Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saving the School Children

This point in the story is ripe for a skill challenge. A giant turtle-shell ferry trapped up against the side of a building in the middle of a raging flood with children in mortal peril while aquatic beasts threaten to eat everyone is just totally awesome. I included two different creatures to complicate the encounter. I suggest the following encounter for a party of five adventurers:

Total: 2,800 xp (Level 11 Encounter)

The skill challenge will often cause one of the beasts to be marked by the PCs. This is to encourage the party to feel as though they are luring the monsters away from the children as they work to rescue them. This is a good place to encourage unorthodox thinking to solve the skill challenge. Reward creative solutions with automatic successes on the challenge.

Black Magga enters the scene when the skill challenge is complete, or when the monsters in this encounter look like they're about to be slain.

Stat block:


Starfox Musings said...

Shouldn't complexity 2 mean 4 successes before 3 failures? 6 successes implies complexity 4, worth 2000 xp.

Overall, I find that skill challenges happening simultaneously with fights need different failure mechanic; failure limits don't generally work well as the players can then simply ignore the challenge completely and go for the critters.

Here I'd suggest a beast not marked in a round consumes a victim and flees. Two victims consumed constitutes an utterly failed challenge. The boat starts 6 squares from shore; each success moves the boat one step closer to the shore.

Starfox Musings said...

I mage a page on my Wiki for this:

Scott said...

A complexity of 2 indicates that a skill challenge requires 6 successes before 3 failures. A complexity of 4 would require 10 successes before 3 failures.

Since this is a complexity 2 skill challenge, and monsters of 10th level are worth 500 XP apiece, 1,000 experience is the appropriate award for successfully completing this skill challenge.

If you'd like to read up on how experience is calculated for skill challenges, check out "Step 2: Level and Complexity" on page 72 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.

When I ran this skill challenge I didn't encounter any issues with players not wanting to save the children before killing the monsters. The boat was pulled ashore well before the last beast was killed. You can impress an artificial sense of urgency on the players without altering the mechanics. Remember that the critters are not the only (or even the primary) danger posed to the schoolchildren. They are trapped against the side of a building and the boat is threatening to capsize.

Having to mark two beasts every round strikes me as difficult, even with the assistance of the skill challenge's mechanics. I think a better solution might be to institute a time limit if your players are ignoring the boat and start accruing automatic failures if they do nothing. I don't want to say that the boat moves one square towards shore per success, because that both a) implies that dragging the boat to shore is the only way to complete the challenge successfully, which is unnecessarily restricting, from a narrative standpoint, and b) quickly removes the element of danger created by the boat threatening to flip over and smash its contents against the wall of the general store.

Scott said...

I do like your suggestions on the Gorger and Chaw encounter, though. I'd been struggling with how to make this fight work better in 4th Edition without resorting to making him a solo monster, and adding a dire bear is an excellent way of taking care of that.

Starfox Musings said...

The way things actually turned out, the players made a break-in into the shop and handed the children inside through the windows, while others fought the monsters to a standstill outside. The 1 square/success mechanic never happened.

Scott said...

That's a really cool solution. When designing skill challenges it's often best to make them light on mechanical effect, especially when paired with a tactical encounter. Predicting how players are going to approach a problem is difficult. The key is to reach a balance between flexibility and interesting challenges flavored to the situation.