Let's skip the usual format today and talk about what exactly you are doing at your table.
I am confused by the purpose of this skill. Pathfinder has a nice little write up that allows you to use this skill to determine the abilities of monsters you encounter. Roll well enough and you can ask "What's this monsters AC?" or "What type of Damage Reduction does this monster have?"
I am even accepting of the traditional uses listed in the table for this skill (determine aura type, depth underground, common plants or animals) as useless as they are.
I just fail to understand how this is supposed to be used in play. Here are the situations I can imagine.
There is a piece of information. It is either trivial and of no importance, or it is interesting providing some depth and background to the game and not vital, or it is a crucial piece of information.
In any possible conceivable case is the game improved by withholding any of the above information?
The erudite LS of Comma, Blank_ proposed an example in which a knowledge check was made for background information about the crown, when pressed about the benefit of using random chance to determine the item, replied with this:
The benefit is the opportunity for the player to choose their own level of involvement. Setting aside the die roll for a moment, the system you outlined doesn't seem to allow for much flexibility beyond class.As discussed recently nearly every edition has some sort of system for allowing customization outside of class. It is totally possible for any class to be a scholar of religion, either using the customization options within your game or simply allowing the player to describe their character. While discussing it, he mentions the same root problem with many of the 3.x skills:
In honesty, though, I will admit that the randomization element isn't very useful for knowledge skills. It can easily be explained, but it's not particularly exciting and the roll doesn't really drive the game forward the way an acrobatics check to dodge a pendulum blade might. I tend to think that there's only a dice roll attached to it because otherwise there would need to be a secondary skills system which didn't require dice. Even I would admit that would be needlessly complicated.It is convenient to use in 3.x because you're getting all these skill points anyway, but the system sucks.
Should players be allowed to determine their specialties and what their characters know? Yes.
Are there any arguments for the roll improving the game in any way?
Every time you level up and get skill points.
Even if it only takes you a week.
Regardless it's still an improvement over having no system for increasing the number of languages you know; though I am fond of having a maximum number of languages knowable instead of being able to speak 20+ languages.
Am I being sarcastic here? I don't even know.
(Here's a hint - you can learn a new language by taking the time in game to learn a new language).
Now I know there are some players out there who are just under some compulsion to think a game should model reality - they will try to tax your money in monopoly, politically influence you in chess, and require players to chant and swing their arms to cast spells while playing magic.
So yes, people have varying fluency in language (or crafts. or professions, or etc.). You can represent that using some sort of partial skill system - but in what way does that improve the experience of play?
In spite of my tone, I'm really looking for some sort of spirited defense, some insight about how to make skills tons more absorbing at the table. These d20 skills are certainly my very most least favorite things during play, to the point where 90% of the time it's irritating to even have to roll. I want to be shown what I'm doing wrong and how I'm just not looking at it the right way.