Chapter 1 Getting Started

Chapter 1 Getting Started

“First thing, pilgrim. You’re new. And you look it. Here’s 200 drakes. Go get yourself a decent weapon. Or armor. Or a spell. And second thing… you need a cover identity. Around here, ‘freelance adventurer’ is a common profession. Sign on with the Fighters Guild, or Mages Guild, or Imperial cult, or Imperial legion, advance in the ranks, gain skill and experience. Or go out on your own, look for freelance work, or trouble. Then, when you’re ready, come back, and I’ll have orders for you.”
Caius Cosades, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

1 The goal of the Unofficial Elder Scrolls RPG is to provide a framework for game masters and players to craft and enjoy characters, stories and adventures in the Elder Scrolls setting. In order to achieve this, a flexible core mechanic is needed, capable of handling a number of different scenarios with ease. This Chapter will introduce you to this core mechanic, as well as the basic concepts necessary to understand the rest of the game.

Dice & Dice Rolls

The Unofficial Elder Scrolls RPG uses a ten-sided die (referred to as a d10) for random rolls. For most rolls the rules require a Percentile Roll (referred to as a d100), or a roll that produces a result between 1 and 100. This can be achieved by simply rolling two d10s, treating one as the tens digit of the result and the other as the ones digit. Alternatively, using a digital dice roller that features a d100 option will do.

Sometimes the rules will call for rolls of single, or multiple, d10s. The number of dice required will be noted as a number in front of the d10 notation (1d10, 2d10, 3d10, and so forth). Simply roll the desired number of d10s, and combine their results. If any roll is accompanied by a modifier (2d10+3, or 1d100-20, for example), simply roll the dice as normal (adding dice rolls as necessary), and apply the modifier to the result.

A third kind of roll may also be required at certain points. A roll of a d5, or five-sided dice, can be replicated by rolling a d10 and treating a result of a 1-2 as a 1, 3-4 as a 2, 5-6 as a 3, 7-8 as a 4, and 9-10 as a 5. Finally, the rules may occasionally require a certain type of dice roll that is not explained here, these cases will be detailed in the section in which they appear. On rare occasions, a roll of a d6 will be required. Fortunately, d6s are extremely common, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding one.

The Two Golden Rules

This book contains quite a few rules, and it’s easy for one to get lost, especially if one isn’t used to role-playing games of this type. In other cases, certain rules might not fit well with the way your group prefers to play. Both of these cases can slow down, or otherwise harm, the gaming experience for a group. To combat this, keep in mind these two golden rules above all others. First, if a certain rule is slowing play down too much, just stop using it. And second, if you want to change something, do it. While we have done our best to provide a ruleset that should be acceptable, nobody knows what works for your group better than you do.

Core Mechanics

2 The goal of most people who play Role-playing Games is to experience exciting, stressful, or dramatic situations in another world or time through the eyes of their character. Invariably, the players will want to know how well their characters perform certain actions in these situations. They do this by making tests.

Making Tests

3 A Test is a dice roll made to determine whether or not a character has succeeded or failed at a certain action, and to what degree. Characters will be called to make tests during a number of scenarios, but it’s important to remember that tests are not required for every action. There’s no need to make a test to have your character take a few steps across a room. If, on the other hand, you find your character forced to walk across a tightrope suspended above a lake of molten lava in order to escape angry Dremora (or something to that effect), you will probably want to know if your character manages to cross in time. It is recommended that the GM only require tests if one or more of the following conditions hold true:

  • The activity is unusual for the character, and not something they attempt routinely.
  • The character is lacking the time and/or tools necessary to complete the task.
  • The circumstances and environment impose stress.
  • There are meaningful consequences for failing the action.

You make tests by making a percentile roll and comparing the result to a Target Number, typically a value between 1 and 99. The exact target number can be determined in a number of ways, but it is typically based on a character’s characteristics (values typically ranging from 1-100, and detailed later in this Chapter). if the roll is less than or equal to the target number, the character succeeds. If the roll is higher than the target number, they fail. In general, lower rolls are better (as you will discover in the following sections).

Degrees of Success & Failure

4 Sometimes knowing whether or not your character succeeded a test isn’t enough; in some cases you may also want to know how well they performed a particular action. Each test result (success or failure) also produces a degree of success or failure, a number that represents how well a character succeeded or how badly they failed.

