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 Skill Challenges

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Verbannon
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PostSubject: Skill Challenges   Wed Nov 11, 2015 4:06 pm

How do you do your skill challenges? Personally I hate the MM2 way of doing skill challenges. It relies too heavily on a skill challenge script which I can't write, is impossible for players to fail and the example skill challenges given tend to lack an example script anyway making it impossible to know how to implement them. Thats why I much more prefer the MM1 way of doing things. Though unfortunately there are so few MM1 type skill challenges around to act as examples. Sad

I haven't actually figured out to make big skill challenges. Mine tend to actually be a bunch of complexity 1 skill challenges I am having run together. "Okay skill challenge, aiding the retreat. Goal 1, slow down the hell knight charge, goal 2, help the retreating forces retreat better.

The two goals both requiring 4 successes for a total of 8 and having their own sets of skills to use to work towards it. They just share 4 failures for total defeat. As you can see this way of doing it would be impossible to do with the MM2 method.

And the other way I do things is well the more typical, mess of skills they can roll. Like this

http://s000.tinyupload.com/download.php?file_id=00201049354268488954&t=0020104935426848895444742

Honestly I really just don't understand how the MM2 way can even be feasible.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 12, 2015 1:38 am

I notice I'm spending hours trying to figure out some skill challenges, any tips on making it go faster?
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 12, 2015 5:27 pm

For me, unless I have something planed that's central to the story (then I have a whole diagram of possibilities and such), I usually use the "if I don't buy it, it's a hard check" system.

Players are faced with a problem/opportunity, they tell me how they want to go about things. If I find it too far-fetched in terms of skill-use/result, the DC is hard. If there's a possibility of failure but it's "kind of obvious" then the DC is easy.

Then, I take the first "wave" of rolls and narrate what might have happened. The important thing (and the hard thing) to do here is to not paint yourself into a corner by having an "absolute" victory or defeat. A single success doesn't solve the whole situation*. I tend to try and have things sort of seem to be natural consequences, but then again, I throw in the completely unforeseeable event to explain why there's still hope/work to be done.

The unforeseen happening is a great way to make the world feel alive - things happen "back stage", there's a whole world of people doing their things out there, and sometimes, things just happen. Sometimes, it's a great way to insert "failure" when the rolls would dictate success :
- in city environment, at night
- PCs are attempting to track down a mysterious assailant
- the trail leads down an alley on one side of which is a known criminal gangs hangout : they don't like snooping (at all)
- the PCs are sneaking their way into the alley and succeed on every check
- ... BUT, you want to introduce a complication!
- enter : a local thief has been caught skimming a bit too much and the local boss is "interviewing" him. Throwing a lamp on the floor, the thief jumps through the window - right in front of the PCs.
- SPOTTED!

*If you find that a single roll/check seals the deal of your skill challenge, sometimes it's just because the situation could have been a simple group check. It's happened to me many times. Often because I narrated the check as being more than it ought to be, or not having an idea about what consequences could be that didn't "kill" the situation.

In these cases, I suggest just rolling with it - it doesn't really matter. Same kind of situation where an encounter you wanted to be an umber challenge and last 10 rounds ended up being a 3 round massacre. No one but you knew about the "plan" - so, just bluff it! They'll never know that wasn't the intent. :p
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:17 am

The best reference for skill challenges I have seen is the Mystic Theurge Workshop Skill Challenge Handbook. I have it in PDF, but I don't know if it is free and a quick search did not turn up a link to it. It is 10 pages of discussion of skill challenges and 20 pages of examples, covering social, economic, high action, and investigation type challenges. The big take away: "Scenes and Actions versus Tasks and Skills"

TjD
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:04 pm

Ha! My google-fu is stronger than your google-fu!

Muahahaha!!

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5k1Bo0pV5ilWFQ2dVZhb0dUdUE/edit?pli=1
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:05 pm

Thanks I think. I am not sure any of this though actually helps me speed up the figuring out stage.

Like there is a guy the party has to convince to do something. I know every success or failure should lead to him responding in different ways. With different effects that the players should play off of. But I honestly have no idea how to preplan this in a way that won't take hours as I think of every likely thing the players will say.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Fri Nov 13, 2015 10:11 pm

Like in the DMG the example skill challenge has it noted "Diplomacy opens up a history check as he makes mention of a past battle." Racking my rain for stuff like that is hard.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Sat Nov 14, 2015 4:51 pm

You can always ask your players for help in these cases - ask them what skill they'd like to unlock with that diplomacy check - might spark something. Or you could even ask one player which skill the check unlocks and then another one for the why or the how.

