Last post I said I was working on a tree based system for skill challenges. I have dropped it because it just proved too complicated for its own good. Instead this is a linear challenge, with each stage of the challenge representing a different aspect of the challenge.
This is a skill challenge that you should be able to use any time the the PC's need to ask a favor from an NPC in a position of power such as a city official or a member of the nobility. The format is the following.
Stage 1: First Impressions - This gives the PC a chance to use nearly any skill they can think of to command respect.
Stage 2: The Pitch - This is where the PC's explain what they want to happen
Stage 3: Why the NPC should care. - This is where the PC's explain why it is in the NPC's best interest to go along with the plan; it could be anything, from promises of fame to a sense of duty, to cold hard cash.
Stage 4: Offers and counter offers -The subject should ask for additional compensation for the favor. This stage represents haggling over price.
Stage 5: Lasting Impressions. - This is a chance for the PC's to make the subject happy about the deal which will help set the tone in further dealings with the PC’s.
Before you start the challenge, you need to determine the DC's. If you have combat stats for an NPC you can substitute many of the combat stats into the challenge. Most likely you will not have stats, and in that case, base your numbers on the updated values on page 42 of the DMG. If you don't want to mark up your DMG or your DM screen, just subtracting 6 from the DC's and don't boost the DC's for skill checks by five as described in the books. That will not yield the exact numbers of the new table but it should come within 0 and 2 points away at most.
Next determine the DC's. This skill challenge is fairly comprehensive, so many of the DC's will not be needed, but spending a couple of minutes coming up with ALL of the values before the skill challenge begins will make things go smoothly.
The Will DC: The difficulty to manipulate the subject. On an NPC with stats you can use the Will Defense
The Insight DC: The difficult to determine the NPCs intent. On an NPC with stats you can add their Insight skill level to 10.
The Fame DC: The difficulty to know about the NPCs history. This can be from easy DC(for a king) to hard DC (for a low city official).
The Extortion DC: The difficulty to know about the NPCs dark dealings that will allow him to be manipulated via extortion. This is usually a hard DC because there are two indipendent issues with extortion. The guy has to have done somthing wrong and if it was not a well kept secret it would not be worth extorting someone for it.
The Perception DC: The difficulty to hide actions from the subject. On an NPC with stats you can use passive perception.
The NPCs price to perform the requested task: This is the most difficult value to come up with. Don't sweat it, just make something up based on the personality of the NPC. For instance a meek city official who gets by with a few bribes here and there will ask for 100pg to look the other way when needed. An honest city official might only break at 1000 gp. Sometimes they will want the PC's to perform some action for them, make sure the tasks they ask PCs to do can be scaled back if the PCs negotiate a better deal.
Running the Skill challenge.
This skill challenge is broken up into stages. The challenge is only finished after the last stage is complete. Successes and failures at each stage have different results, and most failures do not allow progress to the next stage. Stage 4 is a bit special. Depending on the PC's this section can be succeed without any die rolls(if the PC's accept a high price), or can ran through twice or more to try to reduce the cost as much as possible). Secondary skills can be attempted at any time, they do not help the PC's progress through the stages, but rather they can help with skill rolls when attempting to pass stages. However failing a secondary skill check, does count as a failure, and thus should be used cautiously.
Primary Skills by Stage.
Stage 1: First Impressions.
Players are asked to describe how they are presenting themselves. This is a group check. Tally up the wins and fails if the group gets at least 50% successes vs Will DC, then the party gets a success.
Various - Each player in the skill challenge must pick a skill check that exemplifies the image the player wants to present.
DC: Will DC
Success: +1 on next skill check. Move to stage 2
Failure: -1 on next skill check. Move to stage 2
Stage 2: The players make the pitch.
Adjust the skill check roll according to what is asked of the subject. Assign a modifier as follows Easy +2, Medium 0, Hard -2, and Ridiculous -4.
Diplomacy - Will DC: This is the typical skill used. It represents an honest approach. This does not mean full disclosure, just not direct deception
Bluff - Insight DC: Use this if they are deceiving the NPC as to the intent of their actions.
Success: +1 on next skill check. Move to stage 3.
Failure: subject asks detailed question about pitch -1 on next skill check. Stay on stage 2.
If this is the third failure the subject's opinion of the group suffers a -2 for a month or more. The NPC thinks that the group are fools that have no idea what they are doing. The skill challenge ends.
Stage 3: The PC's explain what is in it for the NPC.
Bribery can be useful at this point but it is not required, the PC's may try to invoke the NPC's sense of duty or moral justice instead of cash. If the PC's offer to compensate the NPC with something equal to the NPC's price, then they get an automatic success. If it is at least half the value accepted the PC's get a +2 on their roll. Note if bribery is used, this is a success is considered an opening bid, the next stage will involve the NPC trying to get more.
Diplomacy - Will DC: This is the typical skill used. It represents an honest approach. This does not mean full disclosure, just not direct deception. If there is nothing in it for the NPC assign a modifier of -2. If it is slightly detrimental to the NPC assign a -4.
