Are skill challenges "too easy"?

220 posts / 0 new
Last post
This isn't about the writing of skill challenges in general, but more about the difficulty of them. For me, when I DM, they usually feel more like filler than an actual challenge. If the information is "necessary", the mods usually find a way for the players to get it regardless of the pass/fail and penalty of losing a surge or whatever. Also, I've found that normally there is someone in the group that has no trouble hitting the DC's for whatever skill is required, and often times several players capable of doing so.

So basically, I suppose I'm curious what others think about it.
The DCs for skill challenges seem to be fairly easy, but that is because they are not geared to PCs 'specialized' in a skill. There is not  a whole ot we can do about the DCs: if we up them, we have to give more xp, and that eats away the budget.
What we can do, is try to encourage tp spread skills so they are not always used just by the specialists. Group checks are way to do that (if one or an X number of PCs fail the check, the group check fails). Another is follow-up skill checks. I.e. a successful Diplomacy check is followed up by an Athletics check (the brawler challanges the bard to an arm-wrestling match).
Another is to have hard DCs for some checks, and use moderate DCs to support - this involves more people, and allows use of more hard DCs.
In the end though, with the exception of real specialists, you will also need a bit of luck. If you roll a 1, most skills will fail unless you are really, really good (which happens, but is not rule).

Note that one thing I am tweaking with is how to determine success or failure. SCs have a way for it, but it does not always work., Sometime sytou simply have to go for 'averaged' successes.
I am currently trying out a different appoach: If you get to the goal without 3 failures, you succeed - regardless of the actual number of successes. You will, on average, have accumulated X successes, but some may have more and some may have less (be smart, and you need less). I am looking at how that works out (so far, it seems to work).

Another trouble with SCs: while combats can end an adventure through a TPK, a skill challenge can never end an adventure - just like a roleplay shouldn't end it - at least not in LFR.
That means that the results of a challenge are not *whether* you will continue on, but *how* you continue on.
That may make success at the SC feel a bity less like a real achievement. You will always find the portal, catch the monster, get to the end scene. It is difficult to make the challenge matter this way. In a few cases the adverse affect hit others: NPCs died, bad guys got away, etc. In other, things just got a abit more difficult in future encounters. In a few, adventure outcome hinges on success in the SC - rather than the combats.

All this does not invalidate SC. SCs are a good way for PCs to use their skills, and can also cover parts of the adventure that are not covered by dungeoncrawls (I sometimes feel people forget this is a roleplaying game).
Bit making them matter is hard, and often hinges on how invested PCs are in the adventure - PCs need to *want* to succeed for a SC to actually matter.

Gomez

Looking at the questionaires between 5% and 10% of the table fail at a skill challenge, or at least those important enough to be put in the questionaire. In my experience people fail when with a random group when they realize nobody is trained in a particular central set of skills without PCs with high attributes for that set of skills. For example, there are a couple of wilderness survival skills that groups failed at because nobody was trained in Nature and Perception without a high Wisdom based class or social challenges where nobody was trained in Diplomacy and Bluff and nobody had a high Charisma. The pressence of reward cards will influence these numbers a LOT.

Regardless, as Gomeztoo points out, in LFR skill challenges cannot be adventure ending. When I review the challenge though, I do try to make sure that at least the important ones (complexity 3+) have a bigger impact then just the loss of a healing surge or a slightly harder fight. At the same time you also do not want to be the impact too big, since ultimately the concequences of failing something not as challenging as a fight should not be as severe. A poster on the LFR community board for example complained about the consequences being too severe in for example SPEC1-3 H1 (and the NPC does not even die in that challenge). For example, in case of a mystery you really want the PCs to proceed or else the adventure becomes incredibly frustrating for the players. Whether or not the players get stuck has nothing to do with the skill challenge mechanic, even without it, I have seen it happen in LG as well where the whole mystery was purely RP. It is the inherent risk of mysteries. Of course, the loss of xp in itself is punishment enough for the players that don't care about the RP repurcursions of failure. If you don't care about failure, there is little need to do so after all ;)

Ultimately it is up to the DM to give the players the sense that success of failure matters beyond the often simple mechanical effects. I always found it easy. Fail the survival check, describe how tired and dirty the characters are. Fail the mystery, and let the NPC who eventually contacts them negotiate from an apparent strong point (perhaps even mock the PCs) and let the players realize they lost a lot of time and now the whole city knows they are searching criminal X. In my experience, while to the DM the consequences of failure might appear minor, most players I know really dislike it when they do fail. Why else would we get the many complaints about players turning a challenge into a game mechanical tactical approach instead of simply roleplaying the scene?

Thanks for the replies :D

I'll be the first to point out that I am not a "good" DM at all lol. I can get confused in a complicated SC in a heartbeat. And I realize, when I DM it is my job to "sell" the skill challenge. I'm just not always able to. I don't like to look around a table and see my defenders or strikers scratching their butts or looking at the clock because they don't have arcana or diplomacy or whatever.

I've tried a couple ways of upping the SC, like adding a couple of points to the DCs. Another thing I tried was not allowing anyone to aid them. And another thing I tried was just going around the table and having each player roll a specific skill check (like if its a fighter, I'd let them choose between athletics, intimidate or diplomacy depending on what skills they have access to). Then, they would have to explain/RP how they use said skill.  That was what I kinda liked the best because it involved the whole table, everyone "HAD" to do something and it seemed to keep everyone involved instead of just one arcane PC or whatever. However, the downside to this was that there seemed to be more failures. Although, I suppose that could have just been bad rolls on their parts.

I forget the mod at the moment, but one SC I remember standing out as being played out "cool" was one where if the PCs failed the SC, the next encounter's bad guys got a surprise round, and if they passed, then the PCs got one. Of course the PCs didn't know it at the time, but the consequence of not taking the SC serious, or failing it really made it stand out in my mind.

All this to say, I'm still working on my DM skills lol but I was just wondering if I was seeing the SC's wrong or what.

The DCs for skill challenges seem to be fairly easy, but that is because they are not geared to PCs 'specialized' in a skill. There is not  a whole ot we can do about the DCs: if we up them, we have to give more xp, and that eats away the budget.



I think we just hit the nail on the head. The problem may not be the budget of XP or the player's that specialize. I believe the problem revolves around the continued idea that skill challenges are being minimized as a fun and pivitol part of the adventure experience.

