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The basic QAGS mechanic is apparently way too simple for most gamers. Even though we tell them that the highest successful roll wins, everybody insists on thinking that the Number they’re rolling against has something to do with how well their character succeeds. A few (mostly those familiar with 2nd Edition AD&D’s non-weapon proficiency system) try to use the difference between their roll and Number as the success degree. While I can’t help the AD&D people, I recently realized that the “Price Is Right” analogy that we often use to explain the mechanic might be part of the problem for others, since on the game show the idea is to get as close as you can to the price of the item (your Number) without going over. While this is technically true in QAGS as well (since anything over the Number is a failure), this makes it seem like the Number itself is import. It isn’t, unless you’re using the Lucky Break rules and roll the Number exactly or fail and the Failure Degree is important.
I think I’ve come up with a slightly better analogy for the base QAGS mechanic: A silent auction. Let’s say that Bianca and Sparky are both submitting silent bids to an auction for a lovely framed piece of Jeffrey Johnson art. Bianca has $100 in her pocket while Sparky has $75. In this case, the amount of money each person has is like their Number: neither can successfully purchase the art if the final sale price is more than their available funds. If there’s a minimum bid or reserve price, that’s basically a Difficulty Number. Bids (rolls) that are below the minimum bid (DN) fail to win the auction. If Bianca bids $70 and Sparky bids $65, Bianca wins the print. It doesn’t matter that Sparky was closer to his Number (total available cash). All that matters in the amount of money that was bid (ie, the value of the roll).
Does that make things any clearer?