So...it seems I wrote a little blog post a few days ago, explaining how I wasn't a fan of skill challenges, because of the "mechanical" nature of the structure, and the way they are presented in the rules. I received several great comments on the post (thanks, everyone!), but I wanted to clear up a few issues of concern the post generated.
First. I never intended to imply anything specific regarding how most DMs run their skill challenges. It's quite apparent to me that most DMs ARE NOT running skill challenges as they are presented in the source material. I should have made that clearer in the post. I'm glad to see the mechanical nature of the presented skill challenges is being interpreted by DMs as a framework for the encounter, NOT a method for running the encounter.
Second. I want to re-emphasize that I think Quinn Murphy's (@gamefiend) work in skill challenges is some of the best stuff I've seen. Contrary to what might have been interpreted in my original post, Quinn has been able to take the original concept of the skill challenge and stretch it to some amazing places. Please go read his blog (At-Will) and see what I mean!
Third. I had a brief discussion about this topic with Sarah Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics). She told me (and I think it's good advice) that while my "re-writes" of the example skill challenges I wrote were nice, she thought it might be even more helpful, if some general advice regarding running alternatives to skill challenges were presented. That way, new DMs (on which she's an expert) can get a better handle on what I'm talking about. It's a good idea, and I'll mull it over. Some of the comments I received on the original post seem to indicate that I was still working with skill challenges, I was just defining them in another way. That point leads me to this one:
Fourth. On the DM Roundtable Tuesday, our group was lucky to have Chris Sims join us. I don't need to restate his RPG credits here. Chris was nice enough to drop by. During our discussion on skill challenges, he made what I thought was an important point. "Skill Challenge" is just a name. You don't call combat encounters "Power Challenges". I think (and of course, correct me if I'm wrong), that what Chris was saying, is that any kind of an encounter that's not a combat encounter could be considered a "Skill Challenge". That doesn't mean it has to be framed or spelled out with specific mechanics. For my part in this discussion, I need to embrace that. It's easy to get caught up in the name, and I think it's easy for new DMs to perhaps do the same.
Until next time...
Game excellently with one another.