|The moment I started seeing this meme everywhere, I knew it was inevitable that there would be a
D&D blogger who'd riff on it. So I decided to be that very blogger.
- Interviewing a witness
- Chase scene (either as quarry or pursuer)
- Interrogation (both as the interrogator and detainee)
- Navigate the woods/swamp/wilderness
- Doing research (remember how every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a phase after the team's initial encounter with the monster where they'd hit the books and spend a few hours reading medieval texts in the library? I love that trope)
- Decoding a message/puzzle
- Disabling a complex trap
- Perform a magic ritual
- Stopping a magic ritual
- Solving a mystery
- Navigating a maze
- Get across a complicated natural hazard (e.g. cross a river, climb a cliff, cave system)
- War summit
- Fight a battle! Why not do warfare this way?
- Infiltration (+ goal, like stealing something or sabotaging something)
- Sneak past something
- Compete in a tournament/sport
- Construct/forge/repair something big or complex (like a magic artifact or a spaceship)
- Legal trial
- Taming a creature
- Piloting a vehicle through some rough terrain/a storm/a battlefield/whatever
- Combat against a colossal creature that you can't defeat in the normal fashion
- Complex performance/performing a play
- Courting votes for a big decision
|Don't worry, about four years later they made the adventure I had in mind into an episode of The Mandalorian, so it all worked out.
Even worse, if a skill challenge lacks any clear marker of failure, running the challenge presents a problem. The first D&D Encounters season, Halaster’s Last Apprentice, included a challenge where the players seek to find hidden chambers in the Undermountain before they amass the three failures allowed by the rules. Why do three failures end this challenge? Is it because the players grow restless and are now all on their smart phones? The adventure suggests that rival groups might be seeking the lost chambers, but it fails to capitalize on this. The adventure follows the conventional advice by taxing each player a healing surge, and then saying that they found the crypt anyway.“Why do we lose a healing surge?”“Well, you know, dungeon stuff.”
|Why, yes, this is what I look like when I write these posts.
- How often you can attempt to use a skill,
- How many successes a skill can earn,
- How easy or hard it is to use certain skills,
- If you need proficiency in a skill to use it,
- or If someone else already used the skill.
- Try to always use advantage/disadvantage rather than +/-X modifier or +/- DC.
- Never ask the player to note the margin of success. In fact, rarely are there ever "degrees of success" like in a PbtA roll.
- Do not add any steps requiring arithmetic beyond what's already there. That's already partially accounted for with the previous two points, but I mean it. Do not add a step where anyone has to mentally add or subtract. It goes d20 + modifier and that's it.
- Cut the healing surge stuff. But don't shy from the skill system. Focus on proficiency as an indicator of what sorts of things make for good tests, even if you aren't going to limit things to proficiency like Matt Colville says to. Proficiency is a core ingredient defining 5E's particular brand of crunch.
In summation, the "Operatic Skill Challenge":
The DM confirms that the party is definitely about to enter into a situation that could be modeled as a Skill Challenge. If they have to... introduce a few extra complications that rule out alternatives then, hey, it's their table. They then announce that the party is about to enter a SC, then state the goal(s) and what variables are in play, which typically means communicating each obstacle to be solved (and thus, the number of successes needed) as well as any sources of pressure (e.g. countdown to doom, rival working against you, scheduled endpoint, unstable situation, etc.). Lastly, the DM gives the players an idea of the timescale of the SC, to set a standard for what amount of progress can be made per turn.
Then, each player takes turns declaring their action for the turn, which can be pretty much anything they can think of, just like in the rest of the game. They don't have to do it in any particular order, and can even coordinate their actions to be simultaneous. But the DM doesn't move on to the next turn until they've accounted for everything happening in the current turn, meaning that everyone gets a chance to do something. And of course, the players should prioritize explaining what they're doing rather than going straight for naming a mechanic they'd like to use. But by all means, negotiate with the DM to find a way you can apply a skill of yours. Sometimes the answer really is found on your character sheet.
NPC isn't persuaded yet because...
- They don't trust the PC(s)
- They don't believe in themselves
- They don't believe in the PC(s)
- They are worried how they'll be perceived
- They are worried about the price of failure/being wrong
- They aren't convinced it affects them
- They don't think they stand to gain enough from taking the PCs' side
- They benefit from how things currently are
- They are being pressured from another source
- They believe falsehoods about the situation
Try to picture a similar table for each SC template, so that way not every single "jungle exploration SC" has the same 3 obstacles every time.
[EDIT: I decided to try making a full statblock so this post would have a little bit more nutritional value, so here's a sample "negotiation SC" statblock I've mocked up based on what I've described. The idea is that the DM could either pick out which options from this statblock are appropriate if the negotiation is one they've prepared, or they could roll/quickly decide on the spot if it was unplanned. Open to feedback. Formatting obviously subject to change based on what's optimal for whatever box it's being packaged in, since I doubt I'd ever publish something as just a raw Google Doc]
- Any dissociated mechanics forcing you to metagame in order to make basic decisions, or
- Any rules that redistribute narrative control at the expense of the "sporting challenge" being tested, or
- Any rules that limit the possibilities of what a SC could effectively simulate.