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

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.
Well, first off, I don't think the SC design is bad. I think there are a LOT of different variations on what people envisage when they go beyond straight up traditionally structured play. This may be why its not ubiquitous. You have to start answering questions about exactly how things will work. Nobody's way is wrong.
 

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clearstream

(He, Him)
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.
Perhaps something like "let things evolve" and I suppose especially don't pre-author what players must do. Instead, follow your fiction as it evolves.

Picture for instance a player who having seen The Princess Bride says "On no account will I/we drink from either glass". So drinking can't follow from what happens, and there is now some doubt over their sincerity of engagement with the puzzle as presented.

One idea I have been developing is that where task resolution resolves actions, SCs resolve intentions. So the outcome should orient to not the forced action of drinking the wine, but why the battle of wits was entered into in the first place.
 

Perhaps something like "let things evolve" and I suppose especially don't pre-author what players must do. Instead, follow your fiction as it evolves.

Picture for instance a player who having seen The Princess Bride says "On no account will I/we drink from either glass". So drinking can't follow from what happens, and there is now some doubt over their sincerity of engagement with the puzzle as presented.

One idea I have been developing is that where task resolution resolves actions, SCs resolve intentions. So the outcome should orient to not the forced action of drinking the wine, but why the battle of wits was entered into in the first place.
If you remove the part that describes which skills to use and how there're used, skill challenges would be a lot shorter.

In that case, I imagine it would be more improv or FKR. That's not a bad thing at all. It would be nice if the DMG had a chapter about making judgement calls
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
If you remove the part that describes which skills to use and how there're used, skill challenges would be a lot shorter.
I feel it is okay to list skills that are likely relevant, and to have a sense of the direction they are likely to evolve things. I liked much of your thinking in that regard. Two elements that struck a chord of concern for me were
  • Dictating a PC action as one outcome
  • Landing at the end of the SC with no change as a possible successful outcome (or I suppose, perhaps just gating a second SC behind this one)
That said, the example is in a sense incomplete. In play, probably the PCs had some intention that brought them to this situation. Perhaps they committed to drinking? Most likely they are looking for that intention to be resolved by this SC... not just to have an opportunity to make further rolls to resolve it.

In that case, I imagine it would be more improv or FKR. That's not a bad thing at all. It would be nice if the DMG had a chapter about making judgement calls
My approach in DnD is what others have characterised as more "organic". I agree with the philosophy behind SCs - that a sum of actions can resolve an intention and it's beneficial to follow a principled/constrained methodology. The line between SCs and my approach is fuzzy. One concept I apply is that of "legitimate intentions"... the series bends toward a point where an action can legitimately resolve an intention.

I'm sure that has raised enough for further conversation :)
 
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Perhaps something like "let things evolve" and I suppose especially don't pre-author what players must do. Instead, follow your fiction as it evolves.

Picture for instance a player who having seen The Princess Bride says "On no account will I/we drink from either glass". So drinking can't follow from what happens, and there is now some doubt over their sincerity of engagement with the puzzle as presented.

One idea I have been developing is that where task resolution resolves actions, SCs resolve intentions. So the outcome should orient to not the forced action of drinking the wine, but why the battle of wits was entered into in the first place.
Right, so here's the fundamental sort of difference. In our BitD game I created a character. I described the character as exotic, equipped with a katana and a wakizashi, etc. I described the katana as possessed by an Oni, and the character's vice as an obligation to it. He supposedly came from a far land. I didn't really try to explain what the details of the backstory were up front, there are just those elements, and that he fought in a war and was now associated with the other PCs in a crew centered on an orphanage (though AFAIK he was never an orphan there).

Now, we have been doing the usual sorts of 'crew stuff' that happens in BitD, but the character's story has been evolving. Once he killed some of the crew's allies because they murdered a girl (we don't know why, but he killed them for it). Hit before last he suddenly spotted a child that clearly comes from his island, which is supposedly destroyed. The sword/Oni wanted him to go kill her, because it was jealous. He didn't and now they are set to have a big blow up/throw down. Obviously none of that was part of any planned or authored fiction, etc. It just happened and the game engine spun out situations where it could be elaborated on and grow and take a place in the fiction.
 

Stalker0

Legend
That's a good example, although I have concerns about eight successes landing the PCs back at square one.
When I did a lot of math on the 4e skill challenge system (and eventually in developing my own Obsidian Skill Challenge system), one thing I learned is, the more successes you have in a given challenge, the more "unstable" it becomes.

Sake of argument (and these aren't the actual numbers I'd have to recalculate them, but just for an example). Lets say a group has a 50% chance to accomplish a 3 success challenge. If you were to lower the DC by 1 lets say, that might improve their odds by 10% (so 60%). Meanwhile for a 7 success challenge, it could be 20% (ie 70% total chance to win).

Likewise, any bonuses or penalties a group has are magnified the more successes the given challenge requires. It can make it difficult to eyeball a standard DC, as even small changes can have massive impacts.

It is the very reason I limited all of my Obsidian challenges to a 3 success system; otherwise, it becomes difficult to provide a consistent level of difficulty.

