(DM Only) READ THIS about skills in Session 8

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Hi all,

I apologize for how the skill checks thing worked out. When I originally wrote the "descent down the pipe" in session 8, it was a skill challenge sort of thing, at which the PCs would work together.

As it went through development, somehow the "teamwork of PCs picking what skill to use" got turned into "every PC makes all of these checks." And considering that the DC for each check is 19, that's pretty steep. Odds are, 1-2 PCs out of the party will make the check, and everyone else will take the hazardous effect.

In order to avoid pissing your players off with a "walk through the endless gauntlet" moment, I suggest the following:

1) Skill Challenge: Run the climb like a skill challenge, and let the party pick a PC to undertake each skill, with other PCs making checks to support (DC 11 for aid another).

2) Lower the DCs substantially (DC 12-14) and have the whole party make the check. If half the party succeeds, no one takes the effect. If not, then those who failed the check take the negative effect.

3) Find your own style!

4) Ignore that section entirely and skip to the action in the sewers.


I don't think it's quite as bad as you think. First off, it doesn't say "every PC makes all of these checks." It says, "Each character must make a check using one of the following skills..." That's the way a typical skill challenge works (though I realize that this is not exactly a skill challenge). And only two of the checks, if failed, have a hazardous effect for the whole party. The other three only involve the particular PC who failed.

I planned to run it the way you suggest in #1.

As far as the DCs being too high: 1) The character theme tie-ins for this challenge grant a +4 bonus to various checks. (Of course, not every party will have PCs with those themes, but still...)
2) It's been my experience thus far that most of the time my players are breezing through the skill checks. They get 27 on Insight checks, 23 on Perception checks, etc. Even in the Swamp Vines encounter, I had two players who decided to try to cross the log. The lowest score was 17 on their Acrobatics checks. So they both had absolutely no problem. 

Actually, I think as written (or revised I guess Smile) it presents a nice challenge, with some risk, and softens the party up a little bit for the two encounters to follow (which will make them more challenging too).
- Rico

You know, upon third reading, you're totally right. Whew! Sorry if I startled anyone.

I think this serves as an excellent illustration of "this can be misread" and "don't misread it and hose your players."


I think it's also a matter of knowing your players. As a DM, I know that as soon as I mention a skill, everyone at the table starts rolling, even if I haven't told them why. Attempts to curtail this behaviour have thus-far proven to be futile. They're primarily dice-chuckers; I have to adjust to them, as a story-focused DM in a public setting. 

I'm going to attempt to lay out the scene to my players descriptively (though obviously) and have them decide who and what check, using your Option 1 to keep everyone involved. 

My back-up plan is to nominate the character(s) that should typically be good at the skill and ask them to make the check. If this option is necessary, I'll just be belting it out and moving on, missing out on some awesome roleplaying potential.

It'll be a DMing adventure!

You know, upon third reading, you're totally right. Whew! Sorry if I startled anyone.

I think this serves as an excellent illustration of "this can be misread" and "don't misread it and hose your players."


Actually, I'm thrilled that you'r'e really looking out for us. The level of support you've given us this season has been absolutely incredible. Thanks Erik.
- Rico
Absolutely agree with TheGimper here. You have been awesome Erik.
I took your ideas in the adventure Erik and wrote a two page skill challenge involving little scenes with the skills you wanted to emulate. Here are two of the ideas I came up with. I thought your use of damage was a little on the low side so I upped it a bit. For example the missed skill check to wander into a sewer area where each character takes 2 poison damage is now each character makes a personal Endurance check of DC12 with success 2 damage and failure 5 damage. I used your acrobatics idea with a narrow ledge but I wrote that the section of the sewer had collapsed into a chasm 50 feet long with a small ledge on the right side. As a character slides along the edge of the sewer they find an old piton  on the wall. The characters can attach a rope to it letting the rest of the party swing across with a successful acrobatics or athletics check at a low DC 12 again. Since it is old, it may break if anyone misses an athletic or acrobatics swing check by 5 or more. If anyone falls I placed spiderwebs underneath that a person will fall upon (take the 5 falling damage.) The character can then walk on the webs to the other side of the collapsed floor and climb up to move on. If the character happened to be holding a lit torch or a flaming sword, they would be in trouble. I wrote that the webs catch fire quickly. The character would fall into an underground river that would carry them down to the coast outside of Neverwinter. I know that this could be construed as being mean but I figure it would be very rare to see the fall happen. The player can play a new character for a couple sessions (conveniently a captive of the Dead Rats) and then have the original character rejoin them at the start of Chapter 4.
I like where you're going, Teacha, but please do keep an open mind and be reactive to your players' fun levels. The last thing you want is for them to get frustrated and feel like you're just punishing them.

Auto-damage (save for half) isn't much fun in 4e, so you might want to put in a way they can get out of it entirely. Maybe they get the next tier of success on the check? (Success +4 or +5, say?)

And remember they have a whole encounter to fight after this skill challenge. Don't drag it out too long.

They enjoyed it very much. Due to the cramped conditions I varied the number of aids I allowed but they only failed two of my mini-skill challenges. The acrobatics check was failed by the same character two different times: once to make his way over and then once more when he tried to move along the ledge to place a rope on the rusty piton. The damage was not enough to really affect him so it worked out to bring more life to the challenge. The only other part they missed was my last challenge with the cave in. I had them enter a cavern and have to choose one of two passages that both looked like they could collapse at any time. The dungeoneering check was missed so the player had a 50-50 chance to pick the safe tunnel.  He didn't so the ceiling partially collapsed giving everyone a miniscule 3 damage and a short time to dig themselves back to the main cavern and into the other sewer tunnel. I gave everyone the opportunity to use a surge and they moved into the crocodile encounter.
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