There's no need for you to be the sole creator of these things.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Sun Nov 15, 2015 6:13 am

How would they know? I would think what skill, if any, it unlocks would be dependent on the NPC. Am I suffering an integral misunderstanding?
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Sun Nov 15, 2015 2:34 pm

They woudn't know - in a sense, no one would. The content would be created "live" as the game happened.

For instance:
- you know that X has the info they need.
- you that X likes Y, hangs out in Z, is friends with A and enemies with B
- they need to : find X (A), and convince it to share (B)

The how's are left up to game time and will depend upon what Y, Z, A and B are.

Example:
- Malfras is a retired commander of the Red Guard
- he lost a good deal of face to a mage under his command
- his wife left him for an eladrin swash-buckling type
- his current girlfriend is much younger than him but loves him dearly, and he, her
- the information the PCs require can be traced back to him and does mean a breach of trust on Malfras' part.

What could be used from this :
- a history check can learn of his loss of face, the mage's name, where's he's at/up to, and if he's prospered or suffered
- a streetwise check could provide the clue that leads to the above being know (and so "unlocking" the history check)
- the difference in age could mean that his girlfriends' parents don't approve (could unlock a diplomacy check to smooth things over as a favor to him)
- using an arcana check could provoke an immediate failure (which the History - or Streetwise - could reveal)
- tales of the Red Guard could put him in a good mood (or sour it, depending upon the desired story)
- knowing (from a previous check) about the eladrin could open an intimidate use (similar to in-law situation)
- etc.

That kind of deal. The idea is you prep the situation and context, and then let the players tell you the how it happens. As you get more comfortable, you could even have a good portion of the situation and context up in the air - having only the essential parts required for the adventure and everything else is co-created during the game.

It's not for everyone, but when it works, it's awesome! Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Mon Nov 16, 2015 10:26 am

I run Skill Challenges like situational trackers for specific situations. Chasing after someone, interrogations, etc. But I also made some adjustments to how I run them. One thing that threw me off was that you do a check and then you get a result. Important, but I felt like it was putting the cart before the horse. So I did the opposite. I made a list of things that people might do during a specific task and assigned skill checks to them. It us basically the same, but the distinction kept it straight with me.

Depending on the Challenge, I also have some of them set up with random dice rolls on what the players will run into. Obviously, if they choose a route that deviates from my tracker sheet with the Challenge, I adjust and take notes so I can tweak the Challenge to accommodate what they did. I have a bunch made up. Some I use all the time. Others, I have used maybe once in actual gameplay. So far, folks are having fun and it has helped me keep track of what is going on.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:19 pm

If you have access to UA articles from 4e - the one title "Achievements" has many very solid foundations for skill challenges.

I just read it and... well I'm kind of angry, I just read it. It would have been a great boon ~3 years ago!
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:01 pm

The structure of Narrative Challenges and Skill Challenges are very similar. I hit the point with UA articles that they are supplement rules for 4E.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:18 pm

Skill challenges are something that I like, but they are tricky to get them to "feel" right.

On one end, they "feel" like a clunky exercise that just involves the players picking skills and rolling dice.

On the other end, they "feel" like a smooth narrative that involves players describing actions and occasionally rolling dice to guide the story.

Mine usually land somewhere in between.

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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:47 am

I wish this supported HTML But here is an example of the current big skill challenge I'm working on.



