Skill challenges - presented the wrong way around?

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It occured to me the other day, that skill challenges are presented in 4e are the wrong way around. For example

Stealth (Easy): The PC hides behind a rock or some bushes, avoiding the guard patrol.

I know this is a trivial example, but how does the player know that's an option without seeing the DM's notes? What triggers that action? I feel it ought to be

A guard patrol passes the PCs. A PC can hide behind some rocks or bushes to avoid dectection (Stealth DC Easy)

This way, I think the challenge flows more naturally, with the DM describing a problem and PCs coming up with a solution. It also opens up a larger variety of responses to the situation that the players can perform. This is kind of how I set up my my structured RP without thinking when I DM.

Has anyone else thought this?
Basically, your idea is the standard skill resolution that's been in RPGs since .. well, as long as I can remember.

The reason skill challenges are outlined the way they are is to allow the players a chance to sort of form the narrative based on their skill use.  To use your example, the old way presents the players with a problem (A patrol is coming.  What do you do?).  The players then decide what they want to do (Hide behind some sort of cover or concealment).  They then roll a skill check to see if they succeed or not, with a DC based on the difficulty of the task.

In a skill challenge, there is a list of skills and their respective DCs.  The players need to use their skills to accomplish some overall goal; in this case, let's say they need to get through a town without alerting any guards.  Obviously, your rogue is going to roll Stealth checks.  Your fighter, however, is probably not very good at that skill, and he might want to roll Endurance or Athletics.  Your wizard or cleric may not be very good at any physical skills, and they'll depend on knowledge checks that technically don't do anything.

So, in this example, you'd go around the table, and each player would roll a skill check.  The rogue is pretty straight forward: a patrol comes by and he helps the group hide behind some nearby crates.  In the Fighter's case, perhaps the group has come across a large group of guards, and he helps the group over a nearby wall to bypass them (Athletics).  Your wizard has read stories of this town before, and there were rumors of tunnels that ran underneath it (History).  Perhaps if the group were to find one of these tunnels, it would make traversing the town much easier (Perception).  While in the tunnels, it's difficult to know which way is which, so someone used to working underground should lead the party (Dungeoneering).

That's the difference between a skill challenge and a pure skill check.  Each has its place, and trying to shoehorn a challenge in where its not needed can make it really awkward to play.
Having tried it both ways, I have to say I agree strongly with Chimpy. Starting with the situation and allowing the group to react to it keeps everyone involved in the story. When the situation is defined by what skills the players use rather than the other way around, it immediately sucks the group out of the story and the skill challenge devolves to a game of "justify the appropriateness of my highest skill". In the best skill challenges, the players may not even realize a skill challenge is going on at all. If you look at newer skill challenge presented in DMG2 and recent seasons of encounters, you'd notice that they've largely moved away from the format used in DMG1 that Chimpy describes.
I agree. When I tried a skill challenge as presented in the DMG, it flopped. Now I just present the situation, let the characters narrate their actions, and call for skill checks as appropriate. If they do something particularly clever, they may gain an extra success or sometimes it just makes sense to end the challenge early. Most of the time I don't think any of the players realize they are even in a skill challenge.
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I present the situation, then I ask each PC what he or she wants to do to try to help.  For an easy skill challenge I have each PC make one choice and a roll.  For a moderate skill check I have them go around a 2nd time.  For a hard one, a third time.  I grant +2 to rolls for interesting ideas or good roleplaying.  This simple formula has worked well in our games.  I encourage players to narrate their actions or roleplay.  It definately adds to the story.

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skill challenges are an abomination
skill challenges are an abomination

I prefer to think of them more as an aberration.

Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
It just seems to me skill challenges are a list of possible solutions, rather than a sequence of problems the PCs need to overcome.
youre best off just completely ignoring them chimpy
Bone Nage's got the idea behind Skill Challenges down.  They don't often work when used as originally presented.
I've retooledte way I do Skill Challenges after reading through Mouse Guard's directions/suggestions on how to run their tests. 
Present the player with an obstacle or set of obstacles, then let them decide what skill they want their character to use.  If it doesn't make any sense, ask for a different one.  DM sets the DC based on what skill is being used and what the intended outcome is.  Even if the character fails the skill check, the outcome could still be favorable. 
For example- Characters are in a new town and need to look for a specific person in order to sell their magical treasure.  Streetwise would help in finding the actual person, but History could also help with knowing about the town's history and perhaps finding the person's general location.  If the characters fail the Streetwise check, they could still find the intended person, but perhaps he's now dead (and PC"s are blamed for the murder), or nervous about being a fence for "stolen" goods, or even cautious about dealing with them and now wants to buy their goods for 25-50% less than before.
DMG2 tries to teach how to create skill challenges, but it didn't work for me as well as MG's explanation.

