Player feels left out in skill challenges

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Hey guys, one of my players is is trained primarily in Heal, Nature, and Endurance. We're running through Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress. It's a fortress in the Shadowfell and I there isn't much room for any of his trained skills that's applicable to anything we're doing. He got kind of frustrated earlier when he couldn't really do anything.

Any ideas for expanding out the definitions of those skills to make them more applicable? 
isn't it eaiser for you to just put challenges in there that uses one of those skills?  Nature, Heal,  Endurance, three skills seem very useful against some serious custom made fey poison you can introduce.  Nature check to identify.  Heal check to neutralize.  Endurance check to resist effects.  Your buddy gonna feel mighty important if his skills ends up saving the entire party at next session.  He be glad he picked those skills.
You could do your skill challenges like this. Then perhaps your players won't be so focused on making skill checks with just their trained skills.

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 recall the actual page, but the DM book says a player can use a unrelated skill on a skill chalange.

The DC becomes higher and it can be used only once for each non-related skill.
The basic issue here is believing you need to make skill checks to participate in a skill challenge. A skill challenge is simply a framing and pacing mechanic used in conjunction with shared storytelling. You can participate in the shared storytelling aspect without making skill checks because not every little thing you do in a skill challenge is, in fact, a skill check. (This is one of the issues with WotC's presentation.)

You can also encourage said player to contribute with Aid Another checks. And also note that any skill also implies knowledge in the area that skill covers. Endurance is not just enduring - it's knowing how. Heal can be used to impress a cleric with your knowledge of biological processes. Nature is so broad it's applicable just about anywhere really.

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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And never, ever, ever let your players know that you have gone into "skill challenge mode." As soon as you let them know they are in a skill challenge, a lot of people stop roleplaying and start metagaming the adventure writer and DM by guessing which skill they tagged in the challenge or running through their entire skill list for DM approval.

Present the situation, know what happens if they fail, and if they succeed, and then let them at it. Also, since players never do what you expect them to, it wouldn't hurt to write up the combat stats and encounter details for any skill challenge involving an NPC. Some times players will take the gordian knot approach to a skill challenge and decide the best way to solve it is to cut in half with their sword.

The Skill Challenges presented in the published series of adventures are notoriously bad, and I have needed to rewrite almost every one so that it fits organically in the story and suits my party.
I don't agree with the "never let your players know" model (sometimes you should, sometimes you shouldn't, based on your judgment of the individual circumstance as a DM) but the player shouldn't feel like he can only use his trained skills to be useful--in fact, untrained skills might have a lower effective difficulty because they're more appropriate.

Also, those three skills are very useful in skill challenges. Heal can be used for determining how long a corpse was dead, to keep party members going after one of them twists an ankle, so on and so forth. Endurance is almost too easy to use in any situation (kind of like Perception). And Nature gets less use underground where Dungeoneering is often used in its place, but I'd still use it to identify plants and mosses and water movements and things like that. 
Just as traps tend to be boring by themselves, don't use skill challenges by themselves. Have something else going on, even if it's just another skill challenge. When you do that, and make it so that neither situation can be safely ignored, then it's easy to involve everyone. Second stringers have to step up, just for the group to have a chance.

Make it clear that failure in the skill challenge will be interesting, even if you have to tell them (or work with them on) what failure will be. When failure is interesting, players can be less worried about risking a failure in the skill challenge (or combat, or anything else).

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

Make it clear that failure in the skill challenge will be interesting, even if you have to tell them (or work with them on) what failure will be. When failure is interesting, players can be less worried about risking a failure in the skill challenge (or combat, or anything else).



Yes, this is also important and, as Centauri pointed out, not just for skill challenges.

Boring failure often promotes failure mitigation in players. This leads to (and I'm sure you've all seen this in your games) endless, boring discussions by players on how to get their plans exactly right with everyone blocking each other's ideas and going round and round wasting session time, frustration when they screw things up, and paralysis when it comes to involving themselves in the action... such as not wanting to roll anything but trained skills in a skill challenge.

Make failure interesting. Players will still try to succeed, but they will tend to choose action over inaction even when faced with the potential to totally blow it. (As was stated above, most WotC skill challenges have the most boring Defeat conditions ever conceived. Rework them if you can.)

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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What class is he? Only 3 skills sounds like a fighter, but that is an odd set of skills for a fighter...

One suggestion is that he takes an mc feat that works with his base class, since it will give him training in another skill.
Another option is to look at his background, he may be better served by taking a background that gives him a +2 skill bonus and putting that bonus into a skill that he is NOT trained in.  


