Ah the roll of a 1, strikes fear into the hearts of the bravest gamers doesn't it. But that oh-so delightful roll of straight 6's makes it all worth white... most of the time. So what does it mean to roll a Catastrophe or Ultimate?
In game terms, a Catastrophe is simply the act of rolling the absolute worst possible roll within the pool of dice allotted. Ultimates, by comparison, are the result of rolling the best possible roll within the dice allotted. This means a roll of all ones is a Catastrophe and the roll of all sixes is an Ultimate.
It is important to remember that these rolls are only counted on the unmodified initial roll value, never after exchanges or after modifiers are applied. Modifiers may neither save from Catastrophe or promote to an Ultimate.
Simple enough, right? Still there can be some confusion, especially when rolling smaller dice pools. Not all Catastrophes and Ultimates are created equal. While a catastrophe should always be thorn in the side of the roller, a Catastrophe from 1 die is naturally less detrimental than the Catastrophe from 5 dice. Similarly, a "class 2 Ultimate," or Ultimate from 2 dice, is impressive but not nearly as impressive as a 'class 6 Ultimate." So how does one scale this to remain fair yet still honoring the rules?
- Class 1: These should be very simple failures. A slip of the hand from the target, the dropping of a tool or simply the increase of one level on the victory chart for the next action by an opponent.
- Class 2: These should start to be stingers that bother the roller and fail the issue. Perhaps in addition to dropping the tool the character gets a large splinter lodged into their hand. Maybe the item dropped onto his foot resulting in a few rounds of pain, or the simple increase of two levels on the victory chart for the next action of an opponent.
- Class 3: These should breach the threshold from annoyance to harm. That dropped tool falls onto the ground and breaks, or falls on the foot and breaks a toe as a wound rather than just pain. Again, the opponent could gain three levels on the victory chart for the next action as well.
- Class 4: At this point the catastrophe is going to do major harm and hinderance to the roller. The key not only breaks off in the lock, but the jagged metal sliced open the character's hand. The task stands a strong chance of being irrevocably made impossible to complete. Rivals could gain four levels on the victory chart at this level.
- Class 5: So astounding is this failure that the major harm is not only a guarantee to the roller but those allies around are also likely to receive some splash effect. The dropped tool falls onto the foot of the emissary you are saving from the dungeon or perhaps the roller trips and falls into the other party members, causing them all to fall from the wall they were climbing. Still, a direct rival could receive five levels on the victory chart.
- Class 6: It could not get any worse than this. Certainly the most logical series of failures will occur, but this level of Catastrophe reaches into near supernatural bad luck. The failure will not only result in the death or extreme hinderance of the roller in some fashion, but any allies nearby are likely to suffer greatly. Fate has a sense of humor, often choosing the most ironic situations to occur in these cases. Rivals may win great victories while a party may bite the dust over a simple tightrope walking misshap.
- Class 1: These should be very simple wins. A hidden breeze may suddenly indicate the unseen opening to a passageway or simply the increase of one level on the victory chart.
- Class 2: At this level, the bonus should be tangible such as a small bag of Letcher lodged in the lock preventing its picking. Maybe the discovery of a new way of thinking allows purchase of an appropriate tangental aptitude, or if desired the simple increase of two levels on the victory chart.
- Class 3: Here we start to gain insight into the higher workings of Aptitudes. Aside from other situational gains, the player may be offered a chance to purchase up to the next level in the appropriate aptitude. Again, the roller could gain three levels on the victory chart.
- Class 4: At this point the ultimate is going to succeed and the roller is going to have opportunities to learn from the experience. The key turns the lock and scratches off the paint, revealing that it is composed of gold. The player's skillful revelation could offer the chance to purchase Aptitude Specialist with the appropriate Aptitude or another Benefit such as Wiry to represent this epiphany. Likewise she could gain four levels on the victory chart for a challenge.
- Class 5: So astounding is this victory that the roller catches others by surprise if applicable. The party members may have the opportunity to also purchase a level of the appropriate Aptitude, or Benefit. The roller should be able to purchase appropriately at half cost. For the remainder of the session, the player could receive five levels on the victory chart, subtracting one per use until the bonus is gone.
- Class 6: It could not get any better than this. Certainly the most amazing series of events will occur, but this level of Ultimate reaches into near supernatural good luck. The roller could be granted a free level of an appropriate Aptitude or Benefit as well and party members present might even be offered to purchase a level at half cost. For the remainder of the session, the player could receive five levels on the victory chart with that aptitude and similar ones.
While these are not hard and fast rules, the spirit of how these guidelines present to Ultimates and Catastrophes should be used for ideas.
Just for fun, here is the breakdown as to how rare these events are:
Class 1 1/6
Class 2 1/36
Class 3 1/216
Class 4 1/1,296
Class 5 1/7,776
Class 6 1/46,656