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Stalker0's Alternate Core Skill Challenge System: FINAL VERSION 1.8!

Gallows

First Post
Bold Recovery

Stalker,

I've been reading since the inception of version 1.0. I have to say, its deffinately come along way and it appears to me that it is complex (in a good way for those of us who enjoy it) yet simple enough to understand, very streamlined. Its adds a level of excitement and tension with the whole "risk vs. reward" when deciding to use healing surges. I love it! To me this is exactly the kind of tension and risk vs. reward that I love to offer as choices to players. "Should I spend my healing surges to help overcome this encounter, or will I need them later" Resource management at its finest.

To add to this heightened sense of player choices, I believe that the Bold Recovery action (choice/decision) needs more weight added to a parties decision to actually use or not. Maybe Bold Recovery isn't necessarily a straightforward "duh yea, I'll use BR" to a more thinking mans game of, "Is it worth it?". Incurring a thoretical 2 healing surge penalty for use of Bold Recovery would very well get parties thinking about what may lie on the other side of that very same skill checked door. All-the-while, their surges and other resources are slowly being drained away.

With an actual high level expense to a risky choice, party members may actually elect to fail the encounter over expending more much needed resources. Especially when they may not know what further lies ahead beyond the actual skill check encounter itself. Risk vs. Reward my friend, gotta love it.

That would essentially be my only suggestion to you, as I will probably adopt it if I do indeed choose to run your system. I'm very satisfied with your mathmatical expertise and work to improve on WotC's shortcomings in this area. Thanks for all the hard work.

And thats my 2 cents.
 

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Stalker0

Legend
Magus Coeruleus said:
I don't know if this is feasible in the model or for that matter mathematically equivalent, but I think it would feel more intuitive if, instead of Bold Recovery successes retroactively modifying failed checks, The Bold Recovery check were modified by the magnitude of the original failure. Since recovery is a reaction to the failure and not an interrupt, it shouldn't really be revising the result so much as trying to compensate for it.

I'm a little confused what you mean by this. Are you saying for example, that if a person fails teh original check by 5, then simply have the BR have a -5 on its check, but if it succeeds the failure is negated?

To add to this heightened sense of player choices, I believe that the Bold Recovery action (choice/decision) needs more weight added to a parties decision to actually use or not. Maybe Bold Recovery isn't necessarily a straightforward "duh yea, I'll use BR" to a more thinking mans game of, "Is it worth it?". Incurring a thoretical 2 healing surge penalty for use of Bold Recovery would very well get parties thinking about what may lie on the other side of that very same skill checked door. All-the-while, their surges and other resources are slowly being drained away.

In an earlier version of BR, I did just that, although it was only 1 healing surge instead of 2. Eventually I decided I didn't want to move too far away from the original system, and have parties consume tons of surges. However, if you would like to add this in...go for it!! The math assumes a party will use BR...in general it also assumes the best skill user will use BR first. However, if you want to add in a requirement for a party to consume surges to bail itself out at the end there, that should work out fine. Just understand that a party suffers a higher failure rate should they chose not to surges in that critical time.
 

Stalker0

Legend
fuzzlewump said:
I used the your skill challenge system tonight for 3 challenges and it worked well. If complexity 1 wasn't a 1:1 ratio, nearly all 3 would have been a failure. The interesting one was in the second kobold ambush in the KotS, where the skirmisher attempted to run off into the woods and the ranger was hot on its tail. The rest of the party dealt with the wyrmpriest that was left and alone he rolled an Acrobatics, Nature, Perception, Endurance, and finally Acrobatics.

Before the last acrobatics he had 2 successes and 2 failures, and the last failure indicated that he lost the kobold and the Kobold Lair would be ready for the party. So, I told him he was in the "Time of Trials" and that he could expend a healing surge in order to gain +2 on his check. He agreed and made one final leap with his acrobatics skill, ending up with a 18 with the +2 included. Epic!

Wonderful to hear the system has worked for you so far. I am actually surprised to hear so much feedback about complexity 1 challenges, I actually expected more people to use 2 and 3...but that's the kind of live feedback that I can use to make my system better.

As for your question about whether to allow that heroic surge or a BR for the stealth check. As the DM, its your game run it how you like. I think a BR roll would have fine, the heroic surge was fine, heck even both would have been fine!
 


Paranoia23

First Post
I run a lot of one-shots for which I specially tailor the characters to work well with the encounters planned. Using Stalker's system, have I read correctly that the characters are supposed to hit the medium DC 62% of the time? Meaning they generally need an 8 or 9 on the die when using the skills helpful to the skill challenge?

Given how sensitive the skill challenge system is, it'll be nice to be able to tailor the probabilities exactly by pre-genning the characters. I think I read in the original thread that it presumes one minmaxed skill monkey. If I make a party and challenge in which _everyone_ is hitting their roll on 8 or 9, am I pretty much losing out on the monkey-oriented mechanics that require hard DCs?

I guess what would be helpful to me as a party designer is to hear what die rolls each character should be looking for to hit a medium DC, and if the answer is an average value, then how much variance is acceptable. E.g. "'1 Monkey @ 6+, 2 smarties @ 8+, 2 meatshields @ 10+' works but 'monkey at 2+ and meatshields at 13+' dooms the party"

Thanks for all the work. I'm going to do a test challenge during my game this Sunday.
 

Magus Coeruleus

First Post
gonesailing said:
I am putting some sample skill challenges together for my own use. I am going to keep them in this thread
http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=230819

Also, Magus Coeruleus, we seem to be working toward the same end (Documentation). Would you prefer to collaborate? My personal preference would be to keep the same terminology that Stalker0 is working on, though.
Given my time constraints, I think I'd rather provide feedback on what you guys develop rather than contribute more directly. I just wanted to show him what I was suggesting by modifying his documentation because I thought it was faster than writing tons of comments in a list the way I did before. Hope you don't mind my passing the buck! :)
 

Magus Coeruleus

First Post
Stalker0 said:
I'm a little confused what you mean by this. Are you saying for example, that if a person fails teh original check by 5, then simply have the BR have a -5 on its check, but if it succeeds the failure is negated?
That's the concept exactly, yes. Whether it would be a 1 for 1 penalty or some other function I don't know.
 

gonesailing

First Post
Magus Coeruleus said:
Given my time constraints, I think I'd rather provide feedback on what you guys develop rather than contribute more directly. I just wanted to show him what I was suggesting by modifying his documentation because I thought it was faster than writing tons of comments in a list the way I did before. Hope you don't mind my passing the buck! :)
I don't mind and understand that time is a factor. I have some of the same issues.I just didn't want us to be working against each other. And I really want feedback. To that end I will start another thread for documentation so this one doesn't become (more) cluttered.
 

mrtomsmith

First Post
One thing I find interesting about the system is the potential for expanding it. The concepts of tags (Bold and Aid aka Helpful and Daring) could allow for the invention of additional tags in the future to provide more variety in skill challenges. Just like combat always has new features and abilities for the players to master, it'd be nice if skills could stay fresh over 30 levels.

Examples: (kept vague to avoid balance concerns)
(Comeback) Failure provides a bonus to future rolls within some limitations (with a specific skill, within the next round, aids only, etc.)
(Recoverable) If you fail on this one, another PC can roll (specific skill) to save you, even if not in Time of Troubles.
(Insightful) Success reveals what other skills can be used.
(Risky) Failure prevents the use of (allowed skill) until the end of this character's next turn.

You could probably also invent Feats and/or Powers that play into the system. Bonuses specific to Recovery or Time of Trials, for example.

Could the name "Time of Trials" be connected in some way to the 'bloodied' term from 4e combat? It's vaguely similar in that things change when you're closer to failure, so it might be nice to connect the two.
 



Stalker0

Legend
Fieari said:
Again, from the "Nuts and Bolts" section, what are:

This sounds interesting, but you don't describe it in the post!

That section is from Version 1.5, I've moved up several versions since then and I haven't had the time to update that section:) I'm hoping to get the system completely settled and then go from there.
 

doctorhook

Adventurer
In your original post, level 11 in the Easy column looks like a typo.

Also, two questions, Stalker0:
1.) Is this the final version of your skill system?

2.) I just bought myself a beautiful new car. Two weeks later, I found a better car for the same price. I'm really tempted to trade in my new car for this better car, but I feel like I haven't really had a chance to enjoy my car yet, even though I waited and saved for so long to buy it.

4E is my new car, and your skill system is the better one; I really like the look of what you've done, but I'm hesitant to try it before I've even tried the core version.

Can anyone testify to how truly awesome this system is in practice? Don't mince words; if this way has a downside over the core version, lemme hear it. I'm really interested here, but I'd like to know exactly what I'm getting into.

Thanks,
Kyle
 

dragon_eater

First Post
Keith Baker just wrote an interesting article about skill challenges. Link

I bring this up because one of his house rules is allowing Action Points to reroll failed checks. I think some use for Action Points in your version would be a cool addition.
 

Stalker0

Legend
doctorhook said:
In your original post, level 11 in the Easy column looks like a typo.

Also, two questions, Stalker0:
1.) Is this the final version of your skill system?

2.) I just bought myself a beautiful new car. Two weeks later, I found a better car for the same price. I'm really tempted to trade in my new car for this better car, but I feel like I haven't really had a chance to enjoy my car yet, even though I waited and saved for so long to buy it.

4E is my new car, and your skill system is the better one; I really like the look of what you've done, but I'm hesitant to try it before I've even tried the core version.

Can anyone testify to how truly awesome this system is in practice? Don't mince words; if this way has a downside over the core version, lemme hear it. I'm really interested here, but I'd like to know exactly what I'm getting into.

Thanks,
Kyle

The easy column actually isn't a typo, I changed the easy progression at each tier, and that happens to be when it happened. I do think I'm going to change it though, as people are going to get confused by it.

And no, I plan one more version (which I'm currently working on) before I sit back and let the fur fly.

