Skill Challenge: Skinning the Beast

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 18, 2009

Eliminating mundane, non-magical items from treasure hordes in 4e D&D was a great idea. But that doesn’t mean that the mundane treasures can’t be thrown in from time-to-time to create a more memorable encounter.

The way things were done in previous editions, where everything was stripped from fallen foes and monsters to sell off later may have made sense, but it hurt the game and slowed things down. I don’t know how many adventures I was a part of where an incredible amount of time was wasted gathering up long swords, suits of armor and other non-magical, every-day items from the corpses of the fallen foes and monsters. It often required an enormous amount of record-keeping and consumed valuable game time when we finally sold those items back to a local merchant. It unnecessarily side-tracked the game.

So in 4e if it’s not coins, jewels, art or magical items, the DM doesn’t describe it and the PCs don’t take it. It makes things simpler and, more importantly, faster. But just because we are now ignoring the mundane items doesn’t mean they don’t still exist. In some circumstances drawing attention to these now overlooked items can add some flare to an otherwise traditional encounter.

For example, if the PCs defeat a dragon the corpse itself has the potential to be incredibly valuable. Powdered tooth, powdered horns or even the blood of the dragon may be used or even required to make certain potions. The scales may be used to create armor. The claws may be carved into the hilt of a sword or the head of a spear.

You don’t want to spend a lot of time after every encounter harvesting the creature’s organs, horns, teeth, blood, etc, but this should be presented as an option form time-to-time. A good opportunity to introduce this idea is to start small. With that in mind I’ve created the skill challenge presented below. It gives the PCs a chance to get something more out of combat then just fighting the monster.

Try it out and if your PCs enjoy the added bonus of the monster’s corpse as treasure, try to incorporate this into your encounters more often.

Setup

A small community has been tormented by a pack of dire wolves. The wolves don’t usually come this far down the mountainside, but scarce game has forced them to look for new sources of food. The village has become part of the packs new hunting grounds.

The PCs are hired to find the dire wolf pack and stop the killings. The local Rangers have tried to get the pack to relocate without resorting to killing the wolves, but they have been unsuccessful. It seems that killing the wolves is the only option remaining.

Before the PCs leave the village a local trader tells them that the pelts of dire wolves are extremely valuable. He’s willing to purchase the hides of any wolves the PCs kill.

Complexity

3 PC level +2 (8 successes before 3 failures)

The DM may want to adjust the level of the skill challenge depending on how powerful the overall encounter is, taking the level of the dire wolves into account.

Although this is setup as one skill challenge divided into two distinct parts, some DMs may want to make this two separate skill challenges. Be sure to adjust the XP accordingly.

Primary Skills

Athletics, Heal, Nature, Perception

  • 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.

Other Skills

Perception, Religion


Part 1 – Battling the Beast

Making any of the checks listed below during combat require a minor action.

Athletics (moderate +2 DC, maximum 3 successes)

You make an Athletics check before any melee attack. If successful you make a melee attack and deal damage normally. The combination of a successful Athletics check and a successful hit cause minimal damage to the wolf’s pelt and counts as one success in the skill challenge.

Heal (hard DC)

This use of Heal can only be attempted on a wolf that has already taken damage.

You notice a vital area of the wolf that has already been damaged. Direct your next attack to that spot may cause it additional pain. If successful, you deal +1d6 damage on your next attack if you hit.

Nature (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes)

You are familiar with the wolves’ anatomy and can direct blows to areas that are more likely to drop the beasts more quickly. +1 to the next attack made by you or an ally.

Perception (moderate +2 DC, maximum 3 successes)

You make a Perception check before any ranged attack. If successful you make a ranged attack and deal damage normally. The combination of a successful Perception check and a successful hit cause minimal damage to the wolf’s pelt and counts as one success in the skill challenge.

Perception (moderate +2 DC)

This use of Perception can only be attempted on a wolf that has already taken damage.

You notice a vital area of the wolf that has already been damaged. Direct your next attack to that spot may cause it additional pain. If successful, you deal +1d6 damage on your next attack if you hit.


Part 2 – Skinning the Beast

Perception (easy DC, assist)

You provide direction regarding where and what to cut. +2 to the next Nature check.

Nature (moderate DC)

You know how to field dress the animals taking only the parts of the corpses that will be valuable.

Note: the DM may require individual checks for each wolf. In this case, the complexity of the skill challenge may need to be adjusted. Failed checks may not count as failures in the overall skill challenge. In stead they may just reduce the value of the pelt.

Religion (moderate DC)

If you worship a nature deity, you can say a prayer for the fallen wolves.


Success

The PCs defeat most or all of the wolves. Any wolves that fled the combat will not stay in the area. The village is safe. If the PCs collected the wolf pelts, the local merchant purchases them from the PCs as promised.

Failure

The PCs were unable to defeat enough of the wolves to get them to flee the area. Another encounter with the wolves is inevitable. If the PCs did defeat all the wolves, then they damaged the pelts during combat to the point where the local merchant is no longer interested in the damaged hides or offers substantially less then the PCs anticipated.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 TrTveT June 9, 2014 at 10:34 am

Hey, I’m about to start DMing and this helped me a lot with the concept of skill challenges. But I’m not sure I understand a few things in your particular example.

In Part 1 – Battling the Beast the skills that grant extra damage or +1 to attack, do they count as an success/failure?

Why shouldn’t my players use the same skills in all following combat encounters? “Well if you let me use my minor action to try and get +1d6 damage on the wolves, why can’t I do the same with the ent”

I understand this article is 5 years old but I still hope you reply.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: