How to make things happen

Your Swan Song character does all the things a normal person does, along with the occasional grand heist, jungle expedition, espionage mission, vault raid, or hit job. Most of these things— common tasks like eating, sleeping, and crossing an empty street—are done automatically and are kept in the background of the game. When you need to do something difficult or extraordinary, or when you need to avoid someone who has got you in their crosshairs, you have to roll the dice to determine a result.


Dice Pools

Swan Song uses six-sided dice, and usually you need a good quantity of them. The amount of dice you roll is referred to as a dice pool. Additions to the dice pool are often noted by a number in front of the term”D6,” so that 3D6 refers to three six-sided dice.
  Most dice pools for Tests are build by adding the Score of an Attribute to the Rank of a Skill. So for example if your character has an Agility Score of 3 and an Acrobatics Rank of 2, he would have a Dice Pool of 5 for his Agility + Acrobatics Test.


Defaulting Skills

Characters may attempt some skill-based tests even if they don’t have any ranks in the skill. This is known as defaulting. For example, even if you’re not trained in the art of running, you can still attempt a sprint to see just how much ground you can cover. In these instances, your dice pool for the test equals your ranking in the linked attribute – 1. So if Sorsha doesn’t have the Running skill but wants to give a sprint a try, she’ll check her Strength, which is 6. That means she rolls 6 – 1 dice, or 5, and hopes for the best.


Hits and Tresholds

Determining Hits

When you roll, you want to see fives and sixes. Each one of these numbers that comes up is called a hit. The more hits you roll, the better chance you have to pull off whatever you are attempting to do.


Meeting the Treshold

Each time you roll the dice, you’ll be looking to get enough hits to meet or a threshold, which is the number of hits you need to do the thing you’re trying to do. That threshold changes depending on what it is you want to accomplish; sometimes it will be a set number of hits, other times you’ll just be trying to get more hits than the other guy. There will also be occasions when you see how many hits you can rack up over an extended period. All of this will be covered more in the section dealing with tests.
  Descriptions of skills often have examples of thresholds that should be used, but gamemasters can fall back on the simple guidelines shown in the Success Test Thresholds table.

Common Success Test Tresholds
Very Hard8


Net Hits

In most tests, the number of hits you get can do more than just determine whether you succeed; it can add to your success. The number of hits you have that is more than what you needed is referred to as your net hits. Net hits can increase the damage you do in combat or have other positive effects. At the gamemaster’s discretion, she can reward extraordinary rolls that result in a high number of net hits (four or more) with a little extra accomplishment for the Crosser, something that may make their next test easier.


Buying Hits

Sometimes it can save time to skip a test and allow a player simply to buy hits, especially if they are rolling so many dice they are fairly certain they’ll succeed. To buy hits, simply count one hit for every four dice in your pool, rounded down. Note that this can’t be a halfway measure—you can’t buy a couple of hits and then roll for the rest. Either you buy hits with all your dice, or you roll with all of them.
  Buying hits often should not be done if there is a chance of a glitch or critical glitch that might significantly change the course of the game’s actions. You need your gamemaster’s approval to buy hits. If he doesn’t want you to buy hits for the test, then you’re not buying hits—get ready to roll.


Rule of Six / Exploding Dice

Certain effects, qualities, traits or the use of Karma can make the Rule of Six come into play on a test. When a test benefits from the Rule of Six, every 6 you roll is an Exploding Critical. This means for every 6 you roll, count it as a hit and then re-roll that die, adding any additional hits from the re-roll to your total. This can in theory go on, as long as you keep rolling 6's.




Along with fives and sixes, you need to pay attention to how many ones show up when you roll the dice. If you roll more 1's than hits. This is called a glitch. When you glitch, something bad happens. Maybe you drop your gun. Maybe you trip over a broken piece of pavement you hadn’t noticed. Whatever the case, something happens that makes your life more difficult. Just what it is that happens is left to the discretion of the gamemaster.
  The guideline for a glitch is that whatever happens should make life more difficult for the particular Crosser while not disastrously interfering with their work. For example, a Crosser who rolls a glitch while working to defuse an explosive may drop his wire cutters, or may call up the wrong augmented reality window of information about the nature of the device. The gamemaster should not, however, decree that the player abruptly cut the wrong wire so that the explosive blows up in their face.


