A sort of Eureka! moment in regards to Skill Challenges

Posted on April 28, 2009 by

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I don’t hide the fact that I can’t wrap my head around skill challenges.  I find it hard to conceptualize narrating them at the table without the exercise simply becoming a series of rolls.  The irony though, is that I’d love to run them at the table to break up the monotony of combat/combat/combat. 

This past sunday, I had planned to run a skill challenge where my players had to find their way up a mountain and locate a valley where a hidden city had been uncovered.  I lifted the skill challenge straight from the pages of Dungeon Magazine, which included one exactly like the one I was looking for.  (BTW, on the Dungeon Magazines forum there is a thread with every skill challenge published so far, a great resource.)

Now, it’s a perfectly well designed skill challenge, but unfortunatly, it suffers from the same thing as all other skill challenges in 4th Ed., a lack of explanation as to how to play it and narrate it.

It’s no surprise to me that in the DMG, the only actual example of  an in play skill challenge is a social one that deals with interacting with an NPC.  That’s a no brainer.  But when you have a thing that says:

Endurance-DC15-The characters survive the effects of exposure to the harsh environment.

Well, that’s a bit different.

So I just decided to not complicate my life anymore in trying to wrap my head around these things.

My skill challenges now look like this instead:

Endurance-DC 15-You’ve been going up this mountain now for a few hours, and the weight of your equipment, along with the harsh sun, is taking its toll on you.  I’m going to need a couple of Endurance checks here from two of you to simulate the rest of the party’s climb up the mountain pass.               

 I’m just going to write flavor text for every skill involved in the challenge and call for rolls.  If they want to incorporate ideas for using other skills within that particular challenge then I’ll improvise them in if it makes sense. 

Does it make me a DM that needs everything scripted?  Maybe.  A bad DM?  Maybe.  But the alternative for me is to ignore them, and I’d rather not do that.

The call is still out for an MP3 of these things in action.  Preferably those that aren’t “social” interactions between the PC’s and an NPC.

edit:  I added the link to the thread where you can find the skill challenges from dungeon magazine.  It’s an index for Dungeon Magazine basically.

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Posted in: 4e D&D, Gaming