Convincing Baub to Turn 2400 XP
Level 13
Complexity 3 (requires 8 successes before 4 failures)
Primary Skills
Bluff (DC 20): Persuade Baub using false pretenses. Characters can aid another with this skill.
Success: If the hard DC is met, acrue two successes.
Failure: Two failures are incurred.
Diplomacy (DC 20): Through force of Chrisma, charming words, and persuasive arguments, Persuade Baub.
Endurance (DC 20): After the third success gain use of this skill to drink his proferred Brandy. Add +2 to the check for each consequtive use.
Intimidate (DC 29): Paint a dismal or terrifying picture of the consequences should Baub refuse to be persuaded.
Success: Success and +2 to next check
Failure: Failure and -2 to next check
Other Skills
Bluff (DC 14): Exaggerate a detail here or there, a small white lie.
Success: +2 to the next diplomacy check.
History (DC 20): Bring up a tale of a past relevant event.
Success: +2 to next check
Failure: -2 to next check
Insight (DC 14): Predict what the NPC will respond best to.
Success: +2 to next check.
Failure: -2 to next check.
Insight (DC 29): Empathize with the NPC to get a handle on its emotions and calm it down.
Success: Remove 1 failure.
Failure: -2 to next check, lose use of this skill for the rest of the challenge.
Religion (DC 20): Use knowledge of the NPC and its culture and circumstance to gain an edge.
Success: +2 to all checks for the rest of the encounter.
Failure: -2 to all checks for the rest of the encounter.
Automatic Failure
Intimidate: Threaten Baub to get your way.
Victory
You manage to turn these hell knights or at least get them prepared to turn and learn of Bellum's location.
Defeat
Enter combat with Baub
Notes
He starts out wanting to be convinced that the war with Asmodeus is at all possible. He is generally Drunk and lazy. After the first success he is still doubtful of the party's ability and insists on more convincing. After the second success he says it sounds like they do indeed have a chance at victory. But explains he remembers He Who Was and his great wisdom, and seems doubtful that this fool Ruficel is He Who Was's heir. After the third success he goes to his cabinent and gets a drink of Hellfire Brandy and offers the party a drink. After the fourth success he asks what he would be expected to do. After the fifth success he asks about the Judges. After the sixth success he mentions that he heard that Bellum had been hired by a mercanary company but yawns and starts to nod off thanks to the alcohol. After the seventh success he names it as the Blood Brothers. After the 8th success he says he'll have to think on it but for now he'll pull back his forces.
Veil of the Eternal
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 19, 2015 12:38 pm

That seems like a well thought out skill challenge. I usually don't go into that much detail in mapping mine out!

One of the things that bothers me about skill challenges is when players don't really "buy in" to the narrative. I'll ask them what they do and they look at their character sheet, find their highest skill, and then just say, "Uh, can I use Nature?" or whatever skill they are trained in.

The approach I take is that first of all, I NEVER announce that they are in a skill challenge. I just describe the scene and ask them what they want to do. Then, when they describe an action that could result in a success or failure, I ask for a skill check at that point, telling them what skill I need them to roll.

This avoids a problem that I'd have where I'd get players look at their sheet and ask things like, "Can I use History to convince the guard to let us by?"

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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 19, 2015 4:26 pm

You do have a great deal of detail in there! (Impressive!) The only thing I would add are what happens on the two first failures.

Also (and this may seem like a dramatic overhaul - because it is!), I would completely 180┬░ your approach. Smile
(1)- have all the "on the x success this happens" be steps in the challenge - what would translate to a "combat round"
(2)- all the players act and roll in a manner they choose during each step
(3)- accord 1, or 2 success (or more) per success based on the "power" of the action (here, Diplomacy would be more "powerful" than Arcana - for instance.)*
(4)- accrue all success and failures
(5)- decide on the end result based on that (you could use the base of #PCs x # of steps = pass threshold, for instance)

Addendum - you could have one or two "check points" where you branch a bit depending upon how it's going so far.

The kind of structure you're building would work wonderfully with this system (which is very near to StalkerZero's vaunted SC re-work.)

*You also get two levers to tell your players how this should play out : the DC and the reward level. It allows for the "mono-skillers" to spam their choice skill, but then they face both higher DCs (which usually doesn't really matter, since their bonus are sooooo high) but also diminished return. Concurrently, you encourage context-appropriate skill use by both lower DCs and higher return.

All this being said :
My true advice would be this : have a session with 2-3 SC and use different methods. That will make it pretty easy to figure out which one you liked best, and which one is likely to be better received by your players.


Last edited by MoutonRustique on Fri Nov 20, 2015 7:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:18 pm

I found that I like having my skill challenges actually go in rounds like suggested by the DMG1. That way everyone is actually participating and the 70% success rate is achieved. So that makes 'not announcing' very hard.

@ Mouton

I'll have to admit I'm not following what you are saying. I understand for first point. Make them like obstacles in the conversation the players overcome or fail to overcome. Effectively turning each round into a group check? If half succeed they beat that obstacle? I don't know it seems to complicate the math. Or maybe I'm just not understanding.

at the step 2, I noticed my players tend to often yell "There is nothing I can do!" when put like this. And will try to only use the skills they are trained and have their ability scores high in. But when the skills they can use are listed to them they complain a whole lot less. And plan ahead to try and aid and support each other for difficult checks. You don't experience them saying there isn't anything they can do?


