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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Skill Challenges?

    Could someone kindly explain what exactly a skill challenge is? From what I can see concerning them is that they take a long narrative piece, break it down into several skill checks that two or more players roll for at each part and then require a certain amount of successes before a certain amount of failures. And this seems to have the purpose of directing players down a specific path instead of having them bumble around and try to figure out what appropriately to do to continue the story along.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Skill Challenges are outlined in the DMG. They're a variant encounter where, instead of slaughtering monsters, the PCs must jointly perform a task or series of tasks.

    If well-designed, they add much-needed variety to a game session, and reward characters put together with non-combat pursuits in mind. Otherwise, they can be stale, and weaken the verisimilitude of a game.

    I haven't had a spectacular amount of luck in 4E with these, but I see some real promise. If I look at my old Shadow Run adventures (especially the setup and debugging sections), I can kind of see what 4E's creators had in mind.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Always remember the first rule of a skill challenge; Never tell your players it is a skill challenge.

    If they hear: 'Okay, you now have to make x successful checks with skills from this list.' it limits their options, which is not good.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    While I like the idea of skill challenges (put some structure into non-combat encounters, and put some pressure into the game), I'm not so sold on the execution. The problem is, you don't know which check is going to end a skill challenge, so you might wind up in a situation where, narratively, you have to keep throwing problems in the way of the characters, because they haven't rolled all of their successes yet--but their skill checks should've reasonably finished the in-game situation. (Or vice versa, where they get all their successes, but haven't fictionally reached a point of success!)

    Implementation odd, but concept good--that's my opinion.

    Fixes you might try...

    ~~

    Instead of "X failures means you fail the challenge", have it be "you need X successes to pass, and every failure makes something go wrong; you can always abandon the skill challenge if you don't want any more complications to happen".

    ~~

    Set up different elements for the skill challenge. For instance, a "research the ritual" skill challenge might have The Library, The Alchemist's Shop, and The Imprisoned Cultist as its elements. Your players can choose to roll against one of these elements. Each successive success against an element gets you something. (Maybe the first success against the Library gets you some background information on the use of the ritual, and the next success gives you the outline of how it works.) Each failure brings an element closer to being "locked out". Finally, if you gain enough successes on all elements, you fully pass the challenge. Otherwise, it's a compromise.

    (So in this case, maybe each element would give you two successes' worth of material, but one failure locks you out. If you go to interrogate the cultist, there's two possible pieces of information you can pick up...but fail once, and they clam up.)
    Last edited by CarpeGuitarrem; 2014-04-28 at 03:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    The above is all good info. In my experience skill challenges work great when the DM is reacting to player decisions. So the skill challenge involves navigating a forest. The forest is divided up into three "sections" and the challenge requires six successes total to beat. So optimally 2 successes in each area.

    The DM then asks the players how they want to try and navigate the forest, and tells them what skill they need to roll when they tell him. So the DM asks how they want to cross the river. The fighter says they want to throw their grappling hook on to a tree on the opposite shore, to create a rope line they can use to avoid getting swept away. DM tells them to make 2 athletics checks, one to throw the hook and one to pull themselves through the water.

    This way players don't feel constrained to a "recommended" set of skills. For example the wizard/sorcerer/arcane class could have rolled Arcana to create a bridge of ice, and the acrobatics to move across it without falling into the water. If the players have an item or utility that can bypass the obstacle altogether then that just counts as the two skill successes.