A good Skill Challenge doesn't let the players know they're in a Skill Challenge.  It's drawn out through roleplay and reacts to what the characters are doing.  It's good to have a few things in mind for outcomes of the skill check- presented like the history/religion checks on regions or people in the DM's guide for Campaign Settings.   If the player beats an easy DC, they get X information.  If they beat medium, X information is more detailed, etc.   You could even have them roll multiple checks of the same skill in order to build trust between a character and a source of information. 

Good luck with Skill challenges, they're incredibly tough to do, and they are aberrations when run as originally presented.  And boring too.
everyone loves to talk about running skill challenges so that the players dont know they are in a skill challenge; thats how awful these things are, you cant tell your players about them bc they are so terrible. its hard to understand why anyone would bother using them when the advice is literally 'dont mention that they are in one of these crappy things whatever you do, they are so bad it could ruin your game to even mention it to your players'. 

well guess what the dm still knows its a skill challenge, so it still sucks for the dm. not only that but your players likely still realize they are in one despite your clumsy efforts, so it still sucks.

the best course of action is to take them out back and put them out of their misery
everyone loves to talk about running skill challenges so that the players dont know they are in a skill challenge; thats how awful these things are, you cant tell your players about them bc they are so terrible. its hard to understand why anyone would bother using them when the advice is literally 'dont mention that they are in one of these crappy things whatever you do, they are so bad it could ruin your game to even mention it to your players'. 

well guess what the dm still knows its a skill challenge, so it still sucks for the dm. not only that but your players likely still realize they are in one despite your clumsy efforts, so it still sucks.

the best course of action is to take them out back and put them out of their misery



So what do you do then with Skills?  Just ignore them completely and run a game where it's all combat and RP?
What sucks about Skill Challenges is players metagaming about what they should do and DM's who aren't prepared to improvise with the skills the PC's are using.
What do you do as a DM Frothsof, for skill checks, challenges, etc? 
i use skills all the time, i just let players tell me what they want their pcs do and have them roll if needed. if i throw something at them that requires a check i ask them for it.
skill challenges are presented in 4e are the wrong way around. For example
Stealth (Easy): The PC hides behind a rock or some bushes, avoiding the guard patrol.

Yup. Best to run it your own way and just view that as a possible example.

What sucks about Skill Challenges is players metagaming about what they should do

Yeah. Although I try to make it so my players don't know when they are in a skill challenge, they now often think they are in one when they are not.

Skill challenges are just as metagaming as telling a player to make a perception check.

A skill challenge has to be a situation where each of the PCs has to contribute to a problem solving situation or obstacle.  They are different than just having one PC roll a check or all PCs roll the same check to determine outcome of a situation.

The key to running a skill challenge is to just plainly and simply present a situation that allows each PC to react in a way that is not forced upon them by the DM.  If I tell them to make perception checks it isn't a skill challenge.  If I let players decide for themselves what they will each individually do to try to help the situation, then it is a skill challenge and it works!  It doesn't matter if the DM tells the players they are in a skill challenge or not.  Of course the players will realize they are faced with a skill challenge if the DM asks each PC to come up with an idea.

If the DM describes situation and allows players to narrate how he or she will try to overcome the situation or try to help, then it becomes a skill challenge.  Each PC rolls d20 adds appropriate skill...DM counts successes vs. failures and based on the results DM describes what happens.  Hey, it could be unmitigated success, or it could be a failure that gives rise to more conflict or new obstacles.  As such, it makes for better story telling, and can be used to encourage roleplaying.  It doesn't have to be called a skill challenge, nor does it have to be complicated.  

It seems that even people who argue that they don't use skill challenges really do use them (maybe not exactly as written in the DMG, but they are using the essense of what the rules intended).





 

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i completely disagree with every single word you just said
Skill challenges are just as metagaming as telling a player to make a perception check.