It is not necessary to calculate degrees of success or failure on most tests, but certain tests (such as attack and defense rolls) require it, and it can also be useful if the GM wants a measure of roughly how strongly a character succeeded or failed.

To calculate Degrees of Success, simply subtract the tens digit of your roll on a successful test from the tens digit of the target number, and add one. So if you succeeded with a roll of 37 against a target number of 52, you scored 3 degrees of success.

To calculate Degrees of Failure, simply add 1 to the difference between the tens digit of the result of your failed test and the tens digit of the target number. So if you failed with a 56 against a target number of 30, you scored 3 degrees of failure.

Difficulty & Modifiers

5 Not all tests are created equal! Modifiers are adjustments made to a test’s target number (not the roll itself ), that make the test easier, or harder, for a character to pass. Bonuses are modifiers that increase the target number and thus make success more likely, while Penalties are modifiers that decrease the target number and thus make success less likely. If a test would be subject to more than one modifier, simply add their values together to determine the net modifier for that test.

The Difficulty of a test is the “base” modifier applied to a test simply based on how much more, or less difficult than usual that particular action is.

One of the most important jobs of the GM is to determine the difficulty of tests. The test difficulty table below provides guidelines for recommended modifiers given particular levels of difficulty. Once the difficulty has been decided, apply the modifier to the test’s target number and roll the test against the modified target number. GMs who desire more finesse should not be afraid to assign test difficulty in increments of +/-5.

Test Difficulty Levels
Difficulty Modifier
Effortless +40
Simple +30
Easy +20
Ordinary +10
Average +0
Challenging -10
Difficult -20
Hard -30
Very Hard -40

Critical Successes & Failures

6 Sometimes a character succeeds or fails beyond what can be measured by mere degrees of success of failure. Such dramatic successes, or abysmal failures, are referred to as Critical Successes or Critical Failures respectively.

A character’s chance of rolling a critical success depends on his Luck bonus (a concept that we will explore later). If a character rolls equal to or less than his Luck bonus on a given test then the test is considered a critical success (regardless of the target number). On the flip side, if the character rolls equal to or above a certain critical failure threshold (equal to 95 plus his Luck bonus) on a given test then the test is considered a critical failure (regardless of the target number).

A critical success is a dramatic, stunning success. GMs should reward characters with circumstantially appropriate effects whenever they roll critical successes. Though in the case of particularly difficult (or nigh impossible) tests, a critical success might simply represent the fact that the character managed to succeed “normally” against all odds.

If a character rolls a critical success during an opposed test, they automatically win the contest regardless of their opponent’s degrees of success (unless both rolled a critical success, in which case the tie is broken with degrees of success as usual).

A critical failure is an abysmal, terrible failure. GMs should punish characters with circumstantially appropriate effects whenever they roll critical failures. Though in the case of particularly easy tests, a critical failure might simply represent the fact that the character managed to fail “normally” against all odds.

In combat, critical successes and failures have specific effects for attack and defense rolls that are further explained in the appropriate section.

Types of Tests

7 You won’t always be testing your character in the same way every session. There are three different types of tests that a character can be called to make, each reflecting a different type of situation or action.

Standard Tests

Tests without any opposition are known as Standard Tests. They measure how well a character performs an action in a particular situation. Standard tests are handled as described on the previous page: a result less than or equal to the modified target number is a success, and a result above the target number is a failure. The GM can call for the character to calculate their degrees of success of failure on the roll if it is required by the test, or if they just want to have that additional measurement.

Teamwork

If two or more characters work together on a standard test, one of them must be chosen as the primary actor. The primary actor is the one who makes the actual test, and they receive a +10 bonus for each character helping them out, to a maximum +30. The helpers do not need to be trained in the skill being used as long as the GM decides that they can follow the primary actor’s lead, or make themselves useful in some other way.

Simple Tests

In many circumstances there is no chance that a character will fail a particular action, but the GM wants a simple gauge of how well the character performs. In this case, a Simple Test may be employed. This is handled just like a standard test, but rather than determining success or failure, the result of the test determines whether the character succeeds strongly (passes the test) or succeeds weakly (fails the test).

The GM can even choose to measure degrees of success and Failure in these cases to determine exactly how strongly or weakly the character succeeds, but this is usually unnecessary. Most of the time a binary result of strong or weak success will suffice.

