Skill Challenge: Introduction

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on February 2, 2009

D&D has always been a combat-heavy game and adding skill challenges with 4e has brought much needed balance to the game. Players are encouraged to role play and can earn as much XP for a skill challenge as they can for defeating a monster. It’s created a good balance between roll-playing and role-playing. The skill challenge has quickly become an important and integral part of 4e D&D.

Skill Challenge Library

Every week we will post at least one new skill challenge. They are intentionally generic. We want to make it easy for you to drop our skill challenges into your campaign. A few sample scenarios are included in the Setup section of each skill challenge. This should help DMs explain how and why the PCs find themselves in a given situation.

No specific skill DCs are provided. Instead, DCs are listed as easy, moderate or hard. This makes the overall challenge more versatile and easier to use at all levels. Consult the DMG to determine appropriate DCs for your campaign.

Come back every week as we amass a library of skill challenges for your convenience.

Remember that our list of skills in any challenge is intended as a guideline. Encourage your players to be creative. If they come up with something we hadn’t thought of reward their creativity.

More Than Just Skill Challenges

The skill challenge section will not be limited to just straight-up skill challenges. We want to provide resources for both DMs and players.

Skills should be more than numbers on your character sheet. Player aides will provide you with our thoughts on how to use your skills in more effect and imaginative ways. And for DMs we are going to explore ways to turn the traditional skill challenge into something more.

What do you need to better incorporate skill challenges into your campaign? Is there an area of skill challenges that you feel is lacking? Is there a particular kind of skill challenge that you’d like to see in our library? We want to provide articles to help you run a better campaign and we welcome your feedback and suggestions.

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1 Mike Devoe March 27, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I’d like to know what to tell and not to tell players initially and while the skill challenge proceeds.

Example: (Chasing someone in the streets) As a DM; I write down primary/secondary skills, the DC and the effects of success or failure. I also write down the reasoning behind the various skills:
Acrobatics – you jump over a merchant’s table rather than running around it (The fleeing creature runs around the table).
Streetwise – You take a short cut through an alley and gain ground on the fleeing creature.

The first time I tried this, the PCs just looked at me, like what are we supposed to do other than just run after him. I basically ended up telling them what skills to use and then narrating a story explaining what happened when they passed or failed.

Example: PC says “what should I do?” I say “well why don’t you try an acrobatic action to try and gain some ground on the (Halfling)”. They roll and fail, so I say you try to jump over a table but you slip and fall into the mud.

I thought the PCs would suggest ideas to me, and then I would say “Ok roll a whatever to see if you succeed.” Does that make sense, or do I tell them the skills upfront?

Plus I had things like Endurance as a secondary skill stating that a successful endurance check will eliminate 1 failure (You pick your self up (out of the mud) and press on with even more determination than before.)
But if this happens, should I tell them that they have succeeded in eliminating a failure, or just keep it a secret?

Any help would be appreciated.

2 Wimwick March 27, 2009 at 5:22 pm

@Mike Devoe
Thanks for stopping by Dungeon’s Master.
I think you’ve touched on a subject that many people are questioning, how much do I tell my players?
I haven’t DM’d in 4e yet, I’m enjoying playing too much, but based on what I’ve seen as a player I feel the following needs to happen during a skill challenge. First the DM needs to clearly indicate that a skill challenge has begun and what the primary objective of the challenge is. Second the DM should indicate how many successes are required and finally the DM should list the primary skills required in the challenge.
In most situations the skills necessary should be obvious, but I still feel the DM should provide the overview. Remember as a DM reward the creativity of the players, there’s nothing worse than coming up with a great idea and then being shot down. You don’t have to make the DC easy, but let the player attempt it.
One of the most challenging aspects of skill challenges is getting your players to think creatively. There isn’t a lot in the Player’s Handbook for your players to use other than basic skill descriptions. At Dungeon’s Master we’ve begun to create a series of aides that can assist players. Check out the Skill Aides on our Skill Challenges page. Have your players visit I’m sure they’ll find other items of interest.
Most important of all, don’t give up. Even when a skill challenge fails and doesn’t work the way you planned look at why and seek feedback from your player’s to make the next one more enjoyable.

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