You might've missed my point: sometimes players start thinking less about the situation and more about "I gotta get at least 6 skill successes before 3 failures"... which can suck the fun out of scene (especially if the scene wasn't even a skill challenge to begin with).

Skill challenges are just as metagaming as telling a player to make a perception check.

You might've missed my point: sometimes players start thinking less about the situation and more about "I gotta get at least 6 skill successes before 3 failures"... which can suck the fun out of scene (especially if the scene wasn't even a skill challenge to begin with).





I see what you mean.  That could be a problem.  When I run the challenge, I never tell them how many successes they need.  I just use the overall result to help me narrate what should happen next.  So, even I don't use skill challenges as written.

And Frothsof, how can you disagree with every word...words like "the", "each" and "it"?    (just kidding with you.)  I realize that some people just don't like skill challenges...that's ok.

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When I run the challenge, I never tell them how many successes they need.

Right; most DM's do not. My statement was already with this in mind.

Skill Challenge: You find a locked door, you walk into a room with a trap, the person you need information from refuses to cooperate, you find an ancient book with unusual writing, et al.

If it's simple, it needs one or two successes. If it's complicated it may be multiple parts.

For instance: My group walked into a room without running a perception check and a door came down from the ceiling splitting the group and one chamber began to fill with water. Skill time! A failed thievery check caused an arcane barrier to descend. A successful arcana check removed it. A failed strength check on the door caused two portculis to drop, a mix of dungeoneering and athletics got one of the portculis up and the door opened. Someone then used a fire based power to melt the remaining bars and a final strength check to get them out of the way. In the meantime, people trapped inside lost a few healing surges.

It never became a "OMG We're in a skill challenge" but was a "our friends are trapped and we must save them!" It was fun, enjoyable, and ramped up the concern level and perception checks were rolled like crazy from there on out.
My general house rule for skill challenges is "N Successes before 3 rounds (where a round is a unit-less measure of time sufficient for each member of the party to try one thing)."

Basically, for the basic structure of the skill challenge to mean anything, a failure has to have an inherent downside, beyond just not accomplishing the task.  So TIME is my personal favorite: there's an opportunity cost in terms of he other thing you could have tried to do.

Limiting the SK scafolding to situations like this helps a lot to avoid the pointless "and I need another X check for success to get out of here".  You know the success/failure conditions: time passed, and whatever is represented by time happens.  If it's a water trap: you're underwater.  If it's a "find the McGuffin", Dr. Evil got there first and set up an ambush.

That said, frothsof's general view of "Don't." has a lot of wisdom.  Poorly run skill challenges are worse than just playing D&D, and well run skill challenges are just giving you guidance about how much experience points you should give someone for playing D&D. And if you've played enough, odds are you're not using XP anyway.

So: worst case: negative.  Best case: neutral.  They can be a good tool, but using them will create a local minimum in your D&D experience until you learn how to use them.  At which point you'll have learned a couple of useful lessons, and no longer get any value from them.

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My general house rule for skill challenges is "N Successes before 3 rounds (where a round is a unit-less measure of time sufficient for each member of the party to try one thing)."

Basically, for the basic structure of the skill challenge to mean anything, a failure has to have an inherent downside, beyond just not accomplishing the task.  So TIME is my personal favorite: there's an opportunity cost in terms of he other thing you could have tried to do.

I like this approach. My next session has an opportunity to use a skill challenge. I will think it through to determine how this might look using the different approaches suggested here and in other SkCh threads.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
i use skills all the time, i just let players tell me what they want their pcs do and have them roll if needed. if i throw something at them that requires a check i ask them for it.


So do the players never face a task that requires more than one skill to succeed at?
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  I use skill challenges sparingly and akin to skill checks, characters get bonuses, lowered DCs or automatic successes if they have good ideas.

Some ways I have used skill challenges:

Travel: similar to old encounter tables.  If the PCs do well, they have an easy journey and maybe easy encounters.  If they do poorly, maybe it was a tough slog with difficult encounters.

Going off the map:  chasing an assasin over the rooftops or tailing a rogue in a city for example.

Ships:  guiding a ship through a storm or piloting an airship for the first time.

