A discussion of Keith Baker's post regarding the Skill Challenge system

Pseudopsyche

First Post
Spatula said:
Adding in partial successes is a rather serious tweaking of the binary pass/fail system in the DMG.
In this sense, almost every skill challenge I've seen published from WotC has seriously tweaked what's presented in the DMG.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that WotC will address the problem with skill challenges by tweaking the definition of success. With minimal changes to the system presented in the DMG, DMs could award XP proportional to the number of successful skill checks. The story outcome of the challenge is up to the DM, as before, but allows for degrees of success.
 

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Skyscraper

Explorer
While the OP's math is very interesting and raises concerns on the skill challenge system; I note that at low level the success rate will vary between 10% and 90% (or thereabouts) depending on whether other characters aid the first or not.

This appears somewhat acceptable for me: a character attempting to win a combat encounter by himself should have a hard time winning; likewise, a party of five should win most of the time. A skill challenge is an encounter and should likewise be similar. I hope that this system will promote group cooperation during non-combat encounters in our games.

It is possible that skill challenges will need some additional directions or examples to allow us to get a feel for win rates. For the time being, i see this system as blurry and undefined and the problem might lie there more than in asserting what a lone PC or a PC supported by four others in all skill checks might be able to do.

Sky
 

Mallus said:
This is the way my group is going to use Skill Challenges...

edit: also, I'm thinking using an 'auto-win but no auto-fail' system. If you describe/justify the skill use well enough --like Wulf's engineer wizard-- you automatically gain a success. If someone else tries to bully the King, roll for it (but the DC will be just this side of mathematically possible).

I want to encourage players to brainstorm up ingenious and/or wacky solutions to problems and at the same time remain open to solutions and/or story directions that I didn't occur to me or, even, that I don't like (that keeps me on my toes).
Ditto. I think I would prefer to think up as many applicable skill uses as a I can, start with a baseline DC for overall difficulty, modify the DCs for each skill based on applicability, etc., think up any contingencies/restrictions (e.g. History success lowers Diplomacy DC) I can ahead of time, estimate either a number of total success or MORE LIKELY, some likely end points for the challenge, and then just run it. Anything they think of outside of my "box" I'd decide on the fly if it should Aid Another, be nonapplicable, be possible but with a high DC or provide only limited benefit, oops it should have been on the main list in the first place, yadda yadda. And just keep going with the encounter until I feel they have either done as much good or bad as they can or they run out of time or some other resource. I'm frankly more interested in some guidelines for how to make those sorts of rolls suit my goals than for a separate-feeling "minigame" that imposes certain structures like everyone must go in initiative order once per round, etc.

I say this with the utmost respect for Stalker0 and his system, which I provided feedback on and tried to help in small ways because I think it's a fascinating approach but with all these discussions, looking at the Dungeon adventure, thinking of what I've done in the past and what I'd like to do in the future, I think I really want something to just help keep me prepare better and then stay within certain probabilistically reasonable bounds as I otherwise run a free-form challenge.
 

Hellcow

Adventurer
Dave Turner said:
Frankly, Keith, your response (which I've only excerpted here) doesn't really address the substance of the criticism against the skill challenge system.
Um... I know? As Wulf Ratbane said, I never intended - either here or in my livejournal - TO address the substance of the criticism against the skill challenge system. At the time that I wrote that livejournal entry, I hadn't even READ any of the threads about it on ENWorld. Again, not a 4E designer! My point was never to say "You're wrong! The system works fine! It's perfect, I tell you, perfect!" - but rather to explain what I've been doing, because it's worked pretty well for me.

Among other things, having read some of the analyses, I agree that the complexity rule IS flawed. It's not unplayably flawed, as shown by the fact that I've been playing with it; but that doesn't mean that I think the system is perfect at is. Clearly there are issues, and from Mike Mearls' posts, it sounds as though they will be addressed at some point in time.

Looking back over things, I'd say that the key is using partial successes. Action points certainly help with the odds, but the point is that my players AREN'T back to square one if they lose. Failure may put new challenges in their path, full success may give them a significant edge... but I don't expect the PCs to succeed at every challenge I set before them. Their degree of success determines the path the adventure will take.

Looking to the DMG, I see now that it really doesn't suggest this; it presents things in a more binary fashion. But again, my intention was never to defend the core system; it was simply to describe what I've been doing. It's a report, not an argument.
 

Hellcow

Adventurer
Stalker0 said:
I hope I have not caused any enmity by doing so.
Not at all. Again, when I wrote my post, I'd never read any of yours. I don't have any stake in the system, and I wasn't expecting to start a debate. I'm NOT arguing your math; the only point of my post was to present the things I've done that have made the system work for me.

So absolutely, no hard feelings. As I said, if anything, I found it amusing that anyone WOULD debate my post, since it's just the personal experiences of another DM.
 

