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Steps to an ad-hoc skill challenge

hong

WotC's bitch
Doesn't seem too hard to whip up a skill challenge on the fly.

1. Decide the objective. This should not be something immediate, but longer-term. Things like "traverse the wilderness to get to the city", "find out more about the town's troubles", "learn the secrets of how to build a skyship", for example.

2. Decide the difficulty (moderate is default)

3. Decide the complexity (3 = 8 succ/4 fail)

4. Decide which skills don't apply (if you're a hardass DM)

5. Profit!
 

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Torchlyte

First Post
Hehehe...

Heh. Heh.

Haha.

Muahahahaha!

Yeah, it shouldn't be too hard to make a proper skill challenge, bad examples notwithstanding.
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
Part 1 can be interesting - who sets the objective? DM or Players?

A typical scenario might be:

A) "Okay, we'll have to find someone to help us. Let's see if we can convince the Duke to help us."
B) "We could also try to bully that Thief Guild Guy into helping us. We might have enough evidence to end his little smuggling operation once and for all."
A) DM whips out the social skill challenge for "gaining trust"
B) DM whips out the social skill challenge for "extortion"

But there's also a more DM-initiated challenge.
"To get to the Temple of Doom, you will have to travel through the forest of Sumatra." (DM whips out travel challenge (forest terrain)".
 

eleran

First Post
Mustrum_Ridcully said:
Part 1 can be interesting - who sets the objective? DM or Players?

A typical scenario might be:

A) "Okay, we'll have to find someone to help us. Let's see if we can convince the Duke to help us."
B) "We could also try to bully that Thief Guild Guy into helping us. We might have enough evidence to end his little smuggling operation once and for all."
A) DM whips out the social skill challenge for "gaining trust"
B) DM whips out the social skill challenge for "extortion"

But there's also a more DM-initiated challenge.
"To get to the Temple of Doom, you will have to travel through the forest of Sumatra." (DM whips out travel challenge (forest terrain)".


You think you could combine A and B to be 1 skill challenege titled "get help"? Either successively or simultaneously the group seeks help from both the Duke and the TGG.
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
eleran said:
You think you could combine A and B to be 1 skill challenege titled "get help"? Either successively or simultaneously the group seeks help from both the Duke and the TGG.
If the group notices both possibilities, yes. ;) It's not uncommon for players to miss things that seem obvious to the DM (and instead do something that is crazy, or at least unexpected). Skill Challenges might give you a tool to handle both situations.
 

eleran

First Post
Mustrum_Ridcully said:
If the group notices both possibilities, yes. ;) It's not uncommon for players to miss things that seem obvious to the DM (and instead do something that is crazy, or at least unexpected). Skill Challenges might give you a tool to handle both situations.


Good point. I guess I read your post wrong. I was under the impression the group thought of both things. But your right.

Being a long time CoC player I am a strong believer in researching things when possible also before charging in headlong to an unknown threat. Think skill challenges could be used this way also?

Players: We need to find out all we can about these creatures we keep encountering as they seem to be at the heart of this towns problem.
DM: Whip out the "Research the creatures from beyond skill challenge"
Perhaps some of the skills that could be used would be history, Knowledge (arcana, Religion, Planes, etc.), streetwise (gather info), stealth (for spying on them), Intimidate (if someone is knowingly in league with them), Diplo. Disallow Athletics just to piss off Celebrim and Derren.
 

Domon

First Post
If the group notices both possibilities, yes. It's not uncommon for players to miss things that seem obvious to the DM (and instead do something that is crazy, or at least unexpected). Skill Challenges might give you a tool to handle both situations.

well, even if the group does not notice both possibilities, a skill challenge with the stake "get help" may still lead to both, and more if the DM is not anal retentive, based simply on player descriptions.
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
eleran said:
Good point. I guess I read your post wrong. I was under the impression the group thought of both things. But your right.

Being a long time CoC player I am a strong believer in researching things when possible also before charging in headlong to an unknown threat. Think skill challenges could be used this way also?

