First Night of 4e

Nowadays, when I describe my character, I stare at Storn, making sure that he’s hearing all of the details. Thanks, Storn.

We played 4e last night and it was fun. I didn’t have a full grip on my kewl powerz just yet but I think I’ve got it now.

We fought our own shadows that gained evil intent from a mostly buried Statue of Liberty size liche idol with glowing blue eyes after I talked mad shit and prayed to the Raven Queen while staring the big guy down. That battle was rough for the rest of the group and Jeff had some serious wiff factor going on.

Kobolds settled the area, a ruined city, formerly ruled by the Blue Liche Czars in days of old. This city is where our refugees were going to settle and I just felt odd going into the tunnels and slaughtering the bastards. So, it was a prolonged skill challenge before they agreed to keep to the tunnels and we’d keep to the above-ground.

I think Bret was thinking it would be us fighting lots of kobolds and I certainly wanted some fights but slaughtering the folks who were here before us felt wrong, even to my unaligned paladin.

After that we hired a kobold shepherd (giant fire belching beetles) to take us deep underground, to places the kobolds fear. We took on skeleton soldiers and their captain and really slammed the bastards hard. At one point I really got myself good and surrounded in order to rack up the bonuses (my Paladin get’s +1 for every enemy surrounding him) but the party prevailed.

There was other stuff: giant rocks falling from the sky that was kept away by the Blue Liche Czar’s still active magics, a temple where the Kobolds had settled that had statues of Vecna, Orcus and the Raven Queen all together (gasp!) and Jeff’s Dragonborn PC playing uncle to the hatchlings.

Thoughts:

Reckon I should give my opinion on the damned thing, so I edited this in.

Combat is really fun and dynamic. There is way more movement than I remember in 3.0 combat and Bob’s Warlord is nifty as hell; he really makes a support position fun.

The Skill Challenges are cool. I’m curious to read through the books more carefully in the next week and just get a better grip on the text. We played out our Skill Challenges very much like a funky Duel of Wits and Bret was cool about keeping the narration fresh so our ideas on how to succeed didn’t stagnate.

From what I did read of the Skill Challenges, I’m not thrilled with the advice or the examples but more on that with a more careful reading, complete with its own post dedicated to just this topic. In short, saying that DM’s should be flexible and allow players to be imaginative about which skills they use is cool, saying some skills are auto-failures is not so cool.

I’m a hero. If I want to try to intimidate the Duke, let me roll the dice and have my damned shot.

Playing with D&D mythos toys is just damned fun. I like Bret’s sense of play with the setting and the sense that these awful monsters from the MM are traipsing around, wreaking havoc. We have our work cut out for us.

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78 thoughts on “First Night of 4e

  1. Re: off the cuff

    It was not that big of a wrench. Really what happened is that I never had any intention of undead being in that place. You guys made it pretty clear you wanted to fight undead, so I just had to real quick come up with another encounter which is actually way easy to do.

    I didn’t really have a “Dungeon Master’s adventure” for you guys. I’m generally a low-prep, improv as I go GM and that’s actually why 4E appeals to me – I can DO that.

  2. Re: off the cuff

    It was not that big of a wrench. Really what happened is that I never had any intention of undead being in that place. You guys made it pretty clear you wanted to fight undead, so I just had to real quick come up with another encounter which is actually way easy to do.

    I didn’t really have a “Dungeon Master’s adventure” for you guys. I’m generally a low-prep, improv as I go GM and that’s actually why 4E appeals to me – I can DO that.

  3. Re: off the cuff

    It was not that big of a wrench. Really what happened is that I never had any intention of undead being in that place. You guys made it pretty clear you wanted to fight undead, so I just had to real quick come up with another encounter which is actually way easy to do.

    I didn’t really have a “Dungeon Master’s adventure” for you guys. I’m generally a low-prep, improv as I go GM and that’s actually why 4E appeals to me – I can DO that.

  4. So what I’m wondering is:

    * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?
    * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?
    * What are the non-fighty cool bits of the system?
    * Why do you always misspell “lich?”*

    * (Note: where “misspell” indicates a non-canonical-to-D&D spelling.)

    • answering some of those questions

      * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?

      As I said, Skill Challenges are interesting. It was satisfying. It isn’t my favorite RPG evar but its my favorite D&D ever, I think.

      * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?

      I dunno, man. We are definitely coming at this game from the POV of a bunch of Burning Wheel veterans, as each and every one of us is. However, we are not trying to play BW with this. It definitely has its own flavah.

