Why I like skill challenges as a noncombat resolution mechanic - Page 4


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  1. #31
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    Skill Challenges just didn't do it for our group........nuff said.

 

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    When one of the developers announced that "Skill challenges died in a fire" that was probably the thing that sold me on D&D Next more than anything else.
    Basic Action Games Makers of BASH! Ultimate Edition, an ENnie Nominee. www.bashrpg.com

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    I prefer skill/social combat over skill challenges.

    I hated how skill challenges mandated a certain number of rolls DURING role play.

    Either you roll before role play or after. NEVER during.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herschel View Post
    The question is how many even read those preview releases before 4E was released? As there were no rules I didn't pick them up.
    I think Races & Classes is just a preview, and therefore not that interesting once the game is actually released.

    But Worlds & Monsters I think is excellent. It explains the design of the 4e story elements from the perspective of the metagame - why the story elements have been crafted as they are, and the sort of play and themes they will support - whereas the tradition in D&D has always been to talk about story only from within the perspective of the fiction.

    Even Mearls recent L&L column reflects the same problem - he talks about a GM reasoning from an in-fiction perspctive, or a GM reasoning from a mechanical perspective, but not a GM reasoning about the fiction from a metagame perspective. This last thing is what W&M is good for.

    But neither book gives any skill challenge advice.

  • #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aenghus View Post
    One of their biggest issues, but it's one that extends to every element of RPGs, is they require player buy-in to work. The players , at least some of them, need to want to achieve a particular goal. If they turn out not to, it may be time to short-circuit the planned activity in favour of something they actually want to do.
    I agree completely. The GM has to be framing scenes that the players will engage - including with clear stakes. (Combat has an advantage here, because the stakes are so obvious - fight or you'll die!)

    If the players don't care what happens, then there is no skill challenge, and the GM can just narrate what happens. The flipside is true, too - in my game, if there is no opposition to the PCs from within the gameworld, then there is no need for a skill challenge. It's just free roleplaying. (And plenty of social encounters happen like this in my game.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Frostmarrow View Post
    The third dimension is the choice of gear. You buy it, you plan for it, you find it; you can waste it on a single attempt or improve upon it. A mithril shovel is nice treasure if it allows you to excavate 1d10 points of dirt.
    As I currently run them, gear occupies the same functional space as powers - it is a limited-use resource that players can draw upon to supplement skill checks, open up the space for skill checks, etc. I mentioned upthread the example of the wizard player using a possession power to open up the possibility of an Arcana check to learn a password. A parallel example involving gear occurred in a challenge where the chaos sorcerer was being pursued on his flying carpet by a flight of hobgoblin wyvern-riders. He was carrying a few vials of pure elemental fire that he had recovered from the Elemental Chaos, and he tried to use the energy of the fire to give his carpet a boost to speed. Once again, this opened up the space for an Arcana check - when his check failed - and was the 3rd failure in the challenge - the elemental fire exploded in his face and caused his carpet to crash.

    Quote Originally Posted by Herschel View Post
    I let their actions determine where the skill rolls should be (and what skills be used).
    My approach is similar, although I will also use narration to try and force checks - not necessarily of any predefined skill, but narrating a situation (eg "The hobgoblins are about to catch you - what are you going to do?") that will provoke the player into having his/her PC do something in response.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Jerome View Post
    I have noticed for some time now, such that the observation now approaches personal dogma*, that if you want interesting game resolution with player decision enabled, you need at least three truly independent dimensions in the mechanics. A damage roll separate from a success check is largely independent, whereas a single success or failure against a count has been rolled into the skill check itself.

    What the third independent dimension should be in a D&D style game, I'm not sure. Burning Wheel uses "fate" (Artha) here, to good effect. Whatever it is, I do think it should be a player-driven resource, at the moment in the game, as skill checks and "damage" are mainly not.
    I would say that, as I run them, skill challenges have two mechanical dimensions - skill checks, and power use (which includes action point expenditure, and which functionally plays a bit like BW artha). If I had to look for a third dimension, I would nominate something non-mechanical, namely, the pressure on the PCs (and therefore the players) generated by the narated fiction.

    While I'm not sure that this is the sort of dimension you are looking for, it is important. It is that narration (that reflects the underlying mechanical unfolding of "N before 3") which pushes the players to do things - non-diplomancers to nevertheless talk, desparate sorcerers to try and speed up their carpet by catalysing elemental fire, dwarven Warpriests to shove their hands into forges.

    A damage-based system would have to generate similar pressures. In BW, the Duel of Wits does this because both sides are inflicting losses on each others' body of argument. But, in a reforging scenario, how do you frame the forge and artefact as inflicting damage on the PC? Because without this, there is no pressure that will produce dramatic calls.

    Quote Originally Posted by delericho View Post
    I'm afraid you need more to it than that. Otherwise, your "construction" challenge boils down to nothing more than "I dig with my shovel. 6 damage." every round - that's dull when it's the Fighter in combat; it's dull here.
    Yes, this is what I'm questioning in questioning the damage approach.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hypersmurf View Post
    Isn't a 4E Skill Challenge exactly combat-by-attrition?

