Degree of failure in single skill checks

I have a question. In conflicts, there are compromises based on who won and by how much. I try to do this with single skill checks as well, basing the success of the check off of the degree of failure or success. For example, a Lore Master check to find information on a magic item is made. The way I judge it, if the player rolls all fails, they learn nothing. 1-2 successes, (depending on the Ob,) they learn a little information, but nothing of importance. Closer to the goal, they might learn some bits of important info or gain a condition/twist to learn in all. Barely succeeding will get them what they are looking for, nothing more. Killing the check will get them what they are looking for and much more.

At least one of my players disagrees and says that single skill checks are basically pass/fail. Even if the Ob is 5 and the player rolls all fails, he feels he should still be able to gain a condition/twist and get what he wants. I feel, if that’s the case, no one ever really fails. In the above example, if the player rolled all fails, should I say he finds no information? Should I just say he’s Exhausted or something and then give him the info? Should I say he finds what the information he needs, but magic item is useless at the current time? (A sword is powerless unless paired with the matching shield, for example.)

Maybe he’s right and its still the old D&D player in me, but I feel that an outright failed roll should feel like a fail.

Your friend is correct. On a failed test, you either succeed and gain a condition, or you fail and there’s a twist. Which you choose is up to you.

Also, keep in mind that conditions from failed tests feed into the grind, so even though the player gets whatever they were after, they’re usually worse off in the end.

Check page 65 and 66

Thanks for the input. Something I’ll have to work on.

Yeah, the important thing is that it’s not up to him what he gets anyway. You decide if it’s a condition or a twist. You decide if he gets what he wants and something he doesn’t or is interrupted and leaves empty handed to deal with a new situation. If you want to base the type of condition or twist he gets based on the margin, that is 100% within your prerogative as GM and he has no say in the matter. If he’s heckling you for conditions so that he can get his way, shut that down.

That said, yes, game-play is never ever halted in Torchbearer. If you fail a check to open a lock in d&d, the players are stuck, what do they did? Not so in Torchbearer because it’s the GMs responsibility to either come up with a twist that pushes the story forward or (if they can’t think of a good twist or a condition seems more appropriate) just let the story advance but make the situation bleaker with a condition. You CAN fail, but you should never be stuck.