Some skill checks answer simple, immediate, yes/no questions. Do I see that goblin hiding in the bushes? A 15 — why, yes, I do. A simple yes/no die roll is appropriate and satisfying for those situations.
But a single check doesn’t always feel right for other situations, particularly those involving ongoing, progressive challenges in which failure could happen at any time, with consequences.
- I can fail my attempt to scale a building at any point, but it hurts a lot more if I fail near the top.
- Similarly, it feels weird to have one roll to climb a 10-foot wall and then to also roll once to scale a 1,000-foot cliff-face.
- A single check to disarm a complicated trap often feels anticlimactic and out-of-sync with a combat system that might require several swings to dispatch a complicated monster.
I’m not the first to try to complicate such scenes. D&D has taken several shots at it. The most well-known experiment was 4th edition’s skill challenge system. Fifth edition’s designers fell violently out of love with that experiment, though they clearly still agreed with its goals.
[Read more…] about Breakthroughs & Setbacks: How and Why We Should Bring Back Skill Challenges. Kind of.