Pool is equal to your sphere rating (Soma for Physical Energy, Sophia for Mental Energy and Pneuma for Soul Energy).

Generally, a single Challenge will only track a single Energy pool, the choice of which depends on the Challenge type. For example, a complex spellcasting ritual would track Soul Energy.


In Challenges, each action is attributed a different level of Exertion. This represents how much effort an action takes.

  • A Mild Exertion is resolved with a single D6 roll.
  • A Moderate Exertion is resolved with a 2D6 roll.
  • A Full Exertion is resolved with a 3D6 roll.

Each has its pros and cons, of course. Larger exertions are more likely to succeed, and will tend to have greater effect than a combination of lesser exertions on average. However, lesser exertions often carry less risk of exhaustion, and you can attempt more of them with the same resource expenditure.

Additionally, exertion level is a useful guide to narrative and as to how you should describe your action.


Technique measures how effective you are at conducting yourself in a Challenge.

The base amount for your Technique is a Sphere rating (i.e. Pneuma, Soma or Sophis), with a Skill bonus equal to your Arete in a relevant lifepath if you have an appropriate Skill Edge.

Technique level is determined for the acting character.

For example, in a social Challenge a Dragon is performing an aerobatic dance might have the following Technique level:

  • Soma (5) + Skydancer Arete from Performance Dance skill (4) = Total Technique (9).

Aside from Skill Edges, several other factors may increase (or even decrease) Technique, including certain Birthrights, as well as Buffs and Defbuffs.

Challenges generally aren't targetted against an enemy but rather against a circumstance or the environment.

For this reason, the GM sets a Difficulty for the challenge. This difficulty is used ro determine action advantage. That is:

  • If the acting character's technique is higher than the difficulty, then the action is at advantage. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 3+.
  • If the acting character's technique is equal to the difficulty, then the action has no advantage or disadvantage. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 4+.
  • If the acting character's technique is lower than the difficulty, then the action is at disadvantage. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 6+.


The Power rating of an action determines the magnitude of any outcome. For example, with a spellcasting ritual designed to keep an enemy on the defensive, the Power rating would determine how much progress you make.

By default, the Power rating of a successful action is equal to the number of dice that roll above the target number (i.e. 3+, 4+ or 5+, depending on advantage).

Some factors, however, may increase (or even decrease) Power, including certain Birthrights, as well as Buffs and Defbuffs.

Action Cost[edit]

The Action Cost rating of an action determines how much Energy it costs you to carry out.

By default, the Action Cost rating of a successful action is equal to the number of dice rolled.

Some factors, however, may decrease (or even increase) Action Cost, including certain Birthrights, as well as Buffs and Defbuffs. Note that Skill Edges specifically do not directly affect Action Cost ratings.

It's also worth noting that Action Costs are always paid from the active Energy Pool being used in the challenge. For example, in a physical challenge, all action costs are paid from Physical Energy Pool, even if that action was a non-physical one (such as a spellcasting buff or inspired leadership).

Resolving Challenges[edit]

The overview for this process is as follows:

  • 1. Determine Challenge Type
  • 2. Set Challenge Outcomes, Complexity and Difficulty
  • 3. Determine Initiative
  • 4. Select Action Type
  • 5. Determine Technique
  • 6. Roll the Dice
  • 7. Resolve Effect (if successful)
  • 8. Resolve Energy Cost
  • 9. End or continue conflict

1. Determine Challenge Type[edit]

First, its important to decide what sort of Challenge this is. This is a decision to be made ultimately by the GM, though optionally with player opinions. The type of Challenge will determine what Energy Pool is used, and will also set the narrative context for what sort of actions can be used.

  • Soma Challenges are those where physical talent is the core. Examples might include use of brute force, cross country flying endurance and tests of agility. These challenges use the Physical Energy Pool.
  • Sophia Challenges are those where mental talent is the core. Examples might include puzzle solving, research and study. These challenges use the Mental Energy Pool.
  • Pneuma Challenges are those where creative, social or arcane talent is the core. Examples might include the casting of spells, artistic creation or addressing groups of passive listeners. These challenges use the Soul Energy Pool.

A balanced story should generally include roughly equal numbers of challenges of each type, so as to give characters of different strengths a chance to shine. Of course, what challenges arise should also be determined primarily by the players' actions, and not all challenges are of equal importance or consequence...

2. Set Challenge Outcomes, Complexity and Difficulty[edit]

The Challenge Outcomes are described by the GM. This is what happens if the characters succeed on the challenge, or if they fail in the challenge.

This should be defined primarily by the narrative. For example:

  • A dragon is trying to break down a castle wall. If he succeeds, the wall crumbles. If he fails, it stands firm.
  • A dragon is trying to weave a powerful magic to summon a rainstorm in the desert. If he succeeds, the spell is cast. If he fails, not only does the spell fail, but the strain of handling the vortex of arcane energies knocks him into a stunned stupor for 24 hours.
  • A dragon is trying to solve a fiendish number puzzle. If he succeeds he solves and completes the puzzle. If he fails, he makes an error somewhere, and gives up in mental exhaustion.

