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Seeking Ideas for a Skill Challenge

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
So my tabletop group is in dire need of an extended rest. The problem is: they're currently in the dungeon beneath Ptolus without being able to secure a good resting place.

I'm looking for a way to give them at least a chance for a successfull rest and on the other hand make it more fun than just saying "OK, you're back to full strenght again!"

I'm currently considering using a skill challenge for this purpose and looking for ideas how to handle it.

Stuff like several Dungeoneering checks are of course needed in order to find a good place to rest. But what about the characters on watch? Perception for advance warning is easy, but how to follow up on the information? Bluff to have creatures pass by?

Seems like I'm only at the beginning and need your help! :hmm:
 

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I woudl recommend using a scale of successes and have three phases to the skill challenge:

Phase 1: determine a good location for holding up. Dungeneering and monster knowledge checks involved here to find an out-of the way and defendable position

Phase 2: Prepare the position. Again, monster knowledge and inventiveness. Take actions like 'take a dead body from our last encounter and drag it down this corridor so it will attract attention', erasing tracks, disguising the location, etc.. This can include setting a non-smoking fire.

At this point you have a scale of how successful they are. The better they score, the fewer 'random' encounters. Phase 1 successes lower the number/chance of a random encounter. Phase 2 successes increases the distance and decreases the chance that the monster passing by will notice the party.

Phase 3: distracting or engaging with random encounters. Most of these should be one or two critters unless a group of intelligent beings are hunting the party. The character on watch can attempt to bluff/distract the monsters and have them not notice the group. Or they can engage the monsters with a fast ambush {skill challenge replacing combat, success kills the critter, failure injures the critter and normal combat begins}, or wake the party and go all out.

Keep in mind, the dungeon should be a living place. Time passes and more than likely the trail of destruction the PCs caused will be noticed by intelligent life-forms.. which might turn into hunting parties, stiffer defenses, blockades.. maybe the party won't be able to go back! Maybe a scout from below saw their handywork and has gone back to warn everyone.

See link in my sig for better skill challenge guidelines.
 

MoutonRustique

Explorer
To build on what @PrimitiveScrewhead is saying
I woudl recommend using a scale of successes and have three phases to the skill challenge:

Phase 1: determine a good location for holding up. Dungeneering and monster knowledge checks involved here to find an out-of the way and defendable position
Also Stealth to scout ahead or pass a group undetected.

Phase 2: Prepare the position. Again, monster knowledge and inventiveness. Take actions like 'take a dead body from our last encounter and drag it down this corridor so it will attract attention', erasing tracks, disguising the location, etc.. This can include setting a non-smoking fire.
Nothing much to add - only to be liberal in the interpretation of some utility powers (or even combat powers).

At this point you have a scale of how successful they are. The better they score, the fewer 'random' encounters. Phase 1 successes lower the number/chance of a random encounter. Phase 2 successes increases the distance and decreases the chance that the monster passing by will notice the party.
I'm not sure I'd use this approach - but I'd sell it like this is what is happening. Personnaly (and it might actually amount to the same thing...) I'd lower the DCs and the number of foes/environmental damage incurred on a failure during phase 3.

Phase 3: distracting or engaging with random encounters. Most of these should be one or two critters unless a group of intelligent beings are hunting the party. The character on watch can attempt to bluff/distract the monsters and have them not notice the group. Or they can engage the monsters with a fast ambush {skill challenge replacing combat, success kills the critter, failure injures the critter and normal combat begins}, or wake the party and go all out.
I'd like to add that environmental effects should also be taken into account and, depending on your overall approach, might even be easier to use.

With regards to these situations, you have 3 main approaches I've seen work :
1 - a fairly defined (but adaptable) series of situations which are handled through description and adjudicated through rolls (if they are felt to be required/of use). Each step is "complete" on its own and leads into the other. I believe this is what @PrimitiveScrewhead is proposing.

2 - decide the rolls required, have the players roll what they what and then narrate the results to match the results and the intent of the PCs' actions. (This can be "boring" if the group doesn't narrate as a group - but it can also be a cool mini-game to build a story out of the given results.)

