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(4E) Narrative Skill Challange House Rules


Retired User
I'm going to be using the following rule for skill challenges in my game. I was wondering what people think of them.

Skill Challenges

1. Set a goal for the skill challenge.
2. Each player than gets to take a turn and make a skill check as described below
3. This continues until the predetermined threshold for successes/failures are met.

Taking your turn
1. Choose skill and an in game goal if successful use of said skill.
2. Each player may only use each skill once per Skill Challenge.
3. If you succeed you gain a benefit and if you fail you gain a detriment.
4. You must narrate or choose someone to narrate the skill use.
5. The narration must include the benefit or detriment chosen and be approved of by all at the table.
6. You may choose each benefit/detriment once per challenge.
7. If you can't take the detriment than you must choose another one.
8. If you have chosen or can't choose any other benefits or detriments you gain an additional success or failure respectively


Check ≥ DC:*1 Success and one benefit below

You or an ally regains your level in Hit Points
You or an ally gains a +1 to the next Skill Roll
You or an ally gains a Magic Item Daily Use
You or an ally regains a Daily Item Power

Check < DC:*1 Failure and one detriment below

You lose your level in Hit Points
You gain a -2 to the next Skill Roll
You lose a Magic Item Daily Use
You lose a Daily Item Power


Check ≥ DC:*1 Success and one benefit below

You or an ally regains a Healing Surge
You or an ally gains a +2 to next Skill Roll
You or an ally gains an Action Point
You or an ally regains a Daily Utility Power

Check < DC:*1 Failure and one detriment below

You lose a Healing Surge
You gain a -4 to next Skill Roll
You lose an Action Point
You lose a Encounter Utility Power


Check ≥ DC:*1 Success and one benefit below

You or an ally regains 2 Healing Surges
You or an ally gains a +4 to next Skill Roll
You or an ally gains a Milestone
You or an ally regains a Daily Attack Power

Check < DC:*1 Failure and one detriment below

You lose 2 Healing Surges
You gain a -6 to next Skill Roll
You do not gain benefits of your next Milestone
You lose an Encounter Attack Power

Overall Success/Failure of Skill Challenge

When the total of successes or failures has reached the predetermined threshold of success/failures the skill challenge is complete.

In the case of success the goal of the skill challenge is accomplished and XP awarded equal to a standard level encounter.

In the case of failure the outcome will be adjudicated by the DM and XP will be awarded at half value.


Skill Challenges may take a longer time frame and players may be allowed to use a skill more than one per challenge and not gain a benefit.

List of DCs

LVL Easy Medium Hard
1 11 17 22
2 12 18 23
3 12 18 23
4 13 19 24
5 13 19 24
6 14 20 26
7 14 21 26
8 15 22 28
9 15 22 28
10 16 23 29
11 17 24 31
12 18 25 32
13 18 26 32
14 19 27 34
15 19 27 34
16 20 28 36
17 20 28 36
18 21 29 37
19 21 29 37
20 22 31 38
21 23 32 41
22 24 33 42
23 24 33 42
24 25 34 43
25 25 34 43
26 26 35 45
27 26 35 45
28 27 37 47
29 27 37 47
30 28 38 48

Example of Play:

I'm trying to go for a more narrative feal where the players take a more active role in the creative/narration process.

For Example:

The PCs just crash landed thier spelljammer ship into the middle of the evil wizards tower and need to make their way to the top to fight the fiend.

DM: Alright guys its skill challenge time. You are trying to make it to the top of the tower. Who wants to go first?

Player 1: I do. As we exit the ship a large horrible monster, that must have been some kind of experiment, that was freed by the crash comes charging at us. I'll make a Medium Athletics check to flip it off the tower with its own momentum. <rolls a failure>. Umm ... ok as the monster charges at me I managed to flip it, but it grabs a hold of me and pulls me as well and I am hanging by the ledge. The strain of holding myself and the monster makes me lose a healing surge.

Player 2:
OK, I go rushing to my friend's aid and with all my might try to lift him out ,but i especially try to make sure he wont fall. I will make a Hard Endurance check. <rolls a success> Woot awesome. "For what seems like an eternity I hold on to both the monster and (player 1) finally the monster can't hold on any longer and loses his grip while I still have mine on my friend. I feel emboldened and will take a +4 to my next skill check.

Player 3: OK, I’ll go now. We all recover and dust ourselves off and start heading up the stairs, and there is a magical trap up ahead. I’ll make an easy perception check. <rolls a success> I say “ hold up there I see something on the floor. Hey haven’t we seen something like this before in the so in so dungeon a year back?” Giving a + 1 bonus to an allies next skill roll.

Player 4: I guess that makes it my turn as the rogue. I step carefully upwards. I explore the magical trap with my thieves’ tools and try to disarm it using a hard Thievery check. <rolls a success> Through skill and blind luck I uncover the secrets of the trap. It was supposed to let loose a torrent of necrotic energy, but I switch the polarity and I regain 2 healing surges.*

Player 5: Um…I don’t know. I guess I’m good at bluff.*

Player 1: Ok how about you trick some guards further upstairs into running down this way so we can get the drop on them.