    • answering some of those questions

      * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?

      As I said, Skill Challenges are interesting. It was satisfying. It isn’t my favorite RPG evar but its my favorite D&D ever, I think.

      * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?

      I dunno, man. We are definitely coming at this game from the POV of a bunch of Burning Wheel veterans, as each and every one of us is. However, we are not trying to play BW with this. It definitely has its own flavah.

    • answering some of those questions

      * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?

      As I said, Skill Challenges are interesting. It was satisfying. It isn’t my favorite RPG evar but its my favorite D&D ever, I think.

      * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?

      I dunno, man. We are definitely coming at this game from the POV of a bunch of Burning Wheel veterans, as each and every one of us is. However, we are not trying to play BW with this. It definitely has its own flavah.

    • To be real honest, I thought the roleplaying end of things to be a bit…. luke warm. The gorup was so focused on rules and combat, we didn’t really do as much roleplaying as I would like.

      I want my combat cake and be able to eat it with a roleplaying fork too.

      Judd and I were establishing some character, but the rest just felt like combat numbers to me… not much heft. I don’t have a handle on what those PCs want out of life. Except for J.’s dragonblood with kids… that was kinda cool.

      Prestidigitation came in really fun and handy for impressing primitive kobolds. So that was non-fighty bit o’ fun.

      But the combat was fun. I enjoyed it.

      It was a bit loose-goosy.. took us awhile to get going with some steam. standup double.

    • To be real honest, I thought the roleplaying end of things to be a bit…. luke warm. The gorup was so focused on rules and combat, we didn’t really do as much roleplaying as I would like.

      I want my combat cake and be able to eat it with a roleplaying fork too.

      Judd and I were establishing some character, but the rest just felt like combat numbers to me… not much heft. I don’t have a handle on what those PCs want out of life. Except for J.’s dragonblood with kids… that was kinda cool.

      Prestidigitation came in really fun and handy for impressing primitive kobolds. So that was non-fighty bit o’ fun.

      But the combat was fun. I enjoyed it.

      It was a bit loose-goosy.. took us awhile to get going with some steam. standup double.

    • To be real honest, I thought the roleplaying end of things to be a bit…. luke warm. The gorup was so focused on rules and combat, we didn’t really do as much roleplaying as I would like.

      I want my combat cake and be able to eat it with a roleplaying fork too.

      Judd and I were establishing some character, but the rest just felt like combat numbers to me… not much heft. I don’t have a handle on what those PCs want out of life. Except for J.’s dragonblood with kids… that was kinda cool.

      Prestidigitation came in really fun and handy for impressing primitive kobolds. So that was non-fighty bit o’ fun.

      But the combat was fun. I enjoyed it.

      It was a bit loose-goosy.. took us awhile to get going with some steam. standup double.

  5. So what I’m wondering is:

    * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?
    * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?
    * What are the non-fighty cool bits of the system?
    * Why do you always misspell “lich?”*

    * (Note: where “misspell” indicates a non-canonical-to-D&D spelling.)

  6. So what I’m wondering is:

    * How satisfying were the non-fighty bits?
    * How much did the table-culture have to do with that, and how much the game?
    * What are the non-fighty cool bits of the system?
    * Why do you always misspell “lich?”*

    * (Note: where “misspell” indicates a non-canonical-to-D&D spelling.)

  7. In relation to Skill Challenges, the DMG says that no skill is restricted. If a PC wants to use a Skill that isn’t a primary skill that is cool. The DMG does give advice about how to restrict the use of non-primary skills if it gets too much by either making them hard challenges or allowing them only to be used once.

    The example of initimidating the Duke is a good one. It should be allowed but the GM may declare that its hard to do (which makes sense) or that you can’t intimidate him more than once (which also makes sense).

    What I am interested in is whether the group used Aid Another in the Skill Challenge. As written it seems that Skill Challenges are tough to beat even if the best trained in each skill makes the roll. However, when a group works together the chance of success increases considerably. I like this alot.

  8. In relation to Skill Challenges, the DMG says that no skill is restricted. If a PC wants to use a Skill that isn’t a primary skill that is cool. The DMG does give advice about how to restrict the use of non-primary skills if it gets too much by either making them hard challenges or allowing them only to be used once.

    The example of initimidating the Duke is a good one. It should be allowed but the GM may declare that its hard to do (which makes sense) or that you can’t intimidate him more than once (which also makes sense).

