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

Stalker0

Legend
How about allowing Aid Another but making the DC equal to the "EASY" test at the given level, and setting a cap at 3 players aiding the Lead roller. With each Aid giving a +1. Might be a bit arbritrary, but 3 sounds like a fair number. To many Cooks in a Kitchen ruins a Cake so to speak.

The thing about aid another is its not the bonus that makes it so strong, its the fact that a person with a low skill can take themselves out of the skill challenge.

At the most powerful, a team of 5 with one guy having a very high skill, every other player "drops out" effectively and the one guy makes all the rolls. This actually has a tremendous impact on a party's win rate. Even with only letting 3 people aid, you still have that huge effect.
 

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Gwarh

First Post
The thing about aid another is its not the bonus that makes it so strong, its the fact that a person with a low skill can take themselves out of the skill challenge.

At the most powerful, a team of 5 with one guy having a very high skill, every other player "drops out" effectively and the one guy makes all the rolls. This actually has a tremendous impact on a party's win rate. Even with only letting 3 people aid, you still have that huge effect.

Fart, I knew you'd say that ;) and it's as I thought. But this leads me to another question about your Skill Challenge systems. How do they handle "AGAINST THE CLOCK" challenges.

That is to say if the challenge has a time limit. Not real world time but game time, say in 3 rounds a party of 4 must acheive 7 sucesses before 5 failures. So in this scenario it would make sense (time wise) for each party member to roll for a success each round to try and reach the goal before time runs out, (and the Temple guards come round the corner)

In the above scenario, they could though use the "Aid Another" option but at there own peril. As sure it will increase the likelyhood of sucesses vs. failures, but also they are drastically reducing the chance at multiple sucesses in the time they have.

I'm guessing the entire Time thing is Abstracted in the first place so this might all be moot. And I totally understand the cause and effect by removing a party members from the rolls and how this effects the PWR, but it just rubs me wrong that more than one can't Aid Another. Or the idea some people seem to have that Aid Another may not even be allowed at all in Skill Challenges.

IMO Aid Another should be allowed (within reason, even if it's an arbitrary limit) but there should also be consequences for to many Party Members not making there own rolls as well. I'm sure you've Grok'd this all before Stalker0. It just seems natural and intuitive to me some party members would be allowed to assist another in a sense.

One More Question though.

If I was to allow up to a max of 3 party members to "Aid Another" with each garnering a max of +1 to the aid (and an overall max of +3) the +3 part of the bonus doesn't throw the equation out of whack right. It's the fact that now 3 not just 1 are not rolling that throws off the math. I guess in a vs. Time & Successes scenario as opposed to a vs. Successes scenario I don't mind the math being thrown off a bit, cause there are consequences for said choice.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
Fart, I knew you'd say that ;) and it's as I thought. But this leads me to another question about your Skill Challenge systems. How do they handle "AGAINST THE CLOCK" challenges.

I'm sure you've Grok'd this all before Stalker0. It just seems natural and intuitive to me some party members would be allowed to assist another in a sense.

As you said, aid another is not as big a deal if time is a factor, in this case, you could easily allow an exception to the aid rules, as the real enemy at that point is the clock.

If you prefer "against the clock" challenges, you may wish to look at my Obsidian system, as that is designed specifically as an against the clock style. Check my sig for that link.


I understand your concerns about aid another. I'll be honest with you and everyone else, this is the biggest flaw in my system. I could not find a good way to keep aid another in and allow it more freely, its just so strong a driving force in the skill challenge. Take it out, low skill people drag the party down too much. Allow it more freely, parties that use it will win far far far more than parties that don't.
 

Keenath

Explorer
This is how I explained it to my party:

You really can't use Aid Another in a skill challenge. When you do that on a normal skill check, it means you're working together to accomplish the goal, whether that's lifting a rock or intimidating some thugs.

When you're doing a skill challenge, you're all working together anyway. You can't decide to use Aid Another to help MORE; whatever you do is already trying to help. A skill challenge doesn't restrict Aiding; it assumes that everyone is Aiding all the time and provides rules for how to determine whether the task is getting closer to completion or total failure.

