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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    So I've been DMing 4th edition since it came out and I've hit a snag. I'm still having trouble figuring out good out of combat (OOC) fun for 4th Edition. The role play is there, but I feel like I can't set up as many neat out of combat gaming situations as I could in 3.5 (I ran into this same problem when I started playing 3rd edition and quit 2nd.) I'm looking for suggestions for making fun OOC games and situations for my players.

    I'm not really a fan of skill challenges, I feel like they break immersion too much. I also don't like the way 4th handles traps. (They feel more like special monsters than traps.) I still use puzzles and I still use skills a lot, and if I do use skill challenges I keep them a secret and just ask for rolls over the course of a time period.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Well, it has to do with your focus, really, and the focus of the group. With all the combat powers, it's easy to see things as a big fight. You just have to make sure you escape the mindset of "solve everything through fighting".

    Set up some interesting scenarios. Figure out large plots, and challenges for the PCs that are going to be very hard to overcome through combat. Challenges with situations that combat is not the answer for.

    Then, everything hinges on the skills. Not skill challenges, mind you. Skills. A skill can easily be used to smooth things over, to put things in place, so that when everything comes together, the challenge is overcomeable.

    For instance, the party needs to find an artifact located in the middle of an army's camp. Through one NPC or the other, you could recommend that they get an army to attack the other army, to gain access to the camp. To do this, they need to do some research, to figure out ways they can persuade the people to form an army, then combined with some diplomacy to get the army together, followed by navigation to the camp, and then some combat.

    Encourage planning.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    1- OOC = Out of Character.

    2- What sort of non-combat stuff are you looking to do?

    Throw out the skill challenges system. Its about as dumb as the Vancian casting for fighters, but that doesn't bother you if you like 4th.

    Take a look at what you did in 2nd and 3.5 for non-combat.

    Look at what 4th allows to be done inside its ruleset and find what is missing. Thee isn't much it offers, and you may have to create new things.

    A lot of the NWPs form older editions were a good way to do non-combat things, but that was folded into the skill challenges.

    Resting was a good place to take care of these things in older editions and the mechanic in 4th doesn't allow for that, so you really need to plan things out that don't use the skill challenges, or just tell your players that you are not use that part of the game.

    Have you tried unconventional puzzles? Ones where their isn't a device, but more along the lines of logic that require NPC interaction?

    Basically hunting and searching for the right person with the info and diplomacy just doesn't work. The meat-and-potatoes of the roleplaying part of the game. Sadly these could be turned into combat, as always, or even the players may want to bypass that non-fun stuff for the skill challenges.

    Give some examples of the thigns you did in prior editions that you feel are missing from the 4th edition games you are running. Also do your players feel this is missing from the game, or could it be a symptom of DM burnout setting in?

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    I have found that the skill challenge system has been brilliant. People in my group when I have dmed have used skills in character, with lots of role play to overcome a variety of noncombat obstacles or situations. It scales well and it allows high power pcs to pull off amazing, non combat related stuff, like tracking a boat or other ridiculous things. What the skill challenge system does, for non combat situations, is tie success to an understood numerical framework, that is not the dm making it up on the fly. As a dm, you have to ask yourself is it hard, medium or easy dc. That's it. To make it fun, you have to encourage tieing it to role play. I get my PCs to act a bit for the diplomacy roll for the fun. They say something, then they roll the dice. Its easy and makes a load of sense and allows people like my friend Brad to play charismatic characters (only joking Brad) and enjoy it! You can use it to give somebody not gifted at puzzles a clue based upon their characters skill set or intelligence and so on.

    To my mind the 4E rule set, with just a tiny dab of imagination, does for skills and out of combat challenges what 3E did for combat compared to 1e, (thAC0 was on the way but not quite there) a simple addition, rather than a table and complicated figuring.

