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Chapter 10: Game Mastering

Difficulty Classes

Source Core Rulebook pg. 503 2.0
As the Game Master, it’s up to you to set the difficulty classes (DCs) for checks that don’t use a predefined DC. The following sections offer advice on how to set appropriate DCs and tweak them as needed to feel natural for your story. Picking a simple DC and using a level-based DC each work well in certain circumstances, and you can adjust both types of DC using the advice on adjusting difficulty.

Simple DCs

Source Core Rulebook pg. 503 2.0
Sometimes you need to quickly set a Difficulty Class. The easiest method is to select a simple DC from Table 10–4 by estimating which proficiency rank best matches the task (that rank is usually not required to succeed at the task). If it’s something pretty much anyone would have a decent chance at, use the untrained DC. If it would require a degree of training, use the DC listed for trained, expert, master, or legendary proficiency, as appropriate to the complexity of the task. For example, say a PC was trying to uncover the true history behind a fable. You determine this requires a check to Recall Knowledge, and that only someone with master proficiency in Folktale Lore would know the information, so you’d set the DC at 30—the simple master DC.

Simple DCs work well when you need a DC on the fly and there’s no level associated with the task. They’re most useful for skill checks. Because there isn’t much gradation between the simple DCs, they don’t work as well for hazards or combatants, where the PCs’ lives are on the line; you’re better off using level-based DCs for such challenges.

Table 10-4: Simple DCs

Proficiency RankDC

Level-Based DCs

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When you’re determining a skill DC based on something that has a level, use Table 10–5 to set the DC. Find the level of the subject, and assign the corresponding DC. Since spells use a 1–10 scale, use the Spell Level column for them.

Use these DCs when a PC needs to Identify a Spell or Recall Knowledge about a creature, attempts to Earn Income by performing a task of a certain level, and so on. You can also use the level-based DCs for obstacles instead of assigning a simple DC. For example, you might determine that a wall in a high-level dungeon was constructed of smooth metal and is hard to climb. You could simply say only someone with master proficiency could climb it, and use the simple DC of 30. Or you might decide that the 15th-level villain who created the dungeon crafted the wall, and use the 15th-level DC of 34. Either approach is reasonable!

Note that PCs who invest in a skill become more likely to succeed at a DC of their level as they increase in level, and the listed DCs eventually become very easy for them.

Table 10-5: DCs by Level

Spell Level*DC
*If the spell is uncommon or rare, its
difficulty should be adjusted accordingly

Adjusting Difficulty

Source Core Rulebook pg. 503 2.0

Table 10-6: DC Adjustments

Incredibly easy-10-
Very easy-5-
Very hard+5Rare
Incredibly hard+10Unique

You might decide a DC should differ from the baseline, whether to account for PCs’ areas of expertise or to represent the rarity of spells or items. A DC adjustment represents an essential difference in the difficulty of a task and applies to anyone attempting a specific check for it. Adjustments happen most often with tasks whose DCs are based on their level. Adjustments use a scale of –10 to +10, from incredibly easy checks to incredibly hard ones, and are broken into increments of 2, 5, and 10. You’ll often apply the adjustments for uncommon, rare, or unique subjects.

The adjustments’ names don’t translate to how hard a task actually is for a PC or group of PCs, and adjustments aren’t meant to balance out or replace PCs’ bonuses and penalties. PCs who invest in a skill will become better and better at that skill as they increase in level. For example, even the best 1st-level PC has grim odds against an incredibly hard 1st-level DC, with a huge chance of critical failure, but by 20th level, an optimized character with a modicum of magic or assistance can take down incredibly hard 20th-level DCs over half the time, critically failing only on a 1. At higher levels, many groups will find that the very hard DC is more like standard for them; keep that in mind if you need a check that presents a true challenge to a high level group.

You might use different DCs for a task based on the particular skill or statistic used for the check. Let’s say your PCs encounter a magical tome about aberrant creatures. The tome is 4th-level and has the occult trait, so you set the DC of an Occultism check to Identify the Magic to 19, based on Table 10–5. As noted in Identify Magic, other magic-related skills can typically be used at a higher DC, so you might decide the check is very hard for a character using Arcana and set the DC at 24 for characters using that skill. If a character in your group had Aberration Lore, you might determine that it would be easy or very easy to use that skill and adjust the DC to 17 or 14. These adjustments aren’t taking the place of characters’ bonuses, modifiers, and penalties—they are due to the applicability of the skills being used.

