In general, I like the idea of contested rolls in gaming systems, but I don’t like the actual reality of them. The idea that one person’s ability opposes another’s makes sense. Unfortunately, two rolls is not only a whole lot of die rolling, but it is also a whole lot of variability. I don’t know what the actual probability effects of opposed rolls are, but it feels more random to me than it should.
I was thinking about the FM system a bit earlier, and thought that it might have a nice way of handling this.
In the FM system you’d have 1-3 mastery levels and a die pool (usually, again 1-3) associated with each level.
So, someone extremely skilled at something might have B3 J3 M2 (and a possible result of 3-18). Someone with a basic level of skill might just have B2 (and a possible result of 1-6).
I’m thinking that, perhaps, when you oppose someone’s ability with your own, you roll versus a target number equal to something like the sum of their die pools + n (1?) per level of mastery that they have completed (completing a level of mastery entails having gone on to the next one). So (assuming n=1), opposing the first skilled example above would require a target number of 3+3+2+1+1, for a total of 10. This would be impossible for someone at the first level of mastery, and very difficult for someone at the second (whose highest possible roll would be a 12). Someone at the third level of mastery (roughly on par) would have a reasonable chance at this. That seems about right. I’d need to run the probabilities, though.
I’ll also note that in looking back over the Finesse System from The Secret of Zir’an, I’ve been clearly influenced by it in coming up with what I have for FM…