Skill Challenges

I’ve been working on a system to spice up action rolls outside of combat. This tool is meant to simulate a plethora of situations where a single action roll might feel to simplistic. Feel free to have a look and leave some feedback:


I definitely like the idea.

I don’t exactly come up with great homebrew myself so I feel unworthy of criticizing other peoples stuff.
But here I go!

  • pain for the GM
    I like the idea. But just from what I’ve read, running Skill Challenges is gonna be a huge pain in the round bit of flesh located on the back of a person. GM’s will have to prepare skill challenges ahead of time or pause the game to rule down how the skill challenges will go, not to mention they have to determine what scenario would call for a skill check or skill challenge. It’s a lot of steps and setup which is difficult. I Game Master for OL because it’s easy, it’s rules light and I have the authority and final say on everything. Rules be damned because that’s literally the very first rule mentioned in OL: F’ the rules!
    Skill Challenges are hard to prepare for, each scenario must be properly ruled by the GM to accurately represent each case by case scenario, which is a lot of thinking and brain usage!
    Skill checks on the other hand… You wanna do this thing? Roll this or higher, boom.
    Combat? 2 minutes, I got some monsters, they all have the same stats but I’ll give them different names and maybe feats too. Still more trouble but I think not as much trouble as Skill Challenges.
    I am a forever GM though, and a pretty lazy one at that, so maybe there’s a little pinch of subjectivity in this part of my criticism. Not to mention I haven’t playtested this yet. I’m just saying how I think it might be from what I’ve read.

  • I like the idea
    skill checks are indeed way more mundane and boring compared to combat which has an entire section on the rules. Unlike other systems, the only part of OL that is heavily ruled is combat, some people might like that but some might not.
    The reason I like it at least is because it means everything that isn’t combat is up for the GM to decide how it goes.
    What will be heavily ruled and what won’t be heavily ruled.
    If the campaign is a dungeon crawler, then the GM decides how the dungeon crawling experience is handled, ruled, and rolled.
    If the campaign is survival, the GM will decide what part of the survival experience they want the players to experience. whether food supplies, dehydration, navigation, travel pace, or what have you. The GM decides which of those things is important and is ruled and rolled for, and which are simply faded into background as 1 note sentences.
    However others might like if things were more clear cut.
    That’s an OL problem though, not a Skill Challenges problem…
    The fun part of non combat encounters for me at least is the roleplaying of the skill rolls, which ends as swiftly as they begin. However they are not very interactive. Again, I’ve already described how non combat encounters go in my table. Describe -> Roll -> Interpret and done. Less than 20 seconds was spent. I’ll talk about this more later…

  • Encourages more well rounded attribute placements
    I like that Skill Challenges actually might encourage players to invest in other attributes and create characters with builds not just specifically for a type of playstyle to be used in combat, but rather, other kinds of characters too.
    Since combat is the only ruled out thing in OL, my players tend to build characters for combat, and I guess it’s partially my fault for doing a lot of combat centric campaigns too.

  • Not enough meaningful decisions, just a more lengthy and more rolling version of skill checks
    I think the main problem I have with skill checks is not because they don’t represent the doing of a task very well, I mean, a simple roll to determine the success or failure of something is fine. But its the fact that unlike in combat, there aren’t enough meaningful decisions a player can make. It’s GM asks for a roll, and Player rolls, success or failure (with a twist or story progresses thing obviously)
    Skill challenges do indeed give a better representation of performing tasks, but they still don’t allow for meaningful decisions.
    The most meaningful decisions they might be making is what attribute to use, especially when you are doing the whole disadvantage for spamming the same attribute thing. Even then that is a very simple problem of finding the odds, and might not even become a decision a player makes but rather, an algorhythm that they’ll just follow.
    I think if Skill Challenges allowed for Banes and Boons to play a meaningful role as they do in combat would benefit this homebrew a lot.
    Yeah the GM could just make up on the fly how banes or boons would play a role in the skill challenge, but that’d be forcing everyone to spend effort making homebrew for a homebrew, players from my experience don’t like it when a GM comes up with a rule on the spot based on a case by case basis because they think its a convenience ploy.
    Unless the players are allowed meaningful choices Skill Challenge to me I think is just a more longer and more repetitive skill check. I mean when you think about it, combat is just a very drawn out skill check just like skill challenges. But in combat, players have options. Where should they move? Who do they beat up first? What’s our victory condition? That sort of stuff.
    I think if anything , Skill Challenges I think could be a fun roleplaying experience. The most you’ll get out of a Skill Challenge is the roleplaying. Your examples didn’t do a good job representing how fun roleplaying a skill challenge could be but to me I think that’s where the real fun of this homebrew lies in. Reading that castle siege example I couldn’t help but fantasize about how the GM would describe each week in detail, telling the player’s accomplishments and setbacks and the players roleplaying each action roll of the week, going out to the field and giving a speech of varying degrees based on their Presence score, or the Logic guy coming up with innovative siege contraptions on the fly to keep their foes on their toes. Fun for the roleplay hardcores, not much for those looking to play a game. Unless you reward roleplaying with legend points or advantage, but stuff like that still don’t count as meaningful decision making for the player’s part.

