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Sitting at the helm of a spaceship, an ulran pilots through a field of space junk left behind when a moon exploded. An ino distracts a guard with an absorbing conversation as her companions sneak past. Locked in a physical brawl with a pirate, a zivoy wrestles their enemy to the ground.
Each player character possesses eighteen skills used to overcome challenges. When a player character attempts a complicated or interesting task with a reasonable risk of failure, skills are the main way to determine the task’s outcome.
When it comes time for a character to make a skill roll, the character’s player picks the skill being used. Before making the roll, the player must declare the skill they want to use and explain how the skill applies in the situation. If the skill makes sense for overcoming the challenge, the GM tells the player the skill roll’s complexity then the character makes the roll. If the skill doesn’t make sense for the given situation, the GM asks the player to choose another skill and action.
Unlike many other RPGs each skill in Burn Bryte is not designed to be used for specific purposes. Instead skills are used as ways to approach the challenges that face the player characters. They are intentionally broad so that players may choose from a variety of different skills to solve a problem the way they want to solve it. This freeform use of skills gives freedom to the players to tell complex and differing stories with each roll.
For example, a character could certainly use the Melee skill to attack someone with a laser sword. They could also use the Melee skill to intimidate someone during a negotiation by flaunting their weapon or to impress someone with fantastic feats of finesse.
A character could use the Stealth skill to hide in the shadows and avoid being seen. They could also use the Stealth skill to attack someone from an unseen position or to send a signal to one person in an audience while giving a lecture.
The GM almost never tells a player, “You must make a Stealth roll to avoid being seen.” Instead the GM should say, “Guards are coming, what skill do you use to handle this situation?” and players can choose any skill they can justify.
To justify using a skill, the player explains how the skill their character intends to use applies to the situation. For example, a pirate moves to swing a knife at Jim’s kith’uk character, Sylo. In this situation Jim could say, “I am using Presence to stare down the pirate and convince them with my eyes that attacking me would be their last mistake ever,” justifying the use of Presence for the skill roll.
Likewise Jim could say, “I am using my Ranged skill to shoot suppressing fire at the pirate to disrupt their attack,” justifying the use of the Ranged skill for the skill roll.
Ultimately it is up to the GM if a character’s skill is justified. However, the GM should accept any justification that makes even a little bit of sense. Players coming up with creative solutions should always be rewarded. The only times a GM should not allow a justification is if a player is just being lazy and wants to use a particular skill even though they cannot think of a way it would work, or when what the player proposes has absolutely no chance of success.
You could always use your best skills, but that is actually not the optimal way to play Burn Bryte. If you only ever use your best skills, you will never earn Nova points.
Nova points allow a character to take very powerful actions that are far stronger than what can be done with a standard skill roll. Nova point abilities are the best abilities a character can get, and having Nova points is often the difference between success and failure in tough conflicts.
Characters only get a Nova point after they have used one skill of each die size (d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12). The only way to get Nova points is to use a combination of strong, intermediate, and weak skills.
Each time you make a skill roll, you roll two or more dice. Each of your eighteen skills has a die size that could be d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12. Your choice of skill determines the size of the die used in the skill roll. The larger the skill’s die size, the better the chance of success you have with the skill. Each of your character’s skills has a die size determined during character creation that can be increased during character advancement.
When you make a skill roll to perform a task, the skill roll has a complexity, which determines how difficult the task is to overcome. The higher a roll’s complexity, the harder it is to perform. The GM determines a roll’s complexity, which can be as low as 2 (easy) or as high as 7 (ridiculous), as shown on the Skill Roll Complexity table. Outside of combat most skill rolls have a complexity of 2 (easy), 3 (moderate), or 4 (hard). The skill roll’s complexity determines the number of dice you roll.
When you make a skill roll, you roll a number of dice of the skill’s die size equal to the roll’s complexity. If you roll the same number twice or more, known as rolling doubles, the skill roll fails.
For example, Luwe the glean wants to attempt to leap across a chasm. She tells the GM she wants to use her d8 Athletics to leap across the pit, and the GM tells her that skill roll has a complexity of 3. Luwe rolls 3d8 and rolls a 5, a 3, and a 7, so she succeeds. If Luwe had rolled a 5, a 5, and a 7 or a 6, a 6, and a 6, she would fail the roll because she rolled multiples (or doubles) of the same number. (We know 6, 6, and 6 are technically a triple and not a double, but it makes writing and running games easier if we use the same terminology.)
Each increase in a task’s complexity exponentially decreases the likelihood of success, as shown on the Skill Roll Success Probability table. This is an important concept to learn, since most other RPGs increase difficulty incrementally rather than exponentially.
It is your job as a co-storyteller to determine the outcome of success or failure at a task with the GM. When you succeed, the answer is often obvious, you successfully complete the task you set out to perform. You might jump a chasm, hack a computer, or strike a bargain with a merchant.
