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D&D General Level Independent Challenges

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
What are some challenges that can be presented in adventures that are "level independent" -- that is, not a function of hitting a certain DC, doing a certain amount of damage, or having just the right level gated ability.

The first one that comes to mind is the classic puzzle -- whether it is a riddle or the old chessboard-movement puzzle, or anything along those lines. Some players, however, DO NOT like puzzles. I once had a player balk at solving an easy sudoku as a stand in for shutting down a nuclear reactor in a Mutant Future game.

Another sort of level independent challenge might be trying to convince an NPC to help you by doing things that tick off some "help you" clock. The Duke would love to help you but can't do anything until he has evidence against his rival in hand, etc...

What other sorts of level independent challenges are there?
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
What are some challenges that can be presented in adventures that are "level independent" -- that is, not a function of hitting a certain DC, doing a certain amount of damage, or having just the right level gated ability.

The first one that comes to mind is the classic puzzle -- whether it is a riddle or the old chessboard-movement puzzle, or anything along those lines. Some players, however, DO NOT like puzzles. I once had a player balk at solving an easy sudoku as a stand in for shutting down a nuclear reactor in a Mutant Future game.

Another sort of level independent challenge might be trying to convince an NPC to help you by doing things that tick off some "help you" clock. The Duke would love to help you but can't do anything until he has evidence against his rival in hand, etc...

What other sorts of level independent challenges are there?
One of my DMs once had a skeleton challenge the party to a dance off. The DM gave us the option to either resolve it as a series of checks, or to have an actual dance off between the DM and one of the players. One of the guys opted to have an actual dance off.

That same DM came up with a mini game where each player created a thematic team of animals (felines, avians, etc) and each team was trying to obtain some McGuffin in this game and get it to the goal. I don't remember the particulars beyond that.

Years ago, I had an NPC challenge the party to a match in a fighting video game. We resolved it by actually playing that fighting game IRL. Admittedly, that really only happened because I was obsessed with that game at the time.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Ultimate game of russian roulette. You bring a person to 0 hp, and they start rolling death saves. If they stabilize, they move on to the next round, they die....well they lose!

As death saves are level independent, you have yourself a deadly challenge for 1st to 20th level characters alike!
 

Celebrim

Legend
Somewhat related to topic.

 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
A delicate glass sphere containing a useful key, floating in the middle of a pit full of deadly acid, deep and with sheer walls.

Higher level PCs likely have more magic and tools to help them retrieve the key without breaking the sphere and losing it in the acid, but it's not strictly level dependent.

An Immovable Rod holds up tons of rock, a ceiling on the verge of collapse, which will clearly kill anyone under it if/when it does. You can leave the rod alone and get safely through the room.

Many players will be intrigued by and scheme how to get the rod.

More ideas:
 


Celebrim

Legend
Basically, any contest you run as purely one of player skill is level independent (or as I've called it in the past, level invariant).

The big trouble is that very few contests you are going to think of are actually independent of character resources. Puzzles in which you ask the player to solve the puzzle are going to be the closest, but be prepared at high level for the player character to just summon a Planetar or other super-genius being and negotiate with an outsider to solve the puzzle on their behalf. So unless you are dealing with something like "A Chess Game with Death" where there is an arbiter that would consider that cheating, even that probably isn't level invariant.

Social challenges run into the problem that not only are high level players more likely to have super charismatic abilities either through high skill or magical enhancement, but that problems of figuring out what the characters levers are also amendable to using high skill or magical resources in the investigation phase. At low levels it's a reasonable challenge to convince 5 of out of 9 town burgomasters to support you in something. At higher levels, it might be a reasonable challenge to convince 5 out of 9 deities to support you in something. So while the design might be ultimately the same, the difficulties of the tasks involved won't be.
 

Shiroiken

Legend
There were a ton of level independent challenges in AD&D and OD&D, since there weren't any skill checks to resolve a lot of issues (although 2E tried). These all were designed to challenge the players, not necessarily the characters, as they tried to solve issues with what they have.

Riddles are the classic level independent challenge, because it's pretty much you know it or you don't. However, because of this most players hate them with the fiery passion of a thousand suns.
 

Dross

Explorer
I agree with what Celebrim wrote, unless you challenge the players it would be hard to have a level independent task.

Otherwise players will be...
Riddles: do I know anything about the subject matter (Knowledge)?
Convince someone of helping (persuasion/deception/intimidation).
Etc.

Maybe one way is using a bit of information/an item that will automatically produce only one outcome?
 

jgsugden

Legend
Negotiations, puzzles, riddles and mysteries all sound level independent - but higher level PCs have access to magics that make these things simplistic. To that end, I suggest not worrying about level relevance too much for anything except combat statistics, and even then - realize that there is a lot of wiggle room. EIther nothing is truly level indpenedent because high level magics make it too easy to 'cheat', or everything is not level dependent enough because a resourceful low level party can sometimes surprise you and find a way to concquer high level challenges.
 

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