Stalker0's Obsidian Skill Challenge System (NEW VERSION: 1.2!!!) - Page 5




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  1. #41
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    Man, I wish I was DMing right now. I check this topic periodically in the hopes that people post and describe skill challenges they've been running, but it's just dead.

    I liked the question about "removing" the primary skill; it gave me several ideas. Sure, you could just reduce DCs by one to compensate, but I see several other options as well:

    Ad Hoc: Give a +2 whenever they think of a really brilliant, effective tactic for the problem at hand, or when the description is heroic and awesome.

    Behind-the-Scenes: Instead of 1 or 2 primary skills that the group is aware of, consider using 2 to 3 primary skills but don't tell the players which ones they are. It might encourage the players to think more about what their character would want to do, and less about how to take advantage of the known bonus.

    First to Battle: If you have 6 or more players, or any group where die rolling and resolution takes a long time, you can encourage faster action by giving a +2 to the first two people who shout out their actions.

 

  • #42
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    I'm interested in hearing how many people would prefer the system without primary skills. I'm curious to know if people like or dislike the concept?
    Is your game having issues with Grind? Check out Stalker0's Guide to Anti-Grind

    Do you want a skill challenge system that is less mechanical and encourages more roleplaying? Try my Obsidian Skill Challenge System

    Like the core 4e system, but prefer a more balanced system with additional options? Try my Alternate Core Skill Challenge System

  • #43
    Our group just started using this system. We need to gain some experience with it and I need to gain some experience in running the challenges and coming up with good partial victory and failure results, but I think so far that everyone likes it. 'Course, they had complete success each of the two times so that probably helps.

    It really helps create a good story, especially, I think, when you change the primary Skill and the described conditions and situation with each segment as time moves forward.

    I'm inclined to raise all the DCs by one not because I necessarily want to increase the failure rate but because I am inclined to say "Yes" to a player even if their rationale is pretty thin for using a Skill that they're good at so I want to front-load the difficulty a bit.

    Thought I'd post the two challenges we did. It took me only a few minutes to create each of them and only a few minutes to explain to the other players how the system works. I was very impressed with this aspect. I'm looking forward to creating some challenges in-game with only a minute delay.

    Skill Challenge Level 3 Mental/Physical - Summoning Ritual of Xi
    2 Segments - 5 Players assumed - DC17
    Successes: 6 = Victory; 5 = Partial Victory; 4 = Failure
    Primary: Religion, then Arcana.
    Other: Heal, Endurance, Insight, Nature, Perception
    Success: 550 XP; Xi summoned, no ill effects
    Partial Success: 400 XP; Xi summoned; healing surges for X days. (session); 150 more XP if findthey can find some Nalroot flowers to speed recovery.
    Failure: No XP; Xi summoned; healing surges for X days (session); Action Points have 50% fail rate for session, sluggish, need lots of sleep.


    Skill Challenge Level 4 Mental/Physical - The Burning Hunting Lodge
    3 Segments 5 Players assumed DC 20
    Successes: 8 = Victory, 6-7 =Parital Victory; 5 = Failure
    Primary: Perception, then Athletics, then Heal.
    Other: Endurance, Insight, Acrobatics
    Success: 550 XP; Belgen lives; Lose 1-2 Healing surges each dependent on how successful individual character was.
    Partial Success: 400 XP; Belgen lives; Lose 3 Healing Surges each; Belgen needs recovery time, memory hazy; 150 more XP when Belgen healed. Regional map painting burns.
    Failure: No XP; Belgen DIES; Lose 4 Healing Surges each; - 2 to Initiative and -1 to STR, DEX, & CON based skill checks for X days (session).

  • #44
    I should mention that "Xi" was summoned even had they failed because "Xi" was a new Genasi PC they were summoning from the Feywild to help them with their quest. Telling the player, "Sorry, they failed, you'll have to sit this session out," was of course not an option.

  • #45
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    Hey guys, I'm tossing around a few new ideas for obsidian, just seeing what I can come up with.

    Ignoring math for a second, I'm experimenting with different primary skill mechanics. I would like some feedback of how people like the feel of this mechanic:

    Primary Skill, instead of giving a +2 bonus with that skill, if the player rolls and gets a crit with a primary skill, the party gains +1 to all skill rolls for the rest of the challenge.
    Is your game having issues with Grind? Check out Stalker0's Guide to Anti-Grind

    Do you want a skill challenge system that is less mechanical and encourages more roleplaying? Try my Obsidian Skill Challenge System

    Like the core 4e system, but prefer a more balanced system with additional options? Try my Alternate Core Skill Challenge System

  • #46
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    In my opinion, its too much of a gamble ...which turns into too little of an incentive to use it. I prefer the flat bonus.
    Aut Tyalie is Elvish for "Go Play Games"


    Best of EnWorld: Stalker0's Obsideon Skill Challenge, Stalker0's Guide to the Anti-Grind

  • #47
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    So my first 4e campaign just finished up. We ran a lot of Obsidian skill challenges, and here are some of the thoughts I gathered while watching the system in action.

    1) Ultimately, the system works best as a blank canvas, a way for a DM to paint the kind of challenges they want. I found the generic skill challenges boring, but when you add in some dynamic components, etc I think it becomes a lot of fun. In this the system does very well, its solid and flexible enough to allow DMs to throw in ad hoc things without things going crazy.

    2) At least for my group, I think players want to use their best skills. One of my original founding principals of Obsidian was that you should use certain skills for certain challenges. After a lot of playtesting, I'm starting to lean away from that. While I like the idea of a wizard having to use athletics once in a while, I think in many ways for the wizard player its the same thing as when they make an opportunity attack (aka a waste of time). The primary skill system softens the blow a little, but the reality is the difference between a wizard's arcane skill and his athletics is so large that a +2 doesn't make the player feel much better. Ultimately its a question of choice versus requirement. If the DM decides everyone needs to give him an athletics roll, well the wizard has to roll. But if the wizard is choosing his skills, but his choices are limited to skills he considered weak for him, then the player feels shafted.

    3) As a consequence to 2, the DM of our group started letting players use their better skills more frequently than intended, so consequently we had compete and partial victories far more often than my math suggested. However, the reality is probably more complicated than that. My group also had very high physical and social skills...although our mental skills were garbage.

    However, the question is was my group the exception or the rule. The skills we had....are they in fact typical for 4e and so something I should base my numbers around. That remains to be seen.

    4) I think there was a definite need for a 2 round challenge, and I'm very glad I put it in. Sometimes 3 rounds just felt too long for a particular challenge, but 2 rounds felt just right.

    5) Skill Challenges, like good combats, require a bit of planning. I don't think skill challenges work well when you decide, hey your talking to that merchant, let's make it a skill challenge! Skill Challenges are the most exciting when their consequences have meaning, and when the DM has put a little something extra into them.

    6) I really liked primary skills that changed with each round. I felt that added a dynamic portion to the game that made the challenges more interested.

    7) I may need a way to handle ability checks. I did find there were times when the player wanted to do something that for all rights should be an ability check, not a skill check...which Obsidian does not handle well. Its something to look into for the future.

    8) All in all my playtesting showed that Obsidian is a solid, easy to use, reliable system...but also that there's definite room for improvement. Which is good for me, I always love to tweak


    I would like if other people would echo their thoughts on these points, if my group the exception or the rule as far as you all are concerned. Do you agree with my points, or is my mindset taking Obsidian away from a place you want it to go?
    Is your game having issues with Grind? Check out Stalker0's Guide to Anti-Grind

    Do you want a skill challenge system that is less mechanical and encourages more roleplaying? Try my Obsidian Skill Challenge System

    Like the core 4e system, but prefer a more balanced system with additional options? Try my Alternate Core Skill Challenge System

  • #48
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    That sounds great; glad to hear you've seen it in action. I used your system a little bit, several months ago, and then my group disintegrated.

    I thought of a few alternatives to the primary skill system more as a brainstorm, than out of anything I dislike about primary skills. I think the fun factor of the skill challenge matters far more than the mechanics. The primary skill can, occasionally, remind you that you're playing a GAME, but doesn't have to. If asked, I usually tell the players something like "Acrobatics is the right tool for the job," quoting the 3.5 PHB, "and if you don't want to fall off the airship as it disintegrates, acrobatics is the best way to do so and your efforts will be granted a +2 bonus."