Through the module writing process, we as an association, are trivializing what skills can do to effect enjoyment. Complexity 1 skill challenges seem to be the most popular and the majority of skill challenges in LFR modules. DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on." It is easy to blame the DM, but should a paragon level module contain a complexity 1 skill challenge about crossing a river?

If you thought I was joking about the above example, I am not. There is such a skill challenge where a group of 11 - 14 characters that have fought dragons and fended off the advances of the priests of Shar are now having to cross a river.  Is it a raging river of violent rapids? No. Is it a river inhabited by lava elementals that cause the water to boil  and the sand to turn to glass? No. It is just a plain old river.

How about a few things to start. Suggestions on how to better work with players to enjoy skill challenges.

Positive Reinforcement -
Complexity 1 and 2 skill challenges do not penalize a group for failing. Instead, if succeeding the group gains a benefit. Benefits can be a surprise round, starting outside of the PC's start here box, openning up another skill challenge that counts towards a milestone, allowing for an extended rest, etc.... After all, if the XP budget is such that you can't fit in a higher complexity skill challenge then the fights are most likely focus of the story. The skill challenges should support the combat encounters and allow the PC's to interact with them throughout the entire module.

Skill Challenges in the Module Must Advance the Story-
A skill challenge to cross a river, does not advance the story. A skill challenge of a race to find an ancient temple of Shar before the Priests of Cyric find it, does advance the story (SPEC1-1).

Skill Challenges Should Allow for Character Interaction -
A skill challenge should be a team effort, not an individual sport. This is a bit harder to conceptualize I think, but a skill challenge should strive to have players split the party.  There are many skill challenges that are written with the concept that the player's have to talk to NPC A in Location X to get information and roll a check. Then the players go Location Y and talk to NPC B to get more information.  Instead we should force the players to look at their skill challenges more dynamically. The PC's find out that two brother's, that are partners in ownership and of running a tavern, have the information the PC's need. The PC's also find out that the brother's tend to disagree a lot and have been having screaming matched in the middle of the tavern lately. If one brother sees the PC's talking to the other brother then that brother won't give a "friend" of his brother the information. You are creating a situation where the party splits and has to do a part of the challenge without the help of the other half of the party. This increase the drama and provides a memorable situation where 2 or 3 of the group have to work together more closely.

To me, skill challenges are the best improvement over previous editions of D&D. We just need to rethink our utilization of them in LFR.

Jason

As a DM, I consider skill challenges to be roleplay opportunities rather than serious challenges. Occasionally a group will fail one, which is good, but I'm not looking at them the same way I look at combats. It's a way for people to show off the non-combat things they want their characters to be good at. How is your PC cool?

DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on."



Sorry, but if this is how a DM approaches a skill challenge, then yes, all blame falls, imo, on the DM. I expect such a DM will approach roleplay encounters the same way - iow, not like a rpg at all.
In my experience though, this behavior is not the norm.

As to level 1 difificulty SCs: those are simpyl easier written, and also run quicker. Crossing a river is probably not the most exciting, but a small skill challenge can be used when PCs have to overcome an obstacle.
Earning a benefit is as valid a reward as avoiding a penalty, but there is no hard and fast rule for SC rewards.

Gomez
I've failed two skill challenges in LFR. The first was one of the first modules we did at Gen Con when LFR was introduced. We didn't have That'll Do. We didn't know about aid another. The DM had each person make a check, going around the table. It failed before it got to me.

The second was quite recent - we needed 3 Perception or Nature checks at 'Hard' DC, which meant apparently that the best person at the table (trained, bad Wis) needed a 9 or 10 while the next best (untrained, okay Wis) needed an 11. That best person had one That'll Do, but otherwise rolled 3-7 on all his checks. So we failed. The DM didn't allow aid another unless you were trained.

So failure is possible, but it's pretty rare. That's out of... an awful lot of games.

In my experience the best skill challenges jump scenes every 1-2 successes/failures so that there's a real flow, more skills can be used, etc.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on."



Sorry, but if this is how a DM approaches a skill challenge, then yes, all blame falls, imo, on the DM.

As to level 1 difificulty SCs: those are simpyl easier written, and also run quicker. Crossing a river is probably not the most exciting, but a small skill challenge can be used when PCs have to overcome an obstacle.
Earning a benefit is as valid a reward as avoiding a penalty, but there is no hard and fast rule for SC rewards.

Gomez



I just want to illuminate and give rebuttles to the three points brought up.

Firstly, in placing blame on the DM at the con, The writer of an LFR module is paid to write the mod the mod is editted, and then playtesting occurs by a group of players who's critique is suppose to be valuable. The DM does not recieve monetary payment for running the module or adjusting the story.  Even more so, the writer has failed to express to the DM that the skill challenge is important. Many times the skill challenge isn't important either. A DM at a con has four hours. The guideline for time, is that a combat should last 1 hour per fight. Three combat encounters per module is rather standard. 3 of the 4 hours is on combats. 10-20 minutes in mustering. 10-20 minutes in setup. This gives a con DM approx. 20-60 minutes to run the skill challenges, tell the story, and allow PC's to interact with NPC's. To blame the volunteer DM that is racing the clock is not who I would believe is the proper person to blame when compared to the writer that put a trivial complexity 1 skill challenge in the module that has nothing to do with the story. DM's can be and should strive to be better, but that doesn't mean that the writer should ask the DM to make things pertanent in their story they spent months writing.

Secondly, of course a complexity 1 skill challenge is easier to write. If the writer is doing a MYRE then ok, it shouldn't be as polished as a published mod, but these are published mods and the writer should be held to a higher standard. If the writer is not able to proficiently create a complexity 2 or 3 or 4 skill challenge, then the writer should not be good enough to write for LFR and might need to look at writing for a different system. As for a time issue, if you have higher complexity skill challenges the combats can use less XP and play faster or eliminate 1 combat and just have two. Obstacles should meet the level band of the adventure. Crossing a river is a level 1-4. Crosssing a river with rapids might be a 4-7. Crossing a river of disease might be 7-10, but a papragon mod needs to up the anty even more.  Even still, there should be a story element as to why the river needs crossed, not just a way to fit in XP or a way to take a surge.

Thirdly, your comment on rewards boils down to positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement. If you look though sociological research you will find that in a group dynamic that isn't as culturally structured towards the specific norm, that a postive reinforcement will better help to be a vehicle that will meet the end goal, which is for a small group of players to feel that succeeding the encounter had more weight. In a nut shell, this just means that players are more apt to give value to a success the gives them something extra versus a success that keep the status quo.



