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Simple Skill Challenge Fix - The 1:1 System

The Hitcher

First Post
Okay, this may not fix the skill challenge maths in as much detail as say, Stalker0's system (http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=229796), but it's a lot simpler:

Simply set the Success/Failure ratio for ALL skill challenges at 1:1. ie. 3 successes before 3 failures, or 5 successes before 5 failures etc. XP rewards should then be set based on the relative DC of the challenge, rather than the Complexity.

Leave all other rules as written in the DMG.

This way, an average skill challenge for reasonably skilled characters will tend to succeed approximately 50% of the time, or about as easily as an average Skill Check.

Higher Complexity ratings will create more complex role-playing scenes, while making very little difference to overall difficulty (which actually seems to be the intent of the rules), while difficulty can easily be managed roll-to-roll by making small adjustments to DC. Enterprising players can also improve their odds dramatically by finding ways to get sundry +2 bonuses, without things getting ridiculously easy.

Having two separately adjustable variables in the system (Complexity and DC) may seem to offer more flexibility, but in the end it tends to create confusion. A similar issue was one of the main reasons that White Wolf updated the central ruleset of their World of Darkness games.
 

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Stalker0

Legend
While obviously I'm a bit biased with all the work I've spent on my other system, I will say for a quick fix this system provides a lot of benefit. Its main advantage is its fairly intolerant of variance. A 3/3 challenge is roughly the same win rate as a 6/6, though the 6/6 is slightly easier.

Its main disadvantage is that assuming 50% for each success, each skill challenge is a coin flip as far as difficulty goes.

If you adjust the individual win rates to 65% each, you'll get that win rate to 82%
 

DSRilk

First Post
This was my first thought when it came to a fix as well -- success / failure pairing and a slight tweaking of DCs. I think it works far better than what's in the DMG (it's certainly more intuitive to me). However, once I read Stalker0's crit, skillful recovery, and stunt system... I found it worth the added bit of complexity. It does make it more dynamic.
 

How about just accumulating successes up to a target, before rolling a fixed number of natural '1's? Complexity means more successes, required, so more rolls to get those successes, so more chances of blowing it by rolling too many '1's.

A single 1 would probably be too few, as those can crop up quite suddenly...
 

The Hitcher

First Post
Stalker0:

Not to dis what you've done (in fact your work inspired the thoughts I'm having on the issue), but I'm definitely a man who prefers simplicity when it will get the job done.

I've been thinking more about the relationship between Skill Checks and Challenges. I'm not sure I agree that we should be aiming for an 80% success rate with skill challenges. I think that an average Challenge, like an average check, SHOULD be a coin toss. That way, the odds can easily be tilted in either direction by enterprising players grabbing +2 bonuses or slight DC adjustments by the DM.

Also, with a slight re-framing of the Complexity rules, my system allows Checks and Challenges to become one and the same thing. A Skill Check is simply a Complexity 1 Skill Challenge (one success before one failure). This is what the new Complexity table would look like:

Complexity 1 - 1 success before 1 failure (aka a Skill Check)
Complexity 2 - 2 successes before 2 failures (or best of 3 Skill Checks)
Complexity 3 - 3 successes before 3 failures (or best of 5 Skill Checks)
Complexity 4 - 4 successes before 4 failures (or best of 7 Skill Checks)
and so on...

This seems rather elegant to me. What do others think?
 

Stalker0

Legend
If you believe that 50% is a good target number, then your system is a wonderfully elegant way to do that, and I hope that anyone else who feels the same will use it.

I will also add that I mentioned in my first post that a 6/6 complexity becomes slightly easier than a 3/3 if your individual rates go up to 55% for example. To the audience though, let me say that the increase is VERY slight (on the order of 2-3%), so its really not that big of a deal.
 

The Hitcher

First Post
Cheers for the kudos. I'm not concerned by a few percentage points here and there, as they can easily be absorbed/ignored during actual play.

I'm curious as to why you chose 80% success as your average benchmark for Challenges?

It seems natural to me that the average success rate for a challenge should be similar to that for a check. It feels odd that more involved and complex tasks should be vastly easier to resolve than simple ones. Sure, a team can often achieve more than the sum of its parts, but that is accounted for by the much-discussed 'Aid Another' action. Setting the mark at 50% would seem to provide more motivation for player creativity in finding optimum solutions that will tip the pendulum in their favour.

Enjoying the discussion.
 