Player 5: Ok, cool! I’ll make a medium bluff check <rolls failure>I make the Draconian Guards, yea they’re draconians.

DM: Cool.

Player 5: Yea, I uh make them think that their comrades are calling them down here to dispose of the bodies of us. We hear them coming down and then running down as apparently they were not fooled. They charge me, but at the last minute I use my Fey Switch encounter utility power to swap places with the fighter. They run into him are confused.

DM: alright cool, remember you won’t be able to use that power next encounter.

Player 1: I’ll go again. My fighter starts fighting the monsters as more and more show up. At this point I’m holding the line but maybe not for long. I’ll make a medium endurance check. <rolls a success> Wave upon wave of monster crash against my fighter and each time we fight them off and slowing start pushing them back. Finally the one goes down and I’m huffing and puffing. I look over to the warlord and he look back I know its not over yet. As we continue up the stairs. I think I’ll gain an action point.

So on and so forth
Thank you for your time.

Mr Andersen

01D 5K001
I could be wrong, but I think you went and houseruled skill challenges so they actually do what the design team were hoping to have them do all along.

I'm terribly threatened to run off half-cocked and put this to use in a big, vital, skill challenge coming up on monday.

Rich H

Owl Be Back!
RPGnet Member
Validated User
I like this... I'll let more able people run through 'the numbers' and do the usual sense checks but I like what you're trying to do here and its how I visualised skill challenges working in my head so credit for putting this down in a clear and easy to understand way.

Welcome to RPGnet by the way!


Sorcerer Supreme
Validated User
In a sense, this IS exactly what Skill Challenges are supposed to do. The biggest problem with SCs as written are that they don't encourage players to narrate and be creative, but if you read the examples there is an implication they should.

Your use of mechanical benefits is a great way to encourage that participation. Kudos!

Beardo Deluxe

No Ordinary Beard
Validated User
It sounds like a very intriguing idea. Please keep us updated on how it works out in-game.
Last edited:


Retired User
Thank you all for your replys. I came up with this idea for two reasons.

1. I run a lot of games "off the cuff" and usually use players out of game comments as what is happening next. This gives me a way to be even more lazy and at the same time let the players have direct input as to what is going to happen in game.

2. I also usually do about 6 to 8 encounters per game working day and would like a way to let players gain some of their abilities back with out taking an extended rest.

Also thank you for welcoming me to rpg.net. I posted these same rules on the WOTC forums and got no responses at all.


Human Paraquat
Validated User
I posted these same rules on the WOTC forums and got no responses at all.
That is just crazy talk. You have something very interesting here -- not a single person on the WotC boards said anything? That's nuts. Pearls before swine, I tell you.


You die as you live.
Validated User
That is just crazy talk. You have something very interesting here -- not a single person on the WotC boards said anything? That's nuts. Pearls before swine, I tell you.
Well people are prolly afraid of swine flu in that case. ;)

I like the mechanical benefits added on, but I think they are more generous than I would be. For one I don't count failures anymore, my SCs generally end after a predetermined number of checks are attempted and then we use degree of success and degree of fun to determine what they get out of it.


Registered User
Validated User
Some possible hack on the above rules/observations.

Repeated use of Skills: Maybe you can repeat a skill, the DC is and penalty on failure is boosted up 1 notch.

Healing Surges: What if instead of dealing in Healing Surges, it dealt in damage. Then you can have "you gain the opportunity to consume a healing surge" as a benefit, and healing powers can be used during the skill challenge.

Terms used: Failure and Success is used twice -- once per skill check, and once at the end of the challenge. Relabeling one of these might make things smoother.

Discouraging Contribution: Because you are using the 4e standard "count failures", a player may be highly tempted to _do nothing_ (or want to do nothing).

You can generate an effect that removes the "count failures" component by doing "count rounds". After N rounds, the challenge is over. You look at how many points you earned to determine the result.

Failures then become:
A> You get the detriment (which is a personal punishment), and
B> You lose the opportunity to generate a success

This also lets you hook into the existing "complexity" concept: ie, a complexity 5 challenge is one that is expected to require 5 people to work on to solve it.

If you throw 6 people at it, it is easier: if you throw 4 at it, it is harder.

Under a failure/success count, having only the expert attempt a challenge, regardless of the 'complexity', makes it easier.

Under the "you have X rounds" system, you want as much help as you can get to complete a challenge.

And if you have a party of N people all contributing, they are isomorphic.

It also allows mechanics like going "high risk" -- doing a Hard + 5 DC in order to generate 2 points on a success, because you are running out of time.

And, it allows for skill challenges to overlap with combat encounters. A Complexity 2 skill challenge with 60% of a normal encounter becomes something that needs the efforts of 2 people to defeat, while the other 3 fight off the monsters.

To make that work, we want the skill challenge round-count to line up roughly with "the combat encounter isn't in mop-up" round-count: say 5. This also lines up (roughly) with the number of skills a player has.

Next, we can scale the Easy/Medium/Hard DC rewards. An Easy DC generates 1 success point, Medium 2, and Hard 3.

With each player generating an average of 1 successes per round, a complexity X challenge then requires X*25 points to defeat fully, over 5 rounds.

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