Bluff - Insight DC: Use this if they are deceiving the NPC as to the intent of their actions.
Intimidation - Insight DC: use this if the PC's try use fear to manipulate the NPC.
Success: The PC's get a plus one on their next skill check. The players proceed to stage 4.
Failure: The PC's are told that the task is not worth the trouble. The players will have to overcome the rejection of the subject. A third failure ends with the subject having not bad feelings with the PC's but will wait at least a week before discussing the issue again.
Stage 4: Offers and counter offers
The subject should ask for additional compensation for the favor, the price should be worth at least twice as much as actual tasks price. Passing this level is worth 2 successes.
If the PC's don't want to pay the price, or if they want to reduce it, they can make a counter offer. A counter offer of half the asked price the PCs get a -2 modifier on their rolls, any lower counter offers will result in a -4 modifier.
Diplomacy - Will DC – counter offer modifier: This is the typical skill used. It represents an honest approach. This does not mean full disclosure, just not direct deception. Weak reasons for not accepting the price will adversely affect the roll also. Good reasons (I don’t have the money, or I can’t do it) have no modifier-2 for Ok reason, -4 for a bad reason (like it would be inconvenient). Remember the reason must be honest, if not use bluff.
Bluff - Insight DC– counter offer modifier: Use this if they are deceiving the NPC as to the intent of their actions.
Intimidation - Insight DC– counter offer modifier: use this if the PC's try use fear to manipulate the NPC.
If this is the first stage 4 success: reduce the requested price by half. If this new price is accepted then the PCs move to stage 5 (which adds two successes to the skill challenge). The PCs may attempt a final counter offer and attempt stage 4 again. An additional -2 modifier will be added to the next stage 4 die roll.
If this is the second stage 4 success: If it is the second stage two success, the NPC accepts the PC’s counter offer. Move to Stage 5(which adds two successes to the skill challenge).
Failure: The price of the request stays. If intimidation was used the price of the favor goes up by half. The failure is counted against the skill challenge. The PCs have the option of accepting the offer to move to stage 5 (which adds two successes to the skill challenge), if not the PCs stay in stage 4. If the PCs fail for the third time the price gets doubled from its current value and they are given a choice of take it or leave it. If the PC's decline the skill challenge ends, if they accept, the last failure is not counted against the skill challenge. Move to stage 5(which adds two successes to the skill challenge).
Stage 5: Lasting Impressions.
This is just like the first stage. All of the players are asked to describe how they are presenting themselves. Pick a skill check that exemplifies the attributes the player wants to present. This is a group check. Tally up the wins and fails if the group gets at least 50% successes vs. Will DC, then the party gets a success.
Applicable skills: Various.
DC: Will DC
Success: The Subject is pleased and will give the PC's a +1 on all further skill checks in the future.
Failure: Subject is Ok with the deal, no bonus given. If it is the third failure the NPC is quietly upset with the deal and will renege on the deal after the PC's have left. The PC's will suffer a -1 on all further interactions with the subject.
Secondary Skills (can be used anytime):
Insight: Use this skill to determine the NPCs personality.
DC: Insight DC
Success: You gain knowledge about how the subject thinks this will help you with a +1 to all skill checks throughout the skill challenge. This does not advance you to another stage; it does not count as a success in the skill challenge.
Failure: This counts as a failure against the skill challenge. If this is the third failure, the subject feels that you are prying too much and are trying to manipulate him/her.
History: Roll to figure out if the NPCs ancestry, public record, or any other sort of civilized record keeping could help you either build rapport, or otherwise gain greater control of the subject.
DC: Fame DC
Success: You recall a bit of information that can help you in your negotiations. Once this encounter on a failed roll, you may opt to add a +4 to the skill roll. If this surpasses the DC, the check passes.
Failure: This counts as a failure against the skill challenge. If this is the third failure, the subject feels that you are not paying attention as you draw a blank while trying to recall anything that will help.
Thievery : A true rogue does not let negotiations get in the way of gathering information. If the situation allows, a PC may attempt to lift an object or item from the local surroundings during negotiations.
DC: Perception DC
Success: You locate a bit of key information from an item in the immediate location. This can help you in your negotiations. Once time this encounter on any failed roll, you may opt to substitute a bluff check with a +4 modifier to the skill roll. If this surpasses the DC, the check passes.
Failure: This counts as a two failures against the skill challenge. If this is the third or fourth failure, the subject catches the PC in the act and kicks the PC's out. All further skill checks involving the subject will be at -4 permanently. The skill challenge ends.
Streetwise: This represents trying to embarrass the NPC with secret info. This is a secret roll made by the DM.
DC: Extortion DC
Success: If the NPC has a dark secret the players feel that they have enough dirt on the NPC to aid an intimidation attempt. All future intimidation rolls gain the dark secret bonus if they choose to use the information. If the NPC does not have a dark secret tell the players so. This does not count as a success in the skill challenge.
Failure: You feel that you have enough dirt on the NPC to aid an intimidation attempt. All future intimidation rolls will have a -2 modifier until the end of the encounter if this information is revealed. This does not count as a failure in the skill challenge.