Opposed Tests

Whenever a character’s action is directly opposed by that of another character, the GM can call for an Opposed Test. Both characters make a test against each other, with the result determining the winner. To make an opposed test, each character rolls a standard test as appropriate to the situation. If only one of the characters succeeds, that character wins. If both fail, or both succeed, then the characters have tied.

Note that both characters do not have to actually roll the same test: characters making different tests for different actions can still be acting in opposition to one another.

Opposed tests that result in a tie (both characters succeed or fail their test) are typically broken by comparing degrees of success or failure, with the character who has the greater success, or the lesser failure, being the winner. But sometimes the GM may rule that the nature of the test has simply resulted in a tie and the two characters remain locked against each other until one of them gives up or another opposed test is made.

If a character rolls a critical success during an opposed test, they automatically win the contest regardless of their opponent’s degrees of success (unless both rolled a critical success, in which case the tie is broken with degrees of success as usual).

Characteristic & Skill Tests

8 Until now, we have simplified the concept of tests. Characters are largely defined by their characteristics, which provide the base target number for almost all tests. Characters also have skills, which can affect tests different tests in certain circumstances. All tests (regardless of the test’s type) can be divided into two categories based on whether a characteristic or a skill is used to determine the target number.

Characteristic Tests are tests made with a target number based on one of a character’s characteristic scores and modified as appropriate for the difficulty of the test. These tests are used when a character is performing a task that requires no specialized training and relies only on their natural abilities.

Skill Tests are tests made with a target number based on one of a character’s characteristic scores. Like characteristic tests, skill tests are also modified as appropriate for the difficulty of the test; unlike characteristic tests, skill tests also take into account a character’s skill at whatever task they are attempting. Skill tests are used when a task requires some form of specialized training or skill to perform well. Skill tests based on a given characteristic will list the characteristic in parenthesis after the name of the skill.

Complimentary Skills

If a character is making a skill test where the use of another skill they possess would conceivably aid them, that character can treat that second skill as a Complimentary Skill. A character may choose one complimentary skill for a given skill test to gain a +10 bonus to that test.

Defining a Character

9 In game terms, a character is simply a collection of statistics and other information that help define and accurately represent a being in the Elder Scrolls setting. This same system is also used to define the various people, monsters, and other beings that populate the setting. From this point forward, the player characters will be referred to as PCs, while non-player characters will be referred to as NPCs. Even monsters and other creatures are classified as characters! Characters, particularly PCs, can be divided into two main parts: the character concept, and the character profile.

Character Concept

A character concept simply defines who the character is within the context of the game setting. This can range from a simple idea in a player’s head (a dashing rogue who fights with sabers!) to an in depth background document written before the game begins. However extensive it may be, all characters should have a basic concept associated with them, even the NPCs that the GM creates for the party to interact with.

Character Profile

A character profile defines who the character is within the context of the game rules, providing a suite of stats which can be used to resolve a variety of dramatic scenarios in which the character may find themselves. These values are the focus of the majority of the rules in this book, and will be the focus of the rest of this section as well.

Each character profile is made up of the following elements:

  • Characteristics: Eight values that represent the broad physical and mental capabilities of the character.
  • Attributes: Derived statistics that represent more specific measurements of a character capabilities.
  • Skills: A set of categories and associated ranks that reflect a character’s ability to perform certain actions.
  • Talents: A set of unique abilities the character has come to possess through training or experience.
  • Traits: Rules that reflect inherent physical facts about the character, certain abilities they naturally possess, or particular features of their personality.
  • Magic: The set of all magical abilities the character posesses.
  • State: The current state of the character, including everything from their equipment to their physical health.

The primary means by which characters progress is through the accumulation and use of Experience Points (XP) awarded by the GM. XP can be spent by the players between game sessions in order to improve or change their character’s profile in a number of ways.

Characteristics

10 The eight Characteristics are values that define the broad physical and mental capabilities of each character. Characteristics have two pieces of information associated with them: the characteristic score, and the characteristic bonus.

A given characteristic’s Score is a value, at minimum zero with no ceiling, that represents that characteristic. The scores tend to hover in the 35-45 range on average. Higher values are better. A given characteristic’s Bonus is a value equal to the tens digit of the associated characteristic score, and is used for certain calculations where the full score is too large. Below is a list of all the characteristics that define a character, how these characteristics and their corresponding bonuses are abbreviated, and what they each represent.

