Skill Challenges Part 2

June 4, 2009 at 4:00 am (D&D, Games) (, , , )

In my last Skill Challenge post I talked about my personal use of Skill Challenges (SC) and how they can be used to cover most non-combat situations.  That post assumed you were using the rules listed in the DMG, which covered SCs and simply expanded on that section.  This post will be expanding beyond the core concept by adding penalties during a SC.  I will again be referencing the 4e rules to help guide you, the DM, in adding to your SCs.


To give SCs the same level of importance that a fight would have you need to borrow some things that a fight does to and for the PCs.  The first thing is to assign consequences when a player fails a roll in the SC.  The consequence should in some way reflect what the PC was trying to do when they failed their roll.  The most obvious thing to do is to damage the PC like an enemy in combat and if the PC was trying to beat information out of a contact or trying to disarm a trap then damaging them would make sense. 


Other methods will be needed to cover other consequences however.  For instance a PC might try and get the same informant drunk but end up drunk himself.  If that is the case then you could still use HP loss but it would be far more interesting to put a condition like a poison on him until the end of the next combat to represent how sorely hungover the character is. 


Another idea might be to slowly increase the DC of the SC to represent how the PCs actions are making their job more difficult.  An example might be that the PCs are asking nosy questions around town and the townsfolk are getting suspicious or as the PCs are working their way through a dungeon they are making too much noise and putting the denizens on their guard.


You may also use fines, bribes and other monetary and wealth based consequences.  These financial consequences are best dangled in front of players as a way to remove failed skill tests from a given SC.  At most I would offer only one such opportunity per SC.  A good amount to ask for is the players level plus the starting DC of the SC times the number of failed skill tests up to that point.  If your players really want to pass a given SC then offer them the removal of all failed tests in exchange for a prized or valuable item but don’t do so often.


If you use these suggestions in your game to add combat like weight to Skill Challenges you should also read my next post on adding rewards.


-J.B. Mannon

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