If you’re reading this, make sure to check these out in action during ALMOST HEROIC on BYTES N BREWS!

Greetings all!  Today I thought I would extend the 5e rule variants used in my own home games and, more importantly, the Almost Heroic Youtube series (Premiers 5/11/17).  This will cover inspiration, 4e Skill Challenge integration, the beloved Fail Scale, and more.


Let’s get this ugly bastard out of the way first, before most of you D&D fans scold me for referring back to 4e D&D:

Skill challenges, when done correctly and with the correct groups, are an awesome feature to include into games.  It provides an ability to abstract and speed up the passage of time when necessary.  It allows the players to interact and change the story as they go.  And, most importantly, more dice rolls mean more hilarious moments of triumph and failure.

To see a wonderful overview of the mechanics on how to use skill challenges in 5e, please check out this awesome blog post by Death By Mage.  To build off that, here are my core concepts and heart of my skill challenges.

Make a Clear Objective, Then Make The Players Build The Scene

Doing this gives players control over the narrative, and allows them to create the theme of the story as they go.  This helps the game by giving them input into the scenes that are going on, and takes a burden off of the DM by allowing the players to provide the visuals of what is occurring.  I use the following steps:

  1. Define the Objective – Make sure to give the course the players are taking.  Some examples of this could be “Chase Down the Thief”, “Fight a Horde of Monsters”, or “Escape the Prison”.  This sets the bumpers on the players and allows them to continue in the direction of the story.
  2. Roll Initiative and Have the Players Describe The Actions Taken – Using their set skills, have the players describe the actions they are taking.  For example: with the guideline “Chase Down the Thief”, a player could use Perception to try to find which way they went or Arcana to magically bar their path.
  3. Throw Dice and Determine Results – Using the roll of the player, describe the outcome of their action.  Using the Arcana example above, a success would mean that the thief was diverted and allows the party to catch up.  A failure would be described as the magic actually thwarting the party and allowing the thief ability to escape.
  4. Continue Process Until Success or Failure Threshold is Reached – The situation should not resolve until the threshold is met, meaning that even though the players are taking actions to complete their objective, each action either brings them closer or further from success.  Never allow an automatic win.

Use The Challenge to Show Passage of Time or Link Events

One of the best reasons to use skill challenges is to show the passage of time, or as I call it, MONTAGE!  Do your players have to travel for a week, or need to train for an upcoming battle?  Skill challenges work wonders for allowing time to speed up to allow players to keep the pace of action between events.

Another reason is to use it as a link between two events or story lines.  A perfect example of this would be getting players into a dungeon.  If they are venturing in a set of old ruins, a slide trap can be flavored as a skill challenge to get them into the dungeon in a fun and entertaining way.

Entertain The Masses

Since we’re using this for a YouTube production, this allows us to allow all the players some screen time and a chance in the spotlight as they describe their heroics!  As players at a table in a home game, some players get out shined by more outgoing players.  Having this structured event allows those players a dedicated time to help the narrative and direct the scene to their choosing!

Stay tuned for more updates on the Almost Heroic rule variants coming up, and make sure to check out the series on YOUTUBE!

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