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Stalker0's New Skill Challenge System (Version 1.0)


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FireLance

Legend
I had my concerns about the skill system too, especially seeing the high skill checks needed to disable a trap in the Worldwide Game Day module (the two groups that I ran it for yesterday failed them all, by the way). Your system looks much better than the one in the books. Kudos! :)

A couple of issues about Aid Another, though: would it break the system very much if the following changes are made:

1. If the character could choose who to give the skill check bonus to instead of being required to give it to the next character?

2. If instead of only one character per round being able to attempt an Aid Another action, the rule was that a character could only benefit from one Aid Another action in a round? This would prevent the possibility of stacking large bonuses on to a single character, while removing the (somewhat artificial, IMO ;)) limitation of only one Aid Another action per party per round.
 

ZombieRoboNinja

First Post
Nice job Stalker, but I'd suggest two changes:

1. Remove the Daredevil Stunt mechanic and change the Critical Success text as follows :

Great Success: Any time you roll a natural 20 during a skill challenge, or beat the check DC by 10 or more, you gain a Great Success. You can use your critical successes to use the skillful recovery mechanic (see below).

The reasoning here is that you want skill specialists to be able to "win big" without always forcing them to take bigger risks to do so. Also, if you're going to stick in a whole "super-success" mechanic, you might as well let it happen more than 5% of the time.

I renamed it because I was rolling the natural 20 component in with something else, so the "critical" nomenclature might be misleading.

I also simplified the mechanics a bit because the "if the roll would have been a success" thing seemed a needless complication, given that I'd already abandoned the "critical" symmetry.

2. Roll back the change on non-allowed skills. Those skills are only good for one success per challenge anyway, so I don't see it becoming a huge problem for skill monkeys trying to "game the system" (especially since the DM can just tell them "no" if that becomes a problem). I get that the original non-allowed skills system can harm the party's chance of success, but the added creative possibilities more than make up for it, I'd say. If the wizard's player can think of a way to apply his arcane lore to the diplomatic negotiations, more power to him.

Obviously these are my opinions, more based on the "feel" of skill challenges than on the cold hard math, but there it is.
 


Celebrim

Legend
a) I approve. This does sound like a much better system, and if I was ever going to run 4e - and if I was ever going to run 4e and limit myself with the stupid restrictions implied by the skill challenge system - then I'd definately be using your house rules.

b) I love your table of DC's and complexities. The reason I love it is because it so eloquently illustrates why, when they started promoting 4e and said that they had 'fixed the math', that it was 'simple', and 'it just worked', it immediately offended me to the point that I lost all interest in 4e. Quite obviously, looking at your table, fixing the math such that it is easy and intuitive isn't in fact easy. Intuitive numbers end up having very counter intuitive effects. Actually fixing the math often has 'ugly' results from a design perspective, but I think everyone would agree that it is better to have elegant gameplay than elegant design.

c) That said, identifying and fixing the problem (or if not fixing it then at least improving it compared to what was printed) took all of like 3 days? Maybe a week or two tops? Like I said, with no extensive open play test, 'the 4.5 edition' was pretty much gauranteed to be just around the corner. By the end of next year, they are going to be marketing 'new and improved D&D 4e, don't be left out'. By the end of next year, they are going to be saying how '4e made big improvements in the game, but let's face it, there was alot of it that was just ugly. Well, 4.5 edition fixes all that. It really fixes the math, and we mean it this time.'
 

Stalker0

Legend
ZombieRoboNinja said:
Nice job Stalker, but I'd suggest two changes:

1. Remove the Daredevil Stunt mechanic and change the Critical Success text as follows :

2. Roll back the change on non-allowed skills.

The first is an elegant suggestion, the question is of course how much it affects the math. I am currently working on my new version which is incorporating a brand new rule. Once that is complete, I will run models and simulations on your idea, and see if I can make it work, because I do like the concept.

To the second, if I can get the variance down to where one roll at a high DC doesn't mess with the win rate as much, I may do this. Right now, the model is still too sensitive.
 

