CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Knowing is Half the Battle

Learning About Your Enemy

As if I haven’t said it often enough, I love playing skill monkeys. One of my favorite parts of playing a skilled character is getting all of the knowledge skills I can get my hands on. A few recent threads brought up the question of what you learn about your enemies with knowledge skill checks. So today we’re gonna look at that particular use for knowledges.

The basics of knowledge skills seem simple enough. Make a roll get some information, if the roll is good enough get even more information. But even with this seeming simplicity there was a difference of opinion on what a particular sentence meant in terms of what one knows with just the base roll. In the rules for knowledge it says “A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster.” The question that came up was does “a bit” mean literally one single bit of information or does it fit the other meaning of bit, a small quantity of something, in this case information.

I personally take the ‘small quantity’ approach on this. For me that small quantity is everything available under the type of creatures type, humanoid, monstrous humanoid, undead, outsider, etc. Since every type of creature has the exact same general abilities, it stands to reason that these pieces of information would be common among scholars of these creatures. For some creatures like humanoids this isn’t a lot of information, for others like undead it gives quite a bit more.

Whether you subscribe to my definition of “a bit” of information or the one piece of information – most likely name – you need to figure out what the players can learn if they gain extra successes. For me, much like type, subtype holds a lot of information that is common to all creatures of that subtype. Therefore, I allow my players to ask about subtypes. If a creature has more than one subtype then each subtype is a different question.

Beyond that, what other types of information should you give your players? Mine like to ask things like “what are their best saves”.  Special defenses, special attacks, spell-like abilities, and special qualities are also very common. But how much of this do you give to your players? If the creature they’re facing has two special qualities do you give both or just one? If it has a handful of spell-like abilities do you give all or just a single one? That’s really a personal decision. For special qualities I usually just give one, for spell like abilities I will often give them all.

The last bit comes when making the roll in the first place. At its core the DC for figuring out information is 10+ the CR of the creature. But for incredibly rare creatures it could be DC 15 + the CR of the creature, and for incredibly common creatures it could be DC 5 + the CR of the creature. The second part is handy because it means that the common citizen could know about a goblin because the DC would only be 6, which means even someone untrained could make a roll.

This leads me to my last point. What counts as common? Some things are pretty obvious: goblins, skeletons, orcs, zombies are all things that people will know something about. Even if it just stems from common folklore, these are things people will have some bits of information on. But it could also be a regional thing. In Cheliax minor devils roam the streets bound to their masters so things like imps may be considered common there. Other locations might have other common creatures, so that’s something to think about.

As both a player and a GM I love knowledge skills, but knowing how much information to give out and when to do so is hard. Hopefully this will give you some ideas on how to use them in your game, even if it’s not exactly the way I do it. How do you apply knowledge skills in your game? How much information do you give out to your players? How do you present that information to your players?

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  1. in my games i like to also allow specialty Knowledges. For instance Knowledge Arcana covers ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, constructs, dragons, magical beasts. Now i completely understand why this is cross-class for druids, but in a fantasy setting magical beasts are a natural part of the fauna, so a druid should be knowledgeable about them. Thus i allow druids to take "Knowledge Magical Beasts" as a class skill. since this is a specialized skill representing a narrower focus on a single portion of the overall Knowledge Arcana anytime a Know. Arc. check involves magical beasts the druid in question may roll, and i drop the DC by about 25% - 30%. i allow anyone to specialize a knowledge skill. basically any topic mentioned in the skill's description, or anything reasonable can be a special knowledge skill. if the topic falls under an existing knowledge skill that is a class skill for the character then the specialized skill is also a class skill. if the topic is not covered by any of the standard knowledge skill, or the base knowledge skill is cross-class for the character then i make a judgement call (after hearing the player's thoughts). for example the druid above, or a ranger that took a favored enemy that is not covered by the rangers class knowledge skills. maybe ranger took humanoid elves, but knowledge local is cross-class. take knowledge elves as a specialized class skill. Thoughts?

    1. I would argue that many magical beasts are exactly the opposite of parts of the natural world. The are experiments gone afoul that literally destroy or take over eco systems. Can they over time become a part of an ecology, sure but they are unnatural by their very nature.

      Specialties in games like WoD were interesting. I think they added extra dice to a dice pool im jot sure how well theyd work in pathdinder. But if i were to implement them i think id require you have ranks in a skill and then you would get say +2 on rolls for a specific application of the skill. Like how there are traits that give you +2 to intimidate to demoralize, or +2 to linguistics to recognize forgeries.

      But i wouldn't let it become a class skill just for a specialty.

    2. i may not have been clear. i'm not saying that the druid in the above example would suddenly have Know. Arc. as a class skill. it would still be cross-class, and he would only get to make Know. Arc. rolls if he had ranks in it. the specialized know. skill is treated as an entirely separate know. skill that relates to nothing but the specialty (i.e. Magical Beasts). it requires its own skill points to be put into it, and does not require any ranks in the parent know. skill. that way the druid can learn about unicorns with out having to study golems. then whether or not you give a character the +3 bonus for class skills has to be determined. imo the druid should get the bonus because the vast majority of magical beast are, or have become "natural." anything wholly unnatural is generally an abberation.