  When possible I like to keep all the PCs present involved by having at least one skill check they all have to make, and sometimes having limits to how many times a PC may make a check with a given skill.
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i use skills all the time, i just let players tell me what they want their pcs do and have them roll if needed. if i throw something at them that requires a check i ask them for it.


So do the players never face a task that requires more than one skill to succeed at?



I'm sure they do.  But he can't call that a skill challenge, because he hates skill challenges.
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i use skills all the time, i just let players tell me what they want their pcs do and have them roll if needed. if i throw something at them that requires a check i ask them for it.


So do the players never face a task that requires more than one skill to succeed at?



I'm sure they do.  But he can't call that a skill challenge, because he hates skill challenges.

Almost as much as he hates agreeing with anyone ;)

IME developing SCs boils down to deciding on the 'framing' of the challenge. Lets illustrate with the 'fly an airship' example. This by itself is probably too narrow because one PC is going to be the pilot and most of the action is related to the pilot rolling well. So we probably want to engage the other PCs. We can do that by reframing things to "successfully get to the flying castle before dawn." Now we can have elements like finding out that the airship is ready to go, sneaking on, intimidating the guy that could damage the ship into leaving instead, launching the airship, flying the airship, figuring out what direction to approach the cloud castle from to avoid detection, etc. Sometimes you might want to NARROW a challenge, if for instance it is not clear how successes and failures in different parts would relate to the whole then you might split it into different encounters.

The other part would be deciding on resources and obstacles. This is where the OP's point comes in. Challenges should be constructed around resources and obstacles. In the example of 'getting across the city undetected' the tunnels are a resource, the guard patrol is an obstacle. Of course the players may well create more resources for themselves, and the DM might invent new obstacles if the PCs 'go off the map'.
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The other part would be deciding on resources and obstacles. This is where the OP's point comes in. Challenges should be constructed around resources and obstacles. In the example of 'getting across the city undetected' the tunnels are a resource, the guard patrol is an obstacle. Of course the players may well create more resources for themselves, and the DM might invent new obstacles if the PCs 'go off the map'.


This should be in D&D next DM's guide :-)

This is what I meant about a better way is presenting the players with an obstacle, and the players using their skills and resources to overcome it.

As they stand, SCs give a list of player solutions and the obstacle is inferred. I think it's a bit loony.

Skill Challenges can be almost a game within a game.  When I create one, I'm always certain to have plotted out how things will go on complete or partial success or complete failure, along with consequences for failure along the way.  It's nice structured way of aproaching a non-combat challenge.  Too often when you come down to skills it's too easy to let the whole story ride on a single skill check, SCs give you a structure that avoids that problem, and helps you plan for both success and failure, and degrees in between.  

It's very nice, if you do the work to set one up.  It's a little mechanical if you do it too generically, and it runs into the same problems out of combat challenges using skills always have if you run it too 'free form.'  But, really, most of us older DMs re used to dealing with those problems one way or another.

 

 

 

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I agree the current skill challenge system is weak.  I'm trying to make a simple skill system that helps the DM narrate based off the skill role, encourages action by all PCs,  keeps the action and creative juices rolling, and creates some differentiation between PCs.

community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758... 
Personally, I'd rather organize skill challenges in this manner first (based off how the Rules Compendium organizes it):

1. Set the goal
- Determine the objective of the skill challenge, which is basically getting from point A to point B.
- Remember, because the goal of a skill challenge may have various challenges or encounters within them, feel free to nest those encounters as part of the skill challenge

2. Complexity
- To keep track of how close the group is in completing a skill challenge, complexity is used to determine the number of successes required to complete the challenge.
- Remember that certain actions can grant two or more successes, or negate a failure in addition to one success (see "Advantages").
- Additionally, certain actions can automatically fail, or even cause the skill challenge to outright fail.

