Skill challenge scenarios: Find the wizard, Nightshade (part 1)

A few comments from my last post on skill challenges got me agreeing that more examples for challenges are helpful. And more importantly, actual examples of resolving them would really capture how skill challenges can work. So on that theme, I thought I’d post a few examples of skill challenges that I run in my games.

First off, I have my own house rules for skill challenges. The big change is introducing a partial success. this is a step below the number of rolls needed for a complete success, and usually mean the players just barely complete the challenge. I also have a few tweaks on assisting others, critical successes and failures, but for the most part I run them pretty close to what is in the DMG. So, onto the challenge.

Skill challenge goal: Find the wizard, Nightshade

The Setup – The group are new arrivals to a city and are approached by a merchant. He requests they make an errand for him. Time is of the essence and being well recognized, he fears being seen entering the residence of Nightshade might lower public opinion of him. A ragtag group of adventurers that just arrived to the city however, would likely not draw too much attention.

Nightshade has concocted a potion for him, and is expecting someone to arrive today to pick it up. However, Nightshade is not very popular with the commoners. They all fear him and think he is mad. Being a recluse within the city doesn’t help Nightshade’s reputation either.

The merchant states Nightshade’s residence overlooks the Fallon Square market on the other side of the city. They should meet him later in the early evening at a local tavern. Half a payment to secure their services for the errand now, and the remaining once they return with the potion. They pay itself is rather good, especially for such a quick task. But they should remember time is of the essence and he needs the potion by nightfall. Before the characters can ask any more questions, the merchant waves them off and heads elsewhere for other business.

Nightshade is indeed waiting for them and has the potion as the merchant said. What is unknown to the players is that a rival merchant does not want this transaction to occur. He has employed thugs to intercept the players once they leave the wizard’s residence. The thieves themselves have had one of their gang assigned to tail the players and determine if they were successful in obtaining the package.

Skill challenge rating: 2, moderate DC (encounter worth 2 monsters of equivalent level)

  • Complete Success (6 successes) – Players find the residence after an hour. On a passive perception check (DC 15) they notice being tailed by a thug. If they intercept the thug, they will learn of the planned ambush after retrieving the potion. Also they will have plenty of time to explore the residence of Nightshade (a mini-dungeon in itself).
  • Partial Success (4-5 successes) – The players get turned around a bit, and harried with poor reception of many commoners when asked about Nightshade. The trek takes a bit longer than expected. Have the player with the highest skill make an active perception check (DC 25). If they succeed they notice the tail as above. Also due to the time, likely the players will not have much time to explore Nightshade’s residence (and the DM should continually remind the players about the limited time while inside).
  • Failure (4 failures before either condition above is reached) – Players find the residence much later than anticipated. They will likely have no time to explore Nightshade’s residence. They will also fail to notice being tailed by the thugs and not anticipate the resulting ambush once they leave.

Primary Skills: Streetwise, Diplomacy (Nightshade is not well liked and players will likely need a soft hand in getting directions from people) Secondary Skills: History (The layout of the city may be similar to others in the region, and Fallon Square is known as a popular marketplace)

That is the setup. Next post will be how it ran with my group.

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