    What I am interested in is whether the group used Aid Another in the Skill Challenge. As written it seems that Skill Challenges are tough to beat even if the best trained in each skill makes the roll. However, when a group works together the chance of success increases considerably. I like this alot.

  9. In relation to Skill Challenges, the DMG says that no skill is restricted. If a PC wants to use a Skill that isn’t a primary skill that is cool. The DMG does give advice about how to restrict the use of non-primary skills if it gets too much by either making them hard challenges or allowing them only to be used once.

    The example of initimidating the Duke is a good one. It should be allowed but the GM may declare that its hard to do (which makes sense) or that you can’t intimidate him more than once (which also makes sense).

    What I am interested in is whether the group used Aid Another in the Skill Challenge. As written it seems that Skill Challenges are tough to beat even if the best trained in each skill makes the roll. However, when a group works together the chance of success increases considerably. I like this alot.

  10. We start our “Company of the Raven” game tonight. Since our setups are similar, I plan to let elements of your game bleed into ours, Judd, specifically the “Corvus” name (clan?) and the Master of Tents.

    I also really like the deal with the three gods sharing an ancient temple space. I will ponder that one for later.

  11. We start our “Company of the Raven” game tonight. Since our setups are similar, I plan to let elements of your game bleed into ours, Judd, specifically the “Corvus” name (clan?) and the Master of Tents.

    I also really like the deal with the three gods sharing an ancient temple space. I will ponder that one for later.

  12. We start our “Company of the Raven” game tonight. Since our setups are similar, I plan to let elements of your game bleed into ours, Judd, specifically the “Corvus” name (clan?) and the Master of Tents.

    I also really like the deal with the three gods sharing an ancient temple space. I will ponder that one for later.

  13. From the thumbnail I thought at first that Elias was rocking the Lucha-mask. Still. Nice little portrait there.

    I think you’re hitting on what I see as a couple of the more positive aspects of 4e D&D…I think that the cutting back on things like the static “Full Attack” model was a real coup. I’m gonna have to see for myself how much I like the pushing and sliding aspect of the game, but the “stick and move” I am well in favor of. As for the skill challenges, I think most people who are familiar with burning wheel though “Duel of Wits.” I think it’s a mechanic that isn’t well illustrated though, and players that haven’t had experience with similar mechanics are going to spin it into more of a “slot machine” than something interactive. And I’m gonna call them out too on that “no intimidate” example. Make it harder, yes, give clues, but autofail? I don’t dig it.

    Part of the fun of D&D is just the little chunks of D&D lore you get to fool around with. It’s always puzzled me though, why a lot of people insist that you have to be playing D&D to use them. No real reason why you can’t wrestle a displacer beast or dominate a roper in Runequest or GURPS or what have you!
    Look forward to hearing more of your experiences.

    P

    • Like Luchadores, Elias does kick ass for justice.

      I’ll let you know what I’m thinking about the game and will post a more detailed review later, after I’ve read the text completely and have a few games under my belt.

    • Like Luchadores, Elias does kick ass for justice.

      I’ll let you know what I’m thinking about the game and will post a more detailed review later, after I’ve read the text completely and have a few games under my belt.

    • Like Luchadores, Elias does kick ass for justice.

      I’ll let you know what I’m thinking about the game and will post a more detailed review later, after I’ve read the text completely and have a few games under my belt.

    • I’m running a Burning Wheel “D&D” game where I’ve thrown all sorts of D&D critters at the party (the worst was a otyugh thus far). We even play in Mystara.

      I’m intrigued by 4E, but I need to sit down and play it. I think it might work for me as a beer and pretzels game, when I can’t get people together to play BW.

    • I’m running a Burning Wheel “D&D” game where I’ve thrown all sorts of D&D critters at the party (the worst was a otyugh thus far). We even play in Mystara.

      I’m intrigued by 4E, but I need to sit down and play it. I think it might work for me as a beer and pretzels game, when I can’t get people together to play BW.

    • I’m running a Burning Wheel “D&D” game where I’ve thrown all sorts of D&D critters at the party (the worst was a otyugh thus far). We even play in Mystara.

      I’m intrigued by 4E, but I need to sit down and play it. I think it might work for me as a beer and pretzels game, when I can’t get people together to play BW.

