D&D 5E Is there any 5e love for skill challenges??

Shiroiken

Legend
That's quite the opposite of my experience - giving the "less social" player a mechanical element to work with pulled them in far more than asking them to improvise. Probably depends on the player.
Depends on the DM. My first 4E DM assumed that players had to explain what they were doing, not just rolling dice. Even experienced role-players had a hard time coming up with arguments for our 4th and 5th checks. Less social players had a hard time coming up with one.

I did play in a different group that just rolled out skill challenges. For a Watcher this might have been good, but as a Roleplayer, it was totally disconnected with anything going on in the game. We just rolled dice and the DM told us if we passed or failed, and the consequences. Innovation and RP was strictly discouraged, especially when it broke the skill challenge (such as when I figured out a riddle long before we succeeded in the skill challenge to solve it).
 

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Shiroiken

Legend
That is too bad for you and not my experience. Of course I tended to run in combat skill challenges. Did you ever run an in combat skill challenge?
Not with my regular group, but during a couple of Encounters games. They were pretty bad too. Had one that needed multiple people to solve ("two DIFFERENT characters must succeed") when I was the only one trying to solve the puzzle while the group protected me, and there was no clue that any help was actually required. Another assumed we would split the party, with half solving the puzzle and half fighting the immortal guy that came back to life each round (regeneration until the puzzle was solved); we found it an easy fight if we just pounded him to death, then left one character to keep him down.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I use the concept of skill challenges all the time. I don't use anything even remotely close to the 4e rules. But the concept of a skill challenge is great.

The first change is that "skill" challenge is overly confining. It's taking action, but that action could be a skill/ability check, but it could be using up a limited resource like an appropriate spell or magic item, or whatever.

I do allow people as their action to intervene to minimize failed actions just as much as I allow them to help them to succeed in the first place.

Also, not all successes or failures are even. Clever ideas might count as several successes, while some tangential things might just make future checks easier.

Finally, not everyone needs to be involved - but often my failure conditions are more about time spent to get enough successes and failures just introduce complications. So not helping may leave them short.

Let me give two examples of ones I've run:

After defeating the Frost Giant sorceress Queen and her brutal semi-vampiric Frost Giant King, the Ice Castle the battle took place in started to immediately collapse. While fighting them the party had blocked the doros they used to enter because hordes of frost giant zombies were trying to get in.

So we have an escape from the collapsing castle, needed to be done in a short time for everyone, with frost giant zombies adding additional complications besides having to find a new route out from the very center of the castle.

The final bit of that ended up with several people sledding down ice stairs on a large magical shield and finally battering into a set of doors that lead out. Unfortunately they were more focused on getting out as fast as possible and the zombies, the the fact that they burst through to a several-story-tall balcony was not their happiest moment. And the rest of the team was attempting to follow behind them and escape from the frost giant zombies that the lead team sledded past.

As you can image, this was spells, checks, breaking into two groups unexpectedly, and working out the sledding on the shield thing. And it was multiple rounds of quickly changing circumstances for each. But also if they delayed too much (took too many rounds) it would have collapsed on their heads.

An alternate one had to do with finding their way through a huge maze. Mapping it out and running through the whole thing would have been a waste of sessin time, turning half an hour of play into multiple sessions and killing pacing. This was spells, checks, but also just tactics & strategies they would use. (For example, I knew the standard "left hand rule" or "right hand rule" would lead them into unpleasant encounters but would get them out eventually.) The end results would determine how long it took and how many hazards of the maze they would run across.

No one had to participate and people could help multiple ways, but there was no feedback at that point. But failures and lack of successes both led to more time and more hazards. On the other hand, tactics needed to be evaluated (and potentially given a check or just a auto-success/failure) on an individual basis.
 


I skipped 4e, so is this just a situation where you have to make a series of skill checks?
The core mechanic is that you had to make a certain number of successes, with different types of skills, before making a certain number of failures. Like, maybe you could make any combination of Diplomacy/Athletics/Riding checks in order to resolve a complex situation, and you needed to get five successes on those checks before getting three failures.

There might be more to it than that; I was never entirely clear on the specifics. There seems to be some disagreement in this thread about what constitutes a modified skill challenge, and what isn't even a skill challenge at all.
 

Uchawi

First Post
I am not a DM in 5E, but I have been a DM in 4E for a while. I definitely think they will be useful. Overall, a good skill challenge will never be known by the players. So based on the players and game pacing, don't throw a bunch of rolls at a casual group. Spread it out.
 

