Raise Skill DCs to Match High-Skill PCs?

84 posts / 0 new
Last post
Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?
Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?



Why should reality bend itself to make a task harder because someone is better at it?

There-in lies the answer to your question.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?

Why should reality bend itself to make a task harder because someone is better at it?

There-in lies the answer to your question.

Bingo. If somebody spent time and effort, in-game and out-, to make his character better at something, then it's not a "freebie" for the thing to be easier for him to do.

Don't make the mundane stuff harder to "punish" or "get back at" him for learning how to do them easier, give him challenges that would've been legitimately too hard if not for his effort at getting better at doing them, but are (not excessively) easier for him to do specifically because of the effort he put into becoming better at doing them.

Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
Best defense that I've read in favor of having alignment systems as an option
Show
If some people are heavily benefiting from the inclusion of alignment, then it would behoove those that AREN'T to listen up and pay attention to how those benefits are being created and enjoyed, no? -YagamiFire
But equally important would be for those who do enjoy those benefits to entertain the possibility that other people do not value those benefits equally or, possibly, do not see them as benefits in the first place. -wrecan (RIP)
That makes sense. However, it is not fair to continually attack those that benefit for being, somehow, deviant for deriving enjoyment from something that you cannot. Instead, alignment is continually attacked...it is demonized...and those that use it are lumped in with it.

 

I think there is more merit in a situation where someone says "This doesn't work! It's broken!" and the reply is "Actually it works fine for me. Have you considered your approach might be causing it?"

 

than a situation where someone says "I use this system and the way I use it works really well!" and the back and forth is "No! It is a broken bad system!" -YagamiFire

DCs by level are DCs by level. Specialization comes at a cost. They should reap the rewards when it comes up.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?



Assuming 4e, the DM should never raise the dc for the task to compensate for players that invested in it.
For several reasons:

It invalidates player choice. Seriously, the player chose to be good in one thing and bad at another (rather than mediocre at both). He should feel that choice every time either of those skills comes up. Similarly, it also makes that same task unobtainable by the other pc's. 
 
Also, as others have mentioned: tasks don't get harder as you get better at them.

Lastly, 4e math just isn't really designed for that. If you start using moderate difficulty skills VERY frequently in your game, and do it such a way that players always need to roll, they'll notice.

Let me explain it another way.
There are basically 3 types of skills: physical, social, mental.
So picture this: a skill challenge that includes only 2 of those catagories. Naturally, even at moderate dc's, some pc's will be better at it than others.
Now continue to imagine that every pc needs to make their own check every round, and they can't use assists/aid another. 
And one last detail, every time you successfully use a skill, the DC increases.
Suddenly, every pc is looking at their sheet wishing they had 6 well-rounded skills instead of 3 awesome ones and 14 bad ones... Even if you can reliably hit the high dc, how many times can you use it when it gets +4 higher each time? 
Optimizing for this 'model' means becoming versatile in as many skills as possible... it will completely change the way you're players think about skills.


And one other comment:  It's pretty much a given that it's the DM's job is make encounters fun and challenging for the pc's. If the players optimize, the dm should still challenge them. Which means the encounters get harder. 
Now, this 'cycle' should be everyone's expectation, but it sounds like your player is put off by this. I highly recommend you and your players immediately sit down and decide what is the correct level of optimization for the game.  And once everyone agrees, you can take it from there. 
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
Echoing what the others have said I also would add, just because you succeed at something doesn't mean it was easy. I mean, in all reality we are rolling a die, which isn't very hard. That really doesn't change.

Have the player narrate what the challenge is, or if they are not comfortable give them a few extra details to play with. For example, your master thief who has an insanely high skill wants to pick a lock with a high DC.

DM: "Though you are confidant you can unlock this door, the lock itself is something you've never encountered before. What makes it so unusual?"

Player: "Ummm... it's not really a mechanical lock. More like a picture that rearranges itself based on how it is turned. Maybe it is the history of some significant events in town, and they have to be placed in the correct order for it to unlock."

Player 2: "Oh! I have a really high History skill! I could help with this!"

The fun really isn't in succeeding or failing. The fun to me comes from the narration.
Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?

