I fully believe that every game system has some idea worth stealing. From D&D 4e, it is the idea of a skill challenge, making multiple skill checks towards a larger goal. However I feel the idea needs refined some and I am going to talk about that here, using my home Pathfinder 2e game as an example.
For the Halloween game I ran this past weekend, the group came across a poltergeist and killed it, but it’s essence returned to it’s chained up coffin. When they discovered it, I gave them these rules:
To put the troubled spirit to rest, you have to perform a ritual. The ritual requires a series of skill checks. The DC of the first check is 20 and increases by 2 for each subsequent check. This continues until you have succeeded or failed 3.
You can use any skill you choose as long as it can be reasonably justified and you describe how you use the skill for the overall ritual. The others in the group can help using the Aid action. However their help requires them to use the same skill check. The DC is the same DC for the main check -4.
However, once you use a skill, you cannot use it again for the entire group.
I will admit that is edited slightly from what I gave them. I made these changes after seeing it in action. Playtesting and all that.
Feel free to use these in your own game. Obviously, adjust the DC to your own game. If you use DC 20 in 5e, it may result in a complete failure. However, if your group is 15th level Pathfinder 2e, they probably have bonuses to skills above 20. The first check should be relatively easy. Everyone in my group had a +13 to at least one skill so they only needed to roll a 7 (without any Aid from others in the group) to pass the check.
Here’s the real kicker though, and I had to point this out to my players so you may need to as well. The DC increases by 2 for each check. So the second is DC 22, third is DC 24, and so on. This means they now we’re looking at which skills that were good but not their best for the first one, saving their better skills for future checks. Now, order mattered.
The adventure itself was a solid one and I might right it up during the next year and release it as a Halloween adventure next year.
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There’s an old gaming axiom: never split the party. Sure it started with D&D, but it is equally true for every other RPG out there. There are many, MANY reasons why, but really they can be boiled down to just three.
1) It’s Boring For Everyone Else
The GM and half the group are doing something and there is no chance of you showing up and making a difference. More often than not, you (or another player just like you) will take the opportunity to check your phone. Sure you might be half listening, but this is your chance for your mind to wander. Why? You’re bored. It’s best for the group to stick together; you’ll be paying attention the whole time.
2) You Lack the Skills to Do the Job Right
Groups tend to not have much crossover in terms of their abilities. Where skills and abilities to accomplish a task that overlap with someone else tend to have one person doing the job and the other person bored while they sit it out. So most groups tend to spread their skills and abilities out. It has the bonus of covering more areas. Those spread out abilities have the downside of no one can cover all areas. So you might be exceptional at arcane knowledge and can identify something from across the room but lack the ability to sneak over there and steal it with no one noticing. More often than not, you’re relying on another group member to do the sneaking. Split the party and the sneaking member might be missing.
3) You’re More Likely to Die
Here’s the big one. If the GM is expecting combat for a given part of a mission and you all split the party, the GM either has to make the combat easier on the fly or run it as is and most likely cause serious harm to the characters or have them fail. Monsters that are balanced for the whole group can outright murder half. You have half the amount of targets, total hit points, number of attacks per round. So instead of spreading out the damage across multiple people, more is focused on fewer people. Making matters worse, you’re able to deal out half the amount of damage as normal, prolonging the battle and giving the monster more time to harm you, making that half the targets and total hit points even worse. All the while, the other half the group has to look on helplessly while being bored. It is a just a downright bad idea to split the party.
Over a year in and the pandemic is still going on. The current strain is even more virulent and half the country is refusing to get vaccinated. So if you haven’t been gaming over a Virtual Tabletop, now is a good time to start. If you are, here are three rules for gaming over a VTT.
Before I start, I want to say that my specific examples are from Fantasy Grounds since that is the platform I am most familiar with, but these principles apply to every VTT platform.
1) Patience, Patience, Patience
Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, Foundry, even just a dice roller on a Discord server is more difficult than picking up some dice and rolling. People have different learning curves and different levels of comfort with technology in general. Be patient. How patient? Quite a bit more than you think you will need.
2) Prepping for a Game is the Same, Yet Different
When I prep for a game at the table, I read (again) the adventure, make notes on how to adjust it, post post-it notes on pages for all the monsters with minis selected, and draw my maps on my wet-erase battle map. When I prep for a game over Fantasy Grounds, I read the adventure (again) but this time in Fantasy Grounds, make the changes to the adventure, make sure the monster encounters are set with tokens, and have maps set and noted for easy access. So it’s the same, but completely different.
3) Be Prepared for Low Rolls
I have only known one player that rolled worse than the dice roller of any VTT. Every single VTT dice roller I’ve used produces poor results. So I am much more lenient when I choose skills I make the players roll on, handing out bonuses or advantage or otherwise giving the players some help. Every player always gets inspiration at the start of every game session. When I can set the DC low, I do so. I help the players do well. Gaming over a VTT is not for the killer DM unless they want new characters every single session.
Bonus) Remind Your Gamers About Game
Reminding my players about game has produced my gamers showing up more consistently on time. I do a “T Minus 4 hours until game. Be there or be square,” to keep my light and fun while still saying, “Show up on time.” Even then, I pretty much consider the first 15-30 minutes chat time. This is the only time for some to socialize. Let them socialize.