Each turn, one person can concentrate on actually helping somebody else with their specific task, and that's the Assistance action (my name for Guiding Light), but that's only helping in a very limited way that doesn't meaningfully contribute to the group effort.



Stalker0: So, what do I do if one of the players decides to "sit this one out" or "hang back this turn"? Does he earn an automatic failure each round, as if he'd tried and failed?
 

Stalker,
Being an engineer and all, I have to say how awesome it is to see a quantitative design method applied to game design. I can't wait to use this system! Don't concern yourself with altering guiding light (at least not yet). Have faith in the mathematics.

(I also have to say how disappointed I am that WoTC, who have been touting the math behind the 4E system, missed this one)

I'd like to echo the above poster from a different direction.

How does your system tolerate other party sizes?
Alternately,
How do I accommodate a party with more players?

Finally, this is an absolutely superlative effort. Kudos to you for developing a solution instead of simply talking about a problem.
 
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blashimov

First Post
Great job Stalker0! I wanted to say that what's worked well for is self-regulation. Parties I've played with simply don't aid unless it makes good sense in the characters descriptions of actions, or especially when someone has low skills. This happens all the time because we avoid repeated the same skill like the plague, as it requires a new description of what you are doing. In addition, aiding doesn't take time - you can aid and still make a roll when your turn comes up. You tables on the core system match what I've experienced with this - parties often have a range of 5-12 at first level of skills they are attempting (12 is still rare), and the occasional aid makes up for people not using strong skills. Examples: Player almost never aid on perception when they don't describe their action as "searching". They might aid on a climb with rope - but not a jump, or when trying to dig your way out of cave. We've hit about 80% success - maybe a little higher.
 

Lonely Tylenol

First Post
Just a point of clarification: is this system intended to function in more or less the same way as the standard challenges--i.e. roll for initiative, each player must choose a skill to roll each round, etc.? If that's the case, when do the players pick that round's Guiding Light?

The way I read this, if only one player is allowed to be the Guiding Light each round, then a player declares himself GL on his turn, and stays GL until the beginning of his next turn. So then, he could declare himself GL again, or roll against the challenge, freeing up the GL position. Now, let's say the next player in the initiative order wants to be the GL. He stays that way for a round, and then goes back to rolling normally. But now the first player wants to be GL. So for the rest of the round until the first player's turn comes up, there's no GL, and nobody is getting the bonus, due to the initiative order. Is this the intention, or am I reading it incorrectly?
 

Stalker0

Legend
But now the first player wants to be GL. So for the rest of the round until the first player's turn comes up, there's no GL, and nobody is getting the bonus, due to the initiative order. Is this the intention, or am I reading it incorrectly?

The intention is that the party picks the guiding light at the beginning of the turn.
 


Stalker0

Legend
Is your system still necessary after the errata to the Skill Challenge system? Did that errata make skill challenges work?

A good question.

I think overall WOTC made some good changes to its system, but there are still flaws. Now the rules encourage players to drop out of the challenge and let the skilled people do it, which is counteractive to the original point of the challenge. Further, it has now become much easier with utility powers to autosucceed at skill checks by gaining skill bonuses.

That said, the math is more solid (though the high variability is still there). The failure rate is now acceptable...imo, its a workable system. If this had been the system I had been originally presented with, I would never have taken all the time and effort to develop two systems on my own.


I think there is still a place for this system, it still offers a lot of benefit, but the gap has been narrowed.
 

jbear

First Post
Just a quick question Stalker,

Are you using this system with your game or the obsidian system. I used your Obsidian system in my last game session and everybody had a ball.

Apart from that it is pretty straightforward. I guess that is where my curiosity lies looking at this finished version of a system more similar to original and at a glance a more complex system.

Which version do you prefer yourself?
 

Stalker0

Legend
My group prefers Obsidian. When I showed them my original system, they thought it fixed a lot of issues with the original system, but they didn't really like the concept of the original system. From that was born Obsidian. The playstyles of each meshes with different groups, for my group Obsidian was met with much more success.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I think overall WOTC made some good changes to its system, but there are still flaws. Now the rules encourage players to drop out of the challenge and let the skilled people do it, which is counteractive to the original point of the challenge. Further, it has now become much easier with utility powers to autosucceed at skill checks by gaining skill bonuses.
The first point is a good one.

That is, what were they thinking when they came up with you having to count failures? The whole point was to engage everybody, not just the skill monkey! I far prefer that even the fighter who needs to roll 19 is encouraged to make an effort. Just like in your Obsidian system!

The second point; I'm not so experienced with high-level play so I can't say for sure. But I see your point. Wasn't the purpose of the entire 4E powers overhaul to make sure powers didn't became mandatory?

Don't tell me skill bonus powers have become essential! (Or rather, I guess you just did. This calls for a solution that limits the number and utility of powers in skill challenges)...
 

Lakoda

First Post
The utility problem is easily solved by knowing your players. If they take non-combat utility powers then reward them periodically with skill challenges that use the primary skill they can buff. But do it once in a while. As a general DM style, if you always do the same thing (even if it is to play to the players' strengths) things get predictable (and stale) and the players can more easily spec for your adventures. If you keep it pretty balanced then they will too and it won't be a big deal. No one remembers the big dumb fighter lifting the heavy object but they certainly remember how he managed to talk the gnome out of shiny - take them out of their element, just bring them back before they get frustrated. Changing the primary skill between segments is a great way to keep them on their toes.
 

jbear

First Post
Actually I like both of your systems.

I'm really having fun threading encounters together with skill challenges and designing ways for the party to achieve victory without being forced into battle (if they so choose).

I actually find that I can be flexible with the mechanics of the challenge depending on the situation, as long as the players know what is expected of them. i.e everyone has to run so everyone needs to roll endurance: if 4/7 succeed it counts as one success towards one of the three segments (of your obsidian system) and 6/7 counts as 2.

And still I can imagine challenges where I can see this more complex version of the system being more appropriate. My players are all new so the are accepting of everthing I put to them so I don't think they would have problems with the skill challenge mechanics differing from one challenge to another would bother them.
I'll have to sit down and study it.

Anyway, thanks again for your brilliant work and efforts. They are greatly appreciated.
 

Suicide King

First Post
Very cool and very useful. Thanks for creating this, it fixes a lot of issues I have with the original system.

A questions though - how do the different bonuses stack?
Let say a player is the guiding light, using a helpful skill and it's during the time of trials - does he then provide a +4 bonus? (+3 for guiding light during ToT, +1 for helpful skill)
What about using bold skills on a bold recovery roll while also spending a healing surge (during ToT, of course). Does that provide +5 in total? (+2 for bold skill on bold recovery, +3 for healing surge during ToT).

A few notes on how the different bonuses and mechanics interact might make this more immediately obvious :)
 

Stalker0

Legend
Very cool and very useful. Thanks for creating this, it fixes a lot of issues I have with the original system.

A questions though - how do the different bonuses stack?
Let say a player is the guiding light, using a helpful skill and it's during the time of trials - does he then provide a +4 bonus? (+3 for guiding light during ToT, +1 for helpful skill)
What about using bold skills on a bold recovery roll while also spending a healing surge (during ToT, of course). Does that provide +5 in total? (+2 for bold skill on bold recovery, +3 for healing surge during ToT).

A few notes on how the different bonuses and mechanics interact might make this more immediately obvious :)

1) There is no guiding light bonus during TOT. So it would be +2 for guiding light, +1 for helpful skill.

2) If you spend a healing surge during the TOT, you get a +3 bonus to the skill. If you are using a bold skill, that increases by 1, so +4. If its a bold recovery roll, that's another +2, so +6.

Hmm...I'll have to check my math, I don't know if I intended the system to stack that much on the one roll, but as written, that is how it works.
 