Group Attempts

Source Core Rulebook pg. 504 2.0
The DCs in this chapter give an individual character a strong and increasing chance of success if they have some proficiency. On occasion, though, you’ll have a task that only one person in the group needs to succeed at, but that everyone can attempt. The number of dice being rolled means that there’s a very high chance at least one of them will succeed. Most of the time, that’s perfectly fine, but sometimes you’ll want the task to be a challenge, with some uncertainty as to whether the party can succeed. In these cases, make the check very hard, or incredibly hard if you want it to be particularly difficult or at high levels. At these DCs, most of the party will probably fail, but someone will probably still succeed, likely a character who has heavily invested in the given skill, as is expected for specialized characters.

Minimum Proficiency

Source Core Rulebook pg. 504 2.0
Sometimes succeeding at a particular task requires a character to have a specific proficiency rank in addition to a success on the check. Locks and traps often require a certain proficiency rank to successfully use the Pick a Lock or Disable a Device actions of Thievery. A character whose proficiency rank is lower than what’s listed can attempt the check, but they can’t succeed. You can apply similar minimum proficiencies to other tasks. You might decide, for example, that a particular arcane theorem requires training in Arcana to understand. An untrained barbarian can’t succeed at the check, but she can still attempt it if she wants—after all, she needs to have a chance to critically fail and get erroneous information!

For checks that require a minimum proficiency, keep the following guidelines in mind. A 2nd-level or lower task should almost never require expert proficiency, a 6th-level or lower task should almost never require master proficiency, and a 14th-level or lower task should almost never require legendary proficiency. If they did, no character of the appropriate level could succeed.

Specific Actions

Source Core Rulebook pg. 504 2.0
Several parts of this book, most notably Chapter 4: Skills, state that you as the GM set the DCs for certain checks or determine other parameters. Here are guidelines for the most common tasks. Remember that all of these are guidelines, and you can adjust them as necessary to suit the situation.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 504 2.0
When a character Crafts an item, use the item’s level to determine the DC, applying the adjustments from Table 10–6 for the item’s rarity if it’s not common. You might also apply the easy DC adjustment for an item the crafter has made before. Repairing an item usually uses the DC of the item’s level with no adjustments, though you might adjust the DC to be more difficult for an item of a higher level than the character can Craft.

Earn Income

Source Core Rulebook pg. 504 2.0
You set the task level when someone tries to Earn Income. The highest-level task available is usually the same as the level of the settlement where the character is located. If you don’t know the settlement’s level, it’s usually 0–1 for a village, 2–4 for a town, or 5–7 for a city. A PC might need to travel to a metropolis or capital to find tasks of levels 8-10, and to the largest cities in the world or another plane to routinely find tasks beyond that. Some locations might have higher-level tasks available based on the nature of the settlement. A major port might have higher-level tasks for Sailing Lore, a city with a vibrant arts scene might have higher-level tasks for Performance, and so on. If someone is trying to use a particularly obscure skill, they might have trouble finding tasks of an ideal level, or any at all—no one in most settlements is clamoring for the expertise of someone with Troll Lore.

Once the PC has decided on a particular level of task from those available, use the DC for that level from Table 10–5. You might adjust the DC to be more difficult if there’s inclement weather during an outdoor job, a rowdy audience for a performance, or the like.

Gather Information

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To set the DC to Gather Information, use a simple DC representing the availability of information about the subject. Adjust the DC upward if the PC Gathering Information seeks in-depth information. For example, if a character wants to Gather Information about a visiting caravan, you might decide that a common person wouldn’t know much about it, but any merchant or guard would, so learning basic facts uses the simple DC for trained proficiency. A caravan leader’s name is superficial, so discovering it might be DC 15 (the simple trained DC in Table 10–4). Learning the identity of the leader’s employers, however, might be DC 20 if the employers are more obscure.