    If the players fail a skill challenge, they don't really "fail" (unless failure makes for an interesting story on its own) but get through the challenge at a great delay or with a loss in healing surges. If the players fail to navigate the forest, they still arrive at their destination eventually, but after 2 or 3 days of wandering in the wilderness, costing them supplies and healing surges.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanuki Tales View Post
    Could someone kindly explain what exactly a skill challenge is?
    For what it's worth, WOTC has gone on record stating that skill challenges "should die in a fire". You can play 4E perfectly well without using SCs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dire_Stirge View Post
    Always remember the first rule of a skill challenge; Never tell your players it is a skill challenge.
    This is very true, and the problem is that savvy players may catch on even if you don't tell them.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Oh! Yes. "Lose a healing surge or two on failure" is a great way to make skill challenges relevant, because healing surges are your main vitality.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    For what it's worth, WOTC has gone on record stating that skill challenges "should die in a fire". You can play 4E perfectly well without using SCs.
    Yeah...I took one look at 4th Edition and went "NOPE!" But the concept was brought up before in a thread I made and recently in this 4th edition based webcomic I'm reading and the concept intrigued me enough to possibly incorporate it for Pathfinder. But it seems that it was a case of looking good on paper and being horrible in execution.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tanuki Tales View Post
    Could someone kindly explain what exactly a skill challenge is? From what I can see concerning them is that they take a long narrative piece, break it down into several skill checks that two or more players roll for at each part and then require a certain amount of successes before a certain amount of failures. And this seems to have the purpose of directing players down a specific path instead of having them bumble around and try to figure out what appropriately to do to continue the story along.
    I think the best way I can show is by illustration of one of my favourites.

    "The kids have been captured by troglodytes? We'll dress up as emissaries of Blipbloppool, God of Troglodytes and come to the front of their camp to distract them while the ranger sneaks in the back to rescue the kids."

    How the #@%$ do you run something like that? It wasn't a plan that went anywhere near the plotted adventure, and OOC I had little idea of the rites of Blipbloppool. Or what their emmissaries looked like. Or how hard it would be to disguise as one. I needed some hook other than "The PCs get themselves nice and stinky" - and some sort of frame for the length to avoid overfocussing on some or other aspect of getting the kids out. Skill challenge, level 8, complexity 5. That gave me the frame for the length and how fine grained to go - and DCs that if they weren't perfect were good enough. (And the PCs took one automatic failure at one point when it was found they didn't share a language with the Trogs). Enough to work with.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Don't do the "list of applicable skills" thing, just put the players in a situation and let them tell you what skills they're gonna use to get around it and how those skills are applicable.

    Skill challenges are just "advance the plot using skills" with a definite end tacked on.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    I think the best way I can show is by illustration of one of my favourites.

    "The kids have been captured by troglodytes? We'll dress up as emissaries of Blipbloppool, God of Troglodytes and come to the front of their camp to distract them while the ranger sneaks in the back to rescue the kids."

    How the #@%$ do you run something like that?
    ...by having the emissaries roll diplomacy or disguise checks while the ranger makes a stealth check? Seriously, why is that even a question? Any halfway-decent set of RPG rules can handle this with no issue at all. SCs only needlessly complicate this scenario (and break the immersion, as soon as the players find out they're in one).
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    ...by having the emissaries roll diplomacy or disguise checks while the ranger makes a stealth check? Seriously, why is that even a question? Any halfway-decent set of RPG rules can handle this with no issue at all. SCs only needlessly complicate this scenario (and break the immersion, as soon as the players find out they're in one).
    Well this depends on the group really. I had my players actually request I run skill challenges more frequently, because they liked using them as a chance to flesh out their characters. For example navigating a royal ball, trying to find an assassin, while blending seamlessly with the crowd. Having a little downtime before the challenge proper to mingle and in the case of the warlock get far too drunk.

    The added time the skill challenge takes means it's not a 'blink and you miss it' encounter resolved with one or two rolls and in a group that likes to rp this can be a blessing. They can also add a sense of urgency to a scene if done right. Sneaking through a city street at night, in the fog, pursued by wraiths, and only one failure away from capture can be just as exciting as fighting said wraiths head on.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raine_Sage View Post
    Well this depends on the group really. I had my players actually request I run skill challenges more frequently, because they liked using them as a chance to flesh out their characters. For example navigating a royal ball, trying to find an assassin, while blending seamlessly with the crowd. Having a little downtime before the challenge proper to mingle and in the case of the warlock get far too drunk.