Players: We need to find out all we can about these creatures we keep encountering as they seem to be at the heart of this towns problem.
DM: Whip out the "Research the creatures from beyond skill challenge"
Perhaps some of the skills that could be used would be history, Knowledge (arcana, Religion, Planes, etc.), streetwise (gather info), stealth (for spying on them), Intimidate (if someone is knowingly in league with them), Diplo. Disallow Athletics just to piss off Celebrim and Derren.
Now, the last sentence is just mean. But strangely, I feel the need to approve. ;)

But otherwise: Sure they can. You just have to figure out what the skill challenge is supposed to help you. Knowledge can be power, but it might be nice if you get actual things that can help you mechanically. If you figure out that there are a lot of fire-resistant creatures, the group might find a scroll to supress this ability (but maybe only enough to use it only if it counts) as part or result of the challenge. The challenge could give you information on the layout of the lair (where does the Gnome hide the Badger?), or weaknesses of unknown monsters (Cold Iron or Silver vs Ice Devils?). You could keep the benefits abstract, and just say thanks to their information, they avoid random encounters, or at least are confronted with easier ones.

In the Horrosh (sp?) Realm of Torg, many monsters had a "True Death" - there was only one way to really kill a monster, and anything else could just take it out for a short time. Researching a True Death was part of the adventure. You could use a similar idea for some monster adventures, and require a skill challenge for determining the True Death of a monster. A failure off course doesn't mean you don't find the solution (or at least doesn't have to), but it might not work as well as it could, or have side effects. Maye you bless a crossbow bolt to fight a Rakasha, but then find out that the blessing didn#t work perfectly, and you need multiple shots (giving the Rakasha time to kill you or some innocents, or run away, preparing an ambush for later).
 

eleran

First Post
Mustrum_Ridcully said:
In the Horrosh (sp?) Realm of Torg,


OK, this makes me curious. Having heard a lot of jokes about Torg, but never having cracked a cover of any Torg book, how was that game?
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
eleran said:
OK, this makes me curious. Having heard a lot of jokes about Torg, but never having cracked a cover of any Torg book, how was that game?
I haven't played it intensively, but members in my group played it a lot (before 3E appeared, at a time where the game was still supported).

From what I saw, it was awesome, but you had to get into a specific mindset (not really compatible with the 3E mindset) to play it well. It has a certain "anything-goes"/"over-the-top"/"pulp" style.

I suggest creating a thread on it in the General RPG Discussion Forum on the topic, since this will lead off-topic. There's also a Wikipedia Entry (it was discussed a few weeks ago on th General RPG boards)

Talking about 4E and different design "techniques" or subsystems, I am always reminded of Torg (not that 4E is "stealing" much from it, but when you're exploring RPG design spaces, you will always find some good solutions in Torg).
Interesting tidbits:
[sblock]
- Fast Gameplay. You roll only a single dice per round, that stands for all your actions (and you can take multiple, at a penalty). You get some rerolls, but most of the time, it's just one roll.
- Logarithmic Conversion Table to convert everything to everything - km/h to m/sec to kg to currency units.
- Use of non-weapon skills to perform "attacks" (taunt, test of wills, maneuver) and actually take out your foes.
- Card-based initiative system (Drama Deck) that supports "dramatic" and regular encounters, declares actions that grant benefits. A "regular" encounter is where your party mows down 20 shock troopers with 20 rounds of ammo. A dramatic encounter is where you fight two Ninjas (or the arch villain) and get your ass handed to you...
- Drama Deck is also used for handling something similar to 4E skill challenges.
- Drama Deck Cards also include "Plot" Cards, that allow a player with a card to influence the plot - play a Romance, Connection or Idea Card to forward the plot, or use a Martyr card to rescue your friends/the world, sacrificing yourself.
- Earth is invaded by several realities (Orrorsh is one of them), and the heroes (Stormriders) are "possibility"-rated, able to move between the realities and have the chance to alter the course of the world, stopping the evil overlords of the various realities.
- The Possibilities of characters basically are a kind of "hit point" or "plot-protection point" for PCs. In combat for example, they can be used to reduce damage taken.
- Combine Elven Wizard with Cyberaugmented Priest with ordinary (Core Earth) human private eye and a Superhero to a party of adventurers (Storm-Riders), all equally capable of fighting the good fight.
- Each Reality has different Axiom Levels for things like Social, Technological, Magical and Religious Development, determining the kind of social structure, technologies or magic and dinve powers are usually available in the setting. Each Realm also has its own "Laws", that you can invoke to gain benefits when in that Cosmos for goals pertaining to that Law, but sometimes also just set the feel of the setting - Nippon Tech laws include a Law that tells you that 10 % of all members in any random organisation are traitors to it, so expect a lot of betrayal and back-stabbing when working in Nippon Tech...
[/sblock]
All in all, I think Torg was pretty innovative.
 

satori01

First Post
I'm not sure I am enamored of this mechanic. The intent is obvious, and a good one, try to eliminate or reduce the "face man" syndrome, where 1 player will do the rolling of the dice for the group.

