The KB3 Traveller Task System

Version 1.0, 14 May 2001.

Last Updated 14 May 2001.

This is a task system written by Kenneth Bearden, and uses a unique system of variable difficulty rolls.

  1. Definitions
    1. Task Throw
    2. Difficulty Throw
    3. The E-Die
    4. Skills and Skill Dice
    5. Governing Statistics
    6. Die Modifiers
    7. Success and Failure
  2. Task Throw Procedure
    1. Measuring Success
    2. Measuring Failure
  3. Advanced Rules
    1. Skill Options
    2. Multiple Actions
    3. Concentration
    4. Knockdown
    5. Should We Tell The Players?
    6. Increasing the Effects of Wounds (optional)
  4. Additional Information
    1. Analogy of a Sweet Spot
    2. Gauging Success With KB3
    3. Probabilities In The KB3 Traveller Task System
    4. Extended Example 1: Hand-to-hand With KB3
    5. Extended Example 2: Keeping The Players Involved
    6. Extended Example 3: Gvoudzon's Run
    7. The KB3 Experience System
    8. Combat Charts and GM Screen
  5. Copyright Information

1. Definitions

A. Task Throw

The dice throw a player makes to attempt success on a task. The amount of dice thrown equals the E-Die (see below) plus a number of Skill Dice equal to the character's skill level for the task.

For example, Piter (Intrusion-3) decides to pick a lock. He can throw up to 4D for the task; the E-Die plus three Skill Dice.

Any significant action that a player wants their character to undertake, that the GM believes there is a reasonable chance of failing with undesirable consequences, should be made as a Task Throw.

B. Difficulty Throw

The throw made against a player's Task Throw, used to determine the success of the Task Throw. Generally, any modifiers (positive or negative) are applied to the target number generated by the Difficulty Throw, NOT the Task Throw.

There are two sub-types of Difficulty Throw; the Opposed Throw and the Difficulty Table Throw.

Opposed Throws are made by another character when they are "opposing" the original task. As with Task Throws, the amount of dice thrown equals the E-Die (see below) plus a number of Skill Dice equal to the opposing character's skill level for the task.

For example, just before Piter can pick the lock, a guard comes around the corner. Piter decides to engage the guard in hand-to-hand combat. He (Brawling-2) attacks, rolling 3D. The guard (Brawling-1) makes an Opposed Throw of 2D. If Piter wins, he will have landed a punch on the guard. If the guard wins, he will have blocked Piter's mean right cross.

Difficulty Table Throws are made when tasks do not involve an opposing character. They are based on the following Difficulty Table:

Difficulty Table
No. of Dice
Target Number
Easy 1D 3+
Average 2D 7+
Difficult 3D 11+
Formidable 4D 15+
Staggering 5D 19+
Impossible 6D 23+

The GM assigns a Difficulty Level for the task, and rolls a corresponding number of dice (one of which is the E-Die, see below) for the Difficulty Throw.

For example, having KO'd the guard, Piter finally gets to make his 4D throw to pick the lock. Piter rolls a total of 12. The GM now decides that this lock is an Average difficulty to pick, and throws a Difficulty Throw of 2D. The GM's result is 9, less than Piter's 12 - Piter picked the lock!

A Note On Static Target Numbers: in KB3, you can optionally decide to roll all Task Throws just against the static target numbers shown in the Difficulty Table above. The drawbacks are first that everyone will know what the target number is, and second you won't have the thrill (?!) of rolling the E-Die on Opposed Throws. This is why we recommend generating the target number dynamically, using the dice.

However, there IS one instance in "standard" KB3 where using static target numbers makes sense: when the GM is rolling against himself. Rolling two sets of rolls simply makes more work for little gain. The players already don't know what the GM is rolling for, nor do they know the difficulty (ie. number of dice thrown). There is no need to obfuscate any further!

For example, a group of bad guys at a starport bar overhear a group of PCs. The PCs are talking about another of their companions, who is about to walk - alone - from his ship berth to the bar. The GM decides that the bad guys radio their buddies down the street and tell them to grab this lone PC. To make it fair, when the PC walks past, the GM rolls an Average task to see if the second group of bad guys recognise the PC from the radioed description.

