Adventures for a Monstrous Domain

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I'll be running my group through the Graywall section of the published Eberron adventure Seekers of the Ashen Crown this week. (For those unfamiliar with the setting, Graywall is a city in a monstrous nation ruled by hags and populated by gnolls, ogres, trolls, shifters, changelings, medusas, harpies and the like that borders a human nation and seeks political recognition among its human counterparts. Emissaries from various human factions have established  a few embassies there.)

The heroes' time there will be brief, a day or two, and they have a specific task to accomplish during this time. That said, there will also be some "down time" during which they can trade loot for magic items, explore, etc. I have no way of anticipating how much of this the players will want to do, so rather than invest a ton of time (that I don't have) developing multiple encounters, etc. I'm looking for published Dungeon adventures that I can pillage and reskin that I can have on hold and use if appropriate.

Does anyone have suggestions of particular adventures that contain encounters that might be appropriate for such a monstrous city? The characters are at the tail end of level 4 and pretty well optimized and so can handle encounters up to level 6 fairly easily. Much thanks if you can help!

Edit: And, yes, I've read Keith Baker's Dungeon article expansion for this part of the adventure, but I'm looking for actually statted encounters I can pillage as I don't have time to fully flesh out the ideas presented in his article. 
I don't have any specific adventure recommendations, but I think it would actually be easier and more fun to do this as an overarching skill challenge where some of the complications are potential encounters e.g. Bugbear Bullies or Stray Worgs. This would be a fantastic opportunity for collaborative storytelling in a cool location. Plus the prep would be dead simple.

Happy to workshop it if you're interested.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

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It's funny you should mention an overarching skill challenge. Right after I posted this I read the two threads you contributed to (the one you linked above, and the skill check vs. skill challenge thread) and was mightily impressed. By all means, I would love to see your ideas for this! I'm still a little unclear about the negative consequences of failure. For example, in the sc vs sc thread, what happens if the character fails the Enchanting Feysong complication (aside from the mechanical failure)? Furthermore, how would you suggest framing this as an overarching skill challenge: Explore the Monstrous City? Seek out Purveyors of Magical Wares? Fend off the Curious Inhabitants?
How many characters are there in this group? What overall goal would you suggest based on the fiction you and your group have established so far? The goal and stakes are very context-specific and are hopefully coming from what the players have directly stated their goals are. It could be as simple as not causing too much trouble in a town full of creatures who would no doubt love to cause trouble for them! I ran this adventure actually but it was three or four years ago and so I don't have a great memory of what the PCs were doing in Graywall. I am an Eberron fan and have written a few scenarios involving that part of the world before, so I feel I can adequately express the flavor.

In the skill challenge you reference with the Enchanting Feysong, it could be anything, and I'd engage the player to help me figure that out. But just to throw out a for-instance, I imagine the PC would wander off the unicorn's trail and meet up with some satyrs, dryads, and other fey creatures who are engaged in some weird bacchanalia in an enchanted grove. Naked Nymph might then be the next complication... "Argh, my eyes!" The point is, the PC failed to overcome the lure of that song and so whatever time he spends there with the fey is time and advantage ceded to the goblins who are also seeking the unicorn. This is represented mechanically by the failure toward the skill challenge. An additional cost might be a healing surge to represent frenetic dancing and drinking, or perhaps a penalty on the next check to represent rushing to make up for lost time. I'd seek player buy-in on this in any case.

In the case of your skill challenge, I'd have some of the complications be actual combat encounters. Or rather, they're scenes that might turn into an encounter like Bugbear Bullies. A group of toughs approaches the PCs and starts giving them a hard time. They're spoiling for a fight, but the PCs might just choose to deal with them with some Intimidate or Bluff or whatever. If they decide, fine, let's throw down, they can earn a success in the skill challenge by winning the combat encounter (overcoming the complication). For a situation like this, I'd probably make some clear combat outs and/or alternate goals so that the combat encounter goes by relatively quickly.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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There are five characters in the group: changeling rogue (in guise of elf), tiefling warlock, warforged fighter/cleric, kalashtar wizard, and dwarf artificer. Charisma skills are the weak link (though all are trained, no one has a CHA above 13!)