    I never really told them "you can only use X, Y, and Z skills for this challenge". I think that would have caused more of a "Why?" "Because it's a game, and I said so!" feeling than primary skills do. I just ask them, "Ok, you guys have decided to do ____. Certain obstacles are in your way - a few obstacles that you're aware of are ___, ______, and ____. What does your character do to help the party achieve their goals?" or something along those lines. I only was able to run three challenges. Two of them resulted in success, and one of them resulted in smashing success (they had 3 or 4 successes to spare, at the end). This may have been the result of, as you say, characters using their best skills more often than assumed, but 3 challenges are hardly a worthy sample size.

    Could you describe the 2-round challenge that you guys did? I'm still having somewhat of a difficult time deciding when, why, or how to use them.

    1) Ultimately... it's solid and flexible enough to allow DMs to throw in ad hoc things without things going crazy. ...but also there's definite room for improvement.
    I'm glad to hear that another version is coming down the line! No product, however awesome, is immune to the beneficial effects of hindsight and revision.
    5) Skill Challenges, like good combats, require a bit of planning. Skill Challenges are the most exciting when their consequences have meaning, and when the DM has put a little something extra into them.
    You may find Radiating Gnome's recent blog entries on the NON-mechanical elements of skill challenges quite illuminating. http://www.enworld.org/forum/blogs/r...-thoughts.html
    6) I really liked primary skills that changed with each round. I felt that added a dynamic portion to the game that made the challenges more interested.
    I had a lot of fun with one of those; I'm not sure if I posted it in the previous Obsidian thread or not. They were trying to crash someone's airship, which meant Arcana primarily to free the elemental from its bindings, Acrobatics primarily to ride the pieces of airship down as safely as manageable, and Endurance primarily to stick the landing.

    I also ed with the rules quite a bit, for the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the challenge. Players were allowed to use abilities such as Fey Step and Feather Fall to auto-succeed on the 2nd or 3rd skill check, if they thought of it or asked. Succeeding via skill meant they did well, but still lost a healing surge from injuries, stress, and strain. Failing meant they were reduced to their bloodied value, two failures meant they were unconscious on the ground. The auto-successes via use of utility power is acceptable, in my opinion, balanced out because the party was fighting the ship's crewmen, when they were in the air trying to free the ship's bound elemental, and the party also had to contend with some unhappy snakes and yuan-ti when they landed in the jungle below.
    The other two followed the formula more closely, but weren't quite memorable enough to recall.
    7) I may need a way to handle ability checks.
    EXCELLENT idea.

  • #49
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    First: Your system is awesome. I use it in place of the core system for three main reasons:

    1. By proceeding in segments, the system forces each player to participate. I've noticed that in core challenges, the person with the best skill makes most of the checks, and people with weak skills tend to sit it out.

    2. I'm more confident in the math. I have a fairly typical group and they seem to succeed and fail at a reasonable rate. Using a single DC, and including "partial success," helps a lot.

    3. Because the math is so solid, the only way to get ahead of the probability curve is to get +2 bonuses from the DM. This encourages players to think about their actions more than their skills. (The times when my party fails, it's because they weren't thinking hard, and were just blandly declaring obvious actions. The times when my party gets a total success, it's when they are doing creative, effective things, with good role-playing and teamwork, getting a lot of +2 bonuses.)

    I have total faith that whatever the next version holds will maintain these strengths and build upon them.

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    2) At least for my group, I think players want to use their best skills. One of my original founding principals of Obsidian was that you should use certain skills for certain challenges. After a lot of playtesting, I'm starting to lean away from that. The primary skill system softens the blow a little, but the reality is the difference between a wizard's arcane skill and his athletics is so large that a +2 doesn't make the player feel much better. Ultimately its a question of choice versus requirement. If the DM decides everyone needs to give him an athletics roll, well the wizard has to roll. But if the wizard is choosing his skills, but his choices are limited to skills he considered weak for him, then the player feels shafted.
    Rather than labeling some skills as appropriate vs. inappropriate for the challenge, I've come to think in terms of expected skill use vs. creative skill use. Both are fun for different reasons:
    • Expected skill use (using social skills during a social encounter) is fun because it reinforces your character concept. Someone who has good social skills picked them because they want to play a socially skilled character, and during a social challenge they should be allowed to shine by using all their social skills.
    • Creative skill use (using mental or physical skills during a social encounter) is fun because creativity itself is fun. Unexpected things are more interesting and allowing players to use unexpected skills lets them apply a bit more problem-solving to the challenge.

    Should either type of skill use have the edge? Should they be identical in how they are applied?

    In my opinion, one thing that is always boring is: repeats. If you're chasing someone, and Athletics is primary, saying "I run faster" every single segment is kind of boring. I think the Primary Skill rule encourages this sort of game play, so I tend not to use it. I think changing the Primary Skill every round is great, though, because it discourages repeats.

    Conversely, the advice to only allow a nonstandard skill once per encounter seems overly restrictive. If a player can be creative twice per encounter, why not allow it?

    I think part of the conflict is rewarding effectiveness vs. creativity. The expected skill use is expected because it is known to be effective; Primary Skills get the bonus because they are effective. OTOH, creative skill use often seems like kind of a long shot; if that skill were known to be effective, then it would be one of the expected skills. So it seem natural to want to penalize or disallow unexpected (less effective) skill use, but this has the side-effect of penalizing creative skill use.

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    7) I may need a way to handle ability checks. I did find there were times when the player wanted to do something that for all rights should be an ability check, not a skill check...which Obsidian does not handle well. Its something to look into for the future.
    I just give players a +5 bonus to ability checks, to retain parity with trained skills. Unfortunately, this breaks down somewhat when you consider skill focus, racial bonuses, magic items, etc. Since the group is only level 6 now, it hasn't been a problem, but at higher levels it might be.

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    8) All in all my playtesting showed that Obsidian is a solid, easy to use, reliable system...but also that there's definite room for improvement. Which is good for me, I always love to tweak
    Definitely! The system is extremely tolerant of the DM handing out +2/-2 modifiers. This allows for a wide variety of subsystems and play styles.

    FWIW here are the tweaks I use:

    1) I rarely use a specific Primary Skill, but try to be liberal about giving a +2 bonus for doing something that seems particularly effective or makes good use of circumstances (such as building on what they did last segment).

    2) Teamwork gets a +2 bonus to BOTH participants. This seems more fair than "aid another," where one character takes a back seat (and that guy always seems to roll higher than the main skill user...).

    3) I allow unusual (creative) skills if they are interesting, entertaining, and make sense, and often give a +2 bonus for them as well. However, I disallow a "creative" skill use if it doesn't make any sense to me, or seems like too much of a stretch.

    4) If someone is repeating an action from a previous segment, I don't explicitly penalize them, but they get no bonuses; if you want any bonus at all, try something new. (I might disallow repeats of an unusual skill use.)

    5) Because of the way my campaign works, the party often faces encounters that are higher or lower in level than they are. It seems to me that the difficulty of higher- and lower-level skill challenges scales at the same rate as the difficulty of higher- and lower-level combat challenges. For example, my 6th level party facing an 8th level combat encounter will win, but it will be tough; facing an 8th level skill challenge is similarly difficult.

    6) Because they are quicker and have less penalty for failure, I award skill challenge encounters with XP equal to half of a combat encounter for their level. For example, a group of five defeats a level 6 skill challenge, I award them 1/2 the XP they would get for defeating five level 6 monsters. For a partial victory, I cut the XP in half again, but often with the option to earn the other half later when they complete their overall goal.



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  • #50
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    Here are my skill challenge experiences so far. I'm posting in this thread because the system I use resembles obsidian 1.2, but I'm not using it straight off.


    This is what I use

    I use the table on p 42, average difficulty with no modifiers to set the DC. Then I require two successes per point of complexity over three rounds. I usually have set events at the end of each of the three rounds, like a trap attacking or a subject change in a social event. Since the DC does not advance at every level, I try to add complexities to those levels that do not see a DC increase. Also, if there are severe complications, I can increase the level without decreasing the DC.