At the step 3

You mean medium, hard and easy dcs?

at Step 4-5. Let the obstacles have different degrees of success overcoming?

@ Levers, I don't know what you mean by this.


One other thing, I have no idea how to cause it to branch. It seems once branching is brought into it, you end up with an infinite number of possibilities. And I have no idea how to prepare that. And Masterplan has neat skill challenge blocks I've been finding fun filling.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:26 pm

I'm just throwing ideas around. Smile If it doesn't stick, no worries!

But I'll try and rephrase (I added numbers to the "steps" since I think you're referencing them) :

Things to keep in mind:
A - there is no success of failure of "steps" // there are success and failures accrued during the "steps"/rounds
B - the result is the sum of all the steps together
C - By levers I mean "things you can change to have a mechanical impact in the skill challenge" - DCs are one lever : they allow you to set which skills are easier to use than others. A variable number of success offers another lever : it allows you to set which skill has the greatest impact. When you use them together, you can create a good deal of combinations!

Ex:
You have a situation where the person is quite drunk : Bluff checks have a very low DC
... on the other hand, that same person is extremely greedy : that easy Bluff check only gathers one success
... that same dude has been bullied all his life, he hates bullies, but he's deeply scared of them : Intimidate has a high DC BUT a success yields 2 success!
... this same person is dire straights because of gambling debts : a Diplomacy check including a bribe is both low DC and offers 2+ success!

In this way, you can choose the difficulty of a skill use and it's value:
- high DC, low/no success : skills without much use
- high DC, high success : skills that offer an interesting gamble
- low DC, low/medium success : the "usual" skills
- low DC, high success : the "best" skills


1 - I mean that all the "and then this happens" that you wrote down as happening during the skill challenge become events that define each "round". Each one equates to a "round" in the sense that each player gets to act once during the time between these events. It "doesn't matter"* if the players succeeded or failed** during the first round, the action moves forward.

2 - Players saying "I don't know what to do!/There's nothing I can do!" : yeah, that can be a thing. And there's no easy fix for it... The best one will always be to try and coax them to act as their characters would and to remind them that a failure of the character isn't one for the player - the action can still move forward. They have to understand that their characters are better at some things than others, and when the lesser strengths come up, they might not get to have complete (or event partial) victory... sometimes you fail.

All this being said, the system I'm trying to explain does offer a stepping stone onto in a "more immersive" experience in that players should feel free to act as they think their characters would and the mechanics will follow that. But, as always, this is much easier said than done.

3 - Not at all! Smile What I mean is that dependent upon the type of challenge and the circumstances, certain skills will be better than others. As an example, if you're trying to bring down an arcane barrier holding an angel captive, Arcana and Religion are better/"stronger" skills than History (which can still be of use!). So in this case, a successful Arcana check would offer 2 success, while a History success would grant 1. Setting the DC is another thing entirely.

*In the sense that the events go forward, not that there can't be modifications to what follows depending upon how well/poorly the PCs performance has been so far.
**The players don't succeed or fail vs. a specific event, the action moves forward with whatever happened. The "victory" or "defeat" will be the result of the challenge as a whole.

I'm not sure this was much clearer... actually I think I made it worse!

So I'll just point to this : http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?241440-Stalker0-s-Obsidian-Skill-Challenge-System-(NEW-VERSION-1-2!!!)
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:23 am

I'll have to give it some thought. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Wed Dec 02, 2015 1:46 pm

skwyd42 wrote:
That seems like a well thought out skill challenge. I usually don't go into that much detail in mapping mine out!

One of the things that bothers me about skill challenges is when players don't really "buy in" to the narrative. I'll ask them what they do and they look at their character sheet, find their highest skill, and then just say, "Uh, can I use Nature?" or whatever skill they are trained in.

The approach I take is that first of all, I NEVER announce that they are in a skill challenge. I just describe the scene and ask them what they want to do. Then, when they describe an action that could result in a success or failure, I ask for a skill check at that point, telling them what skill I need them to roll.

This avoids a problem that I'd have where I'd get players look at their sheet and ask things like, "Can I use History to convince the guard to let us by?"