Note that the GM should be very clear about the challenge outcomes, and should attempt to place realistic conditions dependent on the narrative.

The Complexity of a challenge represents how much work it takes to complete. When an action is taken against the challenge, the Effect is deducted directly from the Complexity. When Complexity is reduced to 0, the challenge is completed.

Sample complexities:

  • Complexity 1 : Usually completed in a single stroke. For example, breaking down a door or wall.
  • Complexity 2: Completed in one or a few actions. For example, a cart of rubble across a field.
  • Complexity 3-5: Likely to take multiple actions. For example, flying cross country across a kingdom.
  • Complexity 6+: Likely to beyond the capabilities of a single dragon within the allotted time period, but potentially achievable with several dragons. For example, collecting taxes from several hundred merchant houses in the realm before the year end.

The Difficulty of the challenge is how hard it is to work towards. Higher difficulty requires higher technique to address.

Sample difficulties:

  • Difficulty 1: A task that is simple even for an unskilled human. For example, gathering dropped pennies.
  • Difficulty 2: A task that is trivially easy for a dragon, but could challenge humans if of a physical nature. For example - breaking something built of planks of wood.
  • Difficulty 3: A task that is very hard for a human (if physical), but still easy for a dragon. For example - breaking a metal rod.
  • Difficulty 5: A task that some dragons will find easier than others depending on capability. For example - performing a simple magic ritual.
  • Difficulty 7: A task that most dragons will find hard, and generally requires some training. For example, advanced herbalism to cure a plague.
  • Difficulty 9: A task that almost all dragons will find hard, and is easy only for the most specialised dragons. For example, flying at breakneck speed below a dense forest canopy.

3. Determine Initiative[edit]

Next determine who has the Initiative. The character with the Initiative is able to take an Action. The Initiative may pass from character to character during a Challenge, but only one character has the Initiative at a time.

To determine the Initative look at the following:

  • If a character has the highest Energy Pool, then he gains the Initiative.
  • If more than one character has equal highest Energy Pool then the GM looks at the narrative of the situation, and decides which of them has the Initiative.
  • If narrative and drama don't decide the situation, and more than one character has equal highest Energy Pool, then the GM just decides which of them has the Initiative, in general favouring player characters over NPCs. (This is colloquially known as "player perogative").

Obviously, there will often be judgment calls required on the GM's part, so a higher degree of trust in the GM is required of players of this game than most.

4. Select Action Type[edit]

An Action is something that the character with the Initiative actively does, to seek to affect the course of the Challenge in some way. This is an admittedly vague description, but the Challenge system is by its nature abstract, so GMs and players can be flexible and creative!

When the player declares his characters action (or the GM declares his NPCs' actions) he describes in full what he is trying to achieve, adding roleplaying flourish if he wishes.

The below list of action types are suggested as guidance and suggestions that will cover the majority of conflict actions that a character might engage in, but the list is not intended to be exhaustive, and GMs and players should be open minded to making up new rules on the fly for actions not covered here...

As with conflicts:

  • All actions must be supported by the narrative, by described actions, and by the characters capabilities.

The below actions are common ones during challenges:


This is the default option during in a challenge, representing an attempt by the character to work towards or complete the challenge.

A successful Attempt reduces the target challenge's Complexity by an amount equal to the Power rating of the action.

If this would reduce the Complexity to zero or less, then the Challenge is completed successfully.

Also, Escape is sometimes easier or harder than default - see Difficulty Modifiers below.

Apply Modifier[edit]

A modifier is an action that increases or decreases a stat in the challenge, for example, increasing your Technique, or decreasing the challenge Difficulty.

A successful modifier changes the target number by an amount equal to the Power rating of the buff action.

Note that modifiers normally require some sort of special effect to achieve (such as magic or a specialised technique) and have an effect that lasts until the end of the Challenge, though the GM may waive the requirement with smart tactics or shorten the duration if he feels it is too powerful. Also, a modifier tends to apply to only a thematically linked group of actions.

Examples of Modifier actions in different contexts might include:

  • In a Physical challenge to break down a wall: Using magic to enhance physical strength, and so increase the Effect of future attempts at the challenge.
  • In an Arcane ritual casting: Using your knowledge of esoteric ingredients to select the perfect ritual components, and so increase the the Technique of future attempts at the challenge.

5. Compare Technique and Difficulty[edit]

As noted above, Technique is determined by a combination of sphere rating, applicable skill and buffs/debuffs.

Compare the Technique of the acting character with the Difficulty of the challenge.

  • If technique is higher than difficulty, then the character finds the task easy. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 3+.
  • If technique is equal to difficulty, then the character finds the task challenging. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 4+.
  • If difficulty is higher than technique, then the character finds the task difficult. This means that an action is considered successful if at least one dice rolls 5+.

Strong technique is very important, as it makes a big difference to your odds of a successful action!

6. Roll the Dice[edit]

Next, roll the dice!

Age of Dragons uses six-sided dice.

