[4e] Combat as Skill Challenge

edited June 2008 in Story Games
We talked about something tonight that I think will make for a better D&D4 experience for me, so I wanted to share it with y'all.

Combat in D&D is (now) really, really fun. It also takes a bit of time and attention, like setting up a battlemat and cool terrain ideas and such. It's fun, but it's not totally casual and quick. But sometimes, when you're playing an RPG, you need to do a fight in a casual and quick way.

Fortunately, D&D4 has us covered: Skill challenges. You can do a skill challenge that represents combat. For those times when you need to beat up the goons at the tavern real quick, or fight a duel at court, or whatever. Failing in a skill challenge can cost healing surges, which is a perfect match for combat.

If you want to get a little hinky with it, you might even let people use their attack powers as part of the skill challenge.


  • Any examples of combat as skill challenges from your play, John?
  • Not yet. I have a few in my notes for next session, though. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • The challenges stuff has made me very tempted to bust the Fate 2.0 challenge tracks back out, since it's just more variants on the same system, but I am resisting all such urges until I have the books in hand. :)

    -Rob D.
  • I am intrigued by your ideas, sir, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
  • John, John, John, tell the story about the white dragon and the holy symbol!
  • My 4e campaign is tentatively scheduled to have a military backdrop.

    I can see making "how the battle has gone for you" a skill challenge before the "adventure encounter" bit breaks out.

  • Rob, I was mulling over a similar idea a couple days ago: Since 4e is no longer 'strictly sim' in concept, there isn't a need for something like a set of fantasy miniature rules to handle big battles -- battles are event-based adventure structures:

    Suppose there's a party consisting of a Warlord, a Wizard, a Ranger, a Rogue, and a Fighter. They become involved in a battle against invading Orc tribes which are trying to conquer an isolated 'point of light' Barony. The Baron's troops go to war against the horde, but what do the PCs do during the battle?

    The Warlord, Rogue, and Fighter face a skill challenge to determine whether the Warlord and his 'command staff' can direct the battle in the Barony's favor. Succeed, and the battle goes well, fail, and the command team is overrun; the PCs, backed up by a dozen minion soldiers fight a big encounter with maybe thirty Orc minions led by some tougher Orcs. Meanwhile, the Wizard and the Ranger have a skill challenge to sneak into the enemy headquarters and bollix up the Orcs magical support. Succeed, and the tide of battle turns in the Barony's favor. Fail there, and there's a running battle as the Ranger tries to get the Wizard out of the enemy camp alive.

    Either way. the party joins up for the big finish -- if the battle is going well, it's leading the charge against the Big Bad directing the Orcs, otherwise it's the siege of the Baron's castle. Both involve a skill challenge; break the enemies morale before the big fight, or help refugees and civilians get out of the besieged castle before the Orcs assault.

    Or something like that...

  • John -- absolutely and yes. Since the DMG only talks about skill challenges during combat (not using them in place of combat), please post any actual play experiences you might have.

    I had already intended on trying out a skill challenge during combat (such as DainXB's example) but this thread is inspiring me to try one combat encounter set up as a skill challenge only.
  • Dain, that sounds really awesome. i just wanted to blurt that out.
    all of these ideas are really inspiring, and i'm stoked that the house rules
    aren't waiting for something so minor as the release of the game.

    did i ever tell you about the time my dragonborn paladin and his support staff (best term ever) took out this white dragon...
  • edited June 2008
    Years ago I agreed to run a D20 Modern game for some buddies, and between organizing the game and actually starting play, I read FATE and Sorcerer.

    I bet you can imagine where this is going. Fortune in the Middle, conflict-based resolution for *everything*.

    The biggest difference from 4e skill-challenges was allowing players to buy immediate bonuses for skill roles in exchange for a future complication. It sort of evolved organically, but it ended up being the driving force of the game. The favors, compromises, and risky moves they made to handily defeat their first real crisis pretty much led to them authoring the next few sessions of crises. That's kind of off-topic, though.

    In any case, my favorite skill challenge combat involved a con-man who owed big money playing a last-ditch high-stakes card game to try to bail his ass out. It ended with a gunfight, sort of ... by the time we got to that point he'd so thoroughly convinced everyone he was a broken man just going through the motions of losing the game slowly, when he finally drew down on them I didn't even ask him to roll -- he killed them unawares. Long story short, a PC killed four people with Gambling and Bluff. It took him six hours and a couple of bottles of whiskey, but that beat the hell out of a straight up fight he had no chance of winning.
  • Posted By: JuddJohn, John, John, tell the story about the white dragon and the holy symbol!
    Hmmm. That might be another thread. It wasn't a skill challenge thing, but it was NUCLEAR COOL.
  • Posted By: John HarperPosted By: JuddJohn, John, John, tell the story about the white dragon and the holy symbol!
    Hmmm. That might be another thread. It wasn't a skill challenge thing, but it was NUCLEAR COOL.

    Oh, okay, I misunderstood what it was.
  • Wow, this potential sounds awesome. I've been wanting to tweak True20 and/or M&M so that combat and skill rolls work the same (and World of Darkness too, for that matter), so if there's some inherent way to do this in 4E, that makes me very happy.
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