Hellcow

Adventurer
gonesailing said:
Sometimes a DM might allow up to a +8 bonus...
Actually, I think that's a case where I've been playing against the rules when I have allowed the use of Aid Another in a skill challenge. As someone else point out on my livejournal, the section on "Group Challenges" sort of implies that these are the only circumstances under which people get to Aid Another. Which is just as well, both from a predictable DC arc and the fact that it's more interesting to take a unique action than just aid another.

At the end of the day, I'm not much of a rules lawyer. I often ASSUME I know what the rules are trying to accomplish and run with that. Partial success has always made sense to me, so it's what I've always done; I was actually surprised when I went back and saw how binary most of the examples are.
 

Ginnel

Explorer
Hellcow said:
So absolutely, no hard feelings. As I said, if anything, I found it amusing that anyone WOULD debate my post, since it's just the personal experiences of another DM.

and handy experiences they are two, I really like the margins of success you use, although a bit more work for the DM varying degrees of success seem like the way forward, and can be applied to almost every skill challenge.

It also helps if the skill challenge is part of the plot, as the plot won't stop because of failure just some extra resources will be drained or there will be consequences dire or otherwise.
 

the Lorax

First Post
I was discussing Keith's post with my 4e DM, after reading it, I was not so certain that Keith's math adds up either, and only takes into account best case scenarios. In addition to Stalker0's assessment of the actual probabilities based upon the numbers Keith and the Skill Challenge system are using I had some concerns myself. This is pretty much what I said to my DM -

Let me address some of his points ( by section):

"At first level, a player will typically have a score of +9-11 with a trained skill"
Ok, assuming that you only train skills which you have a positive modifier, 1-5 points for Stat, +5 for training, that's +6-10, that makes 20 DC even more difficult. If a character has (at first level) something much better than a +10, then they should be good at succeeding.​
"...you can choose to reward creative action by applying a -2 to +2 modifier to the check"
Ok, that's +4-12, that makes 20 DC still pretty improbable, just because someone chooses a creative and interesting way to use their skill, it does NOT mean that their creative method is actually the way that is helpful to success.​
"Every ally who successfully aids you gives you a +2 to your check, to a maximum of +8."
Ok, at best +12-20, however you have to assume that every party member isn't trained in every skill, +8 every time seems to be a reach at best, DC10 for aid another is going to fail a fair amount with untrained skills for a long while. Real numbers for a 5 person party would probably look more like +5 (on average), and could still be +4-20. Everyone isn't trained in all skills, and every group isn't going to include 5 characters.​
"Master of Deceit ... Astral Voice ... Beguiling Tongue ... Crucial Advice"
Ok, these are not an examples of the 2nd level skill affecting utility poweres, its the whole list, these powers mostly only help with a limited array of skills.​
"...the challenge to you is to find a way to bring one of your trained skills to bear on the challenge...."
Ok, this is where Keith's post really begins to loose me as valid, at this point, we already ARE talking about trained skills, and someone with Skill Focus SHOULD have a good chance of success, even with Skill Focus, at best +15-23 (not counting utility powers). For a 5 player group with a good idea bonus, and all the Aid Another you can legally squeeze out, with a high stat skill, and Skill Focus, there's still a depressingly large chance of failure (at least at the low end).​
"As a DM, are you taking into account any of the PC's abilities when making the encounter?"
Ok, wow, that's REALLY contrary to my basic DMing philosophy. In my mind the challenge that is there is what's there, and the PCs have to deal with it using their skills, but yes, there should be additional situational modifiers to your success, at least as many as as there are to succeed in combat. Not to mention the effect this has on pre-printed adventures.​
"Skill challenges should be challenging."
Agreed, to a certain extent, but we were only looking at the numbers for a median challenge, the Hard Challenges become depressingly unlikely.​
"Partial Success ... Action Points ... Critical Success."
All of these are House Rules, but sound like they should have been incorporated into the rules themselves, and are all good thoughts. The idea, especially of "critical success", is already part of combat, it seems appropriate to non-combat as well.​
 
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gonesailing

First Post
the Lorax said:
I was discussing Keith's post with my 4e DM, after reading it, I was not so certain that Keith's math adds up either, and only takes into account best case scenarios.
I don't think he used any "math" just good DMing skills and ended up with some anecdotal advice.
 

gonesailing

First Post
Hellcow said:
Actually, I think that's a case where I've been playing against the rules when I have allowed the use of Aid Another in a skill challenge. As someone else point out on my livejournal, the section on "Group Challenges" sort of implies that these are the only circumstances under which people get to Aid Another. Which is just as well, both from a predictable DC arc and the fact that it's more interesting to take a unique action than just aid another.
I think there needs to be some sort of Aid mechanic in the system. There needs to be a "safe" way for a player who is just crap at a skill or set of skills to creatively contribute. It just needs to be explicitly spelled out in the system and not something that allows such a wide swing of probabilty.
 

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