Skill Challenges: Token Systems and Drinking Contests

Posted on : 07-21-2009 | By : Brian | In : News

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For a little while now, I’ve been thinking about different ways to use skill challenges in D&D, different ways to tweak the system to make it do what I want it to do. I think that the system within the DM’s Guide is fine, and does the job, but I think it gets really interesting when you start monkeying around with it. One idea that I’ve toyed with is the idea of the players accruing ‘points’ or ‘tokens’ of some sort during a skill challenge that have effects during, after, or both during and after the challenge. I think the best way to illustrate what I’m talking about is to give you an example, and since a friend of mine wants to see a drinking contest done in skill challenge format for his campaign, I’m going to go ahead and whip that up. I’ll annotate the skill challenge, too, to show you what I’m thinking.

Drinking Contest (Complexity 1 [4 successes before 3 failures], Level equal to the character/party level)
Note: the idea here is that this skill challenge represents a drinking contest with a single individual. For multiple individuals, add additional skill challenges or increase the complextiy.

Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Insight
Other Skills: Endurance, Thievery, History, others
Note: you might be wondering why the primary skills are all social skills. The idea behind this skill challenge is that the contest is a way for the participants to prove that they’re men. Drinking is the medium, but the challenge is won or lost through boasting, bullying, and insulting until the other man sits there sputtering in frustration.

Bluff (1 success, maximum 2, DC varies*): You boast of your achievements, inflating them to make yourself seem super-heroic.

Diplomacy (1 success, maximum 2, DC varies*): You relate your actual accomplishments, use clever words to make the other guy seem foolish, or otherwise use your skill with language and social situations to come out on top.

Intimidate (1 success, maximum 2, DC varies*): You bully, cajole, or insult the other guy, trying to incite his ire or make him lose his wits.

*The DCs of these checks will vary by individual. For example, one opponent might be easy to insult or bully, but very good at seeing through false bravado. Another, on the other hand, might respect eloquence rather than coarse language.

History (0 successes, maximum 1, moderate DC): You recall some fact about your opponent’s exploits, and you use it to your advantage.
You gain a +2 bonus on the next Bluff, Diplomacy, or Insight check you make during this skill challenge.

Endurance (0 successes, no maximum, DC somewhere between easy and moderate): You take a long pull from your flagon and slam it down, showing everyone just how manly you are.
Succeeding on this check grants you a +5 bonus on your next Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check during this skill challenge. However, whether you succeed or fail, you gain 6 drunkenness tokens. For every 5 points by which you exceeded the DC of this check, you may reduce the number of drunkenness tokens you gain by 1. For every 2 points by which you failed the DC of this check, increase the number of drunkenness tokens by 1. See drunkenness tokens, below.

Special: You may make a single Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check during this skill challenge without making an Endurance check to take a drink. After the first such check, each additional check incurs a cumulative -2 penalty to all Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate made in this skill challenge, as real men have no respect for weaklings who nurse their drinks. This penalty is reduced by 2 for each Endurance check you make to take a drink, whether you succeed or fail (to a minimum of 0).

Thievery (0 successes, maximum 1, hard DC): through slight of hand or clever distractions, you fool your opponent into thinking that you’ve just downed your entire flagon.
You gain the +5 bonus as if you had succeeded on an Endurance check, but you do not gain any drunkenness tokens. If you fail, you take a -2 penalty to all Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks for the rest of the skill challenge (and possibly any other drinking contest skill challenges running concurrently), because everyone now knows you for the coward and trickster that you are.

Note: depending on the nature of the drinking contest and the nature of the opponent, other secondary skills may be appropriate.

Success: You are clearly the victor, and you gain renown in some way (to be decided by the DM). In addition, the confidence boost you gain allows you to shake off some of your stupor; reduce your total number of drunkenness points by half (round up).

Failure: Everyone knows that you are clearly the loser here; you lose renown in some way (to be decided by the DM). In addition, you drown your failure in more drink; increase your total number of drunkenness points by half (round up).

Drunkenness Points
Depending on how much you’ve been drinking, you’ll suffer different effects. Consult the table below to determine just how drunk you really are. All drunkenness points are removed after an extended rest.

Drunkenness Points Effect
20+ You lapse into a drunken stupor, falling unconscious. If you are in the middle of the skill challenge, you automatically lose. In addition, you suffer the effects of a hangover (see below).
16-19 Extremely drunk. -4 to all defenses, -3 to all attack rolls, -5 to all skill checks. In addition, you suffer the effects of a hangover (see below)
11-15 Drunk. -2 to all defenses, -2 to ranged and area attacks, -1 to close and melee attacks, +2 to damage rolls with melee attacks, -2 penalty to all skill checks. In addition, you suffer the effects of a hangover (see below)
6-10 Tipsy. -1 to all defenses, -1 to ranged and area attacks, -2 to Perception and Insight checks, +2 to Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks.
0-5 Unaffected; no mechanical effect at all.

Hangover
You take a -1 penalty to Perception and Insight checks. In addition, in areas of bright light, or in the presence of loud noise (such as a thunder power being used within 5 squares, or a dragon roaring), you become dazed until the end of your next turn. This effect persists until you reach one milestone.

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Comments (2)

Perfect! So you have to either do an endurance or thievery check for every primary skill check you want to do? After all, drinking (or simulated drinking) has to be done in order to succeed. Or, is it assumed that if you don’t do the endurance check you’re just sipping your drink (might as well order a Shirley Temple)? If the latter, how do players accumulate drunkeness points (after all, even someone nursing drinks all night long could get pretty wrecked)?

I’ve added a mechanic to encourage players to participate in the drinking portion of the challenge (check out the “Special” entry under Endurance). If you wanted to have players incur drunkenness points for nursing drinks, you could say that each Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate check made without taking a drink automatically makes you gain 2 drunkenness points.

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