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Stalker0's Obsidian Skill Challenge System (Update: Version 1.1) Now with PDF!!

clearstream

(He, Him)
Amethyst Expansion for Obsidian

I recognized that these could be issue points with some people when first making the system. In the long run I chose a cleaner and simpler system instead of one that addressed these issues, though I recognize they can be sticking points for some.

In the long run though, the Obsidian system is a skeleton for the DM's and players imagination, a framework that is durable enough to handle a variety of "hey...let's try this" ideas. So if you want to have success and failure points more within each segment, you can likely do that.

The DM can also make certain segments different by changing the primary skill (an elegant suggestion that was posted earlier) or by adjusting the DC for one segment only. Perhaps the second segment is exceptionally difficult so the party gets a -1 to their skill checks for that one, etc.

Good calls to be honest. Since I'm hitting the same problems I decided to run with Obsidian for awhile: I feel you've found one of the better places to be in the design space.

This came as a reversal of my original despair, as I came to embrace the precept for what it is. And in that line, please find attached Amethyst, which I've cavalierly dubbed an expansion for Obsidian. I'd love to know what you think of it!

It's necessarily incomplete, but you will discern the direction it takes with a quick skim read.

-vk

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Neubert

First Post
Good calls to be honest. Since I'm hitting the same problems I decided to run with Obsidian for awhile: I feel you've found one of the better places to be in the design space.

This came as a reversal of my original despair, as I came to embrace the precept for what it is. And in that line, please find attached Amethyst, which I've cavalierly dubbed an expansion for Obsidian. I'd love to know what you think of it!

It's necessarily incomplete, but you will discern the direction it takes with a quick skim read.

-vk

vk, I liked what I read in the beginning of your expansion, but you lost me a bit with the extensive list of keywords and when the feats/powers. In my opinion, it makes skill challenges a bit too complex and hard to prepare for, but that is just my opinion. It is not for everyone of course. What I did like however (and might incorporate), is the parts about skills having varying DC's and keywords (a little like what I posted earlier, some can be used once, some has to be used, some automatically fail, etc). I still think you did a splendid and very thorough job though, and it looks balanced (based on the skim I had).
 

keterys

First Post
Hmm, just noticed that ENW ate an earlier response I had.

It was something like 'When I thought I wanted to work on skill challenges, I was thinking of maybe having X rounds (default 3), where you didn't check total #s of successes or failures, but checked for each round. And there was Total Failure, Partial Failure, Partial Success, Total Success depending on how many rounds you beat.'

Anyhow, that's one possible way to keep each round/segment important, but I never ran the math on it strenuously.
 


Neubert

First Post
Is the earlier version here inferior to the newer 1.8 version of Obsidian?

I suppose you are referring to the other system created by Stalker0 (unless I missed a huge update). This and the other system are just two takes on how to fix the skill challenge system as presented in the DMG. Either is viable, but where the other sets out to fix the skill challenges as designed by Wizards, this one only keeps the core concept (the idea of having several rolls for a skill check) and the system is designed around that. So it is really up to you which to choose.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
vk, I liked what I read in the beginning of your expansion, but you lost me a bit with the extensive list of keywords and when the feats/powers. In my opinion, it makes skill challenges a bit too complex and hard to prepare for, but that is just my opinion. It is not for everyone of course. What I did like however (and might incorporate), is the parts about skills having varying DC's and keywords (a little like what I posted earlier, some can be used once, some has to be used, some automatically fail, etc). I still think you did a splendid and very thorough job though, and it looks balanced (based on the skim I had).

Thank you, and great first pass criticisms. I need to go back and make it more palatable. Also I have the same fears as you about how much play people really want in their skill challenges. With 4th combat focussed, many players likely want something that's fun and over quickly. I am working more toward something with some meat in it!

With regard to the keywords, I did freely use good ideas from other posts - perhaps yours too! With regard to the DMG, rather than all those random examples, WotC should have provided us with the extracted properties (or keywords) to tag on skills when we set up a challenge. I'll break out and work on that part, since it looks like it'd be most helpful.

I'm hoping Stalker0 might have a chance to comment.

-vk
 

grickherder

First Post
My friend N on the West Coast emailed me his AP for his skill challenge using Obsidian 1.1 that he inserted into Keep on the Shadowfell. We were both planning on running investigation skill challenges. Mine was good, but it sounds like his turned out awesome:

Warning, Possible Keep on the Shadowfell Spoilers


The default skill challenge in KotS is to convince this guy to give you his magic sword. Boring!!! I changed it to figuring out who in the town was secretly part of the Orcus cult. While the module actually specifies this, I chucked that as well. Whomever the players accuse in the process of the skill challenge (assuming success in their rolls) is the guilty party (proved conclusively in a complete success, not proven or the person escapes on a partial and innocent on a failure). I made a list of facts and gave a piece of informatin through RPing/dialogue even if they failed their skill roll.

It was awesome. They spend the first segment narrowing down their suspect list just like in your game. Their second was spent gathering information on those like liked for the crime. The third segment was a feast in their honour for killing the goblin warlord, Irontooth (thanks for the idea of making the last segment be where everyone including all the suspects might be gathered together). At this feast they had sort of a Agatha Christie style unveil going on.

Until one player threw a bomb. They had learned about different relationships and desires and whatnot of the different key townsfolk (I made them up as KotS is sorely lacking in this regard). One of their suspects (the young priestess Linora of the local shrine) was in love with Lord Padreig's clarke, Weldly. The lord himself, was getting on to his 50s and had no heir. One of the PCs spent the whole day drinking with the mayor and so Lord Padreig was quite drunk by the time the feast even started and was also quite inclined to listen to the dwarven warrior's suggestions at this point.

So the player had his dwarven warrior, a hero of Winterhaven and drinking buddy to the noble lord, convince Lord Padreig to declare his intention to take a new wife-- the young priestess. He stands up and announces it.

Kaboom! What came out of the multi participant shouting match effectively exonerated the priestess and Weldly (in the eyes of the PCs), leaving the party looking at a local hunter/scout which was the last suspect to not be cleared. While it also resulted in both the priestess and young Weldly losing their positions and being arrested as cultists, the Dwarf felt it was a price worth paying.

At this point, they had almost enough success for a partial success. In advance I told them that a partial success would mean they figure out who it is but either lack the proof to convince everyone else or the spy/cult leader escapes. The 3rd to last player in the last segment then accuses her, outlines their case and the suspect makes a defense. Unfortunately for the player (who failed the roll), the character who made the accusation was an Infernal Pact Warlock and it wasn't too hard in a town of people fearful of dark powers to shock everyone that the so-called heroes of winterhaven deal with the dark powers of the Abyss (or whereever one gets infernal power). Then the guileless halfling rogue (PC, named Plucky), acting shocked at the implication himself, added a confirmation that his ally does indeed traffic with dark powers.

A "conviction" at this point doesn't seem likely unless she can pull something off. The 2nd to last player says that some piece of evidence is false and contradicts something she knows. She makes a brilliantly high Arcana roll and pushes the results into a partial success. The spy had been keeping a fake journal hidden away to be found in case she was ever suspected which would seem to exonerate her. In it it outlined how she had left her homeland because of a repugnant arranged marriage to a foul and cold elf. It portrayed her as a traggic hero who had been investigating the cult herself. She masterfully acted angered when it was produced during the Warlock's accusation (the PCs had searched her house while she was away). But the Arcana check! She remembers that Elves do not practice arranged marriage! Atleast not those in the Elven settlement the accused claimed to be from. The journal was a fake!

So the suspect bolted. They only had a partial success and needed two more successes to make it complete. But there was only one PC left to go. An Elven Ranger who, suspecting that if the spy tried to escape, would go out the North Gate towards the ruined keep (the suspected base of operations for the cult). The spy arrived at the gates, killed the guard there (most of the town and the guards had been called to the feast as a result of the ruckus there with the preistess, the clarke and druken Lord Padreig. But the ranger was there. The case was made for an athletics check to try to stop her from escaping.

