As I’ve said numerous times before, the addition of skill challenges to 4e D&D was a stroke of genius. It has provided us with the means to develop our characters in ways beyond excellence with a sword. We finally have a mechanism for using Acrobatics, Diplomacy and Thievery in a meaningful way that will yield XP.
Not all characters are strong in a variety of skills (Fighters, we’re looking at you), but thanks to the assist even the most unskilled PC can participate in a meaningful way during the skill challenge. My concern is that the assist mechanism is broken. So I’m going to share with you my ideas on how to fix it.
Let’s quickly recap the way an assist works. When a PC is making a skill check (in or out of a skill challenge) other PCs can try to help him by providing an assist. The assisting PC makes the appropriate skill check at DC 10 and if they succeed then the PC making the primary check gains a +2 bonus. It’s generally a pretty easy roll to make and even if you’re untrained you usually have a better than 50% chance of providing an assist.
The DMG suggests that the DM limit the number of PCs who can assist depending on the scenario. I like this guideline and generally we limit the number of PCs assisting to two. This keeps things from really getting out of hand and proving the primary PC with a +10 bonus.
I like that the DC to assist is low. It should be low. It needs to be low. If it was really hard then most PCs would have difficulty rolling high enough to assist. We’d be back to the problem of previous editions where the combat characters take a back seat during social encounters and other skill challenges. But a static DC to assist is crazy.
All PCs get +1 to all skills every time they advance to an even level. So by 18th level all PCs have +9 to every skill regardless of their ability modifier or skill training. Since a 1 is not a failure when rolling a skill check, every PC who reaches 18th level (or higher) will automatically succeed every time they try to assist. If they happen to have a reasonable ability score, the automatic success will happen well before they reach 18th level. When the PCs have absolutely no chance of failure then the mechanism is broken.
My solution is simple; make the DC to assist more difficult as the PCs advance. If the PCs get +1 to all skills at 2nd level, why not increase the assist DC by the same amount? As I said above, the DC to assist is already pretty easy (better than 50% for most PCs) so why not keep it in that range regardless of the PCs level? This forces the players to take feats and powers if they want to make skill checks easier. If the primary DC increases based on the PCs level then it stands to reason that assisting should get harder as well.
|Heroic Tier||Paragon Tier||Epic Tier|
|PC Level||Assist DC||PC Level||Assist DC||PC Level||Assist DC|
What do you think? Are assists in general too easy? Should the DC remain 10 thereby making assists easier as PCs level up? Tell us how assists are working in your game: are they making skill challenge insanely easy at high levels?
If you found this useful, then be sure to check out Skill Focus: Assisting (Part 2).