Smeelbo

First Post
Stalker0: You are my new hero now, and may have saved 4E for me. The combat system is good enough, and the character classes are largely geared towards combat, but the skill system as published was broken. Upon reading the mechanics and the responses here and in a few other threads, it looks like you have developed a system that is fun, playable, and solid. Thank you for putting the effort into both systems, especially the testing and modelling, which Hasbro seems negligent regarding.

I have forwarded links to your systems to our DM, we'll see how it goes. But thank you again.

Smeelbo
 

dammitbiscuit

First Post
Actually I like both of your systems.

And still I can imagine challenges where I can see this more complex version of the system being more appropriate.
I am a much bigger fan of Obsidian, but that is because I think as a DM and Obsidian is much easier. This system, though, certainly has a lot more interesting options to it. I guess I could see, from a player's perspective, how this feels more intricate and "challenging" and might make it feel like the stakes are higher, or at least that the road to success on the skill challenge will be a longer one with more rolls being made.

Question for jbear and others who like both stalker systems:
At what times, or for which challenges, would you run this system instead of Obsidian, and why?
 

jbear

First Post
I am a much bigger fan of Obsidian, but that is because I think as a DM and Obsidian is much easier. This system, though, certainly has a lot more interesting options to it. I guess I could see, from a player's perspective, how this feels more intricate and "challenging" and might make it feel like the stakes are higher, or at least that the road to success on the skill challenge will be a longer one with more rolls being made.

Question for jbear and others who like both stalker systems:
At what times, or for which challenges, would you run this system instead of Obsidian, and why?
Umm, good question. One I will have to look at more my game more closely to really come up with a good answer.

The first thing that springs to mind though, is a more one phase situation skill challenge.

With the Obsidian system its very easy to divide a series of events into the three phases of the challenge and make each part of the challenge different, i.e physical, social or mental or sometimes a mix of two kinds like social/mental because two differnet things are happening at once during that phase. This allows everyone to participate in the skill challenge and shine at different phases of it. The excitement building as a failure in the first phase makes everything that follows trickier, or vice versa.

I can see this system filling a very nice slot where the skill challenge is a one off thing, or you want the action to move more slowly. Lets say Stalker0's Negotiation with the Duke: You don't really have three phases for it but it's important enough to run a skill challenge for, or you want to make it a special moment of its own as opposed to a fast-motion 3 phase Obsidian challenge where part 1 was sneaking into the Duke's bedroom in the dead of the night and waking him without alerting the guards. Phase 2 maybe convincing him not to scream, that his life is in danger, that he's surrounded by spies and he should meet you in a certain place at a certain time to go into hiding for a while, and phase 3 being an escape a different way that you came, being chased or not depending on your success or failure during the other two phases.

If you wanted each phase to be more complicated or in depth you could just run 3 Obsidian challenges instead of the above phases, one after the other, now that I think about it.

But what if the PC's are doing something that only involves talking to the Duke, chilled out during the day, as a one off negotiation that doesn't slide so easily into a sequence of events but the favorable outcome is important, or it's something that you haven't been able to come up with an interesting way to divide into three phases.

Then you whip out this awesome system and its cool as well.

My main group is very new, 5 sessions. So in that time I've only run 3 skill challenges. Got plenty more on the horizon though as the PC's race across Faerûn trying to reach Loudwater before winter sets in and the trade routes close down. As I have imagined them, they are all Obsidian system. When they reach town to try and quietly discover the identity of Renacuajo (Tadpole), the contact they have to find to deliver a mysterious scroll. I'm going to have Loudwater attacked as per Rescue at Rivenroar adventure path. The guards will have a prisoner that the pc's may or may not interrogate. Its a one off skill challenge that doesn't flow straight into other events. So this style skill challenge perhaps fits the build better.

Also there are several ready made skill challenges offered by that adventure, as the heroes travel from the city to the villains lair for example. If you haven't had time to prepare you're own version, this system is far more similar to the official Skill system and perhaps easier to adjust the ready made challenge to on the fly.
Again I need to take a closer look with the material in front of me. I might be totally wrong.

I'm sure as my groups progress more situations will arise.

But both system are brilliant... if I knew how to give xp I would have given a stack to Stalker0 by now!!!
 
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