Example of a fun, well-run skill challenge

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I saw this post over in the LFR forums and thought it would be of interest to the wider 4e community.  In my opinion, this is the way skill challenges ought to be run and what can make them really fun.  (Original thread: community.wizards.com/lfr/go/thread/view...)


57193408 wrote:
For those of you playing the CALI adventures at GenCon, here is a skill challenge snippet (no spoilers) to get you into the regional flavor . . . a solo adventure for a "rogue" with an "animal companion theme."

DM: Okay, the guards are chasing you through Almraiven. They've cornered you on a rooftop.
PC: I jump off the rooftop, and swing on the ropes holding the laundry. (makes a hard DC Acrobatics check) Yes!
DM: Success! You go sliding along the laundry ropes, give me another check.
PC: (rolls a 1) Oh no!
DM: A woman closes the window you were aiming for, and you slam into it. Then you crash through some awnings and overhangs, landing on the ground several stories below. Lose a healing surge.
PC: Did I escape the guards?
DM: For now . . . but they will catch up soon.
PC: Okay. I grab some of this laundry and disguise myself as one of the women.
DM: Give me a moderate DC bluff check.
PC: Another failure!
DM: A guard grabs you.
PC: I have my animal companion jump on the guard and grapple him so I can get away. (rolls Athletics for the animal companion and makes a hard DC)
DM: Excellent! That hard DC cancels one failure, and you escape the guard. But there are many more closing in on you.
PC: I use acrobatics to dodge and weave around the terrain, avoiding the swing of their swords. (makes an Acrobatics check) I then leap up on some barrels and knock some  down on the guards (makes an Athletcis check).
DM: You're doing great dodging the guards' attacks! You tumble around, ending up on some scaffolding. The guards begin shaking the scaffolding to try and knock you down.
PC: I use Acrobatics again to tumble into an open window. (makes check)
DM: Okay, you make it through the window - no problem. However, you've tumbled right into a harem chamber, and the ladies don't look too happy at your intrusion.
PC: I use my charming personality to win them over! (makes a Diplomacy check)
DM: Another failure, I'm afraid. One of the ladies pushes you out a window, lose a healing . . .
PC: Wait! I use Acrobatics to cancel the failure, bouncing off an awning into the marketplace!
DM: Give me a check at a Hard DC . . .
PC: Made it!
DM: Okay, that cancels the failure. But, you're back in the marketplace and the guards are looking for you.
PC: I hide behind a big, strong man flexing for the crowd. (makes a moderate Stealth check).
DM: Okay, that buys you some time. However, one of the guards spots you and you need to keep moving.
PC: {Wow, this is a really long skill challenge!} Okay . . . more acrobatics to avoid livestock in the streets, jump over a guy on a bed of nails, and generally dodge the guards. (makes a moderate DC).
DM: So far, so good. You're keeping ahead of the guards, but one manages to grab your animal companion.
PC: I pull him away from the guard . . . (moderate DC Athletics)
DM: Good job. But now the guards have you cornered. 
PC: I dodge and weave, and in the dust cloud made by the commotion, I hide in a pot.
DM: Give me a Bluff and a Steath check.
PC: (makes both at a Hard DC) Yes! Do I get away?
DM: Well, you're not cornered any more, but the guards are after you again. They chase you to an alley way where a fire-walker is walking on a bed of hot coals. Really hot. Give me an Endurance che . . .
PC: Wait! Instead of walking on the hot coals, I use Acrobatics to jump on the back of the fire-walker, and leap to the far side!
DM: That sounds tough - give me a Hard DC check.
PC: Natural 20! Oh yeah!
DM: Okay, you've passed the coals. The guards run through the coals, shouting in pain. Looks like those coals are really hot! 
PC: Okay, I'm tired of running. I have my animal companion grab a sword from a sword swallower on the street and Intimidate the guards. (rolls a moderate Intimidate check)
DM: Your animal companion swings the sword and the guards stop in their tracks. They did not expect your animal companion to wield a weapon!
PC: Do they leave? Is the skill challenge over?
DM: No. The guards realize that THEY have swords too. You'll need to keep going.
PC: Okay, I'm using Athletics to climb a rope enchanted by a rope-charmer to reach the upper level of a building. Then I'll grab a carpet and jump out a window, using Acrobatics to glide to safety! (makes moderate Athletics and hard Acrobatics checks)
DM: Well done! You have escaped the guards!

If this sounds familiar, you can see this skill challenge played out on youtube! Just search for:
"Aladin One Jump Ahead"  

Now that you have some of the regional flavor in mind, enjoy the Calimshan regional adventures, premiering at GenCon!




There are multiple elements that make this a good skill challenge in my opinion.  First and foremost, the skill challenge is driven by the player(s).  The DM provided a general goal (escape the guards) and the player then explained how they wanted to do that.  The entire skill challenge is sort of a back-and-forth between the players and the DM - the player says "I want to try this" and the DM determines if that is a reasonable skill to use and then sets the DC.  There is flexibility.  Also, this skill challenge features (reasonable and logical) ways for the players to remove a failure.  The rogue in this skill challenge is excellent at Acrobatics - so he understandably tries to use Acrobatics as frequently as possible in the skill challenge.  But the player finds ways to make Acrobatics fit into the situation at hand in a logical way.

I have seen many DMs run skill challenges as "Make an Endurance check.  No, you can't try anything else.  Just roll a die and add your Endurance check modifier."  Similarly, many players treat skill challenges the same way: "What check do we need to roll?  Who has the highest modifier?" or "I make a bluff check *rolls die*" (well, what did you say with your bluff check?  What type of thing were you trying to convince them of?  Why do you consider a bluff check appropriate to this particular situation?).  Lots of times skill challenges are treated as just a series of die rolls.  When really they should be a story told by both the DM and players that is assisted by die rolls.  It is both the players and the DM's job to make skill challenges work.  It takes everyone at the table actively participating and being flexible/creative for a skill challenge to really shine and be fun.  Otherwise skill challenges can end up as a boring string of die rolls that everyone rushes through as quickly as possible to get back to the more interesting parts of the adventure (combat and/or roleplaying).