    The challenge has 6 hit points. The party has three hit points. A successful skill check deals 1 point of damage. Last man standing wins.
    Except a failed skill check costs the party 1 hp. So it's not two parties trying to wear one another down. It's one party engaging a situation and wearing down both pools depending on what happens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mustrum_Ridcully View Post
    IIRC, pemerton really only started playing D&D with 4E - so Unearthed Arcana is most likely an obscure rulebook to him.
    Quote Originally Posted by JamesonCourage View Post
    No, while he nearly completely skipped 3e (and most of 2e, I believe), he most certainly played before that (and particularly liked the original Oriental Adventures when it came out, if I remember correctly).
    I Playerd and GMed a lot of classic D&D (B/X, 1st ed AD&D). I played a lot of and GMed a tiny bit of 2nd ed.

    I followed 3E, GMed a tiny bit of it, but never got into it in any serious way (for reasons I've talked about in other threads).

    And JC is correct that the original OA was a big breakthrough for me - it was the first example I encountered of an RPG that tightly integrates PCs and NPCs/monsters into a common, thematically-laden fictional situation, via both build and action resolution rules.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mustrum_Ridcully View Post
    Also, the [url=http://dnd-wiki.org/wiki/Publication:Unearthed_Arcana/Complex_Skill_Checks]complex skill check[url] rules in UA were only ever talking about rolling for a single skill. Heck, they even say that Diplomacy is not well suited for a complex skill check - while I'd say that Diplomacy is a wonderful part of a social skill challenge that of course uses more than just diplomacy.
    What you say here fits with my impression - I see complex skill checks as different from skill challenges as I understand them (although I do sometimes use 4/3 or even 6/3 skill challenges as complex skill checks).

    In particular, I don't see a complex skill check as having the metagame-driven narration-of-complications dynamic that a skill challenge has. It's more about succeeding simply by accumulating a set of successful tasks.

    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    I think you must be missing Unearthed Arcana which includes complex skill checks - the rule framework upon which 4e skill challenges were based. UA even correctly highlighted the mathematical issues requiring multiple success causes.

    <snip>

    An analogous example from MegaTraveller might be going into Jumpspace while being pursued by Vargr corsairs. The pilot tries to open up a safe lead so they can make it to 100 diameters from the planet's gravity well and safe jump entry territory, the navigator tries to plot the jump vector while under full thrust, the engineers try to squeeze more speed out of the thrusters and tune up the jump reactor. Too many failures and they may get a jump incident.
    This fits with the impression I have and that Mustrum's post seems to me to confirm. What you descirbe here hasn't got the dynamic narrative dimension of a skill challenge.

    Quote Originally Posted by billd91 View Post
    Is a Con check or Fortitude save somehow not appropriate here? I don't see why the skill challenge makes that possible while 3e/PF fails to do so.
    What would the DC be? And what would the consequences of failure be?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    What would the DC be?
    What did you use for a DC, and how did you arrive at that particular number yourself?

    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    And what would the consequences of failure be?
    The same as 4E? Find something else to do?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    the metagame-driven narration-of-complications dynamic that a skill challenge has. It's more about succeeding simply by accumulating a set of successful tasks.
    Wait, how is that different from how I did/do skills in any other edition? I have this distinct feeling that the way skills work in my 3E/PF games work pretty much the same as the way you run skill challenges in 4E, and I've been doing it much longer than 4E has been around. I'm not at all understanding how 4E managed to revolutionize something when it pretty much didn't change my approach to skills.

    Specifically, failures of skill checks led to complications in other parts of an adventure. Whereas in the 4E games that I played it, they literally just became accumulating 6 before 3. Obviously, it just wasn't run well, because I can see how the way I play seems to be the same as you do, but I didn't need the rules from 4E to come up with it on my own, and I think the base rules in the core books do the idea a tremendous disservice.
    Last edited by Mercutio01; Tuesday, 10th July, 2012 at 03:28 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercutio01 View Post
    What did you use for a DC, and how did you arrive at that particular number yourself?
    4e gives me a chart of level-appropriate DCs, so I used that. To the best of my knowledge 3E doesn't have such a thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mercutio01 View Post
    The same as 4E?
    This relates back to my comment in the OP about mechanics that support (i) "genre logic" narration, and (ii) a focus on the scene. 4e's approach to injury and healing is very liberal in this respect. 3E/PFs is not.

    In 4e I was able to describe the PC as suffering burns. The wizard cast Remove Affliction (using some Fundamental Ice as the material component) and the PC spent some weeks resting.

    In 3E/PF damage and healing are both more particularised. Cure X Wound spells are different from the various categories of Restoration spell, and then there is Heal, Regeneration etc. Plus there is a very wide range of conditions, with various possibilities for duration. If sticking your hands into a forge doesn't invoke these rules in some fashion or other, that doesn't seem right. But which ones should it invoke? I don't know that the rulebooks give especially clear guidance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mercutio01 View Post
    Wait, how is that different from how I did/do skills in any other edition?
    It may not be.

    But I have never seen anything in any prior version of D&D that suggests that the appropriate narration, in response to a failed Diplomacy check, is for the NPC to acknowledge the reasonableness of the PC's request but explain that s/he cannot go along with it because s/he has sworn an oath that prevents her.

    Or, to generalise this, I have never seen it suggested in any prior version of D&D (nor in Rolemaster, HERO or RQ) that the response to a failed check might be to describe the PC as having succeeded at his/her task - in this case making a reasonable offer that is well-recieved - but nevertheless failing to get what s/he wants because of some newly-introduced complication of the situation. Whereas this is pretty central to skill challenge adjudication and narration (the rulebooks don't call this out specifically - as I've said upthread, their advice on this is poor - but they give examples that show the technique at work, for example the sample of play in the Rules Compendium).

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