Stalker said:
Skillful Recovery...
I like this concept, altho the requirement to have a critical success seems to be a bit weird to me. Bascially this rule would be used so infrequently that no-one would remember it!

I suggest changing to to something like:

Skillful Recovery: As an immediate reaction you may attempt to negate a failed skill check. Attempt an approved skill versus the failed checks DC +4. If you succeed, the failed check does not count. If you fail, both your check and the failed check count as failures.
special Each time beyond the first that you attempt a skillful recovery in a given skill challenge, you gain a -4 penalty to your roll.

This gives the party a reasoin to be glad the skill money is around, but the choice carries danger.


And.. I like the system and will probably adapt for my game.. and talk to my DM about adapting in his :)

Any chance of posting a pdf/word version once you finish looking at it the second time?
 

Magus Coeruleus

First Post
Awesome possum. I have zero idea if/how it could work with your model, but I agree with above post that it would be great if skillful recovery worked differently for logical/roleplaying purposes. That is, right now you have it as something you can "purchase" only with potentially unrelated and purely random critical successes, with no drawback if you fail in the recovery attempt. I would much prefer something you can attempt if it seems viable to the DM regardless of critical successes and that there are negative consequences for failure and something to discourage attempting recovery every time.
 

legoman07

First Post
Stalker0 -

I've set up a wiki for some contributors over at the Penny-Arcade boards - we're basically starting a sort of Creative-Commons, open source, non-for-profit game publishing company.

I love your system, and would love your permission to host it on our wiki, with full credit to you.

Send me an e-mail at bartlow.3 <at> osu.edu

Thanks! Great work! I look forward to seeing this new idea, too!
 

Harr

First Post
Wow this is excellent.

My solution to the skill challenge math-woes had gradually eroded into 'just wing it', which has worked well enough, but with this system I can actually get excited about both the general concept of the skill challenge and the rules behind it. Will start using it immediately and report back :)

I run a twice-weekly game with players who are by now well familiar and warmed-up to the concept of skill challenges, so hopefully we'll be able to contribute some actual-play insights.
 
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Stalker0

Legend
For people commenting about skillfull recovery and critical success...you have been heard!! My new version is revamping these, I think you'll like the final result.
 

bert1000

First Post
Stalker0 said:
Allowed Skills: When a DM sets up a skill challenge, he can choose a number of skills that the players may use for the challenge. These are known as “allowed skills”. He may also allow the players to choose their own skills, provided they can provide a good reason for their use.

Non-allowed Skills: A player may wish to use a skill that the DM has decided not to allow for the challenge. If the DM wishes, he can allow the player to use the skill, but only for the purpose of aiding another, and with a hard instead of easy DC (see below).

Can you say a little more about how you are thinking about this for the next version?

If a DM allows a player to choose a skill he has not initially "allowed" (1st paragraph), does that check now become an "allowed check" at moderate DC? And only if the DM does not think it is relevant and the player does it anyway, it becomes not-allowed? Or are you saying that any skill not on the initial list is a non-allowed skill at hard DC?

The reason this is important to me, is that I like loose flowing skill challenges. So, I'd like "allowed skills"/primary skills to have moderate DCs with very good chance of individual roll success for a player with high ability score + training. And I'd like creative uses of non-primary skills (1x per challenge) to be rewarded with a good chance of success and it is a better option than aid another. IMO, the system should encourage players coming up with uses for their top skills over aid another, and this roll should on average help not hurt the overall success of the challenge.

Thanks for the great work!
 

Harr

First Post
bert1000 said:
If a DM allows a player to choose a skill he has not initially "allowed" (1st paragraph), does that check now become an "allowed check" at moderate DC? And only if the DM does not think it is relevant and the player does it anyway, it becomes not-allowed? Or are you saying that any skill not on the initial list is a non-allowed skill at hard DC?

I could be wrong here of course, but seems to me that what skills are or aren't allowed and whether they become allowed or not-allowed halfway through or anything like that is the DM's job (in deisgning the actual challenge), that is to say, none of that stuff would make any difference to the system itself. Would it?
 

Stalker0

Legend
bert1000 said:
Can you say a little more about how you are thinking about this for the next version?

If a DM allows a player to choose a skill he has not initially "allowed" (1st paragraph), does that check now become an "allowed check" at moderate DC? And only if the DM does not think it is relevant and the player does it anyway, it becomes not-allowed? Or are you saying that any skill not on the initial list is a non-allowed skill at hard DC?

To clarify, normally the DM sets his allowed skills as skill that he feels are appropriate to the challenge. Or, he could simply say any skill could be appropriate if the player convinces him.

The rule on non-allowed skill is when a player asks to use a skill that the DM doesn't really feel is appropriate to the encounter, but would like to say yes to the player. By using aid another, it allows the player to use the skill but not in a direct way.

This is also to prevent a player from trying to "abuse" the system by always using his best skill, for example a rogue with skill focus in bluff, a big magic item to bluff, and utility powers to effect bluff.

However, as the DM, if a player makes a good case for a skill being on the allowed skill list, then certainly let them roll it with a moderate DC. I will make this clearer in my new version.
 

mrtomsmith

First Post
I've been playing around with something that happens to be similar to your Skillful Recovery idea. My thought had been to 'assign' a skill to play this role, rather than tie it to critical successes. It seems like this would normally be linked to a specific skill (generally Bluff for lower-class social situations, Diplomacy for upper-class social situations, and Athletics for physical situations), rather than allowing players to roll any of the allowed skills. The DM assigns which skill as part of creating the challenge. I was going to limit it to once per turn, and possibly have it replace the savior player's next action if it needs a little more cost.

Specifically, I'm going to have characters performing, and allow another character to use Bluff to cover failure up by making the crowd think the failure was part of the act.

Haven't had a chance to try it out yet myself, but I thought I'd mention the parallel thinking. Your idea is similar to my idea, so it must be a good idea :).
 

Paranoia23

First Post
This is great: I'll definitely use it in my game. I agree with earlier posters that an element of risky, real choices is key. I'm also glad to hear that you have each character type's fun in mind as you design the system (e.g. giving the skill monkey a chance to be a hero without ruining the basic mechanic).
 
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Harr

First Post
Right, we just got done with our session tonight. We're in the middle of KotS. I've taken massive liberties with the characters and tonight I inserted an original roleplay-intensive extra-long plot scene where players interacted with certain very emotional events happening in Padraig's mansion grounds.

I directed the whole thing through three consecutive complexity 1 (3 win/3 fail) skill challenges from your system, with difficulties 17, 19, and 21 respectively (I progressively wanted them to fail their objectives more and more as they went on, for the sake of the story, but the bastards managed to pull a win out of nowhere in the end).

As for the result, right now all I can say is it worked like a frickin dream. It's 3am here and I gotta sleep but tomorrow I'll be back and post a more in-depth analysis of what happened. There are a couple points of confusion. But overall we could not be happier with it. Out of the many different variations of challenges I've played with this is definitely one of my favorites, if not "the" favorite.
 
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Harr

First Post
Well dang, I was all set to write up a detailed roll-by-roll report of our skill-scene when I saw that version 1.6 is already out in another thread. So I'll give highlights of our game. Also excuse any typoes since I'm typing this out in one go, very fast and no time to proof-read.

It also bears mentioning that my games are completely transparent in that the players are aware of every rule and DC in play and I roll every die in the open. There is zero fudging of any kind. Party is level 2 and skill bonuses range from -1 to +13, withthe average being +9.



*** WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS IMPLIED SPOILERS FOR KEEP ON THE SHADOWFELL ***



Ok here we go...

(It's been established in our KotS game that Lord Padraig and Ninaran are lovers and engaged, and that Lord Padraig has a daughter, Elisa, from a former marriage. Also the players are well-aware that Ninaran is the spy in Winterhaven, and she has taunted them a few times from her invulnerable position beside Padraig.)

The skill challenges begin when the players hear the soul-tearing scream of Lord Padraig finding his daughter with her throat slit open (this having been done the previous night by Ninaran) and run to the mansion courtyard.

