As someone coming primarily from various d20 and PtbA games, one basic rule of Coriolis keeps coming up surprising me as I am continuing to familiarize myself with the system, which is that by default you can only try a skill roll once. The idea os very simple, but it takes a while to really settle in with all the implications that follow from it.
For something like trying to lie to an NPC or sneak past a guard undetected, it’s obvious that the game is up and it’s impossible to try to continue. That has noting to do with game mechanics. That you can’t keep making new rolls to break a lock or get access to a computer is also something that is very easy to understand and remember. But it goes further than that. If something on your ship gets damaged during a battle and you fail your repair roll, you don’t just take longer. You are unable to fix it at all. If you try to treat your injured friend who is bleeding out and fail the first aid roll, then that is it. The big exception to the rule is that you can try something again with another roll if the situation has meaningfully changed. If you take the ship to a station or spaceport where you can really take things apart without floating in space and have access to better tools, you can take another shot at fixing that gun. If you take your mortally bleeding friend back to your ship where you have a fully stocked medical lab instead of just a first aid kit, you have another chance to make a roll to treat the injury before he dies. I really like that, as it creates much more interesting new situation than just taking more time until the dice agree to be cooperative.
But there is another important exception and that is that if a situation isn’t changed by a failed skill roll, other characters can make an attempt as well. That’s something I never really liked in any RPG. Some guy who had an extended first aid course being able to perform a complicated surgery that a veteran expert surgeon found impossible just doesn’t feel right, even if the odds for that are not very high. It just doesn’t make narrative sense that a character with minimal skill would even try, and when you play a campaign long enough it’s going to happen a couple of times eventually.
But I have an idea to avoid this situation without changing how the mechanics work too much. This rule would be that “if a character attempts a skill roll that a more skilled character already failed at, he must get help from that other character”. What happens narratively is that the engineer failed to get a gun firing again by himself and then calls a deckhand over to come and assist him. On the next turn (if jn combat) the deckhand now also attempts a skill roll to repair the gun but gets a +1 assistance bonus from the engineer. Mechanically, the engineer is helping the deckhand at his first try, but narratively it’s the deckhand helping the engineer at a second try. This second attempt is at a lower chance than the first roll had been, but it is still another chance at success.
The important difference to the standard rules of Coriolis is that the engineer must spend a second turn working on the damaged gun and can’t use that second turn doing other things to help with the battle. I think I would even allow the engineer to make the first attempt already with a +1 bonus for help from the deckhand, and then let the deckhand make an attempt with a +1 bonus for help from the engineer. Since this requires both characters to spend two turns each on working on the gun, I think that’s a fair tradeoff.