I'll be the first to point out that I am not a "good" DM at all lol. I can get confused in a complicated SC in a heartbeat. And I realize, when I DM it is my job to "sell" the skill challenge. I'm just not always able to. I don't like to look around a table and see my defenders or strikers scratching their butts or looking at the clock because they don't have arcana or diplomacy or whatever.


You aren't a bad DM if you are working on your skills. With a little luck you have many years of gaming ahead of you. You don't want to see what kind of a DM I was 20 years ago...

Here's an idea for the next SC you DM. When prepping the adventure, break out a piece of paper and write the goal of the skill challenge. (Example: PCs try to escape the forces of the evil dungeon and make it across the river).

Next, take a look at each scene or clear skill delineation. For example, the river crossing might use Athletics, Acrobatics, Endurance. Now, on the paper, write the story out, adding some color and reasoning. "PCs break through the forest, reaching the edge of a wide river. There are no rapids, but the water is chest-high, perhaps deeper in some areas, and likely to slow the party and endanger their supplies. A strong enough PC could endure this. There are some vines in the trees above, some which dangle down into the water and could be used to swing across. There is an area of logs and  rocks that someone could balance or jump across. Some of the rocks are wet and slippery, others jagged. The far side quickly becomes dense forest/jungle once more."

So, now you have a bit of a solid setting for that scene. None of this is meant to be boxed text, but rather text that helps you have a mental image. You can even practice by conversationally (not reading) describing the situation to PCs. Maybe you want to give some hints (you see some rocks and jammed logs) but uncover others as the PCs have questions (yeah, some of the rocks are jagged, others slick with water).

Next, take a look at the DCs and the skill challenge level. DCs scale by level. The complexity (number of roles) XP-wise is equal to that many monsters of that level. So, a paragon complexity 5 level 12/14 skill challenge with complexity 5 would be as hard as a normal on-tier combat. Complexity 1 should be easy - the author designed it that way!

You can revise your notes accordingly. If it is an easy encounter, prep it as a story piece, focusing on ways the PCs can shine. You might think on how more vines could be used for Acrobatics, letting someone like a rogue shine as they swing across. You could introduce some fake concerns, such as a wave of enemies off in the distance, and describe how they are being left behind as players succeed. Maybe each success demoralizes some of the chasing foes, and they abandon the chase, lessening the force after them. You could add other no-success skills that involve the rest of the party, giving information on the fauna or flora. Maybe they find a plant that can be used as food (no special effect) or letting them escape a danger that isn't even in the challenge (Nature check identifies one rock as a crocodile, party doesn't jump on it). Just don't get off track. The idea is always for it to come off as an interactive story. Imagine the SC without checks, then try to have the checks enhance rather than limit that story.

If it were a challenging skill challenge, and the mechanics and description are lame (crossing a river, here are the checks), you can dress up the description further. Some of the vines are attached to branches with snakes in them... they will drop on the PCs if they pick the wrong ones. A line of archers appears in the distance and begins to fire on them. At such range, the first volley misses... but future ones might hit... Crocodiles emerge amidst the rocks, snapping at them. One of the rocks animates, some nature spirit awoken by their passage - there is no chance to stop and fight with so many forces behind them. The key is to add color but not to add any rules. Describe it, ask what they do, convert it to an applicable check. Example: "As you move forward one of the rocks suddenly animates, becoming some sort of manifestation of the river itself. Short rocky arms grasp for you. What do you do?" The skill remains the same, but when they describe what they do you keep them on track. "Well, you take a stab at it, but it's rocky shell absorbs most if not all of the damage. You can hear the troops approaching in the distance. You do note that this thing is short, mostly underwater. You might be able to jump over it..."

Hopefully, at the end and with no more prep than you would spend on a combat, that piece of paper will have some solid story ideas for how to breathe life into the SC and how to keep it flowing. For an SC already appropriate to tier (river crossing at H1), you just want to know how you will flow from one set of rolls to the next or how each skill manifests and what success or failure means, and how you describe the scene. For an SC where the adventure tier seems to need more (river crossing at P2), you can plan some embellishments that are just story-driven. Always keep level and complexity in mind, as well as the author's intent.


I've tried a couple ways of upping the SC, like adding a couple of points to the DCs.


I'm not a big fan of that, unless you really think that the author wanted a challenging SC but lacked the XP budget. For example, in one adventure I wrote, I was well aware that the first SC was not very hard. That was perfectly fine. I wanted the SC to bring about knowledge of the culture at hand and to allow the PCs to shine - this is how they prove themselves. Upping the DCs would be contrary to the goal.


Another thing I tried was not allowing anyone to aid them. And another thing I tried was just going around the table and having each player roll a specific skill check (like if its a fighter, I'd let them choose between athletics, intimidate or diplomacy depending on what skills they have access to).


I think you are fighting the system and I'm not sure you will win. Instead, you might aggravate your table by forcing people to participate and make rolls they don't want to make. It sounds as if you are giving options, and that's good, but it is something to watch with care.


Then, they would have to explain/RP how they use said skill.  That was what I kinda liked the best because it involved the whole table, everyone "HAD" to do something and it seemed to keep everyone involved instead of just one arcane PC or whatever. However, the downside to this was that there seemed to be more failures. Although, I suppose that could have just been bad rolls on their parts.


The easiest way to make a SC hard is to A) not advertise what they can do, and B) force players to make rolls they would not normally make. Neither is necessarily good. Ideally, the situation is evocative, providing a hint of what is applicable. The player of someone nimble says "Hey, does it look like I could use the vines to swing across?". Any confusion should ideally be something you figured out how to mitigate during prep time. Some confusion can be good, by the way, such as when faced with various options. You want table discussion for these moments, so you might prompt various PCs/players for what they think.


Any time I prompt a PC, I give them an out. I might ask what they think or do, but I don't force them to roll. I might say "Yeah, you think that someone could try to jump from stone to stone," rather than making them do it. After all, they might be the diplomat, not the Olympian!


Regardless, you should know that all of us are struggling with how to best integrate SCs into the game. In the past, you often had scenes that had some RP but quikly devolved to 1-3 PCs making a roll or two and ending the scene (LG's diplomatic scenes or LG's arcane sigils on doors). Now we have ways to integrate more party members, but we have to learn better ways to weave the story into it so the mechanics aren't so heavy-handed. We also have issues with the ease of challenges and what to do to make success/failure meaningful in the context of this being an encounter and an important part of the story. It is an ongoing exploration for most authors/admins.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

The writer of an LFR module is paid to write the mod the mod is editted, and then playtesting occurs by a group of players who's critique is suppose to be valuable.


