OK, so what is a skill encounter anyway? Basically one occurs any time you want to use a skill (other than that of waving a sword around or casting spells) with a desired outcome in mind... and others who might prefer that you do not accomplish it. Easy, you say, check my skill list, roll a d20 and apply appropriate modifiers... but do you really want to reduce all the effort that, in the alternate reality of the game, your character is putting into using that skill down to a single die roll which may not work in your favour anyway?
A skill encounter can work like combat, if you use these rules. Instead of a single die roll, several are made - just as most combats last several rounds and involve a whole bunch of die rolls. Several people can be involved too, just as most brawls involve more than two combatants. Whilst it sounds mechanical talking about lots of die rolls, this approach can also enhance role-playing, weaving player descriptions of what their characters are doing with the aforementioned reaching for the dice.
It is a good way of involving everyone in what is going on, as a skill encounter works best as a collaborative effort. Players need to be aware of what sort of things they need to do, and the GM has to be flexible and responsive to whatever ideas they come up with.
From the game mechanics point of view, to succeed in a skill encounter the party must achieve a set number of successes, the number being derived from the Encounter Level set for the skill encounter and the number of player-characters involved. Moreover, each round the party must gain more successes than failures.
Once the basic details of how a skill encounter works have been described, the discussion moves on to detail a format for laying out a skill encounter in your notes. Three examples - besieging a castle, a compacting room trap and a night at court where the aim is to determine which nobles are on the side of good and which are evil - are given to demonstrate how it is done.
This rules addition is nicely presented, clearly explained with good examples - and the illustrations and overall presentation are pleasing to the eye as well, an added bonus. If you want to promote role-playing and all-party involvement, but prefer a solid structure over a looser 'winging it' way of running non-combat encounters, this is well worth a read!