Skill Challenge: Kidnap and Ransom (Part 1)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 27, 2009

This skill challenge is broken into two parts. Part 1 (presented below) has the PCs working under a very tight time lines and allows them to adjust DCs depending on what they consider to be acceptable risk. The objective is for the PCs to find out where the kidnap victim is being held captive. Part 2 (presented tomorrow) outlines how the PCs may go about rescuing the kidnap victim before he is harmed or even killed.


A nobleman’s son has wracked up gambling debts with a loan shark named Keddy Grujo. If the debt is not settled by sundown today, the boy will be killed. The parents cannot afford to make the payment as the father recently purchased a new sailing ship. Desperate, the father hires the PCs to rescue the boy. Grujo will be in the presence of reputable people all day. He expects the parents to pay, but wants an alibi just in case. Grujo’s men have orders to kill the boy if the ransom is no paid by sundown. If Grujo’s agents learn that a rescue is afoot they will increase the number of men guarding the boy.

  • This skill challenge is broken into two parts. The successes and failures incurred in part 1 do not carry over into part 2
  • If the DM chooses to make this one large skill challenge the PCs need to earn a total of 12 successes between parts 1 and 2 combined. In this case, failures incurred during part 1 will carry over into part 2.

Gathering Information


The PCs have been hired to locate a teenage boy who is being held for ransom. They need to find out where the boy is being held captive. The PCs have 6 hours to find the boy. The PCs may decide that splitting up will allow them to cover more ground more quickly. This may indeed be true, but it will limit the amount of PCs who can assist in a given situation.


3 PC level +1 (8 successes before 3 failures)


Beside the difficulty of each skill is the amount of time required to complete that action. Depending on how the PCs act they can modify the DC and time accordingly. Some actions carry consequences.

+15 minutes
– 15 minutes

Any check that succeeds by 5 or more reveals a Fact in addition to a success. Any roll of 20 resulting in a success reveals 2 Facts. All successful cautious checks reveal 1 Fact, regardless of the roll.

Keep the players informed of how much time they have left so they can take appropriate risks.

Primary Skills

Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perception, Streetwise, Thievery

  • Each skill can only be used to accomplish 1 success towards the overall skill challenge unless noted otherwise.
  • Skill checks denoted as assist do not count as a success or failure towards the overall skill challenge.

Secondary Skills


Bluff (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes, 30 minutes)

You gain the trust of someone with good information and they let something slip.

Failure: The informant contacts the loan shark’s men. +1 guard.
Failure (Risky): The informant contacts the loan shark’s men. +2 guard.

Diplomacy (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes, 45 minutes)

You gain the trust of someone with good information and they openly answer your questions.

Failure (cautious): The informant finds your line of questioning unusual, but takes not other action.
Failure: The informant finds your line of questioning unusual and contact the loan shark’s men. +1 guard.

Insight (easy DC, assist, +5 minutes)

You know if you’re asking too many questions of the wrong people.

Success: +2 to your next Bluff or Diplomacy check.

Intimidate (hard DC, maximum 3 success, 15 minutes)

You sufficiently scare someone with good information and they spill their guts.

Failure: The informant contacts the loan shark’s men. +2 guards.

Perception (moderate DC, 60 minutes)

This check cannot be made until the party has achieved 4 successes. Until then, they don’t really know what they’re looking for or where to find it. For each additional success after the 4th, the PCs gain +2 to this check and -15 minutes to complete it.

Streetwise (moderate DC, maximum 3 successes, 45 minutes)

You ask the right people the right questions without arousing suspicion.

Failure: The informant finds your line of questioning unusual and contact the loan shark’s men. +1 guard.

Streetwise (moderate DC, 60 minutes)

You spend time getting familiar with the streets, alleys, lane ways and shortcuts in this part of the town.

Success (Cautious) or Failure (Risky): One of Grujo’s men sees you wandering around the same block once too often. +1 guard.


  1. Grujo has a reputation as a legitimate businessman. Few people know he’s a loan shark.
  2. The boy’s friends express genuine fear for his safety.
    +2 to your next Intimidate check.
  3. Grujo has very specific operational boundaries.
    +2 to your next Streetwise check.
  4. Grujo owns many properties, including three casinos.
    +2 to your next Streetwise check.
  5. Grujo’s men wear symbols of identification.
    +2 to your next Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate or Streetwise check.
  6. The house where the boy is being held has a distinct feature.


The PCs learn where the boy is being held with ample time to plan a rescue.


The PCs are unable to figure out where the boy is being held before the ransom is due. The boy’s father contacts the PCs and tells them that he’s learned where the boy is being held, but the location is heavily guarded. The DM should increase the number of guards based on any failures during the skill challenge +1 for each PC.

Visit Dungeon’s Master tomorrow when we will post Skill Challenge: Kidnap & Ransom (Part 2).

This skill challenge presents some unique choices for the PCs. Let us know what you think of the way we handled these options.

1 Chase Dagger April 27, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I like how much detail is in this skill challenge. I like all the choices with risky, moderate and cautious.
The bonuses PCs can get are a nice touch.
I’ll have to try this out. In theory it looks good to me.
I’m interested to see the second part.

2 Ameron April 29, 2009 at 11:34 am

@Chase Dagger
We’re always looking for ways to make skill challenges more interesting and I thought giving the PCs some opportunity to determine the DC was a fresh take. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Of course, part 2 falls back into the more traditional standards for a skill challenge, but I wanted to make sure a DM who decided to use this example wasn’t left hanging for a conclusion.

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