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


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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
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.
Thank you. I am a simulationist (setting more than genre) kind of GM, so the whole of skill challenges rubbed me the wrong way. Same with a lot of other fundamental design aspects of 4e actually. Obviously many others feel differently, and that's great. YMMV.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A fighter with ten hp takes nine damage. He is visibly wounded. Six seconds or less later he second winds and shouts his arm back on. Not a problem. :erm:
Not a problem for some, perhaps, but I wouldn't want this in a game I ran or played.

D&D needs a body-fatigue or wounds-vitality hit point system. Examples like yours are the reason why. :)
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
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.
For me, skill challenges were an interesting idea, though I thought early depictions of them were not very good and the general math structure far more difficult than it should have been. I find they work best for things that have varying degrees of failure/success where the SC doesn't succeed or fail simply based on a race between X successes before Y failures, but each failure might degrade the quality of the final outcome (potentially to the point of being a failure).
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
Thank you. I am a simulationist (setting more than genre) kind of GM, so the whole of skill challenges rubbed me the wrong way. Same with a lot of other fundamental design aspects of 4e actually. Obviously many others feel differently, and that's great. YMMV.
As much as I love 4e and will praise the game every occasion I have, I agree that it was meant to be played in a very specific way and if it’s not what you expect or want, it could leave a bitter taste. For exemple, if I wanted to play a low fantasy gritty game of survival, I would avoid 4e entirely, would probably choose 2e or another system like Trudvang. So I understand why many were pissed off when the game release and suddenly their style of play felt left out, unsupported.

But, if what you are looking for is a high fantasy game of epic proportion told in a cinematic way of super heroics, 4e will deliver! And since I often take my inspiration from movies, comic books and video games, I feel right at home with 4e. It’s one of the only system, in my humble opinion, that allows me to tell this kind of story with a robust combat system to support it.

Play to its strength and it’s one of the best system… if not, well, luckily there is enough choice to hopefully find one to your liking.
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
For me, skill challenges were an interesting idea, though I thought early depictions of them were not very good and the general math structure far more difficult than it should have been. I find they work best for things that have varying degrees of failure/success where the SC doesn't succeed or fail simply based on a race between X successes before Y failures, but each failure might degrade the quality of the final outcome (potentially to the point of being a failure).
Totally agree. Like I said earlier, Skill Challenge as presented in the DMG proves that 4e was rushed in the beginning. The idea is great, execution, not so much.

I also agree that they can work great with varying degree of outcomes. Like I said, I sometime use them to play out a travel from point A to point B and the varying degree of failure will be use to see how much time they spent in the wilderness and the loss of some healing surge that only a good sleep in a bed will bring them back.
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
D&D needs a body-fatigue or wounds-vitality hit point system. Examples like yours are the reason why. :)
Well, to be fair that’s what Healing Surge was representing. Pretty much every healing used a Healing Surge and once you get to zero, you can’t heal anymore. It was the body fatigue, the limit of each adventurers that forced the party to stop to rest. It was the real HP.
 

Pedantic

Legend
Well, to be fair that’s what Healing Surge was representing. Pretty much every healing used a Healing Surge and once you get to zero, you can’t heal anymore. It was the body fatigue, the limit of each adventurers that forced the party to stop to rest. It was the real HP.
I think "Healing Surge" suffered a lot for the name. It reads as "all characters have X healing potions built in" not "all characters have Y capacity to be healed daily." Calling it something like Healing Reserve or Healing Tolerance and separating out the surge value into some other term would have helped.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
As much as I love 4e and will praise the game every occasion I have, I agree that it was meant to be played in a very specific way and if it’s not what you expect or want, it could leave a bitter taste.
The intent that it "be played in a very specific way" - while great for a niche game - doesn't square very well with the big-tent game-for-everyone approach that, 3e notwithstanding, D&D had largely taken up until that point. The people at WotC clearly learned this lesson well, went back to the big-tent model with 5e, and have been rewarded with a very successful ten-year run.
 

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