3 - a "disembodied" approach where the players have or make-up minimal information required to pass from each segment to the next with everything remaining sort of "in-flux" until the final tally is made and then the story is sort of partially retroactively defined to fit the actions and results.

If you have a group that can appreciate (2), it can be a great deal of fun and the mechanics can be handled really fast (players roll however many checks are required quickly, save them up and the "use them" as the story unfolds.) But for this approach to be fun, it requires a great deal of buy-in and the right mindset.

(3) is my goto method when I'm improvising since I don't need a plan as solid as (1). If you're using this method, you could be upfront with your players and say that they need :
  • to find a safe spot, maybe some fresh water, and have it be warm.
  • There are creatures they could encounter, some of them are intelligent while others are of animal intelligence.
  • They should also take note that there are hazards in these places that might not be immediately manifest such as fumes from fissures, unstable ceilings, poisonous moss or fungi (contact/airborne poison)
  • Once they find a place to rest, they'll possibly need to deal with creatures by intimidating them or luring them away from the campsite - only the character(s) on watch will be allow to do this w/o reducing the benefits of the rest.
The players then decide how they go about dealing with the elements put forth.

In this kind of approach, it feels more organic if there are levels of success - I'd go with something along the lines of : for each failure, the characters regain 2 HS less and one daily than they otherwise could (this could mean that they end up fully "recharged" if they were not completely drained before resting - which I think is fine.)
 

Lichemaster

Explorer
Simple have the group roll initiative.
Roll any die you choose, even roll go clockwise, odd roll counter clockwise.
Start at highest initiative and go in the order you rolled.
Let the group tell a story with each skill used.
Happy with the story add up to +5 (I use insight to figure out which hallway should connect with hallways your group has gone down) or minus 5 (I use insight as echo knowledge to scream down the hallways)
Once the first person goes help them, once they are done get up fromthe table and go to the wash room, but listen to them talking, see how excited they are about it

No character can ever use the same skill as they used before.
No one can use the skill that the last 2 people used.
5 players, they need 10 successes and 5 failures.

Have fun with it.

Sorry for punctuation and grammar, I post at work on the line
 

Balesir

Adventurer
Firstly I would decide and announce the stakes; I have used extended rest mechanics where players need to roll X+ on a d6 for each daily power, healing surge (take average numbers for most of these if you want) and magic item uses. This can work with a skill challenge if you say that they automatically find a place to rest, but must roll 3+ (increased by 1 for each failure in the SC) for each daily recharge.

Next, ask what they are looking for exactly, and where. Most skills might plausibly be relevant: Athletics to climb up to/down to or even swim accross to a safe haven, Acrobatics to squeeze through the entrance, Monster Knowledge to check what if any creatures live/patrol/hunt here, History if the dungeon had a "civilised" period in its past (like Moria), Intuition to know where others would omit to look, Arcana to divine a hidden cell or fresh water, Religion to read omens and signs, the list might never end.

One thing I am experimenting with you might try: instead of having "hard" skill checks baked in, have a number of "tokens" that you as GM spend for the "opposition" to a skill challenge. Spending a token can increase a DC difficulty from moderate to hard (or easy to moderate), remove a success or direct a test (skill check) at a specific character (who might not be the one ideally suited to make it). Describe the effects of the tokens in game terms - e.g. from the actions of a hostile creature or the reactions of an NPC in a social challenge. The "advantages" spoken about in the RC could be handled a similar way, but with the players getting the 'tokens'.

For tasks most or all characters need to do, I use this simple guide:

- A basic task involves one PC rolling against a moderate DC
- A "One for All" task involves any who wish to roll for the task doing so, and only the highest counts, needing to beat a hard DC
- An "All for One" task is one every character must roll for, and all must succeed at an easy DC to get a success
- A "Democratic" task is one that all characters must roll for, and a plurality of those rolling must succeed at a moderate DC to get a success

To get a mutable, appropriate skill challenge jsut use these guidelines until the set number of successes or failures are achieved for the level and complexity of challenge you decided upon. The details of the tasks rely on what the players decide the characters will do and how; if you don't think the actions are sensible, use your tokens to make them harder and slow them down; if you think the plan is good, let them make rolls to get advantages that they can use to cancel out failures or make rolls easier, or to jump in to help struggling characters or block the use of tokens on a specific task.

