Skill Challenges

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Skill Challenges

Postby dudemonkey » Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:43 pm

Has anyone tried to build a skill challenge? This seems like an interesting new mechanic that I think could show off the flavor of the setting and adventure and I was wondering if anyone put one together. I think I have two skill challenges that I wrote up, but haven't had a chance to playtest them yet.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby JoeNotCharles » Fri Aug 01, 2008 12:53 am

Apparently the skill challenge mechanic is pretty broken - if you run them as given the difficulty is way too high, you only get players succeeding 15% of the time or something ridiculous like that. I don't know from personal experience, I'm just going by the math.

I can't find the post I was thinking of now, but there are lots of threads with suggested fixes on enworld.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Philosopher » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:18 am

I've used a skill challenge once. The PCs were hired to do something, and I gave them a skill challenge to negotiate a better reward. Each PC started off trying to use a different skill, then they quickly decided to use "aid another" with the guy with the highest diplomacy modifier. On the one hand I thought it was pretty cool insofar as it gave us a new way of handling social situations. On the other hand, I felt that it distracted from the roleplaying. That may only be because we were trying to get used to this new mechanic, so I may try it out a few more times before finally deciding.

As for the mechanic being broken, they've given a fix in the latest errata. I'd provide a link to the file, but when I tried to access the D&D main page, all I got was the following:

Microsoft VBScript compilation error '800a03e9'

Out of memory

/default.asp, line 0


But that shouldn't surprise anyone. :roll:
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby dudemonkey » Fri Aug 01, 2008 1:44 am

I had also heard that the skill challenge mechanics were broken and I compensated by dropping the DCs down and trying to stagger the difficulty of succeeding with different skills to allow some approaches to be better than others. Most of the players at my game are really more interested in character development (from a mechanical standpoint) and boardgaming, so I think the skill challenges might be a way to let them interact with the setting a bit more.

My hope is to use skill challenges to help show off the setting. The skill challenge that I wrote up was a party at a tavern (the Hook and Hatchet in Threshold) for the PCs after they help the town fight off a goblin raid. They could try to use skills to entertain the crowd and really be the center of attention, they could try to have drinking contests with other patrons, or they could basically be jerks. Each path was of varying difficulty and some skills mostly served to help others who were trying to be in the spotlight. I'm hoping this will help motivate the players to have fun and inject a bit of joking, party atmosphere at the game as they try to think up crazy stunts and then map them to D&D skills, and maybe it will help "The Hook and Hatchet Tavern" get a spot in game lore. Maybe it won't work, but it's worth a try.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Idabrius » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:55 pm

I used a skill challenge in the playtest game I was doing to get a feel for 4e. The players were confused, the outcome was not that great, and all in all we decided that there was absolutely no reason to codify a roleplaying event as a skill challenge since the EXACT SAME TYPES OF THINGS could be done with a group of experienced roleplayers. Skill challenges seem like a way to educate unskilled roleplayers rather than a viable option for an experienced group.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Philosopher » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:09 pm

Idabrius wrote:EXACT SAME TYPES OF THINGS could be done with a group of experienced roleplayers. Skill challenges seem like a way to educate unskilled roleplayers rather than a viable option for an experienced group.


Basically, I agree with this sentiment here. However, there is one thing I would like to add. Just as a character can fire a bow with a high degree of accuracy without the player needing to know which way to point an arrow, rolling dice in roleplaying situations can be a fair way of adjudicating whether the high Charisma character can pull off a bluff even though the player couldn't lie to save his life. But as Idabrius said, if the group has been doing this sort of thing all along without dice, skill challenges don't necessarily add anything.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Havard » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:58 pm

I think the main thing that is new is that it formalizes non-combat situations and the fact that there should be rewards for a scene of successful skill rolls, just as after a fight. But yeah, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more to it than that :)

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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby dudemonkey » Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:21 pm

I think something that should be clarified is the nature of our gaming group because I believe that this group is the target audience for 4th edition.