Now, the GM could roll a Task Throw and then an Opposed Throw (both with the E-Die), but this is more work than necessary. Instead, the GM rolls one roll against a static target number - in this case, 7+ for an Average task.

C. The E-Die

This is the Event Die... the Explosion Die. It may explode your total - or implode it!

A "6" on the E-Die means double all even-numbered dice from the throw.
(SPEED-PLAY TIP: count all even-numbered dice, double that amount, then add the odd-numbered dice).

A "1" on the E-Die means remove all odd-numbered dice from the throw.
(SPEED-PLAY TIP: don't waste time with subtraction! Simply remove all odd-numbered dice from the throw, then count the evens normally).

The E-Die should be of a different colour or size to differentiate it from the others in the throw. For example, you could use a die with regular numbers on it (1, 2, 3, etc), while for the rest use the typical six-siders with "pips".

D. Skills and Skill Dice

Every Task Throw and every Opposed Throw are based on a character's skills.

When a player makes a Task Throw, they roll one E-Die plus a number of dice equal to the character's skill level for the task. These are known as Skill Dice.

Regular Skills are the skills that are noted on a character sheet, the sort that are acquired during character generation or training. For example, Pistol-3, Tactics-2.

Level-0 Skills are those Level-0 skills that are explicitly noted on a character sheet, and are ones that require some sort of minimal training in order to acquire. They could be picked up through character generation or training during the course of an adventure. For example, Swimming-0, Ground Vehicle-0, Engineering-0.

Default Skills are those Level-0 skills that are NOT explicitly written onto a character sheet, and are ones that are assumed to be available even to untrained characters. For the most part, these are an artifice of the KB3 system. They allow characters to roll one die (which also happens to be the E-Die) on Attribute-only rolls, and the player is allowed to subtract the character's Governing Stat from the Difficulty Throw. For example, "Climbing-0", "Lifting-0", "Jumping-0", etc.

For example, Piter (all stats 7) climbs a dirt slope. It's an Easy task. Piter has no "Climbing" or related skill, but this is a Default Skill, so Piter rolls one die and gets a 5. The GM also rolls 1D, minus 7, and gets a 3 – 7 = –4. Piter scrambles up the slope! (Not only that, but he has achieved both Automatic and Greater Success - see below).
In other words, anyone can attempt to climb a slope, and thus be granted a Default Skill in "Climbing" ("Climbing-0", in other words!). However, they cannot have a Default Skill of Swimming; since this must be taught, they can only have Swimming-0 if they have undergone some minimal training.

E. Governing Statistics

Each Task Throw is governed by one of the character's statistics (STR, DEX, END, etc). The GM should pick which stat is the most appropriate to use at the time.

For example, DEX normally governs the Handgun skill - when a weapon is being fired. However, imagine if Piter visits a gunshop on some backwater world. He examines several pistols that look as though they've been around since the Fourth Frontier War. The GM could allow Piter a roll to evaluate the quality of the pistols he is looking at, and this would be a roll using Handgun skill - but governed by EDU, not DEX.

Most importantly, skills in KB3 are not specifically tied to certain stats as they are in T4, TNE and other Traveller versions.

For our second example, Piter's EDU governs his Pilot skill when piloting his ship between planets in a system. However, when he finds an abandoned vessel during the journey, his DEX (a deft hand on the control stick) governs his Pilot skill as he gently maneuvers to dock with the derelict.

F. Die Modifiers

Die modifiers (or DM's) are any bonuses or handicaps that are applied during the Task Throw Procedure.

Generally, die modifiers - whether positive or negative - are applied to the target number generated by the Difficulty Throw. Beneficial DMs will REDUCE the target number; detrimental DMs will INCREASE the target number.