I like the idea, but I wonder about the practice.....could not the party in the negotiation with the Duke, simply have a couple of characters roll different skills? Does everyone have to make their own roll?
If so what about the character that has no social skills...seems tortuous to make up some excuse for how Athletics will sway the Duke....barring some foreshadowing stating the Duke is a lover of sports.

Likewise what if a single roll fails spectacularly? The Demo skill test was to see if players could sneak out of a city...now it strikes me that if a player rolls particularly bad on say a Bluff check, he or she should be caught, normally this would mean a chase or combat.....yet from the Demo description it did not sound like this was the failure possibility.

Flavourwise is it that much of an improvement? I like it for negotiation....I am curious if it could be adapted for traps....for wilderness exploration...not really much of a difference, if the Druid , Ranger, Barbarian...blows their Survival check, then someone always attempted a Spot or Search check to see if they could find a trail. Ultimately overland travel comes down to dice rolls....which is why long duration Fly, Mass Fly, Teleport, and Find the Path could be good things, to cut down the hand waving for finding the Unfindable Temple in the Trackless Jungle.
 

Cadfan

First Post
eleran said:
You think you could combine A and B to be 1 skill challenege titled "get help"? Either successively or simultaneously the group seeks help from both the Duke and the TGG.
I'm not sure this is a good idea.

Progress on getting help from the thieves guild guy doesn't necessarily help you in getting help from the Duke. Not to mention, failing X times at cajoling the thieves guild guy doesn't necessarily ruin your chances with the Duke.

I think it probably works best as two skill challenges, perhaps run side by side. If one is abandoned because it is unnecessary after the other succeeds, then so be it.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Cadfan said:
I'm not sure this is a good idea.

Progress on getting help from the thieves guild guy doesn't necessarily help you in getting help from the Duke. Not to mention, failing X times at cajoling the thieves guild guy doesn't necessarily ruin your chances with the Duke.

I think it probably works best as two skill challenges, perhaps run side by side. If one is abandoned because it is unnecessary after the other succeeds, then so be it.

I could see running them side by side - but with the chance that failures in one could affect both - for instance, lets say you need 6 successes before 4 failures to convince the thieves guild guy. As DM, I might say that if you have 3 failures, one of them counts against the Dukes skill challenge, as one of the Dukes men learns that the PC's are hobnobbing with the criminal underworld, thus making that negotiation a little more difficult...
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
satori01 said:
I'm not sure I am enamored of this mechanic. The intent is obvious, and a good one, try to eliminate or reduce the "face man" syndrome, where 1 player will do the rolling of the dice for the group.

I like the idea, but I wonder about the practice.....could not the party in the negotiation with the Duke, simply have a couple of characters roll different skills? Does everyone have to make their own roll?
If so what about the character that has no social skills...seems tortuous to make up some excuse for how Athletics will sway the Duke....barring some foreshadowing stating the Duke is a lover of sports.
The hard part for some people might be to accept that you still have to make "DM-convincing", because this can lead to the "Mother-May-I"-situations. But an important thing here might be that there are "default" skills you will use, and only if you really want to do something unusual, you'll have to convince your DM. For a Travel-Scenario, Endurance, Nature or Perception are obvious skills. Using Diplomacy or Thievery would require some explanation, and will probably emerge from the situations that is described and role-played during the challenge. They don't fit into the default framework, but if the DM decides that a recent failure leads the party towards a hostile tribe, diplomacy might help to calm them and acquire some help.

Likewise what if a single roll fails spectacularly? The Demo skill test was to see if players could sneak out of a city...now it strikes me that if a player rolls particularly bad on say a Bluff check, he or she should be caught, normally this would mean a chase or combat.....yet from the Demo description it did not sound like this was the failure possibility.
A single roll generally can't fail spectacularly. But the challenge could (no successes, only failures?) The success vs failure ratio can provide a way to determine what happens. Every roll a failure? Each member of the party is cornered by some guards. A few successes a long the way, but you still fail the challenge? You might get out, but bounty hunters are behind you and others are preparing an ambush...