We're not roleplayers. We all have stressful jobs, successful relationships/marriages, and enough vices to make life interesting. Most of the guys in the group don't want deep, immersive hobbies because we all have deep, immersive lives. Skill challenges, I hope, will let us round out the gaming experience and make it more than just combat but will still keep the action-oriented players focused.

My old group, when I was in high school, would have had the same reaction to skill challenges that a lot of you seem to have. We also would have questioned the need for them. This new group, however, should be able to get a lot out of them.

My aim with skill challenges is to bring out the flavor of the world (Mystara) a little better by making the fluff mechanically meaningful whenever possible. With some people who have been playing D&D for 25 or 30 years, that's the way to get their attention. Most of these guys cut their teeth in the old, Gygaxian games and they still play that way (Gary Gygax didn't really like the deep storytelling and roleplaying aspect of the games and discouraged it by killing off characters frequently).

The purpose of posting here was to see if anyone else was interested in seeing how the skill challenge mechanic could be used. There might not be any interest in that, which is fine.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby dudemonkey » Fri Aug 01, 2008 11:25 pm

Havard wrote:I think the main thing that is new is that it formalizes non-combat situations and the fact that there should be rewards for a scene of successful skill rolls, just as after a fight. But yeah, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more to it than that :)

Havard


I feel pretty much the same way. I think some of the skill challenges, as written in the DMG, have some potential and I'm looking to expand those ideas a bit further.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby JoeNotCharles » Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:02 pm

Skill challenges aren't just for "social interaction" - you can also use them to model climbing a mountain (Athletics checks), sneaking past guard patrols (Stealth), disarming a complex trap or breaking into a bank vault (Thievery), following trails through the wilderness (mix of Endurance and, uh, Orientation or whatever - don't have the books handy), etc. Sneaking past 1 guard would just be a Stealth roll, the whole sequence of breaking into a nobleman's manor would be an entire challenge (Stealth to sneak past the guards, Athletics to climb over the walls, etc.)

If you prefer to handle roleplaying purely through roleplaying, that's fine, but that doesn't mean just throwing out the Skill Challenge mechanic entirely.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Idabrius » Sun Aug 03, 2008 1:03 pm

Well, yes, but the "mechanic" is what any good DM would already be doing without announcing it. "Please make an X roll," and then the retort, "Can I make a Y roll as well?" should have already been part of most groups lexicon.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby JoeNotCharles » Sun Aug 03, 2008 5:40 pm

That's not the entire mechanic - there's also the idea that you need X successes of any type of roll before 3 failures, which isn't something I'd ever thought of - I usually just did an ad-hoc series of 'try to pass this roll', and then if they failed one roll and I didn't want it to unhinge the entire thing I'd have to fudge some way to give them a second chance, which ended up seeming arbitrary. Being up-front about how many strikes you get is a much better way of doing things.

Also the idea of planning out in advance which skills are useful for a challenge and how they interact, which lets you come up with more complicated and interesting scenarios than you could on the fly.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Idabrius » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:22 am

Fair enough, that's something that isn't usually integrated, true.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Havard » Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:08 pm

JoeNotCharles wrote:Skill challenges aren't just for "social interaction" - you can also use them to model climbing a mountain (Athletics checks), sneaking past guard patrols (Stealth), disarming a complex trap or breaking into a bank vault (Thievery), following trails through the wilderness (mix of Endurance and, uh, Orientation or whatever - don't have the books handy), etc. Sneaking past 1 guard would just be a Stealth roll, the whole sequence of breaking into a nobleman's manor would be an entire challenge (Stealth to sneak past the guards, Athletics to climb over the walls, etc.)

If you prefer to handle roleplaying purely through roleplaying, that's fine, but that doesn't mean just throwing out the Skill Challenge mechanic entirely.