    Some examples:

    Rescuing people form a collapsing building that was struck by a dragon. The pcs could make acrobatic, athletic checks, knowledge checks or perception checks for bonuses, to get people out. But they had to say what they did. If they described their action as 'I will smash through doors into the burning area to pull out the trapped' it was an athletics check, with a +2 from a successful perception check and so on. They had to make endurance checks to keep it going for the few rounds it lasted. This skill challenge had drama, role play and tension
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Don't feel that you have to, or even should, use skill challenges as written. A lot of people agree that they don't really work. I'll repost the text of something I did for the Wizards' Forums:

    Spoiler
    Show
    Generally, I decide on "victory conditions" when I make an SC; for example, catch up to the thief fleeing through the crowded market. For this case, someone in the party needs to make a Medium difficulty Endurance check each "round" to keep up with the thief; if they fail by 4 or less, they don't gain but don't fall behind; if they fail by 5 or more, they lose the thief and are out of the SC. They need to succeed three times to catch up. Then I come up with incidental checks representing different methods: push your way through the crowd (Hard Athletics), scale a wall and run over the roofs (Medium Athletics and Acrobatics), get everyone to move aside (Medium Intimidate or Hard Diplomacy), blend in with the crowd so the thief stops running and then follow him (Medium Stealth or Bluff and Medium Perception, must be the only player still in the chase). Each player still in the chase gets to choose their method once per round, and depending on the tactic and their success, may get a bonus to their Endurance check. Some methods have different outcomes; Intimidating the people in the market gets attention from the Watch, hiding and following the thief leads you to his hideout.

    Other setups include using a single, unrepeatable check that the party decides when to make, with bonuses from completing additional tasks, or a flowchart style setup in which the final check is initially unavailable but is unlocked by succeeding on preliminary checks. The first works well with stuff like disabling a complex trap or setting up an ambush; the second works better for investigations or social scenes.


    As far as other things to do, what are you looking for? Crafting is pretty much a "background skill" in that a player can just say "I'm a blacksmith" and be able to make equipment for a little under cost. (I recommend you limit how many such skills a character can have, though.) Mass battles are best done offscreen or highly abstracted. One that I like is giving players a base of operations that they can choose to improve over several adventures; one of my groups is now running a small town complete with guards, militia, treaties, and local rivals. That's been a good source of roleplay opportunities; the paladin has been slowly slipping into the role of local lord, and if his player doesn't rejoin the campaign this fall, he may just become an influential NPC. Another good one is making sure that players have a stake in the plot (the base of operations is part of this). Give them friends, allies, rivals, potential employers (some helpful, some not), and possibly family.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by kieza View Post
    Don't feel that you have to, or even should, use skill challenges as written. A lot of people agree that they don't really work.
    One of the last two podcasts actually had Mike MEarls mention that the skil challenge wa a little off and somewhat lacking in ideas stemming form it and DDi has the answer for those willing to subscribe. I think this was said in the same podcast where they talked about minions being worthless from MMi, and were changed in MMII to better reflect working monsters and adjusting Solo monsters. It was in the other one if not with the minions discusion, and I cannot find the D&D podcast pages right now to give a link to them and the suggestions.

    What you have in your spoiler bit for ideas is interesting and could help a good bit.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by DM Raven View Post
    So I've been DMing 4th edition since it came out and I've hit a snag. I'm still having trouble figuring out good out of combat (OOC) fun for 4th Edition. The role play is there, but I feel like I can't set up as many neat out of combat gaming situations as I could in 3.5 (I ran into this same problem when I started playing 3rd edition and quit 2nd.) I'm looking for suggestions for making fun OOC games and situations for my players.
    So, yeah. What exactly can't you do now, that you'd do previously? Some examples would help.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    In my second session DMing the system I put in a very easy sidequest but presented it as if it was something else.

    I had the priest of Kord bemoan a new play for showing Kord as the villain. He made it sound as if there was some kind of conspiriacy going on involving the actors and a rival church. As it was blasphemy he'd instructed his followers not to watch it. And he refused to watch it himself.