I recognize that you are combining this with a concept that large skill check results can lead to multiple successes, so I'm not really sure how that affects things (my intuition is, it will make it even swingier), but just to give that bit of fair warning from my practical experiences.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I have used SCs for a long time, both the core systems in 4e and my own system.

Generally what I found over time was....less is more. I think SCs can be very useful, but it is VERY EASY to shoehorn them in to narratives where they don't belong. More often than not I've found, when in doubt....don't use a SC. A badly done SC is boring as mud, and feels really gamey and arbitrary.

The secret of a good SC is to craft it in a way that the players don't really know they are in a SC, and that usually takes planning and work. I don't think casual SCs are that great.

I also think the best skill challenges involve some sort of real "progression". If your scene is static, its often best to just make a few rolls and be done with it. SCs work better in things like chase scenes where the action keeps moving, prison breaks where you are moving from one area of the prison to another. A diplomatic skill challenge is best in a large party settings where you are moving from one NPC to another learning bits of info, rather than just sitting down with the duke and throw down Persuasion checks until you hit your magic number. Ie there needs to be a narrative reason to roll more checks. When you are in one place with one person and you are rolling checks just to fill your SC meter....it feels arbitrary and gamey. When you are making a new check because the chase has taken you to a new area....well that just feels narratively appropriate.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
When I did a lot of math on the 4e skill challenge system (and eventually in developing my own Obsidian Skill Challenge system), one thing I learned is, the more successes you have in a given challenge, the more "unstable" it becomes.
I share this intuition!

It is the very reason I limited all of my Obsidian challenges to a 3 success system; otherwise, it becomes difficult to provide a consistent level of difficulty.

I recognize that you are combining this with a concept that large skill check results can lead to multiple successes, so I'm not really sure how that affects things (my intuition is, it will make it even swingier), but just to give that bit of fair warning from my practical experiences.
Granting multiple successes on harder checks mitigates the exponential decline in odds of success (because if the checks are harder, you make fewer of them) and hands players control of the volatility. It doesn't strictly mitigate the volatility. I must reread your system to remind myself.

In play, PCs can opt in to more easier or fewer harder tasks, instead of having a prescribed X moderate, Y hard per the RC. I believe that will pay out in more possibilities for our fiction... but the system is in the playtest stage so that hunch very much needs validating.
 

I have used SCs for a long time, both the core systems in 4e and my own system.

Generally what I found over time was....less is more. I think SCs can be very useful, but it is VERY EASY to shoehorn them in to narratives where they don't belong. More often than not I've found, when in doubt....don't use a SC. A badly done SC is boring as mud, and feels really gamey and arbitrary.

The secret of a good SC is to craft it in a way that the players don't really know they are in a SC, and that usually takes planning and work. I don't think casual SCs are that great.

I also think the best skill challenges involve some sort of real "progression". If your scene is static, its often best to just make a few rolls and be done with it. SCs work better in things like chase scenes where the action keeps moving, prison breaks where you are moving from one area of the prison to another. A diplomatic skill challenge is best in a large party settings where you are moving from one NPC to another learning bits of info, rather than just sitting down with the duke and throw down Persuasion checks until you hit your magic number. Ie there needs to be a narrative reason to roll more checks. When you are in one place with one person and you are rolling checks just to fill your SC meter....it feels arbitrary and gamey. When you are making a new check because the chase has taken you to a new area....well that just feels narratively appropriate.
Now, back when you first posted on SC probabilities, in the dim dark ancient days of 2009 or so, lol, I thought much like you in terms of numbers and probabilities. However, as time went on, I came to the conclusion that all of that was pretty much secondary, practically irrelevant really, to what mattered about SCs. They are not a mechanism for regulating probability of success, nor of gating some valuable outcome behind a highly risky set of dice rolls, etc. Instead its a yardstick, really. Sure, it matters that you can either succeed or fail, and as a general proposition both outcomes should be reasonably likely to arise from time to time. That provides some sense of conflict and uncertainty, and lets the outcome be owned by everyone instead of being a product of any one specific set of rulings or tactics, etc.

After that I just went back to the original (1st errata) SC system, and mostly accepted the various tweaks that DMG2/RC added. However, I just run pretty much EVERYTHING as SC, unless its a combat, and make it very open-ended. Yes, a given sequence is likely to focus on certain skills, and I can sometimes say to myself ahead of time "oh, yeah, and if the player does X here, then I'll respond with Y, and that's likely to provoke a chance for the other player to use his character's best skill..." but I don't think the whole writing things out process that 4e always envisaged is that helpful. Most SCs are too organic, and arise too much out of something that the players start. It just provides structure, really.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
It is the very reason I limited all of my Obsidian challenges to a 3 success system; otherwise, it becomes difficult to provide a consistent level of difficulty.
Is there a version after 1.2? The way I understand it is that more successes are needed (up to a dozen), but they're accrued over three rounds.

One nagging doubt I have for my own efforts is that WotC's well-equipped design team invested effort into multiple revisions of SCs and ultimately decided not to take them forward into 5e. What reassures me is the trace of SCs preserved in Social Interaction and some downtime activities, which gives me a sense that for specific purposes they can work.

In that light, your comment on casual use is interesting. For casual use, I use an approach in the same design space as SCs, but without preset targets for successes and failures. I now feel motivated to get into my design a rubric for that approach.
 
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