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Yet Another Take on Page 42


The guidelines on page 42 of the DMG certainly have the potential of being a DM's best friend. But the DCs as originally printed seemed too high, especially when combined with the misdesigned skill challenge rules. The corrections issued by WotC, though, seem to swing too far in the other direction, lowering the DCs and also removing the footnotes for attacks and skill checks.

I haven't been too bothered by this confusion. As a DM, I have a fair understanding of what DCs will challenge the characters in my campaign, and so I'm happy to use the ideas behind the table, without necessarily adhering to the exact numbers. Yet it got me thinking. I've seen somewhat persuasive arguments for both high and low DCs, and it occurred to me that there is a key factor missing from the whole business.

There are really two different ways in which a party can be challenged by an ability check, skill check, or attack-like action.

It may be a challenge that only one member of the party needs to succeed at. Knowledge checks are often like this. If any character recognizes the demonic emblem on the castle bridge, then the whole party will know about it and act accordingly. Diplomacy is often this way too: the party's most diplomatic character speaks for the others, and his/her success is what matters.

On the other hand, it may be a challenge that all party members must face, or that may be faced by any arbitrary member of the party. Marching through a blizzard tests everyone's endurance, not just the endurance of the toughest character.

The first type of situation requires higher DCs to challenge the party. And, it seems to me, those DCs that test the party's best character will also need to increase somewhat more with increase in level, because players will continue to improve their best attributes whenever possible.

With these considerations in mind, I put together my own version of the DCs by level table. It has two sets of numbers, one for "average PCs" and one for "specialized PCs". The first is for challenges that any party member may face, the second is for challenges directed specifically at the PC best equipped to face them.

I've attached a pdf file of the table, but here's the basic set up:

Average PCs
begin with DCs of 5/10/15 (easy/moderate/hard) for levels 1-3
increase by 1 every 2 levels (using three-level bands, this means increasing by 2 and 1, alternately)
footnotes: add 2 for attacks, add 3 for skill checks

Specialized PCs
begin with 10/15/20 for levels1-3
increase by 2 for every three-level band
footnotes: add 3 for attacks, add 5 for skill checks

The faster progression for specialized PCs assumes that a character's bonuses for their strongest attributes will increase by 1 every 6 levels due to ability increases, feats, or magic items - in addition to the steady 1/2 level increase. For these characters, I also increased the attack adjustment by 1, figuring that a party's best attacker will have a class feature or feat that offers at least a +1 bonus to attack rolls.

Our characters are still low level, so my system may fall out of synch at higher levels, but the basic idea of it seems to work.

I'd love any comments, possible problems, or suggestions for improvement.



  • Page 42 DCs.pdf
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Paul Strack

First Post
Your number seem reasonably sound to me, but I think you are making things more complicated than you need to be. I think you can have a single chart with Easy/Moderate/Hard. If you have a check that specialist would face, make it Moderate or Hard. If you have a check that the whole party will face, make it Easy. Use the slow progression for the Easy column and the faster progression for the Moderate and Hard column.


Thanks for the comments. I can see the virtue in simplifying that way, since the two progressions only differ by 4 by 30th level. I guess I just like the conceptual separation - realizing you have to scale the challenges differently if anybody could be hit by them, as opposed to something that the "best" character could deal with on behalf of the whole party.

Also, there is the difference in the adjustments for skill checks and attacks. I may even want just a +2 to skill check DCs for average characters, which starts to look more like a significant gap between the two cases.
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