No, don't do that. You could pit them against skill challenges that are higher level, so that they get correspondingly more experience for success, but I expect you'll find that you need to make the challenges ridiculously high level, and that to me indicates too big a departure from the intended path.

Talk to the players about how they would like to be challenged. Acing skill checks is fun, but not really deserving of "screen time." We aren't shown every infiltration Batman performs. Mostly the action starts with him already inside. He's that good. So, maybe they'll like it if sometimes they don't even have to roll for something and you just assume they make it.

Maybe they'll enjoy having the challenge be getting to where they can actually apply their skill checks. In Dungeon Delve 11, there's a portal to the Elemental Chaos that needs to be closed, and there's a hydra between it and the PCs. The PCs must be adjacent to perform Thievery checks and within 5 squares (well within the hydra's reach) to perform Arcana checks. When my players faced it, the wizard got close enough to perform 4 no-fail Arcana checks, and took a lot of damage for his trouble.

I wouldn't recommend unilaterally deploying these tactics, lest you engender more cynicism. But talk to your players in terms of the stakes they like to play for, and the risks they like to overcome. Particularly with "anti-gotcha" skills like Perception and Insight, people maximize those skills because they are never alright with failing them, so there might well be stakes and risks the players aren't interested in. Get those out into the open, and focus on the myriad other ways players can be challenged.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Echoing what the others have said I also would add, just because you succeed at something doesn't mean it was easy. I mean, in all reality we are rolling a die, which isn't very hard. That really doesn't change.

Have the player narrate what the challenge is, or if they are not comfortable give them a few extra details to play with. For example, your master thief who has an insanely high skill wants to pick a lock with a high DC.

DM: "Though you are confidant you can unlock this door, the lock itself is something you've never encountered before. What makes it so unusual?"

Player: "Ummm... it's not really a mechanical lock. More like a picture that rearranges itself based on how it is turned. Maybe it is the history of some significant events in town, and they have to be placed in the correct order for it to unlock."

Player 2: "Oh! I have a really high History skill! I could help with this!"

The fun really isn't in succeeding or failing. The fun to me comes from the narration.

An excellent point.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I have generally found that DMs that raise the DC to "challenge" specialized PC are doing so because the specialized PC is rolling a particular skill check a lot. Bluff seems to be a popular one - the thief basically never tells the truth and is always getting NPCs to believe his lies. The DM thus wants to raise the DC to stop the constant manipulation of his NPCs.

The issue here, actually, is that the DM is calling for rolls in more situations than the 4e rules call for. So it's important for DMs to remember that you should only be calling for rolls in non-mundane situations. As well, there needs to be an equal chance of interesting success and failure. Otherwise, it's not a roll. Lying to a common merchant is probably not a roll. Climbing a tree when you're not "under fire" is probably not a roll. Knowing something about a subject in a non-pivotal moment is probably not a roll. If it's a mundane situation and success and failure aren't equally interesting, then the PC just succeeds or succeeds at a cost (depending on context, subject to negotiation). This is especially true of specialists who have invested in a particular skill.

Think about your last gaming session. How many times did you ask for skill checks in mundane situations? How many times did a PC fail a check and you said "nothing happens"? Or (my favorite, grrr) how many times did you ask the PCs to make an active Perception check when they weren't even actively searching around?

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I agree with the concensus - that one should not be "penalized" for specializing in a given skill.

However, that does not mean always giving "freebies."  Every now and again, there will be an NPC with a high enough sense motive/insight to counter the rogue's incredibly high bluff skill and the like.  The player needs to know that it is not just PCs that can specialize.  But it should be natural.

For example, in my 3.5e campaign I have a player of a fighter who has highly specialized in the use of a greatsword.  He has taken all the feats to increase his to hit and damage, and at level 6 he has a +15 to hit (honestly, I do not know exactly what feats he has so I do not know how he got his to hit that high, but I trust him so I have not inspected his character sheet).  So basically everything that is level appropriate, unless he rolls a nat 1, he hits.  But without even thinking about his specialization (I did not even realize his to hit was so high until last session), I had the group fighting lots of undead with DR/bludgeoning recently, so while he does still hit all the time, the damage is not as devastating.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
What if the player in question is a Bard who optimized all his skills? (it's possible, I've seen it)
However, that does not mean always giving "freebies."  Every now and again, there will be an NPC with a high enough sense motive/insight to counter the rogue's incredibly high bluff skill and the like.  The player needs to know that it is not just PCs that can specialize.  But it should be natural.



