Skill challenges

June 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm
filed under Roleplaying
Tagged ,

Edit: Changed the title, which was from an earlier revision of this post.

There were some threads going around about how skill challenges were horribly broken when you look at the numbers. Your average level 1 character is looking at a +8 to +11 bonus on a trained skill linked to a primary stat. The default DC for skill challenges at that level is 20, and the easiest challenge involves accumulating four successes before two failures. The math just doesn’t look good for the PCs.

In terms of practical experience, Evan ran his game last night, and we went through a skill challenge. I’d say that with the right tweaking, skill challenges are in fact quite a bit of fun. I mean, I used Endurance as part of a social challenge, for God’s sake. How awesome is that?

Yes, it’s a shame that it requires special attention. There’s no denying that. It makes me sad to think that there are DMs out there who will throw the idea out altogether, or foist ridiculously hard challenges on the players.

In particular, this is really easy to fix, and the DM has a lot of options, to the point where I’m not sure it’s worth getting bent out of shape as long as you’re willing to take those steps. For example, via EnWorld, Keith Baker has a post up about how he handles skill challenges, and there are many great ideas in there.

Even if you set that aside, I’m not a huge fan of d20, but the math in this system is very, very simple. A DM could vary DCs on the fly, hand out bonuses, and make adjustments to future DCs on the fly and have a reasonably good idea of the outcome. That’s really neat.

Once I have enough information about my own players’ skills, I will try my hand at designing a skill challenge. Until then, I am tentatively OK with skill challenges, and I’m relieved to see that Mearls, et al, are looking into it.

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