MarkB

Legend
I ran and played in a lot of the 4e Living campaigns, and while we tended to muddle through the skill challenges okay, I think there was only one adventure in all of those I played and ran which managed to make a skill challenge feel organic, rewarding and interesting for the whole party.

Generally speaking, they all tended to run into the same stumbling blocks - either a player would come up with an innovative solution or a clever usage of a character ability that should have greatly advanced the party's success or even outright solved the situation, but was constrained to just being another tick in the 'success' column, or a player would be unable to come up with a way to apply their better skills to the problem, and would feel wretched because they knew they stood a good chance of doing more harm than good just by participating.

Now, good DMing could readily solve either of those issues, but more often than not the DMs felt constrained to play strictly within the terms of the skill challenge mechanic - especially in organised-play games.

Ultimately, where the skill challenge mechanic breaks down is that it stems from an assumption that any single use of a skill check by any character - even across a wide variety of characters and skills - has a specific and equivalent 'value' in resolving a particular situation. It's essentially treating individual skill checks as being equivalent to individual attacks in a combat, and that's not a sustainable model when applied to a more open-ended situation.

Framing a situation as a challenge in which skills may be applied in order to progress is a reasonably good way of presenting the players with a problem to solve. Formalising it with overly-specific rules and conditions can tend to be counter-productive.
 

dave2008

Legend
Not with my regular group, but during a couple of Encounters games. They were pretty bad too. Had one that needed multiple people to solve ("two DIFFERENT characters must succeed") when I was the only one trying to solve the puzzle while the group protected me, and there was no clue that any help was actually required. Another assumed we would split the party, with half solving the puzzle and half fighting the immortal guy that came back to life each round (regeneration until the puzzle was solved); we found it an easy fight if we just pounded him to death, then left one character to keep him down.

wow, those are some really bad using of skills, they don't even should like skill challenges to me.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
I ran and played in a lot of the 4e Living campaigns, and while we tended to muddle through the skill challenges okay, I think there was only one adventure in all of those I played and ran which managed to make a skill challenge feel organic, rewarding and interesting for the whole party.

Generally speaking, they all tended to run into the same stumbling blocks - either a player would come up with an innovative solution or a clever usage of a character ability that should have greatly advanced the party's success or even outright solved the situation, but was constrained to just being another tick in the 'success' column, or a player would be unable to come up with a way to apply their better skills to the problem, and would feel wretched because they knew they stood a good chance of doing more harm than good just by participating.

Now, good DMing could readily solve either of those issues, but more often than not the DMs felt constrained to play strictly within the terms of the skill challenge mechanic - especially in organised-play games.

Ultimately, where the skill challenge mechanic breaks down is that it stems from an assumption that any single use of a skill check by any character - even across a wide variety of characters and skills - has a specific and equivalent 'value' in resolving a particular situation. It's essentially treating individual skill checks as being equivalent to individual attacks in a combat, and that's not a sustainable model when applied to a more open-ended situation.

Framing a situation as a challenge in which skills may be applied in order to progress is a reasonably good way of presenting the players with a problem to solve. Formalising it with overly-specific rules and conditions can tend to be counter-productive.

ICRPG by Runehammer (Hankerin) has what is called effort. Essentially all tasks have Hit Points so to speak. It would be a little bit of brain work but. AC are to DC as HP are to Effort. You could even give the Effort the equivalent of resistance or vulnerability or add proficiency or ability bonuses to Effort.

I don't know. This has been percolating in my mind for a while. It's late and I like it but I haven't tried it in a game. Truth be told the players would probably not see it and it would just be a placeholder for what some DMs do naturally.
 

5ekyu

Hero
I skipped 4e, so is this just a situation where you have to make a series of skill checks?

it CAN be but...

it may involve a narrative description of an event at each check
it may involve a series of choices as well at each check
etc...

depends on the Gm and the circumstance

i saw one youtube blather going on about how goo it was and starting with a long dramatic reading and then turned it into skill checks but... by the time it came down to it it seemed to be "you guys roll some dice and i will tell you some stuff - without much in the way of actual player decisions. just more opportunities for players to roll dice and Gm to talk a lot.

With mine currently, its a three wins dance (three successes wins, three failure loses - which gets first) with the added wrinkle that a given approach/skill is disadvantaged after it gets a fail so the player(s) need to change tactics after each "dead end".

Lore check - do i know anything about this - yes
lore check 2 do i know more about this fail - no
hmmm... switch to talking expert i found out in #1 into telling me about it - persuasion
does he know more - fail
hmmm... use investigate to track down rare tomes in ...
etc
etc
etc
 


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