The goal would simply be to explore the city in the several hours of downtime before their scheduled task (see below), staying alert to/avoiding/seeking out information about their enemies, the Emerald Claw, who seem to be sabotaging their efforts to uncover the missing segments of the Ashen Crown artifact at every turn.

As far as the published adventure goes, the PCs have a day to explore the city before they are scheduled to help the Kech Volaar goblins in their search for the final segment. That night, they are to set up a market stall in the city square to cover up the goblins' excavation beneath the square and prevent any curious passersby from discovering the excavation. This is organized as a skill challenge in the adventure (though not a very good one in my estimation). I'm pasting the skill challenge from the adventure below to remind you of what the rest of the adventure in Graywall entails but also with the thought that maybe this skill challenge can be replaced by and expanded with whatever our brainstorming produces. (Or perhaps this skill challenge will remain and our efforts will be simply a preceding challenge.) 

After the market stall event, the characters will find that they have been betrayed by an infiltrator among the goblins, and two combat encounters will ensue before they leave Graywall.

Show

NIGHT IN THE MARKET


Giving the Wordbearers time to find the orb requires equal parts observation, distraction, and ingenuity.


 


Setup: The PCs must play the part of Graywall merchants while they keep unwanted attention away from the goblins' dig. Each round of the skill challenge represents about one·halfhour of time. At your option, award a +2 bonus to checks on which the players effectively roleplay their interactions with customers, merchants, and the other folk of the Goblin Market.


 


Level: 4 (XP 875).


 


Complexity: 5 (12 successes before 3 failures).


 


Primary Skills: Athletics, Acrobatics, Bluff, Diplomacy.


Athletics (DC 11): Two characters engage in some entertaining demonstration of physica1 prowess to keep passersby distracted away from what's happening in the stall. Two PCs can put on a demonstration of combat moves, with one character making the check while the other aids him or her. This skill can be used to gain 1 success per round in this challenge. No more than three Athletics checks can be attempted during the challenge.


 


Acrobatics (DC 11): The character uses the roar of the crowd to cover the goblins' hammers with a display of juggling,


tumbling, or some other type of performance. This skill can be used to gain 1 success per round in this challenge. No more than three Acrobatics checks can be attempted during the challenge.


 


Bluff (DC 13): The character entertainingly inflates the history of wares being sold, invents a fanciful tale to charm


or distract passersby, or diverts the attention of a customer who sees evidence of the dig. This skill can be used to gain 1 success per round in this challenge.


 


Diplomacy (DC 12): The character placates an angry merchant, sweet·talks a monstrous mercenary band looking for a fight, or stays on the good side of a passing Tharashk patrol. This skill can be used to gain 1 success per round in this challenge.


 


Secondary Skills: Insight, Perception.


Insight or Perception (DC 12): By watching onlookers carefully, the character knows who among the crowd might be a potential problem, and how to approach that person to distract him or her. Each successful InSight check or Perception check, grants a +2 bonus to the next primary skill check made in this challenge.


 


Success: The PCs manage to keep up their charade long enough for the Kech Volaar to successfully complete their mission in the hidden shrine below.


 


Failure: The PCs gain no experience points from this skill challenge, and their actions draw the hostile attention of a group of orc mercenaries. The orcs suspect that the PCs are hiding something valuable within the stall—something they plan to steal. These mercs know the market well, and they time their attack to coincide with the absence of any Tharashk patrols.


LAY LOW
8 successes before 3 failures

Will the PCs manage to keep a low enough profile in a city of monsters so as to avoid extra trouble at night?

DCs: Unfettered success (DC 21+), Success with a Cost (DC 14-20), Failure (DC 13-).

Complications: Arena Riot, Bugbear Bullies, Confusing Streets, Emerald Claw Informant, Goblin Cutpurse, Harpy Infatuation, Shady Merchant, Stray Worgs, Tharashk Inquisitive, Xor'chylic's Remote Sensing.