Oh, and I usually let players choose for a character to make a roll that is harder than usual (hard instead of moderate, say) to use aid another at the same task. If they go two grades more difficult (easy to hard in an 'All for One' task, for example) they can use Aid Another to help all the other characters in the task.

I know you asked for specific tasks/skills for your challenge - I'm detailing these guidelines because what I'm suggesting is that you dan't set a specific set of tasks or rolls in advance. Wing it in response to the players' plans, and use the guidelines to make the challenge fair and of the difficulty you have decided it should be.
 

My advice is just going to fall along the lines of my general advice for Skill Challenges.

1) As @Balesir mentioned above, the stakes and player goals need to be made transparent, explicit and agreed upon by the table. For instance, "Brave the dangers of the Ptolus dungeon and locate a bastion to rest and recover." Give them clear information on the fallout of failure. "Further resource depletion, potentially in a spot, but able to continue searching for a locale to rest."

2) Give them the explicit metagame information necessary so they can declare action that interface properly with the mechanical framework. For instance, "Skill Challenge complexity 4: 10 successes before 3 failures, 3 hard DCs required, 4 advantages, 4 secondary skills." I use markers for this so the players have the information they need to play the game portion and so we both know where the conflict currently resides in the dramatic curve. Make sure they know precisely what augmentations that advantages and secondary skills can be used for. This is always consistent at my table so we don't have to worry about canvassing it from conflict to conflict. Use Group Checks as required and step up the DC one higher than what would be used for a single-party check.

3) Use fitting thematic complications to move the fiction along and dynamically change the situation as required but pretty much always charge a healing surge (I do this typically for the entirety of the group - mental/physical fatigue or luck running out) on a failure:

a) Use a geographical obstacle
b) Use a monster/NPC (or more)
c) Use a hazard/trap
d) Hit them with a condition/disease
e) Separate them
f) Put a specific character in a spot such that the focus becomes rescue
g) Present them an opportunity with a clear cost (such as a parlay with an NPC or a dangerous, potentially fruitful route but no turning back)
h) Show them a portent of something ominous and potentially imminent (tracks, slime, expanding fissures, etc)
i) Use the healing surge loss as an open descriptor loss of physical resources that sets them back or makes life more difficult (important gear, rations, ammo, etc)

4) Build upon the fiction that came before and let things snowball, but simultaneously treat each situation as mechanically discrete. Keep the pace quick, the pressure on, and continuously escalate the drama until it achieves its conclusion; safe bastion and ER attained or characters more depleted, likely in a pinch, and still looking for a place to hole up (starting the challenge anew if they wish).
 

Balesir

Adventurer
Actually, [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION]'s reply gives me a better idea for stakes setting than my original one: let the players decide the de-facto complexity.

Start by setting the d6 roll needed to recover surges and daily powers at 7+ (i.e., impossible). Every two successes that the characters earn gets this reduced by 1, so that a princely 12 successes (i.e. a complexity 5 challenge) spent scouting the area, finding a good location, improving and fortifying that location and camoflaging their presence (to give a few example tasks that could make a difference) will get them a "regular" extended rest. A quick scout and site selection (2 successes, with perception plus dungeoneering, maybe), on the other hand, will get them a "rest" that will return 1 in 6 surges spent/lost and give a 1 in 6 shot at recovering each daily power used. Each failure should cost surges, result in minor encounters (low level, but no XP gained as they are part of the skill challenge), exposure to diseases or some other trouble. The challenge is allowed to continue until either the characters find the perfect rest spot (12 successes) or the players give up and either decide to rest in suboptimal conditions or change their plans completely.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Sorry for the silence, I couldn't spend much time on ENWorld this weekend.

Thanks for the cool ideas, they give me a lot to work with. I was thinking along a slightly diferrent line yesterday:

Start out with a Dungeoneering check. Describe a possible resting place according to the result. Beating a Hard DC would mean to find a place pretty much out of the way. If the PCs are satisfied, this is where they rest. Otherwise they can continue searching, but will have an easy encounter on their way. If they search for more cycles, it not only costs them time but the encounters become harder as well.

