I said it before: I find that Skill Challenges are hard to understand as a concept… As described in the DMG they seem to be anti-role playing.
I like to think of them more as a draft of how to use skills in an encounter with an NPC or a situation.
Instead of following a stricter script (or winging it entirely in improv) you get to use skill challenges to help you determine which way each interactions in the encounter go.
You determine how many « successful » interactions gets the players on the « easy road » and how may « failures » gets them through « harder road ».
On paper, skill challenges seems rigid – but in fact, when played out they should feel rather organic.
I like to think of them as:
- A rough structure to help you flesh out an encounter.
- A tool to allow the PCs skills (and not the players’) determine how NPCs react to the PCs’ actions.