Curse of Strahd: Reloaded – Appendix F – How to Run Skill Challenges

Skill Challenge Rules

A skill challenge boils down to the following tenets:

  • The characters encounter a series of obstacles that can be solved through their skills and abilities, rather than combat.

  • Only one character makes an ability check for each obstacle (e.g., making a Stealth check to guide the party through a dangerous area).

  • The goal of the skill challenge is to reach X successful checks before accruing three failures. X is determined by the difficulty of the challenge, and is not told to the players. A Hard skill challenge requires five successes before three failures, while a Moderate skill challenge requires three successes before three failures. An Easy skill challenge can be resolved with a single successful check, and is often not worth distinguishing as an explicit “skill challenge.”

  • Skills challenges are about collaborative, creative storytelling. The DM presents the obstacle, and the players suggest solutions that utilize their skills.

  • Failure on a skill check is not a wall; instead, the PCs progress, but at the expense of a resource like time, energy, or power.

The rules of a skill challenge are as follows:

  • A skill can be used only once per character (e.g., if Conan the barbarian uses Athletics to leap a chasm, he cannot use Athletics again to lift a boulder later. Other characters, however, can still use Athletics for other obstacles.)

  • Similarly, cantrips can be used once per character in place of a skill check. The spellcaster must make an ability check with their spellcasting ability modifier, adding their proficiency bonus, and comparing it against the DC of the obstacle they are facing.

  • Spells of 1st level or higher are automatic successes, so long as they can be logically used to surpass a given obstacle.

  • Tool checks can be used in lieu of skills if a character is proficient in them, and if they make sense in the context of the given obstacles.

  • An easy skill check has a DC of 8. A moderate skill check has a DC of 13. A hard skill check has a DC of 18. These DCs increase by 2 when the PCs reach levels 5, 10, 15, or 20.

  • There is no set initiative order while running a skill challenge; any PC can seize the initiative when faced with a specific obstacle. However, no single PC can take initiative two consecutive “turns” in a row.

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