  14. From the thumbnail I thought at first that Elias was rocking the Lucha-mask. Still. Nice little portrait there.

    I think you’re hitting on what I see as a couple of the more positive aspects of 4e D&D…I think that the cutting back on things like the static “Full Attack” model was a real coup. I’m gonna have to see for myself how much I like the pushing and sliding aspect of the game, but the “stick and move” I am well in favor of. As for the skill challenges, I think most people who are familiar with burning wheel though “Duel of Wits.” I think it’s a mechanic that isn’t well illustrated though, and players that haven’t had experience with similar mechanics are going to spin it into more of a “slot machine” than something interactive. And I’m gonna call them out too on that “no intimidate” example. Make it harder, yes, give clues, but autofail? I don’t dig it.

    Part of the fun of D&D is just the little chunks of D&D lore you get to fool around with. It’s always puzzled me though, why a lot of people insist that you have to be playing D&D to use them. No real reason why you can’t wrestle a displacer beast or dominate a roper in Runequest or GURPS or what have you!
    Look forward to hearing more of your experiences.

    P

  15. From the thumbnail I thought at first that Elias was rocking the Lucha-mask. Still. Nice little portrait there.

    I think you’re hitting on what I see as a couple of the more positive aspects of 4e D&D…I think that the cutting back on things like the static “Full Attack” model was a real coup. I’m gonna have to see for myself how much I like the pushing and sliding aspect of the game, but the “stick and move” I am well in favor of. As for the skill challenges, I think most people who are familiar with burning wheel though “Duel of Wits.” I think it’s a mechanic that isn’t well illustrated though, and players that haven’t had experience with similar mechanics are going to spin it into more of a “slot machine” than something interactive. And I’m gonna call them out too on that “no intimidate” example. Make it harder, yes, give clues, but autofail? I don’t dig it.

    Part of the fun of D&D is just the little chunks of D&D lore you get to fool around with. It’s always puzzled me though, why a lot of people insist that you have to be playing D&D to use them. No real reason why you can’t wrestle a displacer beast or dominate a roper in Runequest or GURPS or what have you!
    Look forward to hearing more of your experiences.

    P

  16. I’m a hero. If I want to try to intimidate the Duke, let me roll the dice and have my damned shot.

    I hear that. I haven’t used that suggestion for a Skill Challenge yet, and I may never.

    But, being my own Devil’s Advocate, here’s how I would:

    1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.
    2. I’d always make the information about what skill was a no-go available through another skill check. (Insight is great for this in social challenges, and is already something I have players using a lot anyway.)
    3. It would only be used as a method of strong characterization, for both an important NPC and an important conflict within the game (i.e. something larger than just the single skill challenge).
    4. Any skill challenge adjusted in this way would be considered at least one level higher when awarding XP.

    An example of what I pondering here:

    Let’s say the PCs are trying to negotiate a deal with a Sharn mob boss (let’s call him, say, Barlo Shanfield). Now, the PCs bring a bunch of abilities to the table socially, but have been relying on Diplomacy a lot. Barlo, on the other hand, deals in fear and power and considers diplomacy to be a sign of weakness. When the PCs (let’s call them Bringer Trell and Pop Ro) come to Barlo to make a deal, their standard operating procedure doesn’t work, and so things get ugly on the streets of Sharn. (Note, all the above conditions apply: they still tackle the challenge with their other tools, but they fail.)

    Pop Ro decides to tackle things another way, and successfully goes through a skill challenge to set up an event which covertly demonstrates to Barlo the value of the original deal. When Pop goes back to the table, Diplomacy is now a primary skill, and Pop gets a +2 to his first roll. (And, if the second chance is successful, then Pop ends up with XP for two skill challenges, rather than the one.)

    Now, I’m admittedly still not 100% sold that this would work better than just making Diplomacy a secondary skill on the original challenge (harder DC, only usable once). But as long as the skill in question wasn’t a PC’s only way of effecting the outcome of the challenge, this kind of thing could prove an interesting tactical element to throw in, and make the NPC a bit more memorable to the players.

    Just thinking out loud.

    • 1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.

      (*Keep in the background of your mind that a player almost always has the option to make a skill check with at least 50/50 odds to give another PC a +2 Bonus.)

      I feel exactly the opposite . . as a D&D DM it’s exactly your duty to do so. Some classes are given a vast array of skills to make them more effective/versatile in skill challenges and players have the option of spending feats to round out their set of skills.

      By not making a player ever face that pain your are implicitly making part of some classes weaker than intended.

      • I don’t have a problem with a DM saying, “Using Religion in this roll doesn’t make sense to me.”

