D&D General Skill challenges: action resolution that centres the fiction


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clearstream

(He, Him)
As an aside, I've been experimenting in homebrew with something a little like SCs, with a key change that more difficult checks are worth more successes. So a very hard check is worth 3 successes, for example.

This makes the difficulty mix flexible as where say multiple hard checks are called for, PCs will need fewer of them. There's no need to mandate a mix. Also, to my taste this makes the conclusion liable to feel a bit more "organic" as others have used the term. For the fiction to follow well we need whatever the PCs described to invoke a possibly-final check to be legitimately possibly-finalising. It can't be something that even if successful leaves another step to go. And the converse! If seemingly finalising it shouldn't force us to make more checks

That is one reason I think that to use SCs successfully means applying the mechanics and parameters flexibly: the system as written often fails... but one ought not to use it as written. If after the 6th success a 7th seems required, add a 7th. It may be an auto-success. If the 5th seemed legitimately finalising, one can finalise.

I'm still not 100% on using a fixed number of failures... essentially trying to identify a similar rubric.
 

pemerton

Legend
For the fiction to follow well we need whatever the PCs described to invoke a possibly-final check to be legitimately possibly-finalising. It can't be something that even if successful leaves another step to go. And the converse! If seemingly finalising it shouldn't force us to make more checks

That is one reason I think that to use SCs successfully means applying the mechanics and parameters flexibly: the system as written often fails... but one ought not to use it as written. If after the 6th success a 7th seems required, add a 7th. It may be an auto-success. If the 5th seemed legitimately finalising, one can finalise.
Which participant(s) are you envisaging make(s) the determination about how things seem?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Which participant(s) are you envisaging make(s) the determination about how things seem?
The same participants that uphold the fictional position. As this is a facet of our fictional position. Depending on the mode of play, participants may have a stronger say in legitimating some aspects of the position (e.g. Robin is often in a better position to say what is legitimate for their character, than Addy is.)
 

As an aside, I've been experimenting in homebrew with something a little like SCs, with a key change that more difficult checks are worth more successes. So a very hard check is worth 3 successes, for example.

This makes the difficulty mix flexible as where say multiple hard checks are called for, PCs will need fewer of them. There's no need to mandate a mix. Also, to my taste this makes the conclusion liable to feel a bit more "organic" as others have used the term. For the fiction to follow well we need whatever the PCs described to invoke a possibly-final check to be legitimately possibly-finalising. It can't be something that even if successful leaves another step to go. And the converse! If seemingly finalising it shouldn't force us to make more checks

That is one reason I think that to use SCs successfully means applying the mechanics and parameters flexibly: the system as written often fails... but one ought not to use it as written. If after the 6th success a 7th seems required, add a 7th. It may be an auto-success. If the 5th seemed legitimately finalising, one can finalise.

I'm still not 100% on using a fixed number of failures... essentially trying to identify a similar rubric.
Yeah, you could do something like take the 4e system, multiply all the tallies by 3, and decree that a DC is worth 3, a medium DC is worth 2, and an easy DC is worth 1. That would apply to both pass and fail. I think the issue is that it opens up a really big avenue of optimization for the party. If they can muster high skill bonuses they just try hard DC stuff as much as possible. If they don't have such high bonuses they can go the other way and just pass lots and lots of easy DC checks. Of course that assumes such are available to try, but presumably with a system like that such would be the idea (at least moreso than with the existing system).

I guess the question is, is it really 'better'? I like the brute simplicity of the current system. I have not really run into a situation where I ended an SC early. There's ALWAYS more ways things can come up to confound the PCs! lol.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Yeah, you could do something like take the 4e system, multiply all the tallies by 3, and decree that a DC is worth 3, a medium DC is worth 2, and an easy DC is worth 1. That would apply to both pass and fail. I think the issue is that it opens up a really big avenue of optimization for the party. If they can muster high skill bonuses they just try hard DC stuff as much as possible. If they don't have such high bonuses they can go the other way and just pass lots and lots of easy DC checks. Of course that assumes such are available to try, but presumably with a system like that such would be the idea (at least moreso than with the existing system).
Right, it does depend on the designs philosophy toward scaling. Are the numbers getting bigger, but odds remaining the same (or even being trivialised) or are the odds of hard always going to be meaningfully lower than easy?