Hard Glitch

There may be circumstances where a player rolls a test and more than half of his dice pool come up as ones. This is considered a hard glitch. Hard glitches are similar to normal glitches, just more severe. While they still don't usually threaten a Crosser's life, they present a severe setback or obstacle.

Note that it is possible to roll a glitch or even a hard glitch on a test that has enough hits to be successful. In these cases, the glitch does not cancel out the success; instead, the glitch occurs in addition to the success. For example, a troll could take a mighty swing at a dwarf, rolling enough hits to make contact but also glitching. The dwarf takes damage from the troll’s beefy fist slamming into his face, but the force of the swing and the need to aim downward takes the troll off balance, sending him to the ground after the punch lands. In the next couple of rounds, the troll has to get up on his feet and get back into a fighting stance.


Critical Glitch

A test that comes up as a hard glitch and also does not achieve a single hit, is called a critical glitch, and this is where the shit hits the fan. These are the dice rolls that could put characters’ lives at risk, where they’re going to have to think fast and move faster in order to get out with their hoops intact. Again, exactly what happens is up to the gamemaster, but a critical glitch should throw a serious monkey wrench into Crosser’s plans, making them scramble to recover. While an abrupt, ignominious death is possible when a critical glitch is rolled, gamemasters and players will likely have more fun if the roll keeps the players alive but forces them to improvise, test the limits of their skills, and develop desperate plans to help them stay alive.

Clearly, a critical glitch is something players want to avoid, and if they really feel the need to do it, they can use a point of Karma to do so. By using the Close Call function of Karma, players can downgrade a critical glitch to a hard glitch. In the same way they can downgrade a hard glitch to a mere glitch, or entirely negate a glitch (note that the same glitch can only be downgraded once). This does not, however, do anything about their lack of hits. They’ll just have to suck that up.


Test Limits

The limit on the test tells you the maximum amount of hits you can apply to the test, no matter how many hits you actually roll. It’s is the limit of success either your body or your gear are capable of. These limits can be broken by the usage of Karma.
  There are two different types of limits: inherent limits and limits from gear. Your character has three inherent limits—Physical, Mental, and Social—that are derived from their attributes. These limits represent just how far you can push your body, your mind, and your charm. In game Terms, limits tell you how many of the hits from your initial roll you can actually use to determine the result of the test. If you roll more hits than your limit allows, then you can only count the hits equal to the limit.
  Occasionally runners might find ways to extend or even blow by their limits, but they should be aware of these limits so they know how it might affect any upcoming tests. One Method to get around a limit is Karma—by using a point of Karma, you may choose to ignore your limit for a single test.
  Note that limits generally only apply to tests involving a dice pool derived from a skill and an attribute. Tests using a single attribute, or two attributes, do not use limits.
  Often, rather than using their inherent limits, runners will be limited by the piece of gear they are using. Each weapon, for example, has an Accuracy rating that serves as its limit for attacks made with that weapon, while cyberdecks have attributes that serve as limits on a variety of hacking actions. For more info, check out the Gear section.


Types of Tests

Success Tests

Success tests generally occur when a Crosser has to use her abilities to accomplish something in a single moment of time. This could involve weaving a car through traffic at high speed, looking for a needle in a haystack, or lifting a heavy object. A Success test (also known as a Simple test) is a matter of rolling up enough hits to meet the threshold for the test, then moving on. Success test notation looks like this:
Skill + Attribute [Limit] (Treshold) Test
e.g. Perception + Intuition [Mental] (2) Test


Opposed Tests

Opposed tests happen whenever a Crosser has to pit her skills against another individual, living thing, or (occasionally) technological force. Maybe she’s trying to sneak by a security guard in a factory complex, knock out a belligerent ganger with her stungun, or talk Mr. Johnson into offering a higher payday. Notation for Opposed tests looks like this:
Skill + Attribute [Limit] Opposed Test
e.g. Sneaking + Agility [Physical] Opposed Test
Note that Opposed tests do not list a threshold. That’s because in an Opposed test, you are trying to generate more hits than an opponent. Sometimes the opponent is rolling the same skill + attribute combination, sometimes a different one.


