[Let’s Study] Fading Suns – The Rules

Posted: October 28, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Fading Suns, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games

If there’s another impression that I got from those who love (and hate) Fading Suns, it would be that the mechanics are somewhat wonky.  I will admit that I don’t have a very strong head for numbers, but upon first reading, it seems pretty straightforward.  Perhaps actual exposure to the rules in play will change my opinion of it.

The basic mechnic of the game is the Goal Roll.  This is essentially a 1d20 roll, where the objective is to get as close to the goal number as possible without going over.  The goal number is determined by adding together the character’s relevant characteristic rating to their skill rating.  Therefore, a character with Dexterity 7 and Shoot of 6 would have a goal number of 13.

The closer your roll is to a 13 (without going over) determines the degrees of success of a roll.  These degrees (called Successes) are then referenced to a Victory Point table.  Every 3 successes scored  (rounding down) awards a Victory Point, which are indicative of how well the character did in their attempt.  Scoring an exact number to your goal roll doubles the number of Victory Points awarded, resulting in a critical success.

A roll of a 1 is considered an automatic success and a roll of a 19 is a failure, with 20 being a critical failure.  Given that a single d20 follows a flat probability curve, this essentially means that you have a 5% chance of automatically succeeding, 5% of scoring a critical success, a 5% chance of failing and 5% chance of failing horribly.  The rest of the 80% therefore is your wiggle room in terms of success or failure based on Characteristic and skill.

The GM can modify the goal number up or down depending on the difficulty involved.  Moving it up makes a task easier, and moving it down makes it harder.


A tiny part of me balks at the 1d20 roll, and almost immediately I was wondering if I could substitute a 3d6 implementation instead, with a 3 as an auto success and an 17 as automatic failure and 18 as a critical failure.  This ought to preserve some of the mechanics while introducing a bell curve, but honestly, without having given the basic system a try, I won’t really know if this is a good tweak or just my knee-jerk reaction to seeing a system that relies on a single d20 roll.

After all, sometimes it’s good to not think too much of the probability involved in a system, if it works, it works.

  1. Give it at least a session as written, though dropping the critical fail on a 20 would be my likely tweak.

  2. ZilWerks says:

    Played a lot of FS. Awesome universe and history. Rules… eh. FS was made by a bunch of old WoD refugees who could not (for copyright reasons) use the dice pool mechanic (althought the d6 damage pool slipped in). The result is wonky at best. My personal opinion is much stronger: I do not like the dice mechanic at all. My gaming group was not so harsh as me but none would call the system elegant.

    In light of my dislike of the game mechanic I pondered a number of replacments.
    * D20 Modern – too much conversion
    * Chasosium percentile – ditto
    * L5R roll & keep – without exploding dice this kinda worked for me, not for the group
    * D6, a la West End Games Star Wars ™ – Too much conversion but oh so close
    * d10 Cyberpunk – this worked the best

    I changed the fixed system to a CyberPunk 2020 mechanic that all my group was familier with: Attribute + Skill + d10 vs. Difficulty. It converted well as both mechanics use a 1 to 10 rating system. You might want to blow the dust of the old Interlock system AKA CyberPunk 2020.

    And a word for the wise: Do read closely on “accenting” a die roll. Once you players understand that it can take some of the bite out of a poor mechanic, or make a clever player crunchy effective.

    This, as always, is IMHO.

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