The number of dice you roll is determined by your level of exertion in the action. To recap:

  • Mild exertion = 1 dice.
  • Moderate exertion = 2 dice.
  • Full exertion = 3 dice.

You then look to see if you have succeeded. As noted in the previous step:

  • Character finds task easy = Succeed on a 3+.
  • Character finds task challenging = Succeed on a 4+.
  • Character finds task difficult = Succeed on a 5+.

Note that you only need a minimum of one of the dice you roll to be in the success range, and the action is considered a success.

If no dice rolled are in the success range, then the action is not a success.

7. Resolve Effect (if successful)[edit]

If the action succeeded, you now resolve the effect.

The effects of various actions are described as above.

If you did not succeed, skip this step.

8. Resolve Energy Cost[edit]

Now, the active character deducts the action cost of the action from his Energy Pool.

If this would reduce Energy Pool to a negative number, then Energy Pool is instead set to 0.

For example, if the action cost would reduce your Energy Pool to -2, then your Energy Pool instead becomes 0.

Also, each time a character is "zeroed out" by energy cost the challenge increases in Complexity by an amount determined by the GM - usually 1 to 3 points. This is called the Exhaustion Rating of the challenge.

  • Exhaustion Rating 1: This is a challenge that is pretty much always doable if you try for long enough.
  • Exhaustion Rating 2: This is a challenge that gets much harder once you exhausted, and which you might want to give up on.
  • Exhaustion Rating 3: Once you are exhausted, the odds of you completing this challenge are infinitissmal, unless you have some trick up your sleeve.
  • Exhaustion Rating 4+: Once you are exhausted, you have no chance of completing this challenge.

9. End or continue challenge[edit]

In this step, the characters involved can choose to abandon the challenge. If they do so, they are considered to have failed the challenge.

If they do not, return to Step 3.


The above rules cover most conflict possibilities, but GMs and players looking for additional detail may want to use the additional rules below.

Impossible tasks[edit]

Sometimes the GM will deem that a task is far too difficult to succeed. Generally he can invoke this rule if the challenge's Difficulty is at least twice the acting character's Technique.

In this circumstance he can simply rule that the character cannot even attempt the challenge, as it is far too difficult for him.

Trivial tasks[edit]

Conversely, sometimes the GM will deem that a task is too easy to bother with. Generally he can invoke this rule if the challenge's Difficulty is at least half the acting character's Technique.

In this circumstance he can simply rule that the character automatically succeeds at any Attempt actions directed at the challenge, effectively looking for a 1+ to count as a success.

Note that a trivial task may still take some exertion to complete, as it may still have a high complexity.

Trying Again[edit]

Normally if the characters abandon a task, then they are exhausted and cannot try again. However, the GM might, after an appropriate period of rest, allow them to try again. For example, if the dragons are trying to smash down an ancient stone tower, but give up from exhaustion, the GM might rule that if they rest up for an hour, eat, drink and regain their strength, then they can start the challenge afresh. He might even reduce the complexity of the challenge to represent work already done.

However, the GM is within his rights to say that a challenge cannot be tried again thanks to changing circumstances. For example, if a dragon is trying to win over a mob with sweet words, and he fails, then the mob will be antagonistic to him and won't listen again.

Fragile Situations[edit]

A Fragile Situation is a special sort of challenge, where failure to make progress towards the challenge results in instant failure.

In these circumstances, as soon as a single Attempt action against the challenge fails, the whole challenge fails.

For example, a Dragon could be attempting to fly at breakneck speeds through a pillared hall. In this circumstance, as soon as he fails an Attempt action, he crashes.

As Fragile Situations generally make challenges a lot harder, GMs should generally employ them only as low Complexity challenges, so the situation is decided in one or two rolls.

GM Option: Assessing Action Quality[edit]

Optionally, a GM can seek to encourage quality narrative through Action Quality modifiers.

Essentially, for a described action of high quality, the GM rewards the player by giving his character a +1 (or more) bonus to the action's technique level.

In contrast, for described action of low quality, the GM penalises the player by giving his character a -1 (or more) penalty to the action's technique level.

A high quality action is:

  • Clever, showing the player has thought about the situation and come up with an appropriate solution. For example, when trying to break through a fort barricade, making a point of striking at the rotted timbers at the base.
  • Well roleplayed or described. For example, in an oratory to a crowd having the player make his speech in full.
  • Pleasingly dramatic, or lending itself to a pleasing or evocative narrative. For example, in a ritual spellcasting describing how the dragon casually eviscerates his sacrificial victim then casts the entrails into the pentagram.

A low quality action is:

  • Stupid, showing the player is determined to pursue an idiotic course of action, in the face of obvious inappropriateness. For example, when trying to break down a wall doing so by headbutting it.
  • Badly or lazily roleplayed. For example, saying "I make a 3 dice attempt", and then refusing to elaborate on the narrative behind this.
  • Discordant with the narrative. For example, in a dramatic speech to troops on the eve of battle, telling them Monty Python jokes.

Quality of action is a subjective judgment, so GMs should only invoke this rule if they are happy that their players will not feel aggrieved by punishment or feel that certain players are getting undue favouritism.