Chained Skill Checks

I’ve seen a lot of commentary about D&D 4E’s skill challenges but I haven’t drunk that particular bit of Kool-Aid yet (probably due to my only time using them being near the end of a session when everybody was tired). On the other hand, I got to try out the Traveller rules for chained skill checks last night (the Mongoose Publishing edition if that makes a difference).

This is a simple mechanic that lets a series of actions, by various characters, build upon each other to effect the final outcome. Let’s run through an example from actual play to see how it worked for my group.

First, the objective: To include a consignment of post in our cargo when we make our next trip. The rules are this are nicely laid out in the core rulebook.

We wanted to try to trip the balance in our favour though, so we looked at ways we could persuade the postmaster that we were a nice trustworthy bunch who would be ideal to hand a massive box of mail to.

That would be a persuade check, but it might go more smoothly if we buddied up to him in a social setting. That would be a bit of carousing then.

The best place to do that would be to figure out where his local was and join him there. There are several ways our team could have done that, including being stealthy and following him, or investigating him. We eventually went with the option that best suited the skills of the member of our team who, shall we say, preferred to avoid legal entanglements.

The rest of that roll was compared to a table, which gave a modifier to the carousing roll, which applied to the same table to give a bonus to the persuade roll, and then to the final check to see if any mail was available for us to deliver.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out and the last batch of mail had been shipped the previous night (that’s what happens when you miss the target number by one). Still, a certain postmaster really, really likes the diplomatic party member (that’s what happens when you roll a double six when you have a +6 modifier). Since we’ll almost certainly be coming back this way, it looks like a long term grav-tennis partnership might be forming.

I suppose I’d better say something about how I liked the rule, hadn’t I? I like it — it makes for a streamlined process of building a bit of story behind what would otherwise have been a simple dice roll, and it managed to introduce a bit of character development along the way.

I’m looking forward to the next game, when we blast off to take our cargo into a new system, and poke around the operations of a certain group that our patron is rather interested in.

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