I am a rather new DM (returning after 18 years) and I had a question about running a Skill Challenge called "Give it Back".

The party was chasing a thief through the market and the mage said "I'm going to use Mage Hand to push him into a stall", thus slowing the thief down.

My main question:

  1. How do you govern the use of Powers in a Skill Challenge? What if the Mage had cast something else, say "Hypnotism" (DDI) ? What if it wasn't a magic spell?

I appreciate your answers. I'm still getting the hang of DM-ing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of What rules govern the use of encounter powers in extended-duration skill challenges? \$\endgroup\$
    – anon186
    Commented Nov 12, 2010 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I saw that but didn't think this was the same. I didn't read the other answer as pertaining to spell usage. Sorry. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 12, 2010 at 5:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you that this is not a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Commented Nov 12, 2010 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I fixed the question, as it should have said "Hypnotism" not "Hypnosis"... and added a link to the compendium article on it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 17:42

4 Answers 4


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.

In all cases, powers have to make sense in the game. The player has to justify it.

In all cases, they cannot use the same power over and over to rack up successes. The encounter or daily power is used up. If I'm letting them use an at-will, then it's a one-time thing for this skill challenge.

Often, if a power seems particularly apt and the player has justified it well and made it sound cool, I'll let it work without a cost. They don't use up the power for the encounter or day. They still can use it only once in the skill challenge, though.

Your Specific Examples

Let me address each of your examples in your question.

Mage Hand

Using Mage Hand (at-will wizard utility power) technically can't manipulate anything over 20 pounds. The easy way out is to say he can't.

But let's say you want to let the player be awesome. It's an at-will power, so using the guidelines above, you don't want just to let it succeed. Two options:

  1. Make it a skill check. Offer the option to use the Mage Hand to spill contents of a cart or move a 20-pound object in the way of the thief to slow him. Make it a Thievery check for the "sleight of hand" required to do this quickly, even with the spell.

  2. Make it an attack. Have the player make a basic melee attack vs. Reflex. If it hits, then the thief trips and is prone. This sets a huge precedent though for future encounters! Either say it's just this one time, or let enemies with Mage Hand trip the PCs, too.


I don't know what this is... couldn't find it in the DDI Compendium, either.

Some non-spell power

Turn it into a skill check or attack roll, if that makes sense.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hypnosis, should be Hypnotism... See the link above. Thanks for the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 17:42

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 the slowed npc.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Very simple but pretty awesome suggestion that hews very closely to the rules as written. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Nov 30, 2010 at 21:25

Let them spend their powers

  • as part of the description of how they make a check (with no mechanical benefit, for color)
  • to allow an additional use of a skill (i.e increase the max number of success for a skill)
  • to receive a bonus on a check (for a novel use or if is an encounter/daily)
  • or to allow other skills accomplish the same task (i.e. replace Athletics with Arcana).

The power and its use must make sense and you are the final arbiter of that.

If it is a perfect fit for the task, I'd let them pass a check with no roll. For example, if the thief scaled the building to the roof and the wizard has Dimension Door and uses it to go straight to the roof, its an automatic success. (And as it is a daily power, the wizard has spent it for today).

For your Mage Hand example, I wouldn't let them push the thief as it's limited to 20 lbs. I would let the wizard try to push a crate of apples into the thief's path (maybe with a Dex check or ranged attack for it to work) and then reduce the DC for the next check to catch the thief (which is effectively a bonus).

For a successful hypnosis type effect (and I don't know the specific power to which you refer), I might let them use a diplomacy or intimidate check instead of Athletics to keep up with the thief.


Atwill's Fauxspects system might be interesting to look at: Part 1 and Part 2, Part 3 incoming Soon.


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