Success: The PCs manage to either demonstrate they aren't to be messed with lightly or they fail to draw much attention to themselves. When their hogboblin allies start to dig, they are left largely alone.

Failure: The PCs draw unwanted attention to themselves. When night falls and their hobgoblin allies start to dig, complications ensue either in the form of another skill challenge or a combat encounter.

So, in this case, I'd say throw out the one in the module and replace it with something like this. (Admittedly, it could probably use some work.) The idea here is that the PCs stick out like a sore thumb and nobody comes to Graywall without a good reason, so plenty are going to wonder what's up and stick their noses, beaks, and vicious maws into the PCs' business. Italicized complications are potential combats, so I'd have a few stat blocks on the side for a Level + 2 encounter with combat outs or alternate goals.

DM: "When night falls, you'll be helping your allies by running interference on their digging activities. The hobgoblins warn you that it's important not to draw too much attention to yourselves during the day." 
PC: "No problem. I want to go see about buying a magic item."
DM: "Sure. Since most in this backwater don't have the funds for such a purchase, inquiries as to where to find such merchants are met with greed-tinted curiosity and offers to sell you bogus goods. As you draw close to a reputed seller of amulets and talismans, you are greeted by Thokk, a Tharashk Inquisitive who starts asking uncomfortable questions about what you're doing in Graywall. Second only to House Medani inquisitives, inquisitives with the Mark of Finding are reputed to always get the facts they seek. What do you do?"

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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iserith, this is genius! I will put some further work into this later today and as a result I think I will have a far superior skill challenge than what the adventure presents: smoother mechanically and more interesting.

Thank you so much for your help! 
So here's what I came up with. Any further ideas or critiques? The additional experience point rewards in the sub-encounters represent values gained through combat versus a simple skill check to avoid combat. It's my thought that none of the combats should be pursued by the attackers until their death but rather that once half the enemy combatants of each encounter are bloodied, the rest will break off and flee.

Show

LAY LOW (Skill Challenge; XP 525 +special)


 


Complexity: 3 (8 successes before 3 failures): Will the PCs manage to keep a low enough profile in a city of monsters so as to avoid extra trouble at night?


 


Description: Graywall is a town built with the strength of ogres, designed by the shared vision of Xorchylic and the medusa masons of Cazhaak Draal. Most buildings are functional structures of bare granite. But as one walks past the plain stone, it appears to ripple and flow in peripheral vision—the result of strange textures designed by Xorchylic. This subliminal patterning produces a noticeable emotional response in sentient beings. A traveler finds that she feels a slight touch of dread when she steps into an alley, while the open square feels pleasant and peaceful. Locations are identified by simple, iconic images.


 


Most of Graywall is designed to accommodate monsters of all shapes and sizes. The arch of a doorway is large enough for a troll to step through without squeezing. Some buildings have a second door for goblins or kobolds; others place a hatch in the main door, with a leather curtain draped down to keep out the weather. Any sort of public room includes stools and chairs in a variety of sizes, as well as skins along the floor for larger creatures to sit upon. Public buildings are likely to have high ceilings and a few perches set up along the walls—posts for harpies and gargoyles.


 


Surprisingly civilized, the Calabas is a piece of the Five Nations trapped in Droaam. Buildings reflect the styles of the Five Nations. Bright colors on the buildings and in the glass windows, with painted signs bearing names written in the Common tongue, provide a flamboyant range of shades to the area. Orc guards in Tharashk livery patrol the streets, but the more frightening monsters—trolls, harpies,


medusas—are seen less frequently here.


 


When night falls, you'll be helping your allies by running interference on their digging activities. The hobgoblins warn you that it's important not to draw too much attention to yourselves during the day. But, of course, you probably have many tasks you would like to attend to, especially as this is your first stop in civilization in over a week. What do you wish to do?

DCs: Unfettered success (DC 21+), Success with a Cost (DC 14-20), Failure (DC 13-).

