Skill Challenges and DCs in the Rules Compendium!

What, you thought we were only liveblogging Heroes of the Fallen Lands? You’re only 95% right!

I like a lot of the changes/clarifications for running skill challenges and determining DCs in the Rules Compendium. My thoughts below:

  • 2nd Use of a Skill ups the DC: I like that the 2nd use of a skill ups the DC to hard. That’s a great way to encourage people to dip into multiple skills during skill challenges instead of always relying on their best possible modifier.
  • Typical DCs: On one hand, I like guidelines for typical DCs. On the other hand, I suspect that in a lot of cases, I’ll have to ignore them and use the Hard DCs instead for most encounters, since it’s likely a player is going to be able to come up with a skill they are trained in for a skill challenge.
  • Primary and Secondary Skills: The section on primary and secondary skills is good advice. Having secondary skills, which can only be used once (and include creative uses of skills), take up about one third of the total skills usable in a skill challenge seems like a pretty nice mix.
  • New DCs: I like the new DCs quite a bit. A 65% chance of success sounds about right for the different levels of difficulty (totally unskilled for Easy Checks, good modifier or skilled for Moderate, and skilled with a good modifier for Hard checks). In terms of the assumption for skilled with a good modifier, it looks like they threw a +2 in there for good measure, which is probably a good idea since one can easily get that with a background or a racial bonus.
  • Group Checks: I’m not sold on group checks using an easy modifier. If you assume everyone is unskilled and has a 65% chance of success, then a party of 5 will succeed about 75% of the time (thanks to my girlfriend Alison for helping me with the math!), which is 10% more likely than the base assumption for single skill checks. When you figure at least one person is probably guaranteed a success, I’m sure the chances shoot up higher. I suppose this is mitigated somewhat by the people who might have lower than average chances of succeeding, however, due to armor penalties and low scores. All in all, I suspect group checks will be a cake walk in the current system, which granted is a lot more preferable to the virtual auto fail they used to be when everyone needed to succeed for the group to pass.
  • Advantages: The basic idea with advantages is that they make some skill checks in a skill challenge easier or count more than others. So a certain skill check might count for two successes or be against an easy difficulty. The DM can decide ahead of time that a skill check will have an advantage or could decide to apply one on the spot due to excellent roleplaying or a truly awesome roll. I like advantages because they offer a chance to mix up skill challenges and give them a little more depth; it seems like it would be fun as a player to hone in on the skills that would be appropriate, like maybe the first intimidate check against the cowardly duke is against an easy DC or thinking to question the boy who witnessed the gnoll attack will yield two successes. On the other hand, skill challenges that are too difficult has never been a problem I’ve run into, so I will use these sparingly or only when particularly appropriate!

More Essentials thoughts…


One Response to “Skill Challenges and DCs in the Rules Compendium!”

  1. Claire Claire says:

    I’m glad there’s a new way to do group checks! It’s a tough situation, because the simulationist in me thinks if you have a big clanky fighter you shouldn’t be able to sneak past some gnoll guards or whatever, but it is SO SAD when everyone gets a great stealth check and the one clanky fighter is like, “Oh crud guys.” From what you’re saying it sounds like it’s possible for that to happen SOMETIMES (and therefore for your stealth check, for example, to result in highly comical failure) but not all the time (which is depressing). Right?

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