Playtesting can produce really good feedback, but it doesn't always. A lot of playtesters go for really general comments ("SC was simple, revise. Not paragon-tier."). Few go to great details ("To make this feel more like paragon tier, you might..."). I had some great feedback on my most recent SC experiment, and it was not just negative but detailed and with many ideas. In the end, I am happy with where it ended up. It isn't perfect, but I am happy. I could not have gotten there without the playtesters. I choose really good playtesters for that reason.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on."

Sorry, but if this is how a DM approaches a skill challenge, then yes, all blame falls, imo, on the DM.
..snip..


I just want to illuminate and give rebuttles to the three points brought up.

Firstly, in placing blame on the DM at the con, The writer of an LFR module is paid to write the mod the mod is editted, and then playtesting occurs by a group of players who's critique is suppose to be valuable. The DM does not recieve monetary payment for running the module or adjusting the story.  Even more so, the writer has failed to express to the DM that the skill challenge is important. ...snip...



While i respect the effort at the segway into the "you get payed for this so fix everything for us" argument ( I was waiting for it, I must be getting cynical) I am fairly sure the issue was with the style of handling the SC.

Whether an SC is important or not has nothing to do with reducing it to some quick dice rolls. It has to do with the DM. I will be the last person to claim that SC's are easy to DM especially under the time pressure of a con, but if you turn them into a purely mechanical affair you are losing something important, the RPG aspect.
Under pressure that may be the first to go, and depending on the players and the situation that may even be fine. But the room for RP an SC provides is one of the last things left keeping us from turning into a pure tactical battlemat game. Sure, the RP wont always work or be any good, I know I have sucked at it once or twice, but there is importance in trying to make an SC more than "Ok so I need diplo, arcana and insight, so everyone with those roll some dice and we can get back to combat". 

To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
Firstly, in placing blame on the DM at the con, The writer of an LFR module is paid to write the mod the mod is editted



They get near to nothing for months of work.
So let's not get some kind 'entitlement' because an author gets 'paid' - and I am using the term extremely loosely there.

And regardless of whether an author manages to make an encounter work as intended - especially a skill challenge - a DM that says 'roll dice to get this over with', fails, no matter how bad the adventure is.


Regarding more vital points:


Secondly, of course a complexity 1 skill challenge is easier to write. If the writer is doing a MYRE then ok, it shouldn't be as polished as a published mod, but these are published mods and the writer should be held to a higher standard.



The point is not merely that it so easier or faster. It is also that not every adventure fits a comeplxity 3+ skill challenge. If low complexity challenges work, you should use those. Overcoming a physical barrier (a river, lava stream, elemental chaos area, etc) should normally not require 10 skill rolls - it gets annoying. A SC with more than 2 complexity really only works well with scenes, and not every situation is fit for that.  A chase, a grand escape, atreck through the wilds, an investigation, all work. But it does not always work, and you also do not always wish to have one, either.
So, there are fair number of cases where a low complexity really works better, and in thos ecases you should simply use them.


Thirdly, your comment on rewards boils down to positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement.



Again, how you reward is up to the situation.
And sometimes, one is the same as the other: does failure add a monster, or does success remove one? It's often really just perspective. 
Note also that the game is perceived as fairly easy. If success on a SC (which is apparently often) would give a party an advantage, that may remove a part of the challenge (whcih soem people feel removes the fun).
That is not to say you shouldn't use it, but you need to be a bit careful with it and consider what works in each adventure.

Gomez
As a slight tangent - occasionally you do get the race or survival skill challenge where it's something like: 'Around you the walls of the tunnel shatter and collapse, quick - everyone make an athletics or acrobatics to escape the tunnel!'

And in that particular instance, which should be used sparingly, 'roll these skills' does work for implied urgency.

In other cases, I've had some success with 'X, Y, and Z would most easily work to get you past this, but other particularly good ideas, powers, or rituals could certainly work'. Especially if a group is floundering a little bit - you don't want them to get hung up on 'Oh, all we can do is thievery. So that person does 4 thievery checks'
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
As a slight tangent - occasionally you do get the race or survival skill challenge where it's something like: 'Around you the walls of the tunnel shatter and collapse, quick - everyone make an athletics or acrobatics to escape the tunnel!'

And in that particular instance, which should be used sparingly, 'roll these skills' does work for implied urgency.

In other cases, I've had some success with 'X, Y, and Z would most easily work to get you past this, but other particularly good ideas, powers, or rituals could certainly work'. Especially if a group is floundering a little bit - you don't want them to get hung up on 'Oh, all we can do is thievery. So that person does 4 thievery checks'



Agreed. But that is very different in tone and implication.
I am not saying there are no situations where an SC should be reduced to rolls and work, heck sometimes players need to get them out of the way for their enjoyment. There is little to be gained from forcing people to RP when they do not want to (unless you like herding cats). I am just saying it is important to try and make it reach beyond that bouncing polyhedron.
To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on."

That's fairly understandable for newer DM's (especially since the DMG and PHB didn't directly state to do otherwise), but per the DMG2 and WotC's podcast #31: DM's shouldn't even bother telling players that they are in a skill challenge (unless the players are having trouble). Skill challenges are intended to be handled more narratively/intuitively than mechanically.

Writing challenges differently in LFR adventures might help those DM's, but I don't think so. Rather, telling them about the DMG2 and podcast directives would probably be more helpful.



I have seen a little more than the 5-10% failures at tables I have DM or played at a 4 person table. A four person table in skill challenges is much harder than a 6 person table. I have never seen a SC failure at a 6  person table.  

As far as "DM's commonly at conventions look at the table and say something similar to, "Well...here are the primary skills X, Y, and Z. Roll some dice so we can move on."

I will say, yes, I do see that fairly often. 

I usually spend a few minutes looking at the SCs for an adventure and write down a few ideas on how I want the "final product" to appear and ways to include NPCs (if possible). Sometimes this is easy-such as in Dale1-2 with the council meeting or East1-6 with the dwarves making their decision. 
Sometimes you spend 20 minutes thinking of how Sgt. Featherby would act and the PCs go straight to the Fire Knives so you end up wasting your time.
 
Overcoming a physical barrier (a river, lava stream, elemental chaos area, etc) should normally not require 10 skill rolls - it gets annoying.



