D&D 4E Ben Riggs' "What the Heck Happened with 4th Edition?" seminar at Gen Con 2023

Imaro

Legend
So I guess that what I like is the idea of it, the purpose behind it and then to make it my own by giving it my personal flavor. I love the idea of a structured non combat scene where everybody must participate toward the same goal instead of just relying on the character better suited for the task. I love the initiative structure since it guarantee that everyone will get under the spotlight. I love to see players get the most out of their skills by using them in uncommon ways, they always surprise me with a way to use a skill that I did not thought about. I think that Skill Challenge really push and reward the creativity of the players instead of just going for the obvious skill. And again, it 100% go toward the philosophy of 4e that everyone is equally important to the success of the team, it makes the players rely on each others.

Pretty much this... but what I've found is that if the situation is created correctly then it naturally flows into multiple PC's dealing with different facets of it. I think there's a section in Xanthar's where it talks about how to design complex traps where multiple PC's/skills are involved and I think it's just extrapolating the advice and examples given here to other situations in 5e.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend

Red Castle

Adventurer
Pretty much this... but what I've found is that if the situation is created correctly then it naturally flows into multiple PC's dealing with different facets of it. I think there's a section in Xanthar's where it talks about how to design complex traps where multiple PC's/skills are involved and I think it's just extrapolating the advice and examples given here to other situations in 5e.
Oh, most of the time, I won’t use Skill Challenge to resolve Non Combat Encounters, I’ll favor a freeform approach. I think that Skill Challenge, for me at least, is meant to frame important scenes in which you want every players to participate and in which the resolution will be very impactful to the rest of the campaign, you must have a clear idea of the rewards and consequences of the challenge, don’t do a Skill Challenge if ultimately the result will change nothing. I also love to run them as a kind of montage during travel and exploration and let the players come up with the events on the way and how their character interact with them.

But other than that, I use freeform roleplay and resolution. And a Skill Challenge should never feel forced.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Oh, most of the time, I won’t use Skill Challenge to resolve Non Combat Encounters, I’ll favor a freeform approach. I think that Skill Challenge, for me at least, is meant to frame important scenes in which you want every players to participate and in which the resolution will be very impactful to the rest of the campaign, you must have a clear idea of the rewards and consequences of the challenge, don’t do a Skill Challenge if ultimately the result will change nothing. I also love to run them as a kind of montage during travel and exploration and let the players come up with the events on the way and how their character interact with them.

But other than that, I use freeform roleplay and resolution. And a Skill Challenge should never feel forced.
The problem I've always felt with skill challenges during the time I ran and played 4e was simply that it felt very narrative and simultaneously very gamist. By that I mean, you would pull out the SC rules when the DM decides something is important to "the story" and everybody should contribute, so you lay out this framework that, taken on its face and initial presentation, is a round robin of asking the players to come up with a reason why and how their best skill somehow contributes to the situation at hand.

Now I know a lot more ink has been spilled on the SC concept since 2008, and many people apparently had some kind of intuitive grasp of how to make it not feel like we're stopping everything to engage with it, but first impressions matter, and mine was just terrible on this. Even with the evolution of thought on the subject I just don't see any advantage skill challenges have over free roleplay, at least none that I care about.

Obviously they do work for a lot of folks even today, so please understand I'm not disparaging 4e or its fans.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
The problem I've always felt with skill challenges during the time I ran and played 4e was simply that it felt very narrative and simultaneously very gamist. By that I mean, you would pull out the SC rules when the DM decides something is important to "the story" and everybody should contribute, so you lay out this framework that, taken on its face and initial presentation, is a round robin of asking the players to come up with a reason why and how their best skill somehow contributes to the situation at hand.

Now I know a lot more ink has been spilled on the SC concept since 2008, and many people apparently had some kind of intuitive grasp of how to make it not feel like we're stopping everything to engage with it, but first impressions matter, and mine was just terrible on this. Even with the evolution of thought on the subject I just don't see any advantage skill challenges have over free roleplay, at least none that I care about.