Khuxan

First Post
The Hitcher said:
I'm curious as to why you chose 80% success as your average benchmark for Challenges?

I'm not Stalker0, but skill challenges are just like any other encounter. PCs are about 80% likely to succeed at a combat encounter, why shouldn't they be 80% likely to succeed at an out-of-combat encounter?
 

Plane Sailing

Astral Admin - Mwahahaha!
I mentioned in the first maths thread that this skill challenge approach is there in the granddaddy of skill check rules - those in unearthed arcana

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/buildingCharacters/complexSkillChecks.htm

Their basic complex check was "3 successes before 3 failures", they then had "5 success before 3 failures" and "10 success before 3 failures". They even had a chart!

Code:
[B]Required
Roll   simple  complex(3)  complex(5)  complex(10)[/B]
2      95%      99.88%      99.62%      98.04%
6      75%      89.65%      75.64%      37.07%
11     50%      50%         22.66%       1.93%
16     25%      10.35%       1.29%       0.004%
20      5%       0.12%       0% 	     0%

Their chart illustrated the problems with skewed success/fail ratios right back then, which was interesting.

I had thought that I'd probably go with equal ratios, thus more complex tasks just take longer but have broadly the same difficulty.

Cheers
 

The Hitcher

First Post
Khuxan said:
I'm not Stalker0, but skill challenges are just like any other encounter. PCs are about 80% likely to succeed at a combat encounter, why shouldn't they be 80% likely to succeed at an out-of-combat encounter?

I guess the main reason would be because lives are much less likely to be in danger in a Skill Challenge than in Combat, and failure in the former can still push the story forward. The stakes aren't as high, so a somewhat close contest is needed to build the drama. Players are encouraged to play cleverly, in order to nudge the odds their way. This could be said about the current rules, but they push things to a point where repeated failure will tend to blunt the thrill of occasional success.

I'm from the Blue Mountains too, by the by. Grew up in Katoomba.

Plane Sailing said:
I mentioned in the first maths thread that this skill challenge approach is there in the granddaddy of skill check rules - those in unearthed arcana

I saw that in the original thread. It does make things pretty clear, doesn't it? It's a really bizarre error to make it into the final rules, especially after they made such a fuss about the "robustness" of the system.
 

gonesailing

First Post
I agree with your premise about the target win rate for most Skill Challenges should be lower than Stalker0's 80%. I think I may use your system it is simple and easy to understand, but I do like some of the Bells and Whistles that Stalker0 uses. I guess there no rule against mix-and-match skill systems.
 

David Sid

First Post
The Hitcher said:
Complexity 1 - 1 success before 1 failure (aka a Skill Check)
Complexity 2 - 2 successes before 2 failures (or best of 3 Skill Checks)
Complexity 3 - 3 successes before 3 failures (or best of 5 Skill Checks)
Complexity 4 - 4 successes before 4 failures (or best of 7 Skill Checks)
and so on...

This seems rather elegant to me. What do others think?

I'd rather keep XP correlated with Complexity, but require twice as many successes and failures—2N successes before 2N failures for a Complexity N skill challenge. That way, XP still relates to how much effort is required to complete the challenge, just as it does for minor and major quests.

I like the idea overall, though, with or without that modification. It means that when I (as a DM) use medium skill challenges, I know the party has about a 50% chance of success—ideal for most skill challenges. With easy skill challenges, I know their chance of success is close to 100%—useful for skill challenges where failure has severe or deadly consequences. And with hard skill challenges, I know their chance of success is close to 0%—great for when my players do something ridiculous that I don't want to reject outright. Of course, they can still burn expendable resources (e.g. utility powers) to improve their chances.
 
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77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
So I'm no math wiz, so please correct me if this is wrong:

If each individual check has less than a 50% chance of success, then increasing complexity does increase the overall chance of failing the challenge, even in the 1:1 system, correct?

I'm in the camp that a balanced skill challenge should be roughly a 50% success rate, for two reasons. 1) The consequences for failure are usually much less than the typical combat encounter. I wouldn't want to get a total party wipe 50% of the time, but pissing off the duke or whatever should be a real possibility. 2) I think that if 50% is the mathematical base for "just usin' yer stats," then a clever party will be able to do slightly better through teamwork, creativity, and circumstance bonus. (OTOH if "just usin' yer stats" is yielding a 7.3% win rate, then yeah, I don't hold out much hope for creativity bumping that up over 50%.)

