Monday, February 23, 2009

Skill Challenges

One of the new features of Dungeon is the Ruling Skill Challenges column, of which this latest article is a part.

I've given my views of skill challenges before. I think they're a great idea, and I'm disappointed that the first Wizards module didn't have more challenges (yes yes, I'm the DM -- I can add them wherever I like).

The Dungeon Master's Guide does have some good examples, of course, on what skill challenges can be used for. And I've thought of some of the more obvious cases where you might use them -- events and actions that are directly (and obviously) based on one or more skills just jump out at you; Diplomacy, Acrobatics, History.

But I've always thought of these things as smaller, "immediate" skill challenges, even though we've been told that that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. So a challenge might be convincing an NPC to do something, convincing an NPC that you know something (which you may or may not), or some physical, immediate challenge, such as skirting a hazardous area or scaling a tricky slope.

But a skill challenge could go on for hours, for days, for weeks. And it can be lots of these smaller things tied together as one big challenge. And this is what I never really grasped. That's why the "travel through an enemy city" example in this post was such a good one; it took a large-scale task -- "travel within a warzone", in a sense, and turned it into a variety of abstract skill checks, allowing for a stealthy approach, a physical approach or a brains approach (and of course, a mixture of them all), to succeed.

What I also liked about this article was the list of Effects of Failures, boosting the DCs here and there as you fail. Not only does it provide the numbers, but also the flavour for why the DCs have increased.

And, the Random Events table also provides that extra bit to the whole encounter, ways to spice up the encounter, even if the party is completely ready for such a skill challenge, having the appropriate skills maxed out.

I look forward to finishing reading module H2, to see if-and-how-many skill encounters there are, hoping there are a few more than H1, and I definitely look forward to more examples from these articles.

No comments: