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Freeform Checks

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 171
While the players will usually be using the standard DCs for various skill checks found in the Pathfinder RPG rules, sometimes you’ll want them to attempt skill checks for purposes not defined in the rules, but that fit within the scope of the challenge events they’re engaged in. In such cases, Table 4–1: Freeform Check DCs by Level provides some suggested benchmarks for these freeform checks.

Table 4-1: Freeform Check DCs by Level

LevelEasy Check DCMedium Check DCHard Check DC

The low values on the table above are designed as target DCs for checks that are relatively easy for PCs to complete at the listed levels. They are also typically appropriate when multiple party members might have to all succeed at the check to constitute a success, or when a character who isn’t an expert at something is forced to fill in for a particular role. The DC generally provides a 50% chance of success for a character trained in the skill but otherwise ill-suited to the task and possessing no other advantages (such as tools, spells, or magic), or vice versa (someone barely trained with plenty of other advantages). Medium values represent challenges that a single, relatively skilled adventurer should be able to overcome without assistance, but not without some risk. Hard values are appropriate for masters at particular skills, for those who possess numerous advantages with certain skills, or for checks where a large number of characters are all able to assist a less skilled character.

If the PCs typically rely on inexpensive spells and magic items to apply bonuses on certain skill checks, the DCs on Table 4–1 might be too low for your campaign. You may want to make changes to the listed DCs to account for this (in a campaign where characters on both sides of a social conflict rely strongly on such spells and magic items, the opposition will be using them, too).

Keep in mind that when PCs have invested in maximizing their success with certain skills or roles, they should feel good about those choices. Rather than simply increasing the DCs when selecting advantageous options should have otherwise made them easier—thus effectively punishing the PCs—when you create tasks with those higher DCs, create greater rewards for them as well. Thus, the players’ choices grant access to new and exciting possibilities that the characters never could have obtained otherwise (and of course, if the players are apprehensive about attempting the difficult DC, they can abandon this extra prize without experiencing a loss).