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Extended Tasks

posted Jun 04, 2018 12:03:24 by MasterZelgadis
Hey, I need a little help on how extended tasks work. Before STA I played D&D and Pathfinder, and I really like the concept of skill challenges. Extended tasks somehow seem to be the same thing..but.. do I get it correct, that in an extended task you try the same task over and over again? So if you have to disarm a bomb, you have to use Control + Security to generate some work. Then you use Control + Security to generate more work. And then again Control + Security for even more work.. until finally you filled the work track and got enough breakthroughs. That seems very boring and unnecassary repetitive.
I like the idea of skill challenges more. There you can let the whole party contribute, so for example the character may use control + seurity to defuse, the next character may distract the enemies with presence + whatever, a third character may try to delay the detonator with reason + engineering...

And one additional question.. what is it with the work bar and the magnitude? You want to fill the work bar, but you also want to get breakthroughs.. BTs appear every 5 points, so in an example task of magnitude 3, work 18 (from the these are the voyages book) after 15 work you have completed the task, but your work bar is not full. If it's not every 5 points, what happens when you got 18 work progress, but only 2 BTs? The whole mechanic is very confusing.
[Last edited Jun 04, 2018 12:03:54]
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5 replies
Deadmanwalking said Jun 04, 2018 12:30:59
You can try the same thing again and again, yes. You could also try different things if the GM says that's appropriate (or may be required to do so under some circumstances). We had a social extended task recently (an undercover op gathering information about an illegal ship modification that was made to a ship later used to try and start a war) where I don't think the same Stat + Discipline combo was rolled more than twice despite something like a dozen rolls.

The Work bar functions almost identically to Stress in combat, with Progress working like damage, and Breakthroughs just like Injuries. So you only get Breakthroughs before the Work Track is empty if you roll 5 progress in one roll. This means you want to get through the Work bar because once it's at 0 any Progress at all causes a Breakthrough (not just 5+)...but all you need to succeed is the proper number of Breakthroughs.
MasterZelgadis said Jun 04, 2018 12:43:10
Ah, understood, thanks. Though I still don't really like that the same task done over and over again will complete the goal.. :/
jonrcrew said Jun 04, 2018 12:51:22
Ah, this old chestnut :) There is some superb advice on this earlier in the forum, but it's not currently been stickied.

ETs are not quite the same as skill challenges, although they serve the same role. The key thing to remember with them is that they are designed for situations where time is tight - many tasks in this game can be achieved without rolling if there's no pressure. With a time constraint, I've found them to be every bit as thrilling as combat, and most of my players agree. It's one of the few systems that has achieved this for non-combat situations.

(And my personal opinion: they are much more interesting than skill challenges :/)


An ET does not necessarily involve using the same attribute/department combination over and over again; the combination can be varied according to the approach used (this does require GM supervision!). In the bomb situation, the player might start with Control, then switch to Daring to reflect that they've panicked and started trying things at random - this may give them a bonus from a talent.

The system is also a little more sophisticated than you've indicated. The Task roll gives you Challenge Dice to roll to generate Work as you say, but you actually get Breakthroughs in 3 ways: on any occasion you generate 5 or more Work in one roll, when the Work track is filled, and when a roll is made when the Work track is already full. Also, the Difficulty level for each Task drops each time a Breakthrough is achieved. Once the first Breakthrough is achieved, things speed up massively, which with a tight time limit, can really get the blood pumping.

While technically only one person can work directly on an ET at a time, there's plenty of room for others to help. At its simplest, you can allow more players to work on it, if it seems appropriate, or you swap one player out for another for the next roll. Remember Assistance: other players can contribute extra dice by assisting the main character (not necessarily using the same attribute/department), or they can make things easier by trying other Tasks. While your example of distracting enemies wouldn't appear to directly help the main Task, it does take away distractions which can be an Advantage to reduce difficulty or negate a complication; also the character trying to delay the detonator could be treated as creating an Advantage to create this effect (off the top of my head, without bending the rules, they can reduce the Task Difficulty by 1 or generate Momentum that the main character can use to reduce the time taken for the Task).

Be flexible: there are no hard and fast rules for this - do what works for the situation and your game. Advantages and Complications are really powerful - make sure you get the hang of these!

I touched on your final question above, but it bears expanding. What you want is Breakthroughs - you won't achieve the end result without them. Work is only a means to an end (think of it as laying the groundwork), and in some cases, you won't reach the end of the Work - which is fine! BTs don't show up every 5 Work, they show up when 5 Work is achieved in a single roll (2 for 10 etc). When the Work track fills up, the player immediately gains a BT (in addition to any for the roll itself), then automatically gains a BT with subsequent successful rolls if the task has not already been achieved - note that you still roll for Work generated here, as you may get more BTS if you get more than 5.

In your example, the player may roll really badly: 4, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3 - getting to 18 with no BTs. They get 1 when they achieve 18 and at least 1 on every subsequent roll.

If it helps, this is _exactly_ the same mechanic used in combat, with different terms: stress or shields equates to work, injuries or breaches to breakthroughs. The work-generating roll is the same as the damage roll. The only difference is that taking someone out in personal combat only ever takes 1 breakthrough (2 if they manage to overcome the damage) and that starship damage is much more detailed.

I hope that covers it all. Happy to follow up if needed!
jonrcrew said Jun 04, 2018 12:54:17
I knew someone would get in there before I finished!

the same task done over and over again will complete the goal

In many real-world cases, it's the only way it would work - defusing a bomb, for example, is basically defuse, defuse, defuse - success! (or boom!)

If you do want variety and are prepared to put a little work in, take a look at gated challenges. These require one or more specific tasks to be achieved before you can make progress. There's a superb (if complex) example in the LC scenario Adrift.
[Last edited Jun 04, 2018 12:54:38]
Nathan.Dowdell said Jun 04, 2018 23:44:33
A key part of the whole thing is that there should be some pressure or danger involved that makes characters want to take as little time as possible. Even if it's the same attribute+discipline over an over again, putting an Extended Task in a combat (where the character uses their Task each Turn to work on that problem) breaks up the repeated rolls and adds the perils of being attacked during the fight (especially if the Extended Task is an objective - the fight ends with the last Breakthrough).

Conceptually, you can also use Extended Tasks in reverse too - one that represents an ongoing consequence that ticks up when tests are failed, when complications are rolled, or when certain dangerous actions are taken. Imagine a situation where the PCs need to sneak around; the GM creates an Extended Task that the PCs roll on (number of CD set by the GM, not by PC skills) whenever they fail a Task to sneak or when they do something loud. Breakthroughs become Mishaps, making the whole thing more difficult as the problem grows - now the guards are more wary and vigilant now.

In theory, you could even combine the two: a pair of Extended Tasks that represent a bomb that needs defusing, for example, where you roll on the "defusing" track if you succeed and the "going to detonate" track if you fail...
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