One of my pet peeves with some LFR skill challenges has been when there's a fairly complex skill challenge (10 successes or whatnot) to acccomplish a single task (or a very small number of tasks).  On these (and thankfully, I haven't seen many of them), it's clear that, from a narrative standpoint, the PCs have accomplished the needed task after far fewer successes, and the remaining "required" successes amount to nothing more than dice-rolling. 

As a DM, I'll usually cut those SCs short if it's clear that the party is going to succeed, once the challenge has played its part in the story.
"Of course [Richard] has a knife. He always has a knife. We all have knives. It's 1183, and we're barbarians!" - Eleanor of Aquitaine, "The Lion in Winter"
My characters (and players) seem to fail skill challenges more often than most in this group. One reason is that we often have a fairly roleplaying heavy group. To the point where people will make rolls that they really shouldn't. Or perhaps more accurately, they will not make rolls that are mechanically optimal.

For example, a character with high diplomacy loathes a particular NPC, so decides to intimidate or bluff them instead of playing nice.  Sometimes too, it is not clear what is possible and so we choose poor options ("oh we COULD have talked nice to him? Who'd have guessed?").

For me, this seems reasonable and much of the same sort of thing that happens generally -- making somewhat suboptimal combat decisions or not noticing things ("oh yeah, I guess radiant damage would have worked a lot better"), so I don't have a problem with it.

When I run SCs, I do actually want them to be a challenge and I do want them to be fun. So I tend to enforce things like "no assists unless it is stated you can", and try and get everyone involved even if they have only average skills. To balance that, I give minor bonuses to good ideas or roleplay. Still, I think on average, I run SCs harder than most GMs.
Admittedly, SCs are my soft spot in judging.   I find the forced nature of the roleplaying during SCs to be difficult to tame and integrate.

I suppose I'm the only one here who is happiest when he (literally) tosses the mod over his head and just roleplays the entire SC when they can?   I can freely outline the challenge and the goal and just let the party go to town on finding a solution.

I find the most fun in letting the characters accomplish what's needed without forcing ridiculous and unnecessary die rolls on them.  

I'm probably a bad person for this, but I think my players have fun.  I really really do.

-Pain 
Admittedly, SCs are my soft spot in judging.   I find the forced nature of the roleplaying during SCs to be difficult to tame and integrate.

I suppose I'm the only one here who is happiest when he (literally) tosses the mod over his head and just roleplays the entire SC when they can?   I can freely outline the challenge and the goal and just let the party go to town on finding a solution.
-Pain 



At it's core a SC isn't about what is written in the success blurbs. The complexity sets the boundaries of what needs to happen to pass or fail the encounter and the DC is just the primary, secondary, and tertiary numerical value to achieve the positive outcome of the attempt.

I tell my players that the job of a DM isn't to say "no" so much as to set a DC. Want to do something outrageous, work together and go for that DC 45. It is out there and you can make it.


When I run SCs, I do actually want them to be a challenge and I do want them to be fun. So I tend to enforce things like "no assists unless it is stated you can", and try and get everyone involved even if they have only average skills. To balance that, I give minor bonuses to good ideas or roleplay. Still, I think on average, I run SCs harder than most GMs.



My style is not to make the SC be a challenge as much as to infect the players with the desire to challenge themselves to work together and seek out the truely epic path together. Propping up the player's ideas and allowing their creativity and desire to be heroes lead to experiences they will never forget.

If you can infect a table with a spirit where the skill challenge or check is destined to lead to the seminal part of the adventure experience, they will create their own bar of challenge. Now, to them it isn't simply good enough to pass the SC, they have to do it in style, there way.

Just this last weekend I ran a table where though the DC was about 20, the table wasn't satisfied unless they hit a 33 and when the did they cheered and aplauded each other.

However, I often use skill challenges as the platform to build the granduer of the story elements in the mod.
Lots of interesting replies and thoughts on this. Thanks to everyone who replied.

@mvincent -  I'll check out that podcast and brush up on the DMG II section as well, thanks.

@ Alphastream1 - Thanks for the ideas, I actually did jot down some SC notes for the most recent mod I prepped...but the game got cancelled so I didn't get to test it out lol. I will be testing out that idea next time I run though.
Regarding more vital points:


The point is not merely that it so easier or faster. It is also that not every adventure fits a comeplxity 3+ skill challenge. If low complexity challenges work, you should use those. Overcoming a physical barrier (a river, lava stream, elemental chaos area, etc) should normally not require 10 skill rolls - it gets annoying. A SC with more than 2 complexity really only works well with scenes, and not every situation is fit for that.  A chase, a grand escape, atreck through the wilds, an investigation, all work. But it does not always work, and you also do not always wish to have one, either.
So, there are fair number of cases where a low complexity really works better, and in thos ecases you should simply use them.



I am not saying that complexity 1 challenges should go away. I am saying they are overused and lead to a trivialization of skill challenges. Very ofen in LFR, complexity 1 challenges have very little to do with what is actually happening in the story.

Writers that put more effort into developing a skill challenge soaked in the story of the adventure tend to pick higher complexity. Annoyance skill challenges like crossing a river for no reason or don't get lost on your way through the mountains seem to very commonly be complexity 1.

The DCs for skill challenges seem to be fairly easy, but that is because they are not geared to PCs 'specialized' in a skill. There is not  a whole ot we can do about the DCs



This is the biggest cause of the issue.  4e was originally designed so players could create characters that weren't optimized and still be able to play (unlike a previous edition where once you went past 10th you had to be really souped up to be able to contribute anything/survive and even by 6th or 7th level you needed to have some amount of oomph to your build).  Such characters might actually find skill challenges challenging. 
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
My characters (and players) seem to fail skill challenges more often than most in this group. One reason is that we often have a fairly roleplaying heavy group. To the point where people will make rolls that they really shouldn't. Or perhaps more accurately, they will not make rolls that are mechanically optimal.



My general rule of thumb as a DM is to count those types of rolls as a failure the first time, and as an assist or "exploratory roll" for all ensuing times. I like RP, and I don't want to flunk the party on good RP. If you think about it, something like an evocative NPC should make everyone want to say something... but if it is a SC, they shouldn't then pay the price. Many voices from the PCs, but amongst them, the diplomats with their trained voices are the ones truly catching the NPC's ear. Now, I won't always do this - PCs should be given the rope to hang themselves if that's what they want. But, if it is just an honest RP attempt that "triggers" a role, I'm happy to have it count as testing the waters and give them the info so they can share with the party what might work. "Your bruitish words are met with laughter... she is clearly unwilling to discuss the terms with someone uneducated in the ways of the nobility."

When I run SCs, I do actually want them to be a challenge and I do want them to be fun. So I tend to enforce things like "no assists unless it is stated you can", and try and get everyone involved even if they have only average skills. To balance that, I give minor bonuses to good ideas or roleplay. Still, I think on average, I run SCs harder than most GMs.



Those are good ideas. Assisting makes most rolls ridiculously easy. Seldom does a SC fail by more than a few points, so you can have a situation where you announce failure only to have another PC ask if they can help... I generally limit assisting on most rolls to one other PC and only if it seems applicable. A nice rule for 4E (or in a home campaign) would be that someone trained could assist - that would promote skill training and limit the abuse.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

My style is not to make the SC be a challenge as much as to infect the players with the desire to challenge themselves to work together and seek out the truely epic path together. Propping up the player's ideas and allowing their creativity and desire to be heroes lead to experiences they will never forget.

If you can infect a table with a spirit where the skill challenge or check is destined to lead to the seminal part of the adventure experience, they will create their own bar of challenge. Now, to them it isn't simply good enough to pass the SC, they have to do it in style, there way.

Just this last weekend I ran a table where though the DC was about 20, the table wasn't satisfied unless they hit a 33 and when the did they cheered and applauded each other.


First, good to see you and some other newer posters helping think through the issues. We need some new voices and ideas to add to the "old hats" on these forums. Thanks!

On your above idea, this reminds me of Legend of the Five Rings. One of the nice things about that game is the concept of raises on a skill. Basically, you can take as many raises as you want on a skill check, with each skill check being +5 to the DC (the system uses exploding d10s). There is no benefit to doing so, though benefits can be written into an adventure and in many cases are required by RP. For example, when the leader of a samurai family asks you to demonstrate your caligraphy on the spot, you probably play it safe if you are not very good at it so as to not humiliate yourself. If you have skill you likely call a few raises, since that would be the only way to impress him - he likely has a mean calligraphy skill on his own, if not several people on call that can do a stellar job. Hitting the DC when you upped it by 15 (by your own choice) drives the RP of the situation.

I'm not sure how smoothly that concept could be used as an option for players (though it could be coded into an adventure... hmm...), but DMs might be able to offer something like that to drive PCs to set an unofficial DC they want to hit for RP reasons vs the lower DC to just succeed.

Admittedly, SCs are my soft spot in judging.   I find the forced nature of the roleplaying during SCs to be difficult to tame and integrate.

I suppose I'm the only one here who is happiest when he (literally) tosses the mod over his head and just roleplays the entire SC when they can?   I can freely outline the challenge and the goal and just let the party go to town on finding a solution.

I find the most fun in letting the characters accomplish what's needed without forcing ridiculous and unnecessary die rolls on them.  

I'm probably a bad person for this, but I think my players have fun.  I really really do.



You aren't alone (nor bad). Several threads have said something similar. In a recent experiment an adventure used an encounter with a setup similar to an SC but with the focus solely on RPing the situation. In initial drafts the reaction was very negative. From what I read and experienced, players would react negatively if the situation was clearly a SC or strongly resembled one. They wanted rewards and for it to count as a milestone and wanted to make rolls and have the rolls matter. The encounter in its next version vacillated on whether to remove rolls entirely or to have them as options. It ended up leaving them in as an option, but in each "scene" efforts were made to have the crux be a decision by the PCs rather than the rolls. That seemed to work much better. My understanding is that most players preferred that encounter to having a SC. It is an interesting experiment, with the most interesting part for me being that just replacing any SC with RP over rolls is likely to NOT be welcome unless it is somewhat different than an SC. The results offer some promise for authors wanting to experiment with how to break up the tension between fights but without using a formal SC.

Follow my blog and Twitter feed with Dark Sun campaign design and DM tips!
Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

My style is not to make the SC be a challenge as much as to infect the players with the desire to challenge themselves to work together and seek out the truely epic path together. Propping up the player's ideas and allowing their creativity and desire to be heroes lead to experiences they will never forget.

If you can infect a table with a spirit where the skill challenge or check is destined to lead to the seminal part of the adventure experience, they will create their own bar of challenge. Now, to them it isn't simply good enough to pass the SC, they have to do it in style, there way.

Just this last weekend I ran a table where though the DC was about 20, the table wasn't satisfied unless they hit a 33 and when the did they cheered and applauded each other.


First, good to see you and some other newer posters helping think through the issues. We need some new voices and ideas to add to the "old hats" on these forums. Thanks!

I'm not sure how smoothly that concept could be used as an option for players (though it could be coded into an adventure... hmm...), but DMs might be able to offer something like that to drive PCs to set an unofficial DC they want to hit for RP reasons vs the lower DC to just succeed.



The skill challenge system already has some concepts of how to include this, it is just not as codified as with L5R. 

In combats the numbers are more codified. My example would be that last weekend a group at the table I was DM'ing decided to intimidate a bloodied adult brown dragon. Two people assisted the paladin through standard actions and the Paladin demanded of the Dragon he had grabbed to surrender. He rolled and pulled off a 42 or so intimidate beating the Will +10 of the Dragon by a bit and ending the fight. I think it was everyone's favorite moment from the con and definately you could here a pin drop as the table focused squarely on the player rolling his D20. The pack of gamers exhailing rejoicefully just after the die turned over on last edge, landing on an 18.

In skill challenges the DM determines the DC. Take the river obstancle, just because it is easy to visualize. The fighter with the 24 str jumps over the river, DC 20. Basically an auto success if they are trained in Athletics. To help the party the fighter picks up the wizard and jumps over the rivers. Now as DM I look and say to myself, "I have to up the DC". The DC now becomes 30. To furhter help the party the Fighter picks up the Ranger and the Ranger's panther and jumps over the river, DC 35 (1.5 creatures in my view).

If the Rogue wants to use streetwise to just find the info on the gang of thugs they are facing, DC 18. If the Rogue wants to find out info like the leader's name, DC 23. Lets say that Rogue wants to find out gossip on how the leader of some thugs in Agla use to get beaten up by other gangs when he was younger and before he came into power (I might say this is the same as finding out his lowest defense), DC 40.

In the streetwise check, now the suspence is on. They know what to use to fight against the main boss. The players already have a taste for that leader two encounters before he comes up. That NPC just became viseral to the group as one Player looks at the warden and smiles, "Dude, your warden can just tear him apart with that weak fortitude, hold onto that one polymorph power that is against fort. until we find the leader."

I as the DM didn't have to raise the DC. I just had to infect the players with creativity and I let them raise the DC themselves.
In general, skill challenges are too easy.

On the other hand, they shouldn't be too hard - they are the only thing in the adventure that encourages (directly) a player to roleplay his character.

As a player and as a DM, I love to see when a player describes how they use a skill, instead of just "I'll make an athletics check, I guess". When I am running the game, I always make a point of asking how they are using the skill, and in an assist situation I ask how exactly they are assisting. This naturally weeds out too many players assisting (it becomes obvious that only one or two others can help the barbarian try to lift the statue).

One thing I've noticed (from teaching my wife to play 4e) is that when you create your character, if you stop to think about how your character came to be trained in the skills you choose, you tend to use those skills more effectively in challenges, and you tend to roleplay them as well.

Why does your cleric have a 4 in Religion? It's not because he has an INT of 8 (your dump stat) its because he's a convert to the faith, a former military officer who had a vision and turned from his mundane career to one of adventuring for the faith. He's pretty clear on what his deity demands/expects, but he's not well versed in all those other religions. He can tell you which ones are evil/good/neutral, which ones are known enemies of his own faith, and he can recognize their holy symbols when he sees them. "This black star with the white flames? It's a cult of evil fire worshippers...I can't remember the name of their false god, but they are definitely not nice people."  All of that is an easy DC knowledge check, which even your 4 in Religion will usually pass. He might remember something important about their faith ("they really, really hate elves for some reason"), but he won't be able to tell you why they find the second tuesday of this month so important, or why exactly they want to kill every elf in the realm.

When skill challenges come around, such a player will usually approach the SC with the roleplay in mind. "Hmmm...I'll use my religion skill I think. I was in the last war...do I remember seeing these symbols on uniforms, shields or maybe banners?"

Understanding where your skills come from works the other way too, when you have to explain why your character doesn't have a skill that everyone might expect you to have. "I'm not that kind of ranger. I'm an expert in underground survival, where we don't have all of this open sky and endless jungle. Being from East Rift, I never really got much chance to study horses and lions and such. You want to know about giant spiders, though, I'm your dwarf."

I like skill challenges, for the opportunities they create to roleplay.
One thing I think people miss in the "SCs are too easy" discussions, is that 4e wasn't designed with the need to have stat-max characters.  However, in LFR we tend to see a lot of optimized characters so SCs suddenly seem to be trivial speedbumps.
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
One thing I think people miss in the "SCs are too easy" discussions, is that 4e wasn't designed with the need to have stat-max characters.  However, in LFR we tend to see a lot of optimized characters so SCs suddenly seem to be trivial speedbumps.

Eh... we also see a lot of parties that don't have key skills at all, due to semi-randomly coming together. Honestly I think I haven't seen all that much skill optimization in LFR except for Perception.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
One thing I think people miss in the "SCs are too easy" discussions, is that 4e wasn't designed with the need to have stat-max characters.  However, in LFR we tend to see a lot of optimized characters so SCs suddenly seem to be trivial speedbumps.



In the LFR group I play in, we usually have auto-successes in Diplomacy, Perception, Intuition, and Arcana, with a 50/50 chance for Acrobatics and Athletics as well.  If the DM allows the character a moment to shine, these autos are still ok.  If it is "roll a die, get your prize", I am not going to like the skill challenge anyways.

I think a measured number of group checks where skilled party members can make (much) higher rolls to help another party avoid the unfavorable skill check is a good idea.
One of the nice things about that game is the concept of raises on a skill. Basically, you can take as many raises as you want on a skill check, with each skill check being +5 to the DC (the system uses exploding d10s). There is no benefit to doing so, though benefits can be written into an adventure and in many cases are required by RP. For example, when the leader of a samurai family asks you to demonstrate your caligraphy on the spot, you probably play it safe if you are not very good at it so as to not humiliate yourself. If you have skill you likely call a few raises, since that would be the only way to impress him - he likely has a mean calligraphy skill on his own, if not several people on call that can do a stellar job. Hitting the DC when you upped it by 15 (by your own choice) drives the RP of the situation.



Running a (high paragon) home game recently I used something like this:

The base DC for a physical challenge where you were helping some NPCs was 20. If you made that DC the NPC you were helping had a high chance of dying. For every 5 points you voluntarily up the DC, that chance lowered (to zero at 40).  Failure cost a healing surge, but did not count to the failure.
One thing I think people miss in the "SCs are too easy" discussions, is that 4e wasn't designed with the need to have stat-max characters.  However, in LFR we tend to see a lot of optimized characters so SCs suddenly seem to be trivial speedbumps.

Eh... we also see a lot of parties that don't have key skills at all, due to semi-randomly coming together. Honestly I think I haven't seen all that much skill optimization in LFR except for Perception.



You don't specifically optimize skills.  You just don't see a lot of people train in skills where they don't have a high stat.  Exceptions exist, of course.  It's easy to find a fighter with a 9+ Althletics or Endurance, but how many truly ever train in Intimidate?
Sorry WOTC, you lost me with Essentials. So where I used to buy every book that came out, now I will be very choosy about what I buy. Can we just get back to real 4e? Check out the 4e Conversion Wiki. 1. Wizards fight dirty. They hit their enemies in the NADs. -- Dragon9 2. A barbarian hits people with his axe. A warlord hits people with his barbarian. 3. Boo-freakin'-hoo, ya light-slingin' finger-wigglers. -- MrCelcius in response to the Cleric's Healer's Lore nerf
On the other hand, they shouldn't be too hard - they are the only thing in the adventure that encourages (directly) a player to roleplay his character.



Do bear in mind that the DM is able to give out bonuses to rolls at any time for any reason, even in combat. I had a table with two rogues in paragon. One rogue, de-spleened the creature triumphantly with a crit to the flank and he cut out the spleen in honor of the female rogue that it is her normal RP manuever. He asks to roll acrobatics during combat to throw it at her in a fun spirited mocking that he got the first rogue kill. She shouts that she is going to catch it, she rolls acrobatics as a free action to catch the spleen. They both smile at their roguish snarkiness towards each other. I break in as the DM and inform them that the spleen can be used as a +2 to one attack with your weapon since you have coated the blade in toxic spleen juice. The rogues grin devilishly and erupt in joy at their own cut throat nature and the game goes on, both of them waiting to see how cool her spleen attack will be.

D&D is like Field of Dreams, but in D&D it goes, "If you reward it, they will RP."


Skill challenges are what I look forward to running when I DM, and they can be difficult to run theatrically, but then all things in D&D are hard to run theatrically. ^_^

The wonderful part of a skill challenge is being able to infect the players with creativity. There are lots of little things you can do to make skill challenges exciting and maybe that should be its own thread, but the key to getting the players to be excited about skill challenges is to remove the specifics and use the general. In management this is a theory of goal oriented leadership styles. Set the goal as the DM, let the players figure out how to get there. If we remove the DM screen and look behind the mysticism, yes, the players are absolutely going to get there if I have to chain them to a charging minotaur because if they don't the story form the module will come to an end, but I don't tell them that. :-)

Many skill challenges in LFR are vehicles to move the players along the plot to the next physical location. Instead of thinking in terms of encounters think in terms of real life vehicles. If a person in NYC is trying to get to Cleveland, they could take a plane, car, bus, boat, train, etc... The type of transportation dictates the skill challenge.

In game terms let us use the same example. A group of PC's in New Velar are trying to get to procampur, they feel that need to travel fast, so the PC's ask if there is an airship in town. Throw in a skill check here. There just so happens to be an airship. The airship will take passengers and it is headed by way of Procampur, but the tickets are expensive. The PC's now have to come up with money. Now, if the PC's simply throw their hard earned gold at the problem...yes, it goes away. If the skill challenge was to get to procampur then they defeat the challenge. BTW a good rule of thumb in Heroic tier is that a "ticket" to deafeat a skill challenge is half the base gold.

If the PC's don't have the money or don't want to spend the money, then role play a bit. You could mention a rich woman with many man servents was purchasing tickets for a trip there. Maybe the PC's could do something for her and she pays their travel. Maybe the ship captains needs manual labor, it doesn't matter, just throw some ideas out and let the PC's run with them.

The original SC in the mod was that the PC's take a boat and then make endurance rolls and physical checks to not get sea sick and to be manual labor on the boat.  The difficult of the skill challenge with the airship wasn't the rolls, it was the idea, the role play. The players were challenged to be creative and interact. If they do, they already stand a good chance of success, because rememeber...we kind of need them to get to procampur to continue the mod.

The players don't remember the DC of the check, they remember the story about how they took an airship to procampur by convincing a wealthy rich woman to take on 5 new man servents during the trip over. Infect them PC and they will make the SC a success, regardless of the rolls.
You don't specifically optimize skills.  You just don't see a lot of people train in skills where they don't have a high stat.  Exceptions exist, of course.  It's easy to find a fighter with a 9+ Althletics or Endurance, but how many truly ever train in Intimidate?



It doesn't help that fighter's have very little choice of skillz so they might as well use them to killz.

Of course though if the next nerf bat....errr...errata...err....rules update, yeah that is what they are calling it, augmented fighters to get a choice of a couple more skills like diplomacy, since heraldry is now contained in diplomacy, then it would give fighters a bit more reason to have some charisma or a non strenth bases skill choice. However, it is an apt example.

It doesn't help that fighter's have very little choice of skillz so they might as well use them to killz.



Fighters have Intimidate and Streetwise as social skills, and others when using backgrounds (i.e Waterdeep gives Diplomacy). Multiclassing (i.e.w warlord) is also an option.
If you wish to participate in social SCs, I suggest to choose a social skill and find a way to use it. 

Gomez

Insight and Heal are great fighter skills, too. If you can get Nature, that one can work well too. Insight is nice particularly for giving you an option in social challenges.

I actually just picked up Intimidate on my fighter, though. I'd do the big d(u/a)m hero thing once too often and had to roll it at a horrible bonus that it seemed worth it. I figure that plus That'll Do will often get me past normal DCs.
Keith Richmond Living Forgotten Realms Epic Writing Director
...when using backgrounds...Multiclassing...If you wish to participate in social SCs, I suggest to choose a social skill and find a way to use it. 



If we have to optimize a character's backgrounds and multiclass options just for them to not fear talking to an npc then this is a problem.

I think this more talks to the fear of failure though. It is ok to fail a skill challenge roll. That said though, if no one RP's through a skill challenge, the SC is already a failure as an RP element and wasn't worth the time. It would have been better to do it as a narative and move along to a combat, but that is about knowing your table.

Yes, I have seen fighters, in particular, sit there and be afraid to talk. I offer the ability for other players to have epic assists. This has largely gotten rid of the problem where an 8 charisma, no training in diplomacy character still feels he/she can talk and try to make the roll. It has greatly increased the contribution level of less social characters by build and made it a role playing choice to not be involved instead of a character creation choice, because after all...the Bard probably auto succeeds the check anyway so we might as well optimize fun instead.

Now the Bard can be proud of how well they inspired the Fighter to be diplomatic and be a challenge instead of the boring auto success they have. My system is below which I may have mentioned before (which is something I had to create out of neccessity for a player at home but through talking to the game designers they have really liked the idea and suggested I use it all the time.)

Epic Assists using Aid Another*:
DC 10 = +2
DC 20 = +4
DC 30 = +6
DC 40 = +8**

*You don't have to assist with the same skill that the check is being made with, it is DM's discreation. A bluff can help a diplomacy check, etc...
** I have had DC40 assists happen because players get so excited about helping the player that isn't trained in the skill, they have used dailies to get their assists higher.

I've taken a policy with my main character, a Dwarf Battlerager, to never ever sit back during a skill challenge.  I've rolled Diplomacy (and at different times both made it, and failed it), and I roll Nature all the time (usually without much success).  Perhaps my most memorable was the use of Endurance in a social skill challenge with a Dwarf NPC. 

"What do you do?"
"I stare at him.  Without blinking.  Without letting him see me sweat. He's a dwarf.  He'll respect that. I'll roll endurance."  (Roll high number - I'm a fighter.)
"Yep.  He gives you a curt nod of his head.  One success."

Being afraid to roll a skill check during a skill challenge is like being afraid to roll an attack roll for fear that you might miss.  What's the real downside if you fail miserably?  Lose a healing surge?  A tougher combat later on?  If you are playing a martial (non-social) character, then so what?  This is what your character is built for. 

(And yes, when I can't think of anything else to do, and the DM won't budge on the "Key Skills" for the challenge, I'll roll assists with everything from Arcana (+4 at 11th level) to Diplomacy (+6).  If it's a team effort, then every bit helps.


Sign In to post comments