Skill Challenges: How Difficult is “Difficult”?

Skill Challenges are compared to a Challenge Rating, which roughly measures how difficult they are.

CR Description
0 Routine
5 Easy
8 Moderate
10 Difficult
15 Formidable
20 Grueling
25 Monumental
30 Nearly Impossible

Routine: A task so easy, you barely notice performing it. Even rank amateurs and raw recruits usually succeed at Routine tasks. Ex.:

Easy: A relatively simple task, something amateurs find too complex, and entry-level workers find challenging, but competent professionals almost always succeed at. Ex.: Taking off or landing an airplane in clear weather. Diagnosing a common disease. Swimming a mile.

Moderate: This sort of task is the bread-and-butter of veterans (who succeed most of the time), but the untried and inexperienced find them daunting. Ex.: A reporter writing a newspaper column or story.

Difficult: Veterans usually succeed at these sorts of tasks, and standout members of a profession nearly always succeed, but entry level employees usually fail. Ex.:

Formidable: Something seasoned characters struggle to achieve, but luminaries usually succeed at. Ex.:

Grueling: A task one of the best in the world fail at, more often than not. Ex.:

Monumental: Tasks the foremost expert in a field fails at most times. Ex.:

Nearly Impossible: Even a DaVinci or Napoleon finds these tasks difficult, failing more than half the time. Ex.:

[Note: Obviously, examples are missing for most of the CR ratings. As skill descriptions are written up, these examples will be fleshed out.]

4 thoughts on “Skill Challenges: How Difficult is “Difficult”?”

  1. I’d suggest having guidelines about when the dice shouldn’t even be picked up.Tasks that are so routine it’s just not doing it. In fact, to roll in these cases would give a wrong impression about when to roll.

  2. There are, in point of fact, such guidelines (originally posted to The List):

    Challenges are intended to be challenging, they don’t occur in everyday circumstances. You don’t roll when it’s a sunny day and you’re chatting with the mailman… But rather when it’s a dark and stormy night, and some ugly thug is shooting at you, and your car is freaking ON FIRE! You roll, you only ever roll, when:

    1.) The outcome is important to the adventure.
    2.) The CR is equal or greater than your skill.
    3.) The player chooses to.

    Or, most importantly, when…

    4.) Adverse conditions apply. (“I must shoot this thing now!” or “There’s no light in here, and the grues are getting closer. Where’s my damn dagger?”)

    And that’s not everyday life. That’s complicated, difficult… Challenging. (Hence the term.)

    When the stress is on, when there’s something riding on the outcome, when the stuff is hitting the fan, that’s when you roll a Challenge. The rest of the time, assume Success and move on.

  3. Why not name the difficulty categories after the skill level you need to usually succeed at a task of that difficulty? For example, 10, now termed “difficult,” could be called Veteran difficulty.

  4. The names of the CR levels function as an implicit guide, so GM’s can assign a CR based on how difficult they think a challenge is.

    “That seems pretty easy.” CR 5
    “That’s complicated.” CR 8.
    “No way could someone pull that off.” CR 25 or 30.

    I can’t — and won’t try to — provide rules for every situation. A large part of the time, GM’s will be winging it. Having descriptive tags for CR’s makes it easier for them to do so.

    Writeups of the skills will provide guidelines for CR’s, giving gamemasters a framework to go from. And further refinement of the CR descriptions will make the process even easier. Ideally, once they’ve played a few adventures, GM’s will be conversant enough to judge CR’s on the fly.

    “Driving at night, in a blizzard, at 80 MPH, without headlights? That’s Formidable, maybe even Grueling. CR 18.”

    That’s the hope, at least.

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