The Elsir Project
Running Skill Challenges
Running skill challenges:
On occasion, actions by the players may call for a skill challenge, especially if it requires a group of skills to achieve a goal. For example, the story has a group of players infiltrating a fortress and the skill challenge will determine if the players are successful in penetrating far enough into fortress where detection no longer becomes an issue. Another could be in negotiation between players and palace guards to allow them to enter the city with their weapons.
Ignoring Skill Challenges: Skill challenges however, are not necessary to run a good game. It is perfectly fine to run a whole “skill challenge like scenario” without using skill rolls. It is also easy enough to run scene with skill checks that are not part of a skill challenge. The purpose of a skill challenge is to create a collaborative mini-game that has consequences in the story should success of failure be a factor. If a skill challenge would see artificial for part of the story, the better judgment is to ignore the mechanic/mini-game and continue.
Skill Challenge Failure: In case of the skill challenge, failure does not stop the story, but complicates it. Failure at the infiltration example means the alarm is raised but players can still continue the mission. Failure with the palace guard exmaple means the players must give up their weapons if they wish to enter the Palace, although some players may be able to hide them, find another way in the palace, or go try to appeal to a higher authority. In either case, the story continues, just not in the most convenient direction.
Who initiates a Skill Challenge? The Alpha has the privilege of initiating a skill challenge, while Betas may suggest that course of action through their contribution. For example, a Beta may state: “ Lady Shasta remembers a story about a secret passage into the Palace through the catacombs.” If the party agrees to direction, then players can follow through with that story seed.
Step 1: Designate the purpose of the Skill challenge. Alpha or Referee determine what the goal of the skill challenge is. “Breaking into the Prison undetected.” “Bribe the guards” “Convince the constable we are not the theives, etc.”
Step 2: Determine Level. The Game Engineer has the responsibility of setting the DC for the skill challenge . Engineers base the DC on the average level of party and the corresponding rules on skill challenge DC’s in the rules. By default, skill challenges are the average level of party and set to the easy level (four success before three failures).
Step 3: Determine complexity. The Referee is responsible for settimg of the complexity. Complexity should base the complexity of the challenge as described player’s narrative perception of the situation through their character(s.) For example, breaking into Iron Gaw Prison is easier than breaking out. The Referee may also ask from the players what the difficulty should be, either as Referee or through character ie “Impossible, no one has every escaped from Iron Gaw prison!”. Players know that a more complex skill challenge garners more XP but is harder to accomplish.
Step 4: Begin Using skills. Players can utilize any skill they wish for the skill challenge provided they can justify its use and do so in their narrative. For example, a player may use thievery for a negotiation for example to access the wealth of an individual to determine how much he may need/want. Not all Betas need to make a skill roll and may still contribute to the skill challenge description/narrative.
Step 5 The Referee determines if a skill can be justifiable. As betas use their skills, the Referee makes judgments on whether a skill is appropriate for the challenge and if describe in a realistic way. (i.e. may determine that athletics is not an appropriate skill but religion is.)
Step 6 Determine the DC of the Skill (Hard or Moderate). Skill challenges at any complexity will contain Hard and Moderate DC skill checks. The Betas decides if they wish to accomplish the hard or the moderate DC of the skill challenge. For example, a player in acrobatics or athletics may make the difficult climb up the prison wall or start the negotiations with the guards by offering a bribe.
Step 7 Record success and failures. The Game Engineer, using the skill challenge mechanics, keeps track of the failures and successes. Once either success or failures meet their mark, the skill challenge is over.
Step 8 Determine Consequences. The Alpha and betas advances the story based on the results of the skill challenge. A failure indicates a complication in the story that must be followed. For example, guards are now on alert so there are patrols, guards shout at intruders, etc. Success indicates successfully infiltration, so guards are surprised, don’t recognize characters as intruders etc. In any case, the narrative continues and does not stop.
Step 9 Determine Rewards. At the send of the session, XP is awarded for any skill challenges. All skill challenges (failures or success) reward XP based on complexity and level.