Complications: Arena Riot, Bugbear Bullies, Confusing Streets, Emerald Claw Informant, Goblin Cutpurse, Harpy Infatuation, Shady Merchant, Stray Worgs, Tharashk Inquisitive, Xor'chylic's Remote Sensing.

Success: The PCs manage to either demonstrate they aren't to be messed with lightly or they fail to draw much attention to themselves. When their hogboblin allies start to dig, they are left largely alone.

Failure: The PCs draw unwanted attention to themselves. When night falls and their hobgoblin allies start to dig, complications ensue either in the form of another skill challenge or a combat encounter.

Arena Riot


You must have stumbled into the Bloodstone section of Graywall, for the stone stadium before you can only be an arena. Something within must be horribly wrong, for panicked orcs and goblins and a human or dwarf or two come rushing your way from an open archway in a stampede. What do you do?


 


Bugbear Bullies (XP 850 or 175)


A group of bugbears separates itself from the crowd and saunters in your direction. The most brutish member of the quartet, a hand loosening the battleaxe at its shoulder, growls at you in Common, “Newcomers, you haven’t paid your tax to Foosteth yet. Give me your purses and I will give you your lives!” What do you do?


 


Creatures: Foosteth, Bugbear Strangler, 2 Bugbear Thugs.


 


Confusing Streets


Though a newcomer to any city can quickly find herself lost, the bizarre effect of the mind flayer’s engineers intensifies this. You realize that the labyrinth of streets you’ve navigated has left you hopelessly of course, and, in fact, you’re not even sure of the cardinal directions. What do you do?


 


Emerald Claw Informant


You recognize the green tabard that a soldier ahead of you in the crowd wears: the blazon of the Emerald Claw adorns its rear. What do you do?


 


Goblin Cutpurse


As you push yourself through a throng of dirty and foul-smelling residents, you feel a gentle tug at your side and look down to see a thin goblin, thin blade drawn, with its hand on your belt pouch. What do you do?


 


Harpy Infatuation (XP 1050 or 250)


From above, a delightful voice rises in song, drawing your attention like iron filings to a lodestone. Soon, another voice, then a chorus of voices join it from the surrounding rooftops, and the winged forms of elf-sized humanoids with the taloned hindquarters of raptors appear amid the rooftops. What do you do?


 


Creatures: Harpy, 4 Cackling Harpies


 


Shady Merchant


Even in a city of monstrous and lawless inhabitants, the effrontery of this tiefling merchant astounds you. Does he really claim that brass trinket is an item of magic? What do you do?


 


Stray Worg (XP 400 or 125)


As you navigate a deserted neighborhood, you have the sense that something is watching you, stalking you. As you slow to listen, a black wolf the size of a horse creeps out from behind a pile of rubble. Its black tongue distends from its mouth, and it reveals huge incisors as it draws its lips back with a throaty growl. It crouches low, the long bristles behind its head standing alert. What do you do?


 


Creature: Worg


 


Tharashk Inquisitive


You are greeted by Thokk, a Tharashk Inquisitive who starts asking uncomfortable questions about what you're doing in Graywall. Second only to House Medani inquisitives, inquisitives with the Mark of Finding are reputed to always get the facts they seek. What do you do?


 


Xor'chylic's Remote Sensing


Aboard the Kordanga, Yeraa spoke to you of the mind flayer Xor’chylic that rules Graywall in the name of the Daughters of Sora Kell. A probing presence in your mind, alien and strange, manifests, and your first conclusion is that the mind flayer probes your thoughts from its distant throne. What do you do?


Looks good. It's more than I would prep but it's more or less how it would look in play. I would just go to the table with my complications and improvise the scene based on those words. If you use this method throughout your game, you may find you need less and less prep as you get used to turning the one or two-word complications into whole scenes on the spot.

Stylistically, I would cut down the Description section a lot, sharing just actionable details or anything that really stands out and can be easily remembered or is evocative. The rest of the flavor can come out in each of the scenes rather than in "boxed text" up front.

