From the Archives: Skills

I’m trying a new experiment today, taking a recent topic and providing links to some articles in our extensive archives (over 5 years has produced over 2000 posts). If you enjoy this kind of article, let me know in comments.

Today I’m looking at skills. Rob Schwalb’s article about his dissatisfaction with them mirrors many of my concerns that have existed ever since my very first game of 3rd edition up through my current campaign. However, they clearly have value, as you’ll see in many of these posts, but also can pose some issues.

3 Rolls, 1 Check
Wherein I pinpoint one of my big issues with the D&D skill mechanics.

But my father was a blacksmith! – Crafting in 4e
A guest post on the old ChattyDM blog by A Hero Twice A Month about using skill challenges for crafting.

Rewarding the Risks
An article by Scott Wallace where he outlines a skill system that heavily tries to balance risks and rewards by making categories of success.

4th Power Project: Skills
My ultimately failed d20 modern adaptation for 4e, this post just amused me when comparing my list to the one in Gamma World.

Primal/Within: City of the Overmind
ChattyDM took a group of quests within a city and connected them to player goals. Accomplishing them required skill checks, but tackled in a way inspired by Mouse Guard so that failing a skill check wasn’t a blocker, it just introduced more complications into the adventure. Check out the entire Primal/Within chronicles for more examples of this.

Air War: A Skill Challenge
One of the things I’ve talked about lately with a few people is running a successful skill challenge at higher levels. Air War is a description of one that I ran for my campaign that remains one of the skill challenges I have enjoyed the most in my campaign.

Skill Challenges
Of course, our most popular guide contains all kinds of great links to skill challenges and skill usage advice in 4e.

The Power of Shared Data
A guest post by me over on At-Will, I came up with a system to combat some of the behaviors in skill use that annoy me – and then the commenters came up with better ideas. So it goes!

About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I think this is a pretty excellent idea. It gives me a lot of stuff I might not have read (or might need a refresher course on) and you can pretty easily use it to lead in to new articles later on. Quite helpful and I’d find more of these agreeable.