Failure can be more difficult to interpret. When your character fails a skill roll, it should result in an event worse than simply not performing the task. Something should happen that costs your character in some way. They might take damage, suffer a harmful condition, or break an object. Your character could also suffer a setback in the story. For instance, failing to pick a door’s lock sets off an alarm that sends enemies running toward them, or a poor performance for an audience means the governor in the crowd refuses to meet the character backstage after the show. Whatever happens, failure on a skill roll should always have a cost. Failure of a skill roll in combat has specific consequences including the ending of your turn and giving the GM resources to further complicate the battle.
If you have an interesting idea for the consequence of your failure, you should propose it to your GM. They have final say in the result of your failure and likely have ideas of their own. If neither of you has ideas about what should happen or you prefer to leave it to chance, the GM can roll on or choose from the Failure Prompts table, located below and in the Collections window of Roll20. The prompts are purposefully open to interpretation. For instance, the prompt “something breaks” could indicate an item of value the player character has breaks, that the spaceship they’re on suffers an engine malfunction, or an NPC the characters are negotiating with reaches their breaking point and storms off. If the GM and you can’t come up with an idea based on the prompt you roll, simply roll on the table again or choose a prompt that suits the situation. This table is already programmed into your game of Burn Bryte.
The consequence of a failed skill roll does not need to be directly related to the skill roll. For instance, if a player character fails a Performance skill roll to impress a potential love interest with dance moves, it could mean the player character falls flat on their face, or it could mean that the player character has bad luck and suddenly an assassin attacks them!
|2||Something is destroyed.|
|3||You get hurt.|
|4||You hurt an ally.|
|6||An enemy is back in the fight.|
|8||You lose something.|
|9||An enemy gains an advantage.|
|10||You get stuck.|
|11||You offend someone.|
|12||A damning secret is revealed.|
|13||You cause a scene.|
|14||You cause an accident.|
|16||Something wears out.|
|17||A fire starts.|
|20||Your luck runs out.|
|21||You can't try that again.|
|22||You make a mess.|
|23||You attract the wrong kind of attention.|
|24||You let a friend down.|
|25||You make an enemy stronger.|
|26||Something scares you.|
|27||You miss the mark.|
|28||You get tired.|
|29||You become impaired.|
|30||Something pulls you away from the action.|
|31||You get separated from allies.|
|32||You are suddenly alone.|
|33||Something works differently than you expected.|
|34||You can't sense what's in front of you.|
|35||The plan falls apart.|
|36||Something goes haywire.|
|37||A problem solved becomes undone.|
|38||An old wound reopens|
|39||A good thing turns bad.|
|40||A bad thing gets even worse.|
|41||You lose your stuff.|
|42||You lose focus.|
|43||Something gets dropped.|
|44||You suffer a massive distraction.|
|45||You get screwed.|
|46||Something pops loose.|
|47||You lose traction.|
|48||Your mind goes blank.|
|49||Karma comes to get you.|
|50||Karma comes to get an ally.|
|51||You look like a total loser.|
|52||You lose steam.|
|53||Something bad infects you.|
|54||Something bad infects an ally.|
|55||Your stuff gets stuck.|
|56||You accomplish your goal too hard.|
|57||You lose all hope.|
|58||You expose yourself.|
|59||You expose your allies.|
|60||You must choose between hurting yourself or an ally.|
|61||You freeze and cannot act for the next round.|
|62||You temporarily cannot communicate with anyone.|
|63||Your failure makes you weak.|
|64||Your allies lose faith in you.|
|65||Your enemies charge you in your moment of failure.|
|66||Nothing makes sense to you anymore.|
|67||You crack up.|
|68||Something you thought was true is a lie.|
|69||You are proven right about something you want to be wrong about.|
|70||Your defenses drop.|
|71||You knock over an ally.|
|72||You break an ally's stuff.|
|73||An ally becomes an enemy (even if just for a moment).|
|74||You cause an ally to get stuck.|
|75||An ally and you crash into each other.|
|76||You relive a painful memory.|
|77||This failure is personal.|
|78||Your priorities change.|
|79||There's a new problem you must solve.|
|80||You open a can of worms.|
|82||Your confidence disappears.|
|84||Something beautiful turns ugly.|
|85||You get burned.|
|86||You burn an ally.|
|87||Your latest success is undone.|
|88||The latest success of an ally is undone.|
|89||You succeed at the cost of an arm and a leg.|
|90||You go over the edge.|
|91||You believe a lie.|
|92||The joke is on you.|
|93||You must choose between saving two allies.|
|94||You must choose between hurting two allies.|
|95||You can't stay here.|
|96||Your nightmare becomes reality.|
|97||Something breaks beyond repair.|
|98||This failure becomes a scar.|
|99||The thing you fear most happens or appears.|
|100||The worst happens.|
Special abilities, Nova abilities, conditions, and equipment can increase and reduce the complexity of skill rolls. The complexity of a skill roll can never be reduced lower than 2.