    The added time the skill challenge takes means it's not a 'blink and you miss it' encounter resolved with one or two rolls and in a group that likes to rp this can be a blessing. They can also add a sense of urgency to a scene if done right. Sneaking through a city street at night, in the fog, pursued by wraiths, and only one failure away from capture can be just as exciting as fighting said wraiths head on.
    Those are advantages of any encounter based on skill checks; not so much of the SC mechanics.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    ...by having the emissaries roll diplomacy or disguise checks while the ranger makes a stealth check? Seriously, why is that even a question? Any halfway-decent set of RPG rules can handle this with no issue at all. SCs only needlessly complicate this scenario (and break the immersion, as soon as the players find out they're in one).
    1: Skill Challenges only break immersion if players are forced to take note that they are in a skill challenge. If they know they are in one because they run the game it's no more of a problem than any other mechanical structure.

    2: What a boring and anti-immersive way of handling things. Any half-way decent set of RPG rules makes disguising yourself an emissary of Blipbloppool effectively equivalent to disguising yourself as a human prince. Rather than getting the stinkiest dead fish and the smelliest cheese they could find, and then avoiding throwing up.

    3: A half-way decent set of RPG rules, as you indicate, are not fit for purpose for complex actions. Half-way decent sets of RPG rules as opposed to actually decent RPG rules are Fortune At The End with a binary success/fail outcome. If you fail one of the strings of skill checks by your way what happens? Either it isn't relevant or the wheels come off the entire plan. Skill challenges have the three failures rule at their heart, meaning that if (when) part of the plan goes wrong the challenge is holding the rest together.

    In short I think the way I handled things with a custom skill challenge made up on the spot was vastly more immersive and much more fun for all concerned than your standard skill checks without a containing structure.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    The design goal of skill challenges is simple: how much should one skill roll matter?

    A skill challenge is a plot-relevant problem that you want to spend a bit of time on at the table.

    If you think the problem is so small that it shouldn't take up much time at all, do a skill check.

    If you think the problem is so large that you want to spend more time at it than a skill challenge, break it into smaller bits.

    If it is in the middle, use skill challenge mechanics.

    The complexity number changes how "big" of a problem it is, and thus measures how long it should take (at the table).

    Each skill roll "matters" as much as a certain number of successes should solve the problem, and a certain number of failures should fail to solve the problem. So in a sense it tells you "how bad a failure should be" as well as "how good a success".

    If the player thinks up doing something that would solve the problem completely with one check, you can either roll with it (give it a higher DC or higher "stakes" (worse things happen on failure), or not if it is particularly clever), or break it down (add complications **in front** of it, or unknown problems **after** it).

    This helps solve the problem if "you sneak into the castle. Do I make a check every time I move? How many stealth checks do I make? How many bluff checks for my disguise?" -- it is easy to justify anywhere from 1 to infinite checks for most skills. And it is easy to justify a failure means "all is lost".

    With skill challenges, a failure means a **complication**, and ~3 of those should be enough that the problem they are trying to solve gets advanced seriously sub-optimally (plot-wise) from the character's perspective.

    The mechanics of skill challenges have changed since release, but the above motivating reason for them has not.

    There are a few good meta-rules for skill challenges.

    1) Anything one player can solve, shouldn't be a skill challenge. It takes up too much at-table time on one person. Either make the problem too hard for one person (not enough hands, not enough time, too many skills needed), or resolve it with one skill check (up or down, success or failure).

    2) A check in a skill challenge, in-game, should involve something with logical in-game consequences for failure. Something that, on failure, costs no resources that matter (and sometimes time matters!) should not be rolled against -- defer the check to the execution where things can go wrong in that case. If this means changing "roll a history check to see if you know of a secret door to the castle" to "you remember a story about a secret door, but it might be a myth" and have the player make the roll **later** to determine if it is real/a viable path (ie, not heavily guarded), so be it. Note this should generally apply to most checks (a strength check to break down a wall when there is no time pressure and you can cheaply&easily get more tools to make it easier is pointless: a strength check to do so in a way that is impressive to the dudes over there right now (and that matters) is *not* as failure has a consequence).