    I have a list of 3-5 primary skills for the challenge. This can sometimes include attack rolls, which are then generally less effective because they tend to have a lower bonus. Primary skills can always be used, and when the player describes his stunt, I try to steer the resolution towards these skills. Players can use other skills if they come up with creative stunts, but I generally only let such improvisation be used once by one player with a particular skill. I do not tell the players outright which skills are primary, encouraging the players to come up with stunts instead of merely calling out which skill to use.

    If a player comes up with a particularly creative stunt, or if there are circumstances that aid their effort, I give these out as extra successes riding on the skill roll. For example, telling the goblin leader his rival is dead is worth one extra success on either Diplomacy or Intimidate, awarded with the first successful roll. My players don't react favorably to when I give out stunt modifiers. I don't know why exactly, but this system has a similar effect without using modifiers.

    Action points can be spent to get extra skill checks. Powers and/or ritual effects can give skill bonuses, add possible extra successes, but typically only allow the use of a skill not normally useful for the challenge. A typical example is Mage Hand, that can often allow Arcana to be used in place of intrusion skills.


    How this plays out
    This is a lvl 3 skill challenge (DC 17) with Acrobatics, Athletics, and Thievery as the primary skills.

    DM: You come to a crevice. There is a rope bridge across, but it is broken in several places. It looks hard but not impossible to cross.
    Ranger: I'm a practical sort, I'll see if I can improvise some repairs. (This is what the Thievery skill was included for, but the Ranger lacks that skill and the Dm knows it).
    DM: Well, you can improvise repairs using local branches. Try a Nature check? (Proceed to roll dice).
    Rogue: I will tightrope walk across the chasm, carrying a string along. We can then use the rope to cross.
    DM: Try an Acrobatics check (this is the intended use of the skill for the challenge, so no more fuss. The player fails) You get halfway across, but there you lose your balance and have to rush back. Nice try!
    Wizard: Lets see, I wonder if I can use my Mage Hand to telekinetically steady the rogue?
    DM: Well... It’s a little heavier than a Mage Hand normally can do, but let’s see... A small push might save the day. Try an Arcana roll to get it right.

    ...
    Play proceeds to the second round

    Ranger: I want to continue making repairs. How far along am I?
    DM: Well, you are running out of branches to use, and the repairs are not going that well... You might want to try something else...
    Ranger: I'll shoot an arrow with a looped string on it into a tree on the other side, then use the string loop to pull a rope across.
    DM: (Notes that this once again sounds like Thievery, but knows the Ranger still lacks it) Try an attack roll... (The player makes it) Well, the string is there, but very precariously... If someone pulls very carefully, it might just work.
    Rogue: Hm... How would you do that?
    DM: Well, it takes deft fingers, maybe a Thievery check?
    Rogue: I'll try a Thievery check!

    And so it goes on...


    An Idea I just had...
    I saw this someplace... might not even have been for DnD. If a player takes up the thread of another's earlier attempt, give the player following up on the idea a +2 bonus. That would apply to the Rouge at the end of the example above. The idea is to encourage teamwork and collaborative effort.


    Problems

    A problem I've had with this is that some players don't want to participate in certain skill challenges. For example, we have a rogue who is a little afraid of magic, anytime there is a magical skill challenge she hangs back and often passes on her action. In the 1.2 system with a limit on the number of rounds, her non-participation stymies the group. This is a flaw more in the system than with how she is played. I prefer the round-based system, but this is a problem when I use that. In a failure-limited system, non-participation is not a problem and can even be an asset.

    As I said above, my players don't like it when I give out stunt modifiers. I don't know why exactly. I think they prefer a more impersonal DM-style, while I like to give a bonus for vivid descriptions, often going so far as to waive the roll completely. This is more so with the more power-gamer-ish players; it might be a matter of predictability and that they want their character builds to be the deciding factor. This is odd, since they can often come up with really nice descriptions.
    Last edited by Starfox; Thursday, 15th January, 2009 at 03:13 PM.
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