JP On Gaming

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fixing 4e Skill Challenges: Part 4

The LFR culture is bad

I won’t go into too many details... It’s just, bad. I’ll focus on two points (for now).


Kill the replay rule. Just kill it. Players usually try to be clever the first time, and rarely the second time, but by the third time, they merely roll dice and wait for their loot. Yes number of tables played has gone up, but the quality of play at those tables is somewhere at the bottom of the Abyss. But then again, *I* must be wrong, asking for a better level of gaming.

Want to see why I’m so much against replay? Run two tables of the same LFR adventure. One table is composed of players new to LFR and the other has half re-players. One table will try to be creative with the challenge. The other will roll dice.

Because of the padded stats, I doubt this will ever go away. However, I have taken a decision and I no longer run any adventure to re-players (I don’t DM anymore, except My Realms adventures); I do not burn then play and do not replay myself. Therefore, every adventure I play is fresh and exciting. I can only encourage others to do the same. Raise the level of the game.

"Get to the fights"While thinking about this post, I spoke to my friend Linda about this and she pointed out that many skill challenges are rushed by DMs and players alike just to be save more time for the fights. News flash people! Even if the leadership insist that D&D is only about the fights that is not true! If the game is just a series of fights, then I would recommend people stop wasting their time on some small skirmishes and graduate to real tactics and play war games. That way your turn will be longer and you will be able to move a number of creatures/ units.

The non-combat parts are where the story resides. It is why you would jeopardize your life for 5gp. I would assume that most NPCs value their lives more than you do yours. If you do not care about what is happening, that’s fine. But remember there are some people around the table who might be interested in those parts and their play experience is no less important that yours.

This mentality of dropping everything but the battles as "boring fluff" or "drop the role-play parts" really gets to me as it removes any chance of role-play. Many player who had experience in previous campaigns that try to get into LFR often comment how "simple" the adventures are because one of two players do not pay attention.

Do your thing and do not denigrate other peoples’ interest in the game. If you are sitting down just for the fight, wait for your turn to shine. This is D&D, you’ll get your fight soon enough.

Group Challenge vs. Individual Challenge vs. Mixed Challenge

The DMG talks about Group checks and individual checks but does not go into enough details. I offer the following break down and method of running.

A Group Challenge is when the entire party is involved in an activity at the same time. There is no time to assist each other. Each PC must make his check alone. Success and failure would be measured by the majority of PCs. Individual successes or failure would affect each PC independently.

For example a pursuit, if the PCs succeed, they catch their target. If they fail the quarry gets away. A PC failing the skill check may lose a healing surge. A PC who decides not to take part is deemed removed from the challenge and cannot take part any further.

An Individual Challenge is more akin to "usual" challenge. Here one PC is the primary roller and other possibly PCs assisting that PC. Success and failure is resolved upon that "single" dice roll. Penalties are applied either to all those involved or to every PC.

An example is an information gathering session where the PCs are looking for someone. They make the check and success or failure is assessed immediately.

A Mixed Challenge is, as its name implies, a halfway solution. Here the PCs need do two or more things simultaneously to be successful. Success requires both actions to be successful. I will admit that mixed challenges

Complex traps make good examples. The PCs are stuck in a deep pit. Every round, a random section of the wall slams the other side. To escape, the PCs must reach the lever just outside the trap. While some PCs climb out, the rest must try to avoid the walls. Success is measured as a whole. If the climber fails OR if the PCs at the bottom are getting beat up by the wall, the party is not in any better shape.


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