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How I'll fix skill challenges

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
Thanks to Stalker0's comprehensive analysis, everyone should by now be aware that the chance for a normal party to succeed at a moderate skill challenge is pretty low (7% or so).

Personally I've played through 3 skill challenges, succeeded at one (lucky us!) and failed at the other two. I found them entertaining and engaging, and not knowing the numbers (by having such a small sample) meant that the slim chance of success didn't really mean much to us.

That said, I daresay that if we fail 15 skill challenges in a row (which is pretty likely), that the shine will rub off and skill challenges will gradually cease being entertaining.

So - obviously some changes need to be made, and this is the thread to posit those changes. For the sake of easy reading, I'll set us up with a sort of template:

Goals
I expect to get the following out of a skill challenge:
1) An easy way to resolve a scene that I have not planned out in minute detail
2) An enjoyable experience that is different from combat
3) A reasonable base chance of success (~30%) for a party that is not totally incompetent at the task presented - most members have at least one trained skill and small stat bonuses that can be applied to the task.
4) A bad base chance of success (~10%) for a party that is totally incompetent at the task presented - no party members have trained skills in anything even slightly appropriate. An example would be trying to engage in negotiations when no party member has a social skill.
5) A good base chance of success (~70+%) for a party that is entirely competent - has trained skills, moderate to high stat bonuses, skill focus, racial bonuses and the like.
6) Involves the entire party - it should be rare that a party member cannot contribute at all, or feels like his contribution will be counterproductive.
7) Encourages narrative input - there is a benefit to describing your argument, having a clever plan, and basically doing more than just saying "I roll diplomacy, 20".
8) Has a definite resolution

Also for the record, I see a skill challenge as being equivalent in risk and benefit to "kill the equal-level monster before he uses up all his special ammunition" rather than "survive the fight with the high level solo", and defined chances of success accordingly. TPK skill challenges are totally off the table

Changes made
I'm going to alter the current system in the following ways
1) There will be no automatic failures. For a start they're not supported by the text anyway, only in an example. Furthermore they run highly counter to 6 and 7 by making an unusual choice highly counterproductive, and have a massive impact on the possibility that a party can succeed at a challenge.

2) Hard DCs will only be passed out for uses of skills that are highly inappropriate. ie - intimidating the duke with blunt threats upon his person (as opposed to "any use of intimidate"). Typically it should be obvious to a player that if he pursues such a course, that there will be penalties, and furthermore it should be possible for him to think up a better use of the same skill.

3) Skills uses that are completely not applicable will have no impact upon the task.

4) The DMs friend will be applied liberally. +2s are handed out for a good description, while a -2 is reserved for basically no effort. That means that trying to intimidate the duke with personal threats might only actually be at +3 to the base DC if you provide a particularly good description of the presentation of the threat.

5) Aid another will not generally be allowed.

6) +2/-2 bonuses gained via skills will exist, and will apply any time the player's action couldn't reasonably have an immediate effect.

7) +2/-2 bonuses will not be used up if an action couldn't logically benefit from the action that produced them.

8) If multiple +2/-2 bonuses might apply to a check, add them together.

9) Easy DCs will be passed out for specific actions pre-written into the encounter, and will often be unlocked by the use of a specific skill, much the way some of them are now.

10) I'm going to scrap every entry of the table, and the +5 for using a skill. According to the numbers I've run, 10/15/20 as DCs at first level fits the curve I want pretty well. Yes, it is possible that Skilly McSkill can get his mods high enough that he can automatically succeed, but he can only do so for one skill, and chances are only one party member will do it. If the entire party are, say, +15 to diplomacy, then equal-level negotations are going to be (extremely) easy for them. I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing - diplomacy will become a focus of the game, and therefore they'll be more likely to take on a higher-level skill challenge. As for how those DCs increase? I think something slightly above +1/2 levels is probably appropriate. I'll have to work out exactly what I expect.
 

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