The GM Awakens: SkillZone – Discipline

Image by Fantasy Flight Games and LFL

Welcome to the SkillZone.  This article is one in an occasionally running series on one of the cornerstones of most RPGs:  Skills.  Skills usually have pretty cut and dry uses in roleplaying games.  They are used by the player characters to perform actions and see if they are able to accomplish tasks.  If your group is like my play groups, there are about 6 or 7 skills are used in almost every adventure, 3 or 4 that pop up occasionally, and about 10 that are rarely used.  But one thing I’ve found is that creative, narrative use of skills that aren’t necessarily obvious in the moment is what separates good players from great players, and good games from great games.  These uses generally create the best roleplaying fodder as well!

So in the SkillZone we will discuss a skill that’s not commonly used, and possible creative uses of skills that are too often taken for granted.  For the next examination, we’ll cover another skill that’s rarely used in my games:


Discipline is a vague skill in some senses.  In my games it is used but it’s mostly used in a very RAW (Rules as Written) way.  The times the core books tell me to use Discipline, I do.  Aside from those times, it’s not come up with much regularity.  However, as I examined all the skills for this series of SkillZone, I started finding a ton of uses for it in games if one steps back from just the core book uses for the skill.  However, let’s look at both the suggested uses, as well as the more creative ways to use the skill.


Discipline is simply defined in the books as a character’s ability to control his biological instincts, so that he can overcome things that might induce abject panic in a person of lesser resolve.  It’s their ability to maintain composure and react effectively in harrowing circumstances.  This seems, at first glance, that it can have some overlap with Cool, or Resilience…and it does to a point.  But if you’re really looking to react in game how a person really would, you might not need to look much past Discipline.

Common Uses

So the biggest way that the Discipline skill comes into play in my games is when one must recover Strain.  A simple Discipline check is used to recover Strain based on the number of successes rolled.  Cool can also be used, but Discipline is allowed.  This is the way my groups will use it 90% of the time.  Fear checks are the other large way Discipline is used.  When something fearful strikes the PC, they need to run that past their Discipline to see if their character is negatively affected.  I really love the idea of the fear check, and have found it an amazingly easy tool to manipulate the party negatively without taking complete GM control or frustrating players.  Personally, I need to use fear checks a lot more than I have been.  I don’t disregard them entirely but I do miss opportunities.  So it’s my fault Discipline doesn’t come into play as often as it could.  So, if you want Discipline to be a bigger part of your games, then don’t forget your fear checks!

When Force and Destiny arrived, it brought Discipline checks back into the forefront more with the mechanical use of the Force in the game.  The go-to skill that’s used if a character uses Force powers on you, is Discipline.  Unless otherwise stated, Discipline is going to be used in some way with most Force-related effects, determining if your character can withstand or succumbs to the power being directed at him.  So if a character chooses specializations from the Force and Destiny line, he or she is more apt to focus on Discipline.  However, the other 2/3 of the possible careers and specializations might not pay much attention to it.

Use in Social Situations

One of the ways that Discipline can be used by a GM is when an opposed social check is called for.  At times, there is a clear cut skill that should oppose the one being directed towards the PC.  A few of these call for Discipline to be used right out of the core rule books.  Coercion, Deception, and Leadership being those.  If someone uses one of those three skills against a PC, that character’s Discipline will attempt to combat it.

But sometimes it’s not always obvious which social skill to use to oppose a check.  Players can get very creative and come up with a scenario that isn’t so clear cut as to what social skill to utilize in opposition.  This is where Discipline comes in.  Whenever you aren’t sure what to use, let a character’s Discipline inform your skill check.

Another time that Discipline is commonly used in RPG’s would be interrogations.  I have called on several different social skills to assist with interrogations from the receiving end.  I easily have seen cases where a person uses Cool to stay calm, or Charm and Deception to trick their captors, or even Leadership.  But Discipline can be your go-to opposed skill here as well.  A person’s inner ability to take what’s happening to them can always be explained in such a check with little effort.

Use in Combat

As a GM I’m always looking to figure out ways to use other checks in combat.  My players tend to immediately use combat skills to get through enemies.  So, sometimes as a GM I need to remember to suggest and/or call for checks to spice things up.  Discipline can easily be used in this sort of situation.  A player could ask to use Discipline to be granted a boost die on future combat checks, narratively describing concentrating and focusing before coming out from behind cover.  This could be done before the shooting starts.  A GM could call for a Discipline check for a character who is having a lot of fire come over their heads behind cover.  Similar to a fear check of sorts, failing the check could mean setback dice for the character in trying to remain focused on the task at hand.  I would also allow a Discipline check for PC’s who wanted to aim carefully when shooting at a tricky or delicate target, even in place of whichever Ranged combat skill they usually use.

In what ways have you creatively used Discipline in your games?  Ever find that the skill doesn’t get used much?  What might be some ways as a player or GM you might want to try to use a Discipline skill creatively next time?

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Scott Alden

Scott Alden

Scott is a full-time IT Manager living in Lawrence, KS. (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk! Just outside Kansas City for those who don't know.) Scott is a veteran of several role playing, table top miniatures, video, and board games, starting with the Atari 2600 when he was 6, and the classic red box Dungeons and Dragons game when he was 12. After a long hiatus away from the hobby, Scott has recently picked up gaming once again, and is running two different campaigns in Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion/Force and Destiny lines. He is an avid X-Wing miniatures player, as well as Armada, Imperial Assault, Space Hulk, and Rebellion. (His family is obviously a Star Wars family, right?) Scott is married to his high school sweetheart, and has 2 children in middle school, both Black Belts in Krav Maga martial arts.