    The easiest way to deal with this is time pressure: failure then takes time, which is a resource you don't have enough of. If you have 3 rounds and each check takes a turn and 5 PCs, that means you have time for 15 checks, and if you need 12 successes -- failure has a natural consequence (which can be identical to doing nothing!), and no PC can make 15 checks in 3 rounds.

    3) There must be a wide variety of possible approaches you are willing to consider using different skills. If the check is "roll thievery 15 times" that is nearly pointless as a skill challenge -- make it an up-or-down single check.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by neonchameleon View Post
    2: What a boring and anti-immersive way of handling things. Any half-way decent set of RPG rules makes disguising yourself an emissary of Blipbloppool effectively equivalent to disguising yourself as a human prince.
    Yes, and so does 4E.

    You're praising the SC rules for what happened in that encounter, but they didn't do that. Your DM did. So praise your DM for it, not the rulebook.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    ...by having the emissaries roll diplomacy or disguise checks while the ranger makes a stealth check? Seriously, why is that even a question? Any halfway-decent set of RPG rules can handle this with no issue at all. SCs only needlessly complicate this scenario (and break the immersion, as soon as the players find out they're in one).
    Ok, what are the consequences of a single skill failure?

    How many diplomacy / buff / stealth checks should you call for before you wrap up the task?

    What kind of DCs should you put on the skills?

    Should players earn XP from this kind of thing?

    Skill challenge is basically nothing but a framework to give you a rough guideline for the above questions.

    Number of rolls you should ask for should be roughly (#failures + 1 + 2*complexity) (ie, failures shouldn't move the PCs forward towards success). You should not treat the first failure as the entire plan falling apart completely: you should treat the first two as complications instead. The DC advice lets you determine DCs "well, that seems like something that a level X power character should find hard" without having to simulate the entire universe up to that point to find out how expensive a lock the dwarf installed in the adamantine door.

    Everything else in skill challenges is fluff, and ham-fisted ways to try to tell you how to use the above advice in an encoded manner.
    Last edited by Yakk; 2014-04-30 at 12:22 PM.

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    Yes, and so does 4E.

    You're praising the SC rules for what happened in that encounter, but they didn't do that. Your DM did. So praise your DM for it, not the rulebook.
    I was the DM. And without the skill challenge framework the best case would have been that I would have run that plan in the uninspired way you indicate above at best (at worst I'd have buried it in minutae). Rather than one of the episodes in that campaign we hark back to. So yes, I think I am in a position to say what the rulebook enabled me to do that I would not have done otherwise.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    Ok, what are the consequences of a single skill failure?

    How many diplomacy / buff / stealth checks should you call for before you wrap up the task?

    What kind of DCs should you put on the skills?

    Should players earn XP from this kind of thing?

    Skill challenge is basically nothing but a framework to give you a rough guideline for the above questions.
    Yup. And a framework is incredibly useful. Especially for a new DM.

    Everything else in skill challenges is fluff, and ham-fisted ways to try to tell you how to use the above advice in an encoded manner.
    This. I've long said that skill challenges started out by writing down what a few specific good DMs did in interesting situations and systematising it. And then presenting the systems without the working that sent into creating them. It presents scaffolding poles and doesn't tell you that the building is what happens underneath the scaffolding rather than being the scaffolding itself.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Yeah, Skill Challenges in 2014 are a much better mechanic than Skill Challenges in 2008. The basic idea was sound, but the implementation needed some serious tweaks, ending up with ... well, what we have now, in the Rules Compendium.

    As Yakk and neonchameleon said, it's just a framework for resolving complex tasks that gives you some idea of their difficulty, expected DCs, and an idea of success/failure states.

    I personally consider them an invaluable tool in my toolkit, and use them both inside combat encounters and outside them. Outside of combat, I tend to prefer Group Skill Challenges, where everyone makes a roll on an appropriate skill every "round", then check to make sure at least half passed, with potential penalties for failures. And yeah, Healing Surges are a great cost for failure. Inside combat, it's usually a sub-goal such as taking down a sorceress's defenses while her goons are attacking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yakk View Post
    Skill challenge is basically nothing but a framework to give you a rough guideline for the above questions.
    That's nice to hear, but it's really not what it says in the 4E sourcebooks. For example, the DMG gives additional rules such as that every character must participate (even if they have no relevant abilities), every character must use a skill (and not a power or item or anything else), and original ideas must be penalized with a higher DC (although that was errata'ed after player outcry). Ham-fisted indeed; it strikes me that the majority of SCs in WOTC-approved adventures are badly written (and mind you, this is where many beginning DMs get their inspiration).

    Those are the parts that should "die in a fire" and I take it that you don't actually run them like that anyway. If you do it right, it becomes good advice, and it will also end up pretty similar to how other RPGs run their skill encounters. I just wouldn't call it an SC any more, because that term has negative connotations to people familiar with the wrong way from the WOTC books and adventures.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Every PC should participate, because a challenge that doesn't require an entire party's help shouldn't be a skill challenge. The risk from failing to advance should be as bad as the risk from failing.

    If that isn't the case, and only part of the party should be solving the problem, consider reducing the entire thing to a single skill check instead of using skill challenges. Or otherwise give those parts of the party something to do.

    And yes, written ones in adventures look like skill challenge post-mortems at best (what the example party did), and theorycrafted abominations at worst.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    That's nice to hear, but it's really not what it says in the 4E sourcebooks. For example, the DMG
    The DMG's explanation and implementation of skill challenges was terrible, both mathematically and in its presentation. It has bizarre stuff like rolling initiative that simply don't make any sense.

    Check the Rules Compendium; that's where the up-to-date stuff is. I don't know of published adventures that got it right, but IIRC the ones in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide were decent enough. The ones in the Zeitgeist Adventure Path from EN Publishing are handled very well, too.

    Ham-fisted indeed; it strikes me that the majority of SCs in WOTC-approved adventures are badly written (and mind you, this is where many beginning DMs get their inspiration).
    Most 4e adventures are terrible. Terrible skill challenges are just the tip of the iceberg.

    I just wouldn't call it an SC any more, because that term has negative connotations to people familiar with the wrong way from the WOTC books and adventures.
    It's a skill challenge using the guidelines and framework found in the Rules Compendium, and the post-errata math. It's not 2008 anymore. (But if you're a time-traveler from 2008 please let me know ASAP; I have some important news for you about the economy. I hope we're in time! )

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    Yeah, Skill Challenges in 2014 are a much better mechanic than Skill Challenges in 2008. The basic idea was sound, but the implementation needed some serious tweaks, ending up with ... well, what we have now, in the Rules Compendium.
    Whoa, it got changed? This I did not hear about. Then again, I haven't really been in the loop on 4E for a while.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarpeGuitarrem View Post
    Whoa, it got changed? This I did not hear about. Then again, I haven't really been in the loop on 4E for a while.
    Yeah, as far back as the DMG2 they got some signifcant improvements. For example, for the issue you mentioned in your first post, about not having the requisuite number of successes despite the fact that the skills used should have solved the challenge, they explictity say that in that scenario the PCs have succeed the challenge and should move on.
    Last edited by Reverent-One; 2014-04-30 at 04:39 PM.
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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurald Galain View Post
    That's nice to hear, but it's really not what it says in the 4E sourcebooks. For example, the DMG
    Let me stop you right there. The skill challenge rules have been re-written at least twice since then - they were definitely re-written in the DMG2 into something that worked and they were tightened up mathematically and given curlicues in Essentials. There is arguably an intermediate revision using Essentials math and DMG2 rules. (Personally I prefer this intermediate revision)

    If you want to talk about how Skill Challenges in the DMG were bad enough they needed to re-write them at the first opportunity I'm not going to disagree. We can also talk about blood mages and push, infinite attacks with Blade Cascade, and perma-stunning orb wizards and how there were a lot of bugs in 4E when it shipped. (And how Next is getting more time possibly because of this). But errata is a part of 4E, like it or not and insisting on unerrata'd versions just causes confusion because you aren't talking about 4E as it is now so much as 4E as it was in 2008 and early 2009. Something that is largely of historical interest.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarpeGuitarrem View Post
    Whoa, it got changed? This I did not hear about. Then again, I haven't really been in the loop on 4E for a while.
    A very long while seemingly :)
    Currently in playtesting, now with optional rules for a cover based sci-fi shooter.
    Games for Harry Potter, the Hunger Games, and Silver Age Marvel. Skins for The Gorgon, the Deep One, the Kitsune, the Banshee, and the Mad Scientist

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    SwashbucklerGuy

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    I recently put together a trio of tweaks on the skill challenges that I think are pretty workable. They're clearly not suited for all, but they're a good starting place.

    Interesting ways to run skill challenges in 4E
    1) The Rodrigo method (created/adapted by Rodrigo from Major Spoilers Critical Hit podcast)
    a. Overview: The party is addressed with a challenge. In a cooperative narrative, they work to overcome the challenge by using skills in turn. The players come up with ways to progress the party toward a goal, and the DM determines the skill that applies.
    b. Preparation: Loosely storyboard the scenario. Prepare some challenges to pop up if the storytelling becomes stilted or the players have trouble coming up with a way to progress. Determine the results of failure and success. Choose a difficulty for the challenge. Assign a baseline DC based on the level of the party and the desired difficulty of the challenge. A good way to set this metric is by calculating what an average player would roll on a trained skill:
    10 + 5 (for training) + ½ level (This is a good starting point, but feel free to tweak it if it seems too easy or hard. In this method, the DC is the same for everything, as it’s a free-form environment and thus very difficult to plan for every contingency.)
    c. Set the scene: Describe what challenge the party is facing. Discuss with the players a goal or desired outcome from the scenario.
    d. Mechanics: Roll initiative. Characters will attempt to aid the party in initiative order. Any skill which the player can find a relevant use for is an option—with the following two rules:
    i. A player may not use the same skill twice in a row
    ii. A player may not use the same skill as the one immediately before them
    e. Endgame: Narrate the effects of failures and successes. Adapt the situation to the skills used by the players. Usually, this method uses a set difficulty, so once the final success required is reached, or the final failure, explain how this wraps up the challenge, and discuss whether the goal was achieved and how any failures affected it.
    f. Challenges. This method requires the GM to be reactive to the ideas and whims of the players. If you’re not great at improvisation, it may help to pre-script some reactions to expected skills, and challenges to throw at them when the players have trouble coming up with ideas. I like to pre-script little paragraphs of scenarios and splice them into the narrative. Not all players are creative enough and quick enough to thrive in challenges like this, and quieter players may feel overshadowed.
    g. Advantages: With any cooperative narrative scenario, when the players and the GM work well together and the story progresses along without too many hitches, it’s easier for the players to get invested and emotionally involved when they help direct the flow of the game.
    h. Example: Chase scene:
    GM: THE GUARDS ARE HOT ON YOUR TAIL. WHAT DO YOU DO?
    PLAYER 1: I’LL KNOCK SOMETHING DOWN TO SLOW THEM DOWN.
    GM: THAT SOUNDS LIKE ATHLETICS. ROLL IT. *PLAYER ROLLS AND FAILS* OKAY, THE BEST YOU CAN MANAGE IS TOPPLING A STACK OF EMPTY WICKER BASKETS. IT DOESN’T SEEM TO SLOW THEM DOWN ANY, BUT THE TIME YOU SPENT TOSSING STUFF INTO THE PATH HAS EATEN UP SOME OF YOUR CUSHION. PLAYER 2?
    PLAYER 2: I’LL TRY TO SHOVE MY WAY THROUGH THE CROWD TO OPEN UP A PATHWAY.
    GM: WELL, THAT WOULD BE ATHLETICS AGAIN. CAN YOU THINK OF ANOTHER WAY TO GET THROUGH THE CROWD?
    PLAYER 2: WHAT IF I TRY TO DODGE THROUGH, ALL NIMBLY-WIMBLY?
    DM: NOW WE’RE TALKING! ROLL ME AN ACROBATICS. *ROLLS AND SUCCEEDS* ALRIGHT, YOU DUCK AND WEAVE THROUGH THE PEOPLE MILLING ABOUT AND MANAGE TO MAKE SOME SPACE FOR YOUR GROUP TO GET THROUGH. YOU CAN SEE THE GUARDS’ HEADS BOBBING THROUGH THE CROWD AND LOSING HEADWAY BEHIND YOU.