3. Stages
- To prevent the skill challenge from devolving into a dice-rolling chore, break the skill challenge into "stages".
- Stages are different from skill challenges within a skill challenge because each stage is immediately and directly contributes to the conclusion of a skill challenge.
- The number of stages in a skill challenge depend primarily on a skill challenge and goal
- As a rule of thumb, limit checks to one or two checks per stage

4. Suggested Primary and Secondary Skills
- primary skills that directly affect the outcome, although while the term "skills" are used, anything can be used in this effect (e.g. casting an illusion instead of using your natural skill in bluff [either illusion utility spell, or arcana/prestidigitation for bluff]).
- secondary skills that aid in the success of the primary skills.
- secondary skills are rolled immediately before the primary roll, although it is possible that anything can be used in this effect (e.g. using bluff to help keep enemies off an ally's back)
- primary and secondary skills may be segregated by stages (see "Stages")
- most importantly, keep the knowledge of the suggested primary and secondary skills to yourself, using it only as a reference when the players are totally clueless on what to do (you could require an Insight check, with success granting them a suggested primary skill, a failure of 4 or less granting them a suggested secondary skill, and a failure of 5 or more granting them no benefit [possibly counting as a failure outright])

5. Ending
- Normally skill challenges end when the predetermined number of successes (or 3 failures) have been reached.  However, feel free to either continue the skill challenge until all stages have been completed, or until an outstanding failure has been achieved (see "Consequences").

6. Consequences
- Success: If a skill challenge has been completed with a net result of 2 or less failures, this is the favorable outcome
- Outstanding Success: If a skill challenge has been completed with no failures, or with an exceptionally favorable circumstance beyond that which was initially determined, feel free to grant additional circumstantial bonuses
- Failure: If a skill challenge has been completed with a net result of at least 3 failures, this is the unfavorable outcome (the goal is still reached, but with penalties)
- Outstanding Failure: If a skill challenge has been completed with such spectacular failure, be prepared to have an unexpected turn in the adventure, typically in the form of combat (although death may be possible, at the DM's discretion and the group's overall approval of such extreme).

- - - - -
Example:
1. Goal: to infiltrate the BBEG's well-guarded lair without making too much of a commotion
2. Complexity: 1 (4 successes before 3 failures)
3. Stages: 2.  Enter compound outer area, enter inner complex
4. Primary: Stealth (e.g. you hide from the guards, moderate DC), Bluff (e.g. you try to pass yourself off as a guard or as an important person, hard DC but with bonuses depending on what the PC has or does) | Secondary: distraction attempts (e.g. Arcana, Bluff, Athletics)
5. Ending: When success has been achieved, or when 3 failures are acquired
6: Consequences:
Success -> group enters the compound with little problem
Outstanding Success -> group gets a +2 circumstantial bonus to perception checks to prevent being surprised, stealth checks to initiate a surprise attack and initiative at the next encounter
Failure -> each failure initiates a minor skirmish (either everyone loses a healing surge, or initiate combat involving 4/5/6 minions + 1 standard (at bloodied value)
Outstanding Failure -> initiate a major battle with high risk of PCs being captured.

Feel free to modify as needed
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It occured to me the other day, that skill challenges are presented in 4e are the wrong way around. For example

Stealth (Easy): The PC hides behind a rock or some bushes, avoiding the guard patrol.

I know this is a trivial example, but how does the player know that's an option without seeing the DM's notes? What triggers that action?

That's perhaps not the ideal format for them, but I really think you're thinking about it in an odd way. Nothing "triggers" the action. Skill challenges aren't meant to change the players' normal approach of either taking action on their own initiative or reacting to actions taken around them.

So, the DM who's running a skill challenge describes the situation. If the player describes taking a stealthy approach, the DM calls for a Stealth check. This may or may not count toward success or failure in the challenge, depending on the description.

Along those same lines, the DM will sometimes describe events taking place that require PC response. I prefer that to just giving them a goal. I think of it as the skill challenge going on the offensive. In that case, the guards are coming and they'll spot the PC in a moment unless action is taken. Discounting, for the sake of this example, the PCs just attacking, they're very likely to take the obvious course of just hiding, in which case the DM calls for a Stealth roll. But they might think of something else, in which case the DM might call for another kind of roll, or no roll at all. If the other skill is listed as a primary skill, the DM should probably use the listed DC, but if it's a secondary (that is, unlisted) skill, the DM can make it a Hard check, or limit the skill's use in that manner, or both.

I feel it ought to be

A guard patrol passes the PCs. A PC can hide behind some rocks or bushes to avoid dectection (Stealth DC Easy)

That's how I tend to do it these days. I usually group skills into large categories of approaches that might be taken. "Avoid the Patrol" might involve hiding (Stealth), climbing (Athletics), or tricker (Bluff).

