Scaring Crow Skill Challenge

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I'm currently building a simple skill challenge, but I'm stuck. I need some more primary skill check ideas if people have the time. Nature would be great. The mechanics of the skill challenge are included below.

Scaring Crow Skill Challenge


A scarecrow is being attacked by swarms of black crows in a corn field. You can hear the straw-man screaming for help as more crows circle the creature.


Set-up: The PC’s must scare or drive the birds out of the corn field and away from the scarecrow man. If the PC’s do not aid the scarecrow the birds will rip the straw-man apart.


Level: 10


Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 2 failures).


Experience Points: 500


Primary Skills: Athletics, Bluff, Intimidate, Nature. Each player must make at least one skill check.


Athletics (DC 25): You swing a stick, staff, sword or some other long implement around swatting and knocking the crows off the straw-man.


Bluff (DC 25): You create the sound of a large predator like a lion to frighten some of the birds away.


Intimidate (DC 25): You threaten the birds by yelling, shouting and waving your arms around to scare some of the birds away.

Nature (DC 25): You ?


Success: The PC’s scare the crows away from the straw-man, who has straw scattered all over the ground, but it appears to still be alive. The scarecrow will thank the PC’s.


Failure: The crows are not scared away and instead attack the PC’s in swarms.

I don't have any specific instructions here, but try this when you're thinking through skill challenges: Don't think skills, think broad actions. Then attach 2 seemingly disparate skills the PCs could use to perform that action at a given DC. I'd probably delve into this some more, but I've fallen off the skill challenge bandwagon.

This sounds to me like a much cooler combat encounter than a skill challenge though. It's got an alternate goal built right in. It's a cool location. And the monsters could be challenging given they are swarms or the like. (Add a bulette in the corn field!)

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I don't have any specific instructions here, but try this when you're thinking through skill challenges: Don't think skills, think broad actions. Then attach 2 seemingly disparate skills the PCs could use to perform that action at a given DC.

Right. Don't shoehorn in skills just to have them in there. If your goal is to make sure everyone has something to do, then stick with a few plausible skills for the skill challenge, and add in some combat, or another skill challgenge that covers some other challenge, such as in this case collecting the scarecrow's innards before they blow away.

There aren't too many different ways to scare crows, because it's not that complicated. It's basically just about movement and noise.

Movement: Run around (Athletics) to keep the crows unsettled, but try not to get lost (Perception) or overexert yourself in the cold autumn air (Endurance).
Noise: Like many animals, these crows will respond to an alpha creature (Intimidate), or certain perecived predatory threats (Nature, Bluff).

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

Half related question. Is scaring some birds really something that you think is an approperiate challenge for 10th level PCs?


Consider upping them to Feral Vrocks or at least dire crows or something. As it stands, thats almost insulting to throw at 10th level PCs. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"

Half related question. Is scaring some birds really something that you think is an approperiate challenge for 10th level PCs?

Consider upping them to Feral Vrocks or at least dire crows or something. As it stands, thats almost insulting to throw at 10th level PCs.


Whoa, sorry I didn't realize these were 10th level characters. Yeah, a key to making a good skill challenge is to make the challenge make sense with the DCs.

I think  he should use deepcrows: www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/3/21/

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



Here's some basic advice from multiple sources, mainly the RC:

Post May 2010:
Skill challenges always end with 3 failures, and the complexity is always determined by the number of successes (it ranges frmo 4-12). 

Since it's obvious that you want this to be pretty easy, go with a complexity 1 (4 successes before 3 failures).
Skill challenges where the failure is combat are kinda lame, usually it just means that you waste time with rolls and then have a combat... Besides, a Complexity 1 is worth the same as 1 monster in combat, so it's not really fair that the challenge is worth less XP than the combat itself (especially if you can just engage in combat and end the whole thing faster)...

Partial Success and Failures are always fun, and they keep things moving. 
For example: say there are 4 crows and every success drives one of them off...
But then you need a new event for failure; which goes back to your intention. Does he have info for them? Maybe if they fail the crows destroy his "mouth", so the pc's have to spend some money on reagents to enable him to talk again, or maybe they have to find the info some other way...