Finally, remember to always tie the complicating factor of the scene back to the overall goal. How does each complication actually affect "laying low?" I find explaining why it matters (or asking the players why it matters if you play more collaboratively) key to engagement. If they can't see how a given complication really matters to their overall goal of not drawing too much attention to themselves, you'll tend to see avoidance of the issue rather than overcoming it.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

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Thanks again for all your help on this. I do still need a crutch more than I like, but I find the more frequently I DM the better I'm able to improvise this kind of thing. Perhaps before long I will be able to just prep the keywords (and decide on a few statblocks) and that will suffice.
Sure thing. Check out the other two threads you mentioned above for some additional notes based on comments from other posters. Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I ran this skill challenge using iserith's variant last night, and it was a blast! The players were surprisingly inventive with drawing elements from the scene to use as an "advantage."

A few notes:

(1) Since I wanted the skill challenge to adequately represent the physical danger of a monstrous city, several of the complications had the possibility of devolving into combat on a failure.

(2) I incorporated the PCs' search for two magic items (actually, a pair of Acrobat Boots and the Primal Blessing Blessing of Blazing Fangs) into the skill challenge. After four successes, I inserted a short encounter with a kobold artificer selling low-level items from his subterranean workshop. In exchange for helping him with "an experiment gone awry," he would reward the character in questions with the Primal Blessing. (I turned this into a combat in a natural cavern against a Kobold Dragon Construct (level 6 elite), with the end of combat resulting in a a blazing cortex of energy removing itself from the defeated construct and merging with the PC.)

(3) I wanted to make the stakes of the skill challenge high and tense, and so I tracked the overarching skill challenge as one encounter for resource management (encounter and daily powers) but considered each failed challenge that resulted in combat to count as a separate encounter.

(4) Drawing upon iserith's other thread about damage in skill challenges, the cost of failure (either outright or success with a cost) ranged from straight damage to healing surge to a small goldpiece expenditure to outright combat (only one out of three possible complications resolved itself as the latter). 

(5) I limited each PC to a single use of any one skill throughout the challenge, and any PCs using the Aid Another action in a given round were taken out of that round's initiative for the purposes of facing separate complications, which upped the ante for the other PCs, whose skill diversity was tested!

(6) I allowed an unfettered success to count for either two successes or one success and the erasure of one failure at the party's choice.

(7) The skill challenge resulted in success (8 successes) with 2 failures, one other failure having been erased along the way by an unfettered success as noted above. 
Glad to hear it went well!

I'm curious about how well received it was by the players, especially in the area of how the collaboration led to engagement. How did the session compare to others?

What was the tension like throughout the session, especially as they got close to total failure?

How did the players respond to the "game" aspect of the skill challenge? How did that translate into collaborative storytelling from the players?

What sort of assets or advantages did they establish? How did they approach that? With questions as to whether they could establish things or with outright declarations?

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

This was indisputably the most fun skill challenge we've run as a group, and I think much of that is attributable to its collaborative nature. The players said afterwards that they felt more immersed in the scene.

The tension was much higher than in other skill challenges we've run. I attribute this to the costs, be they healing surges, damage, or the knowledge that some failures on complications might lead to additional combats, taxing their resources further. On that last complication (with Team PC sitting on 7 successes and 2 failures), the dread was palpable. Cool

I didn't frame the skill challenge in quite the same way that you did, iserith, as a minigame, but the players definitely acknowledged the difference in the mood of the challenge. Rather than trying to anticipate skills that might be useful overall to a challenge's success, the players began to think in terms of actions their characters might take to a specific challenge and then translate that into a skill check. (I had to prompt them a few times away from certain skills that didn't seem as appropriate as others, but I don't think they considered this intrusive DM fiat.) 

Here's an example of an asset: When confronted with Bugbear Bullies, one player (playing an Illusionst Mage) declared she would use the "strange textures designed by Xorchylic that ...produce a subtle emotional response in sentient beings" I had described earlier to enhance her Aid Another check (using Spook cantrip to replace Intimidate with Arcana check) to help the warforged Fighter's Intimidate check. Perfect, no?