This way, I think the challenge flows more naturally, with the DM describing a problem and PCs coming up with a solution.

DMs can and should do that, no matter how the skill challenge is laid out. In fact, I feel like the example in the DMG did that sort of thing. The PCs partly come up with their own ideas, and party react to the points the Duke raises.

It also opens up a larger variety of responses to the situation that the players can perform. This is kind of how I set up my my structured RP without thinking when I DM.

Has anyone else thought this?

What I tend to see forgotten is that the listed skills aren't the only skills or only approaches that can and should be used. Once this is remembered, skill challenges are more recognizeable as the classic non-combat challenges they are.

I'm happy with skill challenges as written in the DMG. I know how to run them, even if others don't. I wish the books had offered more guidance, but skill challenges work fine if one puts even a modicum of thought into them, rather than trying to run them like a computer program.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I generally kick off a skill challenge 'in game' by not telling the PC's that this is a skill challenge, they usually figure it out half way through or in a couple of cases never, I've actually had one player say to me "good game today but how come there were no skill challenges?", I then went on to explain the game contains 1 big skill challenge and 2 smaller but I let the player roleplay through them and just asked for a skill check when required, noted the result and tracked the players progress.

I normally am at a point in the game where a significant direction or action is planned, e.g sneaking into the big bads fort, travelling through dangerous goblins terratory or similar. I outline the situation "ok guys you are trying to get into the keep, but how are you going to approach this, Stealthily, by disguise, by climbing the back of the keep...what's your approach?"
I then let the players talk it through, decide on an approach and start the skill challenge from there "Ok you've decided to get past the outer gate using climbing and being a bit stealthy then going into disguise to enter the inner keep....ok who's leading the climb? That 's a DC X Athletics to lead the climb and setup ropes to get the rest up, the next is a group stealth check to sneak over the wall and near to the inner keep and finally who's going to setup the disguises for the group?"

I usually ask how people are contributing to the groups activities and let them describe what they are trying to do then assign the skill, if the player describes something that is a weak skill for them then I tell them and unless they can justify the use of another skill then its the weak skill. I do keep in mind that groups don't often have strong skills across the board so I like to give the weak skill a chance of succeeding or the player always metagames by aiming his action at his\her strong skills.

However for me there are a number of cross overs in the skills:-
Historical stories of a deep performed by a courageous paladin of a noble house could come up in History, Religion or Diplomacy. History is obvious, Religion because the Paladin has parables written about him and his actions, Diplomacy because the noble family are renowned due to this action. I'd put the Diplomacy as a higher DC because it's slightly more obscure from a Diplomatic point but still there.
When the situation is defined by what skills the players use rather than the other way around, it immediately sucks the group out of the story and the skill challenge devolves to a game of "justify the appropriateness of my highest skill".



I just wanted to say home much I agree with this statement. One thing that has helped in my group is never allowing players to say "I make a skill check." Instead they describe what they want their character to do. The DM then decides if a check is needed and what type of check. While players still often try to "justify the appropriateness of their highest skill" being forced to describe an action makes it feel more natural and players who go to far out of their way to fit their perfect skill into everything will find it frequently doesn't really make sense (and the DM won't let them do it).
I generally kick off a skill challenge 'in game' by not telling the PC's that this is a skill challenge

Agreed. Per Mike Mearls' 'Ruling Skill Challenges' article: "Don't tell the players they're in a skill challenge. Players who enjoy immersion hate it when they are forced to think in terms of rules, rather than in terms of what their character wants to do. Keep track of successes and failures, asking for skill checks as appropriate, and allow the challenge's results to play out naturally."

The DMG2 provides a similar recommendation.

I generally kick off a skill challenge 'in game' by not telling the PC's that this is a skill challenge

Agreed. Per Mike Mearls' 'Ruling Skill Challenges' article: "Don't tell the players they're in a skill challenge. Players who enjoy immersion hate it when they are forced to think in terms of rules, rather than in terms of what their character wants to do. Keep track of successes and failures, asking for skill checks as appropriate, and allow the challenge's results to play out naturally."

The DMG2 provides a similar recommendation.


I generally don't tell either, but I'm sure my players are smart enough to figure it out. Just because you know you're in a skill challenge doesn't mean you're forced to think in terms of rules, rather than in terms of what their character wants to do. The same goes for combat.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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