Like I said, I don’t think I’m worthy of posting something like this. I criticized, but I didn’t offer any suggestions on how to fix things which makes me feel real bad. I thought any suggestion I come up with might just end up being absurd like most of my other homebrew.
In addition, I feel as if I’m using this homebrew of Skill Challenges to try to fix problems I have with the OL system without directly and actively participating instead in just making a homebrew that’ll work for me and my party and relying on someone else.
(The whole meaningful decision rant and all. And how I want banes and boons to play meaningful roles.)
Basically I feel my critique is more subjective and personal rather than objective and biased. Hence my feeling of unworthiness.

But yeah…

I’m definitely trying and suggesting the rule to my party. I berated it a whole bunch but that’s because I’m really interested and really like the idea! I’m hoping now that if I get the chance to play with the rule, I can modify it and adjust it to fit my wants and desires of a more meaningful skill checking experience.
And this is like uhh… One step closer to achieving that…!

(self doubting whether I should post this or not but here I go anyways!)

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Not really, it isn’t any harder or more time consuming than creating an encounter, in fact I think it would be slightly easier. I can make a skill challenge like this about as fast as I can make an encounter on the fly. You mentioned making monsters/NPC, I can make varied ones, not all the same stats, in no time at all as well. Describing a scene/challenge and setting a CR doesn’t take much, you have 3 things to focus on (CR, # of Success, # of Failure), not too different from HP, Guard, Attack Dice. Setback or Opp isn’t much different, and can flow organically from the narrative.

It would be like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it gets too.

I’m a very heavy improv type of GM, so I don’t prep specifics as much, and very much roll with things as they happen. I’ve done group challenges before (not quite like this, but not too far off).

Like anything, you won’t use it every time in every situation. Just like every roll matters, not every piece is needed for every situation.

First of all: Thanks for the feedback! You don’t need to be an avid brewer to find potential flaws or give an educated opinion. I’ll address the points one by one:

It might sound complex at first but I think with some practice a GM will learn how to improvise just as easily as in combat scenarios. It’s a new skill to be acquired, for sure, but as Moustache said, it’s not that different than coming with a Success with Twist or a Fail Forward. Also, my preparation generally isn’t much more than thinking about what the players will probably do next and I’ve run variations of this, so I think it’s manageable.

I mean rule 0 has been around since the first edition of D&D, so that’s not that unique to OL.

I’m not entirely sure what you mean with “meaningful choice” and you mention it a couple of times, so maybe you can expand on that?

Otherwise, I understand much of your criticism here:

  • Skill Challenge to me I think is just a more longer and more repetitive skill check.

Correct, that’s why I introduced the event stuff, so a GM can break up the flow and introduce an encounter, a puzzle, or whatever if they wish to do so.

  • I think if Skill Challenges allowed for Banes and Boons to play a meaningful role as they do in combat would benefit this homebrew a lot

Narratively, I agree, which is why I included examples that equated pretty much to banes or boons. Creating an illusion is just a Phantasm with a different CR in this case. Asking your God for Advice can just be Precognition with a different CR. Mechanically I disagree, which is why I didn’t include them or mentioned them. They take away from the streamlined, quick nature of Skill Challenges.

  • I think if anything , Skill Challenges I think could be a fun roleplaying experience. The most you’ll get out of a Skill Challenge is the roleplaying. Your examples didn’t do a good job representing how fun roleplaying a skill challenge could be

Sure, but that’s mostly up to the players and to the GM, not to me. This a tool and the examples are meant to show how to apply them in a session, and I tried to keep them concise, as another person pointed out to me that the examples take up vastly more space than the actual mechanics. So if a GM wants to reward a player for coming up with the idea of a counterattack on the hacker in the last example, or if a GM wants to give advantage to a player giving a rousing speech along with their presence roll, then that’s their prerogative. After all, all the base rules of Open Legend still apply to the Skill Challenges, so feats, good choices, and perks are still rewarded, while bad ideas, flaws, and other averse effects (i.e. fatigue) aren’t.

