Excerpt: Skill Challenges

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http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4ex/20080505a

The Article
The Basics

To deal with a skill challenge, the player characters make skill checks to accumulate a number of successful skill uses before they rack up too many failures and end the encounter.

Example: The PCs seek a temple in dense jungle. Achieving six successes means they find their way. Accruing three failures before achieving the successes, however, indicates that they get themselves hopelessly lost in the wilderness.

Is This a Challenge?
It’s not a skill challenge every time you call for a skill check. When an obstacle takes only one roll to resolve, it’s not a challenge. One Diplomacy check to haggle with the merchant, one Athletics check to climb out of the pit trap, one Religion check to figure out whose sacred tome contains the parable—none of these constitutes a skill challenge.
Encounters Have Consequences

Skill challenges have consequences, positive and negative, just as combat encounters do. When the characters overcome a skill challenge, they earn the same rewards as when they slay monsters in combat—experience and perhaps treasure. The consequences of total defeat are often obvious: no XP and no treasure.

Success or failure in a skill challenge also influences the course of the adventure—the characters locate the temple and begin infiltrating it, or they get lost and must seek help. In either case, however, the adventure continues. With success, this is no problem, but don’t fall into the trap of making progress dependent on success in a skill challenge. Failure introduces complications rather than ending the adventure. If the characters get lost in the jungle, that leads to further challenges, not the end of the adventure.
Sample Skill Challenges

Use the following skill challenge templates as the basis for skill challenges you design for your adventures. The level and complexity values are suggestions only; adjust as necessary to meet the needs of your adventure.

The Negotiation
The duke sits at the head of his banquet table. Gesturing with a wine glass, he bids you to sit. “I’m told you have news from the borderlands.”

This skill challenge covers attempts to gain a favor or assistance from a local leader or other authority figure. The challenge might take only as long as a normal conversation, or it could stretch on for days as the characters perform tasks to earn the NPC’s favor.

Setup: For the NPC to provide assistance, the PCs need to convince him or her of their trustworthiness and that their cause helps the NPC in some way.

Level: Equal to the level of the party.

Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4 failures).

Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight.

Bluff (moderate DCs): You try to encourage the NPC to aid your quest using false pretenses. Characters can cooperate to aid a lead character using this skill.

Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You entreat the NPC for aid in your quest. First success with this skill opens up the use of the History skill (the NPC mentions an event from the past that has significance to him).

Insight (moderate DCs): You empathize with the NPC and use that knowledge to encourage assistance. First success with this skill reveals that any use of the Intimidate skill earns a failure.

History (easy DC): You make an insightful remark about the significant event from the NPC’s past. This is available only after one character has gained a success using the Diplomacy skill, and it can be used only once in this way during the challenge.

Intimidate: The NPC refuses to be intimidated by the PCs. Each use of this skill earns a failure.

Success: The NPC agrees to provide reasonable assistance to the characters. This could include treasure.

Failure: The characters are forced to act without the NPC’s assistance. They encounter more trouble, which may be sent by the NPC out of anger or antagonism.


Go to town.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

With success, this is no problem, but don’t fall into the trap of making progress dependent on success in a skill challenge. Failure introduces complications rather than ending the adventure. If the characters get lost in the jungle, that leads to further challenges, not the end of the adventure.

Woo! Good advice in the DMG!

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

One issue I have with that is what to tell the players. Should players be aware that they have failed a Skill Challenge? If so, that kind of breaks the verisimilitude. And if you don't tell the players that they've failed, how do you get them to try something other than just rerolling their Nature checks until find their way through the jungle?
One way I might indicate to my players a failure, for the example "trying to get through the jungle," is to tell them that they catch a glimmer of sunlight through the palm fronds above, and that it's on .