Natural 20. Which in that system means two successes. He just pulled off a complete success. The ranger lowers himself outside of the wall as the spy approaches and taking a position to hold the gates shut and keeping them from being pushed open, preventing her escape. The rest of the party and 4 or 5 guards arrived. Given the spy only had a small dagger, no armour and these were the heroes of Winterhaven who had bested Irontooth, she decided to give herself up.

You were right though, prep work took a long time. It took me quite a while to generate a list of contradictory facts for each character depending on who the PCs decided to go after as the guilty party. And each time I gave a piece of information I had to go through my list and cross out ones that were too contradictory so the list gradually narrowed down to a single, cohesive answer.

-------------------------

One thing I'm definitely going to do is for any time the players need to figure out "who" as a skill challenge it won't be set in advance (or atleast only loosely). It just works too well to have the guilty party result from the roleplaying that happens during the skill challenge.

How would any of you feel about that as a player? That the DM may change the answer depending on how you do in the skill challenge? Would you feel like you actually didn't solve the mystery or does that not matter because you characters did?
 
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Stalker0

Legend
How would any of you feel about that as a player? That the DM may change the answer depending on how you do in the skill challenge? Would you feel like you actually didn't solve the mystery or does that not matter because you characters did?

That's the thing, they won't know:) Great to hear you had good success with the system.

My group had a recent skill challenge that I thought was worth mentioning. We were trying to rescue a party's members old friend, and found him at the site of a dark summoning ritual. We stopped the ritual, but it caused the green slime that was buried beneath us to erupt from the ground.

It was a physical challenge, and the DM let us choose the results of our partial victory. A p. victory would either let us escape the area, or save the man (but possible encur a lot of damage or worse). A complete success would get us both, we would get the guy and escape.

One of the group had purchased a special elxir that protected agaisnt green slime (we knew about the slime in advance) and he decided to use it all for the challenge. The Dm gave him an 15-20 crit range for the roll, and gave everyone else a +2 bonus for that round.

The paladin actually had primordial as a language, so the DM allowed him to use diplomacy to calm down the slime as a one time check. He used astral voice and got a very strong success. The rest of us used acrobatics and endurance to grapple the prison our friend was him and haul it off the caldera of slime before it blew. My wizard used nature to try a ritual on the spot to calm down the process. I failed miserably:)

Overall we spent 2 action points and a lot of gold in slime protection, but we got a complete success!!

I'm really happy to here about all the little customization I'm hearing from other groups. That's the big point of Obsidian, in the normal system, giving the group a +2 to their rolls for one round would result in a massive swing in results, in Obsidian its just a solid bump.
 

grickherder

First Post
That's the thing, they won't know:)

That's certainly true. It's entirely possible though, that my players or N's might read this forum and see our examples and learn that neither of us had the mystery pre-solved.

So it's possible that players will know.

You know, I'll do an experiment and report back. I'll email N and see if he'll report back as well. I'm going to tell my players I had no idea who it was until after they solved it. I'll find out what they think about it.

Great to hear you had good success with the system.

N's comments from his email:

"WotC needs to buy this, release it as a Dragon article and put a version of it in all re printings of the DMG."

While I would prefer that it remains in the hands of it's original author, I agree with the sentiment.

My group had a recent skill challenge that I thought was worth mentioning. We were trying to rescue a party's members old friend, and found him at the site of a dark summoning ritual. We stopped the ritual, but it caused the green slime that was buried beneath us to erupt from the ground.

My favorite thing about Obsidian is how easily it handles resolving such a wide variety of situations as a skill challenge.

It was a physical challenge, and the DM let us choose the results of our partial victory.

Awesome. That was a great act of DMing. I could totally see how this would work great for the scene in the Spiderman movie where Green Goblin makes Spiderman choose between saving Mary Jane and that trolly full of children.

Here's the only downside I see about Obsidian. It scales up to 7 people just fine by requiring more successes, but that multiplies the amount of individual roleplaying interactions and skill checks. In a group of 7 players, 21 seperate interactions and rolls can take a long time.

My investigation with 7 players took about 2 and a half hours. While I don't think that's long at all given that it was 2 and half hours of intense roleplaying, some players did find it a bit long and the wait between them getting the spotlight to be long. But that's 7 players, it's to be expected. I tried to encourage them to go places together while investigating the fraternal order.
 


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