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I’ve added a couple of lines to the mechanical description of the Skill Challenge, which hopefully addresses some of your concerns, especially those expressed in your last point:

The GM is the final arbiter to determine what attribute is appropriate for any given action roll. Some attributes might fit the task at hand better, are used in such a creative way, or enhanced with roleplay, such that the GM grants an advantage to the roll. In contrast, other attributes might be a poor fit or might be more likely to fail, thus warranting a disadvantage on the action roll. Additionally, a GM might add advantage or disadvantage when a player wants to apply their Perks and Flaws to an action roll. Also, Feats still apply to the action rolls, meaning that Feats like Skill Specialisation or Knowledge apply directly to Skill Challenges. Others might apply indirectly, like those pertaining to Banes or Boons, even if Banes or Boons aren’t part of Skill Challenges. Action rolls can have four different outcomes, depending on the result compared to the CR of the Skill Challenge:

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Back with a reply now after having ran a session running multiple instances of this rule in play.

Here’s what I got, in terms of the experience, and feedback…
Also, replying to things and have some questions with the rule.

Tl;dr This was pretty great!

The Skill Challenge system is indeed a great and generic system that can be used to run all sorts of challenges pertaining to the skills…

We used skill challenge to run:
A chase sequence, a game of slay (makes no sense without context… Oh well), a bae infiltration not too different to one of the examples shown in the google doc.
And I can think of many more things the skill challenge system can be used for.
A dungeon crawl or similar exploration type things, some sort of drawn out social interaction like a debate, and yeah.

I’ve got a question I wanna ask first though, how do you determine when a skill challenge ends?
Is there a let’s say a sort of time limit to it? The doc didn’t describe it and the examples didn’t help me either. Do you roll a set amount of times? Do you keep rolling until a result is achieved? Combination of both? Determined by GM to set accordingly? Yeah, that one probably…

The mechanic of an opportunity or setback event happening is a mechanic I don’t quite like. It’s a positive feedback loop mechanic. The mechanic makes it so that someone who wins is more likely to spiral into victory, and the opposite is true. Sort of like a rich get richer, poor get poorer type thing. I don’t know how I could change this or if it should even be changed but yeah. If you get an opportunity event, if you succeed at that event your required successes reduce which is the same thing as succeeding and increasing the tally. Advantages and basically any other form of reward do the same thing, opportunity events make it more likely that they’ll just succeed anyway, so after the first roll it feels like things get set in stone. Of course it’s up to chance and there’s always the chance for a comeback but yeah… This sucks twice for failing and getting a setback event. Disadvantages and straight up increasing the fail tally by 1 sucks. The latter one especially since fail tally’s are lower than success tallies usually and can only increase on a fumble roll. Essentially if you fail, even if you didn’t fumble, you get a chance to fumble, and if you fumble, well you get the chance to fumble again!
The first idea that came to my mind was to just make events neutral, neither good or bad, but I think that’s boring and goes against the ‘every roll matters’ thing. As said in one of the replies, events exist to make the things happening in between rolls interesting, and having something neutral happen would just suck. My next idea on how to not make events be a positive feedback loop mechanic is to make the event random! Either a random chance of an event happening, or a random chance of an opportunity or setback event. But I think that’s also terrible. How will you determine it? Is it gonna be 50 50, do you not roll and let the GM decide?
If this was the intention of events then that’s fine in the end. My player(s) certainly haven’t complained about the mechanic. Just me.

Now then… In response to the responses and my old response. (heh)

Yeah, future me disagrees with this. From just reading it I thought it might be hard, but after running a game… It’s really straightforward and easy. Obviously fumbled it on my first try but it was smooth sailing afterwards. I disagree with everything said in that bullet lol.
The only reason I find running a combat easy was the fact that I’ve memorized the quick NPC creation table which is funny because that took me months of playing, and this took like 5 minutes.

I thought I did expand on what I meant by meaningful choice from my original reply?
In Combat, players are given the opportunity to make meaningful decisions, in other words strategize. They can prioritize their targets, select banes and boons, move around and use the environment etc. Skill Challenges should give way to meaningful choices. However, after running the system I found my player couldn’t care less. Along with the whole, “Oh, it’s just a skill check but more repetitive” thing I said. They liked the chance to just get to roll lots of dice. And events did make them interesting. Strategy, and the incorporation of banes, boons, feats, perks, flaws, items, whatever, all just came by naturally with each skill challenges and wasn’t as convoluted as I had originally thought.
My video game developer brain just didn’t agree with having no strategy, but I guess the player was more than happy with rolling and me coming up with events for them to deal with was enough…!
In one instance, we actually had a really long back and forth mini skill challenge in the middle of a skill challenge as the after roll event before rolling the next round. Which was fun and strategic I guess???

You didn’t quote more from this and what I meant by roleplaying was different.
Firstly, I was saying the best part of Skill Challenges was that they gave everyone more chance to role play as opposed to a single skill roll.
And by roleplaying, I meant fluff, we roleplay the result of our rolls in our table, not the other way around. In the example of the hacker, I imagine the final roll could go something like this…
after the roll has been made and the results determined, the GM describes how the results play out. “The hacker made a fatal error while busy fighting your other attacks, giving you the perfect opportunity to just very easily overthrow the hacker out of your system! How do you do this?” “I smirk and fix my glasses, (insert witty remark here) and then activate my super convoluted anti-hacking device!”
More chances to describe the results of rolls are fun!
That’s what I like about the Skill Challenges, playing with the system didn’t change how I thought, it only reaffirmed that, that is the strongest part of Skill Challenges to me.
Obviously good description of actions in the table deserves rewards and advantages but in our tables culture we make sure everything that happens is the character’s doing. We don’t describe an action but more often describe an intent/goal behind a roll. (Not “I swing my sword like really hard and fast!” but rather “I desire to inflict massive damage!”) Making it unbiased and every action the character’s not the player’s. A character solves investigations, tugs peoples hearts and things. Not normal but that’s how we do it. Descriptions come after the result of the roll has been determined.

Thank you for the kind replies! I was anxious when I wrote that long ass reply that took me a while to write!
After running with the rule, we’re definitely continuing to use it as is!
It is a very good.


This is covered in the document (though it could be a bit more explicit in there perhaps). But yes, the GM naturally determines the number of successes and the number of failures needed beforehand, which also helps towards how difficult the skill challenge is. Less failures means it is harder, b/c quicker to the failure state, more successes goes the other way. Last is the CR which affects both your successes and failures in how easy they are to get.

To illustrate every kind of Skill Challenge and how to determine the Progress Bar, Setback Bar, and Challenge Rating, you’ll find an example for each distinct Skill Challenge below.

When either the progress bar (# of successes) or failure bar (# of failures) is filled, the skill challenge ends

In the example of the siege, there was a 4 week time that was set, and thus the number of attempts were 4, each attempt representing a week.

I think you misunderstand the purpose of the complication event. The reason it happens is to give the players an opportunity to negate something from happening. In the siege example, the 1st complication they players catch the scouts, stopping them from spreading word for reinforcements. In the 2nd one, they fail to notice, and thus complications arise.

So in the 1st example, they stopped the bad thing from happening as a result of having more failures than successes. In the 2nd one, they weren’t able to stop the bad thing from happening as a result of their having more failures than successes.

The complication and opp events are to highlight what is happening during the skill challenge.

The fact that the events can affect the number of success and failure might be a good point though, I don’t think a complication event should increase failures more, but that is also a choice on the GMs part in the first place, and for certain situations it might be very valid depending on how they do.

As the GM you are always determining things and adjusting based on the situation. Depending on what the players have their characters do and how they end up doing those things with their rolls determines what the end outcome of the event is. You don’t just say, ok failure of the complication means an additional setback and disadvantage 2. It is based on what they have done that you determine those things, and if they do well, nothing. Maybe they even do exceptionally well with rolls and do some very creative things so it actually helps them with advantage.

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Glad to hear that you’ve got the hang of it and that you and your players enjoyed it!

See Moustache’s answer.

See Moustache’s answer. Indeed, it seems you weren’t clear on the cause-effect dynamic here, but let me address a specific point:

This sucks twice for failing and getting a setback event.

I think this is already properly accounted for, as in the Complication events, the PCs can potentially negate these adverse effects and they need critical failures to advance the Setback bar, thus stacking the odds in their favour.

I think I understood now what you meant, but I just don’t agree that everything needs or improves with strategic decision making. Sometimes just reacting and seeing how it turns out is fine too, and I think finding the right balance is the important aspect. You mention being video game developer, so I think an analogy from your field would be quick-time events or puzzles, that break up the flow of the game, and thus provide some variance in gameplay.

I’ve added a paragraph to make it clear that how the roleplay aspects are handled and how they are rewarded, is to be decided at the table in accordance with the GM. I’m glad to hear that that part works for your group and I think many tables would run it similarly, but others might not, so it leaves wiggle-room for different playstyles to play out.