Funny you should mention Traveller. There used to be a thing in classic Traveller called a “situation throw” which was just as you describe: I in my 20th century ignorance have no idea how hard it is to repair the air scrubber in the derelict vessel, so I roll 2d6 to determine the difficulty.
Traveller dice modifiers can be tacked on with a simple ±1 for each beneficial or unfortunate circumstance that is established before the roll, and the DM’s job of rationalizing why the scrubber is in such poor shape that it requires a 10 or better is a bit easier than figuring out what it “should” be.
– Christopher Jahnke 2020-04-08 00:12 UTC
Absolutely. I saw that in Chris Kubasik’s wonderful blog posts in 2017/2018: What “The Traveller” Adventure had to Say About Situation Throws and part 2 with Randomized Situation Numbers. I approve. 🙂
– Alex Schroeder 2020-04-08 05:44 UTC
This! Feeling stressed about determining the difficulty of a task I absolutely didn’t think of while prepping the game. That’s probably the one thing I find most irritating when GM’ing.
I’m now thinking of doing opposed rolls with the usual d20 roll high on the players side (because that’s what they’re used to), and a bell curve Nd6 roll on the GMs side.
– Wanderer Bill 2020-04-09 18:42 UTC