This may be so, but according to 4e rules there is no skill check in a mundane situation. So while an NPC may have a super-high Insight (for whatever reason), there's still no roll if it's mundane. The PC lies and the NPC believes him or he doesn't, depending on the NPC's motivations. No roll.

Skill checks are for pivotal moments, acting under fire or in a charged situation, or as part of working toward a goal that includes multiple pivotal moments. They are not a simulation of things the PCs are doing all the time. 

DMs generally ask for way too many checks in my experience. Hacking your way through the jungle doesn't require a Nature check. It just requires a machete and some time. Hacking your way through the jungle to get to the beach before the volcano erupts - now we're in skill check territory.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

However, that does not mean always giving "freebies."  Every now and again, there will be an NPC with a high enough sense motive/insight to counter the rogue's incredibly high bluff skill and the like.  The player needs to know that it is not just PCs that can specialize.  But it should be natural.

Some things aren't natural, and aren't going to happen accidentally, as in your example. Some things require action to bring them about, assuming the players are interested in having them brought about.

How did the player react to the damage reduction? If the player let you know that he found his enjoyment diminished by the DR, would you "naturally" find a way for him to face creatures without it?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

What if the player in question is a Bard who optimized all his skills? (it's possible, I've seen it)



In my experience, there is a difference between optimized and specialized.  I agree that a bard can be good at everything (optimized), but not outstanding (specialized).  But just being good is usually more than good enough in common social situations.

That being the case, let it happen.  Obviously, the player spent a significant amount of time optimizing his/her character.  One should not be penalized for doing so.

This may be so, but according to 4e rules there is no skill check in a mundane situation. So while an NPC may have a super-high Insight (for whatever reason), there's still no roll if it's mundane. The PC lies and the NPC believes him or he doesn't, depending on the NPC's motivations. No roll.

Skill checks are for pivotal moments, acting under fire or in a charged situation, or as part of working toward a goal that includes multiple pivotal moments. They are not a simulation of things the PCs are doing all the time. 

DMs generally ask for way too many checks in my experience. Hacking your way through the jungle doesn't require a Nature check. It just requires a machete and some time. Hacking your way through the jungle to get to the beach before the volcano erupts - now we're in skill check territory.



I used to believe that meta-gaming was not a good thing and to reduce some aspects I would have my players roll dice for mundane events so that when something pivotal did happen my players would not recognize it is as such: the "OOO he's having us roll dice something important MUST be happening..." factor.

I have more recently abandoned that philosophy.  I have come to trust the players I am currently DMing for to not use my asking for dice rolling to affect how their characters behave.

That being said, I still have my players roll dice on many mundane tasks because it is a narrative tool; the results determine how I describe a given situation.  That being said, I am using that tool less and less; only when my players want to roll dice, I let them and I make the results interesting...for them (you might not think the results interesting but they do).

For example, locked doors with no time limitations.  One of the characters is rather impatient so when he finds a locked door, he is just as likely to smash through it as he is to allow the bard to pick the lock.  When he reacts that way, I have him roll to hit and do damage.  He always hits but the dice determine the effect.  The player gets a kick out of trying to break down doors and all my players enjoy my descriptions of his attempts, so why should I deny him and them of that?

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
@Centauri

Sure I'll admit that he was not thrilled by the fact that his damage was reduced (who would be), but he accepted the fact that his character cannot bifurcate everything in sight (a mature attitude).  And I gave him and others the opportunity to acquire weapons that would be fully effective.  Some players took advantage of that, he did not.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
For example, locked doors with no time limitations.  One of the characters is rather impatient so when he finds a locked door, he is just as likely to smash through it as he is to allow the bard to pick the lock.  When he reacts that way, I have him roll to hit and do damage.  He always hits but the dice determine the effect.  The player gets a kick out of trying to break down doors and all my players enjoy my descriptions of his attempts, so why should I deny him and them of that?