For example, Barge is a sergeant-major from Sacnoth. He has DEX 9, Combat Rifleman-3, and a new gauss rifle. He is annoyed with Daine the Darrain, who is 40m away (Short Range for KB3 or T4, Medium for Hyphen's Combat Rules). Being a Sword Worlder, Barge decides to shoot him! Barge aims and fires, rolling 4D for the task (the E-Die plus his three Skill Dice). It is a Difficult (3D) shot, but he has a long-range rifle (+5 to Aimed Fire), an advanced sight (+4 to Aimed Fire), and Daine is stationary (+3 to hit).

Barge's 4D attack is versus 3D - 5 - 4 - 3; that is, 4D vs 3D - 12.

In fact, he will probably only achieve Marginal Success. He would be better off to roll 2D and use a Skill Option to lower the target number further, attempting to ensure both Automatic (because the target number will probably be negative) and Greater Success (because the average of 2D is 7, less than Barge's DEX 9).

(I never suggested Barge was smart!)

G. Success and Failure

Automatic Success
Occurs if the Difficulty Throw is reduced to 0 or less. This can happen to static target numbers when modifiers are applied, and to random target numbers when modifiers are applied or as a result of rolling the E-Die. Note that the Task Throw must still be greater than 0 to succeed - the E-Die may prevent this!

Greater Success
Indicates the result of the Task Throw is "greater than normal". It is up the the GM as to the in-game effect.
In a combat situation, this could mean an extra die is applied to damage, a move (of the player's choice) is made on the KB3 Hit Location Chart, or that damage is assigned randomly to one of the target's stats (instead of allowing the target to subtract damage from his stats normally).
In a non-combat situation, Greater Success means that some other beneficial perk came out of the task attempt: maybe the task took half as long to do, if time is important; or maybe an important piece of information is obtained when speaking with an NPC.
One suggested approach is for the GM to allow players to pick one of the "benefits" listed above in a combat situation, and for the GM to give the PC's something "extra" in non-combat situations. In fact, the GM can ask the player the effect they were trying for, and award it as a result.

Regular Success
This is what happens normally with success on a dice throw. It doesn't change the quality of the result.

Marginal Success
This means that the character "barely" succeeded. In a combat situation, this could mean that their attack - although it hit the target - hit a more heavily armoured area, reducing damage by one die, or even halving it.
In a non-combat situation, Marginal Success could mean that the time to do the task is doubled even though the task is successful (when time is important to the PC's), an alarm was tripped even though the lock was picked, or the GM may withhold information an NPC is giving them - giving them about half of what a Regular Success would give them.

Regular Failure
This is just plain old failure. Like Regular Success, it doesn't change the quality of a result.

Greater Failure
Indicates that not only did the character fail at the task, but they failed in such a way that it hurt them more than normal.
Maybe their weapon jammed while firing it. Maybe the lock they were picking sent a silent alarm to the 50-man cadre of troops down the hall. Maybe they stripped the threads as they were twisting that screw to take the access plate off the broken drive.

Occurs if the Task Throw is reduced to 0 or less. A Mishap is a fumble - the worst thing that could possibly happen at that moment happened.
Maybe, as the character pulled his weapon off his back to shoot at the enemy, his hair trigger went off, calling for an attack roll on one of the character's comrades. Maybe the character slipped on the ledge and is in peril of falling into the vat of liquid oxygen. Maybe the character repairing the hoverjeep blew all the seals, and the jeep is immobilised until a new drive is installed.
NOTE: with any of these "results", let your imagination run wild as to the outcome. It's a ROLE-PLAYING GAME! Have fun with it!

2. Task Throw Procedure

  1. GM decides what type of task this is (and the Difficulty Level if not Opposed);
  2. Player rolls the Task Throw;
  3. GM (or another player) then rolls the Difficulty Throw;
  4. If the roll succeeds, measure the level of success of the task;
  5. If the roll fails, measure the level of failure of the task.

Note that if Skill Options are used (see below), the player must decide how to apply them before both the Task Throw and Difficulty Throw are made.

A. Measuring Success

If the Task Throw is greater than or equal to the Difficulty Throw, the task succeeds:

  1. Greater Success occurs if your total is less than or equal to your Governing Stat.
  2. Regular Success occurs if your total is greater than your Governing Stat but less than or equal to your Difficulty Throw plus Stat.
  3. Marginal Success occurs if your total is greater than your Difficulty Throw plus Stat.