Lori Anderson

WotC Freelancer, LFR author

@LittleLorika

 

Dragon Magazine #412: Unearthed Arcana: Ships in Your Campaign

Calimshan Adventures (LFR): CALI3-3, CALI4-1, and QUES4-1

Epic Adventures (LFR): EPIC5-1 and EPIC5-3

Other LFR Adventures: NETH4-1, ADCP5-2, and MYTH6-3

 

 

 

 

Very nice. I like the RP-focus of these kinds of skill challenges. It does require a fairly extensive development of the local area, however. Since not all DMs are good at improv, I think each individual skill challenge needs to have multiple examples of valid actions that the characters can take, as opposed to restricting the types of actions that the skill challenge supports. So many of the LFR modules pigeon-hole a skill challenge where a player that has a legitimate solution using a skill (or power even) not listed in the skill challenge is left at the DMs mercy. I have seen several very well designed skill challenges, however.

Personally, if WotC ever published a book of example skill challenges (for all tiers and lots of variety), I have a feeling it could sell very well. I'd certainly buy it.

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I learned a lot about running cool, narratively driven skill challenges like this by listening to the Major Spoilers Critical Hit podcast. Their DM Rodrigo uses alternate skill challenge rules that really make for fun party based skill challenges.
I learned a lot about running cool, narratively driven skill challenges like this by listening to the Major Spoilers Critical Hit podcast. Their DM Rodrigo uses alternate skill challenge rules that really make for fun party based skill challenges.

Critical-Hits has an awesome section in general on Skill Challenges.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

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Nice DMing. Good illustration of how an SC should be a narrative. Nice use of resources and extrapolation of the environment. Notice how the repeated elaboration of the environment with successes granting narrative control to the player.
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The best "skill challenge" I ever ran was MEANT to be a combat, but instead being a fullout retreat. The PCs came to a long stretch of river they had to ford and after some silliness (cutting down a tree to use it since one of the characters had piss poor athletics) we got underway. A bit of the ways in a young black dragon showed up. Which was planned, I figured they could handle it. I was wrong. It instead turned into a race to get to the other shoreline and lure the dragon onto it to fight on their terms. Well since I figured black dragons are ambush predators I decided to just have it not pursue them once they got back onto land, but I didn't tell them that.

It ended up being a good skill challenge, because there was a real sense of urgency and that someone might die or at least lose a whole mess o' healing surges if they didn't put a rush on it.

I really want skill challenges to be cool, but all too often they just end up being the guy with the best relevant skill rolls until it's over.
I really want skill challenges to be cool, but all too often they just end up being the guy with the best relevant skill rolls until it's over.

It's easy to fall into that trap.

The best skill challenges are the ones that the players don't know they are even in one.  Also, you need to try to get everyone involved.  If people are not taking action, put them in the middle of the action.

Sometimes asking, "What are you doing right now?" is enough.  When they tell you, ask them to make a roll based upon the appropriate skill, note the success or failure. 

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

The thing in this example is that the player thought of some pretty creative stuff at the drop of a hat, out of nowhere. I only wish i had players who were so creative and mentally agile that they could improv this kind of thing.

I've found that more often, the DM needs to hold the players' hands a little bit (at least a bit more than was necessary in the Aladdin example) because players want to succeed at the challenge at least as much as craft a cinematic scene which usually means falling back on simply rolling a die with the biggest bonus. I've had more success describing discreat events with an eye toward a couple of skills being obvious solutions and letting the players figure out what they think works best. i'm sure different approaches are going to work better with different groups, but i've found that a DM-centric narritive usually works best when players are just looking to their best skill to roll and win the encounter.
The thing in this example is that the player thought of some pretty creative stuff at the drop of a hat, out of nowhere. I only wish i had players who were so creative and mentally agile that they could improv this kind of thing.

I've found that more often, the DM needs to hold the players' hands a little bit (at least a bit more than was necessary in the Aladdin example) because players want to succeed at the challenge at least as much as craft a cinematic scene which usually means falling back on simply rolling a die with the biggest bonus. I've had more success describing discreat events with an eye toward a couple of skills being obvious solutions and letting the players figure out what they think works best. i'm sure different approaches are going to work better with different groups, but i've found that a DM-centric narritive usually works best when players are just looking to their best skill to roll and win the encounter.

What I got from it is that the DM and player have played for a while with each other.  They know how each other operates, and they know each other's boundaries.  It takes a while to build that type of relationship and trust in D&D.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

The thing in this example is that the player thought of some pretty creative stuff at the drop of a hat, out of nowhere. I only wish i had players who were so creative and mentally agile that they could improv this kind of thing.

I've found that more often, the DM needs to hold the players' hands a little bit (at least a bit more than was necessary in the Aladdin example) because players want to succeed at the challenge at least as much as craft a cinematic scene which usually means falling back on simply rolling a die with the biggest bonus. I've had more success describing discreat events with an eye toward a couple of skills being obvious solutions and letting the players figure out what they think works best. i'm sure different approaches are going to work better with different groups, but i've found that a DM-centric narritive usually works best when players are just looking to their best skill to roll and win the encounter.



The way around this is simple. The player doesn't get to state what skill they're using. They simply state what they're going to do. They CAN'T not describe their attempted actions. Practically speaking the player may specify a skill they envisage using, but in my games until the player actually states an action they are taking nothing happens. Usually the player will start asking questions if they aren't feeling like they can just make something up like an open window. That gets a bit less fast-paced and spontaneous, but it still works fine.

Honestly, I've never understood how people can think that skill challenges have anything to do with "the player selecting their best skill" since even the base SC rules are written the way I run it AFAICT. The example really shows it working smoothly and the DM was pretty adept at doing things like calling for checks to remove failures and such, but pretty much any SC should read in a somewhat similar fashion.
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While I think it is neat that someone took a scene from a popular movie and transcribed it to seem as if a DM and player were playing out a skill challenge, it does seem like it would give people the mistaken impression that ALL skill challenges flow this easily or are that well written.

As inspiration to "get you into the regional flavor" it works, but as an "example of a fun, well-run skill challenge" it is standing on the backs of a lot of giants. Writers, directors, animators, etc. If all the narrative and action has been decided it can be incredibly easy to transcribe that into game mechanics. It is far, far more difficult  to knit mechanics and narrative together as they are actually happening on the fly.

The above is just comparing oranges to pineapples. 

Fairbanks
Fairbanks, level 5 Human, Slayer (Multiclass: Cavalier) Human Power Selection Option: Heroic Effort Background: Blademaster (Acrobatics class skill) Theme: Neverwinter Noble FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 18, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 13 STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 16, CON 10, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 12 AC: 20 Fort: 19 Ref: 16 Will: 14 HP: 49/49 Surges: 6/9 Surge Value: 10 [X] Action Point [] Second Wind TRAINED SKILLS Acrobatics +10, Athletics +11, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +7, Intimidate +8 UNTRAINED SKILLS Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Dungeoneering +2, Heal +2, History +2, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +5, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5 POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack Card Link Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack Card Link [] Human Racial Power: Heroic Effort Card Link [X] [X] Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike Card Link [X] Fighter Utility: Duelist's Assault Card Link [] Fighter Utility: Mobile Blade Card Link [] Level 2 Utility: Honorable Challenge Card Link [] Neverwinter Noble Utility: Take Heart, Friend! Card Link Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura Card Link [] Paladin Attack: Righteous Radiance Card Link FEATS Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise Level 1: Armor Finesse Level 2:Heavy Armor Agility Level 4: Squire of Righteousness ITEMS Dagger x3 Adventurer's Kit Aecris Black Iron Scale Mail +1 Horned Helm (Heroic Tier) Holy Symbol of Bahamut 1 Opal 73g 145s 50c
While I think it is neat that someone took a scene from a popular movie and transcribed it to seem as if a DM and player were playing out a skill challenge, it does seem like it would give people the mistaken impression that ALL skill challenges flow this easily or are that well written.

As inspiration to "get you into the regional flavor" it works, but as an "example of a fun, well-run skill challenge" it is standing on the backs of a lot of giants. Writers, directors, animators, etc. If all the narrative and action has been decided it can be incredibly easy to transcribe that into game mechanics. It is far, far more difficult  to knit mechanics and narrative together as they are actually happening on the fly. 


But we should aspire to have them all flow this easily.  Yeah, it's hard, and yeah, some people suck at it, but it's unquestionably better to try to imitate this than "I have high acrobatics.  I roll acrobatics.  Do I get a success?" "Yes, and that was the last one you needed! "
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While I think it is neat that someone took a scene from a popular movie and transcribed it to seem as if a DM and player were playing out a skill challenge, it does seem like it would give people the mistaken impression that ALL skill challenges flow this easily or are that well written.

As inspiration to "get you into the regional flavor" it works, but as an "example of a fun, well-run skill challenge" it is standing on the backs of a lot of giants. Writers, directors, animators, etc. If all the narrative and action has been decided it can be incredibly easy to transcribe that into game mechanics. It is far, far more difficult  to knit mechanics and narrative together as they are actually happening on the fly.

The above is just comparing oranges to pineapples. 

Oh, I think we've pulled off some pretty polished SCs in my game. Maybe not as 'choreographed' as the example here, but still spontaneous and filled with lots of extemporizing and fun stuff. One I ran a few weeks ago was particularly good. I created a complex puzzle on the fly as the players tried to solve it. It was a pretty open-ended kind of puzzle and required a bunch of different things to be done. It was remarked on as a great session. OTOH it wasn't like every single line the players came up with got an instantaneous response from me, now and then I would say "I'll get back to you on that, meanwhile what are you doing Osrik?"

I think the chase scene is also one of the easier types of SC to run. Both the DM and the player(s) will probably have a pretty good shared idea of the kind of script it will follow and we've all seen lots of action movies with these kinds of scenes in them to draw from. Still, if this is a best case, that's OK. I'm happy to do half as well in practice.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
I guess I should clarify that I was trying to point out the distinction between an "Example of a fun, well-run skill challenge" and something "to get you into the regional flavor".

While it certainly can accomplish the latter task, since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge and that its ability to accomplish the second part is questionable.

Fairbanks
Fairbanks, level 5 Human, Slayer (Multiclass: Cavalier) Human Power Selection Option: Heroic Effort Background: Blademaster (Acrobatics class skill) Theme: Neverwinter Noble FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 18, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 13 STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 16, CON 10, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 12 AC: 20 Fort: 19 Ref: 16 Will: 14 HP: 49/49 Surges: 6/9 Surge Value: 10 [X] Action Point [] Second Wind TRAINED SKILLS Acrobatics +10, Athletics +11, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +7, Intimidate +8 UNTRAINED SKILLS Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Dungeoneering +2, Heal +2, History +2, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +5, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5 POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack Card Link Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack Card Link [] Human Racial Power: Heroic Effort Card Link [X] [X] Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike Card Link [X] Fighter Utility: Duelist's Assault Card Link [] Fighter Utility: Mobile Blade Card Link [] Level 2 Utility: Honorable Challenge Card Link [] Neverwinter Noble Utility: Take Heart, Friend! Card Link Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura Card Link [] Paladin Attack: Righteous Radiance Card Link FEATS Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise Level 1: Armor Finesse Level 2:Heavy Armor Agility Level 4: Squire of Righteousness ITEMS Dagger x3 Adventurer's Kit Aecris Black Iron Scale Mail +1 Horned Helm (Heroic Tier) Holy Symbol of Bahamut 1 Opal 73g 145s 50c
My ability to be fit enough to be a world-class athlete is questionable, but it doesn't mean I shouldn't start exercising.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
My ability to be fit enough to be a world-class athlete is questionable, but it doesn't mean I shouldn't start exercising.


I'm not claiming that the SC outlined above shouldn't be read or seen as an example. I just feel the need to point out that, as a work of adaptation from another medium, it shouldn't be viewed as an easily attainable goal.

To revisit your metaphor, I'm not suggesting you should give up and be a couch potato just because you may or not be able to be a world-class athlete. I'm just trying to say that pointing to an air-brushed magazine cover of World-Class Athlete Weekly and saying "This is what everyone should be trying for!" is a questionable goal. 

Fairbanks
Fairbanks, level 5 Human, Slayer (Multiclass: Cavalier) Human Power Selection Option: Heroic Effort Background: Blademaster (Acrobatics class skill) Theme: Neverwinter Noble FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 18, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 13 STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 16, CON 10, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 12 AC: 20 Fort: 19 Ref: 16 Will: 14 HP: 49/49 Surges: 6/9 Surge Value: 10 [X] Action Point [] Second Wind TRAINED SKILLS Acrobatics +10, Athletics +11, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +7, Intimidate +8 UNTRAINED SKILLS Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Dungeoneering +2, Heal +2, History +2, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +5, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5 POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack Card Link Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack Card Link [] Human Racial Power: Heroic Effort Card Link [X] [X] Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike Card Link [X] Fighter Utility: Duelist's Assault Card Link [] Fighter Utility: Mobile Blade Card Link [] Level 2 Utility: Honorable Challenge Card Link [] Neverwinter Noble Utility: Take Heart, Friend! Card Link Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura Card Link [] Paladin Attack: Righteous Radiance Card Link FEATS Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise Level 1: Armor Finesse Level 2:Heavy Armor Agility Level 4: Squire of Righteousness ITEMS Dagger x3 Adventurer's Kit Aecris Black Iron Scale Mail +1 Horned Helm (Heroic Tier) Holy Symbol of Bahamut 1 Opal 73g 145s 50c
since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge


I'm not claiming that the SC outlined above shouldn't be read or seen as an example.


k
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Looks like a great skill challenge for a rogue.

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since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge


I'm not claiming that the SC outlined above shouldn't be read or seen as an example.


k


If you'd like to read again, you'll see there's no contradiction.

Look at these qualifiers in the first sentence: "since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge"

Now notice that in the second sentence I didn't use any qualifiers at all.

Can you grok that? Just because I personally think it isn't a good example of a well-run challenge doesn't mean it can't be looked at as an an example of other things. Like an example of how actions can be desribed cinematically or how players and DMs can cooperatively move the narrative along.

The SC example from the OP takes pre-existing, finished narrative structure and then overlays it with SC structure. But since REAL SCs don't have narrative structure to begin with, it (in my personal opinion) makes a poor example of a well-run SC.

Fairbanks
Fairbanks, level 5 Human, Slayer (Multiclass: Cavalier) Human Power Selection Option: Heroic Effort Background: Blademaster (Acrobatics class skill) Theme: Neverwinter Noble FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 18, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 13 STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 16, CON 10, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 12 AC: 20 Fort: 19 Ref: 16 Will: 14 HP: 49/49 Surges: 6/9 Surge Value: 10 [X] Action Point [] Second Wind TRAINED SKILLS Acrobatics +10, Athletics +11, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +7, Intimidate +8 UNTRAINED SKILLS Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Dungeoneering +2, Heal +2, History +2, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +5, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5 POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack Card Link Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack Card Link [] Human Racial Power: Heroic Effort Card Link [X] [X] Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike Card Link [X] Fighter Utility: Duelist's Assault Card Link [] Fighter Utility: Mobile Blade Card Link [] Level 2 Utility: Honorable Challenge Card Link [] Neverwinter Noble Utility: Take Heart, Friend! Card Link Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura Card Link [] Paladin Attack: Righteous Radiance Card Link FEATS Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise Level 1: Armor Finesse Level 2:Heavy Armor Agility Level 4: Squire of Righteousness ITEMS Dagger x3 Adventurer's Kit Aecris Black Iron Scale Mail +1 Horned Helm (Heroic Tier) Holy Symbol of Bahamut 1 Opal 73g 145s 50c
As inspiration to "get you into the regional flavor" it works, but as an "example of a fun, well-run skill challenge" it is standing on the backs of a lot of giants. Writers, directors, animators, etc. If all the narrative and action has been decided it can be incredibly easy to transcribe that into game mechanics. It is far, far more difficult  to knit mechanics and narrative together as they are actually happening on the fly.

The above is just comparing oranges to pineapples. 



Lol, yeah.

I read a very amusing quote from a Gamers wife: "That was a fun 15 minutes packed into 3 hours of game".

On the screen that would play out very quickly, but at the table not so fast.

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since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge


I'm not claiming that the SC outlined above shouldn't be read or seen as an example.


k


If you'd like to read again, you'll see there's no contradiction.

Look at these qualifiers in the first sentence: "since it is a work of fiction I personally think it is not a good example of a well-run challenge"

Now notice that in the second sentence I didn't use any qualifiers at all.

Can you grok that? Just because I personally think it isn't a good example of a well-run challenge doesn't mean it can't be looked at as an an example of other things. Like an example of how actions can be desribed cinematically or how players and DMs can cooperatively move the narrative along.

The SC example from the OP takes pre-existing, finished narrative structure and then overlays it with SC structure. But since REAL SCs don't have narrative structure to begin with, it (in my personal opinion) makes a poor example of a well-run SC.



So you think people should read things you personally don't think are good examples of well-run challenges in a thread about an example of a well-run skill challenge?  Why?  Wouldn't that be at best unhelpful, and at worst actively negative?
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I think you can look at the example and say "That was an awesome skill challenge because it turned out well" without simultaneously saying "thats a good example of how to run/design a skill challenge."

Since the player did a lot of the work, i think its a much better example of how to be a creative player involved in what could have been a boring skill challenge as opposed to how to design or run a good skill challenge as a DM. Jump to the laundry lines? Dress up like a woman? Thats stuff my players never would have come up with on the fly if i had run the DM side identically to how it was presented here.

Good taste of regional flavor? Yes. Good model for players? Definitely. Good model for DMs? Eh, not really that helpful.
So you think people should read things you personally don't think are good examples of well-run challenges in a thread about an example of a well-run skill challenge?  Why?  Wouldn't that be at best unhelpful, and at worst actively negative?


I haven't said diddly-squat about what people should or should not do. I've merely pointed out what I feel is a contradiction between the material presented and what they feel it is supposed to represent.

All I've been doing is stating my opinion about disagreeing with one facet of the material.

Fairbanks
Fairbanks, level 5 Human, Slayer (Multiclass: Cavalier) Human Power Selection Option: Heroic Effort Background: Blademaster (Acrobatics class skill) Theme: Neverwinter Noble FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 18, CON 10, DEX 17, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 13 STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 16, CON 10, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 10, CHA 12 AC: 20 Fort: 19 Ref: 16 Will: 14 HP: 49/49 Surges: 6/9 Surge Value: 10 [X] Action Point [] Second Wind TRAINED SKILLS Acrobatics +10, Athletics +11, Diplomacy +8, Endurance +7, Intimidate +8 UNTRAINED SKILLS Arcana +2, Bluff +3, Dungeoneering +2, Heal +2, History +2, Insight +2, Nature +2, Perception +2, Religion +2, Stealth +5, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5 POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack Card Link Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack Card Link [] Human Racial Power: Heroic Effort Card Link [X] [X] Multiple Class Attack: Power Strike Card Link [X] Fighter Utility: Duelist's Assault Card Link [] Fighter Utility: Mobile Blade Card Link [] Level 2 Utility: Honorable Challenge Card Link [] Neverwinter Noble Utility: Take Heart, Friend! Card Link Multiple Class Utility: Defender Aura Card Link [] Paladin Attack: Righteous Radiance Card Link FEATS Level 1: Heavy Blade Expertise Level 1: Armor Finesse Level 2:Heavy Armor Agility Level 4: Squire of Righteousness ITEMS Dagger x3 Adventurer's Kit Aecris Black Iron Scale Mail +1 Horned Helm (Heroic Tier) Holy Symbol of Bahamut 1 Opal 73g 145s 50c
So you think people should read things you personally don't think are good examples of well-run challenges in a thread about an example of a well-run skill challenge?  Why?  Wouldn't that be at best unhelpful, and at worst actively negative?


I would like to see an example of an actual skill challenge performed in a game with 4-5 players coming up with good extemporaneous things to keep the skill challenge lively.  Aladdin is a fun movie, but my short experience with skill challenges didn't go anything like that before I dumped them. 

What I found happening was one or two people coming up with a good and fun idea, but that wasn't enough to win a skill challenge since it needs multiple successes.  So as DM, I prod the players for more ideas which are lame and trite because the players already spit out the one or two good ideas they had and now they are just fumbling for stuff because I tell them to keep rolling.

I do enjoy seeing a movie scene reduced to RPG terms for a lark, but would like to see an actual skill challenge as successfully performed in a game.
What I found happening was one or two people coming up with a good and fun idea, but that wasn't enough to win a skill challenge since it needs multiple successes.  So as DM, I prod the players for more ideas which are lame and trite because the players already spit out the one or two good ideas they had and now they are just fumbling for stuff because I tell them to keep rolling.

This sounds like a case of not evolving the environment or situation during the course of a skill challenge.

One of the things I like to do is make a flow chart to represent the skill challenge, particularly if it's a skill challenge with any significant level of complexity.  The flow chart lets me map out successes and failures (sometimes a success and failure takes you to the same destination), the direction the skill challenge is taking, but most importantly, it keeps the skill challenge moving and evolving, presenting the players with different scenarios within the skill challenge.

The last thing you want to do is to make a skill challenge "dead end" in one part of the skill challenge.  The flow chart helps you avoid that.  I.e. a failed thievery check on a locked door should not keep the party trapped in a chamber unless you have given them an alternative method of escape, potentially revealed during that failure.  Maybe failing to pick the lock sprung a trap door and those failing an athletics check fall in and lose a healing surge.  At the bottom of the pit is a rusted key that will open the lock.

Sometimes a failed check will take the party down a different path of the flow chart, but ultimately brings them back to where the "success" path is.  Maybe instead of a key at the bottom of the pit, there is a passage that leads through an underground cavern where the party has to excavate rocks that are blocking their path without the rocks caving in upon them.  Once the rocks are moved, the party continues on and eventually finds themselves in the room on the other side of the locked door.

These are obviously simplified examples.  You can make the flow chart as simple or as complex as needed (degrees of success and failure, for example).

If you need a good idea on how to progress a skill challenge through successes and failures, watch any Indian Jones movie, particularly the scenes where Indy is in a tomb trying to avoid various traps.  He has successes and failures all along the way, yet still manages to progress through the challenge.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

Wow - lots of responses!

I think it is the responsibility of both the DM and the players to run a good, fun, smooth skill challenge. If the players come up with all sorts of creative ideas but the DM is very inflexible and just says "no, that's not one of the listed skills in the adventure so you can't use it" - the skill challenge ends up as a boring series of die rolls. If the DM tries to be flexible and come up with all sorts of interesting possibilities and attempts to prod the players to interact with the skill challenge but the players just say "what check do we make? Who has the highest bonus? Ok, what's the next check we make?" - then the skill challenge ends up as a boring series of die rolls.

I play LFR (and also in a home campaign) so I have seen how lots of different DMs and different groups of players respond to and interact with skill challenges. The most fun skill challenges are when the DM is flexible and willing/able to improvise with whatever the players come up with (and also able to prod the players appropriately if they get stuck) and also when the players are creative and actively take part in the skill challenge instead of sitting back waiting for the DM to tell them what to do. I have seen players come up with really good ideas only to be told that that doesn't work because that option is not specifically spelled out in the adventure. A skill challenge written in a published adventure should be used as guidance to help the DM improvise if they're not good at that and to help the DM prod the players if they get stuck. The listed skills are not intended to be The Law - the one, true, only way the skill challenge can be run and the only skills the players can use. If the players come up with a good, logical use of a skill, the DM should determine the appropriate DC and allow the players to try it (the DM might use a higher DC if it's an unusual use of a skill, but players are generally fine with that). If a DM is good at improvising, all they really need to run a good skill challenge is to know what the goal of the skill challenge is. Many DMs aren't good at thinking on their feet like that which is why skill challenges in published adventures list suggested skills, but then DMs go to the other extreme and ONLY allow the exact skill checks listed in the adventure.

