Rules (4E)

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4ED&D 4E
4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Sudden Death Skill Challenge System

In this system, a skill challenge consists of only a few steps, but each step is difficult. The idea is to reward success rather than penalize failure. The overall chance of success is about the same as in combat of a similar level - that is you are almost assured of success, but there is some excitement on the way there. The penalty on repetitive skill use forces characters to diversify.

  • Skills to Use: The skill challenge should have a few recommended skills that can be used, but if a player comes with a good explanation of how they use a different skill this should be allowed. It is also possible to use other values, such as attack rolls, where appropriate.
  • Original DCs: The DCs are those given in the original table in DMG1, page 42, including the notes. All skills have the same difficulty, with the usual +/-2 skill modifier based on DM judgment.
  • Standard Action: Making a roll in a skill challenge is a standard action. Sometimes you might need to move into proper position as a separate action.
  • Accumulate Only Successes: To succeed at the skill challenge, the team needs a number of successes equal to the complexity of the task. Failures are not accumulated; see below for how skill challenges fail.
  • One Success Per Round: A group can only score one success at a skill challenge each round. There is thus a minimum time to complete the skill challenge of 1 round per point of complexity.
  • Initiative: The skill challenge has an initiative count just like a creature does but does not roll for initiative. It generally comes last in the round. If the actions of a creature started the skill challenge, its' initiative count is right before the instigator's (as if it has just completed its action).
  • How to Fail: The skill challenge takes no actions on its turn, instead it fails if no success has been scored when the skill challenge's initiative comes up.
  • Desperate Effort: Just before the skill challenge is about to fail, all characters can spend action points to take an action to make additional skill rolls on the challenge.
  • Repetitive use of Skills: A character that has already scored a success with a particular skill in this skill challenge will find it harder to gain further progress, suffering a +5 DC modifier, cumulative with several successes. This is to prevent boring and repetitive use of skills, yet let specialized characters have the option of using their favorite skills again, if at a penalty. This does not impair your ability to Aid Others in this skill challenge.
  • Aid Other: An attempt to succeed that fails but beats DC 10 (15 at paragon level, 20 at epic level) counts as an attempt to aid other, giving a cumulative +2 to later attempts to complete the task. This bonus resets each time a success is scored. You can perform the aid other action in a round where someone else has already scored a success; the bonus then applies to the next round.
  • Complications There should be some additional complication involved in the skill challenge. Maybe it attacks each round, or there is an ongoing combat. This is especially true if the skill challenge is of a level where the DC of the skill roll does not increase compared to lower levels.

Special Cases

  • A "round" is an abstract measure of time in a skill challenge. Some skill challenges take place during combat, using normal combat rounds. Others have rounds that are minutes, hours, or even years in length for momentous tasks. Short interruptions are acceptable in skill challenges with rounds of minutes or more.
  • Powers and (where time permits) rituals an allow a character to use an unusual skill to aid the challenge, or might reduce the future DCs of the challenge by 2. In exceptional cases, such effects might complete the skill challenge right away, but this should be rare.

General Rules

Aid Other Action

The difficult of the Aid Other action increases to 15 at the paragon tier and 20 at the epic tier. If the aiding character gets a higher skill roll than the creature being aided and is otherwise capable of performing the action (which might involve knowing a ritual, being trained in a skill, or other factors) the helper and the main character switch roles; the helper becomes the main character and the former main character’s roll is now used for the Aid Other action.

Combat Rules

Ready Action

Readying an action and triggering a readied action has no effect on initiative – you still act on last rounds initiative.


  • Group Flanking When an creature is flanked, all enemies adjacent to that target in melee get the flanking bonus, not just the those causing the creature to be flanked.

First Combat Round

You can take a full rounds worth of action in a surprise round. This is not so much a rule as a retraction of a rule.

See Also