Skill Challenge: The Blizzard

I am currently running an Oriental Adventures (OA) campaign called The Divine Heir and the Jade Regent loosely based around the Pathfinder Adventure Path the Jade Regent with strong influences from Sekiro.  

The second adventure is the Hungry Storm but I didn’t like this adventure much and the whole “cross the Arctic to get to China” didn’t fit my change of location to an Oriental setting.  Instead I converted and ran the Frozen Wind and replaced the lady in white with Rimiko a Wind Yai and one of the Five Storms.

The party just stopped at Miyamakoori Monastery (the location of this adventure) as they made their way to the Ruby Phoenix Red Tournament in Bruul (China analogy in my setting).  I was able to run this in one session so its more of an interlude than a full adventure.

Here is the flowchart of the adventure (and campaign).


To get to the Monastery the party faced this skill challenge and then an ambush.  I stole the ambush from 4e and re-purposed it though I can’t recall which adventure now. The blizzard convinced the party to stay overnight at the Monastery. I also added that they had stayed at the Monastery when they first came through here to make it clear it was normal to stay at these Monastery-Inns in this culture.

The Blizzard

As the PCs approach the monastery, read the following:

More time passes as you ascend the Kochiyama-san (mountain) and based on the last time you came through you should only be a few miles from Myamakoori Monastery. However, none of the landmarks indicated on your map are visible for reference. The horizon is shrouded by a blanket of solid white. A cold fog appears to issue from the very heart of the mountain and snowflakes begin to fall from the steel-grey sky. The way ahead is quickly obscured, as is the way you have just come. 

The storm’s intensity continues to rise minute by minute until the PCs are caught in the middle of a full-on blizzard. To find their way through the driving snow, they must succeed on a skill challenge.

The PCs must survive the harsh conditions while staying on the right path to reach XXX Monastery. They use their skills and knowledge to choose the right direction and protect themselves against the storm’s hazards.

The storm is attacking the characters as they travel, this challenge proceeds in hours. Each PC must attempt a Constitution check every hour, and each PC can also attempt one other check during each hour. The challenge ends when the PCs achieve either 8 successes or 3 failures.

The Blizzard Skill Challenge

The snow comes at you so fast that it both blocks sight and somehow threatens to mesmerize you with its chaotic patterns. A deep chill pervades the area, as well. Can you find your way through this storm to your destination?

  • Complexity Requires [number of PCs] successes before 3 failures.
  • Primary Skills Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, History, Insight, Nature, Perception.
  • Other Skill Constitution, Medicine.

Process A skill challenge is a type of scene where the party needs to succeed on a certain number of ability checks before you reach a certain number of failures. We go to each person in turn, and you set up your scene yourself, describe how you try to overcome it, then make a check to see if you are able to succeed. If the party gets enough successes, you reach your destination safely. If the party fails the skill challenge, something bad will happen.

Each character can only use a skill proficiency once. Once [character A] makes a Wisdom (Perception) check during this skill challenge, they cannot use it again until the challenge is over. You can still make a Wisdom (Insight) check, just not another Perception roll.

Tell the players the complexity but not the DC of each test.

  • Victory If the PCs succeed, they find their way through the storm, losing no additional healing surges, and they emerge in a favourable position before the ninja ambush (tactical encounter).
    • Success 1 A shintao monk leading half a dozen hooded Jiang Shi (which may become vampires) emerges from the blizzard. The monk warns them of the weather ahead is unusually severe. He is taking these jiang shi (zombies) to be buried in the town of Tatezawa. From what he knows, a group of adventurers from the same small town were killed in some misadventure.
    • Success 3 You come across a small clearing just off the road, which contains dozens of fine stone statues of humans in simple dress. Each statue includes a small plate next to an inscription asking strangers to leave offerings to help the poor. If offerings totalling at least 1 sen per person in the party are left (regardless of who leaves them), the PCs are blessed and gain an inspiration that can be used by the entire party (gold coin).
  • Defeat If the PCs fail, they still survive the storm, but each character loses 1d4 HD to represent the beating they take from the blizzard, and they are in an unfavourable position when the Five Storm Ninja attack.

It is up to each PC to decide what skill he is using and describe the related scene, below are some ideas to help the DM adjudicate the test.

  • Constitution DC 10 (0 successes, all characters must attempt). Every character must attempt an Endurance check every turn (representing 1 hour of exposure to the storm) to resist the chill winds and other hazards of the blizzard. Failure means the character loses a HD, but it does not count as a failure on the overall challenge. Characters who are protected by clothing, magic or who have innate cold resistance have advantage to these checks (they are not immune, because some of the cold is magical). The PC tolerates the weather conditions.
  • Acrobatics DC 12 (1 success, no maximum). A failure with this skill costs the character 1 healing surge. The PC helps guide the party over hazards such as icy patches of ground and through sudden gusts of wind that would otherwise knock party members off their feet.
  • Arcana DC 15 (1 success, no maximum). The first time a character earns a success with this skill, he or she also recognizes the fey nature of the magic, which opens up
    the use of the Insight skill (see below). The PC senses the direction from which the arcane energy powering the storm flow and can work backward from the flows of magic to get a sense of the tower’s location.
  • Arcana -> Insight DC 10 (1 success, no maximum). This skill cannot be used until it has been unlocked by a successful Arcana check. Because this storm is partially the result of fey magic, some of its effects are illusory. A PC who succeeds on an Insight check recognizes some of these illusions and can help the group avoid traveling in circles, prevent them from choosing paths that look safe but are dangerous, and so forth.
  • Athletics DC 12 (1 success, no maximum). A failure with this skill costs the character 1 healing surge. The PC helps force a way through the storm using brute strength — breaking a path through a snow drift, moving fallen trees or jumping over them, and so forth.
  • History DC 12 (1 success maximum). The PC recalls a specific detail about the location of the Monastery or discovers a unique landmark that helps orient the group to its location and guides them along the right track.
  • Nature/Survival DC 15/10 (1 success, no maximum). The PC relies on knowledge of the area, an ability to study terrain, an innate sense of direction, and wilderness survival skills to help lead the group through the blizzard.
  • Perception DC 15 (1 success, no maximum). The PC relies on keen senses to look for safe paths, avoid hazards, spot gaps in the swirling storm, and otherwise help guide the group through the storm.
  • Medicine DC 12 (0 successes but can restore a healing surge). A character who has not attempted to use another skill (other than Endurance) during a turn can attempt a Heal check if another character fails a skill check that would cause the loss of a healing surge. If the Heal check is successful, the other character does not lose a healing surge, but that character’s failure still counts against the overall skill challenge. The Heal check does not count as either a success or a failure against the challenge. The PC helps another deal with the extreme weather conditions.