As for the skills themselves...
Complexity 1 is pretty bare bones:
The number of primary skills should be equal to the number of pc's in the party (maybe +1 or +2). These are always worth a success.
The number of secondary skills should be equal to 2. These are typically used for a bonus on a future roll, but can be anything... 


Next you choose what skills are obviously useful (these are primary skills), but don't assign an action to them! Anticipate a few actions, but let your players describe what they are doing, then you decide what skill it is. Most of these should be at the medium DC for the level of the challenge.


Remember, you are anticipating what they may do, so your list is just some likely outcomes.
Bluff / Intimidate (using loud sounds to scare them off)
Athletics / Acrobatics (any kind of physical motion/running/jumping, etc to scare them, or trying to physically pull them off the scarecrow)  
Powers (Some kind of summon or illusion would probably scare them , as well as most cantrips: ghost sound, prestidigitation come to mind) - no roll, auto success, i'd limit this to once only.
Arcana (any attempt to use a magical effect that isn't specifically a power). Maybe use the hard Dc.
Combat (this really should be an alternative, but if there are 4 crows and a success drives one off, it is just as easy to say killing one grants a success, i could imagine a defender marking one of them, and enforcing his mark punishment when it attacks the scarecrow, hopefully killing it...)

Then you pick some secondary skills, these aren't obvious at first blush and can be of any dc, depending on their outcome.
Write 2-3 down, but leave your mind open to anything creative a player may do; if a player suprises you with a great idea, use the hard DC and grant a success.
Nature (knowledge of crows, gives +2 bonus on future primary rolls) Easy DC, one success only
Arcana/Heal (if the pc describes some attempt to heal or magically shield the scarecrow, use the hard DC and have it remove one failure, as they have bought him more time) Hard DC, one success only.
Diplomacy (attempts to motivate the scarecrow to fight off the crows), Another candidate for a hard DC, and probably one success only.

That's a quick 8 skills (10 if you count using powers and arcana twice) that took me longer to type than actually think up.



Hope this helps!


FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Ok, fair enough, crows are pretty lame. I'll change the crows to either: flying monkeys, deep crows or a few Vrock's. The Bulette seems out of place, ha, ha. I can't believe I'm trying to make this make sense.

Onikani, your skill suggestions are very helpful.

This skill challenge was just not manic and cool enough, so I'll tinker some more. I'd almost resigned myself to dropping the skill challenge today, but this has helped me see the point of it now.
If there's a possibility of actual combat, you might want more than one creature type.
Ok, fair enough, crows are pretty lame. I'll change the crows to either: flying monkeys, deep crows or a few Vrock's. The Bulette seems out of place, ha, ha. I can't believe I'm trying to make this make sense.

Onikani, your skill suggestions are very helpful.

This skill challenge was just not manic and cool enough, so I'll tinker some more. I'd almost resigned myself to dropping the skill challenge today, but this has helped me see the point of it now.



I would probably mix this Wizard of Oz scene with Children of the Corn. Maybe a bunch of demon-possessed child cultists are sacrificing The Scarecrow in order to summon some vrocks. Protecting them is some kind of burrowing demon (reskinned bulette). 

Interesting terrain idea - corn rows. It's tall and thick enough where you can't get line of sight/effect on people who aren't adjacent to you. You can Stealth up in it easily enough but the burrowing demon has tremorsense. Difficult terrain. The burrowing demon, when it moves, clears paths through it and makes "crop circles" when it erupts from the ground.

Monster Goal: Complete the sacrificial rites and set The Scarecrow alight. This happens in 3 rounds if they aren't stopped. Failure summons some vrocks or something.

PC Goal: Rescue The Scarecrow and get the hell out of there.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Do the players have the option to turn it into a combat encounter by killing the attacking creatures?
"When Friday comes, we'll all call rats fish." D&D Outsider
Do the players have the option to turn it into a combat encounter by killing the attacking creatures?



Yes, but if they can't keep the creatures off the scarecrow, it will be torn apart. I think I'll use some Crow Swarms and include a few huge Deep Crows. If the skill challenge doesn't go well, then they might have to fight the birds off.

iserith, I agree that the corn fields are interesting terrain. I'll tie that into the skill challenge or combat if that occurs.