I have an easy answer for this, "What are you doing?" Skill Challenge is a NARRATIVE structure, you can't respond to things in it with mechanics. At most you can say "I utilize power X like thus", but if a character wants to move the SC forward they have to narrate an action they take. They may also nominate a skill which they expect will facilitate that action, but its of course always up to the DM to decide both what the consequences are and what skill(s) actually relate to it. Usually you'd tell the player of course "No, that's an Athletics Check, not an Endurance Check" etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:21 am

AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
That seems like a well thought out skill challenge. I usually don't go into that much detail in mapping mine out!

One of the things that bothers me about skill challenges is when players don't really "buy in" to the narrative. I'll ask them what they do and they look at their character sheet, find their highest skill, and then just say, "Uh, can I use Nature?" or whatever skill they are trained in.

The approach I take is that first of all, I NEVER announce that they are in a skill challenge. I just describe the scene and ask them what they want to do. Then, when they describe an action that could result in a success or failure, I ask for a skill check at that point, telling them what skill I need them to roll.

This avoids a problem that I'd have where I'd get players look at their sheet and ask things like, "Can I use History to convince the guard to let us by?"

I have an easy answer for this, "What are you doing?" Skill Challenge is a NARRATIVE structure, you can't respond to things in it with mechanics. At most you can say "I utilize power X like thus", but if a character wants to move the SC forward they have to narrate an action they take. They may also nominate a skill which they expect will facilitate that action, but its of course always up to the DM to decide both what the consequences are and what skill(s) actually relate to it. Usually you'd tell the player of course "No, that's an Athletics Check, not an Endurance Check" etc.

I don't even give them that benefit. I can understand when a player might ask me if they can use Athletics instead of Intimidate if they want to scare someone by bending a steel bar right in front of them. That's okay. But when they ask for an obviously unassociated skill to be used to accomplish something that isn't within the scope of that skill, I just say no.

I have actually instituted a "table guideline" (it isn't a rule, it is just a suggestion) that the name of a skill cannot be used as a verb when attempting to describe a character's actions. Really, I tell them not to use the name of any skill or power or mechanic if they are describing what their character does. I used to have a player that would say, "I'm going to try to Stealth across the room so the guard doesn't see me." I told him that it was completely wrong for him to say that (grammatical issues aside). I told him that if he wanted to attempt to cross the room unseen by the guard, he just needed to tell me what he was doing, and he never needed to mention the Stealth skill in the process. If a skill check was necessary, I'd tell him and I would be the one that decided what skill to use.

There are times in my games where a skill check just isn't necessary. Some times things are easily found as long as someone makes a simple effort to look for them. For example, if the party opens the door to a room in a castle and I say, "It appears to be an office of some sort. There are a couple of bookshelves, filled with various books and scrolls. And a desk in the middle of the room. The top of the desk is strewn with scrolls and parchments." If a player just says, "I'm going to look at the stuff on the desk. Are there any ritual scrolls?" Sometimes the answer is just "Yes" because there is a ritual scroll sitting right there. If they hadn't taken the initiative to specifically look at the desk, they wouldn't have found it. But if they do, there's no Perception roll necessary. It is right there for them to find.

And in doing this, the players at my table learn that they need to simply state what they are doing. And if I need more detail, I'll ask them.

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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Dec 03, 2015 1:09 pm

skwyd42 wrote:
AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
That seems like a well thought out skill challenge. I usually don't go into that much detail in mapping mine out!

One of the things that bothers me about skill challenges is when players don't really "buy in" to the narrative. I'll ask them what they do and they look at their character sheet, find their highest skill, and then just say, "Uh, can I use Nature?" or whatever skill they are trained in.

The approach I take is that first of all, I NEVER announce that they are in a skill challenge. I just describe the scene and ask them what they want to do. Then, when they describe an action that could result in a success or failure, I ask for a skill check at that point, telling them what skill I need them to roll.

This avoids a problem that I'd have where I'd get players look at their sheet and ask things like, "Can I use History to convince the guard to let us by?"

I have an easy answer for this, "What are you doing?" Skill Challenge is a NARRATIVE structure, you can't respond to things in it with mechanics. At most you can say "I utilize power X like thus", but if a character wants to move the SC forward they have to narrate an action they take. They may also nominate a skill which they expect will facilitate that action, but its of course always up to the DM to decide both what the consequences are and what skill(s) actually relate to it. Usually you'd tell the player of course "No, that's an Athletics Check, not an Endurance Check" etc.