    The players assembled all the plans to infiltrate the play. This mirrored a scene from our last campaign.

    That was until they just watched it and the misunderstanding became apparent. The god wasn't the villain, a Cleric was. And he was redeemed at the end when he reached a better understanding of Kord's teachings.

    The players "won" without rolling a single die when they convinced the priest to watch the play.

    I put that in there to show that there are very real problems that can be solved without violence and even without skills.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Glug View Post
    In my second session DMing the system I put in a very easy sidequest but presented it as if it was something else.

    I had the priest of Kord bemoan a new play for showing Kord as the villain. He made it sound as if there was some kind of conspiriacy going on involving the actors and a rival church. As it was blasphemy he'd instructed his followers not to watch it. And he refused to watch it himself.

    The players assembled all the plans to infiltrate the play. This mirrored a scene from our last campaign.

    That was until they just watched it and the misunderstanding became apparent. The god wasn't the villain, a Cleric was. And he was redeemed at the end when he reached a better understanding of Kord's teachings.

    The players "won" without rolling a single die when they convinced the priest to watch the play.

    I put that in there to show that there are very real problems that can be solved without violence and even without skills.
    I do hope that at least one player wanted to continue with plan A and kill the 'Players' with fire. I'd be jealous if you had a group without at least one such. ;)

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Are you interested in pure RP activities, or something more mechanics based?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiki Snakes View Post
    So, yeah. What exactly can't you do now, that you'd do previously? Some examples would help.
    you're coming across, at least to me, as someone with a giant anti 3e chip on their shoulder. It's not really very helpful.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    This probably doesn't help, but I find Traps and Skill Challenges to really help with this.

    Traps, as listed in the DMG, really are more like monsters or terrain features, as you said. It's hard to create an all trap encounter like in previous editions, however, if you create your own traps, this can be averted. A room with a celing falling on them for example, is a classic DnD that doesn't fit in with 4th editions other traps, but could create a great non-combat encounter, and nothing will excite players quite like certain death.

    As for skill challenges, as put in the book, they do break immersion quite a bit. The trick is making them subtle, so they don't do so. For example, if they're trying to find a temple hidden in the woods, don't say "You're in a skill challenge, you can use these skills to press on, these to help your friends ect. Instead, simply ask them what they do, and translate that to a skill role. If they look in the library for hints, make a history role, if they search the jungle, nature or endurance or even perception as appropriate to their description of exactly what they're looking for or how they're looking. For example, "I look to see if there are any places where they foliage is worn on due to being tread upon." would probably be nature, where as "I just look around for as long as I can." is probably endurance.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    you're coming across, at least to me, as someone with a giant anti 3e chip on their shoulder. It's not really very helpful.
    And yet I don't see you levelling a similar accusation at Shadzar's anti-4ism...

    Aside from that, Tiki asked a valid question. What exactly is it that Raven used to do that s/he feels s/he now can't. That answer will inform the suggestions that the playgrounders give.
    Last edited by Colmarr; 2009-06-01 at 06:50 PM.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    Are you interested in pure RP activities, or something more mechanics based?

    you're coming across, at least to me, as someone with a giant anti 3e chip on their shoulder. It's not really very helpful.
    How? It's hard to know where to begin to answer without examples as to what he's trying to achieve and what he wants to do that isn't working.


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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Colmarr View Post
    And yet I don't see you levelling a similar accusation at Shadzar's anti-4ism...
    /shrug ... I didn't read them.

    After scanning them, shadzar's chip seems firmly aimed toward 4e itself, and he does offer a couple of suggestions, while Tiki's chip seems more aimed at Raven for disliking things about 4e.
    Last edited by Jayabalard; 2009-06-01 at 07:22 PM.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    After scanning them, shadzar's chip seems firmly aimed toward 4e itself, and he does offer a couple of suggestions, while Tiki's chip seems more aimed at Raven for disliking things about 4e.
    He just asked for more information, there's no indication of a chip of any sort in that post.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Perhaps a revised way of asking the question...