Strength (Str / StB)
measures a character’s physical prowess, and their ability to employ that prowess and push themselves to their physical limits.
Endurance (End / EB)
measures a character’s physical health, stamina and toughness, and their resistance to damage.
Agility (Ag / AB) measures a character’s physical speed, reflexes, and coordination, reflecting their overall ability to move quickly and gracefully.
Intelligence (Int / IB)
measures a character’s mental prowess, problem solving, reasoning, and ability to recall information.
Willpower (Wp / WB)
measures a character’s mental control, resilience, and their ability to use Magic in its various forms.
Perception (Prc / PcB)
measures a character’s physical awareness, as well as the accuracy of his “gut instincts” and intuition.
Personality (Prs / PsB)
measures a character’s natural charisma, presence, expressiveness, and social abilities.
Luck (Lck / LkB)
measures a character’s good fortune: how often events tend to go their way. See Luck in Chapter 5.

Favored Characteristics

Not all characteristics are created equal! Some characters excel in certain areas over others, beyond a simple difference in raw characteristic score. Favored Characteristics are those characteristics a character is naturally gifted in: improving those characteristics, or skills and abilities associated with them, is easier than usual. Each PC has two favored characteristics. Learning and ranking skills, or learning talents, governed by a favored characteristic, or advancing that characteristic, costs half of the usual XP cost (round down).

Attributes

11 A character’s Attributes are statistics derived from a character’s characteristics that represent more specific measurements of a character’s capabilities. While characteristics reflect general aptitude in a certain area, attributes measure specific values with very precise meanings used for particular game mechanics.

Health (End)
A character’s Health is equal to their Endurance score and reflects how much trauma they can withstand before they die. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.
Wound Threshold (EB + StB )
A character’s Wound Threshold is equal to the sum of their Endurance and Strength bonuses and reflects the amount of trauma an attack must deal to cause a wound. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.
Stamina (EB + [1/2*WpB])
A character’s Stamina is equal to their Endurance bonus, plus half their Willpower bonus (round down) and reflects the number of levels of fatigue a character can accrue before they lose consciousness. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.
Magicka Pool (Int)
A character’s Magicka Pool, which is equal to their Intelligence, is a measure of how much magical energy (known as magicka) the character is capable of harnessing for spellcasting. For information, see Chapter 6.
Size Category (Standard by default) A character’s Size Category reflects their physical size, and the effects thereof. Note that character Size categories and weapon Size categories are different mechanics, and do not overlap. All roughly human sized characters are Standard Size, but some characters can be larger or smaller. For information see Size in Chapter 5.
Movement Rating (AB) A character’s Movement Rating, equal to their Agility bonus, determines how many meters they can move in combat, and is used as a foundation to calculate other movement based values. For information, see Movement & Encumbrance in Chapter 5.
Carry Rating ([2*StB] + EB)
A character’s Carry Rating, equal to the sum of twice their Strength bonus and their Endurance bonus, provides a measure of roughly how much weight they can carry, lift, or push. For information, see Movement & Encumbrance in Chapter 5.
Initiative Rating (AB + PcB)
A character’s Initiative Rating is used when making initiative rolls, and is equal to their Agility bonus plus their Perception bonus. For information on initiative, see Combat in Chapter 5.

Maximum Action Points A character’s Maximum Action Points, based on the sum of their Agility, Intelligence, and Perception bonuses, determines how often a character can act in a combat round. Consult the table below to determine this value. For information, see Combat in Chapter 5.

Max. Action Points
AB + IB + PcB AP
6 or lower 1
7-10 2
11-14 3
15-18 4
19+ 5
Damage Bonus (SB)
A character’s Damage Bonus is a measure of how much force they can bring to bear for melee attacks. It is equal to their Strength bonus, and is added to the damage of all their attacks with melee weapons. For information, see Chapter 5.
Maximum Luck Points (LB)
A character’s Maximum Luck Points, equal to their Luck Bonus, which can be spent for a number of unique effects. For more information, see Luck in Chapter 5.

Skills

12 A character’s Skills are a set of categories and associated ranks that reflect a character’s ability to perform certain actions. The ranks reflect the character’s experience, training, and overall ability to perform these various actions. Skills are either trained, or untrained. Each trained skill has a corresponding Skill Rank, which has an associated value from 0 to 5, which reflects how capable the character is at utilizing that skill. Each skill has one or more Governing Characteristics: a set of characteristics that reflect the many ways that a character can utilize a single skill.