Can you post a little more info? It'll be easier to make suggestions.
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
What class is he? Only 3 skills sounds like a fighter, but that is an odd set of skills for a fighter...

One suggestion is that he takes an mc feat that works with his base class, since it will give him training in another skill.
Another option is to look at his background, he may be better served by taking a background that gives him a +2 skill bonus and putting that bonus into a skill that he is NOT trained in.  


Can you post a little more info? It'll be easier to make suggestions.


He's a Wilden Battlemind.
He's a Wilden Battlemind.

Is the party interested in risking failure by allowing people to try skills that are either not their best, or not the best in the group?

The reason people metagame skill challenges, and try to make sure they make their chances of success as high as possible, is that failure tends to be boring and frustrating. They end up feeling stupid for any risks they took (or, worse, are derided by others for those risks), and the game goes in a direction they don't want. You're not going to stop metagaming just by trying to hide information from the players. If you want to change things, you have to account for metagaming. Find out what the player DOES want the character to be doing, and find a way (perhaps with the player's help) to bring that about.

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

Well that's a start... I guess. 


Battleminds get these options:
Class Skills: Arcana (Int), Athletics (Str), Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Endurance (Con), Heal (Wis), Insight (Wis), Intimidate (Cha).


You player has heal and endurance. And presumably took nature from a background. I would recommend that he switches his background benefit to give him +2 to nature, this frees up another skill for him to train in (yes he'll lose 3 to nature but gain 5 to something else, it's a net win). Besides, combined with the +2 from being a wilden, that's a total of +4 (almost as good as trained). If he has wis as his secondary sat, he'll do more than well enough.

That gives him at least another skill to pick from the above list. 
And this is where things get a little tricky based on his secondary stat (what is his secondary stat anyway?)
I'm guessing it is wisdom (cuz of wilden racials, and the fact he took 2 wis skills already), So i am going to recommend he takes Diplomacy.

I know it sounds crazy, but if you are using medium difficulty to set your dc's, then even with an 8 cha, with the +5 from training means he'll be able to make most dc's on a roll of 9-10. 
This means he'll auto-succeed on endurance, heal and nature checks most of the time, and he'll have about a 50/50 chance on diplomacy (which at least he'll be able to Assist frequently).

This will give him a solid score in at least 1 physical, 1 mental, and 1 social skill check, so he should be able to at least contribute in all kinds of skill challenges.
 
So let's look at a good MC for him...
Again, assuming wisdom
Initiate of the faith will give him a Healing word as a daily power and training in Religion. This doesn't sound like much, but the assumption is that by gaining a healing word he can retain the Heal skill (actually if he has +12 or so total to his heal bonus, he could probably retrain it anyway, +7 is enough to stabilize people). 
 
Wrathful Warrior will give him the skill of his choice from the fighter list, and it will give him the ability to gain some temps as an encounter power. This is really solid on a Battlemind (even if the skill list is a little lacking). But still there is some overlap, so he could, for example, take Heal, and then retrain the Battlemind heal to something else (like bluff). Otherwise i'd probably grab athletics...


TL:DR version
Assuming he is wisdom secondary:
Switch his background so it provides +2 to nature
Take dilpomacy with the leftover skill slot.
 If you are at least level 6 retrain heal skill to something else (probably bluff). 
Pick up an MC (initiate of the faith or wrathful warriorfor either Religion or Athletics). 

He'll routinly meet the medium dc on the following skills (maybe more depending on his stats)
Bluff, Diplomacy, Heal (he really only ever needs a 15), Endurance, Nature, and either Religion or Athletics.
That's a solid array of skills to be useful in....
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
Fortunately, in case the player doesn't want to change the character, there are DM-side solutions.

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

*kicks in the door to make a dramatic return*

Alright, I've had it with the pansy suggestions...

Man up as DM and include more variety. His skills seem support based, he should be able to use them to aid others, survive, or use knowledge to benefit the group as a whole.

In a fortress, there's tons of ways to make this happen. Aid should be used on injured party members. Use the nature skill to help him recognize where inhabitants of the dungeon such as rats or insects might live which might indicate food sources or hidden passages.

As for endurance, here's some fun ways to help include that:

dungeonsmaster.com/2009/03/skill-focus-e...
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I know it sounds crazy, but if you are using medium difficulty to set your dc's, then even with an 8 cha, with the +5 from training means he'll be able to make most dc's on a roll of 9-10. 
This means he'll auto-succeed on endurance, heal and nature checks most of the time, and he'll have about a 50/50 chance on diplomacy (which at least he'll be able to Assist frequently).

This will give him a solid score in at least 1 physical, 1 mental, and 1 social skill check, so he should be able to at least contribute in all kinds of skill challenges.



