Skill Encounters: Non-Combat Challenges (PFRPG) PDF

4.20/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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Need a challenge besides another combat to throw at your PCs? How about a chase through a crowded urban landscape, a delve into the great library in search of lost secrets or a days-long trek through an ancient forest? Skill Encounters gives you the tools you'll need to create and run compelling non-combat encounters that will test your PCs' skills, wit and imagination.

Included in this 20-page PDF you'll find the basic rules for running and creating your own Skill Encounters along with 5 complete ready-to-run encounters any campaign can use including:

  • Chase
  • Gathering Information
  • Haggling
  • Research
  • Wilderness Travel

Level up your game tonight with an encounter that will test your PCs' talents, guile and skill. Your PCs will never forget it.

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4.20/5 (based on 5 ratings)

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Missing the Basics

2/5

While this PDF has examples of Skill Encounters, it doesn't actually tell you what they are. The section entitled "What is a Skill Encounter" simply gives some fluff, and then says that this book contains some examples. The next section is then "How to read our examples". Nothing on what needs to happen to set up a Skill Encounter.

Do you roll initiative? It discusses turn duration and number of turns, but doesn't actually spell out what a turn is, what the structure of a turn is, what kind of actions can be taken during the turn, who is taking the turn, etc etc. It discusses skill checks, primary and secondary, but makes no mention of if you can do both, or just one per "turn". Does this fit into the combat structure? Are secondary checks move actions and primary standard actions? There isn't even a play-by-play example of running one of these challenges to infer what they're trying to do with this.

It feels like there's a whole chapter missing from the front of this book, or that this book is a supplement to a previous book. The authors make a lot of assumptions as to what they expect us to know going into this book. It's a lot of branches and leaves, but the trunk is missing entirely, and it all falls apart.

The only reason this gets the number of stars I gave it is because it does give some interesting scenarios to various situations one might not have thought of, like the various contacts in the information mission.


Skill encounters for Pathfinder

4/5

This pdf is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC/Editorial, 1 page advertisement, 2/3 page SRD. That leaves 17 1/3 pages of gaming content.

You know, I was rather disappointed when I bought and played 4th edition. I don’t say it’s a bad system because it simply isn’t – it works awesome for the thousands of people who enjoy it, it’s just not made for me. However, I absolutely loved the idea of skill-encounters and had been using a similar concept in my home campaign for years. This pdf brings skill-encounters to PFRPG.
The pdf kicks off with three pages that explain how to read a skill-encounter and how to write them.

The first skill challenge presented is the all-time classic, the chase (3 pages). The encounter includes information on how spells affect the encounter, with several complications like quick changes, escapes to sewers and rooftops and the like and results for failures. We also get a sidebar for combat during the chase.
I enjoyed reading this one.

The second skill-challenge is gathering information (4 pages). This one also has a huge one page box detailing contacts (barkeeper, wenches, etc.) for the PCs to ask. I’ve been looking for a pre-made encounter for this as I always hated the generic “One-roll-you get the-info-approach”. Well-made piece.

The third skill-challenge is haggling (2 pages). Due to the nature of the challenge, this one is rather timid and not too suspense-laden, but well done nevertheless.

The fourth skill-challenge is research (3 pages). This is probably one of the coolest skill-challenges within this book – at least for me. If you happen to have an investigation-heavy campaign, this section alone is worth the price. The complications like other scholars, library holidays and the like are both generic and cool. Nice work.

The fifth and final skill-challenge is wilderness travel (2 1/3 pages). While the default is a forest here, we get a sidebar on other terrains and how to implement the complications presented. Another great skill-encounter.

Conclusion:
I really love skill-encounters, if only because they give PCs a chance to roll the bones and build suspense without resorting to bashing. Thus, this pdf has a rather easy standing with me. Especially the gather information, research and chase encounters are gold for my campaign. The pdf itself is beautiful and full-color, the artwork is okay and presentation is concise and precise in its wording. I didn’t notice any editing glitches. However, there are also some drawbacks that I feel I have to mention: While the pdf is beautiful, the page are yellow and there is no printer-friendly version out there. While the pdf is not large, I think it would have benefited from a printer-friendly version, as b/w print-out it just doesn’t look as great. I also would have loved to see bookmarks, as there are none. In the haggling section, I missed a complication for another bidder for the item. The pdf is priced $5.00, which is ok for the quality, but not too cheap. It’s quite hard for me to rate this pdf: On the one hand, I LOVE skill-encounters and that they have been brought to PFRPG and the utility of this product. On the other hand, I have these minor criticisms and thus can’t rate it 5 stars. I’ll shoot for a very good 4.5 stars instead, with the notice that, if you don’t care about the yellow pages or the lack of a competing haggler, this is a must-buy for you. These rules should be part of the standard Pathfinder canon. Here’s to hoping Paizo will implement them.


Take the game up to 11!

5/5

Pathfinder, D&D, and a host of other roleplaying games are essentially about killing monsters. The combat chapter, most of the Spells and Equipment chapters are essentially about finding a creature and killing it. Hack-n-slash.

Now, perhaps there is actually a reason to bother writing down skill ranks. Skills have been the most neglected part of the game. Until now.

Entire encounters can be designed using these very simple rules that focus on skills and roleplaying rather than hack-n-slash. Encounters become more than just the Cleric making a Diplomacy roll and moving on. Most every player should be able to contribute something to a Skill Encounter now.

The rules are simple, easy to implement in ANY game and the five samples are perfect for giving you the feel of just how much this can cause a boring forgettable encounter to explode into an encounter the players will be talking about for years to come.

One word of warning! The background page is YELLOW... The guys at 4D should really drop the yellow. It's hard on the eyes and a waste of ink.


Excellent expansion to the Pathfinder rules

5/5

I'm just discovering Pathfinder after being away from 3e for 6-7 years, and love the fact that the ruleset is embracing the "next generation" innovations like manoeuvres, traits, hero points, and here Skill Encounters, the Pathfinder version of the Skill Challenge rules. This little PDF is all you need to introduce cool and crunchy skill-based non-combat challenges into your games; it gives you guideline rules for playing them, hints and tips for writing your own, plus five sample and easily customisable skill encounters for chases, info gathering, haggling, researching, and travelling through trackless wilderness. Highly recommended, as well as its trap-oriented companion volume. I hope to see lots of Skill Encounters appearing all over the forums shortly!

I'm giving this 5/5 for content - there are a few unnecessary typos (like one on the cover page!) which mar an otherwise excellent product!


A Great Addition to any GM's Arsenal

5/5

This product presents 5 unique skill challenges, but that's not the best part really. The opening chapter deals with creating your own skill-based encounters which are traditionally the weakest part of the games I run. I think any GM, even an experienced one, will be able get a lot out of this. I highly recommend it. It is designed to work with Pathfinder, but I really think the concepts can translate into almost any gaming system. Two thumbs way up!



4th Dimension Games is live. Check out our first offering for Pathfinder and the 3.5 OGL system; Skill Encounters: Non-combat Challenges.

Want a sample of what to expect? Check out our website.

www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!

Dark Archive

I get the error message, "A drawing error has occurred" on the first page of the sample, Sample Skill Encounter - Storm at Sea (Part 1). No text.


I just download the sample products on the website and viewed them using Adobe Acrobat 8 without any errors. What are you using for the PDF viewer?


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
BlackKestrel wrote:
I just download the sample products on the website and viewed them using Adobe Acrobat 8 without any errors.

Ditto that with Acrobat Reader 9 for the samples.


joela wrote:
I get the error message, "A drawing error has occurred" on the first page of the sample, Sample Skill Encounter - Storm at Sea (Part 1). No text.

Hey Joela,

Thanks for downloading the sample. What PDF viewer are you using? I've been researching the "A drawing error has occurred" error but haven't found anything definitive. It seems to happen a lot to PDFs created by non-Adobe applications opened in Acrobat Reader but this PDF was created with Acrobat so I'm not sure why you'd be having a problem. I've had success opposing it in Acrobat Reader 7 and 9 and it seems BlackKestrel had success with version 8.

Let me know what you're opening with and I'll see if I can get some better information. If anyone else if having this problem please drop a post.

Thanks

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!


Alzrius wrote:
BlackKestrel wrote:
I just download the sample products on the website and viewed them using Adobe Acrobat 8 without any errors.
Ditto that with Acrobat Reader 9 for the samples.

Hey all,

Just got on a different computer and tried viewing the samples. Here is what I experienced.

When I hit the Sample Skill Encounter - Storm at Sea (Part 1) link it opened a new tab in Firefox and began to open the pdf in Acrobat Reader 9. When the download completed it gave me the "A drawing error has occurred" error and no text showed up on page 1. I scrolled down to page 2 and text appeared. I then scrolled back up to page 1 and the text and image appeared.

Alternatively when I right clicked and directly downloaded the sample PDF to my downloads folder and then manually opened it I had no error on opening.

If you are having problems hopefully one of those workarounds will succeed for you as I pursuit the issue more.

Thanks,

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!

Dark Archive

4th Dimension Games wrote:
Alzrius wrote:
BlackKestrel wrote:
I just download the sample products on the website and viewed them using Adobe Acrobat 8 without any errors.
Ditto that with Acrobat Reader 9 for the samples.

Hey all,

Just got on a different computer and tried viewing the samples. Here is what I experienced.

When I hit the Sample Skill Encounter - Storm at Sea (Part 1) link it opened a new tab in Firefox and began to open the pdf in Acrobat Reader 9. When the download completed it gave me the "A drawing error has occurred" error and no text showed up on page 1. I scrolled down to page 2 and text appeared. I then scrolled back up to page 1 and the text and image appeared.

Alternatively when I right clicked and directly downloaded the sample PDF to my downloads folder and then manually opened it I had no error on opening.

If you are having problems hopefully one of those workarounds will succeed for you as I pursuit the issue more.

Thanks,

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!

This may be it. I'll try your fix in a bit....


joela wrote:


This may be it. I'll try your fix in a bit....

Any luck? Hope things worked out.

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

For those interested, I've posted my review of this book over on EN World.

Maybe someday Paizo will take the cap off of the size of reviews posted here, so I won't have to keep linking off-site. ;p

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

My only complaint is that the system has the same flaw as 4E's skill challenges. Small incentive for players to participate.

Why, you ask? Because of the chance of failure.

If I'm Mr. Noskill, and stand a better chance of failing than succeeding, the best course for me is to sit out so I don't add failures to the total. I roll too many failures, the whole party loses. It would be best to cut out 'total failures before complete failure' completely.

Having the option to roll to negate failures while not having a chance to succeed helps that issue. It is, however, more complicated than necessary. I would recommend only using the failures tracking if there is no time limit on the challenge. (Researching a difficult topic or such.) When you are chasing someone, the time limit of 'must catch within X rounds or they get away' is enough of a chance of failure. And it gives great incentive for everyone to try and add to the success pile. Risking a failure pile is a disincentive.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Having the option to roll to negate failures while not having a chance to succeed helps that issue. It is, however, more complicated than necessary.

Secondary skill checks can do a lot more than simply negate failures - oftentimes they can add bonuses to primary checks, make other checks possible, etc.

Likewise, having multiple skills for primary checks at varying DCs means that it's easier to involve multiple PCs in the skill encounter.


Alzrius,

Thanks for the review and a special thanks for some excellent constructive criticism. I can tick off at least 3 key points from your review that we'll want to address as we continue with the Skill Encounter's line.

TriOmegaZero wrote:

My only complaint is that the system has the same flaw as 4E's skill challenges. Small incentive for players to participate.

Why, you ask? Because of the chance of failure.

If I'm Mr. Noskill, and stand a better chance of failing than succeeding, the best course for me is to sit out so I don't add failures to the total. I roll too many failures, the whole party loses. It would be best to cut out 'total failures before complete failure' completely.

Hey TriOmegaZero, let me try to assuage your fears.

While I agree your quote above is often the case in 4E skill challenges, Skill Encounters attempts to deals with this issue in a number of ways we’ve found very effective at our table. Basically we start from the idea that it’s more fun to do something rather than sit around and wait. So what have we done to mitigate this…

The main means is Secondary skills. Secondary skill checks aid a Primary skill check or have unique effects like allowing a reroll, negating a consequence, providing a small bonus over a number of turns, etc. Only Primary skill checks can score a failure for purposes of determining success or failure of the skill encounter so Secondary skills are worth trying as there is no real negative side.

Secondary skills also allow you to be creative. You can try to find a unique way to use a skill you are good at but might not be readily applicable to the encounter (at a high DC) or try something skill encounter appropriate that your character isn’t very skilled at (however with a lower DC).

Next there are a number of end conditions that vary based on the purpose of the skill encounter.

Success/Failure: You achieve X successes you succeed, accrue Y failures you fail.
Duration: The skill encounter ends after so many rounds regardless of failures. If you achieved X successes you succeed. If not you failed. There may levels of success or failure in a duration based skill encounter.
Success only: The skill encounter ends after you succeed. Skill Encounters: Traps (next project starting layout) works this way a lot. For instance one trap the Vicious Spiked Pit plunges the PCs into a pit of whirling blades and punching spikes. Each round a PC is in the pit they have to make a save or take damage and the encounter ends for each individual PC once they gather enough successes to escape the trap or work together to disable it. Much like combat the fail condition is death.

Some skill encounters are run on an individual level. Each PC keeps their own success/failure tally and their ultimate success or failure does not directly impact the other PCs efforts. In this scenario each PC needs to make checks in order to have a chance at success. Chase from this product is a good example of this type of skill encounter.

Lastly other skill encounters are designed to be a teamwork affair. In these skill encounters only one PC makes a Primary skill check (often at a rather high DC) while the other PCs assist him using Secondary skills. Wilderness Travel and Gather Information from this product are good example of this type of skill encounter.

Anyways this is to say that there is always a reason to try something in a skill encounter. The worst you can typically do is nothing and if you’re skilled or lucky you might provide useful aid to your ally making the Primary skill. Also my table finds some really great roleplaying can come out of trying something new and outside your characters box. Plus there's nothing like the rush of that illiterate half-orc barbarian successfully aiding his elven bard ally in a Diplomacy check with their noble patron. "I do believe that fellow has a point, sir!"

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Hmm, I do believe I wish I had looked at this before my last game session. Might have come in handy with the overland travel portion. :/ In any event, I think I've been convinced to buy it for a closer look and test run. Bravo, sir! :)


Quick note of thanks Krome and Sarah Newton for their reviews. Appreciate the feedback. Would love to hear your thoughts on Skill Encounters: Deadly Challenges - Traps.

Krome - Yeah that yellow was supposed to be more parchment but something went wrong. Fixed in Skill Encounters: Deadly Challenges - Traps.

Robert Hahn
www.4th-dimensiongames.com
For Gamers By Gamers. Level up your game!

Dark Archive

More reviews end, more reviews.

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