B. Measuring Failure

If the Task Throw is less than the Difficulty Throw, the task fails:

  1. Regular Failure occurs if your total is greater than or equal to your Difficulty Throw minus Stat.
  2. Greater Failure occurs if your total is less than your Difficulty Throw minus Stat.
  3. A Mishap occurs if your total is less than or equal to zero (due to the E-Die or DM's).

3. Advanced Rules

A. Skill Options

This is presented here as an advanced rule, but it is one that is highly recommended!

As written, the KB3 rules mean that characters with high skills will be penalised if they use all their skills on simple task rolls! They will probably end up rolling Marginal Success, and this is not the desired outcome of this system. Higher skills should give you better chances of rolling Greater Success, if anything.

Therefore, players have the option to apply their character's skill levels in different ways. They are not simply required to use all of their character's skill levels on a Task Throw - higher skills give a player more choice.

As you can see in the basic rules, a character's skill level determines how many dice can be rolled on a Task Throw. That is one option. But, there are others:

Skill Option 1: Increase Task Throw Dice
A player may throw a number of D6 equal to their character's skill level, plus throw the E-Die, when rolling a Task Throw. This is the default option.

Skill Option 2: Increase Governing Stat
A player may elect to use one or all of their character's skill levels to increase the Governing Stat for measuring purposes.
This will make it easier to roll Greater Success, and give them greater ranges in the other measuring categories.
All skill levels may be used in this manner, but the player must still roll the E-Die and achieve success on the roll.

Skill Option 3: Reduce Difficulty Throw
A player may elect to use one or all of their character's skill levels to reduce their Difficulty Throw.
In this instance, use the skill points as a modifier to reduce the Difficulty Throw, or simply subtract the skill points from the static target number.
All skill levels may be used in this manner, but the player must still roll the E-Die and achieve success on the roll.

Skill Option 4: Mixed Options
A player may decide to mix any of the options above.

For a guide to gauging the chance of success (and therefore which option to pick), see Gauging Success With KB3.

B. Multiple Actions

A character can perform more than one action during a round, provided there is time in the round to do so.

If you dig through your backpack, the GM will probably rule that that action is the only action you can make during the round. But, if you want to pull the trigger of your weapon more than once, it is logical to assume that you can do that multiple times in a six second combat round.

The Multiple Action rule states that for each additional action taken in a round, add 1D to all Difficulty Throws in that round.

For example, Piter wants to fire his pistol three times during a round - that is, take two extra actions. All three shots will have 2D added to their Difficulty Throw.

In additional, the number of actions a character can perform is limited by their skill level. Characters with skill-1 can only perform 1 action that round with that skill. Characters with skill-2 can perform two actions, and so on.

So, if you want to fire your pistol twice in a round, you have to have Pistol-2 (or higher) to be able to do that.

If you have a dagger in one hand and a pistol in the other, and you want to fire the pistol and throw the dagger in the same round, you have to have Pistol-2 AND Dagger-2 to be able to pull that off.

And, no matter how you mix it up, you still have to contend with the 1D difficulty penalty per additional action after the first.

Sometimes, a character will make multiple actions with tasks that do not require rolls. For instance, a character may want to reach his hand into a belt pouch and pull out some caltrops (an action), and then toss those caltrops to the ground at this feet (another action). No roll is required to do either of these actions, but performing both in a round is definitely a Multiple Action.

As long as the GM allows it, a character can do this - and the game moves on. If in doubt, the GM may rule that the character needs to make a Task Throw to see if their actions succeed.

For example, a character trying the caltrop manoeuvre above, may be asked to make an Attribute-only roll against DEX, at an Average (2D) level of difficulty. If they fail, they have probably dropped the caltrops in a heap at their feet!
When these situations come up, the GM just needs to keep in perspective what can be accomplished in 6 seconds.

C. Concentration

Typically in a KB3 round, a character can move and act, or act and move. If the character concentrates on one task throughout the entire round, they can reduce the difficulty of the task (at the expense of losing their movement).