First challenge is given by me: Calm down Lord Padraig and prevent him from going on a rampage (complexity 3/3, DC 17). Ninaran points at the party and accuses them of the deed, but with some diplomacy (+11), streetwise (+8), and bluff (+9) rolls they are able to avert the blame from themselves and onto Ninaran (1 fail, 3 wins, with 1 fail averted thanks to the use of a Critical Success). Lord Padraig is shattered yet again as his confidence in Ninaran crumbles and he orders her arrested.

Ninaran is able to lay her hand on the dead Elisa's forehead before she is grabbed by the guards, and as she is marched off, Elisa opens her eyes and staggers to her knees, whispering that she wants her daddy (she is a wight now). Lord Padraig desperately runs to his daughter and has his life siphoned out from him by her, but the players protest this and thus we retcon a little bit and have our second challenge: Keep Lord Padraig from touching his daughter and convince him of what she is (complexity 3/3, DC 19).

Players roll Athletics (+2), and succeed in restraining the Lord, then Intimidate (+11) Diplomacy (+11) and Bluff (+9)(aiding the diplomacy) to try to convince him that it's not really his daughter, but with the higher DC and a bad streak of luck they are down to 2 fails and only 1 win before Sister Linora bursts in on the scene and proclaims that the only course of action is to kill the little wight. The party's paladin decides to break off the challenge and buries his axe in her little head, prompting the failure of the challenge.

Padraig goes almost insane with grief once again, believing his daughter dead twice, but still believing Ninaran to be responsible for everything. He orders the guards to release her, grab her and announces that he will deal with her himself, in private. This is according to my plan for Ninaran to kill him and escape so she can appear later in the graveyard combat. But the players aren't having it, and we have the third and final challenge: Prevent Padraig from leaving with Ninaran (complexity 3/3, DC 21 since I really did not want them to make it).

Players roll Diplomacy (+11), Streetwise (+8), Aracana (+6), and Bluff (+9) to make different arguments to Padraig about why he should keep her there in front of everyone. But the higher DC has its effect and the players end up with 2 fails, 2 wins. Only one roll to go. The paladin decides to roll Intimidate (+11) basically saying "Either judge her here in front of us or I'll kill her right now myself", and believe it or not, rolls a 20. Critical Success. The players went fricking wild. I had no idea what to do. Then I got it. Padraig snapped, lost all semblance of control, shoved Ninaran down to the ground, took out his greatsword, and slew her on the spot. And that was that.

***

So! Could it have gone any better? Doubt it. Thanks to the challenges I had a great framework on which to propel the scene, I had excellent waypoints on which moments were important and which were not, and a good handle on when to push for climax. All in all: awesome.

Players were engaged and freely discussed their Critical Successes, stunts, and offered to Aid Another when someone had a low roll. At no point did any kind of hopelessness set in but also at all times there was the real threat of failure. That final roll was so ridiculously exciting I still can't believe it. Picture the paladin's player (a very tall,very heavy-set guy :D ) jumping up to his feet and jabbing his finger and shouting at his die "YES!! YES!! THAT'S WHAT YOU GET! THAT'S WHAT YOU #$%@ING GET!!! YES!!" And high-fives all around.

On the negative side, players reported that Daredevil Stunts were particularly confusing (I get a critical success but it's not an automatic success... whaaa???) and that a Hard DC for a Recovery roll seemed kind of sucky when the only way could get to do it was with a Critical, so you have to get a Critical AND do a Hard roll?? Seems too much.

Sooo anyways, I guess all this is obsolete now :D but hopefully you (Stalker0) enjoyed reading how your system was put to actual-play use. On Sunday I'm giving the 1.6 rules a try. We'll see which ones are better received. It's gonna be a tough sell for 1.6 after all this I can assure you ;)
 
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Stalker0

Legend
Its wonderful to hear your players had a good time using my system, that's the best kind of praise I could receive.

I hope they enjoy 1.6 as much as 1.0, actually, I hope moreso:)
 

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