In the last post, I talked about using my house rule: Overwhelming Victory as a means to fast forwarding through trash encounters in D&D 4e. However, occasionally you are not going to want to go quite that simple, even if your players are going to be slaughtering their way through all of the enemies.
There are times when you don’t want your blade hacking through enemies to make too much noise. Actually, I guess I should rephrase that. There are times when you don’t want the enemy you are hacking to bits with your blade to make too much noise. Yea.
If you are invading the Kobold Hall and are attempting to murder your way through the dungeon to the King of the Kobolds, there are times that you might not want to alert the enemy to your presence. Under these circumstances, using a simple series of Stealth Checks is a nice easy way to speed up combat against a group of monsters, which alone, provide no threat, other than acting as a very pesky alarm. I can’t have been the first person to think of ruling some Combats as Skill Challenges. The idea is pretty obvious, but I think a lot of people just lack the guideline to actually do such a think for themselves.
Have each of your players roll a stealth check. Decide the DC of the Stealth check based on the level of the monsters / their skill in perception, and see what happens. Success means you can skip the encounter, leaving a trail of corpses in your wake; failure means that the guards go on alert, and you probably have to use the Overwhelming Victory rules (which I presented yesterday) to see how many healing surges you lost because of your failure to stay quiet and hidden (not to mention the BBEG now know that you are on your way to claim his head). You could also expand this from a skill check into a skill challenge if there are a lot of enemies present. If you do something like that, let your players freely explain what they are doing and the kind of skills they want use in order to accomplish their goals.