Why I like skill challenges as a noncombat resolution mechanic - Page 8




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  1. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nagol View Post
    This is an area I thought skill challenges suffered in as well. That why I have modeled a bunch of challenge types.

    Tug of War - <snip>
    Race - <snip>
    Reactive Opponent - <snip>
    Oblivious Opponent - <snip>
    I think this is great -- I'd love to see a rules module that included descriptions of different structures for challenges along these lines, with examples, etc.

    For me, where I think this gets most interesting, is to explore the way different structures could be used to model the same basic scene. And this is where we get down to taste, flavor, and execution.

    Take, for example, something as 'simple' as a house fire. The PCs need to complete a challenge to try to save the house from complete destruction. There are a huge variety of options available.

    1. Just run it as a simple challenge, maybe 6 successe/3 failures. Maybe each failure destroys a room and the players lose access to a resource or some loot.

    2. Run it as a tug of war -- maybe the PCs need to keep the fire from reaching a specific room -- the library, perhaps. The fire makes it's own rolls to try to advance against the PCs efforts to control it.

    3. Or a race -- the PCs need to put out the house fire before a cultist completes the ritual to summon the fire demon.

    4. Or treat the fire as an opponent -- go all backdraft on the thing, and make the fire a sort of living thing all on it's own, either reactive or oblivious to the PCs.

    and so on. Each variation is a different story told with the same basic ingredients -- a skill challenge about dealing with a house fire. Each has a different flavor, different intent, will mean different things in the game.

    This is why I really want to keep the idea of exceptions-based design at the forefront of any discussion of good challenge design. I think it's important to avoid the temptation to say "these types of challenges should be modeled with this sort of mechanic" or "you have this finite set of options."

    I'd love to see a discussion thread about designing challenges -- what was the scene, what goals did the DM have, what choices did he make for the challenge, and how did it play out when the players sank their teeth into it? Mearls had a series of articles on DDI back in the day that were along those lines, but I think we need a lot more of it.

    -rg

 

  • #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Jerome View Post
    1. You can go for something "neutral" on your turn, which is basically a low-risk, low-reward option.

    2. If you go for a more normal check, ti's succeed on normal DC, fail on DC -5, and minor complication in the middle.
    This has a lot in common with how extended conflicts work in HeroWars and HeroQuest 1st ed.

    - You get a pool of points equal to the skill your using. The opponent does as well.
    - In your round you describe what you do and bid an 'appropriate' number of your points (ie if you announce something really risky you have to bid high, if you announce something cautious you have to bid low, etc)
    - You make a contested roll and either lose 1, 2 or 3 times your bid or your opponent loses 1, 2 or 3 times your bid.*
    - Then you narrate a new situation depending on how all that worked out and the relative totals and its the other side's turn to respond to the new situation and make their bid.

    I think this bidding adds a number of significant factors. It gives players more control. It means the tension can ebb and flow as people are more or less reckless. It gives the GM a great tool to characterise - opponents can be fearless and reckless, cautious, or canny. And the size of the bids give everyone an indication about how unexpected the next bit of narration can be - ie a 2 point bid isn't going to be a scene changer, but bid 35 points and anything can happen.

    * On extreme results points can be transferred between sides. I don't have the results table to hand.
    Last edited by chaochou; Wednesday, 11th July, 2012 at 05:16 PM. Reason: stuff and spelling

  • #73
    Quote Originally Posted by Nagol View Post
    This is an area I thought skill challenges suffered in as well. That why I have modeled a bunch of challenge types.

    Tug of War - all sides in the conflict have agency and act against a single target. Winner is determined by "first past a post". This is closest to D&D combat. An example would be two factions attempting to sway the King.

    Race - all sides have agency, but act against their own targets which need not be the same difficulty. An example would be attempting to stop an orc carrying a bomb from reaching a flaw in the wall.

    Reactive Opponent - only one side takes initiative, but the target will react to stimulus and take action. Examples include clandestine infiltration of a thieves' den holding hostages or disarming a complex trap.