Edit: Or, I might have them encounter something (a dangerous animal or a type of monster) that was indicated earlier by an NPC to be a danger encountered by straying from the path. Success means they find interesting things, or catch enemies by surprise (obviously ones that they weren't told to avoid).
well, in the jungle temple example, this is how i would run it:
success--tell the PCs they find the temple. describe it, any noticable features/inhabitants, etc, ask them what to do next.
failure--tell the PCs they do not find the temple before nightfall and must make camp. have the PCs get attacked during the night(perhaps by people who inhabit the temple? depends on the adventure). the next day, after some searching, they find the temple(no rolls required--they just find the temple a day late). depends on the context of the adventure but you get the general idea i hope.

for, say, negotiation, its easy too--on success, the NPC says "i will help you" and perhaps sends people who distract other people and let the PCs slip by one encounter they otherwise would have had to fight. if they fail, the NPC says "i cannot offer my aid" and the PCs have to fight. something like that, again, depending on the context of the adventure.

so, at least from my view, you dont say "you just failed a skill challenge" you simply take the information of what happens based on their rolls and relay it to them. the PCs never have to know if its failure or not(though in some cases it may be kind of obvious, ie negotiation example).

overall, i really like the system, and i will put it to great use in my campaigns.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
One issue I have with that is what to tell the players. Should players be aware that they have failed a Skill Challenge? If so, that kind of breaks the verisimilitude. And if you don't tell the players that they've failed, how do you get them to try something other than just rerolling their Nature checks until find their way through the jungle?

It will depend on the challenge. If they bomb a Diplomacy-based skill challenge, for example, it may be obvious when the person they're talking to tells them to get out before they call out the guard and have them escorted out of the building. With your example, the PCs will likely come across some landmark that isn't on their plotted course, at which point they'll know they're lost (or they have a bad map, or this thing just isn't on the map ...)
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
well, in the jungle temple example, this is how i would run it:
success--tell the PCs they find the temple. describe it, any noticable features/inhabitants, etc, ask them what to do next.
failure--tell the PCs they do not find the temple before nightfall and must make camp. have the PCs get attacked during the night(perhaps by people who inhabit the temple? depends on the adventure). the next day, after some searching, they find the temple(no rolls required--they just find the temple a day late). depends on the context of the adventure but you get the general idea i hope.

for, say, negotiation, its easy too--on success, the NPC says "i will help you" and perhaps sends people who distract other people and let the PCs slip by one encounter they otherwise would have had to fight. if they fail, the NPC says "i cannot offer my aid" and the PCs have to fight. something like that, again, depending on the context of the adventure.

so, at least from my view, you dont say "you just failed a skill challenge" you simply take the information of what happens based on their rolls and relay it to them. the PCs never have to know if its failure or not(though in some cases it may be kind of obvious, ie negotiation example).

overall, i really like the system, and i will put it to great use in my campaigns.

That works fine for a one-roll skill check, but in a multi-roll scenario, the players need more feedback than that.
One issue I have with that is what to tell the players. Should players be aware that they have failed a Skill Challenge? If so, that kind of breaks the verisimilitude. And if you don't tell the players that they've failed, how do you get them to try something other than just rerolling their Nature checks until find their way through the jungle?

Have something happen in-game to show their failure. For your jungle example, have them push past some clearing and find themselves at the edge of a cliff, or slip in the mud and roll down a steep hill.
Edit: Or, I might have them encounter something (a dangerous animal or a type of monster) that was indicated earlier by an NPC to be a danger encountered by straying from the path.

Heh. This reminds me of Space Quest and what happened when you went the wrong direction there: eaten by nasty natives!
One issue I have with that is what to tell the players. Should players be aware that they have failed a Skill Challenge? If so, that kind of breaks the verisimilitude. And if you don't tell the players that they've failed, how do you get them to try something other than just rerolling their Nature checks until find their way through the jungle?

I suspect that would break "immersion" more than "verisimilitude", but anyway...

I suppose you'd tell them that they'd failed the same way you would in a story.

"The duke's eyes narrow. 'I do not take well to threats. Watch your tongue lest it be removed forcibly from your yammering mutton-hole', he says through his teeth."

Big hint there.

Similarly (before they roll the dice):

"You know the flora and fauna of this area well enough, but it seems to be simply more of what you encountered the last two days. Nothing in it seems to hint at the proper direction".

Time to try something different.

Just my take on it.
Okay, my personal take on this whole deal.