If a character wants to focus their attention on a skill, and only perform one action during the round, they can subtract 1D from their Difficulty Throw.

Aiming a weapon is a specific version of this rule. A character can make a snapshot and move, or move and make a snapshot. Alternatively, they can take an entire round to make a shot - that is, they take time to aim and forego their movement. If a character chooses to aim their weapon, instead of subtracting 1D from the Difficulty Throw, subtract the Aimed Fire DM for the weapon (taken either from the T4 rulebook or Hyphen's Combat Rules - Weapons Tables).

For example, Gvoudzon's ship has just been boarded. Hiding in the cargo bay, he sees an intruder in Zhodani combat armour enter. The Zho hasn't seen Gvoudzon, so the Vargr decides to aim his advanced combat rifle at the boarder, then fire. He can subtract 4 from his Difficulty Throw.

D. Knockdown

One set of questions that often arise during a role-playing session are: Whenever there is a question about a character being knocked to the ground because of damage, have the character make an Default Skill roll (using something like "Avoid Knockdown" skill!), versus the amount of damage minus the character's DEX.

For example, a grenade lands close to a character, exploding for 8D damage. Armour and range from the explosion reduce this damage to 15 points.

Is the character knocked down from the blast?

Using the KB3 Knockdown rule, this is an Attribute-only roll vs DEX. If the character's DEX is 7 (reduced after taking damage from the blast), then the roll would be 1D versus a target number of 15 – 7 = 8 (successful only if the E-Die is a "6").

If the character has a skill, like Athletics, he can use this skill as part of the attribute check.

If the damage inflicted on the character is less than the character's DEX, success is automatic (don't even worry about rolling).

Always resolve damage first. Because of this, a character may have a lowered DEX score - or one of the character's stats may be lowered to 0, making them unconscious (in which case, being knocked down is automatic!).

For another example, Gvoudzon (DEX 8) is hit with a shotgun blast (4D damage), and Gvoudzon is not wearing Armour. Total damage is 10 points, and in taking the damage, Gvoudzon's DEX is reduced to 5. None of Gvoudzon's physical stats were reduced to 0.

Was Gvoudzon knocked down?

He doesn't have Athletics or any other skill that would help him stay on his feet, so he must roll this as a Default Skill. Gvoudzon can make a 1D Task Throw, versus a difficulty of 10 (HP) – 5 (DEX) = 5.

Gvoudzon must roll 5+ on 1D to remain standing after being hit with the shotgun blast.

E. Should We Tell The Players?

One question that arises with this system of random Difficulty Throws, is whether the player should be told what the Difficulty Level is.

This decision is up to the GM. For example, if a character can gauge the difficulty of a task ("How hard does it look to climb that cliff?"), you may decide to tell the player what the Difficulty Level is - Easy, Average, Difficult, etc.

If the character cannot gauge the difficulty ("I wonder what kind of defense that guy over there would put up if I hit him in the face?"), then you can refuse to give the player any indication of difficulty.

Optional Rule
You may consider allowing the character to gauge the difficulty via a Task Throw. For instance, characters may try and estimate the UPP stats of the individuals they meet and dealing with (especially NPC's). Here are some suggested estimation Task Throws (as adapted from the MegaTraveller Referee's Manual):

To estimate a physical stat (STR, DEX, or END) of another character:
Average, Medical, INT
Referee: roll once per physical characteristic.

To estimate a mental stat (INT or EDU) of another character:
Average, INT, EDU
Referee: roll once per mental characteristic.

To estimate the Social Standing (SOC) of another character:
Average, Liaison or Streetwise or Bribery, INT

To estimate any UPP characteristic (STR, DEX, END, INT, EDU, SOC, and LIF, DET, EXP if these are used) of another character:
Average, Interview, EDU, 5 min
Referee: roll once per characteristic.

To estimate another character's skill level by observation:
Difficult, [skill], EDU, 5 min (unskilled OK)
Referee: the skill in brackets is the observing character's level of the skill being estimated (or a related skill).