Flavourwise is it that much of an improvement? I like it for negotiation....I am curious if it could be adapted for traps....for wilderness exploration...not really much of a difference, if the Druid , Ranger, Barbarian...blows their Survival check, then someone always attempted a Spot or Search check to see if they could find a trail. Ultimately overland travel comes down to dice rolls....which is why long duration Fly, Mass Fly, Teleport, and Find the Path could be good things, to cut down the hand waving for finding the Unfindable Temple in the Trackless Jungle.
If all you do is roll dice, the spells are fine solutions. But remember, the rolls can be accompanied with some roleplaying or some exposition from the DM, and this can make it worth to go through these rolls.
 

Wraithdrit

First Post
Alternately, you could use the 'something bad happens' and 'something good happens' mechanic of easy and hard checks to make the two things mix. Something bad happens during one check means that the other challenge is modified, or something like that.

I ran my first full 4th ed game from the PHB Lite this last weekend, and my players ended up trying to get information out of the town regent. When it was obvious that I was going to require multiple checks to get anything out of him, I went ahead and switched it to a skill challenge. I explained the mechanics to them, and they went to town on the idea, quickly gaining the lord's trust enough to be sent on a small mission to gauge their trustworthiness.

Anyways, point being I found the mechanic easy to use on the fly.

- Wraith
 

Mustrum_Ridcully

Adventurer
Kid Charlemagne said:
I could see running them side by side - but with the chance that failures in one could affect both - for instance, lets say you need 6 successes before 4 failures to convince the thieves guild guy. As DM, I might say that if you have 3 failures, one of them counts against the Dukes skill challenge, as one of the Dukes men learns that the PC's are hobnobbing with the criminal underworld, thus making that negotiation a little more difficult...
Instead of making it a direct mechanical impact, you could also use these failures to spin the story a little different. If the PCs fail (or nearly) fail one of the challenges, this might affect later encounters. Maybe one of the Soldiers the Duke sends them is payed by the Thieve's Guild to slip some poison in the PCs food. Whatever makes sense in the context.
 

Kid Charlemagne

I am the Very Model of a Modern Moderator
Mustrum_Ridcully said:
Instead of making it a direct mechanical impact, you could also use these failures to spin the story a little different. If the PCs fail (or nearly) fail one of the challenges, this might affect later encounters. Maybe one of the Soldiers the Duke sends them is payed by the Thieve's Guild to slip some poison in the PCs food. Whatever makes sense in the context.

Absolutely - I'm thinking of making the number of failures in a skill challenge affect these sorts of things, pending a full reading of the rules, of course. I can see lots of cool applications.
 

2eBladeSinger

First Post
hong said:
Doesn't seem too hard to whip up a skill challenge on the fly.

1. Decide the objective. This should not be something immediate, but longer-term. Things like "traverse the wilderness to get to the city", "find out more about the town's troubles", "learn the secrets of how to build a skyship", for example.

2. Decide the difficulty (moderate is default)

3. Decide the complexity (3 = 8 succ/4 fail)

4. Decide which skills don't apply (if you're a hardass DM)

5. Profit!

Don't forget the most important step:

5.a Success leads to X
Failure leads to Y

I find it helpful to have a clear idea of what the end result of the challenges are before I begin. If I can't clearly define a reward (or more commonly a penalty for failure) then I don't think it's appropriate to use a skill challenge
 

hbarsquared

Quantum Chronomancer
satori01 said:
.....could not the party in the negotiation with the Duke, simply have a couple of characters roll different skills? Does everyone have to make their own roll?
If so what about the character that has no social skills...seems tortuous to make up some excuse for how Athletics will sway the Duke....
Here's the thing... Such circumstances won't really happen in 4E, as a result of the overhauling of the skill system in the first place.

If you were to import in the concept of a "skill challenge" into 3E, you would have just these issues. A face man with Diplomacy +53, while the other characters have a highest modifier of +14 in a social skills, and a +32 for their highest skills. Just the fact that 3E allowed such huge discrepancies between modifiers makes a challenge where all party members participate on an even footing impossible.

However, 4E has done two things: reduce the number of skills and equalize modifiers. Rolling several applications of similar skills into one has reduced the "spread" that characters might otherwise have. The investment in one skill in 4E applies to far more situations than a single skill ever did in 3E. Also, the 1/2 level modifier, and the limited number of stacking effects means that all players of a particular level will be able to contribute skills-wise. Even the character with "no social skills" will have a shot at a social challenge.

So, when considering Skill Challenges, one must consider the context in which it is being introduced: the 4E Skills mechanic.
 

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