I've liked the concept of skill challenges ever since they were hinted at. I'm one of the twelve people who bought Alternity and the Complex Skill Check was once of my favorite parts of the system. So favorite that it was months of playing 3e before I found out that complex skill checks weren't actually in the rule books for 3e even though I was using them. They stem, initially from skills that require "a new check every X days" and provide a great framework for skill that are, well, more complex/time consuming.

Second is a gripe about something pretty general: human interaction. When people sit down to role play interpersonal conflict the natural instinct is to make resolution as hard as possible. If you've ever worked a sales job where you had to practice concern resolution you know what I mean: the person sitting across from you, who you're normally buddy-buddy with the rest of the time, has some unresolvable concern that they bury so deep that Freud and a team of miners couldn't find it. They give wishy washy replies to every question and lie about everything. In short they become entirely uncooperative. This is why quality training programs either use trained people on the "concern" side, or script the conversation for workbook exercises.

This instinct bleeds over into D&D. Most of us have probably seen it: the NPC you're supposed to go to for help (were even told to go to for help) is the biggest prick in the world and seems hellbent on not helping the party for indiscernible reasons. Everything the Players say, offer, or ask for the DM (through the persona of the NPC) counters, shuts down, or in general withholds.

The problem in general is that the DM hasn't sat down and thought through the interaction as an encounter: they just maybe know who the NPC is, what they have that the PCs want, and whether or not they'll just offer it from the get-go. What they don't have is "what do the PCs need to do to convince the NPC to help them?" Because there's no planned trigger (script) the DM's brain never tells her to end the encounter as either a pass or fail.

The Skill Encounter system sketched out here leads a DM thorough the process of figuring out the needed aspects of the encounter: how hard should it be, what do the PCs (and thus players) need to do right, and what will anger/annoy/upset the NPC.

The main advantage of using such a system is that it provides a solid frame of pacing for the aspect of the game that is most likely to get bogged down in directionless rambling.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

I'm actually kind of frustrated by the article. It pretty much tells us what we already know, but then it goes and hints at structures and procedures without following through. GRR! Definitely looking forward to getting my hands on the books. Of course, coming out on a Friday means that I won't actually recieve them in the mail until like, Tuesday. Suck.
I like it. I've tried using complex skill checks before, but never made the leap from using them with just one skill to multiple skills. I'm ashamed as a dm for that hehe.
Not really very informative, IMO. I was hoping for more insight as to how to go about designing your skill challenges and mixing and matching different skill sets. Seems more like some general guideline than some hard coded rules system.
Not really very informative, IMO. I was hoping for more insight as to how to go about designing your skill challenges and mixing and matching different skill sets. Seems more like some general guideline than some hard coded rules system.

That's all it can be really. It's just an excerpt and not the whole thing.
I suspect that would break "immersion" more than "verisimilitude", but anyway...

Yes, you're right.

LFK: You just put into words something I've had trouble articulating about social encounters in D&D for a very long time. I've stonewalled as a DM before, and I've had it happen to me as a player as well. The flowcharty process that is the Skill Challenge system is a great tool to help overcome this, and this excerpt is very encouraging in that regard.
I'm one of the twelve people who bought Alternity.

Hey!! Yippee!!!

I'm one of the few too!!!!!
The sands of time were eroded by the river of constant change...
Heyl, I bought Alternity too. I love the Star*Drive setting. ^_^
LFK: You just put into words something I've had trouble articulating about social encounters in D&D for a very long time. I've stonewalled as a DM before, and I've had it happen to me as a player as well. The flowcharty process that is the Skill Challenge system is a great tool to help overcome this, and this excerpt is very encouraging in that regard.

Thanks, I'm glad I could help.

Heyl, I bought Alternity too. I love the Star*Drive setting. ^_^

Dark●Matter for life! Though it was the Star*Drive poster with the "unknown xenoform" that sold me on the game.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

Heyl, I bought Alternity too. I love the Star*Drive setting. ^_^

As did I. As do I.

EDIT: I don't much care for the article. It would have been better if we had seen one or two more examples fleshed out in full. What's more, the article portrays skill challenges way too mechanically (If you succeed at A you unlock C which will, if successful, win you the challenge. B always ends in failure.) when it should be showing how it can be used to enhance the roleplaying experience.

I thought the PCs got to choose what skills they wanted to use so long as it made sense. This article seems to imply that the GM picks what skills you can use before the start of the challenge and you are limited to using jsut those skills if you want to succeed.
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im a huge Alternity fan as well! in fact, im just starting up a game of it with my current group. in my opinion its one of the most well-designed game systems ever.
Just thought you should know. the countdown continues...
The one thing I really don't get is this:

Complexity: 3 (requires 8 successes before 4 failures).

Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight.

Bluff (moderate DCs): You try to encourage the NPC to aid your quest using false pretenses. Characters can cooperate to aid a lead character using this skill.

Diplomacy (moderate DCs): You entreat the NPC for aid in your quest. First success with this skill opens up the use of the History skill (the NPC mentions an event from the past that has significance to him).

Insight (moderate DCs): You empathize with the NPC and use that knowledge to encourage assistance. First success with this skill reveals that any use of the Intimidate skill earns a failure.

History (easy DC): You make an insightful remark about the significant event from the NPC’s past. This is available only after one character has gained a success using the Diplomacy skill, and it can be used only once in this way during the challenge.

Intimidate: The NPC refuses to be intimidated by the PCs. Each use of this skill earns a failure.

I see a negotiation that requires 8 successes but it only lists 4 skills being useful, and one them can be used once. Does this mean that the party has to use some of the same skills (Diplomacy, Insight, Bluff) an extra 4 times to earn a success?
You would tell you characters (directly or indirectly, but not ambiguisly) that they succeded or not in the same way you would tell them that they missed an attack or a saving throw.
I see a negotiation that requires 8 successes but it only lists 4 skills being useful, and one them can be used once. Does this mean that the party has to use some of the same skills (Diplomacy, Insight, Bluff) an extra 4 times to earn a success?

Indeed, basically, they choose what skill to use, they may want to use the same skill more than once and play it safe, or mess around in the negotiations to try to maximize profit. In any case, I don't see what's so wrong with them having to use the same skill twice or more.
I see a negotiation that requires 8 successes but it only lists 4 skills being useful, and one them can be used once. Does this mean that the party has to use some of the same skills (Diplomacy, Insight, Bluff) an extra 4 times to earn a success?

I think this only lists the exceptions to the general "player selects a skill, says what he's trying to do, DM sets the DC" rule. So:

  • Bluff can be enhanced by aid another;
  • Diplomacy unlocks History;
  • Insight reveals that Intimidate is bad;
  • History only works once, after Diplomacy succeeds;
  • Intimidate doesn't work (and in fact adds a failure).

The first three "bonus effects" only work on moderate DCs. History works for easy DCs, and Intimidate "works" for any DC. I'd think that effects that trigger for an moderate DC would also trigger with a difficult DC.
EDIT: I don't much care for the article. It would have been better if we had seen one or two more examples fleshed out in full. What's more, the article portrays skill challenges way too mechanically (If you succeed at A you unlock C which will, if successful, win you the challenge. B always ends in failure.) when it should be showing how it can be used to enhance the roleplaying experience.

I thought the PCs got to choose what skills they wanted to use so long as it made sense. This article seems to imply that the GM picks what skills you can use before the start of the challenge and you are limited to using jsut those skills if you want to succeed.

Most of what this article does is codify/confirm what has been speculation/educated guessing from things like Alternity, Heroes of Battle, Escape for Sembia, and blog posts. It's a useful reference document to have, even if it doesn't bring anything we would consider to be new to the table.

To move back into the realm of speculation/eduguess I would say that the pre-written list is intended to cover the expected bases. Anything not considered would need to be pitched to the DM, but given that none of the classes are pulling a garbage 2+int skill points per level or equivalent lack almost everyone should be able to at least contribute in one of the listed social skills. In other words: list off the primary social skills and any secondary skills you can think of having special consideration, take everything else in stride. If you planned for everything you'd have a page just dedicated to the value of each skill for every social encounter.