Perhaps it's different in 3.X which I believe you play (and I did too, just can't remember the rules), but no time limitation or other threat would mean that there is no check to break down the door or pick the lock. You just take the time to do it.

Pick the lock while being shot at? Skill check. Break the door before the walls close in on and crush everyone? Skill check.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Sure I'll admit that he was not thrilled by the fact that his damage was reduced (who would be), but he accepted the fact that his character cannot bifurcate everything in sight (a mature attitude).

It's not a fact, it's a decision you made, albeit unthinkingly, so I don't see what maturity has to do with it.

And anyone might be thrilled with a challenge to their character, if they were bought into that challenge.

And I gave him and others the opportunity to acquire weapons that would be fully effective.  Some players took advantage of that, he did not.

Sure, why should he? Some people identify their character as one that uses a particular weapon.

The bottom line as it relates to this thread is that it's proper to challenge players and players want to be challenged, but not every challenge is proper and desired by the players.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

What if the player in question is a Bard who optimized all his skills? (it's possible, I've seen it)



In my experience, there is a difference between optimized and specialized.  I agree that a bard can be good at everything (optimized), but not outstanding (specialized).  But just being good is usually more than good enough in common social situations.



Things are a little different in 4e (to use your definaitions)...

 A 4e bard can spend only 1 feat and have all of his skills as high as the rest of the party's trained skills. And can spend one more to put them even higher. At say, level 11, a nonhuman bard has 7 feats, and can easily spend 2 on maxing out his skills.

That gives PLENTY of room to still specialize the rest of his build.

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 if the player in question is a Bard who optimized all his skills? (it's possible, I've seen it)



In my experience, there is a difference between optimized and specialized.  I agree that a bard can be good at everything (optimized), but not outstanding (specialized).  But just being good is usually more than good enough in common social situations.



Things are a little different in 4e (to use your definaitions)...

 A 4e bard can spend only 1 feat and have all of his skills as high as the rest of the party's trained skills. And can spend one more to put them even higher. At say, level 11, a nonhuman bard has 7 feats, and can easily spend 2 on maxing out his skills.

That gives PLENTY of room to still specialize the rest of his build.



In my opinion, that is overpowered.  In previous versions of D&D, Bards have been jacks-of-all-trades masters-of-none.  Again in my opinion, bards should be able to optimize or specialize, not both.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.

In my opinion, that is overpowered.  In previous versions of D&D, Bards have been jacks-of-all-trades masters-of-none.  Again in my opinion, bards should be able to optimize or specialize, not both.




It is very strong, but it's not really as bad as it seems.
As has already been mentioned in this thread, in 4e, rolls are only made when it REALLY matters. And often times, the entire party must make the same check, with at least half the party needing to succeed for the entire group to. One person (the bard) auto-succeeding is nice, but it's hardly overpowered. 

Versatility vs Specialization still exists in 4e, and for all classes. It's just balanced differently than 3.x (and mainly because of the Powers system).
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

In my opinion, that is overpowered.  In previous versions of D&D, Bards have been jacks-of-all-trades masters-of-none.  Again in my opinion, bards should be able to optimize or specialize, not both.




It is very strong, but it's not really as bad as it seems.
As has already been mentioned in this thread, in 4e, rolls are only made when it REALLY matters. And often times, the entire party must make the same check, with at least half the party needing to succeed for the entire group to. One person (the bard) auto-succeeding is nice, but it's hardly overpowered. 

Versatility vs Specialization still exists in 4e, and for all classes. It's just balanced differently than 3.x (and mainly because of the Powers system).



I still find it unlikely that a Bard could really reach the high levels of skills for -everything-. Really pumping a skill can benefit from a good many options beyond Skill Train/Focus. My Wizard has 37 Arcana at level 15; could a Bard really get anywhere near that at the same level? (I guess I could be wrong, but I'd guess at most of his skills capping around 19 maybe?)
I didn't say "Really high", i said as high as the others' trained skills.