I think one big challenge here is how to include Skill challenges without making it seem like a break from regular roleplaying. Sure, there are plenty of skill rolls a character could perform in a bar, but if he is just trying to accumulate successes, that is what I call bad roleplaying. Say the DM describes the people in the bar as fairly quiet, perhaps intimidated and unlikely to give the PCs the information they need to move on, many skills may be performed to lighten the mood, as well as non-skill roleplaying ofcourse.

The benefit of thinking of this as a Skill Challenge situation however, is that you as the DM think about where the PCs can go next, and usually you should probably come up with a few options, so that there will actually be an advantage of doing it well in the skill challenge. This is something I know I have sinned against in the past. Players will move from A to B regardless of what they do, and good roleplaying might actually mean slowing them down, which it really isn't how it should work.

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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby dudemonkey » Mon Aug 11, 2008 8:22 pm

Idabrius wrote:Fair enough, that's something that isn't usually integrated, true.


Looking over the skill challenge mechanic again, I think they can be used to compliment roleplaying rather than replace it. Here's an example that may or may not work:

The PCs are on a bridge over a river that collapses. They all fall in the water. The DM asks them what they want to do (and has the skill challenge laid out in his notes).

PC 1: I'm a fighter and I'm tough. I try to just tough it out and make it to shore.
DM: Find, make an endurance check. (the dm knows this uses the "Hard" category and the player either succeeds or fails)

PC 2: I'm a druid. Is there anything I know from growing up in the wilderness?
DM: Make a Nature check. (if the PC succeeds, the DM tells him that he knows that river currents are slowest on the inside of the curve and the PC can tell his comrades to swim towards the inside of the river bend)

PC 3: I grew up around the water and learned to swim when I was a child. I'm going to swim for shore.
DM: Good idea. Make an Athletics check.

If the PCs fail their roll, they lose a healing surge because of the cold, the water, and getting bashed against rocks and tossed around in the rapids. Can you do this without a skill challenge? Of course. The challenge is just there to make it interesting to a wider range of player types.

This is a simple outline of the dialog that would occur between the DM and the players, but I think that skill challenges are a way to measure how successful the PCs are when they take their noncombat actions. I don't think it was designed to replace roleplaying but rather to enhance it by adding a game mechanic to it and it also is worth XP. That last thing virtually guarantees that players pay attention to the roleplaying aspect, since they're getting XP for it.

Obviously, not every roleplaying scenario needs a skill mechanic. But now the DM can prepare these set-piece style challenges that make for fun scenes but don't really fall under the "combat" umbrella.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby dulsi » Wed Sep 17, 2008 6:47 pm

I used a skill challenge for a burning building and earthquake in Lost City of Sharvalu, my Expert DM Competition #1 (Open a Campaign) entry. I like the idea but I'm disappointed that the DC in the DMG are too high and the updated DC are too low. I'm not sure about using them for a social challenge though. Unfortunately the two skill challenges I made for the entry are rather similar.
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Hugin » Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:06 pm

dulsi wrote:I like the idea but I'm disappointed that the DC in the DMG are too high and the updated DC are too low.

I'm thinking it may just be better to 'wing' the DC requirement based on how likely you think an average PC would be to succeed. The idea is great but it will probably take some time and some use to develop it further (as is the case with basically every D&D game mechanic over the years).
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Havard » Tue Nov 29, 2016 5:01 pm

I've been watching the Running the Game videos by Matthew Colville and came across the video he made on Skill Challenges:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvOeqDp ... e=youtu.be

I think this video finally explained Skill Challenges in a way that made me understand what they were supposed to be about. I don't know how much Colville has changed the rules from the 4E version, but I really like it with the tweaks. I am now going to try this out in my 5th Ed campaign.

How do you think Colville's version compares to how you have used these rules or how you interpreted them from the books?

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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Big Mac » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:46 pm

Thanks for bumping this topic Havard.