This is a good approach. I remember when I first stumbled upon it a while back - it really did seem crazy. Ultimately, it's a good way to be useful in a variety of situations. You'll never be as good as characters specialized in these areas, but you'll hold your own. Good advice!

In any event, the source of the problem is definitely in the approach to skill challenges and, for that, the DM can hardly be blamed (nor the player). If you think about skill challenges a bit differently from the way they are presented, both player and DM can get what they want, within the scope of the rules, garner a better result during actual play, and without having the player change his character.

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
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In any event, the source of the problem is definitely in the approach to skill challenges and, for that, the DM can hardly be blamed (nor the player). If you think about skill challenges a bit differently from the way they are presented, both player and DM can get what they want, within the scope of the rules, garner a better result during actual play, and without having the player change his character.



While I agree, i'd be amiss not to mention that part of the problem is too many players feel the need to train the skills associated with their best stats. And when you only have 3 skills to train, it means you are awesome at 3 things and probably suck at 14.

This is compunded by the fact that the 3 physical stats only make up a grand total of 5 skills (Athletics, Endurance, Acrobatics, Stealth, Thievery), while the other 12 are made of mental stats....
So a character like a Battlemind kinda gets screwed, since his primary stat only gives one useful skill (opposed to say a Sorc, who gets Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Streetwise all keyed off his primary stat).

What players should be doing is putting a few skill trainings in skills they have low or middling stats in...
This is because the game math assumes that the medium DC can be routinly met (roll of about 8) by a character with a 10 in the stat and training, or with a primary stat without training.
Just look at the heroic tier DC's, they are mostly all 13+1/2level. Why? Because that repersents a roll of 8 and then another +5 (from a high stat or training) plus the half-level scaling of skills (they jump a little in paragon tier, but that's because maths expect players to have other bonuses from themes or gear or whatever).

Fortunately, in case the player doesn't want to change the character, there are DM-side solutions.



As far as the player changing his character goes, if the player feels useless in skill challenges, he'll likely agree to sqapping some things around. I'm thinking he didn't know much about skill dc's worked when he initially picked them. And IME, once someone is shown a better way to do things they try it... As a DM, you just need to let him do it. Maybe next time they level you allow him to make all of the skill-based changes he wants...
Swapping out the benefit from his background is a free +3 net gain (keep in mind he is keeping the exact same background, just swapping the benefit). Picking up an MC is something he'll probably do anyway.
Neither of these are huge changes and really don't affect the character at all...
Seriously, if you think that spending a feat to gain con-bonus temps every encounter and +5 to athletics is out of flavor/character for a *Defender*, then really there are bigger issues...

In the end, yeah sure, the dm can make a whole bunch of changes to his dm style to accomodate the player... But personally as a DM i prefer to help educate my players on smart and efficient options (even something simple like Wasteland Wanderer). They feel more useful, and i don't need to constantly fine-tune things to cater to an inept pc.
Everyone wins.
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
All good advice.

In the end, yeah sure, the dm can make a whole bunch of changes to his dm style to accomodate the player... But persoanlly as a DM i prefer to help educate my players on smart and efficient options. They feel more useful, and i don't need to constantly fine-tune things to cater to an inept pc.
Everyone wins.



Given the level of hate for skill challenges, I would think that DMs would welcome a new approach to the whole situation! WotC really screwed up the presentation of how they're supposed to work and what they're supposed to do in my opinion. I don't think what I propose really changes much in the way of the DM's style. In fact, I dare say it harkens back to what DMs have been doing for years and years: Describing a situation or complication and asking "What do you do?" That's all a skill challenge was meant to be, with the added benefit of a pacing and framing mechanism.

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
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I think you caught me editing in a quote block. That bit was really directed at Centauri  

But yeah, i agree that the presentation on SC's was pretty bad. And they didn't help it in the early run of modules at all...
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
I think you caught me editing in a quote block. That bit was really directed at Centauri  

But yeah, i agree that the presentation on SC's was pretty bad. And they didn't help it in the early run of modules at all...



Haha, caught ya! I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the skill challenge example/approach I presented in the link in my first post of this thread. We can take that to PM though.

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

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They feel more useful, and i don't need to constantly fine-tune things to cater to an inept pc.

No constant fine-tuning necessary.

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

I think you caught me editing in a quote block. That bit was really directed at Centauri  

But yeah, i agree that the presentation on SC's was pretty bad. And they didn't help it in the early run of modules at all...



Haha, caught ya! I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on the skill challenge example/approach I presented in the link in my first post of this thread. We can take that to PM though.



Sent!!!
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