        That’s fine.

        However a DM saying, “You want to use Religion? Okay. Roll. Success? To bad! Fail! The Duke HATES Religion!”

        • No doubt, which is why I think you have to be careful with using this kind of thing. Being arbitrary with it would suck; as such, I’d say the situation you describe would only occur when the duke’s hatred of the gods was a major element of his character and such a thing could be discernible by an Insight or History check.

          Furthermore, I’d never make anyone roll for that. It’s a small thing, but important: if there’s an autofail skill, then I’d announce the failure without dice ever hitting the table.

          This also brings up a further condition to add to my list: all the players would know, in advance, that certain skill challenges would have skills that lead to failures, but that there’d always be a way to tell which skills they were, and (as always) creative countermeasures would be rewarded.

        • No doubt, which is why I think you have to be careful with using this kind of thing. Being arbitrary with it would suck; as such, I’d say the situation you describe would only occur when the duke’s hatred of the gods was a major element of his character and such a thing could be discernible by an Insight or History check.

          Furthermore, I’d never make anyone roll for that. It’s a small thing, but important: if there’s an autofail skill, then I’d announce the failure without dice ever hitting the table.

          This also brings up a further condition to add to my list: all the players would know, in advance, that certain skill challenges would have skills that lead to failures, but that there’d always be a way to tell which skills they were, and (as always) creative countermeasures would be rewarded.

        • No doubt, which is why I think you have to be careful with using this kind of thing. Being arbitrary with it would suck; as such, I’d say the situation you describe would only occur when the duke’s hatred of the gods was a major element of his character and such a thing could be discernible by an Insight or History check.

          Furthermore, I’d never make anyone roll for that. It’s a small thing, but important: if there’s an autofail skill, then I’d announce the failure without dice ever hitting the table.

          This also brings up a further condition to add to my list: all the players would know, in advance, that certain skill challenges would have skills that lead to failures, but that there’d always be a way to tell which skills they were, and (as always) creative countermeasures would be rewarded.

      • I don’t have a problem with a DM saying, “Using Religion in this roll doesn’t make sense to me.”

        That’s fine.

        However a DM saying, “You want to use Religion? Okay. Roll. Success? To bad! Fail! The Duke HATES Religion!”

      • I don’t have a problem with a DM saying, “Using Religion in this roll doesn’t make sense to me.”

        That’s fine.

        However a DM saying, “You want to use Religion? Okay. Roll. Success? To bad! Fail! The Duke HATES Religion!”

      • I disagree. I feel like they’ve deliberately lowered the difference between characters with the fewest trained skills and those with the most, precisely to let everyone participate in skill challenges; this is also why the example challenges have 3-4 primary skills. If there’s only one point of crossover between a character’s 3-5 trained skills and the general situation of the challenge, and you cut that off, you’re working against the spirit of the system (and also, by my reading, preventing that skill from being used in an Aid Another action).

        Another way of looking at it is: in 4e, the muscle being able to participate in negotiations no longer devalues the face’s abilities.

      • I disagree. I feel like they’ve deliberately lowered the difference between characters with the fewest trained skills and those with the most, precisely to let everyone participate in skill challenges; this is also why the example challenges have 3-4 primary skills. If there’s only one point of crossover between a character’s 3-5 trained skills and the general situation of the challenge, and you cut that off, you’re working against the spirit of the system (and also, by my reading, preventing that skill from being used in an Aid Another action).

        Another way of looking at it is: in 4e, the muscle being able to participate in negotiations no longer devalues the face’s abilities.

      • I disagree. I feel like they’ve deliberately lowered the difference between characters with the fewest trained skills and those with the most, precisely to let everyone participate in skill challenges; this is also why the example challenges have 3-4 primary skills. If there’s only one point of crossover between a character’s 3-5 trained skills and the general situation of the challenge, and you cut that off, you’re working against the spirit of the system (and also, by my reading, preventing that skill from being used in an Aid Another action).

        Another way of looking at it is: in 4e, the muscle being able to participate in negotiations no longer devalues the face’s abilities.

    • 1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.

      (*Keep in the background of your mind that a player almost always has the option to make a skill check with at least 50/50 odds to give another PC a +2 Bonus.)

      I feel exactly the opposite . . as a D&D DM it’s exactly your duty to do so. Some classes are given a vast array of skills to make them more effective/versatile in skill challenges and players have the option of spending feats to round out their set of skills.

      By not making a player ever face that pain your are implicitly making part of some classes weaker than intended.