I see a negotiation that requires 8 successes but it only lists 4 skills being useful, and one them can be used once. Does this mean that the party has to use some of the same skills (Diplomacy, Insight, Bluff) an extra 4 times to earn a success?

It's been indicated elsewhere that it's possible to earn more than a single success based on the difficulty of the check. I was kinda hoping that the preview would outline that part of the system, but we don't always get what we want.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

It's been indicated elsewhere that it's possible to earn more than a single success based on the difficulty of the check. I was kinda hoping that the preview would outline that part of the system, but we don't always get what we want.

I believe the pc's may be able to try a hard success skill check in place of a moderate or easy check, to earn more successes. Just a guess, but it might make sense.
Not really very informative, IMO. I was hoping for more insight as to how to go about designing your skill challenges and mixing and matching different skill sets. Seems more like some general guideline than some hard coded rules system.

+1

I was really hoping for more information that we didn't already have.

When the Cat's a Stray, the Mice will Pray 

As did I. As do I.

EDIT: I don't much care for the article. It would have been better if we had seen one or two more examples fleshed out in full. What's more, the article portrays skill challenges way too mechanically (If you succeed at A you unlock C which will, if successful, win you the challenge. B always ends in failure.) when it should be showing how it can be used to enhance the roleplaying experience.

I thought the PCs got to choose what skills they wanted to use so long as it made sense. This article seems to imply that the GM picks what skills you can use before the start of the challenge and you are limited to using jsut those skills if you want to succeed.

I read it as the PCs get to pick what skills they use, its just that as a DM, one should have a basis for how the encounter should play out. Odds are in an encounter like the one exampled, Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight, and Intimidate are the most common skills used in this situation, and are likely the quickest path to a resolution. Its not that a PC cant choose stealth, its that its probably not going to accomplish anything and so the DM doesnt really need to have consequences for it when setting up the encounter.

But maybe the PC comes up with a cleaver way of using stealth to be useful in the situation, then you just have to go with how you set up your NPC, and as to what your PC is trying to accomplish, and then set the DC. As I read it this is just what the DM has pre planned for these skills, not that these are the only skills that can be used.
Either way, multiple rolls of a single skill doesn't really bother me if only because it makes sense that you might need to "keep working on it." Each separate Diplomacy check represents (and accompanies) a new take or approach.

Of course one of the great things about guidelines is I find it easier to break away and improvise if I've already laid down a guideline. Say, for example, I set up a challenge that's 8/4. After 4 rolls they have 4 successes. I say "the Queen still looks trepidatious about your offer" and a player says "I insist that it's for the glory of the kingdom and roll Diplomacy... 23?" I look at my page, 23 is only one success and they're still three short. Rolling through the rest of the encounter would just be a hassle (they've yet to get any failures) and would kill the flow, plus the player looked totally cute-in-a-desperate-way when they insisted it was for the glory of the kingdom (good roleplaying) so give them the overall success.

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
held his heart in his hands, and ate of it.
I said, "is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter," he answered;
"but I like it,
"beacuase it is bitter,
"and because it is my heart."

It's heads above what 3.5 offered, and it could make for a really neat mechanic.

I imagine my negotiations to go like this.
Show

DM: Ok, you find yourselves at the dukes table, (insert more details and such)

Duke: What word was it that you all wished to have on this fine evening?

PC Paladin: My lord, I bring before you most terrible news, the Orcs of the Turbic Clan, they have seemingly vanished. (The paladin rolls diplomacy getting a 13.)

Duke: I would hardly call that terrible news, good sir, of what concern is it to me? (apparently the paladin failed, a successful insight, would confirm that, and may also reveal the fact that the Duke dislikes his orcish neighbors, despite the two groups being "allies" which gave the paladin a -2 circumstance penalty. Of course if the PC's had done some info gathering in the court, they may have learned that, and would have adjusted tactics accordingly.)

PC Cleric (rolls insight getting a 16 she figures out that the duke Dislike the orcs, as well as he will not be intimidated) If this happened to a group as savage as the Orcs, I worry about what may happen here.

