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54

Don't bring up the game mechanics in play until absolutely required. There's no need to announce it's a skill challenge, how hard it is, or how many successes or failures are required. That's meta. It breaks flow. Instead, stay in the flow. Give the players enough background to know what problem faces their characters, and what some of the options might ...


30

Skill Ladders Preparing for a recent Alternity game and I came across something called Skill Ladders whilst reading Wolfgang Baur’s Dataware book. Much of what I learned can be applied to running 4e skill challenges. Skill ladders are presented by Wolfgang as a way to avoid the monotony of complex skill checks. A complex skill check requires a certain ...


17

Know that Skill Challenges aren't "pass-fail" in the traditional sense One of the common mistakes about D&D 4e Skill Challenges (and arguably one perpetuated by many of the early printed materials) is that a skill challenge must be passed for the adventure to continue. Some early adventures included skill challenges and didn't even explain what happens ...


16

At the moment you said "go" you probably break it. A skill challenge is a complex situation or task that has multiple skill checks, but it's still meant to be a roleplaying scene. I think it's ok to let players know they have to accumulate X amount of successes before 3 failures, but you also need to have set up consequences for success and failure: ...


13

As written, Bluff is the only appropriate skill. You can make what’s false appear to be true, what’s outrageous seem plausible, and what’s suspicious seem ordinary. You make a Bluff check to fast-talk a guard, con a merchant, gamble, pass off a disguise or fake documentation, and otherwise tell lies. (PHB1, p183) Since the party would be attempting to ...


12

Fascinating question. Take a look at some of the questions I've posted on alternate tactics for some thoughts... On this question though, I don't think that hard limits are the way to go. Have the NPCs tell the players: "We'll drop the bridge when there are enemies on it. Try to delay them for as long as possible for [tactical reason]. Good luck." This ...


12

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #325, "Unusual Customs and Festivals" is full of things that could easily be turned into skill challenges. Why have yet another footrace or archery contest when you can have a rousing Cheese Rolling contest, a longboat-pulling contest, or an all-village game of Bottle Kicking from here to the next village after the ceremonial ...


10

My first method is group checks. The traditional example is a difficult bit of travel: if you're going through a desert, maybe you call for a group Endurance check, or if you're climbing a cliff, maybe you call for a group Athletics check. In skill challenges, group checks require half the group or more to succeed, so for a five person group three of them ...


9

Are your players allowed to fail? Were they given any clues that the spectre they killed had the information they wanted? Can they be informed of this after the fact? Let the characters know they failed (or hint at it), and move on.


9

You've got two different mechanics going here. Skill Checks. These are a one off thing. You set the DC for the check and the PC rolls against it. If they succeed they accomplish what they wanted to do. If they fail than they don't get what they want and something bad may or may not happen. Skill Challenges. These are an encounter based on skill checks ...


9

Some thoughts here: First and foremost for a skill challenge I find that the most interesting thing to do is to determine the level of success based on the number of failures that are amassed. Example: Scene the PCs are attempting to escape from a burning building surrounded by enemies. No failures: PCs escape unharmed and avoid combat First Failure: PCs ...


9

Acrobatics and Athletics are quite different. Athletics is used for things that are strength based in nature. The big ones are jumping, swimming and climbing. Acrobatics is used for things that require agility and balance (Dexterity based things). The big ones are balancing, negating falling damage and tumbling. The thing that they have in common is ...


8

I think a great skill challenge is one that Feels natural to the flow of the session. Feels like you've accomplished something if you succeed. Involves most if not all of the party. Example when breaking into a castle: The rogue sneaks (Stealth) in and disables a guard (don't make him roll to disable). The wizard uses arcana to disable the magical ...


8

I had success doing the following while refereeing anything involving skills or abilities. Player(s) describe what they are doing as if they are there as the character. Think about how to use the mechanics to resolve it, in this case the Skill Challenge system. Tell the players how it going to be resolved. Listen to any feedback Have the players roll. ...


8

Just steal some goodstuffs from other RPGs such as Fate! Only require a roll when failure is interesting. If your thief stole a small lockbox from the local baron and took it home with him so that he has basically unlimited time to pick the lock, why bother making him roll for it every X minutes? Just say he opened the box and tell him what's inside. ...