I don't even give them that benefit. I can understand when a player might ask me if they can use Athletics instead of Intimidate if they want to scare someone by bending a steel bar right in front of them. That's okay. But when they ask for an obviously unassociated skill to be used to accomplish something that isn't within the scope of that skill, I just say no.

I have actually instituted a "table guideline" (it isn't a rule, it is just a suggestion) that the name of a skill cannot be used as a verb when attempting to describe a character's actions. Really, I tell them not to use the name of any skill or power or mechanic if they are describing what their character does. I used to have a player that would say, "I'm going to try to Stealth across the room so the guard doesn't see me." I told him that it was completely wrong for him to say that (grammatical issues aside). I told him that if he wanted to attempt to cross the room unseen by the guard, he just needed to tell me what he was doing, and he never needed to mention the Stealth skill in the process. If a skill check was necessary, I'd tell him and I would be the one that decided what skill to use.

There are times in my games where a skill check just isn't necessary. Some times things are easily found as long as someone makes a simple effort to look for them. For example, if the party opens the door to a room in a castle and I say, "It appears to be an office of some sort. There are a couple of bookshelves, filled with various books and scrolls. And a desk in the middle of the room. The top of the desk is strewn with scrolls and parchments." If a player just says, "I'm going to look at the stuff on the desk. Are there any ritual scrolls?" Sometimes the answer is just "Yes" because there is a ritual scroll sitting right there. If they hadn't taken the initiative to specifically look at the desk, they wouldn't have found it. But if they do, there's no Perception roll necessary. It is right there for them to find.

And in doing this, the players at my table learn that they need to simply state what they are doing. And if I need more detail, I'll ask them.

Yeah, OTOH I never felt it was an issue of a player nominated a skill, I just now and then have to recapitulate the idea that they have to tell me WHAT they're doing, not what mechanics they're accessing. Its not too often though. The 'Stealthing across the room' for instance, meh, the guy knows its going to be a Stealth check, unless there's some unusual thing going on, so I just don't care.

Perception is of course a beast all of its own. One way to look at it is there's a DC for EVERYTHING to be seen, but most of them are like 5 or even 0, so Passive Perception picks up all the obvious things without it needing to be stated, and now and then something will be an 11 or a 15 and its possible someone who's REALLY unobservant will miss it. At which point its just a matter of color, the Eladrin Wizard doesn't see the concealed door, but the dwarf cleric right behind him definitely does.
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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Dec 03, 2015 1:27 pm

AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
AbdulAlhazred wrote:
skwyd42 wrote:
That seems like a well thought out skill challenge. I usually don't go into that much detail in mapping mine out!

One of the things that bothers me about skill challenges is when players don't really "buy in" to the narrative. I'll ask them what they do and they look at their character sheet, find their highest skill, and then just say, "Uh, can I use Nature?" or whatever skill they are trained in.

The approach I take is that first of all, I NEVER announce that they are in a skill challenge. I just describe the scene and ask them what they want to do. Then, when they describe an action that could result in a success or failure, I ask for a skill check at that point, telling them what skill I need them to roll.

This avoids a problem that I'd have where I'd get players look at their sheet and ask things like, "Can I use History to convince the guard to let us by?"

I have an easy answer for this, "What are you doing?" Skill Challenge is a NARRATIVE structure, you can't respond to things in it with mechanics. At most you can say "I utilize power X like thus", but if a character wants to move the SC forward they have to narrate an action they take. They may also nominate a skill which they expect will facilitate that action, but its of course always up to the DM to decide both what the consequences are and what skill(s) actually relate to it. Usually you'd tell the player of course "No, that's an Athletics Check, not an Endurance Check" etc.

I don't even give them that benefit. I can understand when a player might ask me if they can use Athletics instead of Intimidate if they want to scare someone by bending a steel bar right in front of them. That's okay. But when they ask for an obviously unassociated skill to be used to accomplish something that isn't within the scope of that skill, I just say no.