    DM Raven, what is it exactly, in your game, that you are finding difficult to do?



    My suggestion, bust open the DMG and check out page 42? I think that's pretty much what you want right there (I say this having no idea what it is exactly that you want)

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Skill challenges should only be used if it's something actually difficult, like convincing a pig farmer to give you 1000 gold for recovering his 5gp pig, or convincing the king that you deserve a fortune for killing 6 orcs.

    But otherwise, just run like you would in 3.5. Factor in everything possible, set a DC, and add bonuses/penalties behind the curtains when applicable. Simple as that really. OOC in 4.0 isn't much different than 3.5 if you know you're doing.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayabalard View Post
    /shrug ... I didn't read them.

    After scanning them, shadzar's chip seems firmly aimed toward 4e itself, and he does offer a couple of suggestions, while Tiki's chip seems more aimed at Raven for disliking things about 4e.
    I was wondering where I left the rest of my lunch. ~eats the chip~

    Nope, not a fan of 4th, and the skill challenges are one of the reasons because they pretty much hand-waive any non-combat situations into a series of dice rolls to "get on with it".

    Just haven't found any way around it for a player who would only want to roll dice at the expense of others who may want to work out something in a more vocal and thinking way.

    Thus by saying you have banned the skill challenge rules, players will have to think up something to do for non-combat situations and behind-the-screen, the DM can still use the skill challenge system where s/he feels like it.

    It still remains that no matter what edition, a problem with a personal game needs some more info about the particular problem or what is felt is mising in order to add anything to it for that persons needs.

    As long as they aren't ranch I will eat the other chips in this thread if people don't mind. Still hungry after a short lunch today.

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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by CarpeGuitarrem View Post
    Then, everything hinges on the skills. Not skill challenges, mind you. Skills. A skill can easily be used to smooth things over, to put things in place, so that when everything comes together, the challenge is overcomeable.

    For instance, the party needs to find an artifact located in the middle of an army's camp. Through one NPC or the other, you could recommend that they get an army to attack the other army, to gain access to the camp. To do this, they need to do some research, to figure out ways they can persuade the people to form an army, then combined with some diplomacy to get the army together, followed by navigation to the camp, and then some combat.

    Encourage planning.
    ...You've just described a skill challenge, you realize? Possibly more than one.

    Skill challenges, properly run, aren't "let's roll some dice now." There's roleplaying in there too. Just like combat.

    I wrote more about them here a few months back.
    Last edited by Ninetail; 2009-06-01 at 11:25 PM.
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    Quote Originally Posted by Ninetail View Post
    I wrote more about them here a few months back.
    You've got some good stuff there, though like most articles on advice for skill challenges I've seen, there's a distinct lack of specific examples that would be really nice to have.

    This part isn't addressed to you, but this seems to be the right place to say that it would be helpful for me to see an example or two of a skill challenge that isn't "use social skills to convince someone of something" or "Chase someone through streets".
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    Default Re: Calling all DMs - 4th Edition Out of Combat

    I've found a good way to get non-combat play going on is to ask "How do you do that?" and allow in-game actions to make skill checks easier or unnecessary. (I also abandoned skill challenges early on as being more work than they're worth.)

    For example, my group recently tried (and succeeded) to pass themselves off as demon lords from another plane of existence. Rather than have them say "I use my Bluff skill to convince the goblins that I'm a demon lord" I asked them what, specifically, they were telling them. This gets people thinking in character and doing things like setting themselves on fire in order to appear more infernal. It also means they have to think about what they're saying so that they don't accidentally contradict themselves or established facts.

    As an example of the second type, in last night's game the party found a map in a desk. They could have made a Perception check to search the room and maybe found it, but instead one of them specifically went to the desk and looked in it. Ta-da! One map, no check required. I find that this helps people engage with the setting more rather than just rolling a bunch of dice and seeing what happens.
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