Skill Challenge: Back to School

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 26, 2009

There comes a time in every adventurer’s career when they need to do something that is beyond their skill-set. In most cases it’s probably something that they’ve never had any need to do before or never expect that they would have to do themselves. When this happens, the DM can simply say that you spend time training or he can make the training sessions a little bit more exciting and throw this skill challenge at you.


The DM needs to determine the objective of the training before the skill challenge begins. Depending on the type of training the PCs require, the DM may need to adjust the primary skills used in the skill challenge.

Sample tasks include:

  • how to climb a mountain (Athletics)
  • identify dangerous natural hazards or plant-life (Nature)
  • the local customs, laws and etiquette of a foreign land (History)
  • the proper way to address and interact with visiting dignitaries (Diplomacy)
  • how to disarm traps (Thievery)
  • how to spot members of a secret society (Perception).

The skill most closely associated with the task is called the spotlight skill. This is the skill that the PCs will (or will not) get bonuses when using if they successfully complete the training. Any PC who is already trained in the spotlight skill gets a +2 bonus to all checks during this skill challenge. This includes checks made to assist other PCs.

After the training is completed every member of the party must make an Insight check to see just how well they’ve retained what they just learned.

  • Moderate DC for PCs who pass the skill challenge
  • Hard DC for PCs who fail the skill challenge.

Any PC who was already trained in the spotlight skill gets a +5 bonus to this check (this does not stack with the +2 bonus already provided).


1 PC level +2 (requires 4 successes before 3 failures).

Each PC must complete his own complexity 1 skill challenge. PCs can still assist each other, but the successes and failures accumulated by one PC do not affect any of the other PCs.

Primary Skills

Bluff, Endurance, Perception, Streetwise

  • 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

Diplomacy, Insight

Bluff (hard DC, maximum 3 successes)

You don’t really understand what you’re supposed to do, but you’re really good at faking it. Any PC who attempts to use Bluff in this way suffers a -2 penalty to the Insight check required at the end of the training. This penalty is cumulative if the same PC uses Bluff more than once.

Diplomacy (moderate DC, assist)

You ask good questions which make the lesson easier to follow. +2 to next check made by you or an ally.

Endurance (moderate DC)

It’s been a long day and you’re tired. You take a second to try and refocus your energy.

Insight (moderate DC, assist)

The instructor goes back over part of the lesson using a slightly different approach and suddenly it clicks. +2 to your next check.

Perception (moderate DC, maximum 2 successes)

You observe the people around you and notice them doing something you missed.

Streetwise (moderate DC)

You talk to some of the other students, instructors or NPCs who have already completed this training and you learn a few of the unwritten rules.

Spotlight Skill (moderate DC)

After earning 3 successes, PCs can attempt a check in the spotlight skill to earn their final success.


The time spent in school was put to good use. The PCs have gained the rudimentary skills needed to overcome the obstacle before them. Whenever the PCs need to use the spotlight skill to accomplish the tasks they just received training in, they do so with a +5 bonus.


Some people just aren’t good at school. You spent all that time receiving training but it just didn’t sink in. You’re forced to rely on your own abilities and instincts and gain no additional benefit from the training. However, if a PC who was already trained in the spotlight skill tries to assist you, he does so with a +2 bonus due to your increased familiarity with the terms associated with this particular task.

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