Most cunning bards start with an 18 postracial intelligence, which is 1 point behind a wizard, and can use all of the same backgrounds, themes, gear, etc.
The bard can also mc wizard and have access to the exact same prc's, feats, and utilities. If they prc Resouceful Magicians they are actual wizards (post level 16).
If they really wanted to push it, they could, and could be competative within a few points. 


Having said that, your other assumption is right, depending on the exact build and levels of investment almost (at level 15) all of their skills will land between 15 and 20. Meanwhile the party fighter has 3 skills in that range,  4 in the low teens, and the last 10 are below 10.
Like i originally said, 1 feat puts all of their skills roughly equivalent to the rest of the party's trained skills.
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
In my game, I added a "legendary" skill difficulty at paragon, that is about 10-15 points higher than hard. Legendary DC is always optional (no player is ever required to roll against it), but can do some truly phenomenal things or even allow skills to produce effects that are supernatural in nature. Examples:


Diplomacy: moving a demilich to grant mercy.
Acrobatics: balance on a cloud (as in 3.5 epic rules)
History: Use knowledge of the past to predict the future in a manner that would otherwise require a divination spell.
Thievery: Disarm a trap that would normally require 4+ successes in a single action.

The group seemed to enjoy it as it created big "wow!" moments that let them feel truly epic without making it required. Some of the legendary skill checks they made are still talked about a year after the campaign ended.
My Wizard has 37 Arcana at level 15; could a Bard really get anywhere near that at the same level?



Off the top of my head, Bards can reach an Arcana of +26 or higher at level 15 if optimizing for knowledge skills through race, ability scores, feats, theme and paragon path, discounting any benefits from items or powers that there may be. With the right EQ and boosts beyond this, they could match your Wizard. Their untrained skills wouldn't be so high, but they would likely be able to go higher than most people could with their untrained skills.

4e Bard skill shenanigans isn't so busted really. It's more of a neat niche that the class can fill if the group needs it. Not every bard will twink their skills to obscene levels unless they're gunning for something in particular (like the Sage of Ages ED, or something else skill related that's awesome).

In my game, I added a "legendary" skill difficulty at paragon, that is about 10-15 points higher than hard. Legendary DC is always optional (no player is ever required to roll against it), but can do some truly phenomenal things or even allow skills to produce effects that are supernatural in nature. Examples:


Diplomacy: moving a demilich to grant mercy.
Acrobatics: balance on a cloud (as in 3.5 epic rules)
History: Use knowledge of the past to predict the future in a manner that would otherwise require a divination spell.
Thievery: Disarm a trap that would normally require 4+ successes in a single action.

The group seemed to enjoy it as it created big "wow!" moments that let them feel truly epic without making it required. Some of the legendary skill checks they made are still talked about a year after the campaign ended.



This is neat, and I am so stealing it for my next game XD
Bards need only a feat, a theme and an item to blow everyone else out of the water, skill-wise. 

Feat: Bard of all Trades. 
Benefit: You gain a +3 feat bonus to all untrained skill checks.

Theme: Sensate.
Sensate Level 10 Feature (10th level): While you have temporary hit points, you gain a +3 power bonus to all skill checks.

Item: Eager Hero's Tattoo. 
Porperty: When you take a short rest, you gain temporary hit points equal to 5 + the number of healing surges you have spent since your last extended rest.

That, combined with their innate +1 bonus to untrained skills, gives Bards a +7 bonus to untrained skills and a +8 bonus to trained skills (including training). Even for skills relating to their worst stat (8), to which they would normally receive a -1 penalty, they have an untrained +6 bonus, which is equal to someone having a 22 in their stat for an untrained skill. 

I encountered this once and needless to say, I asked the player to tone it down a bit, since it was quite ridiculous and made everyone else feel pretty useless.
That's pretty awesome. I love bards, but I never went that route with a build. Next one I will for sure. Plus, Sensate and Eager Hero really fit flavorwise since Sensates (from Planescape) are all about new experiences. Thanks!

I can't see a downside to anyone taking this, at least in our games. Maybe I'll play him and make it a goal to never actually use a power.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Haha, that's pretty cool. Lemme know how it works out! 

It caused problems in the sense that I, as the DM, wasn't prepared for it. Normally, when the players are presented with a challenge, I ask for a skill check. But if there's no time pressure or we're otherwise not in combat, the Bard player can just step forward and tell the rest that he'll handle it. That's fun for the first two times. After that, the other players start wondering why they even have skills at all. 

Like I said, I asked the player to tone it down. I now realize that there are also other things I could've done to handle it, like asking for more skill checks in combat and more group skill checks. That way, the Bard had to choose between fighting or making skill checks, or he would've been dependent on others for success. 

 
My only issue is that when I do get the opportunity to play, it's generally with DMs who put don't put much weight on skills ("powers > skills" mentality), don't use skill challenges, or who ask for skill checks at inappropriate times. So there's that...

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The bard being able to be an insane skill-monkey is kinda cool. 

In my game I'll frequently call for a check in a certain skill to be made only by players who are trained in it, or will have training be a prerequisite for certain checks - as a way of letting players who actually chose to train a skill shine somehwhat independantly of what their exact modifier might be.  Gotta make sure you know what your guys are trained in and not just always ask for perception and arcana constantly. 

You'd need to pick up quite a few multi-class feats to actually be trained in every skill! (hmm...a Human Bard/Jack-of-All-Trades could get training in all 17 skills by lvl16 though...which would be a really interesting character, with like 8 multi-classes?! Now I want to try building that...)

I'll also frequently just describe a situation or prediciment and invite them to immagine/justify why any skill they want to use will help them solve the problem before them, with each person finding a way for one of their favorate skills to help (this style tends to reward haveing one super-high skill more than having a good modifier in everything - though having whatever skill most obviously or directly addresses the problem might mean a lower DC). 
I have generally found that DMs that raise the DC to "challenge" specialized PC are doing so because the specialized PC is rolling a particular skill check a lot. Bluff seems to be a popular one - the thief basically never tells the truth and is always getting NPCs to believe his lies. The DM thus wants to raise the DC to stop the constant manipulation of his NPCs.

The issue here, actually, is that the DM is calling for rolls in more situations than the 4e rules call for. So it's important for DMs to remember that you should only be calling for rolls in non-mundane situations. As well, there needs to be an equal chance of interesting success and failure. Otherwise, it's not a roll. Lying to a common merchant is probably not a roll. Climbing a tree when you're not "under fire" is probably not a roll. Knowing something about a subject in a non-pivotal moment is probably not a roll. If it's a mundane situation and success and failure aren't equally interesting, then the PC just succeeds or succeeds at a cost (depending on context, subject to negotiation). This is especially true of specialists who have invested in a particular skill.

Think about your last gaming session. How many times did you ask for skill checks in mundane situations? How many times did a PC fail a check and you said "nothing happens"? Or (my favorite, grrr) how many times did you ask the PCs to make an active Perception check when they weren't even actively searching around?


This.  I dont like skill check. I prefer skill challenge.  Condition the players to view it as challenge. DC should also increase depending on the challenge.  At high level most skill challenge should be based in opposed challenge by equally high level npc and opponants. No steam rolling through everything with low dc.

I have never upped skill DCs to "challenge" a skilled PC, nor would I advise that.  I have used the advantage mechanice from dnd next where a PC rolls twice, but doesn't get the +5 from being trained in a skill when I'm having the entire party make checks.  This way I'm using a lower DC that all PCs have a reasonable chance to meet, but success isn't a forgone conclusion for those who specialize.  To be honest, I'm not sure that I'll do that again.  The players liked it because, "Hey, I get to roll 2 dice, that's twice as fun," but I have my reservations. 
I am going to disagree with the consensus "slightly" ;)  I have no problem deciding that a certain difficulty skill roll is a higher level than the players, any more than I would have a problem with my players facing a higher level monster.  As everyone has said, it should NOT be done to penalise the player for concentrating skill points in a certain area and it should NOT be done so often that it becomes the new "norm".

As long as the narration paints the correct picture for the level of difficulty, everything should be fine.  If you describe a lock as being renown for defeating infamous thieves, would your players really object to it being harder than a normal "Hard" DC?  Probably not.  If you make all locks that difficult though, they would have a right to feel cheated.
As long as the narration paints the correct picture for the level of difficulty, everything should be fine.  If you describe a lock as being renown for defeating infamous thieves, would your players really object to it being harder than a normal "Hard" DC?  Probably not.  If you make all locks that difficult though, they would have a right to feel cheated.



