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D&D 4E D&D 4e Dungeon Crawl as a skill Challenge

cavalier973

Adventurer
I am pretty sure this topic has already been covered at some point in the ancient past, but how would one use the 4th edition skill challenge rules to mimic a dungeon crawl for a group of players?

Does one use a map, or something more like a flow chart, and only bring the map out for fights?

Does a fight happen after each failure, or only at the end of three failures? Or, does a failure split the party by dumping half of them down a pit trap to a lower dungeon level?

Any other ideas?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
First, use the skill challenges rules in the Rules Compendium and no others. In fact, forget the others even exist.

Second, make a list of dungeon crawl tropes equal to the number of successes required plus 2. These are the challenges you present to the players for their characters to overcome in initiative order. (That's mostly a spotlight control thing, but the rules work better when the PCs are in initiative.) Make sure your Primary and Secondary Skills list is on point. The DCs for those checks are right in the book.

If the skill challenge is Complexity 3 or higher, you must use Advantages. Pick from the available list and layer on some kind of dungeon crawl trope and assign a price for it. For example, if the Advantage is "a success against a hard DC removes a failure that has already been accumulated in the challenge, instead of counting as a success," then that can be called "Coin-Operated Secret Door." Because it's being done in the face of some complication you're already presenting (which is still unresolved since this does not count as a success), charge some gold or something for the benefit. Basic idea is that if you want an Advantage, you gotta pay. (And they will, particularly in higher Complexity challenges because the math is very much against the PCs succeeding.)

You could do each failure means a fight, but frankly, that's going to depend on your group. My group would want the fight because D&D 4e combat is fun and monsters are worth XP and they might have treasure on them. If that's the same for your group, you'll want to come up with something else in terms of cost. The overall context in which you are placing this skill challenge should inform your decision.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think you give each failure a consequence based on the skill being attempted, that follows from the already established fiction.

So a stealth or perception check is likely to lead to a fight if it fails, but a failed thievery check is more likely to lead to something like a pit trap splitting the party.

I would also say that there is no distinct failure state in this case, or doesn't need to be. 3 failures doesn't have to mean anything except what each failure means, because it's an evolving situation. However, it does make sense to have failure milestones past which certain things happen outside of the immediate space of the PCs, that complicate things for them as they progress. The BBEG finds out they're coming, the balrog is awakened by the sounds of battle, the trap architecture of the complex begins to fail from stress and parts of the dungeon are flooded, or become structurally unsound leading to bigger consequences to future failures, etc.

You can also have mercy milestones in place, or give the PCs milestone coins they can use to call in a positive complication that helps them in some way, from finding a hidden room with a pool of healing water where they can rest, to an ally having been captured by the enemies they just dispatched and has some useful information and can fight beside them with a little healing, etc.

Generally, you'll want these PC suggestions to be vague, and you might want to write out examples on cards to form a small deck, and they can't use the same card again until the whole deck has been used.
 

Randomthoughts

Adventurer
I am pretty sure this topic has already been covered at some point in the ancient past, but how would one use the 4th edition skill challenge rules to mimic a dungeon crawl for a group of players?

Does one use a map, or something more like a flow chart, and only bring the map out for fights?

Does a fight happen after each failure, or only at the end of three failures? Or, does a failure split the party by dumping half of them down a pit trap to a lower dungeon level?

Any other ideas?
I've used a "hand-drawn" map, not in scale, to show some key areas, like entrance, a few rooms and the main room with the BBEG. I made battlemaps for each of those areas and used Skill Challenges to "connect" the rooms or help in navigation. I really liked this approach since I avoided mapping out the entire dungeon square-by-square.

First, use the skill challenges rules in the Rules Compendium and no others. In fact, forget the others even exist.

Second, make a list of dungeon crawl tropes equal to the number of successes required plus 2. These are the challenges you present to the players for their characters to overcome in initiative order. (That's mostly a spotlight control thing, but the rules work better when the PCs are in initiative.) Make sure your Primary and Secondary Skills list is on point. The DCs for those checks are right in the book.

If the skill challenge is Complexity 3 or higher, you must use Advantages. Pick from the available list and layer on some kind of dungeon crawl trope and assign a price for it. For example, if the Advantage is "a success against a hard DC removes a failure that has already been accumulated in the challenge, instead of counting as a success," then that can be called "Coin-Operated Secret Door." Because it's being done in the face of some complication you're already presenting (which is still unresolved since this does not count as a success), charge some gold or something for the benefit. Basic idea is that if you want an Advantage, you gotta pay. (And they will, particularly in higher Complexity challenges because the math is very much against the PCs succeeding.)

You could do each failure means a fight, but frankly, that's going to depend on your group. My group would want the fight because D&D 4e combat is fun and monsters are worth XP and they might have treasure on them. If that's the same for your group, you'll want to come up with something else in terms of cost. The overall context in which you are placing this skill challenge should inform your decision.
This is how I ran mine, with slight modifications. The RC version of SC is key b/c of Advantages (tho the DM Kit may have them too). I sometimes used a large SC for the entire dungeon (which I describe more below) or a lower complexity SC if players go one way and a separate SC if they go the other way.

I used a single SC for the entire dungeon a lot. When designing the SC, one of the things you have to decide (either in prep or during the game) is what happens with a complete failure (3 failures). In the spirit of "fall forward", do the PCs confront the BBEG but at significant disadvantage? Or do they get hopelessly lost and end up outside of the dungeon?

Say you decide that you want the final result to end with a confrontation with the big bad. With that in mind, I often arranged levels of success like this:
Complete Failure: 3 failures, no successes
Partial Failure: 3 failures, some successes
Partial Success: some failures, success (rolled successfully the # of times you needed to. Like above, sometimes I separated out # of failures)
Complete Success: no failures, success

I would note what a Complete Failure could look like e.g., PCs confront BBEG at a significant disadvantage (say they fell in some trap and the BBEG ambushed them). Note that Complete Failures are usually VERY rare, as are Complete Successes (depending on Complexity).

I winged a lot of it but I often wrote down triggers for reminders:
Result on a Success: I often wrote triggers like after 3 successes they went to the Trap Room but with some benefit and treasure, at 7 successes they went to the Treasure Room, etc.. Successes can also give you a bonus to a roll or open up a new avenue of exploring (mechanically, opens up a new skill that can be used).
Result on a Failure: Sometimes, it triggered an encounter, but I usually didn't do that for the first failure. I usually used a penalty for next roll or lose a HS. Second failure is usually an encounter. The third either is a really bad encounter or the BBEG but at significant disadvantage.

I started using this model after getting Dungeon Delves. A typical delve has 3 encounters. I extended that by "connecting" each room with a skill challenge.
 



cavalier973

Adventurer
I agree with the others that the failures shouldn't lead to combat encounters. 4e doesn't do "time-wasting" encounters very well. So random encounters are just something I'd avoid.
I'd consider having the cost of failures take away Healing Surges or other resources.
Would you describe, maybe, a skirmish between the PCs and a small group of monsters, and deduct a healing surge or two from each character?

What about bargaining with the players? “If each of you is willing to lose two more surges, then none of the monsters in the skirmish get away to warn the goblin chief. Otherwise, he will be ready for the PCs.”
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
I am currently semi-prepping an adventure that consists of a series of skill challenges. The PCs will need to get to the Witchlight Fens from Harkenwold. They can either take the King’s Road (the safer way) or ride a boat down the White River (the faster way). They may also have the option to trek through the Harken Forest (no advantage that I can think of, yet. This may only be an option if they get tricked by a spy for the Iron Circle. I am setting this little adventure up for eventually running “The Reavers of Harkenwold”. The Iron Circle Spy wants to get the heroes out of the way so they can begin to invade the barony with the least amount of resistance.)
 

Quickleaf

Legend
So, I actually designed a sort of mashup between a skill challenge and a dungeon using the old Dragon Mountain adventure. Basically I compressed all that usually uninteresting exploration of halls/empty rooms into a skill challenge full of random tables, and then focused on only a few of the rooms as "points of interest" to be played out. Might serve as inspiration for your own efforts. Download is over here: D&D 4E - Dragon Mountain (4e conversion - complete!)
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
So, I actually designed a sort of mashup between a skill challenge and a dungeon using the old Dragon Mountain adventure. Basically I compressed all that usually uninteresting exploration of halls/empty rooms into a skill challenge full of random tables, and then focused on only a few of the rooms as "points of interest" to be played out. Might serve as inspiration for your own efforts. Download is over here: D&D 4E - Dragon Mountain (4e conversion - complete!)
Excellent! Downloadable, even!

The original (2e) is available on dmsguild, I see
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I agree with the others that the failures shouldn't lead to combat encounters. 4e doesn't do "time-wasting" encounters very well. So random encounters are just something I'd avoid.
I'd consider having the cost of failures take away Healing Surges or other resources.
I think it's fine to use combat encounters as long as you cannot take a short rest between them. Perhaps you can choose to increase the DC of a check in order to still make the check and get a rest, but that risks another resource draining obstacle. And I wouldn't make them fights that will last long, make them glass cannon fights that hit hard by where team monster has small HP numbers.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
I think it's fine to use combat encounters as long as you cannot take a short rest between them. Perhaps you can choose to increase the DC of a check in order to still make the check and get a rest, but that risks another resource draining obstacle. And I wouldn't make them fights that will last long, make them glass cannon fights that hit hard by where team monster has small HP numbers.
The combat encounters would be minion only fights, or maybe minions and one brute, or something.
 


vagabundo

Adventurer
I had good success using Obsidian skill challenge system. Also I found that players choosing just from a menu of skills dont really add anything interesting. Could be my group just didn't get skill challenges.

I might try a scene framing one and pick skills depending on their narrative choices. Its hard to square sometimes how successes connect with each other to solve the problem in a satisfying way.

On the dungeon keeping it short and sweet, combining smaller encounters and areas into a single 4e encounter seems to work better. The challenge I find is translating that to a satisfying way at the table so it gets the sweet spot between gamist and narravitist.
 

pemerton

Legend
I am pretty sure this topic has already been covered at some point in the ancient past, but how would one use the 4th edition skill challenge rules to mimic a dungeon crawl for a group of players?

Does one use a map, or something more like a flow chart, and only bring the map out for fights?

Does a fight happen after each failure, or only at the end of three failures? Or, does a failure split the party by dumping half of them down a pit trap to a lower dungeon level?

Any other ideas?
I did it a bit differently from what you're describing. Examples here, here and here. Overall, a bit less structured than you're canvassing, and using the "map", where there is one, simply as an aid to narration but not really as a constraint on success or failure.
 
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