I have seen players come up with a good idea and describe how they want to use a skill and have the DM tell them that they can use the skill, but they use it in a different way than the player described (because that's the flavor text written in the adventure that describes how hat skill is used). For example, the player may say "I use acrobatics to dramatically swing on the chandelier and safely slide down the banister to the room below" and the DM says "No, you leap over the edge and use acrobatics to land safely." The end result may be the same (the PC succeeded/failed at using acrobatics to descend to the room below), but the DM dictating to the player what their PC did takes the fun, excitement, and creativity out of the skill challenge. I have seen players state that they are going to use a skill check (because it's their best one) without explaining how they want to use it even though it doesn't seem to make sense in the context. If I were running the Aladdin skill challenge and the player said "I use acrobatics" when I said there were hot coals ahead, I wouldn't allow it unless the player came up with a logical explanation for why acrobatics was appropriate in this situation. I have also seen players who respond to every single skill challenge obstacle with "I use diplomacy" (or whatever their best skill check is). DM: "Ok, you're in the middle of a jungle and you need to find your way to the secret temple." Player: "I use diplomacy." .... DM: "You need to get over this raging river - the current looks strong and the rocks seem very slippery." Player: "I use diplomacy."

Skill challenges, especially longer ones, should have different "scenes." The most awkward and boring skill challenges are when one skill check is required over and over again and each success doesn't seem to get you closer to your goal. For example, you're trying to convince the king to stop a war because it's killing all his crops and citizens and the skill challenge is just a long string of diplomacy rolls. DM: "You succeeded on your diplomacy check. Ok, the king seems a little convinced. But he's not quite convinced enough." *rolls a diplomacy check* DM: "Oh, the king is becoming more convinced! But you don't have enough successes yet. Keep trying!" Each and every skill check should mean something and actively get you further towards your goal. The first scene could be getting into the palace and gaining an audience with the king - maybe the players bluff/diplomicize/bribe their way past the guards, maybe they sneak in, maybe they fight their way past the guards, whatever. The second scene could be convincing the king to listen to the PCs about why this war is a bad idea. Diplomacy or intimidate (such as telling the king all the horrible things that will happen to his kingdom if he keeps fighting) might be appropriate to get the king to pay attention to you. Now that you've got the king's attention, maybe the PCs give the king a tour of the infirmary to show him all the horrible war wounds his citizens are already suffering (heal check to describe how serious the wounds are) and/or a history check to remind the king of what tragedies befell the kingdom when an ancient king used a similarly aggressive military strategy and/or a nature check to explain to him that if he continues the war and the enemies keep salting the farm land that the land won't be useful for growing crops for centuries and his people will all starve. Or someone similar. That's much more interesting and realistic than "Great! You succeeded on a diplomacy check. The king is 1/6 of the way convinced now. Keep rolling those diplomacy checks!"

Obviously the Aladdin example isn't a real skill challenge with a DM and players. But I thought it would inspire both players and DMs and give them some ideas for how to all work together to create fun and engaging skill challenges. A good, smooth skill challenge is everyone's job. The DM needs to be flexible and willing to improvise and the players need to be creative and actively participate in the skill challenge for it work well and be fun. (And I thought people would enjoy seeing a movie scene translated into skill challenge mechanics. )

Lori Anderson

WotC Freelancer, LFR author

@LittleLorika

 

Dragon Magazine #412: Unearthed Arcana: Ships in Your Campaign

Calimshan Adventures (LFR): CALI3-3, CALI4-1, and QUES4-1

Epic Adventures (LFR): EPIC5-1 and EPIC5-3

Other LFR Adventures: NETH4-1, ADCP5-2, and MYTH6-3

 

 

 

 

Players and DMs simply don't work this way for numerous reasons.  However, it does point to a supposed ideal... the problem being that the ideal is totally different when you have a group of players and not a solo player / DM situation.

A semi-fun bit of "setting the scene" for a calimshan adventure, not a particularly useful example of a skill challenge.  Also, I found the references to DCs to be ridiculously out of place.  As a DM, I never tell players what type of DC they're rolling for, and this example uses it so heavily that it boggles my mind.

If you need a good idea on how to progress a skill challenge through successes and failures, watch any Indian Jones movie, particularly the scenes where Indy is in a tomb trying to avoid various traps.  He has successes and failures all along the way, yet still manages to progress through the challenge.



Hmmm....this may very well be why I don't like skill challenges.  It is flavored with the progression through a challenge to a goal.  Whereas, I am utterly incapable of thinking in that paradigm, but rather, can only think of individual actions and their consequences.
If you need a good idea on how to progress a skill challenge through successes and failures, watch any Indian Jones movie, particularly the scenes where Indy is in a tomb trying to avoid various traps.  He has successes and failures all along the way, yet still manages to progress through the challenge.



Hmmm....this may very well be why I don't like skill challenges.  It is flavored with the progression through a challenge to a goal.  Whereas, I am utterly incapable of thinking in that paradigm, but rather, can only think of individual actions and their consequences.

You can still have multiple outcomes if you need to.  Try the flowcharting method to plan them out.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

"DM: You're doing great dodging the guards' attacks! "

This is where the skill challenge breaks down for me.    At this point they are just fudging the guards attacks an not entering combat.  Not sure I like that at all.    I would have the guards fire their crossbows or at least roll to hit.      

I do not believe that this is a good example of a skill challenge because it could never be defined as such.   In many cases the player is adding to the narrative as they go along.   This is really just an on the spot narrative between the player and the DM.   It is  improvisation at its best, for which no skill challenge can be defined.   There simply can't be a predefined skill challenge for this example because the player is actively using his imagination and building his own escape plan.      Even if you had this narative defined as skill challenge, it would never play out this way.  



"PC: I use Acrobatics again to tumble into an open window."


“PC: I hide behind a big, strong man flexing for the crowd. “




I mean if I was the DM in those two examples I might just say, sorry there are no open windows or a big strong man flexing for the crowd. 



For me this example clearly outlines what we used to do before 4e introduced skill challenges.   






 
There simply can't be a predefined skill challenge for this example because the player is actively using his imagination and building his own escape plan.

If you were trying to escape this type of scenario in real life, wouldn't you be going by your own escape plan?

"PC: I use Acrobatics again to tumble into an open window."

“PC: I hide behind a big, strong man flexing for the crowd. “


I mean if I was the DM in those two examples I might just say, sorry there are no open windows or a big strong man flexing for the crowd.


And what you describe are the kinds of things that can happen when the player fails a skill check.  If the player makes the skill checks, just roll with the story.  The player and DM feed off each other.  The player is part of the story rather than just reacting. It's quite excellent and fun, actually.

*shrug*


That's the beauty of skill challenges.  There are so many ways to run them effectively and immersively.  Personally, I like how the player gets involved.  He's into the challenge 100%.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

Was this a skill challenge, or just narrative make-it-up-as-you-go-along D&D?


Alladin made the following skill checks:

hard DC Acrobatics check
another one
a moderate DC bluff check.
rolls Athletics for the animal companion and makes a hard DC
makes an Acrobatics check
makes an Athletcis check
I use Acrobatics again to tumble into an open window. (makes check)
I use my charming personality to win them over! (makes a Diplomacy check)
I use Acrobatics to cancel the failure, bouncing off an awning into the marketplace!  hard DC, made  it
makes a moderate Stealth check
more acrobatics to avoid livestock blah blah (makes a moderate DC).
moderate DC Athletics
Bluff and a Steath check, makes both at a Hard DC
use Acrobatics to jump on the back of the fire-walker, and leap to the far side! give me a Hard DC check.
moderate Intimidate check
Athletics to climb a rope
makes moderate Athletics and hard Acrobatics checks


19 checks.  He only failed twice unless I miscounted.  He only used 5 or so skills, of which I'm sure as a rogue he's trained in the majority of them.  He rolled some skills over and over.    Gotta love movie stars, they get the girl and break all the rules

I'm sorry folks but that's not a skill challenge and it's not even an example of a good one.  It is a good example that solo D&D is quite playable.

To quote Lorika

Obviously the Aladdin example isn't a real skill challenge with a DM and players.  But I thought it would inspire both players and DMs and give them some ideas for how to all work together to create fun and engaging skill challenges.  A good, smooth skill challenge is everyone's job.  The DM needs to be flexible and willing to improvise and the players need to be creative and actively participate in the skill challenge for it work well and be fun.  (And I thought people would enjoy seeing a movie scene translated into skill challenge mechanics.  )


Agreed wholeheartedly.  Don't let players pick a skill from a list, have them react to the unfolding, dynamic scene.  The DM needs to work hard too, reacting and "saying yes" but ultimately the players need to roll the dice and trust that if they pick a lousy skill, it's for the greater good       

There simply can't be a predefined skill challenge for this example because the player is actively using his imagination and building his own escape plan.

If you were trying to escape this type of scenario in real life, wouldn't you be going by your own escape plan?

"PC: I use Acrobatics again to tumble into an open window."

“PC: I hide behind a big, strong man flexing for the crowd. “


I mean if I was the DM in those two examples I might just say, sorry there are no open windows or a big strong man flexing for the crowd.


And what you describe are the kinds of things that can happen when the player fails a skill check.  If the player makes the skill checks, just roll with the story.  The player and DM feed off each other.  The player is part of the story rather than just reacting. It's quite excellent and fun, actually.

*shrug*


That's the beauty of skill challenges.  There are so many ways to run them effectively and immersively.  Personally, I like how the player gets involved.  He's into the challenge 100%.




In real life you can't just imagine something that isn't true and then use it to escape.  It is the DM who dictates what is and what isn't there.  The player should be asking questions before he does anything first.  "Is there a window?"   Is there anyone large enough I can hide from?    The appearance of these should never be the result of a failed or successful skill check because they are dependant on the designs / whim of the DM. 

The problem here is that the player is inventing his own escape plan which shouldn't be allowed.   

I mean why not just do this..

PC:  "I step into the magical portal which just happens to be in the room and appear in the abyss"

DM:  "um... ok....   roll arcana to use the portal and then roll steath to hide from the Balor who just activated the portal"

lame...

That's why this kind of banter is just pointless. 

I agree with ecla.   It is not a skill challenge as per the 4e mechanic.   

On the other hand I agree with the concept that you should really just ask the players for rolls as the story unfolds. Just wing it all, don't make it all so mechancial.   If you only end up asking for two rolls then so be it.    Just hand out xp based on how many rolls you asked for.  





In real life you can't just imagine something that isn't true and then use it to escape.  It is the DM who dictates what is and what isn't there.  The player should be asking questions before he does anything first.  "Is there a window?"   Is there anyone large enough I can hide from?    The appearance of these should never be the result of a failed or successful skill check because they are dependant on the designs / whim of the DM. 

The problem here is that the player is inventing his own escape plan which shouldn't be allowed.   

I mean why not just do this..

PC:  "I step into the magical portal which just happens to be in the room and appear in the abyss"

DM:  "um... ok....   roll arcana to use the portal and then roll steath to hide from the Balor who just activated the portal"

lame...

That's why this kind of banter is just pointless.





That's why the DM is there - to determine if the player's proposed action is logical and makes sense in the situation. If there was a skill challenge to cross a ravine with a raging river at the bottom of it and the player said "I want to use diplomacy," the DM would say "no, you can't do that. That's ridiculous. You're in the middle of the woods. Who are you expecting to talk to?" Well, unless the DM wanted it to work and then they could come up with a reason that it's logical. "Ok, sure. There is a band of woodsmen near here. You can talk to them and ask them to show you another way around." But it's entirely the DM's call. The player proposes what they want to do and the DM decides if it's logical/appropriate and then determines a DC and lets the player make the check. If the player says "I want to look around for a fallen tree to put over the ravine" the DM decides if that is a reasonable course of action, tells the player whether it will work or not, and determines the DC. If the DM doesn't want it to work, he just tells the player that there aren't any fallen trees around that are big enough to support their weight. If the DM does want it to work, he tells the players the appropriate checks (maybe perception to find a fallen tree, nature to determine if the tree is rotted out or strong enough to support their weight, athletics to drag the tree into position).

