Excerpts Archive | 11/16/2009
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Excerpts: Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos: Skill Challenge

In today's Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos preview, we reason with the unreasonable -- the slaad, in the following sample skill challenge.

Skill Challenges

Although the Plane Below is home to myriad enemies, it also presents challenges that cannot be overcome simply by fighting. Simply traversing the ever-shifting landscape of the Elemental Chaos can be a trial. Even in conversation, the Plane Below is unpredictable. Some elemental inhabitants are open to parley—but only if the bargainer obeys certain rules of decorum, abates the fear of the respondent, or clearly demonstrates the advantages of making a deal.

The following example skill challenge exemplifies those that might be encountered by characters exploring the Elemental Chaos.

Reasoning with a Slaad

Few creatures embrace chaos as thoroughly and willfully as slaads do. Communicating and reasoning with these creatures is incredibly difficult.

Reasoning with the Unreasonable

Those who are not insane might have difficulty trying to understand a slaad’s bizarre mindset. Even a simple conversation is a frustrating experience. Attempting to learn anything from a slaad can be downright maddening. The following exchange depicts the difficulty of reasoning with a slaad.

Udal the Sword: Listen, creature, we are not here to harm you—we merely seek the Cosmic Door, through which we may see all the many planes briefly align! Surely you must know of it?

Slaad: Waves crash across the sky.

Udal: Er, yes . . . But listen! I know something of you slaads. You seek to find a path into a greater reality and escape the prison of the known, do you not? If you help us find the Cosmic Door, you serve your own ends, too!

Slaad: The face behind your face is a lie. The Door is a lie! You are a lie!

This skill challenge is appropriate when the characters must interact with a slaad other than through combat. It could be as simple as delivering an important message or as complicated as trading. The negotiation could also be an attempt to convince the slaad to act in a desired way, such as leaving the party alone.

Level: Equal to the level of the party, or the level of the slaad (XP equal to the reward for one standard monster of the challenge’s level, or two standard monsters of the challenge’s level if the slaad is elite).

Complexity: 1 (requires 4 successes before 3 failures), or 2 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures) if the slaad is elite.

Primary Skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate.

Bluff (hard DC by level, standard action): Deceiving a slaad is not easy, given its strange view of the universe. When a bluff does succeed, the creature is excited, believing the character has revealed a new aspect of reality it had not yet considered.

Diplomacy (hard DC by level, standard action): A slaad does not recognize the rules of diplomacy; it sees flattery or reasoning as sly trickery, which angers it. Once any character has failed a Diplomacy check, the next failure with this skill counts as 2 additional failures in the skill challenge. A successful Arcana check (see below) warns the character about this extreme reaction.

Intimidate (moderate DC by level, standard action): Although a slaad is easily antagonized by other approaches, it responds well to intimidation. It views bullying as the only acceptable form of social interaction.

Secondary Skills: Arcana, Insight.

Arcana (hard DC by level, free action): The character grasps how slaads react to communication. The character learns the difficulty of the primary skill checks, as well as the consequences of a second failed Diplomacy check (see above). This skill can be used to gain 1 success in this challenge.

Insight (hard DC by level, standard action): Although slaads are creatures of chaos, they still follow a form of twisted logic. These rules change quickly, however. An insightful character picks up variances in the tone, context, and relationship between the parties, through the slaad’s gestures, body language, and continual gibbering. A success with this skill grants a +2 bonus to subsequent Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks during the skill challenge. This skill can be used to gain 1 success in this challenge.

Success: If the characters earn enough successes, they reach an understanding with the slaad.

Failure: If the characters get 3 failures, the slaad does not understand them and responds in a random way. Roll a d6 and consult the following table to determine its actions. If you prefer, choose the option that best suits the current adventure.

d6 Reaction
1 The slaad believes the characters no longer exist and ignores them unless they attack it.
2 The slaad understands the opposite of what the characters are trying to convey. It cannot be persuaded otherwise except through a new skill challenge, increasing the complexity by 1.
3 The slaad runs away, convinced that the characters are powerful individuals that wish to do it harm.
4 The slaad croaks continuously and loudly until the characters attack it or depart. This croaking attracts the attention of other slaads or hostile creatures in the area.
5 The slaad’s head explodes, attacking in a close burst 3; skill challenge level + 4 vs. Fortitude; 2d4 + 5 damage. The rest of the slaad leaves.*
6 The slaad attacks in a rage. Whenever it hits with a melee attack, the attack deals 1d6 extra damage.

*The characters do not gain experience for "killing" this slaad. It re-forms its head in a short time.

Excerpt Schedule

Monday Friday

November 16

Skill Challenge: Reasoning with a Slaad

November 20

Orders: Elder Elemental Eye

November 23

Artifacts: Wave

November 27

Holiday

November 30

Locations: Pandemonium Stone

December 4

Locations: Plains of Rust

December 7

Creatures: Dust Devil

December 11

Masters of the Elements: Ehkahk