If they beat the Hard DC, they will only be interrupted by some minor nuisance, say a dungeon denizen which the PC on watch can handle on its own. If the PC isn't realy clever, there will a chance that the others become awake, though. Maybe compare damage dealt with a single blow vs. the sleeping PCs' passive Perception.

I still have to think about it. Again, thanks for your ideas!
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Oh well, here I go and set up a tiered soltution for the characters seeking a decent resting place, working with easy single monsters that the character on watch can defeat on her own hoping to be silent enough not to wake up her comrades, and what do my players do? They grit their teeth, eschew the extended rest and get their behinds whacked by some duergar.

To each his own, I guess...
 

I believe your result comes from the typical player mind-set that encounters are a) dangerous things that the entire group has to be part of and b) not so dangerous that they will lose.

IME, any encounter that doesn't comply with those two concepts has to be clearly communicated multiple times in advance. And in as blunt and obvious way, often OOC, to ensure the players don't miss that *this* encounter is different.

Sorry to hear that your players missed the note and the game didn't go quite as expected.
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
I believe your result comes from the typical player mind-set that encounters are a) dangerous things that the entire group has to be part of and b) not so dangerous that they will lose.

IME, any encounter that doesn't comply with those two concepts has to be clearly communicated multiple times in advance. And in as blunt and obvious way, often OOC, to ensure the players don't miss that *this* encounter is different.
Oh, my players are used to lose encounters and run for their life! :devil:

Sorry to hear that your players missed the note and the game didn't go quite as expected.
Oh, no problem with that. I was still tired when I re-visited this thread and posted my message. Playing til 1:30 am may have some effect on my mental abilities on the next day.
 


So my tabletop group is in dire need of an extended rest. The problem is: they're currently in the dungeon beneath Ptolus without being able to secure a good resting place.

I'm looking for a way to give them at least a chance for a successfull rest and on the other hand make it more fun than just saying "OK, you're back to full strenght again!"

I'm currently considering using a skill challenge for this purpose and looking for ideas how to handle it.

Stuff like several Dungeoneering checks are of course needed in order to find a good place to rest. But what about the characters on watch? Perception for advance warning is easy, but how to follow up on the information? Bluff to have creatures pass by?

Seems like I'm only at the beginning and need your help! :hmm:
I haven't read the rest of the thread yet, trying to just see if something completely off-the-wall manages to bubble up...

I'm having a problem with the scope of this SC, as you were also. Dungeoneering, maybe Stealth, perhaps Endurance, possibly a monster knowledge check or two (nature or arcana usually). The thing is I don't have a PLOT for it. The greater context is the PCs are in a large dungeon complex. Its hard to make the SC really abstract because the dungeon environment is so detailed. Its hard to reframe it to a different scope for the same reason. Hmmmm.

I'm not sure there's really a strong case here for an SC TBH. What happens if the party fails, do they not get any rest? That would leave them in the same situation, the plot hasn't advanced at all. If they succeed then they've got whatever amount of recovery you are allowing for. I guess there can be graded success depending on number of fails. I think honestly I'd just structure this as "make a dungeoneering check to pick the most suitable room" and if they succeed they get N amount of recovery. Then have them make a Stealth check to stay hidden, failure meaning they have to wake up early and move, otherwise they get N amount more recovery, and then finally a nature/arcana check to anticipate the best time and place to rest to avoid the monsters, another N amount of recovery. If they make all the checks they get the full recovery amount, and maybe another bonus. If they fail one or more they obviously get less. Its quick and painless and you can get on with the rest of the adventure. If you wish you could make these all (or some) be group checks. A group check should probably be medium or easy, a single PC doing a check should be hard I think (the best character will do it anyway, but make it medium if you want them to most likely succeed).

That's about all I've got. You could try for a more elaborate challenge but do to the inherent plotlessness of it I don't think it will carry off that well. Its likely to turn into a bunch of repetitions of one or two checks.
 

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