-- 77IM
 

The Hitcher

First Post
David Sid said:
I'd rather keep XP correlated with Complexity, but require twice as many successes and failures—2N successes before 2N failures for a Complexity N skill challenge. That way, XP still relates to how much effort is required to complete the challenge, just as it does for minor and major quests.

Yeah, what constitutes a suitable XP reward is debatable. I'd tend to base XP rewards on how the PCs go about approaching the encounter, rather than giving a set amount based on complexity or DC. But then, I'll probably do the same for combat encounters.

If you're converting challenges from already published rules, I'd probably tend to convert this way:

DMG Complexity 1 > New Complexity 3 (ie. 3 successes before 3 failures)
DMG Complexity 2 > New Complexity 5
DMG Complexity 3 > New Complexity 6
DMG Complexity 4 > New Complexity 8
DMG Complexity 5 > New Complexity 9

You can obviously call the various ratings whatever you like. I like my numbering system because it's the simplest: it is explicitly based on the target successes/failures, and so doesn't require memory of a table or any special cases.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
Supporter
Oh, and here's another idea I had just now, regarding complexity. This makes it so that higher complexity challenges are more challenging (and hence worth more xp -- remember that complexity is equivalent to # of monsters when calculating xp rewards).

Complexity 1: n successes before n failures
Complexity 2: n successes before n-1 failures
Complexity 3: n successes before n * 3/4 failures
Complexity 4: n successes before n * 2/3 failures
Complexity 5: n successes before n/2 failures
Complexity 6: n successes before n/3 failures
Complexity 7: n successes before n/4 failures
Complexity 8: n successes before 2 failures

Round all fractions down. If a challenge qualifies for multiple complexities due to rounding, use the highest. For example, 3 successes before 2 failures could be considered complexity 2, complexity 3, complexity 4, or complexity 8, so consider it complexity 8. This is because allowing too few failures can cause the party to lose the challenge suddenly, which is unfun.

-- 77IM
 
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The Hitcher

First Post
77IM said:
So I'm no math wiz, so please correct me if this is wrong:

If each individual check has less than a 50% chance of success, then increasing complexity does increase the overall chance of failing the challenge, even in the 1:1 system, correct?

This is true of any system that makes use of multiple rolls - a sequence of 'below average' checks will push the odds exponentially lower, just as a sequence of 'above average' checks will push them exponentially higher. Hopefully, a mix of skill levels and some DC adjustments will prevent the numbers going too wildly in either direction, assuming the Challenge is designed at an appropriate level for the party.


77IM said:
Oh, and here's another idea I had just now, regarding complexity. This makes it so that higher complexity challenges are more challenging (and hence worth more xp -- remember that complexity is equivalent to # of monsters when calculating xp rewards).

I wouldn't go with this for the same reasons I don't like the original system - it makes most challenges too hard and more importantly, multiple contributing variables make difficulty nearly impossible to judge on the fly. Only one variable should set the difficulty, and we have that in DC. If you think XP rewards should be relative to difficulty (rather than complexity), then basing them on DC is a better way to go IMHO.
 

Xeviat

Adventurer
Supporter
What if it worked like this:

Complexity 1: 3 successes before 3 failures
Complexity 2: 5 successes before 4 failures
Complexity 3: 7 successes before 5 failures
Complexity 4: 9 successes before 6 failures
Complexity 5: 11 successes before 7 failures

I know next to nothing about statistics, but how does this affect the win percentages?
 

Starfox

Adventurer
While I still prefer a time-limit-system, this is a simple and easy fix. I would, however, add one to the number of allowed failures. That way, lower complexity challenges are actually easier than high-complexity ones, and you give the players slightly more than 50% chance to succeed.

What this does not address is the fact that the best way to progress is not to make wild and crazy stunts, but to carefully and deliberately use Aid Other on the party member with the best chance each round. Or, if that is not allowed, taking a bathroom break if you lack the right skills. That's why I prefer the timed system; with no way to cause your team a setback, everyone can try - there is no penalty for failure. This gets everyone involved.
 
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beepeearr

First Post
Not to be rude, but by looking at some of these ideas about the complexity issue, it might be important to remember what the complexity is supposed to represent as far encounters go.

Complexity is currently numbered 1-5 because this is the Avg party size, and is used to determine how many creatures of an appropriate level the challenge represents.

So a 5th level party of 5 facing 3 5th level enemies and a level 5 challenge with a complexity of 2 is facing the equivalent of 5 5th level enemies.
 


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