View Full Version : [4e] Attempting to fix Skill Challenges

2008-07-25, 04:10 PM
Here are my base assumptions.

A Complexity X skill challenge should be a suitable challenge for X PCs.

Skill challenges should have levels, like PCs and Monsters do. This should determine the DC of the checks.

If you attempt a skill challenge with fewer players than advised, you should be in trouble.

Skill Challenges should have "texture", where different skills in a particular challenge behave differently in interesting ways. This should be more than "using intimidate sucks in this challenge", but rather "using intimidate is a high-stakes move -- really good if you pull it off, but not likely to work".


Some terms I'll be using. A "turn" in this context varies by the skill challenge. For one that is happening at the same time as combat, each "skill challenge turn" should take about 1 combat round. Every player can make a roll during the same skill challenge turn.

The "turn" time is the time it takes to make a single skill-roll worth of progress against the challenge for 1 player, and a measure of how urgent the problem is. Problems that are not urgent, which don't get worse if you leave them alone, are poor fodder for skill challenges, generally.

Skill difficulties will be arranged in 3 rungs -- easy, medium, hard. I need to do some crunching to determine what are good DCs for each of these rungs at each level. This might also change the success/failure counts of each Complexity of skill challenge.


So, as my core mechanic: At the end of each turn, the skill challenge accumulates an automatic failure.

A sample Complexity system for this:
Complexity 1: 3 successes before 5 failures
Complexity 2: 5 successes before 5 failures
Complexity 3: 7 successes before 5 failures
Complexity 4: 9 successes before 5 failures
Complexity 5: 11 successes before 5 failures

For each of the above complexities, the "sweet spot" is reached when you have as many players rolling as the task is complex. If you are under the complexity, you have serious problems with making enough successes before you run out of failures.

Skill rolls:
The default skill roll rung is "normal".

The first time you use an "appropriate" skill you should grant a small bonus, up to a 1 rung reduction in difficulty.

High stakes: +1 rung difficulty. Get twice the benefit of winning. Normal penalty for losing.

Low risk: +1 rung difficulty. Get no penalty for losing, normal for winning.

Only an idiot could screw this up: -1 rung difficulty. Normal benefit for winning, double penalty for losing.

The above rungs should be set by the DM, on a per-tactic or per-skill basis.

Player options:
Aid Another: Help someone at a skill. Get a +10 bonus to your check result. If you lose, nothing bad happens. If you win, you do not get the benefit -- but the player you are aiding gets a +2 bonus to their roll.

Double down: Take a -10 penalty to your roll. Get double benefit if you beat it, normal benefit if you lose. Useful if you are running out of time and you really need to solve the problem now.

Creatively effective tactics should be rewarded with a +2 bonus to their roll, and this shouldn't be stingy. Using the same creative tactic more than once is no longer creative.

Skills that you think aren't appropriate can be viewed as high-stakes attempts at the problem. Skills whose failure will only waste time can be considered a low-risk roll.


To work on:
A table of DCs for Easy, Medium and Hard rungs. (I don't know if the revised page 42 is good).

I was thinking 10+Level/2 for Easy DCs, 16+DC/2 (+1 at paragon, +2 total at epic) for Medium DCs, and 22+DC/2 (+1 at paragon, +2 total at epic) for Hard DCs. But that needs to be crunched out.

Possibly tweak the success/failure ratio, based on the success rate at Easy, Medium and Hard rung DCs.