I have actually instituted a "table guideline" (it isn't a rule, it is just a suggestion) that the name of a skill cannot be used as a verb when attempting to describe a character's actions. Really, I tell them not to use the name of any skill or power or mechanic if they are describing what their character does. I used to have a player that would say, "I'm going to try to Stealth across the room so the guard doesn't see me." I told him that it was completely wrong for him to say that (grammatical issues aside). I told him that if he wanted to attempt to cross the room unseen by the guard, he just needed to tell me what he was doing, and he never needed to mention the Stealth skill in the process. If a skill check was necessary, I'd tell him and I would be the one that decided what skill to use.

There are times in my games where a skill check just isn't necessary. Some times things are easily found as long as someone makes a simple effort to look for them. For example, if the party opens the door to a room in a castle and I say, "It appears to be an office of some sort. There are a couple of bookshelves, filled with various books and scrolls. And a desk in the middle of the room. The top of the desk is strewn with scrolls and parchments." If a player just says, "I'm going to look at the stuff on the desk. Are there any ritual scrolls?" Sometimes the answer is just "Yes" because there is a ritual scroll sitting right there. If they hadn't taken the initiative to specifically look at the desk, they wouldn't have found it.  But if they do, there's no Perception roll necessary. It is right there for them to find.

And in doing this, the players at my table learn that they need to simply state what they are doing. And if I need more detail, I'll ask them.

Yeah, OTOH I never felt it was an issue of a player nominated a skill, I just now and then have to recapitulate the idea that they have to tell me WHAT they're doing, not what mechanics they're accessing. Its not too often though. The 'Stealthing across the room' for instance, meh, the guy knows its going to be a Stealth check, unless there's some unusual thing going on, so I just don't care.

Perception is of course a beast all of its own. One way to look at it is there's a DC for EVERYTHING to be seen, but most of them are like 5 or even 0, so Passive Perception picks up all the obvious things without it needing to be stated, and now and then something will be an 11 or a 15 and its possible someone who's REALLY unobservant will miss it. At which point its just a matter of color, the Eladrin Wizard doesn't see the concealed door, but the dwarf cleric right behind him definitely does.

Yeah, I only instituted the "don't say the skill name" at my table because I had players that would assume that they knew what skill they needed to roll (or that they even needed to roll it in the first place) and when I told them to roll something different, they would get upset as if i was specifically trying to prevent them from succeeding.

The problem I really had was that the players just weren't being very creative. They would look at their character sheet, see what skills had the highest modifier and then state that they were using that. Now I didn't get people trying to use History to jump over a ravine. But I DID get people trying to use History to talk their way past a guard.

The other thing is solved was that when I did indicate that they were in a skill challenge (which I don't do any more), they would say that they wanted to use whatever skill they had the highest modifier in and then they'd ask me how they could use that skill to succeed. And that COMPLETELY goes contrary to the point of the skill challenge (and the game, really).

So I don't announce the "start of a skill challenge". I just narrate them into it and when key things come up, I ask them "what do you do?". Then, based upon what they say they want to do, I call for specific skill checks.

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PostSubject: Re: Skill Challenges   Thu Dec 03, 2015 2:54 pm

@skwyd42, Yeah, I guess every table is different. FOR ME at least I don't usually use SCs as just tactical situations, or if I do they're simple (low complexity) ones most of the time. I use SCs a lot to direct the plot. Like an action-adventure movie has these montage type scenes, the trek through the swamp, you don't run it in any great detail, but the PCs get stuck in the quicksand, evade the lizardmen, find the idol, and avoid the disease, arriving at the camp on day 3 in time to interrupt the necromancer before he raises the corpses of the long-dead army. Yeah, there's a lot of possible skills that can apply to each bit of it, but there's a PLOT, so I don't even really care, they're going to have to use different ones at each turn. If the Lizardmen start chasing them, they'll be hiding and using Nature, and if they find the idol it will be a religion check, etc etc etc. Maybe they'll dream up other skills to use instead, as long as they explain how.

But, obviously if you have players that REALLY INSIST on doing nothing but saying the name of their best skill, maybe your way works. If it was me I'd just sit there and wait for the explanation. I'll tell the player that the skill check they tossed without asking is maybe not working, try something else, or that it helps (or hurts) and call it a secondary skill check, so maybe now do X skill and get a +2 (and maybe a different character steps in there and does it).

I don't think you HAVE to say "its a skill challenge now" and I don't bother, usually, but there are a few cases where it helps to be explicit, like if its a chase or a race or something, then you can explain the PCs options (IE make a DEX check to whip the other guy's horse and try to make it veer off the racetrack).
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