So you make it multiple checks with an interesting failure condition including skills that are not Thievery (seeing as it defeats infamous thieves, this makes sense). In 4e, this would be a skill challenge. In 3.X, you could do it as a complex skill check. The DC, however, remains level appropriate. Level-appropriate here means the level of the PCs or the level of the monster/skill challenge. At least in 4e.

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Thats one way of doing it, if you want to make a longer event out of it and want to include other players.  But sometimes, one die roll is the most appropriate.
the revised DC are perfectly fine...but in my experience there are issues when you don't have to use the DC, relying instead on enemies/npc ability scores.

typical situations: stealth vs perception to hide and bluff vs insight to create diversions. Even dealing with enemies just 1-2 levels below the charachter can be absolutely trivial (100% success rate) by this respect if they don't have an high Wisdom, never mind lower level ones...Using the regular skill DCs would address the issue, but then there come player complains about "the rules is written like that you must use passive insight i am amazing" and so on.


also the use of traps is highly hampered by moderately optimized PC.  A 15-th level PC with +25 to perception can find with a roll of 2+ a moderately difficult to find trap of 8 levels higher (DC 27). either you resort to use just high level traps, or puzzle-like traps (but they get boried by too many puzzles)..

suggestions are welcome! 
the revised DC are perfectly fine...but in my experience there are issues when you don't have to use the DC, relying instead on enemies/npc ability scores.

typical situations: stealth vs perception to hide and bluff vs insight to create diversions. Even dealing with enemies just 1-2 levels below the charachter can be absolutely trivial (100% success rate) by this respect if they don't have an high Wisdom, never mind lower level ones...Using the regular skill DCs would address the issue, but then there come player complains about "the rules is written like that you must use passive insight i am amazing" and so on.


also the use of traps is highly hampered by moderately optimized PC.  A 15-th level PC with +25 to perception can find with a roll of 2+ a moderately difficult to find trap of 8 levels higher (DC 27). either you resort to use just high level traps, or puzzle-like traps (but they get boried by too many puzzles)..

suggestions are welcome! 



Convince your players to not train skills they are naturally good at. Design your game so that versaility is better than being "all-in" 2-3 skills. This way the players "optimize for versatility" and medium and hard dc's go back to their intended meaning.

Or, just accept the fact that this player has spent a lot of resources so he can automatically succeed on hard dc's. And let him benefit from that decisions, and don't even ask him to roll anymore.
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
the revised DC are perfectly fine...but in my experience there are issues when you don't have to use the DC, relying instead on enemies/npc ability scores.

typical situations: stealth vs perception to hide and bluff vs insight to create diversions. Even dealing with enemies just 1-2 levels below the charachter can be absolutely trivial (100% success rate) by this respect if they don't have an high Wisdom, never mind lower level ones...Using the regular skill DCs would address the issue, but then there come player complains about "the rules is written like that you must use passive insight i am amazing" and so on.


also the use of traps is highly hampered by moderately optimized PC.  A 15-th level PC with +25 to perception can find with a roll of 2+ a moderately difficult to find trap of 8 levels higher (DC 27). either you resort to use just high level traps, or puzzle-like traps (but they get boried by too many puzzles)..

suggestions are welcome! 



Convince your players to not train skills they are naturally good at. Design your game so that versaility is better than being "all-in" 2-3 skills. This way the players "optimize for versatility" and medium and hard dc's go back to their intended meaning.

Or, just accept the fact that this player has spent a lot of resources so he can automatically succeed on hard dc's. And let him benefit from that decisions, and don't even ask him to roll anymore.



convincing them to prefer versatility? that's a lost cause. the second option is workable, but then the challenge must be created by other means, preferably by asking the player to think and not just the number on the sheet.


convincing them to prefer versatility? that's a lost cause.




No it isn't.
It just takes a quick switch in your style, and they'll have to decide between versatility or failure. 
Which do you think they'll prefer?
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
the revised DC are perfectly fine...but in my experience there are issues when you don't have to use the DC, relying instead on enemies/npc ability scores.



