Xia: Skill Tests

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Xia: Main Page -> Xia: Additional Game Systems -> Xia: Skill Tests

This page includes a new optional game system for GMs and players who are interested in introducing skill tests into their game.

Introduction: Using Skill Tests[edit]

When To Use a Skill Test[edit]

You may want to consider using skill tests when:

  • During a Conflict, a character's skill at a non-opposed task could affect the conflict's outcome, and where the random chance of success or failure will add to the scene's drama and fun. Examples: Shepherding a panicking crowd out of the room to stop them getting hurt in the battle; Breaking down a wall to escape poison gas fumes; Translating a demon-banishing spell from an obscure ancient dialect into something you can use;
  • Outside of a Conflict, when a character's skill ar a non-opposed task will affect a conflict to come, and where the random chance of success or failure will add to the scene's drama or fun. Examples: Running cross city to reach the gate before the barbarian invaders smash it down; Improving the morale of your troops before you take them into the field of war; Predicting the weather, so you can use that knowledge in the sea-battle to come;
  • Outside of a Conflict, when a character's skill ar a non-opposed task will affect the path of the story, and where the random chance of success or failure will add to the story's drama or fun. Examples: Fighting fire to stop the city's library burning down; Giving a speech to a crowd to convince them to rebel; Writing beautiful calligraphy, to present as a gift to the Emperor;

When NOT To Use a Skill Test[edit]

  • If a Conflict System could be used instead... Then do so! Conflicts are the meat and drink of the Xia game system!
  • If a random outcome could lead to a less fun or less interesting story. Why would you want to make the game less fun or interesting? Decide on an outcome and move on. For example, if the Xia need to pick a lock to move further on, and there's no option for them other than to get through this door, then just let them pick the lock already!
  • If the Xia has very little chance of failing at such a task. Just assume they succeed!
  • If the Xia has very little chance of succceeding at such a task. Just assume they fail!

The Skill Test System[edit]

The Skill Test System has the following steps:

  • 1) Determine Skill Rating from Trait + Trigram.
  • 2) Deduct Task Difficulty. This gives you a Target Number.
  • 3) Roll 1D6. If you roll equal or below the Target Number, you succeed!

Determine Skill Rating[edit]

To determine a Skill Rating, add up the most appropriate Trait with the most applicable Trigram. For example. Physical + Heaven or Mental + Water.

Picking which Trait you is generally straightforward. Physical for physical tasks, Social for social and Mental for mental!

Picking which Trigram you use requires a little knowledge of what they represent. First off, a GM should be aware that the Trigrams are divided into Yang Trigrams and Yin Trigrams. The Yang Trigrams are Heaven, Fire, Wind and Thunder. When a character is being active, and making an effort at a task, you use the Yang Trigrams. The Yin Trigrams are Earth, Water, Mist and Mountain. When a character is being reactive or passive, and being forced to resist something, you use the Yin Trigrams. To put it another way, when the player asks to do something, its generally a Yang test, but when the GM asks the player to deal with something happening to him, its a Yin test. Each Trigram of course, has its own sphere of influence:

Heaven is the trigram of dominance, accuracy, leadership, forcefulness, education, memory and confidence.

  • Physical Examples of a Heaven Test: Precision of manual dexterity, Hitting a falling apple with a shot arrow; Striking a static martial pose of sublime grace;
  • Social Examples of a Heaven Test: Stirring a crowd to patriotism or high morale; Demonstrating excellent etiquette;
  • Mental Examples of a Heaven Test: Recalling a fact or piece of ancient lore; Performing a flawless tea ceremony; Writing a technically perfect poem; Teaching someone well;

Fire is the trigram of power, passion, aggression, creativity, anger and destruction.

  • Physical Examples of a Fire Test: Smashing down a wall; Test of strength;
  • Social Examples of a Fire Test: Intimidation; Seduction; Sexual performance;
  • Mental Examples of a Fire Test: Using rage to break influences on you; Cooking a passionately crafted meal; Writing an emotionally charged poem;

Wind is the trigram of motion, movement, progress and adaptation.

  • Physical Examples of a Wind Test: Feats of agility; Horsemanship; Acrobatics; Running speed; Athletics;
  • Social Examples of a Wind Test: Changing the subject adeptly; Encouraging others to speak out; Piercing deception;
  • Mental Examples of a Wind Test: Moving on from grief; Adapting to new ideas;

Thunder is the trigram of quickness, dexterity, wit and pre-emptive action.

  • Physical Examples of a Thunder Test: Speed of manual dexterity; Speed-copying;
  • Social Examples of a Thunder Test: Accomplishing a social task very quickly; Instant results; Hurrying people; Spontaneous wit;
  • Mental Examples of a Thunder Test: Quick calculations; Fast information processing; Quick analyses;

Earth is the trigram of acceptance, passivity, calm, self control and inner peace.

  • Physical Examples of an Earth Test: Rolling with a punch; Catching someone or something; Instinctive parrying;
  • Social Examples of an Earth Test: Seeming unmoved and calm; Accepting leadership gracefully; Calm under pressure; Empathy;
  • Mental Examples of an Earth Test: Appreciating the beauty of art; Letting others uplift and strengthen you; Being a good and effective student;

Water is the trigram of perception, analysis, absorption, integration and careful considered responses.

  • Physical Examples of a Water Test: Letting someone lead you in a dance; Falling gracefully and without injury;
  • Social Examples of a Water Test: Appearing to agree with someone; Spotting lies and deception; Detecting hidden agendas;
  • Mental Examples of a Water Test: Seeing and processing environmental detail; Structural analysis of someone's calligraphy;

Mist is the trigram of evasion, mask-wearing and avoidance.

