I am the Warden!!
Challenges come in one flavour: all of them. Spontaneously, randomly, and unexpectedly. Just when you expect the face a bitter snowstorm of stress, Life dishes out a hot heaping of difficulty. Nothing is what it seems and while you can't change the balance in the universe to let you find a great parking spot, the best you can do is develop your skills to succeed where others would fail.
Depressing as that last paragraph sounds, it's not made to depress. This is the basis for difficulty dice in the Optional System and it's time to pick up where we left off yesterday.
Randomizing the Unexpected
Difficulty dice provide the opposition to a character's attempts at performing any option not directed at another living creature. Manipulating inanimate objects, climbing, jumping, interacting with the environment are all applications for difficulty dice. Think of them as Life's opposing roll.
All difficulty dice have a base dice of 1d20 and gain additional circumstance dice as the attempted option becomes more challenging. A simple 1d20 roll is used for the simplest of actions, a deed which can be easily completed yet still presents its own punishments for failure; making a 5-foot jump is not much for your average hero but comes with a small 10-foot drop if you slip. Increase the gap to 10' and add another 1d10 circumstance dice. There is no limit to the number of circumstance dice you can theoretically add to a difficulty roll. If a player wants his character to try jumping the Grand Canyon (without superpowers or magic, mind you), then he's more than welcome to try but you need at least +20d10 circumstance dice to pit against his little polyhedron.
Here's a chart of categories for difficulty dice. Or at least a chart in pure text form. (Forgive me, I'm new here.)
Category Difficulty Dice
...and so forth and onward.
Playing Against the Odds
This aspect of the Optional System has lead to the most skepticism thus far and the first thing most people involved with the early playtesting have said "Doesn't that mean I could win with a 5?" and followed by "Doesn't that seem a little easy?"
You could look at it that way and I can't argue with that. (I did have an argument ready about each roll being an abstract attempt, not an absolute value, but I quickly came to realize I was in denial. So I have a new point to make.) What matters is the effort over the difficulty. If you fail to roll higher than the difficulty dice, you fail. There are no levels of failure - you simply do not. But there are levels of success granting you opportunity to do more than just succeed.
And that's where we'll pick up next time.