Duke: Beasts such as the orcs would not so easily be captured, I'll give them that much. (This was a success, and a insight could confirm it for sure.)

PC Paladin: The orcs are, after all, our allies, we would do well with them in the future should we lend our hands now.

Duke: Better smelly allies then no allies at all.(A success)

PC Wizard: (rolls History getting a 20) My lord this isn't unlike what happened 30 yrs ago, when the Rolshill slavers came and took your people en masse.

Duke: True that, but perhaps the greenskins chose to leave of there own volition. (This was a success, but not all success segway into another.)

PC Rogue: Don't think so, your Sirlyness, there were signs of struggle and such. (this wasn't the case, but if a little white lie gets the orcs some help who cares? The rogue rolls Bluff, getting a 15)

Duke: Hmmm, very well, this is a grim business, what can I do to help you solve this dilemma?



Looking at it, I can see already that using Insight more or less has to be rolled before hand, then you can give modifiers base on how well (or not) the pc's used the information given. With history, obviously a bad roll may mean the information they remember isn't accurate, or just isn't pertinent.

All in all this setup provides versitility, and role playing with dice instead of die rolling and nothing else. The only problem I see is if the PC makes a perfect arguement, but then gets a crappy roll, how should that fail? I suppose it could mean that the PC failed to present the case as well as he had intended, maybe he farted just before his arguement, or perhaps even that means I get to put in a twist; maybe the Duke wants the Orcs gone so that he can have their mines. Hmm, things do get interesting when you let bad rolls shape the plot: no?
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
Indeed, basically, they choose what skill to use, they may want to use the same skill more than once and play it safe, or mess around in the negotiations to try to maximize profit. In any case, I don't see what's so wrong with them having to use the same skill twice or more.

Maybe. My concern is needing 4-6 successes using a narrow range of skills just ends up with the players doing the same thing over-and-over again. For example, the party will constantly use diplomacy to basically say "Help us, Dir Duke!".

I'm thinking. It that can fixed through better roleplaying and ruling. Multiple Diplomacy checks can simply represent the party presenting 3-4 arguments they present to the Duke. Maybe apply a +2 to the DC if the party use the same line again.

I think this only lists the exceptions to the general "player selects a skill, says what he's trying to do, DM sets the DC" rule.

That makes sense.
I liked what was presented for the skill challenges.

I would have liked to see more of

1> Making sure that every player participates in the challenge. The way the template was presented did not show the solving of the 'one face character does all the rolling'.

2> Countering the players successes in a situation like influencing the Duke. There should be people working against the player's to get the Duke to not help the players and these people should have a voice in the situation too. Without the wife, the chamberlain, the exchequer, the head of the guard, committee of church leaders, heads of guilds, and others involvement then it can be a player steam roller.

I do realize this was just a snippet of a section of the rules but these are things that I would want to see in the rule section discussed and learn how they are to be applied.

Mentioning point two made me think of two ways this could be handled.

1> You could have these types be working on counter bids that remove successes from the players. The trouble with this system is that it really is not a straight 8 to 4 of success to failure. It would more accurately be described by something like 10 or 12 successes are required before getting the 4 failures to account for the counter successes of the other factors in the situation. Mathematically, this is the easiest way to solve the situation by simply requiring more successes but it stretches out the time to resolve the situation.

2> You could also do this in a sort of race format. The players have an 8 to 4 success format to complete and the countering group has a similar skill test of possibly 8 to 4. For every round the players take the opposition group takes a round. Which ever group gets to 8 success first without getting eliminated with 4 failures wins the contest. This puts a bit of game pressure on the players as the DM can explain how the chamberlain or the heads of the guilds seem to be succeeding at getting the Duke to listen to their cause; so, they better hurry up before the Duke comes to a final decision.
I've liked the concept of skill challenges ever since they were hinted at. I'm one of the twelve people who bought Alternity and the Complex Skill Check was once of my favorite parts of the system. So favorite that it was months of playing 3e before I found out that complex skill checks weren't actually in the rule books for 3e even though I was using them. They stem, initially from skills that require "a new check every X days" and provide a great framework for skill that are, well, more complex/time consuming.

