December 13, 2008

The Skill Challenges of War - Part 2: The Complexities of War

The first post can be found here. The series is part of a the 5th RPG Blog Carnival - "Transitions & Transformations" being hosted by I would also like to announce that this series will be feature two guest authors in the next week or so: the authors of MadBrewLabs and At-Will have both agreed to share their talents at developing these skill challenges.

The Complexities of War
Before we get into usable 4th Edition skill challenges for war-time campaigns a few points should be raised. The more I think about this series the more I think it could be very easy to make these skill challenges very complicated; especially if you thinking about how each skill challenge contributes to some greater war effort. So, in order to limit our scope somewhat, lets agree that _how_ the success or failure of an individual skill challenge affects the greater war effort is beyond the scope of this series.

However, while creating a system such as the 3.5 Victory Points might be beyond the scope of this series (see Heroes of Battle for more info), it strikes me that most, if not all, of the Skill Challenges for War could use a set of modifiers (bonuses/penalties) to help guide the DM in adjudicating the results of individual challenges. For example, modifiers could be determined for if you greatly outnumber the enemy, if they outnumber you, if you are defending your homeland or attacking theirs, if you have superior force strength (levels) or are attacking more powerful opponents, the number of days you have been 'active' on the battlefield, the inspiration of your leaders, etc, etc. The list could go on and on. We could take time making such a long list that might apply to each of the skill challenges we are going to develop; or we could squash them all into a much shorter table. The key to these and most any skill challenge is that they need to be playable, simple to run, and you do not want to introduce a new mechanic to the game unless you absolutely must.

Thus, what we will do is create a simple table that will apply to all the Skill Challenges of War that you will see as part of the upcoming posts in this series.

Skill Challenges of War (war modifiers)
Major Advantage+3
Minor Advantage+1
Minor Disadvantage-1
Major Disadvantage-3

This is a bit like the p.42 DM's Best Friend (+/-2 bonus rule) in the DMG, but the main difference is that these bonuses could stack. The DM might ask the players "What kind of advantages and disadvantages do you think you have?", then merge those to his or her own list and come up with a final net bonus or penalty. For example, you could have a skill challenge such as "capture an enemy commander" which might require six successes before three failures. The enemy might be attacking your hometown, but you might be greatly outnumbered so your commanders have decided to make a tactical withdrawl with, hopefully, an enemy leader as a hostage. You could imagine a fairly large number of debatable bonuses or penalities to such a situation - but as the DM, you would sum them up into one modifier to use throughout the skill challenge. We will call it the war modifier, and it could apply to any or even all of the individual skill checks that are made as part of the overall skill challenge.

I'm hoping to have the first of these skill challenges out by tommorrow or Tuesday (it has been a very busy last week or so). Until then, stay tuned! and good night.

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