Skill Challenges Step by Step

A skill challenge proceeds in the following order:

  1. Establish the Stakes: The GM sets the scene and describes the goal of the skill challenge (and the consequences of losing).

  2. Introduce a Complication: The GM addresses one or more heroes and describes a threat or obstacle that they can't ignore.

  3. Resolve the Complication: One of the addressed heroes presents their plan to overcome the complication. The GM calls on the hero to make a test of skill, then describes and records the outcome.

  4. Move the Scene Forward: Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the heroes accumulate three successes (and win) or three failures (and lose).

Rules Tip: A costly success counts as a success! Even three 1s in a row can win a skill challenge (at the cost of three meaningful setbacks) (see Outcomes).

Contriving Complications: The nature of a skill challenge suggests the nature of its complications. Possible complications for "navigate a treacherous rainforest" might include "a sudden storm causes a flood," or "the party wanders into a den of brumating jungle snakes."

Winning and Losing: If the heroes win the skill challenge, they achieve the goal. If they lose the skill challenge, they don't achieve the goal. Before the heroes have accumulated three successes or three failures, the GM must not interpret the outcome of any test in a way that would make the overarching goal impossible (or inevitable) to achieve.

Self-Contained Subsystem: The procedure of a skill challenge overrides the procedures described in Combat and Peril. For example, when you attack an orc during a skill challenge, your Fighting test determines whether or not you overcome the complication (in this case, an orc). Damage is irrelevant; you either overcome the orc or you don't. You might describe your use of a special feature like Crush Attack (2 SP) to finesse the fiction and gain advantage on the Fighting test, but the rules text of Crush Attack (2 SP) is largely set aside.

GM Tip: Take care to ensure that the narrative of a skill challenge doesn't flagrantly contradict what is possible given the usual rules. For example, if a hero casts a daily spell like Hold Foe during a skill challenge, that hero can't cast it again 30 minutes later.