Debate skill challenge

A debate skill challenge is a skill challenge that focuses on an argument between two, presumably, learned characters. It is a form of verbal combat, and contains attacks and its own pool of "hit points" to resist the attacks of one's opponents.
  • Attacks: In a debate, attacks are not physical. The attack bonus will be based on the skill ranks and attribute modifier of the skill being debated. If Hjalmar Helder and another person were debating the coming winter, perhaps guessing the occurrence of the first frost, Hjalmar would use his 6 ranks of Knowledge (Nature) plus his +3 INT modifier to give Hjalmar a +9 attack bonus in a debate on nature.
  • Defense: One's defense, or "armor class" is determined the same way, using the standard AC formula. 10 + skill ranks + attribute modifier for the relevant skill.
  • Knowledge Points:In a debate the more one knows about the subject, the longer you can continue to raise objections and defend your argument. The "hit points" of a debate, or "knowledge points" are the sum of your skill points in the debate and your attribute modifier. If Hjalmar Helder were debating nature, he would have 9 knowledge points.

A debate begins when a character makes some kind of declarative statement. The content of the statement determines which skill should be used. The challenging character makes an attack, rolling a d20 and adding his attack bonus, if he exceeds the defender's defense, the attacker rolls 1d4 to determine the damage to his opponent's argument. The other character may then attack in reply. This continues until one character has run out of knowledge points, or one character concedes the point.
Depending on the kind of debate taking place, and the importance of observers, the debate could range from a formal disputation and focus entirely on appropriate knowledge skills, or might be mostly a skirmish of interaction skills, like Diplomacy and Bluff.
Consider as an example of the formal debate, a legal confrontation over the powers of the regent. Perhaps the Overthane of Baruk-Azhik wants to form an alliance with a human realm and some important Thanes argue that the royal council must approve such a treaty. A debate erupts in which the Overthane's Grand Judge, Bain Earthkore debates senior thane, Wulfram Ironvein. Bain contends that the Overthane can sign a treaty without the approval of the Council. Wulfram disagrees. Bain has 12 ranks of Knowledge (Law), Skill Focus for that skill, and the Bonus Book Feat (Code of Moradin), which grants him a +4 to this skill for objections and replies. His intelligence is 18, so his modifier is +4. This is a total of +23 for his attack bonus and he has a defense of 33. Bain also has the Bonus Book Feat (Etymology of Rikdorvin), which adds +10 to his knowledge points. With 12 ranks, and a +4 attribute modifier, he has 26 knowledge points in this debate.
Wulfram, the Thane of Promentory, has only 5 ranks of law, a +1 INT modifier, and no special feats to help him in debate. He would have an attack of +6, a defense of 16, and would have only 6 knowledge points in this debate. Certainly Wulfram knows better than to debate the Grand Judge in matters of law. Consider instead if Wulfram made his argument regarding the role of the council, the rights of the nobles and framed the debate in terms of Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty). Wulfram would have 5 skill ranks, an Education bonus of +10, and an INT bonus of +1, for an attack of +16 and a defense of 26, with 16 knowledge points. Bain would have 5 ranks of skill, a +5 education bonus, and a +4 INT bonus. He would have a +14 attack bonus, a defense of 24, but his Bonus Book Feat (Etymology of Rikdorvin), would still add +10 to his knowledge points, giving him 24. Wulfram is still at a disadvantage, but its close enough that it might be worth trying if the Overthane is setting off soon to sign the treaty.
If such a debate was carried on before a meeting of all the clans, Wulfram's high Charisma and stronger diplomacy skills would give him the advantage, and the finer points of the law may be irrelevant to many members of the assembly. Wulfram could just as easily make the treaty politically unpopular as Bain could guarantee its legality in the law courts. Now the regent has a choice to make.

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