This was the second complication and was elicited by my question of how they might use anything in the scene to aid their characters' checks. As the challenge progressed, sometimes a player would spontaneously ask if XYZ might offer an advantage, and if it seemed reasonable I would allow it. Other times, the player would skip right to describing how s/he wanted to approach the complication, either forgetting to consider possible advantages in the scene or not being able to think of anything useful.

Overall, this session felt a lot more like collaborative storytelling with dice rolls for conflict resolution than the dry, mechanical exercises with low tension and little at stake that many published skill challenges present. 
This was indisputably the most fun skill challenge we've run as a group, and I think much of that is attributable to its collaborative nature. The players said afterwards that they felt more immersed in the scene.



That's been my experience as well. How long did it take in real time?

The tension was much higher than in other skill challenges we've run. I attribute this to the costs, be they healing surges, damage, or the knowledge that some failures on complications might lead to additional combats, taxing their resources further. On that last complication (with Team PC sitting on 7 successes and 2 failures), the dread was palpable.



I wonder sometimes how much of the tension these things tend to generate is due to really wanting to see their ideas work out in play. Kind of an offshoot of engagement.

I didn't frame the skill challenge in quite the same way that you did, iserith, as a minigame, but the players definitely acknowledged the difference in the mood of the challenge.



Yeah, that other approach is a little different for me. I haven't made up my mind if I prefer it better than what I was doing, which is closer to what you did. I'm going to try it some more before making a decision. I think the mini-game format works for that particular game. I'm working on a new one now that governs a social interaction at a party and aggressive lobbying of noble houses.

Rather than trying to anticipate skills that might be useful overall to a challenge's success, the players began to think in terms of actions their characters might take to a specific challenge and then translate that into a skill check.



Good, that's the goal. I find it also helps if they've helped determine what failure looks like. Presumably, something they've helped come up with is more palatable (and hopefully interesting) than one only the DM came up with, even if it means failing.

(I had to prompt them a few times away from certain skills that didn't seem as appropriate as others, but I don't think they considered this intrusive DM fiat.)



You'll probably find you need to do that less and less as the group figures out the boundaries of what they find justifiable.

Here's an example of an asset: When confronted with Bugbear Bullies, one player (playing an Illusionst Mage) declared she would use the "strange textures designed by Xorchylic that ...produce a subtle emotional response in sentient beings" I had described earlier to enhance her Aid Another check (using Spook cantrip to replace Intimidate with Arcana check) to help the warforged Fighter's Intimidate check. Perfect, no?



Very cool. The player built on established fiction very nicely and got to bust out a power card to boot. I bet the player like she had a very productive "turn."

This was the second complication and was elicited by my question of how they might use anything in the scene to aid their characters' checks. As the challenge progressed, sometimes a player would spontaneously ask if XYZ might offer an advantage, and if it seemed reasonable I would allow it. Other times, the player would skip right to describing how s/he wanted to approach the complication, either forgetting to consider possible advantages in the scene or not being able to think of anything useful.



That's been my experience as well. One might expect the players to always take an asset because, hey, it's free and helps them win. But often, they just don't. And when I run them, they don't have to ask if I would "allow" it. One would assume they'd be doing assets without fail every time, but nah.

Overall, this session felt a lot more like collaborative storytelling with dice rolls for conflict resolution than the dry, mechanical exercises with low tension and little at stake that many published skill challenges present. 



I'd kind of like to see one of the people who designed it run one as they had originally presented them. Just so I had something to compare it to. Maybe there's a podcast or video out there. I don't recall if any of the Penny Arcade/PVP podcasts had them.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Session Zero  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools  |  Game Transcripts

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

How long did it take in real time?



Including the two combats (party of 5 L4 characters vs. single L6 elite brute (kobold dragon construct), vs. single L9 brute (worg, which fled on its turn in round 2 after being bloodied)) and the roleplay of the kobold artificer encounter, about 3 - 3 1/2 hours.
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