In my opinion, the best way to introduce a skill challenge is to weave it into the story you’re telling as a sudden problem or goal they need to reach, and describing the nature of the challenge–all without actually telling them it’s a skill challenge and laying out the complexity, # of successes needed, and applicable skills. You can also limit the number of times a skill can be used (if your players are just using that one over and over), or limit who can be the primary on assisted skills (if that player is doing all of the work), which is why I don’t include hard limits for maximum successes.

Click through to see the example.

With A Timely Undeath, the Skill Challenge Raising the Girl might go something like this (if your players are having the most unlucky rolls imaginable, that is—it should be much easier than this).

There are five players: Bob, Tim, John, Matt, and Rich.

DM: Oril was attempting to bring this small girl back to life and al­most succeeded, but her life force wavers upon the edge of a knife. He seems to have completed most of the ritual using magic and alchemy, and his equipment and notes remain; perhaps it could be finished without his aid – anyone well-versed in magical and natural studies might be able to interpret the notes and finish the process.

Bob: I’m well-versed in magical studies, can I read the notes?

DM: Give me an Arcana check.

Bob rolls an 18, which meets the first Arcana DC of 16.

DM (marks a success): That works. You’re able to understand Oril’s logic and the magic behind his necromancy. You will need to follow his notes and complete a difficult magical ritual, while administering several natural potions and chemicals.

Tim: I’ll try the ritual with my Arcana skill.

Tim rolls an 18, which is short of the second Arcana DC.

DM (marks a failure): You are unable to complete the magical part of the ritual, realizing it is more difficult than you originally thought.

Tim: Ouch, that’s a high DC. We might need to assist on that one.

John: I’m trained in Stealth, can I use that?

DM: How would you use Stealth exactly?

John: I don’t know I guess.

DM: Yeah, Stealth isn’t going to help here.

John: Well I’m trained in Streetwise too. Can I use that? Maybe I can understand something written in slang or shorthand.

DM: Sure, roll for it.

John rolls a 13, which meets the Streetwise DC of 12.

DM: You discover that what seemed to be a meaningless word is vernacular for a proper dosage of chemicals. You add a +2 to the next check related to that.

Matt: My turn. I don’t have a high Arcana or Nature skill, but I do have Heal. Can I try to strengthen her life force and keep her from death a while longer?

Matt rolls a 22, which meets the Heal DC of 16.

DM (marks a success): The girl begins to look more alive, her color returning—but she won’t be able to hold on for long. Oril’s anatomical notes remain untouched, and provide secrets to beginning the ritual itself.

Rich: Ok, I can do the Nature check. I get John’s +2 bonus, right?

DM: Right.

Rich rolls a low 10, but meets the first Nature DC of 12 with John’s secondary skill bonus.

DM (marks a success): You manage to interpret the anatomical notes, recognizing which chemicals are meant for which part of the girl’s body. The ritual requires a series of complicated natural and alchemical remedies be applied throughout in order to stabilize her life force.

Rich: Complicated natural remedies eh? Sounds like another, harder Nature check, guys.

Bob: Tim has a higher Arcana skill so I’m going to assist his check.

Tim: Ok, I’m going to use Arcana to try and complete the magical portion of the ritual.

Tim rolls a 19, which, with Bob’s +2 bonus, meets the second Arcana DC of 20.

DM (marks a success): You follow the ritual, step by step, feeling a shadowy presence as you read Oril’s words. The girl begins to glow as her life force grows.

John: Nice. Can I use Streetwise again to give a bonus?

DM: There doesn’t seem to be anything else that knowledge would uncover. What else?

John: Oh! I want to use Perception to see if everyone is following the ritual correctly.

John rolls an 18, which meets the Perception DC of 16.

DM (marks a success): You catch a fatal mistake just in the nick of time, correcting it and saving the ritual from certain failure.

John: Wooo!

Matt: I want to assist Rich on his next Nature check.

Rich: Okay, I’m going to use Nature to try and administer these “complicated natural remedies” then.

Rich rolls an 8, which fails the DC of 16 even with the +2 bonus.

DM (marks a failure): You spill one of the chemicals onto the floor just as you need to deliver it. The girl’s body begins to darken as she nears death—one more mistake and she will surely perish.

Bob: Uh oh. That’s not good. Let’s assist on these last few to guarantee success. I’m trained in Nature as well; I’ll assist Matt on his check.

Tim: I’m not trained in Nature, but can I use Religion to pray to Bahamut to save this innocent girl?

DM: Sure. It’ll be a support bonus though.

Tim rolls a 16, which meets the Religion DC of 12.

DM: You pray to Bahamut, and your calming presence steadies the hands and thoughts of those around you. You can add a +2 bonus to the next primary check.

John: I’m trained in Nature but it’s really low. I’d get a +4 bonus though, with Bob and Tim’s bonuses, right?

DM: You would.

Rich: Wait, wait. Just assist Matt, he has a higher score and he’ll get another bonus, right?

DM: There’s no limit to how many people can assist Matt in administering the chemicals; skilled hands and minds can only help.

John: Oh, okay. I’ll assist Matt too then.

Matt: Okay, so I get a +6 to my Nature roll.

Matt rolls an 13, which becomes a 19 and meets the Nature DC of 16.

DM (marks a success): You administer chemicals and other natural items as the necromantic process dictates. Her resurrection is within grasp, you only need to continue and maintain your focus.

Rich: Can I use Endurance to focus and keep my hands steady?

DM: Sure, give us a roll.

Rich rolls a 19, which meets the Endurance DC of 16.

DM: You hold the tubes and equipment steady, making sure not to flinch as the magic and chemicals flow through the devices.

That is 8 successes and enough to complete the skill challenge.

DM: The girl’s life force is restored and she awakens, unsure of where she is. “Ory?” she wonders, looking around. “Where’s Oril? Where’s my brother?” Her body and soul seem to have been per­fectly preserved, and she does not appear to suffer any ill effects from the resurrection.

Continue with the Alternate Conclusion, and award extra XP if you wish.