Why not combine it?
Have some players try to scare off the swarms, while others have to engage the deep crows (deep crows shouldn't be scared by a player jumping around yelling ooga booga, anyway) 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
Nature:  Collect enough ears of corn and strip the husks off them to create an attractive feast for the crows.
Success= crows are attracted to the sweet pile of peaches and cream
Fail= the corn pile is too small to attract more than a few varmits if it got left out over night.
Ok, fair enough, crows are pretty lame. I'll change the crows to either: flying monkeys, deep crows or a few Vrock's. The Bulette seems out of place, ha, ha. I can't believe I'm trying to make this make sense.

Onikani, your skill suggestions are very helpful.

This skill challenge was just not manic and cool enough, so I'll tinker some more. I'd almost resigned myself to dropping the skill challenge today, but this has helped me see the point of it now.



I would probably mix this Wizard of Oz scene with Children of the Corn. Maybe a bunch of demon-possessed child cultists are sacrificing The Scarecrow in order to summon some vrocks. Protecting them is some kind of burrowing demon (reskinned bulette). 

Interesting terrain idea - corn rows. It's tall and thick enough where you can't get line of sight/effect on people who aren't adjacent to you. You can Stealth up in it easily enough but the burrowing demon has tremorsense. Difficult terrain. The burrowing demon, when it moves, clears paths through it and makes "crop circles" when it erupts from the ground.

Monster Goal: Complete the sacrificial rites and set The Scarecrow alight. This happens in 3 rounds if they aren't stopped. Failure summons some vrocks or something.

PC Goal: Rescue The Scarecrow and get the hell out of there.

Good stuff!

Fiendish bulette? Fiendish ANKHEG!!!

Wicker Man also comes to mind. And that baseball movie.... "If you build it, they will come", which also ties in with the crop circles, with Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind... which comes Full Circle if you add some stones in the field, like stonehenge or something. Evil druid sacrifice = Samhain.

A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.

I'm currently building a simple skill challenge, but I'm stuck. I need some more primary skill check ideas if people have the time. Nature would be great. The mechanics of the skill challenge are included below.

Scaring Crow Skill Challenge


A scarecrow is being attacked by swarms of black crows in a corn field. You can hear the straw-man screaming for help as more crows circle the creature.


Set-up: The PC’s must scare or drive the birds out of the corn field and away from the scarecrow man. If the PC’s do not aid the scarecrow the birds will rip the straw-man apart.


Level: 10


Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 2 failures).


Experience Points: 500


Primary Skills: Athletics, Bluff, Intimidate, Nature. Each player must make at least one skill check.


Athletics (DC 25): You swing a stick, staff, sword or some other long implement around swatting and knocking the crows off the straw-man.


Bluff (DC 25): You create the sound of a large predator like a lion to frighten some of the birds away.


Intimidate (DC 25): You threaten the birds by yelling, shouting and waving your arms around to scare some of the birds away.

Nature (DC 25): You ?


Success: The PC’s scare the crows away from the straw-man, who has straw scattered all over the ground, but it appears to still be alive. The scarecrow will thank the PC’s.


Failure: The crows are not scared away and instead attack the PC’s in swarms.


Birds are scared of fire and smoke. Set fire to the scarecrow. Win.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
If there's a possibility of actual combat, you might want more than one creature type.

Or enough Vrock to do the Dance of Ruin.
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
I'm probably going to steal some ideas from this thread. Very visual encounter, either as a combat piece or skill challenge.

In my game, one of the Big Bads is the Autumn King, who controls all scarecrows and sees through their eyes. So for my players, they actually would hesitate and debate the merits of saving the scarecrow, like seeing an enemy being attacked by another enemy. The "failure" portion for me would have to be greater than "the scarecrow gets torn apart." Do they need the scarecrow? Is he secretly a traitor?" Does he hold the key to a fey passage? Is it actually not a scarecrow? If the crows eat him, do they become like the scarecrow?

Scarecrow crows... now that is interesting too
Well, I didn't get to run the skill challenge, not enough people showed up. I'll try again in two weeks.
Well after running this part of the adventure my players selected to go straight to combat and ignored the skill challenge. A lesson learned, skill challenges don't work when players can select to just fight. I now know the failure conditions needed to be slightly different. The description of the situation needs to be adjusted. The skill challenge requires the absence of the deep crows till the skill challenge is failed. Big targets mean PC's will more likely just attack the birds and ignore the scarecrow.