View Full Version : 4e skill challenges & online play

August 18th, 2010, 15:00
Has anyone here found that skill challenges are just not that fun when played online? To me they seem to be more of a pain than anything.

During the last game I ran I decided to skip two (out of combat) skill challenges simply because they were not adding anything to the game.

I mean, in the unlikely event that the players fail the challenge what am I to do? Should I tell them that they can't find the lair and toss an encounter at them? How does that add to the fun of the game? Furthermore, what is the point of having them roll the dice if it is very unlikely that they will fail?

The challenge that I was using was well written and detailed, but I found that it just didn't work online. I wasn't having fun running it and I'm sure the players just found it boring. There seems to be an atmosphere around a skill challenge when played in person that just doesn't translate to online play.

Sometimes you might think that something will work well in an online game, but you don't really know until you try it.

Moon Wizard
August 18th, 2010, 18:02
I guess it depends on the skill challenge design. I've primarily used Wizards adventures, and I've found their skill challenges to generally not be done well. I think it is their encounter-based adventure design more than anything.

I agree that any skill challenge that is essential to the storyline needs a lot more forethought and planning than those that don't. For badly planned skill challenges, you end up having to give all the information to the players anyways to keep the story moving even if they failed.

There have been a couple skill challenges that have worked well, and those are ones where the story does not stall, but it changes the resources that the PCs have available going forward. (delays allow enemy forces to get better position, failures cause hardship = less healing surges, etc.)

Also, I've found that telling my group they are in a skill challenge tends to have them rolling random skill rolls instead of actually addressing the challenge. So, now I try not to tell them, and make the skill challenge more ad hoc.


August 18th, 2010, 18:51
I agree with Moon in that I've found it's best not to tell people they are in a skill challenge - just let them play it out asking for die rolls when it seems appropriate.

On the other hand don't be afraid to add a low complexity skill challenge on the fly if a character wants one. Since I often don't tell players whether they are in a skill challenge on not I've found that occasionally they will try to "start" one spontaneously by asking about skill rolls. I've found they tend to do that against hazards, strange objects/dressings or points of frustration for them. It's hard to go wrong with running a skill challenge in this case.

Also like Moon, I've found that one of the best type of challenge is one that makes available to the party resources they would not otherwise gotten or ones that negate or minimize the effect of negative effects. The Vecna skill challenge in H2 is a very good example of this if you have that module.

Except for skill challenges as part of combat, a skill challenge that takes place over hours or days seem to work best. If you have access to DDI that series of articles on skill challenges by Mearls is pretty good: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Archive.aspx?category=dungeon&subcategory=skillchallenges

Of the example skill challenges in the DMG I think the outdoor one is best as an example of scale, but also the worst in all they do on failure is trigger an encounter. Some players would deliberately fail a skill challenge to get an encounter - :p not what you want. What I do in those type of overland encounters is I usually have the encounters I want to run out doors. Failing the skill challenge just means the party starts the encounter with a disadvantage. IE in the Jungle with a failure on the skill challenge the encounter starts with someone hanging upside down from a rope trap or down a pit of spikes or with a few of the party sliding down a bank into a pool of piranha.