  • Physical Examples of a Mist Test: Dodging; Quick reactions in defence;
  • Social Examples of a Mist Test: Hiding your thoughts and feelings; Giving false impressions; Passively lying; Obscured motivations;
  • Mental Examples of a Mist Test: Maintaining inscrutable plans; Double-bluff strategies;

Mountain is the trigram of resilience, resistance and endurance.

  • Physical Examples of a Mountain Test: Resisting torture; Enduring hunger; Recovering from disease; Putting aside pain;
  • Social Examples of a Mountain Test: Being unmoved by the opinion of the crowd; Dealing with ostracism and isolation;
  • Mental Examples of a Mountain Test: Resisting mental control; Refusing to give up;

Deduct Task Difficulty[edit]

The difficulty of a task is called by the GM. and expressed as a negative modifier.

  • Difficulty 0

This is the minimum for a "challenging" task - something an ordinary man would find hard but which are easy for most Xia. Even with absolute minimum stats, a Xia would have a 1 in 3 chance of pulling this task off, and likely most Xia will breeze through such challenges. Examples: Doing a series of elegant cartwheels and backflips; Pulling a wooden door off its hinges; Composing an on-the-spot poem of decent quality; Stirring a crowd with a fine speech; Creeping past a half-asleep guard dog;

  • Difficulty -1 to -3

At this level, we're beyond the skills of ordinary men and into tasks that some Xia will find difficult, and others relatively straightforward, depending on their skill sets. Bear in mind that an average Xia will have a rating of 5-6 in their average tasks, so -1 to -3 is a good bar for the GM to set if he wants a reasonable level of drama and doubt, but also a fair chance of someone succeeding. Examples: Identifying a ghost as being a little known historical poet from a single line that he quotes; Hefting a fully loaded cart over your head; Smashing down a stone wall; Working out someone's sword style from the way they write calligraphy;

  • Difficulty -4 to -6

We're now looking at serious challenges that most starting Xia will struggle with. Say a Xia has 4 in a strong Trigram and a Trait of 3 - he'll still have 50% chance or less of succeeding. -4 to -6 is a good difficulty for the GM to set if he wants the players to regard this as a hard task, which some Xia might not be able to do at all, and which even the naturally talented may struggle with. Examples: Eavesdropping on a whispered conversation from the far side of a crowded marketplace; Dancing leaps with your eyes closed while on a tightrope;

  • Difficulty -7 or more

These are the sort of challenges that starting Xia cannot succeed in. So why mention them? Well, first off, Xia with a little XP might be able to pull off feats that were once impossible to them. Secondly, some cowardly GMs (myself included) hate to say an outright "no you can't" to players. In these circumstances, its often easiest to hide behind the numbers! At least then the players can look forward to the time when such tasks ARE within their reach. Examples: Dodging raindrops in a storm; Hefting a fully loaded ship over your head; Working out someone's sword style from the way they scratch their balls;

(Roll that) Die, Already![edit]

The next step is to take the Skill Rating, apply the Difficulty modifier, and then from this get the Target Number.

The player then rolls a single D6. If he rolls below or equal to the target number, he succeeds. If he rolls above the target number, he fails.


The Xia Silver Spear is attempting to leap from one fast moving cart to another. The GM deems that this is a Physical + Wind task at a -1 difficulty modifier. Silver Spear has Physical 3 and Wind 3. 3+3 = 6, then -1 for the difficulty, gives a target number of 5. He needs to roll 5 or less on 1 D6 to succeed.


Specialised Skills[edit]

When players spend their hard earned XP on specialist skills, they expect to get something for it! The GM can interpret the presence of these skills in two ways.

  • "Only you can try this..."

With regards to specialised tasks that would need specialist training or knowledge, the GM can simply make it a normal skill check, but rule that you need the specialised skill to even attempt the task. The Xia who don't have the specialised skill automatically fail! An example of this might be attempting to play a stirring piece of music on a Guqin... If a Xia has no training in Musicianship it doesn't matter how passionate or precise he is, he can't play the instrument!

  • "You're better at this..."

With regards to tasks that anyone can try but which specialist training helps, the GM can give a +3 modifier to the Xia's skill rating. For example, if the Xia are all trying to solve a maths-based logic puzzle then its reasonable to assume that they all know how to do a few sums and can give it a shot. On the other hand the specialist Mathematician is going to be a lot better than them, and will gain +3 to his skill rating at this task.

Its up to the GM ultimately to decide which rule to use and when, going by his feel for what should be attemptable by the unskilled, and what tasks fall under the aegis of "everyman skills" for people such as the Xia.

Other Kung Fu Secrets[edit]

Likewise, the players may observe that certain kung fu secrets ought to make their life easier. The GM has two choices on what to do when the player declares he is using a kung fu secret.

  • "Forget the dice, you succeed."

This is often the quickest and easiest method. If a player is activating Lightfoot Technique, for example, then its no longer a skill check to run across a ladder as it is thrown through the air by his buddies - its just something his kung fu let's him do!

  • "Your kung fu power makes this easier..."

If the GM thinks an automatic success is over the top, but wants to reward the use of the secret, the GM can give a +3 modifier to the Xia's skill rating. For example, if the Xia is trying to smash down a wall in a Physical + Fire test, then it makes sense that Furious Inner Power is going to make him stronger. A +3 modifier seems sensible!


This page created by Asklepios.