Extended Tests

Rather than taking place in a single moment, some tests take place over time. Maybe you’re taking a few days to learn a new trick or you’re repairing your beat-up vehicle and you need to determine how long the job takes. Extended test notation looks like this:
Skill + Attribute [Limit] (Treshold, Interval) Extended Test
e.g. Mechanics + Logic [Mental] (10, 1 hour) Extended Test
Instead of obtaining all of the needed hits in a single roll, Extended tests allow you to make repeated rolls and then accumulate the hits you made in each roll until you either reach the threshold, you run out of time because there’s something else you need to do or because people start shooting at you, or you run out of rolls.
  Note that on each roll of the Extended test, you can only count the hits equal to or under the applicable limit (unless you decide to use Karma to get around the limit).
  The interval for an Extended test describes how much time passes between each roll. Intervals can be as short as a Combat Turn or as long as a month. The Extended Test Thresholds table provides some suggestions on thresholds for Extended tests, while the Extended Test Intervals table can help gamemasters choose the proper interval.
  Extended tests cannot last forever; at some point, characters reach the limit of their abilities, and further efforts will do them no good. To simulate this, with each successive roll on an Extended test, players should remove one die from their dice pool. Eventually they’ll have no dice left, and the test will be over.
  Generally, all of the rolls for an Extended test do not need to be made concurrently. Crossers can set the task aside for a bit, do something else, then pick up where they left off with the amount of hits they had remaining in place.

Extended Test Tresholds
Very Hard25
Extended Test Intervals
Task TimeInterval
Fast1 Combat Turn
Quick1 minute
Short10 minutes
Average30 minutes
Long1 hour
Consuming1 day
Exhaustive1 week
Mammoth1 month

Extended Test and Glitches
A glitch does not necessarily cause the Extended test to fail. Instead, it causes difficulties or delays in the effort. The gamemaster may choose to reduce the hits accumulated to this point by 1D6 (or 2d6 for a Hard Glitch). If this reduces the total hits to zero or less, the test fails. On a critical glitch, the test fails—no dice roll needed. Whatever work you put into the test is lost.


Teamwork Tests

Crossers learn quickly that no one survives for long on the streets by themselves. You have to function as a group, and there are times when all members of a team pitch in to help out on a job. Teamwork tests simulate the effect of group members working together.
  To start a Teamwork test, your group needs to choose someone to act as the leader. All of the others serve as assistants, and they should roll the appropriate skill + attribute. For each assistant that scores at least one hit, each hit the assistants make adds one die to the leader’s dice pool. The most dice that can be added to the test is equal to the leader’s rating in the applicable skill, or the highest attribute rating if the test involves two attributes (no matter how much help you get, you can only do so much). The leader then rolls their adjusted dice pool and tries to beat the threshold for the test.
  Any kind of glitch an assistant rolls, prevents that assistant from adding dice to the leader's pool. In addition to this, a critical glitch, removes one die from the leader's pool, as the assistant is not only not helpful, but actually hindering the success of the test.


Trying Again

A Crosser who gives up after a quick failure is a Crosser who will never know the satisfaction of getting a secure lock to finally open after repeated tries and then slipping into an office just before the security sweep passes by. Re-trying on a failed test is allowed, but players must take a cumulative –2 penalty on each retry. If the character takes a sufficient break from trying (it’s up to gamemaster discretion how long a break is needed), they can begin the task again with no penalty.
  Note that taking a shot or a swing of the sword (or most other actions in combat) does not allow trying again. Each attempted combat action, or shot counts as its own action, rather than being a re-try of a previous failure.


Please Login in order to comment!