About 4% of gamers in 1999 were playing Alternity on a monthly basis; while that may sound terrible, its sadly actually quite significant for a non D&D, non-World of Darkness product, most of which do not have appreciable market share.

I played Alternity as well, and I thought that it was an awesome system, far better than 3.x's, and complex skill checks were one of the ways that system helped to make the game feel like more than a combat system and encourage people to do other things. I've always liked it, and am glad they finally ported it over to D&D. D&D's system seems to deal with it somewhat differently, but it may actually end up better than the way Alternity handled it.

Alternity's dice and success system, though, was I think one of the coolest and best implemented systems I've ever seen in an RPG. It is a pity D&D did not pick up on either of those things, though it was much better suited to the more realistic game, which is perhaps why it has never been ported over.

Dark●Matter for life! Though it was the Star*Drive poster with the "unknown xenoform" that sold me on the game.

I own both campaign settings, and my collection includes over half of the Alternity books printed. I'm trying to go for a complete collection, getting 100% of them.

1> Making sure that every player participates in the challenge. The way the template was presented did not show the solving of the 'one face character does all the rolling'.

From the way the skill challenges we've seen presented worked, I suspect that the party takes turns making skill checks, so one character can't do it all on their lonesome.
Mentioning point two made me think of two ways this could be handled.

1> You could have these types be working on counter bids that remove successes from the players. The trouble with this system is that it really is not a straight 8 to 4 of success to failure. It would more accurately be described by something like 10 or 12 successes are required before getting the 4 failures to account for the counter successes of the other factors in the situation. Mathematically, this is the easiest way to solve the situation by simply requiring more successes but it stretches out the time to resolve the situation.

2> You could also do this in a sort of race format. The players have an 8 to 4 success format to complete and the countering group has a similar skill test of possibly 8 to 4. For every round the players take the opposition group takes a round. Which ever group gets to 8 success first without getting eliminated with 4 failures wins the contest. This puts a bit of game pressure on the players as the DM can explain how the chamberlain or the heads of the guilds seem to be succeeding at getting the Duke to listen to their cause; so, they better hurry up before the Duke comes to a final decision.

Nice.
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
Maybe. My concern is needing 4-6 successes using a narrow range of skills just ends up with the players doing the same thing over-and-over again. For example, the party will constantly use diplomacy to basically say "Help us, Dir Duke!".

I'm thinking. It that can fixed through better roleplaying and ruling. Multiple Diplomacy checks can simply represent the party presenting 3-4 arguments they present to the Duke. Maybe apply a +2 to the DC if the party use the same line again.



That makes sense.

Yeah, I hope that they still have circumstance penalties in place, and in the DMS control, otherwise this whole thing will become just that.
IF circumstance penalties are in place, we will see a system of roll playing that not only encourages, but necessitates good role playing skill, should be pretty darn fun.
The essential theme song- Get a little bit a fluff da' fluff, get a little bit a fluff da' fluff! (ooh yeah) Repeat Unless noted otherwise every thing I post is my opinion, and probably should be taken as tongue in cheek any way.
Hey!! Yippee!!!

I'm one of the few too!!!!!

Me too. Only 9 to go.

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/23.jpg)

It seem to me that each character can now contribute to a challenge based on what they're most skilled at.
These skill challenges sound like a lot of fun. I can't wait to play with them.

Now I want to hear about rituals. Like right now.
Hmm, well, nice that they spelled it out, but this is what I and most of the DMs I know have been doing for years anyway. Diplomacy especially isn't a one-shot deal.
That works fine for a one-roll skill check, but in a multi-roll scenario, the players need more feedback than that.

Let's say they have a map that tells them how to get to a temple and they have 4 fails before they completely fail.

Failure 1: You enter a deer track despite the fact there is no such track on your map.

Failure 2: You enter a clearing, although you're unsure which clearing in the map this is.

Failure 3: You head further into the forest although you can't tell where on the map you are.

Failure 4: An arrow shoots past you before you see a group of angry elves move in. Roll for initiative.