    2) The Random Task Challenge
    a. Overview: The party is addressed with a challenge or a challenging task. An NPC or party member tells the party that there are a set of tasks to be accomplished in order for them to make it through.
    b. Preparation: Write a list of tasks which apply to the challenge. Write one task for each player, with an extra or two. Try not to repeat skills. Assign an appropriate skill to each task, as well as three results: a hard DC success, med DC success and med DC failure.
    c. Set the scene: Describe the scenario. List the tasks which need to be done and ask for volunteers. In an effort to encourage role playing over strict mechanics, I try not to mention what skill is tied to each task, though it’s often fairly obvious.
    d. Mechanics: The process on this method is fairly simple. Once the players have chosen their tasks, go through them one by one. Describe the task and ask the players to describe how they want to accomplish them. I often give situational bonuses to skill checks if they are especially creative. Once all the tasks have been complete, add up the hard DC successes and the medium DC failures. The medium DC successes are neutral. If there are more successes than failures, the party succeeds, and if not, they fail.
    e. Endgame: This method often works well for challenges over a long period of time, like a journey at sea or getting an awkward load through a confined pathway. Success can lead to a faster completion or a higher yield, while failure leads to delays and or loss of goods.
    f. Challenges: This method requires a fair amount of work up front. As with any scripted scenario, there is a chance players will feel hemmed in or railroaded by limited options. Be aware of this and try to create tasks which you feel are appropriate for the characters in question. Focusing on one player at a time may leave other players feeling left out. If you have a group where this is a problem, offer players a chance to help each other with their tasks and assign bonuses based on this help.
    g. Advantages: Scripting ahead of time helps alleviate stage fright and the difficulty of coming up with ideas on the spot. It also gives you the advantage of creating numerous outcomes. This method’s suitability for longer, drawn-out tasks can add some flavor and excitement to parts of the story which are often boring or glossed over.
    h. Example: Travel on the high seas
    GM: OKAY, PLAYER 1. YOU VOLUNTEERED TO SWAB THE DECKS AND KEEP THEM CLEAR FOR THE REST OF THE CREW. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DOING IT?
    PLAYER 1: I GUESS I GRAB A MOP AND GET TO IT.
    GM: ALL RIGHT, THEN. THERE’S A LOT OF DECK TO SCRUB. LOOKS LIKE IT’LL TAKE SOME ENDURANCE TO KEEP IT UP ALL DAY. *ROLLS HIGH DC SUCCESS* WOW, YOU REALLY KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND A DECK BRUSH. THE SHIP IS SO, UH, SHIP-SHAPE, THAT EVERYONE’S WORKING WITH MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY! GOOD WORK, YOU ARE CLEARLY A HERO AMONG SWABBIES!
    GM: PLAYER 2, I THINK YOU WERE GOING TO KEEP WATCH, CORRECT? YOU’LL NEED TO BE PRETTY PERCEPTIVE TO KEEP THE SHIP OUT OF TROUBLE. *ROLLS AND FAILS* UH, OH. YOU FAILED TO NOTICE THAT THE RIPPLES IN THE WATER AHEAD MEAN SHALLOWS. THE CAPTAIN HAS TO CHANGE COURSE AT THE LAST MINUTE, LOSING YOU SOME TIME.