    Oblivious Opponent - only one side is capable of taking action. This is closest to 4e's skill challenge though DM narration can make 4e's seem like one of the others. An example would be trying to repair an engine.
    I think a couple more should be added:

    Negotiation. Two sides are interacting directly, and each has its own objectives. The goal is to claim the largest possible share of your objectives while conceding a minimum to the other side. (This is not a simple win-lose dynamic.)

    Prisoners' Dilemma. This is a weird one; it happens when two groups have the potential to work together, but neither is sure the other can be trusted.

    In the Prisoners' Dilemma, each side has an intention either to cooperate (work together with the other side in good faith) or defect (stab the other side in the back). The goal is twofold; convince the other side that you intend to cooperate--even if you don't--and determine accurately what the other side's own intentions are.

    It's an odd situation because if your intent is to cooperate, then you and the other side both want the same thing. They want to determine your intentions accurately, and you want them to do so. But if your intent is to defect, then you're working in opposition. And neither of you has full knowledge of what the situation is.
    Last edited by Dausuul; Wednesday, 11th July, 2012 at 06:11 PM.

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  • #74
    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    I think a couple more should be added:

    Negotiation. Two sides are interacting directly, and each has its own objectives. The goal is to claim the largest possible share of your objectives while conceding a minimum to the other side. (This is not a simple win-lose dynamic.)

    Prisoners' Dilemma. This is a weird one; it happens when two groups have the potential to work together, but neither is sure the other can be trusted.

    In the Prisoners' Dilemma, each side has an intention either to cooperate (work together with the other side in good faith) or defect (stab the other side in the back). The goal is twofold; convince the other side that you intend to cooperate--even if you don't--and determine accurately what the other side's own intentions are.

    It's an odd situation because if your intent is to cooperate, then you and the other side both want the same thing. They want to determine your intentions accurately, and you want them to do so. But if your intent is to defect, then you're working in opposition. And neither of you has full knowledge of what the situation is.
    Of the two, I think Negotiation would be the hardest to model as a lot of the niceities comes down to valuations of assets and offers. It is probably a variant Race with each team trying to maximise their "score" -- composed of positives and negatives and attempting to read the value judgements of their opponents. Each group gets a list of all assets in play and assigns their own private values to them. The challenge is to read the opponents valuations and make offers that increase your private score. Any group whose valuation increases after negotiation 'wins' -- so everyone may walk away a winner in their own minds.

    The Prisoner's dilemma is probably best modeled as a nested challenge where the first challenge is determining your private stance and trying to read the other's true intentions whilst presenting/defending your public stance -- possibly a paired tug-of-war or oblivious oppoent as each tries to read the other's true intentions. The second part of the challenge is the resolution of the dilemma and the unveiling of the parties' true stances and reactions.

  • #75
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    And it was the thing that unsold me on D&D Next more than anything else. Skill Challenges are an optional DM-side tool. And apparently destroying tools you do not have to use is something they consider a positive. That people are happy to see destroyed things that they do not need to use and that others find useful, I find ... wasteful.
    GM's did not treat it as "optional". They treated it as some ham-fisted way to make a fighter's player do logical gymnastics to explain away why they could use Endurance to do everything. Wizards tried to fix them, but it was not a very good fix. The idea of skill challenges: having non-combat rolls that played out over an extended period of time: that is a good idea. The implementation "fighter must explain why he can use Intimidation to find a secret door" was not.

    I myself (before 4e I might add) included something called "Extended Checks" in the BASH! Ultimate Edition rules that were designed to fulfill this function. I think the key difference here is that you need to vary things by type. Some "extended checks" are cooperative: like looking for a secret door. Others are more like a "race" where you are trying to get from point A to point B before someone else. Others are individual tasks (like disarming a trap before it explodes) where others may be able to assist or not. Skill Challenges made everything collective, which does not always make sense.

    Another key was making the effects cumulative rather than success/fail. If you have a cumulative check where the group needs a 50 to find a Secret Door, and the fighter rolls a 5, he still contributed +5 towards that 50 (10% of the goal). The thief may get +25, but the fighter still did his bit. In a success/fail mechanic, the fighter's player either had to come up with a reason why he could use Endurance/Intimidation to find the secret door, OR go and take a rest-room break and conveniently miss his turn during the skill challenge OR be a near automatic Fail for the group. For the fighter's player, none of those options was very fun. When they changed the rules and declared Skill Challenges were optional and that the fighter did not have to take part, that still was not a great solution because now the fighter is just sitting there.

    Now for people who like skill challenges as they are in 4e, I've got an excellent solution: Use them in your own games. That should be super-easy to tack onto 5e if you want to; or you could even keep playing 4e. Who knows, WOTC might even make something like Skill Challenges available as an optional module at some point in the future.

    But many of us feel that the entire purpose of 5e is for it to NOT BE 4E. I'm pretty sure Wizards' sales department is also of this opinion. Thus, the insistence of many 4e enthusiasts to make 5e be similar to 4e does not make sense. Nobody is going to stop them from playing 4e once 5e comes out.
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  • #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    how important do you think it is in your suggestion that the player and GM actions are discrete?

    In HeroQuest revised extended contests, instead of your (1,2) and (3,4) pairs of player/GM actions, each action is rolled for by both the player and the GM (playing either an opposing NPC, or the hostile environment). Whoever wins that contested check scores the points (more points for higher degrees of success), and then we go to the next contest check. The points from each check are tallied (both for the players and the GM) and the first to N points wins.

    Can you say a bit more about how your approach would compare to that?
    Discrete actions allow the actions to be "de-coupled" from each other. A player doesn't necessarily have to respond to a complication, she can do something else entirely. As well, the DM's complication doesn't need to respond the player's action. In my example, the DM pretty much ignored the hunting for food, and took the scene down a different path. Similarly a player might have ignored the poison, and started a fire for warmth.

    As well, what I was trying to get at is that failing an action in combat doesn't necessarily put the other side closer to winning. It just stops you from getting ahead. It may be a small difference, but I think it's important to the psychology of playing.

    Alternating actions also matches the "rhythm" of combat, and that is something that every player is used to.

    As well, there are more knobs to turn in a decoupled system. For example, a DM could skip a turn, then unleash a complication which affects two people simultaneously. Or someone could attempt a high-risk, high-reward tactic that gives 2 successes. I think one generally has more room to manoeuvre when actions are discrete.

    Finally, while in theory I'm okay with rolling for an element without agency, in practice I find it kind of weird. And I think a large portion of the audience has the same hangup.

    It's like if a PC attempts to swim across a fast-moving river, in theory making a roll for the river can represent the PC getting caught in the current, or dashed on a rock. But in practice, I just find the notion of rolling for the river, an element without agency, to be a step too far. I'd rather just have the PC roll a save.

  • #77
    Quote Originally Posted by epochrpg View Post
    GM's did not treat it as "optional". They treated it as some ham-fisted way to make a fighter's player do logical gymnastics to explain away why they could use Endurance to do everything. Wizards tried to fix them, but it was not a very good fix. The idea of skill challenges: having non-combat rolls that played out over an extended period of time: that is a good idea. The implementation "fighter must explain why he can use Intimidation to find a secret door" was not.
    SOME GMs did not treat it as optional. I'm not even trying to defend the presentation of skill challenges and it did leave many DMs with a mistaken impression. But does people trying to hammer with a screwdriver mean that the screwdriver should be withdrawn, or that you should provide better guidance for the screwdriver?

    Coming into DMing cold I worked out what skill challenges were for despite only having seen bad ones.

    As for a skill challenge to find a secret door, wtf? That's a simple pass/fail action and should be handled in a skill check.

    But many of us feel that the entire purpose of 5e is for it to NOT BE 4E. I'm pretty sure Wizards' sales department is also of this opinion. Thus, the insistence of many 4e enthusiasts to make 5e be similar to 4e does not make sense. Nobody is going to stop them from playing 4e once 5e comes out.
    The stated purpose of 5e is to unite the editions. It is explicitely to be able to emulate the experience of playing any edition of D&D. You can do that trivially by marking skill challenges as optional - it will not get in anyone's way. You can't by not including them. And if you disagree with WotC's goal, take it up with them.

    You, however, seem to want a different goal from the stated one. You seem to want "The revenge edition". One where you can emulate any edition except the current one. Except the people currently giving WotC money. If Wizards' sales team is genuinely that stupid then it will make the marketing of early 4e look like an absolute work of genius.

    Who are they going after by this strategy?

    • 4e players? They are, according to you, busy trying to ditch that market - simultaneously saying that they want all D&D players to be able to play their favoured game and then to ignore almost their entire customer base. Great marketing strategy there!
    • Pathfinder players? Good luck! WotC aren't as good as Paizo at what Paizo does best, and Paizo has the brand loyalty right now. Ditching your own market in an attempt to take someone else's. Real smart move there.
    • 3.5 or even 3.0 holdouts who haven't switched to Pathfinder? Who haven't had a new official release in over four years? And who've knocked most of the bugs out of 3.X through implicit or explicit house rules? It's a small audience and they need some motivation to upgrade.
    • AD&D/OD&D players? Who haven't had a new official release out for a dozen years. That's gonna work even better than going after 3.X players.
    • Retroclone players? Yeaaaahhhh.
    • Indy RPGers? *snicker*
    • New players? Who won't care about any of this? But are going to have 4e fans running down the new game, Pathfinder fans running down WotC, and old school players running old school games.

    4e players want to be able to play 4e in D&D next because that is what we have been promised. We don't want to prevent other players playing their games as well because that was part of the promise too. But you seem to want WotC to renege on their promise to the only people with any remaining brand loyalty.

    And to be honest I'd prefer a design goal for what you are supposed to be able to play with D&D Next. If I wanted a retroclone I'd use OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, DCC, or Hackmaster. All with clear things they are good at.

  • #78
    Quote Originally Posted by epochrpg View Post
    But many of us feel that the entire purpose of 5e is for it to NOT BE 4E. I'm pretty sure Wizards' sales department is also of this opinion. Thus, the insistence of many 4e enthusiasts to make 5e be similar to 4e does not make sense. Nobody is going to stop them from playing 4e once 5e comes out.
    Glad I read the whole post. Saves time in the long run.

  • #79
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    GSHHamser, thanks for the reply.

    Quote Originally Posted by GSHamster View Post
    Finally, while in theory I'm okay with rolling for an element without agency, in practice I find it kind of weird. And I think a large portion of the audience has the same hangup.

    It's like if a PC attempts to swim across a fast-moving river, in theory making a roll for the river can represent the PC getting caught in the current, or dashed on a rock. But in practice, I just find the notion of rolling for the river, an element without agency, to be a step too far. I'd rather just have the PC roll a save.
    That's an interesting point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Neonchameleon View Post
    As for a skill challenge to find a secret door, wtf? That's a simple pass/fail action and should be handled in a skill check.
    I think this is right too.

    Linking it somewhat to GSHamster's point, even if (in principle) one wanted to roll for the elements, or if - as per the standard skill challenge rules - one was having players doing all the rolling and narrating the elements and agents that push them to roll - what would be the narration for a secret door? I mean, a river has currents and rocks, but what does a door have that you have to struggle against?

    Maybe you're trying to find and open the secret door before the horde of orcs swarms upon you - in which case the fighter's Intimidate check wouldn't be directed at the door but the orc horde, and so would make sense to me.

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    One repeated issue that's come out of this thread is the "everyone participates" idea.

    I've always taken that as "GM, frame and narrate a scene that engages all the PCs. Then all the players have to respond." You could call it "fiction-led" or "fiction-forced" participation.

    But it seems like some people, at least, have taken this as a purely meta-level and fiction-independent rule: so have framed and narrated scenes that don't engage all the PCs, and then have - purely at the meta-level - nevertheless insisted that all the PCs act within the scene.

    That's a clear failure of the rules text, I think, to explain what is going on.

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