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A party with a shaman and a bard are navigating an "imperial bureaucracy." Abstracted into one skill challenge, this presents the process of moving from bureaucrat to bureaucrat, meetings over multiple days, and a general "do you get the authority to grant your requests?" This is a wholly sensible goal for a skill challenge. The shaman can grant +wisdom to any skill during the skill challenge, and with a feat grant the bonuses to the whole party. The bard has a similar class feature. These features were obviously intended to be used once per skill challenge, not for every roll.

Are there any rules, guidelines, or blog posts devoted to skill challenges that happen over multiple hours or days which feature rules on short and extended rests during a skill challenge?

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Interesting point here since most Powers can only last until the end of the encounter, or 5 minutes, and you're required to have one extended rest every 24 hours. –  Iszi Nov 4 '10 at 13:20
This is part of the reason that 4e's tight combat focus nags at me. Life (not even combat), doesn't always happen in 5 min action segments. This doesn't even apply in the fantasy D&D is based on (LotR, etc). –  C. Ross Nov 4 '10 at 14:05
We had the same problem last night with Savage Worlds. Wizard wanted to use the Boost Trait power to help with a crafting test for another PC. It's not relevant to dnd4 but I said, if he uses up all his power points and spends all day doing it, I would allow it to last all day as it was not a combat check. –  David Allan Finch Nov 4 '10 at 14:20
@David: Discussing it would be off-topic here, but I wrote an article that's (in part) about extended-duration Savage Worlds spells. Simple and player-friendly. Have fun! –  SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '10 at 4:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

A skill challenge is a skill challenge, whether it takes 10 minutes or a month. Many of the examples in the DMG and other published sources use skill challenges for such things as crossing endless treks of desert or tracking someone or survival.

If there will be other encounters between skill challenges I still recommend treating it as "one encounter" for purposes of mechanics.

An encounter in 4e is a unit of story and not of time.

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I think this opens a big can of worms. Imagine a skill challenge requiring a check each day and running for a week. Why would a player be unable to spend his daily utility power on his daily skill check? Same thing goes for encounter utility powers - if I have to make a check every hour I want to be able to spend my encounter utility power (which I can use every 5 minutes by the rules) on it. I think denying players the ability to use their utility powers is not the best way to handle this "problem". –  user660 Nov 4 '10 at 21:45

You could try breaking the whole thing down into several "smaller" skill challenges.

For example, the PCs stand at the gates of the palace and want to talk to the king to warn him of some big danger (dragon, undead army, whatever). A sequence of individual skill challenges may be more appropriate than a single skill challenge.

  1. Convince the guards to let the PCs into the palace. Typical PCs usually look more like grave robbers than people nobles would want running around in a palace (unless they specifically dressed up for this action, which still leaves the "problem" of mannerisms and behavior). Even if the PCs look "important enough", the guards may have orders to not let any foreigners/strangers in, no matter what they want.

  2. Convince some courtier that the PCs actually deserve an audience with the king. Typically, most things are handled by an army of courtiers and messengers and only the most important people are granted a personal audience. Therefore it may be quite likely that the PCs get stuck with some official who insists that he would take care of whatever problem the PCs have and then send them away.

  3. How the PCs handle the audience with the king. Do they address him with the proper respect? Do they swear in front of him? Do they politely ask for something or make demands? These things could make the difference between being

    • taken seriously and given a reward
    • laughed at and spend two days in the pillory.

You could even add some more "random" skill challenges. Perhaps the PCs run into a baron or another noble they previously dealt with. This could provide some great roleplaying opportunities (perhaps the PCs again meet the baron they were killing kobolds for 8 levels earlier, or something like that), allow them to gain a minor bonus (or penalty, if they run into an old enemy) for the following skill challenges and even lay the foundation for future adventures ("The kobolds are back. But this time they are accompanied by several lizardfolk and even a dragon or two. I'm here to ask the knight commander for some troops to help my soldiers against them. We need every capable warrior to get rid of that menace once and for all!").

If that wasn't an option you could try two more things.

  1. Talk to the players what they think about it. In my experience players don't want trivial encounters, so perhaps you could convince them to hold back with using their support powers on their own.

  2. Secretly increase the DCs to compensate for the support powers. However, you shouldn't completely negate the bonus, but adjust the increase so that the player still gets a +1 or +2 bonus from the power.

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+1 for breaking-out the sub-challenges, short rest and extended rest rules would then apply. Though, it seems many skill challenge advocates seem to dislike the pre-defined chunked-challenge model as not being sandbox-ish enough. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the distinction. –  F. Randall Farmer Nov 5 '10 at 0:39

In this case, you could take the realistic tack, but I would personally advise a more narrative and cinematic version. It works like this.

Encounter abilities are the "smaller oomph" things. Daily abilities are the "big oomph" things. Season to taste by allowing encounter and daily abilities to recharge after a certain number of skill checks have been made.

I would take the number of successes required, and the number of failures, add them together, and then halve it, or even divide by three. That would give you how many checks are needed to recharge encounter abilities, you could add to or subtract from the number to taste.

Does it allow for encounter abilities more often? Yes, it does. But it's a good compromise, I think, between "never recharges during the challenge" and "recharges frequently during the challenge". It's a bit abstract, true, but I think that it makes for good pacing.

For dailies, make the number much, much higher, to where it may recharge once.

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I always find that if a skill challenge is happening over multiple days, then most likely the players are getting an extended rest each day. When that's the case, it's fair to allow them to use their powers for each skill check.

When a skill challenge is happening over multiple hours and it's the only action happening at that point, then I'll stretch the rules and allow the player abilities to last for the length of the encounter.

If a skill challenge is happening over multiple hours but there are breaks within that challenge that involve using other powers (eg - combat) then I would rule that their powers were only good up until the combat, and that it distracted them from the skill challenge so they couldn't use the power again until they've had a rest.

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