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View Full Version : DMs: How are your skill challenges going?



Valdar
09-16-2008, 10:22 PM
So, I love the idea of skill challenges, but I'm still trying to figure out how to best design them so they make for a fun game- I'd be very interested in hearing others' experiences-

My M.O. for design is to first determine what the skill challenge is going to represent, then read the skill list and determine which skills will be Fail, No-Op, Easy, Medium, Hard:

Fail and No-Op are inappropriate skill choices. If a player says, "Can I use Acrobatics?" in a social encounter, I say it's a No-op- no fail or success, just move on to the next player (unless they say, "I try to impress them with my cartwheels!"- that's a fail). Auto Fail is something that's specifically going to not work- Intimidate in the Duke encounter in the DMG, for instance. Pretty much any inappropriate use of Intimidate, come to think of it...

Most applicable skills will start as Hard, unless they're spot-on, then they'll be Medium or Easy. Successes will reduce the difficulty of less applicable skills- so, your Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Bluff will get easier with knowledge gained from History, Religion, or Arcana... Or vice-versa...

Failures are more interesting if they have a lasting effect, rather than just a plot twist- my last one had a disease track associated with it, but no failures happened that time... I'll have to bring that back later...

Anyway, how are skill challenges going with your game?

Kalanth
09-17-2008, 08:36 AM
So far I am VERY happy with them. It took some fine tunning because the original skill chart in the DMG was off (especially when you added +5 to it), and the revised was to low (because they said you no longer add +5 to it). Once I got that down the numbers fell into place.

I have used one in each session we have had actually, ranging from negotiating an additional reward to stealth fully tracking their enemies. In each one I make sure to break between checks and RP out that result be it failure or not.

In regards to design I do much the same, I look for a purpose, then pick at least two primary skills and one secondary skill. The primary skills manipulate success and failure while the secondary can give bonuses or penalties to the use of other skills, or open the use of yet another skill toward success or failure.

For example, the players were speaking with a spirit and telling him of the world outside, which is what the spirit wanted so that he could be freed from the mortal realm. One player had no skills in the three primary skills (History, Arcana, and Nature) and no skill in the secondary (Religion) so he fell back on Bluff. With his bluff he convinced the spirit that a new race was discovered in the world, which was a lie based on a race that had always been there. Because of the bluff being based on a half-truth I allowed a +2 bonus to the primary skills when players would talk about the race and try to correct the lie with the truth of the race.

I have yet to input an auto fail skill in the skill challenges, though. Inappropriate use is simply talked about and advised against, but if the player can think of a good reason why his Cartwheel might impress the Duke then I will let him ride with it but increase the DC on it.

Overall I say Skill Challenges as an idea gets an overwhelming A+, but the design gets a D-. It needed too many tweaks to become a truly entertaining part of the game, but once I had completed all the adjustments I look at it like the light bulb. It is hard to imagine / remember my life without it. :D

DeathByDM
09-17-2008, 09:06 AM
I really like the idea of skill challenges, but I agree that the execution seems to be quite off. I haven't seen these edited rules on them, but I haven't found the difficulties to be all that hard. Of course, I'm using a prepublished adventure for my game, so that may be why.

The problem I'm having is that, well, my group loves combat and doesn't really like RP that much. So, whenever I try to do something like this it doesn't end up being all that fun. I've done it, sure, but it just seems...meh...to me.

Maybe I'm not a good enough DM for these. I admit I'm much more into tactical combat than most here.

Maybe if someone had some good examples that I could work from then I could learn to make these more successful in my campaign.

boulet
09-17-2008, 09:47 AM
I've seen this link (http://wizards.com/dnd/files/UpdateDMG.pdf) about a 4e DMG update somewhere else. It addresses the concern about skill challenges difficulty (and other stuff).

Kalanth
09-17-2008, 10:26 AM
I really like the idea of skill challenges, but I agree that the execution seems to be quite off. I haven't seen these edited rules on them, but I haven't found the difficulties to be all that hard. Of course, I'm using a prepublished adventure for my game, so that may be why.

The problem I'm having is that, well, my group loves combat and doesn't really like RP that much. So, whenever I try to do something like this it doesn't end up being all that fun. I've done it, sure, but it just seems...meh...to me.

Maybe I'm not a good enough DM for these. I admit I'm much more into tactical combat than most here.

Maybe if someone had some good examples that I could work from then I could learn to make these more successful in my campaign.

There is Errata available on the WoTC main site for the PHB, DMG, MM, and DM Screen and they mostly cover the skill challenges.

As for a way to use these with a more tactical group, here are some ideas.

A trap that can't be simply disarmed with one roll is a good one. Make that trap a part of the combat and you just increased the tactics behind it. The Soul Gem, albeit lvl 29, is a good example of this. There are rules for making your own trap or leveling one down available through Draon on the WoTC site as well. I did this with the Soul Gem trap itself and made a lvl 3 version that was zapping the players and providing the necrotic energy to raise a mob of undead. The players had a good time while trying to pry the gem free as the mob closed in on them.

Another thing to do is incorperate a skill challenge into a battle in some creative way, such as a balanced floor over a pit or something. The players have to make a skill check prior to making any actions. Make this a high success / fail rate (like 12 / 6, or 18 / 9) and have failure mean the floor toples out from under them and they are unable to jump to safety before it falls. The enemies that were on the floor with them could be encountered later on as a continious antagonist as well. Don't make the fall a killer, cause if you do it could mean a TPK on a failure, but make it definetly detrimental (like they fall into a shoot that spits the players out underwater a mile away from the dungeon or something).