The dialogue between player and DM that Uthrac came up with for the Aladdin example is likely the abbreviated version. If this was a real skill challenge, there was probably a lot more back and forth between the DM and the player. Maybe the player said "Is there a cart of something leaving the city that I can hide in?" and the DM said no. Maybe the player asked if he could jump down a sewer grate and run away/hide by navigating the sewers but the DM said "no, you can't find any sewer grates". Maybe the player asked if there was a vendor stall with a bag of flour that he could grab and throw in the guard's faces to temporarily blind them and slow them down. And the DM said no. Maybe the player asked if there was a stall filled with apples that he could tip over so the guards would slip and fall on the rolling apples - and the DM said no. Maybe the player asked if he could bribe the guards and talk his way out of the situation ("No, I didn't steal this loaf of bread. I paid the shopkeep the appropriate price. He holds a grudge against me because we both love the same woman. He called you guards and lied to you that I stole the bread because he wants me locked in jail so he can have dear Jasimine to himself, the rotten scoundrel! You have been tricked by him. I have done nothing wrong." or "Do you know who I am?!?! I am the son of [important person X]. If he finds out that you have been harassing me, he will surely get you all fired and have your hide!! Now go!!!")

Any good skill challenge is created by both the players and the DM. Players propose what they want to do, the DM decides if that's reasonable or not, and the die rolls determine if the players were successful. The DM is still fully in charge (DM: "no, there's no portal here - you're in the middle of the city streets! That's ridiculous!"), but the story is driven by everyone at the table. A good skill challenge should start with the DM saying "You're in X situation and your ultimate goal is Y. What do you want to do?" Then there's a dialogue "Can we try this?" and the response is either yes or no. If the players get stuck, the DM can prod them and give them ideas. The DM can help tell the story by describing what happens with successes or failures and setting the scene. But the story told by the skill challenge is a combination of the DM and player's imaginations, modified by die rolls. Because that's way more fun than "You need 5 diplomacy checks. Who has the highest bonus? Ok, roll. You got 5 good rolls? Yay, you won. Ok, let's get back to the fun/cool/interesting parts of D&D now."

Lori Anderson

WotC Freelancer, LFR author

@LittleLorika

 

Dragon Magazine #412: Unearthed Arcana: Ships in Your Campaign

Calimshan Adventures (LFR): CALI3-3, CALI4-1, and QUES4-1

Epic Adventures (LFR): EPIC5-1 and EPIC5-3

Other LFR Adventures: NETH4-1, ADCP5-2, and MYTH6-3

 

 

 

 

The Aladin example was already pretty long, so I cut some of the secondary skills, like perception. It's certainly likely that there is more PC/DM dialogue about the available options.

The write-up is intended to spark the imagination of players and DMs - if you can envision a cinematic approach to a overcome a challenge, it is not difficult to translate it into a skill check.

This particular clip can inspire scenery and backdrop ideas for those planning to judge/play in the Calimshan LFR adventures, since those who write adventures for others to play cannot anticipate all of the ideas players may come up with to overcome the challenges.

Dan Anderson @EpicUthrac
Total Confusion www.totalcon.com
LFR Calimshan Writing Director
LFR Epic Writing Director

LFR Myth Drannor Writing Director

In real life you can't just imagine something that isn't true and then use it to escape.  It is the DM who dictates what is and what isn't there.  The player should be asking questions before he does anything first.  "Is there a window?"   Is there anyone large enough I can hide from?    The appearance of these should never be the result of a failed or successful skill check because they are dependant on the designs / whim of the DM. 


To be fair, the players having narrative control is a separate issue from skill challenges.  For instance, I don't do skill challenges at all but would have no problem with a player saying he dove through an open window while escaping some guards.  (Note, as a player, I am perfectly fine with the DM keeping all narrative control, it makes for a fine game.)

I find that discussions of skill challenges pretty much necessitate the discussion of other issues related to the use of skills.  A such, I am largely incapable of determining just what it is that I don't like about skill challenges - which is particularly frustrating since the way I DM has end results that, when viewed in retrospect, are very similar to that which a skill challenge produces.  To wit, basically every example the pro-skill challenge folks have posted are exactly the types of things that happen in my games.

As such, I still struggle with understanding what exactly the skill challenge structure brings to the game other than mechanically forcing X number of successes.
To be fair, the players having narrative control is a separate issue from skill challenges.  For instance, I don't do skill challenges at all but would have no problem with a player saying he dove through an open window while escaping some guards.

And let's face it, for a DM to describe every nuance that could be in the scene can drag things to a halt.  If the player presents something, and the DM finds it well within the boundaries of the scene, there is no reason why the DM shouldn't consider it and include it.  It promotes creativity, builds up trust between DM and player, and makes the player feel like they are an integral part of the world.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

To be fair, the players having narrative control is a separate issue from skill challenges.  For instance, I don't do skill challenges at all but would have no problem with a player saying he dove through an open window while escaping some guards.

And let's face it, for a DM to describe every nuance that could be in the scene can drag things to a halt.  If the player presents something, and the DM finds it well within the boundaries of the scene, there is no reason why the DM shouldn't consider it and include it.  It promotes creativity, builds up trust between DM and player, and makes the player feel like they are an integral part of the world.

Note, as a player, I am perfectly fine with the DM keeping all narrative control, it makes for a fine game.

Agreed.  There's nothing wrong with either scenario, imho.  Even switching between the two styles in different skill challenges would be fun.

Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept. Default module =/= Core mechanic.

Skill challenges can be frustring for either the player or the DM if either are not that creative (such as new players/DMs). Forcing a new player to explain why they want to use a certain skill may just lead to a lot of blank stares, and possibly them looking elsewhere for entertainment. Having a structured skill challenge also helps DMs that aren't great at thinking on their feet when a creative player comes up with an idea that wasn't expected. Having either a player or DM be inexperienced should not be penalized by the mechanics. I like the overall idea that the DM states the goal of the challenge, and then guides the players to its conclusion (successfully or unsuccessfully).

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I am both orderly and instinctive. I value community and group identity, defining myself by the social group I am a part of. At best, I'm selfless and strong-willed; at worst, I'm unoriginal and sheepish.
You can have players that tend to be active or reactive, and allowing them a measure of narrative control breeds the former. If the DM always has to present everything before anything can happen, it can train players to only be reactive and potentially kill a level of immersion and creativity. Training players to be active tends to make the game flow much better and helps everyone to become more engaged in whats going on in the storyline.