Then just rely on the DCs. Get buy-in first.

typical situations: stealth vs perception to hide and bluff vs insight to create diversions. Even dealing with enemies just 1-2 levels below the charachter can be absolutely trivial (100% success rate) by this respect if they don't have an high Wisdom, never mind lower level ones...Using the regular skill DCs would address the issue, but then there come player complains about "the rules is written like that you must use passive insight i am amazing" and so on.



Analyze the player's objection or better yet discuss it with him directly. I bet you find that the reason players want to optimize certain things is because they believe failure is not very interesting. If failing a skill check in your game means being made to look like a putz or comes with heavy damage or any consequence that might not be palatable to the player, then no amount of messing with the DCs is going to help the situation. You'll need to address the underlying problem instead - a lack of interesting failure.

also the use of traps is highly hampered by moderately optimized PC.  A 15-th level PC with +25 to perception can find with a roll of 2+ a moderately difficult to find trap of 8 levels higher (DC 27). either you resort to use just high level traps, or puzzle-like traps (but they get boried by too many puzzles)..



There's more to traps than being able to spot them. In fact, many traps are probably not concealed because their purpose is deterrence. A high Perception is a solution for gotcha traps only really. I don't even really use traps in this way anymore (with some exceptions for thematic purposes).

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!

Here, Have Some Free Material From Me: Encounters With Alternate Goals  |  Dark Sun Full-Contact Futbol   |   Pre-Generated D&D 5e PCs

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Should a GM increase a skill challenge's difficulty if two PCs have obscenely high skills for it? Or should he keep it moderate and give the players a "freebie" to reward their specialization? I was kind of leaning towards the former, but a player gave me a cynical outlook on the whole thing: "It doesn't matter how much you optimize, the GM will just raise the challenge to compensate, so why bother?" I can see players getting frustrated if they're continually failing skill checks they invested in because the GM raised the DC in response. What do you think?



The challenge difficulty should be raised according to player characters  so still be challenging and not too easy or too hard.Still some difficulties especially knowledge might be so high that players can't achieve the required roll so more drama and mystery stays in your stories.Take this as an example:
If you have high level characters and the monsters they face all the time are goblin power they will eventually get bored.Same applies for skills.

the revised DC are perfectly fine...but in my experience there are issues when you don't have to use the DC, relying instead on enemies/npc ability scores.

typical situations: stealth vs perception to hide and bluff vs insight to create diversions. Even dealing with enemies just 1-2 levels below the charachter can be absolutely trivial (100% success rate) by this respect if they don't have an high Wisdom, never mind lower level ones...Using the regular skill DCs would address the issue, but then there come player complains about "the rules is written like that you must use passive insight i am amazing" and so on.

I question the necessity of even rolling checks against enemies 1-2 levels below the characters. Just let their Stealth and Bluff work.

But enemy skill bonuses don't need to come into play for that. If hiding and creating a diversion (because they need them to defeat lower-level enemies?) were made into skill challenges, you'd just use the DC you felt were appropriate. These might be at the PC's level or higher (due less to the monsters than to the circumstances, such as little cover or a state of suspicion) or at the monsters' level or lower. The NPC in The Negotiation doesn't have skill modifiers, after all, and even if he did what skill would he roll against a PC's History check? And the same goes for single skill checks. A DC can always be applied, rather than an opposed roll.

also the use of traps is highly hampered by moderately optimized PC.  A 15-th level PC with +25 to perception can find with a roll of 2+ a moderately difficult to find trap of 8 levels higher (DC 27). either you resort to use just high level traps, or puzzle-like traps (but they get boried by too many puzzles)..

suggestions are welcome!

Don't rely on traps being hidden. That's a "gotcha" approach that 4th Edition doesn't advocate strongly. Actual traps are better off as part of another encounter, in which even checking for them takes a valuable action (which the trained PC might not even be in a good position to take), and even if they're known about they can still be used against the PCs. Traps are also good atmosphere in skill challenges that involve travel through an area; choosing to make the Perception check is what puts traps there at all. Succeed and you spotted the trap/ambush/etc., fail and you missed it and the challenge is more complicated.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy