Friday, December 03, 2010

D&D 4E Skill System

It took a long time for D&D to make skills actually an integral part of the game. I remember back in AD&D days how there was really a strange disconnect between skills and game play - but then again we were more about the combat back then. I'm actually really impressed with a number of things about the way skills work in 4E.

1) The set number of skills means no skill creep. Skill creep is when you have an ever expanding list of skills to choose from. Basically they have distilled them into a set that you can peg just about anything into. Some of the connections seem a bit forced, like stonework under dungeoneering, but all in all it is nice to have a small set list to work with. This actually encourages me to use skills more in designing adventures.

2) Skill challenges are also a great addition to the game mechanics. What skill challenges do is give a progression in which skills are applied to a task to complete it. You need x successes before x failures. You can do other things like tie pieces of information to certain numbers and kinds of successes. Also you can set a maximum number of times any one skill can be applied to the challenge - this is really good for getting players to think creatively about what they are doing. I make them justify their skill picks and assist skill picks (and award role playing XP for such things).

3) Passive insight and passive perception are great as well. They represent how intuitive and attentive the character is. It is neat for them to automatically detect that someone is trying to scam them in some way. Just make sure that if you want to make secret doors a challenge, make them higher than the highest passive perception.

4) The last thing I like is that it actually forces the party to balance out their ability scores. By balancing out ability scores and skills they cover over a larger range of possibilities - it means they play more creative characters and make sure that we do not have an all striker party.

The new skill system is a big hit in my book.

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