Obviously they do work for a lot of folks even today, so please understand I'm not disparaging 4e or its fans.
Some of it has to be a taste thing.

I appreciate being able to give a noncombat encounter a structure and reason for everyone to be involved the way combat does.

Something a couple of folks have mentioned is liking initiative for it- how it inherently includes everyone and pushes them to act. Which is something I remember someone mentioning recently in a discussion about Shadowdark, interestly. That game has "always on" initiative, which helps enforce spotlight-sharing and kind of smooths out the distinction between Combat and Everything Else.
 

Voadam

Legend
I think that the way Skill Challenge are describe in the DMG is one of the better proof that 4e was rushed.
I think that is probably right.

They worked for me because I was adapting the second hand concept of group involvement in different ways on a shared project, optionally over a couple rounds. The actual 4e DMG description, once I finally got the 4e DMG and read their text on it, was not that helpful to me, particularly since I had also heard that the math and specific description was not that good.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Some of it has to be a taste thing.

I appreciate being able to give a noncombat encounter a structure and reason for everyone to be involved the way combat does.

Something a couple of folks have mentioned is liking initiative for it- how it inherently includes everyone and pushes them to act. Which is something I remember someone mentioning recently in a discussion about Shadowdark, interestly. That game has "always on" initiative, which helps enforce spotlight-sharing and kind of smooths out the distinction between Combat and Everything Else.
My issue though is that "including everyone" is a higher priority than "makes sense for the situation at hand". That's a big problem for me.
 

Pedantic

Legend
Some of it has to be a taste thing.

I appreciate being able to give a noncombat encounter a structure and reason for everyone to be involved the way combat does.

Something a couple of folks have mentioned is liking initiative for it- how it inherently includes everyone and pushes them to act. Which is something I remember someone mentioning recently in a discussion about Shadowdark, interestly. That game has "always on" initiative, which helps enforce spotlight-sharing and kind of smooths out the distinction between Combat and Everything Else.
I am not a fan of skill challenges, specifically because they do pernicious things to the underlying design and gameplay incentives, which I've written about extensively elsewhere and don't need to belabor further here.

I find myself routinely taken aback by the things they get praised for, precisely because they seem either pretty obvious and not especially important, or because they represent a completely metagame concern intruding on the mechanical space. Pointing to initiative out of combat specifically is the most interesting and perhaps useful adaptation of the idea I've yet heard.
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
The problem I've always felt with skill challenges during the time I ran and played 4e was simply that it felt very narrative and simultaneously very gamist. By that I mean, you would pull out the SC rules when the DM decides something is important to "the story" and everybody should contribute, so you lay out this framework that, taken on its face and initial presentation, is a round robin of asking the players to come up with a reason why and how their best skill somehow contributes to the situation at hand.

Now I know a lot more ink has been spilled on the SC concept since 2008, and many people apparently had some kind of intuitive grasp of how to make it not feel like we're stopping everything to engage with it, but first impressions matter, and mine was just terrible on this. Even with the evolution of thought on the subject I just don't see any advantage skill challenges have over free roleplay, at least none that I care about.

Obviously they do work for a lot of folks even today, so please understand I'm not disparaging 4e or its fans.
You know what, I believe you are 100% right. They are very narrative and they are very gamist.

I think that they are meant to frame a scene in a cinematic way to put the spotlight on the characters and make them shine. When setting a Skill Challenge, I think that the setting and objective must be very clear, what is at stakes. And what I like to do is to clearly expose each success and failure on the table for each player to see, it puts the pressure on them. Just like you show the clock to the players in a PbtA. For a Skill Challenge to work, everybody around the table must me on the same page, or it will feel forced.

It’s definetly not for everybody and I will never tell someone that he is wrong for not liking them. And I don’t think they would work well in a more simulasionist setting, it would feel weird… I don’t think I would ever run one in a 2e game for exemple. Good thing about Skill Challenge though is that I never thought they were necessary to run in a 4e game. It actually took a long while before I finally ran my first Skill Challenge. They are not necessary, just one more tool to put in my DM toolbox.
 

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