Everything you need to know about Skill Challenges but were afraid to ask

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7 Responses

  1. Mad Brew says:

    Skill Challenges are not anything new to me, even in D&D. I’ve chained tests of skills together since, well, since 2nd edition (where I used lots of ability checks). Of course, I didn’t have any codified structure, but the premise was the same.
    .-= Mad Brew´s last blog ..Pathfinder RPG Resources =-.

  2. Thasmodious says:

    An excellent primer. I really like the player’s tips. Most skill challenge work out there is done from the DMs perspective, so that is a nice addition. I think #s 8 &9 there are key – don’t do nothin’, be descriptive.

  3. Swordgleam says:

    Hells (all nine of them) to the Yes on your first point! Every single complaint from a DM I’ve seen about their own inability to run a skill challenge has revolved around the fact that they designed it as, “The skill challenge has obstacles X and Y which the players will defeat using methods W and Z,” which the players invariably do not do.

  4. kaeosdad says:

    I agree with Swordgleam, DM point 1 is probably the best advice, that and Player point 9.

    When I think back on it the only times skill challenges have worked for me was when I did not plan on having one at all. I chose a complexity, explained what the goal was and let the players have at it!

    For player point 9 this is how I think it could best be encouraged:

    First ask the player,”What is your character doing to overcome the challenge?”

    Their answer determines both the skill being used and the DC based on how difficult it is to accomplish what the player wants to do.

    Next ask,”Before you roll, role play it!”

    Depending not just on how well they role play, but also on how plausible it is that the actions will work you could either grant a bonus to the roll or penalize the roll.

    Hm, this is inspiring me to attempt skill challenges again in my games. I gave up on them after I tried writing a couple of planned skill challenges and fun wise both completely failed for me.
    .-= kaeosdad´s last blog ..Mysterious Alien Dice Revealed!!! =-.

  5. kaeosdad says:

    It almost feels like skill challenges mostly fail from all the rules being written.

    Some of the points you made about stretching out skill challenges I sort of disagree on. I can see SCs working in some ways but at a certain point it becomes something more akin to a quest.

    When you stretch out a skill challenge as you describe above in the Penetrate the Impenetrable Fortress SC the skill challenge framework sort of evolves into a different beast, it becomes a framework for a scenario or quest which I think is totally awesome but would likely need a different mindset. This sort of SC should be used as a framework for a player driven adventure! But how would you initiate such an adventure? Would the players be explicitly told, or would the dm just run the numbers behind the scene? I think if a SC is used in this manner it almost needs a new title just to make it easier to keep track of, I’d call it an ‘Adventure Quest’ as hokey as that name sounds, it’ sums it up nicely.

    So to explain it further an ‘Adventure Quest’ uses the same framework as an SC but rather than a skill being the focus of an action during a turn, the skill is instead the focus of an entire scene! A series of these scenes is not just an encounter but an entire adventure in itself. Does that make sense?
    .-= kaeosdad´s last blog ..Mysterious Alien Dice Revealed!!! =-.

  6. Greywulf says:

    @Mad Brew Yep. They’re not a new concept, but for gamers who aren’t familiar with other role-playing games, it’s a new concept to them.

    @Thasmodious Thanks!

    @Swordgleam I think that mentality has come from seeing Skill Challenges in published adventures where the writer has (quite rightly) spelled out the Challenge in full. That’s left GMs with the impression that they have to do the same and work out every possible use for every possible skill ahead of time. You don’t.

    @kaeosdad Using Skill Challenges as an adventure framework is something that hit me when plaiyng Tiny Adventures on Facebook. That entire app is essentially Skill Challenges writ large and an excellent example of exactly what Challenges are, and what they can be.

    I’ve written (much) more about Tiny Adventures and Skill Challenges, here and here and Faceless Crimes is a fully worked example of a Skill Challenge-based adventure for Fantasy Noir. Hope that helps!

  7. Rook says:

    Like so many others, I have been very hesitant to incorporate Skill Challenges into my game due to my lack of understanding how they work. So thanks for this great post. While some of these tips seem like common sense, others have really inspired me to give them a serious try. I’ll try anything to get my players to role-play more, rather than roll-play. Thanks again.
    .-= Rook´s last blog ..NPCs with Names: the Player’s Obsession =-.

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