Skill Governing Characteristics
Acrobatics Strength, Agility
Alchemy Intelligence
Alteration Willpower
Athletics Strength, Endurance
Charm Personality
Combat Style [Field] Strength, Agility
Command Intelligence, Personality
Commerce Intelligence, Personality
Conjuration Willpower
Deceive Intelligence, Personality
Destruction Willpower
Enchant Intelligence
Evade Agility
First Aid Agility, Intelligence
Illusion Willpower
Investigate Intelligence, Perception
Intimidate Strength, Willpower
Linguistics Intelligence
Logic Intelligence, Perception
Lore Intelligence
Mysticism Willpower
Navigate Intelligence, Perception
Necromancy Intelligence
Observe Perception
Profession [Field] (Varies)
Restoration Willpower
Ride Agility
Shehai Shen She Ru Strength, Agility, Willpower
Stealth Agility, Perception
Subterfuge Agility, Intelligence
Survival Intelligence, Perception
Thu’um Willpower
Skill Rank (Value) Equivalence
Novice (0) Rudimentary knowledge.
Apprentice (1) Basic proficiency.
Journeyman (2) Hands on experience and/or some professional training.
Adept (3) Extensive experience or training.
Expert (4) Professional level ability.
Master (5) Complete mastery.

When a character makes a skill test, he applies a bonus equal to +10 times the value of his skill rank (starting at +0 for novice (rank 0), and up to +50 at master (rank 5)) to the base characteristic. If a character attempts to use a skill that is untrained instead of trained, the test suffers a -10 penalty instead.

Specializations

Skills can also have accompanying Specializations, which represent areas of concentration and focus in a character’s training and experience with that skill. A character may take as many specializations as their rank in a given skill, plus one. When making a skill test in the listed area of specialization, the character gains a +10 bonus to the test. For more information on skills, see Chapter 3.

Talents

13 A character’s Talents are the various unique abilities the character has come to possess through training or experience. They include everything from passive bonuses to activated abilities, and can even modify how the character uses certain skills. For information, see Talents in Chapter 4.

Traits

14 A character’s Traits are rules that reflect various natural facts about the character or certain abilities they possess. They include things such as the ability to fly, inherent physical weaknesses, personality traits, and so forth. For information, see Traits in Chapter 4.

Magic

15 The set of all the various spells, rituals, powers, congruence powers, techniques, shouts, and other magical abilities the character possesses. For information, see Chapter 6.

State

16 A character’s State is a collection of values that, together, reflect the current state of the character. This includes everything from their equipment to their physical health. This is, therefore, the part of a character’s profile that is expected to change the most during an average game session.

Trauma

The character’s current amount of trauma. This reflects the amount of overall damage the character has taken, and how close they are to death. If a character’s trauma ever exceeds their Health, the character falls unconscious. If they ever exceed one and a half times their Health (round down), the character dies. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.

Wounds

The combined list of all the wounds that a character is currently suffering from (if any), including the level of the wound, its damage type, and the location upon which it was inflicted. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.

Fatigue

The character’s total levels of fatigue, which reflects how physically exhausted they are. If this value ever exceeds the character’s Stamina, the character falls unconscious. If it exceeds twice that value, they die. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.

Magicka

The character’s current magicka, which is spent in order to cast spells. Once reduced by any amount, a character’s current magicka recovers naturally at a rate of Intelligence bonus magicka every hour. Can never exceed the character’s Magicka Pool, or be reduced below zero. For information, see Chapter 6.

Equipment

A character’s equipment includes all the items they carry and use, everything from their weapons to the clothes they wear. For information, see Chapter 7.

Encumbrance Level

Represents how much the bulk and weight of the character’s gear hinders their ability to function. For information, see Movement & Encumbrance in Chapter 5.

Conditions

The combined list of conditions currently affecting the character. Conditions are things that affect the character and their capabilities instead of features of the character’s nature. By default, a character begins play with no conditions unless otherwise specified. For information, see Physical Health in Chapter 5.

Action Points

A character’s current number of action points. The character must spend one each time he takes an action or reaction. Resets to his Maximum Action Points at the beginning of each round. For more information, see Combat in Chapter 5.

Luck Points

A character’s current Luck points, which can be spent for certain benefits. Characters begin each session with Luck points equal to their Maximum Luck Points. Can never be reduced below zero. For more information, see Luck in Chapter 5.

Experience Points

The character’s current amount of XP, which can be spent on advancements. See Character Advancement in Chapter 5.

Chapter 1 Getting Started

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