My homebrew is nearer E6, with skill bonus scaling topping out at +6 and ability bonus at +4. The meaning of hard is odds-against a straight success (without expending resources), although success with complications is significantly more likely. The target is set more by contemplating the mix of undertakings that would desirably resolve it (by way of example, RC complexity 2 would imply 8, which could be achieved as two hard and one moderate, etc.)

Journeys are resolved this way, too. Legs = target number of successes. Supplies = permissible failures.

I guess the question is, is it really 'better'? I like the brute simplicity of the current system. I have not really run into a situation where I ended an SC early. There's ALWAYS more ways things can come up to confound the PCs! lol.
For me, yes, because it's not only the matter of finalising, but also flexibility where players opt into more hard undertakings than prescribed (or if they avoid hard undertakings!) It is possible for DM to adroitly manage the DCs, but I feel this better respects player choices.
 
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A Battle of Wits

Set-Up
Skill Challenge Level: Variable
Complexity:3
Number of Successes:8
Number of Failures:3
Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight
Important NPCs: Your foe, a mysterious man dressed only in black; the hostage(s)

Let’s suppose you and your opponent were unable to act against each other due one or the other having a hostage. You are unable to reach an arrangement, and therefore, are at an impasse. To break this impasse, your foe challenges you to a battle of wits; for the hostage(s); and to the death. He pours two glasses of wine and then pulls out a small vial before saying the following. “This is Iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.” He then takes both glasses and turns his back towards you. A moment later he returns both glasses to a nearby table. “All right; where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right, and who is dead.”

Skill Challenge

Bluff (DC Hard): A well placed lie is always useful when playing mind games. However, this masked man is no fool and will not be easily tricked.

Diplomacy (DC Hard or Normal): Talking is always an option when dealing with people. If the PC(s) use diplomacy in order to discern clues about which cup is poisoned use the hard DCs and limit them to two successes with this skill. The masked man is not willing to give away much if any information. If the PC(s) pursue a peaceful compromise to end the impasse use the normal DCs. If four successes are achieved this way, the skill challenge immediately ends due to the PC(s) and the masked man reaching an agreement of some type.

Insight (DC Normal): By observing the masked man, you can learn his dispostion and motives. Up to three successes can be achieved this way. After each success, give the PCs one of the following tidbits...

1. The masked man is still willing to pursue a peaceful solution to the situation. The PC(s) learn that Diplomacy can still be used to achieve a compromise.

2. The masked man is both smart and wise. The PC(s) learn that Bluff is set at the Hard DC.

3. The masked man is quite calm and relaxed for a life or death situation; perhaps too relaxed?

Nature (Normal DC): Knowledge about the poison may be helpful. The PC(s) can learn where the poison comes from as well as other trivia related to it. The DM generally should customize the information to suit his/her campaign world. A successful check does not count as a success (or failure) but does add a +2 bonus to the next Insight check made.

Streetwise (Normal DC): PC(s) can use their knowledge of local culture (or any knowledge skill, depending on how the PCs justify it) to figure out the masked man's mindset. A successful check does not count as a success (or failure) but does add a +2 bonus to the next check made.

Of course, the DM can allow other skills to be used if PC(s) can justify their reasoning for using it well enough and/or roleplay it out in an entertaining manner.

Ending the Challenge

Success: The PC(s) successfully acquire nine successes trying to figure out which cup is poisoned, they instead figured out that battle of wits is a shell game. In that event, the PC(s) and the masked man are back at square one. If the PC(s) acquire four diplomacy checks trying to reach a peaceful settlement, then they do so. The terms of the agreement is left up to the PC(s) and DM to decide.

Failure: If the PC(s) fail the skill challenge, they come to the conclusion that one of the glasses is safe to drink. By drinking from from any of the glasses; they guessed wrong. Both cups of wine were poisoned. The masked man has developed an immunity to the poison. By drinking from any wine cup, they fell for the trap. The poison takes its full effect on the PC(s).

Experience Points

If successful, the PC(s) earn experience points equal to defeating three monster at the level of the Skill Challenge.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
A Battle of Wits

Set-Up
Skill Challenge Level: Variable
Complexity:3
Number of Successes:8
Number of Failures:3
Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight
Important NPCs: Your foe, a mysterious man dressed only in black; the hostage(s)

Let’s suppose you and your opponent were unable to act against each other due one or the other having a hostage. You are unable to reach an arrangement, and therefore, are at an impasse. To break this impasse, your foe challenges you to a battle of wits; for the hostage(s); and to the death. He pours two glasses of wine and then pulls out a small vial before saying the following. “This is Iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadly poisons known to man.” He then takes both glasses and turns his back towards you. A moment later he returns both glasses to a nearby table. “All right; where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right, and who is dead.”

Skill Challenge

Bluff (DC Hard): A well placed lie is always useful when playing mind games. However, this masked man is no fool and will not be easily tricked.

Diplomacy (DC Hard or Normal): Talking is always an option when dealing with people. If the PC(s) use diplomacy in order to discern clues about which cup is poisoned use the hard DCs and limit them to two successes with this skill. The masked man is not willing to give away much if any information. If the PC(s) pursue a peaceful compromise to end the impasse use the normal DCs. If four successes are achieved this way, the skill challenge immediately ends due to the PC(s) and the masked man reaching an agreement of some type.

Insight (DC Normal): By observing the masked man, you can learn his dispostion and motives. Up to three successes can be achieved this way. After each success, give the PCs one of the following tidbits...

1. The masked man is still willing to pursue a peaceful solution to the situation. The PC(s) learn that Diplomacy can still be used to achieve a compromise.

2. The masked man is both smart and wise. The PC(s) learn that Bluff is set at the Hard DC.

3. The masked man is quite calm and relaxed for a life or death situation; perhaps too relaxed?

Nature (Normal DC): Knowledge about the poison may be helpful. The PC(s) can learn where the poison comes from as well as other trivia related to it. The DM generally should customize the information to suit his/her campaign world. A successful check does not count as a success (or failure) but does add a +2 bonus to the next Insight check made.

Streetwise (Normal DC): PC(s) can use their knowledge of local culture (or any knowledge skill, depending on how the PCs justify it) to figure out the masked man's mindset. A successful check does not count as a success (or failure) but does add a +2 bonus to the next check made.

Of course, the DM can allow other skills to be used if PC(s) can justify their reasoning for using it well enough and/or roleplay it out in an entertaining manner.

Ending the Challenge

Success: The PC(s) successfully acquire nine successes trying to figure out which cup is poisoned, they instead figured out that battle of wits is a shell game. In that event, the PC(s) and the masked man are back at square one. If the PC(s) acquire four diplomacy checks trying to reach a peaceful settlement, then they do so. The terms of the agreement is left up to the PC(s) and DM to decide.

Failure: If the PC(s) fail the skill challenge, they come to the conclusion that one of the glasses is safe to drink. By drinking from from any of the glasses; they guessed wrong. Both cups of wine were poisoned. The masked man has developed an immunity to the poison. By drinking from any wine cup, they fell for the trap. The poison takes its full effect on the PC(s).

Experience Points

If successful, the PC(s) earn experience points equal to defeating three monster at the level of the Skill Challenge.
That's a good example, although I have concerns about eight successes landing the PCs back at square one. It may be better to not tie change to the situation to a given number of diplomacy checks. Really, this is a good example of why flexibility is needed.

I wondered how you would run a case where a player (having never seen The Princess Bride) just immediately picks up a goblet and quaffs it?
 

That's a good example, although I have concerns about eight successes landing the PCs back at square one. It may be better to not tie change to the situation to a given number of diplomacy checks. Really, this is a good example of why flexibility is needed.

I wondered how you would run a case where a player (having never seen The Princess Bride) just immediately picks up a goblet and quaffs it?
Yeah, there's definitely that danger. Of course then the question is whether that would actually be such a disaster! I mean, it might actually lead to success! Now the question is, can we save our comrade by use of Heal checks and whatnot instead.

I think something similar on the front of the Diplomacy stuff, maybe its better to simply be guided by the fiction and let things evolve in the direction of whatever solution fits the player's goals, providing reasonable obstacles along the way. I tend to focus on what the possible obstacles could be, consequences of failures, etc. when I am designing SCs. So, for instance its a bit problematic to say that a player DOES DRINK if there are N failures.
 

Yeah, there's definitely that danger. Of course then the question is whether that would actually be such a disaster! I mean, it might actually lead to success! Now the question is, can we save our comrade by use of Heal checks and whatnot instead.

I think something similar on the front of the Diplomacy stuff, maybe its better to simply be guided by the fiction and let things evolve in the direction of whatever solution fits the player's goals, providing reasonable obstacles along the way. I tend to focus on what the possible obstacles could be, consequences of failures, etc. when I am designing SCs. So, for instance its a bit problematic to say that a player DOES DRINK if there are N failures.

What is guided by the fiction supposed to mean? I thought I was using the fiction as a guide but it clearly led me to a different place then what some people envisioned.
 

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