As for benefits/drawbacks comparison, here are a few:

Benefits:
1) More interactive, more player input
2) Better balance overall, more consistent results.
3) Higher complexity = High difficulty, this is not always the case in WOTC's system.

Drawbacks:
1) Higher complexities are shorter than WOTC's
2) Reliance on aid another to compensate for weaker skill users (see below). This is actually a problem that WOTC system has as well, even worse in many cases, but I count it as a drawback because I still feel I should have something better.

The Problem with Aid

You asked for the real deal, and here it is, naked for all the world to see. The biggest flaw in my system is that it doesn't handle well parties that have a low skill user who doesn't use aid another.

Basically your win rate will drop pretty drastically (on the order of 15-20%) if you low skill guy isn't aiding, and by low I mean a difference of 3 or more from the average skill people.

It is a flaw I have worked countless hours to correct, and ultimately found no way to solve it. Here's the problem:

1) You can't take out aid another. Basically that low skill user has to do SOMETHING, or the fun factor of the system fails. But there's no good way to balance the system if the low skill guy is actively participating in the normal mechanics of the system, the variance is too high in an already variable system. This is one of the roadblocks between the math and the fact that the system has to be easy for people to use. If I didn't care about the human element, I could throw in lots of little conditions and requirements that would smooth everything out. But I can't. Further, if I had a system where players were needing 2001 successes before 2000 failures, then it wouldn't be as big a deal. But I can't.

2) I can't force aid another. No one likes being told what to do with their character. Again, the fun factor fails if I do that. But on the other hand, I want the DM to be REALLY encouraging with aid another.

I have made sure in the system that a normal party will always have have higher than 50% win rate even without aiding and an absolute garbage skill guy in there who doesn't aid.

Further, I am working on the next version now, and I will incorporate some corrections that dms can use for players that don't choose to aid. But that's the best I can do right....

wait a minute. I've just had an idea that may help!! Hmmm, back to the spreadsheets!!
 
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doctorhook

Adventurer
Thank you very much, Stalker0, for taking the time to give me such a detailed response!

One last question, sir: Frankly, I'm in awe of what I see you doing here. I'm highly interested in game design concepts and theory, and I'd like to know, what particular type of math should I study in order to do the sort of things you're doing here?

Thanks again,
Kyle
 

Stalker0

Legend
doctorhook said:
Thank you very much, Stalker0, for taking the time to give me such a detailed response!

One last question, sir: Frankly, I'm in awe of what I see you doing here. I'm highly interested in game design concepts and theory, and I'd like to know, what particular type of math should I study in order to do the sort of things you're doing here?

Thanks again,
Kyle

Hehe, most of what I've done is actually not that complicated. I haven't had a huge study of probability, so a lot of what I've done a more educated person probably could have done in half the time. Mainly what I've done is basic probability and combination theory. But I've been merciless at it, I've run hundreds of scenarios, tried and retried different equations again and again.

Some people would write computer software to model the design, and I did that towards the end to verify my calculations and to more accurately represent certain sections that I was averaging to make the math easier. However, I find in general working directly with the math gives more a more intuitive understanding of what's going on. With a program, I can quickly see what changes do what...but the why I usually got by messing with the equations.

Also, a good knowledge of excel works wonders.

Here's an example of my thought process to help you understand better:

For a while, the biggest problem with my system was that as the complexity increased, the win rate started to tank. That's a natural response to this kind of probability work, and its not something you can just reverse.

So what I needed was a mechanic that gave a bigger bonus to a higher complexity challenge. Of course, the simplest way to do this is simply to say: "If your complexity is 3 or higher, subtract 1 from the DC or something". Things like that are actually the best way mathematically to fix the problem. Thing is, you never want the rules to get too complicated. In general, you want things as consistent as possible.

So I started working on mechanics that affected all complexities, but that would affect higher complexities "more". I tried a whole lot of things, some worked but were too complicated to run, others simple but didn't help the math.

Eventually I hit the idea of the bold recovery mechanic. Bold Recovery is a way for players to help themselves if they are doing badly. Which means the more the fail, the more they "win" as far as that mechanic comes in. So the higher the initial rate of failure, the more potent bold recovery becomes, and therefore, it tends to help higher complexities more than lower ones. Voila! That was a critical mechanic that allowed me to tighten up the differences between a 1st and a 3rd level complexity and provide a way for players to have a more active role in the system.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
Alright everyone, Version 1.8 is out!!

Unless someone finds any obvious mistakes, this will be the last version...for a while.

I want to test the system in my own game (starting tomorrow) and hear feedback from live tests. Further, I want to here how close my "default" party is to the actual ones out there.

Good luck in your games, and I hope the system works well for you!
 


gonesailing

First Post
Just a quick question. So the "Tags" are gone right? Guiding Light and Bold Recovery should be useable on every check? Simplifies things.

Also, I think the "problem" of a weak skill user is really a problem of Challenge design. I think a challenge needs as many Allowed skills as possible with varied Ability bases. All physical, mental, or charisma based challenges will tend to leave one or more player out.
 

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