I've been following Matt Colville's videos, since a lady I met a few days back on Faceborg pointed me at them and would like to know more about the Skill Challenge. JoeNotCharles posted something that makes them sound good too:

JoeNotCharles wrote:Skill challenges aren't just for "social interaction" - you can also use them to model climbing a mountain (Athletics checks), sneaking past guard patrols (Stealth), disarming a complex trap or breaking into a bank vault (Thievery), following trails through the wilderness (mix of Endurance and, uh, Orientation or whatever - don't have the books handy), etc. Sneaking past 1 guard would just be a Stealth roll, the whole sequence of breaking into a nobleman's manor would be an entire challenge (Stealth to sneak past the guards, Athletics to climb over the walls, etc.)

If you prefer to handle roleplaying purely through roleplaying, that's fine, but that doesn't mean just throwing out the Skill Challenge mechanic entirely.


I'm actually thinking of using the Skill Challenge concept with 3e rules.

I think that a Skill Challenge could also be useful if you have PCs trying to track NPCs.

Or if the PCs were riding horses and trying to escape a group of NPCs it might even be possible to mix together "skill combat" with regular combat.

Or people could reverse Joe's "breaking into a bank vault" thing to allow PCs to try to break out of a prison (or break someone else out of prison). If the PCs could pass some Skill Challenges, they could sneak past guards, search for keys, knot sheets together (to make a rope) and then climb down the rope.

Regular combat tends to favour the people with the best combat stats, but this could be a good way to give PCs that have invested a lot of points into specific skills to have some time in the spotlight. :)
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Re: Skill Challenges

Postby Havard » Sun Dec 04, 2016 10:57 pm

Big Mac wrote:Thanks for bumping this topic Havard.

I've been following Matt Colville's videos, since a lady I met a few days back on Faceborg pointed me at them and would like to know more about the Skill Challenge. JoeNotCharles posted something that makes them sound good too:

JoeNotCharles wrote:Skill challenges aren't just for "social interaction" - you can also use them to model climbing a mountain (Athletics checks), sneaking past guard patrols (Stealth), disarming a complex trap or breaking into a bank vault (Thievery), following trails through the wilderness (mix of Endurance and, uh, Orientation or whatever - don't have the books handy), etc. Sneaking past 1 guard would just be a Stealth roll, the whole sequence of breaking into a nobleman's manor would be an entire challenge (Stealth to sneak past the guards, Athletics to climb over the walls, etc.)

If you prefer to handle roleplaying purely through roleplaying, that's fine, but that doesn't mean just throwing out the Skill Challenge mechanic entirely.


I'm actually thinking of using the Skill Challenge concept with 3e rules.

I think that a Skill Challenge could also be useful if you have PCs trying to track NPCs.

Or if the PCs were riding horses and trying to escape a group of NPCs it might even be possible to mix together "skill combat" with regular combat.

Or people could reverse Joe's "breaking into a bank vault" thing to allow PCs to try to break out of a prison (or break someone else out of prison). If the PCs could pass some Skill Challenges, they could sneak past guards, search for keys, knot sheets together (to make a rope) and then climb down the rope.

Regular combat tends to favour the people with the best combat stats, but this could be a good way to give PCs that have invested a lot of points into specific skills to have some time in the spotlight. :)



Thanks for posting Joe's quote here. I think the Skill Challenge concept could be made to work with any edition of D&D, although it is probably easier in the editions which have a skill or NWP system. Though it could probably be used in games that do not have them as well.

Joe's quote is interesting because social interraction is probably the last thing I would use these rules for.

I think what sold me on the concept in Matt's video was that he compared it to a "montage scene".

I also like that he would leave it to the players to decide what skill they would use (as long as they could come up with a good reason why it would be relevant), with the limitation of the same character not being able to use the same skill twice.

I also like the idea of there being an immediate penalty to failing individual skill checks as well as the direct outcome of the challenge itself depending on how well the players succeeded or failed.

I suppose a chase scene could work. It might be more fun if it involves a lot of obstacles etc.

Another thing I thought about would be a journey through a perilous landscape perhaps having to face both harsh climate, the risk of getting lost, general survival etc.

Exploration of some old ruins etc could also work if the players are looking for something and finding it before the enemy shows up or some other time constraint.

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