    • 1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.

      (*Keep in the background of your mind that a player almost always has the option to make a skill check with at least 50/50 odds to give another PC a +2 Bonus.)

      I feel exactly the opposite . . as a D&D DM it’s exactly your duty to do so. Some classes are given a vast array of skills to make them more effective/versatile in skill challenges and players have the option of spending feats to round out their set of skills.

      By not making a player ever face that pain your are implicitly making part of some classes weaker than intended.

  17. I’m a hero. If I want to try to intimidate the Duke, let me roll the dice and have my damned shot.

    I hear that. I haven’t used that suggestion for a Skill Challenge yet, and I may never.

    But, being my own Devil’s Advocate, here’s how I would:

    1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.
    2. I’d always make the information about what skill was a no-go available through another skill check. (Insight is great for this in social challenges, and is already something I have players using a lot anyway.)
    3. It would only be used as a method of strong characterization, for both an important NPC and an important conflict within the game (i.e. something larger than just the single skill challenge).
    4. Any skill challenge adjusted in this way would be considered at least one level higher when awarding XP.

    An example of what I pondering here:

    Let’s say the PCs are trying to negotiate a deal with a Sharn mob boss (let’s call him, say, Barlo Shanfield). Now, the PCs bring a bunch of abilities to the table socially, but have been relying on Diplomacy a lot. Barlo, on the other hand, deals in fear and power and considers diplomacy to be a sign of weakness. When the PCs (let’s call them Bringer Trell and Pop Ro) come to Barlo to make a deal, their standard operating procedure doesn’t work, and so things get ugly on the streets of Sharn. (Note, all the above conditions apply: they still tackle the challenge with their other tools, but they fail.)

    Pop Ro decides to tackle things another way, and successfully goes through a skill challenge to set up an event which covertly demonstrates to Barlo the value of the original deal. When Pop goes back to the table, Diplomacy is now a primary skill, and Pop gets a +2 to his first roll. (And, if the second chance is successful, then Pop ends up with XP for two skill challenges, rather than the one.)

    Now, I’m admittedly still not 100% sold that this would work better than just making Diplomacy a secondary skill on the original challenge (harder DC, only usable once). But as long as the skill in question wasn’t a PC’s only way of effecting the outcome of the challenge, this kind of thing could prove an interesting tactical element to throw in, and make the NPC a bit more memorable to the players.

    Just thinking out loud.

  18. I’m a hero. If I want to try to intimidate the Duke, let me roll the dice and have my damned shot.

    I hear that. I haven’t used that suggestion for a Skill Challenge yet, and I may never.

    But, being my own Devil’s Advocate, here’s how I would:

    1. I would never, ever, invalidate a skill that I know would be a player’s only way to interact effectively with a skill challenge.
    2. I’d always make the information about what skill was a no-go available through another skill check. (Insight is great for this in social challenges, and is already something I have players using a lot anyway.)
    3. It would only be used as a method of strong characterization, for both an important NPC and an important conflict within the game (i.e. something larger than just the single skill challenge).
    4. Any skill challenge adjusted in this way would be considered at least one level higher when awarding XP.

    An example of what I pondering here:

    Let’s say the PCs are trying to negotiate a deal with a Sharn mob boss (let’s call him, say, Barlo Shanfield). Now, the PCs bring a bunch of abilities to the table socially, but have been relying on Diplomacy a lot. Barlo, on the other hand, deals in fear and power and considers diplomacy to be a sign of weakness. When the PCs (let’s call them Bringer Trell and Pop Ro) come to Barlo to make a deal, their standard operating procedure doesn’t work, and so things get ugly on the streets of Sharn. (Note, all the above conditions apply: they still tackle the challenge with their other tools, but they fail.)

    Pop Ro decides to tackle things another way, and successfully goes through a skill challenge to set up an event which covertly demonstrates to Barlo the value of the original deal. When Pop goes back to the table, Diplomacy is now a primary skill, and Pop gets a +2 to his first roll. (And, if the second chance is successful, then Pop ends up with XP for two skill challenges, rather than the one.)

    Now, I’m admittedly still not 100% sold that this would work better than just making Diplomacy a secondary skill on the original challenge (harder DC, only usable once). But as long as the skill in question wasn’t a PC’s only way of effecting the outcome of the challenge, this kind of thing could prove an interesting tactical element to throw in, and make the NPC a bit more memorable to the players.

    Just thinking out loud.

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