JP On Gaming

Monday, November 23, 2009

4e Fixing Skill Challenges: A Response

Linda, my good friend posted the following reply on facebook.

I'm somewhat misquoted here, but you got the gist of it, I think. My main point was that, in a convention setting, most DMs and players will cut the skill challenge short so they can finish the module. The way most of the modules are written, you have to really have a synchronized team of players who know each others’ player strengths, player weaknesses, preferred combat tactics as well as character strengths and character weaknesses. That just doesn't happen in a convention setting and 4 hours is somewhat unrealistic for a group of relative strangers stumbling through a scenario.

In running LFR modules with no time constraint, I find that most of them are pretty satisfactory in a 4.5 - 5.5 hour setting. Plenty of time for effective skill challenges, role playing and combat.

Linda is quite right. People who don’t know each other tend to focus on number-crunching and showing off their powers/items instead of playing their character and make something fun out of them. They just focus on Finish. Finish. Finish. As though there nothing else of importance. That is part of the bad culture I mentioned. LFR’s culture minimizes the importance of story in favor of fights. Favoring dice rolls over interaction, clever thinking and creative problem-solving.

However, I have seen many DMs who took 5 and 6 hours to run adventures act the same way, cutting all but the fights and drag those on forever. That is not unique to LFR, but is something I have found in a number of RPGA games. Even LG often had that problem. The confines of a 4 hour time slot at a con are not a problem. The problem is that many feel that if they are not fighting, they are not doing anything and that they "don’t need to get involved in those boring parts." I, for one, usually like those "boring" parts.

The most important thing to do, as a player is: knowing what your character is good at and what he is not good at, and PLAY THAT! If you are the one who keeps talking put your points where your mouth is. Literally. If your play style is very quiet, don’t create a character that is fully decked out to interact. Do not limit your interaction with NPCs to “I have +12 Diplomacy. Tell me everything.” You are playing a *character*, not just a miniature on a game board, not just a series of stats on a sheet. Get into your role and have fun with it. When you do all the talking, you should be the one to make the rolls, not the guy next to you just because he has a bigger bonus.

In a home game setting, a DM usually tailors his adventure and encounters to his party. When a table plays together week-in, week-out, players quickly learn who is what and the strength of their fellow players. So a table that is big into socializing with the NPCs and one that is focused mostly on combats usually face different types of challenges.

Some of the recent LFR adventures (to cite them, DALE1-7 and DRAG1-7) all recommend the DM drop the skill challenges in favor of combat. What have the skill challenge been reduced to? A series of boring and useless dice rolls whose only goal is to fill an XP budget. If the powers that be have decided they are an XP-sink (aka "free XP"), then the questions to ask one are. Should we even bother to write them? Is it really worth wasting time writing non-combat stuff? Would it be better to simply have one more big fight or two smaller ones?

The culture is bad, what else can I say?


No comments:

Post a Comment