Destiny game mechanics are predicated on supporting immersion as much as possible. Mainly, this means getting out of the players’ and gamemaster’s way. Simple mechanics with quick flow are unobtrusive, and allow the players and GM to focus on their characters and the world around them.
One way Destiny does this is with the Success Rating system and how it ties into GM descriptions. Description is the key to presenting in-game actions vividly, and Destiny aims to make the GM’s job much easier on that score.
First, the mechanics. (These follow on from, and refer back to, concepts in earlier game mechanic posts.)
For most Skill Challenges, the Result is read as a Success Rating. Each higher Success Rating represents a better and better outcome for the character.
|-1 or Less
-1 Result Rating or lower is a Failure: the character failed at the Challenge.
0 Result Rating is a Complication. The character has neither succeeded nor failed at the task. They can attempt it again using the same skill, but at a -3. Or they can try and approach the problem from a new angle, using a different skill to attempt the Challenge again. (The GM has final say on which is appropriate, or what other skills can be used. Different skills might have higher or lower Difficulty Ratings, depending on the skill.)
1 SR is a Success, the character barely succeeded at the task.
2 SR is a Solid Success, they did well at the task. Not outstanding, but well.
3 SR is a Superior Success. The character did remarkably well, enough to earn compliments or admiration for their accomplishment.
4 SR is a Spectacular Success, the character did amazingly well. In many cases, the gamemaster may decide to reward the character with some small mechanical benefit for such an outstanding accomplishment. (A small bonus to the next Challenge of that skill, additional benefits beyond succeeding, and so forth.)
Once players have made a challenge, and the GM has determined the Result, it’s up to him to describe what happens. It’s best for the game if the description is short but vivid. Interesting descriptions draw players into the game world, help make it feel more interesting and alive.
Suppose the character is trying to leap across a gorge.
The GM describes the various Success Ratings as follows:
Failure: “You grasp at the ledge opposite you, but your fingers just miss it. Without a sound, you fall into the abyss.”
Complication: “You land hard, your body dangling above the chasm. You are sliding towards the edge. You desperately grab at a plant and succeed, but it is pulling loose and you start to fall.” (At this point, the GM can ask for a climbing total or allow the character to use another skill to avoid falling.)
Success (1 SR): “You barely made it across the gorge. You scrabble at the edge of the cliff for a second, trying to find a vine or crack to get a grip on. After a moment of panic, you pull yourself up.”
Solid Success (2 SR): “You jump the gorge and land on the other side. You’re a little winded, but exhilarated.”
Superior Success (3 SR): “You easily clear the vast distance to the other side, lightly landing on your feet. The extreme height doesn’t bother you; you own this mountain.”
Spectacular Success (4 SR): “The jump is easy; you hardly notice the distance. Landing on the other side, you reach back and grab your friend’s hand, pulling him up before he can plunge into the dark chasm below.”
(In game terms, the GM decided that the mechanical benefit for 4 SR was being able to save another party member, who was going to fall.)
This is one of the main reasons why Skill Challenges revolve around Success Ratings, not Result. It’s impossible to make 16 points of Result meaningfully different. But the difference between a Solid Success and a Superior Success is fairly clear.
This clarity makes it easier for the gamemaster to describe the action, which makes his desscriptions more likely to be vivid and interesting. Of course, no GM is forced to describe things in such a manner, or at all. They can just say “You succeeded”.
But if they want to, Destiny is built so the system gives them sufficient information to know how to narrate the outcome of Challenges and make the character’s actions seem vivid and interesting. This is the basis of immersion.