Dragon 391 - Design & Development: Skill DCs

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DnDi_Large.pngDragon 391
Design & Development: Skill DCs

by Stephen Schubert

Stephen explains how and why the skill DCs were adjusted, and how to use them.

Talk about this Article here.

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Okay, looks fantastic, thanks for the preview and the insights into the change.  I'd agree with everything that is said here.

I have a gripe though.  Why is the original errata to the table not addressed here?  Are we completely forgetting that the DCs for heroic tier were WAY too high when 4E came out, and then were changed to be too low (dropping by 10!)?  And that everyone said so?  And now it turns out we were right?  I just think it needs to be addressed.  Those that don't know about that errata who compare the old chart to the new will only notice that the low-level DCs are slightly lower and the later DCs are slightly higher, and will be confused by the article.
Excellent changes.  The elaboration of when to use easy/moderate/hard DC's is especially welcome.

However, more information on the types of rewards or benefits that can be expected when making a skill check in each DC category, especially relative to a skill challenge, is just as crtical.

For example, perhaps easy DCs should usually only yield +2 bonuses to skill checks in a skill challenge, moderate DCs should typically yield one success in a skill challenge, and hard DCs should typically yield 2 successes in a skill challenge. 

Of course, there could be more or different rewards - but a discussion and elaboration on those possibilities would be excellent.  Maybe that'll be discussed in more detail in the Rules Compendium's Skill Challenges section?
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I like. 
I enjoy the explanation for what easy, moderate, and hard is. I like that they decided the table needed to be for everyone and not just what might be easy/mod/hard for a single (untrained, unskilled) character. Great design. I'll have to test-out the math myself sometime. 

BUT
Why the frakk is this a subscriber-only DDI article? Everyone needs to know and see this table and read the description below. Even of the table makes it into the update (in a month plus) the explanation and break down might not. This is basic rules information mandatory for playing the game and using Skill Challenges. You shouldn't have to buy a new book or box or even DDI to get this. 
It's also a little annoying that the chart will be so irritating to print-out. I'll have to save the entire page and do some photoshopping so I can reference the chart in my games. 

Actually, I'm a little disappointed this wasn't in the last Update document. It's in the DM Kit which means it had to be know back in July for production reasons for that product. Someone actually chose to set this aside for a later Update, and decided this would be better as a selling feature of a future product and hype rather than released to the players and DMs two plus months ago. 
I wonder how many people have struggled with DCs and skill challenges over the past two months (including GenCon) while this was held back until today. 

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The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

Good point.  I know this article is not intended as an official release of the updated DC rules, but it is very true that we DO need an official release.  

Wizards: Please provide an Update to the DMG and DM Screen so that everyone can have the new content.
This information will likely be included in the next major errata release (hopefully later this month?).
Thirded (fourthed? fifthed?) on the request for an official update, including printable version.
it’s also difficult to get bonuses that high for more than one or two skills..



Try Arcana, which is now also Perception Insight Streetwise as well as Diplomacy Bluff and Intimidate.
It's not an update, it's preview of what's in the Essentials DM Kit.

So an Easy DC is successfull 65% of the time, 2/3 of the time for someone with no ability mod or training.  For someone with a +5 training (though I suspect training might get changed in Essentials) that's 90% success rate with no skill ability (which is kinda tough to have the class skill and no ability mod). 

They add 4 for Moderate DC to represent an 18 ability score or 14 ability score and racial bonus (I like they way they phrased that).  They also mention it's for training which is why I think Training might be +4 instead of +5 in Essentials (pro that change).  Same 65% and 90% if your trained and have some ability.  The Moderate DCs increase by 4 over 30 levels than the Easy DCs, which accounts for ability score increases and the +2 bonus most Epic Destinies give.

They add another 7 for Hard DCs to represent Training and a Background or some other +2 bonus.  Hard DCs increase by another 3, call it a Tier tax because it's not well defined.  They figured they had to increase Hard faster than Moderate (DMG2 increased Moderate by 4 compared to Easy but Hard was always 5 more than Moderate) but I don't see the math behind it.  Looks like they eyeballed it, I would have been happier if at least increased at much as they did from Easy to Moderate.

I guess it's better.  But 10, 15, 20 at first to 25, 35, 45 at 30th still seems betterer.
Personally, I am thrilled to see this kind of writing in DDI. The elaboration on the three levels of difficulty in skill checks is something that everyone can benefit from. It is especially important for those new to the game to understand the underlying reasons for the mechanics of the game.

I'm not sure the DC adjustments are completely new and unavailable to the general public. I believe there were changes to DC's made in July or August and put up on the updates part of the site. This update was available to non-DDI members.

Perhaps, the explaination is considered something of value that the designers want to parcel out. I liked it, and I agree with The Jester to some degree, but that is because the elaboration to me, isn't really a new subject or a new concept.

Now, that isn't to say that it isn't OC, it is. I am simply saying that the concepts presented form a logical conclusion of information based on DCs. There were more instances of this type of writing in earlier editions of the game. I have been harping on this since day 1, so it makes me happy to see this.

I don't know if they plan to put it in suppliment information, but how would they do that? There isn't a mailing list of gamers who don't feel like subscribing to DDI but still play the game and would want access to this information.
Unless they plan on a DM3, or a book of published errata, it isn't going to make it in to the books too easily, because they have to find somewhere to stick it in context.

