Skill Checks combine the element of chance with a character's special talents. The concept will be known to any experienced role-player out there. For all others, we would like to give a short example, as it could happen at any playing table.
Player: "I want to open this door."
GameMaster: "You carefully push down the door handle and ... It's locked."
Player: "May I break it open?"
GameMaster: "You can try to break it down with athletics. Though the attempt will not exactly be quiet."
Player: "I'll risk it. Can I roll on Athletics?"
GameMaster: "You can. The door looks stable but the ravages of time have taken their toll on the wood. You have a 20% chance of breaking it down."
Is "a 20% chance" not always "1 to 4 on a d20" (which would mathematically equal a chance of 20%)?
The "Probabilities of Success Table" already combines the objective chance of achieving the task with a wastelander's special talents.
If a fellow character is pretty strong and has a rating of "9" in Athletics, they would have to roll "6 or lower", according to the table.
So, if I have 0 SkP (Skill Points), I cannot break open the door?
If you have not activated (meaning you invested at least 1 point in) Athletics, then no. At least not with Athletics.
What else can I do then?
Maybe another skill is more appropriate? With a successful check in Gathering Supplies you might find a suitable tool nearby.
A successful skill check in Science or Handcraft might reveal the weakest point of the door.
Or a magic spell temporarily weakens the structure of the lock or wooden planks for a short amount of time.
What do the numbers with an asterisk (*) in column 1 mean?
As soon as an event is more than "unlikely" to happen (equalling a chance of 21% or more), there is the possibility of beginner's luck.
Had the GameMaster described another, weaker structured or more rotten door, the chances to break it down could have been numbered 62%.
In this case, even a character with 0 SkP in Athletics could try. And a "1 or 2 on d20" would be sufficient to break it down.
Optional rule: What is an "blind roll" (or "open roll")?
A GameMaster might ask players for an "blind roll" to identify HOW successful a check has been. Let's create another, a bit more sophisticated example for that.
A bunch of wastelander are out in the woods, searching for food. Each player can choose which skill they would like to use. Food or Gathering Supplies are the more obvious choices. But they could also count on Intuition or Awareness, just to meet their personal strengths.
The GameMaster now asks them for an open roll. Player A rolls "19" on Gathering supplies (with only 2 SkP). A quick consultation of the table reveals to the GameMaster that this attempt only succeeded if it were "almost safe" to find food.
However, Player B is more fortunate and rolls "3" on Food (4 SkP), meaning a success even under "very unlikely" conditions.
Player 3 rolls a "12" and has 3 SkP in Awareness. This equals a "proper chance".
Of course, it will depend on the forest (and therefore on the GameMaster) if there is any food to be found at all in a special area. So the players can never insist on a certain outcome. Actual results of Skill Checks are always up to the GameMaster.
We recommend the rule of "blind rolls" especially for checks in Magic Skills since their success might show up eventually and not immediately.