I’m re-reading my previous attempt embryo at writing a skill challenge and comparing it with the skill challenge At-Will‘s author (mysteriously known as admin) sent me last week.
I think I’m starting to understand more about skill challenges…
See, part of what I do for a living is being an analyst and a software developer – I like to understand, I like rules and I’m used to sticking to rules.
As odd as it sounds, computers don’t work any differently – they follow their rules to the letter and our human understanding is usually the thing that fails.
My point – for, gasp, I have one – is that I believe that the « rules » aspect of skill challenges, as described in the DMG has blinded me.
I looking at skill challenges as a way to completely orchestrate a non-combat event as some sort of a dice ‘mini game’ based on skills.
That’s not exactly wrong, but even more so – not exactly right.
It pretty much had me sand-boxing and railroading players into a multiple answers gauntlet, in which the dice tell you if you had it right.
It felt odd because – to me – RPG is mostly about « thinking outside the box ». And I was trying to build a bigger box.
Building my skill challenge, I was trying to figure out what was the story line I was going for and what my players were allowed to do.
Here is a recap of what I learned:
- A Skill challenge’s goal is not about letting you avoid improvisation – it helps you prepare for it.
- Skill challenges are not just a ‘dice mini game’ – role play and creative thinking on the part of the player play a great role. The DM too!
- Skill challenges force you to consider failure as well as success as an interesting outcome.
- Planning cases for primary and secondary skills helps creating a more complete and fleshed out encounter.