On an aside, I have player' who really enjoy skill challenges, so there are plenty of checks in my campaign. A number of the characters have feats that improve their skills; I believe "Jack of All Trades" is the predominant one. This one ups all their numbers and is pretty easy to justify, in terms of realism. "You have a slight advantage in Acrobatics, because in your training as a Wizard your teacher forced you to do a minimal numbers pushups, just so you would, at least, get some exercise" (Or something similar),  you get the point.

Another reason this elaboration is good is: that new DMs will have an easier time designing Skill Challenges.
That to me is huge, any improvement to the tools of the DMs is a wonderful thing.

It's not an update, it's preview of what's in the Essentials DM Kit.


You're right, it's not an update. That was the problem. It's just a preview of a change we've needed since, well, the game launched. The fact it's in a preview means one of two things:
1) They're changing the DC table across the board, which means we still need an update. 
2) They're changing the DCs just for DDE.

The second is very unlikely. They want DDE to be compatible. And we've known from past updates that they're using DDE as a way to patch the system. 
Which means we still need an official update for this.  

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

The next update is in October.

Everyone needs to know and see this table and read the description below. ... This is basic rules information mandatory for playing the game and using Skill Challenges. You shouldn't have to buy a new book or box or even DDI to get this.

A valid point. We have opened the gate. "It's a free concert from now on!"

Steve

If your only tool is a warhammer, every problem looks like a gnoll.

YAY!
it’s also difficult to get bonuses that high for more than one or two skills..



Try Arcana, which is now also Perception Insight Streetwise as well as Diplomacy Bluff and Intimidate.




I don't follow the skill optimizations, can you extend this answer, please?

[<()>]Proud Brazilian. Typos are free bonuses. 


Try Arcana, which is now also Perception Insight Streetwise as well as Diplomacy Bluff and Intimidate.




I don't follow the skill optimizations, can you extend this answer, please?




With Sorcerous Vision, a character can use arcana in place of perception or insight. Arcane mutterings lets you use your arcana mod on a dimplomacy, bluff, or insight check once per encounter. Not sure about streetwise. So by maxing just arcana you basically end up with six skills.

Try Arcana, which is now also Perception Insight Streetwise as well as Diplomacy Bluff and Intimidate.




I don't follow the skill optimizations, can you extend this answer, please?




With Sorcerous Vision, a character can use arcana in place of perception or insight. Arcane mutterings lets you use your arcana mod on a diplomacy, bluff, or intimidate check once per encounter. Not sure about streetwise. So by maxing just arcana you basically end up with six skills.



There's a low-level ritual, Seek Rumor, which allows you to gain the information you'd receive from making a Streetwise check by performing the ritual. It also gives an effective -5 to your check, but because many ritualists don't have Streetwise trained and don't have a high Charisma, it still works out to a higher check modifier. (It's also cheaper to perform the ritual than to pay paragon-tier bribes, so there's that too)




Everyone needs to know and see this table and read the description below. ... This is basic rules information mandatory for playing the game and using Skill Challenges. You shouldn't have to buy a new book or box or even DDI to get this.

A valid point. We have opened the gate. "It's a free concert from now on!"

Steve


Yays!

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

It's not an update, it's preview of what's in the Essentials DM Kit.

They want DDE to be compatible. And we've known from past updates that they're using DDE as a way to patch the system. 
Which means we still need an official update for this.

It's compatible once they add it to the errata but they won't add it to the errata until it's published.  Not sure how errata means Essential books are compatible with non-Essential books.


Everyone needs to know and see this table and read the description below. ... This is basic rules information mandatory for playing the game and using Skill Challenges. You shouldn't have to buy a new book or box or even DDI to get this.

A valid point. We have opened the gate. "It's a free concert from now on!"Steve

Coo!

As has been said, it is worrying that Essentials updates like Magic Missile have already been added but no update has been added for skill DC tables.
it’s also difficult to get bonuses that high for more than one or two skills..



Try Arcana, which is now also Perception Insight Streetwise as well as Diplomacy Bluff and Intimidate.




I don't follow the skill optimizations, can you extend this answer, please?




community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

Try the disccusion here. Especially the 20th floor.

Everyone needs to know and see this table and read the description below. ... This is basic rules information mandatory for playing the game and using Skill Challenges. You shouldn't have to buy a new book or box or even DDI to get this.

A valid point. We have opened the gate. "It's a free concert from now on!"

Steve


I applaud this decision.
"Man is made God's plaything, and that is the best part of him. Therefore every man and woman should live life accordingly, and play the noblest games... Life must be lived as play, playing certain games, making sacrifices, singing and dancing..." Plato, The Laws.
Excellent decision to make this available to all. Kudos to DDI for respecting your player base!

I used the new DC's last night in 2 major skill challenges and the reaction from my players is that they felt well balanced across easy, medium, and hard.  I briefed them about the changes before the game and they appreciated the explanations provided. There was a general consensus that everything was well thought out and a desire to see more detailed explanations about why the rules are set up the way they are.  One skill challenge was passed and the other failed. As the DM, the new DC's just felt right.

Afterwards there was much discussion over how this will impact the game moving forward. Pretty much everyone agreed that feats such as jack of all trades and skill training certainly became much more important.  (skill challenges are a major part of my game and have a big impact on players)  The previous DC's really were too easy and they could afford to ignore feats that imvolved skills. Overall, I think this change worked well and was long overdue.

Question:  Will books and adventures be errated with the new DC's?  I want to run E3 next month and it would be nice to have the DC's updated for me without me having to do the math on the fly.