7

Lets start with some caveats, PvP interactions in D&D 4e are poorly defined and effectively mechanized. The second part is that your group's social contract should include the expectations for PvP conflict, the resolution method and whether or not PvP combat is allowed (among other things, there are some good answers about social contracts here if you ...


7

Ask your players. This is a strategy I adopted to great success when implementing 4e skill challenges: I might give them a set of obvious skils, but I'd also make it clear that any skill they could justify and the group considered legit would be made available. This is an at-the-table affair (not a help-me-prepare thing), and can take two expressions in the ...


7

I'd suggest that acrobatics is more appropriate because it has to do with flexibility and tumbling and things that would be more appropriate to squeezing. But that's only if you want to require a skill check there. Squeezing as normal does not require a check but if a character must do so quickly or with a certain amount of finesse a check is definitely ...


7

D&D 4e only uses a grid for tactical combat. Roleplaying and skill challenges don't need a grid, so you simply don't use one. Here's an example. After a dungeon crawl, the players return to the local town to buy food. While they're there, some of their gear gets stolen by bandits. The players chase them down, using opposed skill checks that make sense ...


7

The actions enabled by the two skills illustrate their differences: Athletics Climbing Holding on (while climbing) when taking damage Preventing a fall (while climbing) Escape a grab (vs. Fortitude) Jumping Swimming Improvised actions: Hang onto a wagon while being dragged behind it Force your way through an earthen tunnel that is too small for you ...


6

I've seen combat skill challenges for things like riots and obligatory thug attacks. Any skill was usable as long as we could come up with a description of how we might use it. For example, a riot breaks out in the marketplace the players must put down the riot and keep the innocents safe. Heal was used to tend the wounded, insight to gauge the intent or ...


6

A random smattering of thoughts that are too big to fit as a comment, even though this isn't really a great answer on its own: If you can, use a very long battle map. On one end is where the enemy army is approaching from, and the choke point should be very near to this edge; the other end features the bridge and, ideally, a road coming from one (or both) ...


6

None of the above I'm taking a page from gumshoe here, as Curtis' answer is excellent by the rules as written. If a given fact is critical for the solving of the case, it should not require a roll. In 4e's case, you have two options: inform the character who has the arcana or history skill about the date, especially if they're at a location where they ...


6

Probably the best place to start is to check the handbook (something that I forget to do all the time). The DnD 4e Player's Handbook actually gives a decent description and several examples of the common actions of each skill. But abstractly, you can't really set aside the ability scores that the skills are based on. What the skill is and how it's ...


5

Making it engaging, and definitely unique, is a way to make it memorable. I'm afraid I can't be more specific; usually it's how the players handle them that make them unique. Even the most mundane of challenges are exciting and rewarding if something off-the-wall or otherwise impressive happens - especially if they roll a 1 or a 20 and you use critical ...


5

Recognize that a particular kind of tree is out of place for the area the characters are in, providing them a needed clue. Realize that a particular kind of recently encountered creature has a spoor that is highly valuable for alchemic purposes (obviously arcana could offer a bonus here). Character tastes the water of a stream and realizes something about ...


5

I tried to add this as a comment to your edited addendum: "How do I have all but the last check linked to a notion of progress if the system is supposed to be kept behind the scenes?" You don't have to keep the system behind the scenes. A progress report is a good idea during a skill challenge- improvise details- "you're about halfway through the swamp." ...


5

Here's how I handle the use of powers in skill challenges. If it's an at-will power, I don't let them use it unless they back it with a skill check of some kind. If it's an encounter power, I let them use it but they give up that power for the next encounter. If it's a daily power, I let them use it but they give up that power for the rest of the day. ...


5

Another option to keep in mind for at-will related powers is to allow them to do it to give someone else a +2 to their next check in the skill challenge, similarly to how you might allow a non-related skill to give a minor bonus. So, the mage hand slows the thief down a little, which allows the barbarian to get a +2 on his athletics check to catch up with ...


5

It depends on the chandelier, the maiden, and the level of a typical character who would do such a thing. If impressing this fair maiden by swinging on this chandelier should be hard for a 1st level character, its DC is 19. If it should be medium difficulty for a 5th level character (since she's the governor's daughter and a bit out of a f1st level ...



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