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Put Skills to the Test with These 7 Challenge Scenarios

Written by Janna - Published on June 18, 2009

Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.

Picture by 1way2rock

Okay, I confess: As a kick-in-the-door-style gamer, sometimes I get a little bored when there’s no combat during a game session. But I know role-play is a beloved part of D&D, one that I really enjoy sometimes (as long as it furthers plot or PC development, and especially if it’s punctuated with a good smackdown at the end). My own DM has made some recent adjustments to our game, incorporating more role-play to suit the actors among us, while keeping enough action to occupy the combat twinks.

Challenges are a fun way to make your party members think outside the axe. They’re challenging enough to be interesting, and you can frame them with some entertaining role-play or combat encounters. Here are 7 challenge scenarios to get you started.

The Community Event

This could be a town festival, a traveling carnival, a temple celebration, or any occasion where tests of strength and skill would be appropriate. Fighters can engage in tests of strength. Rangers and rogues might enjoy knife-throwing and archery competitions. Anyone of any class can use their Perception to observe a shell game. You could put the party’s Endurance to the test with a drinking competition, or Acrobatics for log-rolling and other precarious events. (For a really good time, try drunken log-rolling!)

The New Town

It pays to be prepared! When the party ventures into new territory, make them roll the dice. You can use History checks to reveal significant historical facts about the place. Successful Religion checks can divulge the popular religions in the area, plus known rivalries and upcoming festivals. PCs who make their Arcana check can know the town’s attitude toward magic, as well as any magical landmarks in the town. Of course, Streetwise could come into play if the party wants to fish for more details.

Monster Quest

The PCs have been hired to hunt down a terrible monster. They’ll need to make Nature checks to track it down (and, possibly, to know the monster’s lore). If it’s a magical or undead creature, Arcana or Religion checks could reveal vital details. If the creature likes to set traps, Thievery, Athletics and Acrobatics are necessary. Once inside the lair, Dungeoneering would be helpful. Of course, if the party wants to sneak up on the creature, they’ll need to make their Stealth checks.

A Sticky Situation

Perhaps the party has been accused of a crime. Maybe they’re trying to get themselves out of jail. Whatever the situation, they need to do some fast talking. Have them make Bluff and Diplomacy checks to convince others of their innocence. If you’ve got some good role-players in your group, make them act out the scene, then assign modifiers for especially clever (or cheesy) spiels.

Covert Ops

Don’t forget to show your rogues some love! Sneak Attack bonuses are awesome, but rogues can do a lot more than shove pointy things into soft places. Challenge yours to a covert mission that requires them to ferret out information (Streetwise), tail a target (Stealth), disable traps and swipe a valuable object (Thievery), and even pass themselves off as someone else (Bluff).

Natural Disaster

Some horrific natural event (a tornado, earthquake, etc) has devastated a town. Many citizens are injured or sickened due to their exposure. The party can use Heal to aid the townsfolk. If the event is still occurring, have the party make Endurance checks to avoid injuries and illness of their own. If the sky is literally falling (meteors), the party could use Acrobatics to avoid injury, and Athletics to dig survivors out from the debris.

The Interrogation

The party has taken someone prisoner. It’s time for the PCs to play Good Cop, Bad Cop! They could try to sweet-talk the information out of the prisoner (Diplomacy), scare it out of them (Intimidate), or threaten the prisoner with straight-up lies (Bluff). For characters with a dark side, Athletics might come into play. They’ll need to use Insight to determine if the prisoner is lying.

What’s your favorite kind of challenge? Have your players used their skills in surprisingly creative ways?

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Written by Janna

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Janna discovered D&D at the age of 16, and she's been rolling the dice for 16 years. (You do the math.) She is fond of intelligent villains, drow society, and campaigns that explore the Dark Side.



4 Responses to “Put Skills to the Test with These 7 Challenge Scenarios”
  1. Skynock says:

    I’ve found that players like conflict and direct competition. Most often thats reflected in combat, and well, mass killings of bad guys. But when you start tossing them up against other forms of challenges that require innovation plus some dice rolls, they can really get into it. In some cases just as head strong as they do with direct combat.

    Tournaments with double elimination brackets are always fun, builds up a rivalry with other players or even an NPC you want to introduce to them as a worthy equal or rival for later.

  2. Damian says:

    Drinking competition? Now there’s a fine idea, I can see more than a few of my players keen to jump at that challenge. Especially them Dwarven folk. And if the whole evening ends in a huge bar-room brawl, full of drunken participants … all the better.

    And don’t forget wrestling competitions; while the Ranger-types are off trying to hit targets, the Fighter-types are usually more than happy to spend their festival days trying to dethrone Grod the Half-Orc and claim the annual title of Wrestling Champeen … and the determined attentions of Hildaeg, the warty Half-Orc maiden, for the rest of the festival.

    If you really want to go that extra distance, have the fete culminate in a Deathtrap Dungeon for your Rogue/Monk types. While the other events could be seen with a general carnival air, with both winners and near-losers cheered on by the local populace, this last event is by no means a casual affair; while many of the locals are keen top try their lot in the more mundane competitions, it is rare that any are bold enough to attempt the Dungeon. Still, it serves as the most anticipated event of the festival, with everyone gathered around in hushed, anxious whispers, as the usual handful of mysterious strangers step forward to submit their names. Sponsored by the Church of the Raven Queen, the reward for simply getting out alive is huge – a 10,000gp gem at the end of the dungeon (and insidiously trapped, of course). Entry is free, but for an additional 6,000gp the Church will agree in advance to raise any who fall in the attempt. All entrants must go it alone, but are free to receive buffs from allies before they enter (although the first area within the extradimensional Dungeon could magically debuff, if needed), and are sent in at 20 minute interval … a few hours later, a lone adventurer emerges safe and alive, clutching the huge gem as her prize … followed by the clerics running the Dungeon, carrying the bodies of those who failed in the attempt.

  3. GroovyTaxi says:

    Drinking contests were always great in my games. What’s great with stuff like that is that players actually get to compete against each other without having to clean up any blood stains and call for priests after a winner is designated. I have players that really enjoy PvP, but it annoys me sometimes when they decide to let that passion out in the middle of a critical moment. If they can’t work as a team, at last it makes them compete without risking their lives!

  4. Janna says:

    Our party ran into a group of centaurs, and one of them challenged our ranger to an archery competition. It would have been an insult to refuse, so the ranger went for it. Imagine the look on our wizard’s face when she realized the guys were going to shoot an apple that was located on her head. *grin* She almost lost an eye, but it was a really fun scenario – especially since the centaur was drunk at the time!

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