Referee: for ANY of the above tasks:
If the result is any sort of failure, misrepresent the stat or skill by 2D – 7.
If the result is Marginal Success, misrepresent the stat or skill by 1D – 3.
(In all cases, treat a stat estimate of less than 1 as 1 - unless the character is unconcious! - and a stat estimate of over 15 as 15; treat a skill estimate of less than zero as a belief that the character has no skill at all!).
If the result is Regular Success, provide the player with the correct value.

Note that if you are using static target numbers a player will know the exact difficulty of the throw because each difficulty level is assigned one target number.

If you are using random difficulties, on the other hand, the player will only get an idea of the range of target numbers they will be up against (and the E-Die will come into play).

Use whichever method best suits your game.

F. Increasing the Effects of Wounds (optional)

Wounded characters do not operate at peak efficiency... they move slower... their reactions are not as quick... they're hurt.

To reflect this, total all the damage taken by a character and apply this as a positive (unfavourable) DM to the Difficulty Throw of any task the character undertakes.

For example, Gvoudzon has been hurt by a shotgun blast, reducing his physical stats from 788 to 553. He's still up and walking, but has suffered 10 hit points of damage.

Gvoudzon wants to open a stuck bulkhead door. The GM rules that Gvoudzon is using a Default Skill (something like, "Opening Stuck Doors-0"!); that is, Gvoudzon must make an Attribute-only roll against STR. His STR is currently 5, and he has no related skill (such as the T4 Athletics skill) that might help.

Gvoudzon throws one die (the E-Die) for his Default Skill. The GM rules that it is an Average (2D) task to open the door, and Gvoudzon can subtract 5 from this Attribute-only Difficulty Throw.

Now, since Gvoudzon is wounded, he adds 10 to the Difficulty Throw. The result is that Gvoudzon is rolling 1D vs 2D + 5 to open the door.

Certainly, this severely penalises Default Skill rolls. However, for tasks involving Regular Skills, it acts simply as an offset to the skill.

For example, Gvoudzon has been shot, as above. He decides to fire back at his attacker. Gvoudzon has Rifle-3, the target is 42 m away (Short range), and the shot is Difficult.

Gvoudzon will roll 4D vs 3D + 10.

[Hyphen's Comment: I am not in favour of this rule as written, because it penalises characters TWICE when using Default Skills: their lowered Stats give them less chance of success, then the damage modifier gives them even less chance of success. Kenneth believes that the double penalty is needed to reflect CT damage effects. He says, "If you're shot, I think it should be harder to achieve Greater Success, if you even make the roll at all."

I do concede that when using Regular Skills it's not as much of a penalty, it just makes Greater Success harder to achieve.

However, I may still use a variant of this rule for my campaign. Since I am NOT reducing Stats in my combat rules (I am using straight Hit Points), what I might do is add +1 to all Difficulty Throws for every 10 HP a character receives in damage. This will require playtesting.]

4. Additional Information

These discussion topics are included to give the user a better feel of the numbers and philosophy behind the KB3 task system.

A. Analogy of a Sweet Spot

Kenneth describes how we should view KB3 as a "sweet spot" system.

B. Gauging Success With KB3

Kenneth describes how to gauge success in the KB3 system.

C. Probabilities In The KB3 Traveller Task System

Phil Kitching has analysed the Probabilities In The KB3 Traveller Task System.

D. Extended Example 1: Hand-to-hand With KB3

Kenneth gives us an example of fast and furious hand-to-hand combat action.

E. Extended Example 2: Keeping The Players Involved

Kenneth shows us how to keep our players involved in the game with this task system.

F. Extended Example 3: Gvoudzon's Run

Kenneth gives us an extended example of his task system in full-on combat action.

G. The KB3 Experience System

Kenneth continues his good work, presenting us with The KB3 Experience System.

H. Combat Charts and GM Screen

[Create a Word version of a GM screen. Analyse what other Trav GM screens contain, and build one that covers just KB3 and one that covers just Hyphen's Combat Rules]

5. Copyright Information

The KB3 Traveller Task System, copyright © 2001 Kenneth Bearden.
Compiled and edited by David "Hyphen" Jaques-Watson.
Used by permission.

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