Identify Magic or Learn a Spell

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The DC to Identify Magic or Learn a Spell is usually the DC listed in Table 10–5 for the spell or item’s level, adjusted for its rarity. A very strange item or phenomenon usually uses a higher DC adjustment. For a cursed item or certain illusory items, use an incredibly hard DC to increase the chance of misidentification.

Recall Knowledge

Source Core Rulebook pg. 505 2.0
On most topics, you can use simple DCs for checks to Recall Knowledge. For a check about a specific creature, trap, or other subject with a level, use a level-based DC (adjusting for rarity as needed). You might adjust the difficulty down, maybe even drastically, if the subject is especially notorious or famed. Knowing simple tales about an infamous dragon’s exploits, for example, might be incredibly easy for the dragon’s level, or even just a simple trained DC.

Alternative Skills

Source Core Rulebook pg. 505 2.0
As noted in the action’s description, a character might attempt to Recall Knowledge using a different skill than the ones listed as the default options. If the skill is highly applicable, like using Medicine to identify a medicinal tonic, you probably don’t need to adjust the DC. If its relevance is a stretch, adjust the DC upward as described in Adjusting Difficulty.

Additional Knowledge

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Sometimes a character might want to follow up on a check to Recall Knowledge, rolling another check to discover more information. After a success, further uses of Recall Knowledge can yield more information, but you should adjust the difficulty to be higher for each attempt. Once a character has attempted an incredibly hard check or failed a check, further attempts are fruitless—the character has recalled everything they know about the subject.

Creature Identification

Source Core Rulebook pg. 506 2.0
A character who successfully identifies a creature learns one of its best-known attributes—such as a troll’s regeneration (and the fact that it can be stopped by acid or fire) or a manticore’s tail spikes. On a critical success, the character also learns something subtler, like a demon’s weakness or the trigger for one of the creature’s reactions.

The skill used to identify a creature usually depends on that creature’s trait, as shown on Table 10–7, but you have leeway on which skills apply. For instance, hags are humanoids but have a strong connection to occult spells and live outside society, so you might allow a character to use Occultism to identify them without any DC adjustment, while Society is harder. Lore skills can also be used to identify their specific creature. Using the applicable Lore usually has an easy or very easy DC (before adjusting for rarity).

Table 10-7: Creature Identification Skills

Creature TraitSkills
BeastArcana, Nature
ConstructArcana, Crafting
ElementalArcana, Nature

Sense Direction

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Pick the most appropriate simple DC when someone uses Survival to Sense Direction. This is usually the trained DC in normal wilderness, expert in deep forest or underground, master in featureless or tricky locations, or legendary in weird or surreal environments on other planes.

Social Skills

Source Core Rulebook pg. 506 2.0
When a character uses Deception, Diplomacy, Intimidation, or Performance to influence or impress someone whose level or Will DC you don’t know, estimate the level of the creature and use that DC. A commoner is usually level 0 or 1. Don’t worry about being exact. It often makes sense to adjust the DC based on the target’s attitude for Deception, Diplomacy, or Performance, making the DC easy for a friendly creature, very easy for a helpful one, hard for an unfriendly one, or very hard for a hostile one. You might adjust the DC further or differently based on the PC’s goal; for instance, the DC to Request something an indifferent NPC is fundamentally opposed to might be incredibly hard or impossible, and it might be easy to convince an unfriendly creature to do something it already wants to do.


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A simple DC is usually sufficient for the Subsist action, with a trained DC for a typical situation. Use the disposition of the environment or city as a guide; an environment with scarce resources or a city with little tolerance for transience might require an expert or higher DC.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 506 2.0
Often when a PC uses Survival to Track, you can pick a simple DC and adjust it based on the circumstances. For example, an army is usually easy to track, so you could use the untrained DC of 10. If the army marched through mud, you could even adjust this down to DC 5. On the other hand, if the party pursues a cunning survivalist using Cover Tracks, you might use their Survival DC as the DC to Track.

Train an Animal

Source Core Rulebook pg. 506 2.0
Train Animal (page 268) allows PCs to teach animals tricks. Use the level of the animal as the baseline; you can adjust the DC up if the trick is especially difficult, or down if the animal is especially domesticated, like a dog.