    3) The Guerilla Skill Challenge:
    a. Overview: This is a skill challenge hidden in plain sight. The idea behind this is to include occasional skill checks within a role-playing scenario without announcing it as such. If you have a party that tends to over-think and over-strategize, this is a good alternative to the formal skill challenge.
    b. Preparation: Prepare as you would for a role-playing interlude, generate NPCs, sketch out an overall story arc for the session and create goals and roadblocks. Whatever level of preparation you’re used to, feel free to stick to that.
    c. Mechanics: Proceed with the story as you would a normal role-playing segment. When characters’ actions make is appropriate, ask for a skill roll. Sprinkle appropriate skill checks throughout the story, keeping track of them as if it were a skills challenge. If they reach three failures before they get to the end of the planned story, derail it with some kind of challenge (an argument comes to blows, starting combat—the party gets thrown in jail—a noble refuses to have any further dealings with the group and leaves in a huff, etc). If they make it to the end of the story arc without this happening, they succeed. Count the successes and this will give you the appropriate complexity and you can award XP.
    d. Endgame: Either the party has failed and derailed the story in some way (leading to perhaps another skill challenge or combat to get things back on track) or they’ve finished the story you planned and they move on unscathed.
    e. Challenges: If you already have issues with player participation in the role-playing realm, this will be a difficult go. However, the occasional skill checks can be used as a hook to pull the reticent into a conversation. If someone botches a diplomacy, for instance, the angered Earl may turn to a quieter player and ask for intervention.
    f. Advantages: This method can reduce meta-gaming. By not announcing that it is a skills challenge, players will be in a less “in it to win it” frame of mind. Also, this is a good way to award experience for role playing, which I suspect was part of the rationale behind creating the skill challenge aspect of the game in the first place.
    g. Example: Asking for help from the king’s seneschal
    GM: THE KING’S SENESCHAL, RORY MACCLAIN, LOOKS AT YOU WITH DISDAIN. “I’M NOT SURE WE’RE WILLING TO WASTE OUR RESOURCES ON SUCH AN UNTRIED GROUP. I’VE NEVER HEARD ANY TALES OF YOUR DEEDS.”
    PLAYER 1: BUT WE’VE DONE MANY HEROIC DEEDS! WE THRASHED THE OGRE TERRORIZING THE VILLAGE AND ROOTED OUT A GNOLL INFESTATION IN A NEARBY MANOR HOUSE.
    GM: PLAYER 1, YOU’RE EXAGGERATING A BIT THERE, WHY DON’T YOU ROLL ME A BLUFF CHECK? *ROLLS AND SUCCEEDS* WELL DONE, RORY LOOKS IMPRESSED! “WELL, I SUPPOSE WE COULD SPARE A FEW HORSES.” HE LEADS YOU TO THE STABLES AND POINTS OUT A FIERY STALLION. “IF YOU CAN TAME HIM, YOU CAN KEEP HIM.”
    PLAYER 2: I’LL GRAB HIS BRIDLE AND TRY TO CALM HIM DOWN.
    GM: HE’S PRETTY UPSET. WHY DON’T YOU ROLL ME A NATURE CHECK AND SEE IF YOU CAN DO IT. *ROLLS AND FAILS* UH, OH. YOU SEEM TO HAVE SET HIM OFF. HE PULLS AWAY FROM YOU AND BOLTS FOR THE DOOR. PLAYER 3, YOU SEE A SMALL CHILD PLAYING IN THE DIRT RIGHT OUTSIDE. WHAT DO YOU DO? …

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Echobeats's Avatar

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    Default Re: Skill Challenges?

    There is a helpful series of articles at Dungeon's Master which I recommend you have a look at.

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