Opposed contests between characters

I've run a few sessions of Trail of Cthulhu (Masks of Nyarlathotep), and in some instances I'm finding the the contest rules a bit clunky, and I'm wondering if I'm doing them right, or if perhaps there's a mechanical hack that would make things run more smoothly.

It seems like in many instances, it would make more sense for two characters to roll opposing skills, compare their results against each others' rolls, and give the "win" to the character with the highest roll; rather than having both characters roll against some difficulty and see who fails first. As examples, I've had a villain blocking a doorway and a PC trying to get past him, which would seem to call for a direct contest of Athletics. In another case, a PC was trying to keeps his guns hidden from a security guard, which would seem to call for a contest of the PC's Conceal vs. the guard's Sense Trouble.

We've tentatively adopted a house rule allowing opposed contests like this, with both characters simultaneously revealing how many points they're going to spend, roshambo style. Has anyone else run into this? Or am I interpreting the rules incorrectly?



  • Ashen Stars has a version of a contest ( GUMSHOE calls it a "Showdown" ) which is exactly as you have described -> one roll with one voluntary spend added to it.

    Highest wins -> ties are won by the one who spent the most pool points.

    If that is tied -> then both roll again, but no further pool points are allowed to be added.
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