On the Useful Knowledge Skill

I think the knowledge skill is useless. But giving players knowledge is not, as some people have been talking about this week.

What would be a useful knowledge skill?

One that told you how you knew the information you are being told!

2d6, printed on a card. + 1 if related to your class. +2 if related to a specialty.

2.) You were told by your father. Sadly, this means you are 100% positive about being correct, even though you have the worst possible information. If someone tries to correct you, they are saying your father was an idiot, so they had better not.

3.) You have no idea.

4.) You don't know offhand, but you know a sage who does.

5.) You don't have the information at hand, but you know exactly where to look to find it.

6.) It's right on the tip of your tongue, and you just can't seem to recall it. Spend 1-4 turns engaging in bizarre activities in order to regain your train of thought, which happens if the time is spent.

7.) You learned that in your early years from a book.

8.) Your mentor or teacher passed that information on to you.

9.) One of the basic facts of the field, the information is so common in your studies that you can't even recall how you learned it.

10.) There was an event where you needed this knowledge and for whatever reason got the answer very wrong. You've never forgotten the correct answer again, even to the point of you becoming a minor specialist in the area of study.

11.) You picked the information up last week. It's fresh in your mind and you have the latest and most up to date information available.

12.) You can nonchalantly recite anything related to the topic. Relevant quotes, analysis by experts, pros and cons to consider, it is literally a focus of your study and you are very comfortable understanding it. People witnessing this view you more favorably (+1 to loyalty and future reactions). Smart people have always been attractive.

13.)  Eureaka! Something that has befuddled you for ages suddenly becomes clear in the perspective of this new question. You have the answer, but now you're totally focused on your new insight. Optional: gain 1d6 times 100 experience.

14.) This is new! The question for whatever reason has stirred up some new insight. Optional: gain a permanent minor bonus of some sort to some sort of related skill or task.

Adjust as needed (no father and raised by your aunt? You were told by your aunt.)


  1. Table is neat ... but it could use two columns ... one for what the player thinks they know .. and one for what the referee knows they know.

    1. I think those should be one and the same.

      Like I said in the G+ post (posted here for prosperity):

      Traditionally, in my games there is never any reason to withhold any 'knowledge' from the players. The linked article above explains my reasoning in depth.

      I either grant them answers to whatever questions they can think of, or I tell them "You don't know" and provide guideposts on how to find out (experiment, sage). As far as the way pathfinder uses it, either the players know the monster ability, or they learn about it in play. I'm not much on stock abilities.

  2. I use knowledge skills like the way I use search, perception, sense motive and other observation rolls- like a scope.

    The first roll is first impressions- what the character will notice right off. Low rolls are surface details, stuff any bugger could tell if they look, BUT DO NOT PERCEIVE. The higher the roll, the more one notices right away, up until they are getting full-blown Holmes with their initial contact. As the players ask questions, the scope narrows on what they want to focus on and details are easier to notice. If a secret door would be a DC 40 to notice initially, players wanting to check the wall may only have a DC 30. Players who look for cracks or odd features in the wall may have only a 25 or 20. A player with with a journal or map that shows there must be something there may only have to roll 10 or less.

    Same with Knowledge. First roll is background knowledge that may or may not be readily obvious, further questions and actions make the roll easier, but only in regards to what you search for. Examples of narrowing the scope could include library research, scientific observation, testing of the subject, asking the subject question in conversations, etc.

  3. I've covered this extensively in the linked articles.

    In short, games are designed. What is improved by forcing a roll?

    It seems to me, you are describing a skill tax where failure removes play. If that is working for you, great. Upon examination I found it was not improving my game. The opposite I found.

    Note that this is not the argument. The argument made is linked in the post.

    1. I have read the linked articles, and understand your argument. However, your argument is founded on the idea that the die hinders play in the case of intelligence gathering. This is not unfounded, and your points are valid, but only if the die is purely a pass/fail with no retries. My systems gives potentially infinite retries that will eventually, even for the worst luck, become an automatic pass. But the system relies on how the players play, and it works best if the player are investigative. So long as the players ask questions and declare actions that bring closer to the end goal, they can roll. And the roll will get easier the closer they get.

    2. Assuming we ignore the case where I as a player just sit there and say "I look again" until I succeed, I still have no understanding of what your roll does to enhance play.

      The crux of the issue is that it is consequenceless, meaning I read it as requiring players to hoop-jump.

      What benefit does the roll add to play?

    3. Honestly the system works mostly off of re-framing, shifting how one looks at a problem and taking the problem from different angles. Let's take how this system alters a basic D&D 3.5 knowledge skill as an example:

      According to the basic rules, knowing a monsters special abilities and weaknesses is 10+the Hit Dice of the beasty. As good a start as any for the starting Knowledge (religion) roll when a Bebilith jumps out of nowhere and cleric says he wants to know if he know what it is (DC 22). Let's say he fails to identify it, and the fight ensues. The party gets their asses kicked, but it is dead now. They suspect there might be more, and want to be prepared. The ranger announces he wants to start dissecting the corpse, to figure out how many physical abilities it has. I deem this reasonable, and secretly lower the DC to 17 to identify physical special abilities. The ranger barely succeeds on this check, so he know knows via studying the corpse that this thing can rend armor, shoot webs four times a day, and has nasty poison that damages Constitution. They party wizard wants to retreat back to town and research these things in a library. The party agrees, and back in town each rolls a new Knowledge check, still DC 17 thanks to the ranger but also due to limited information- it looks like a spider, can poison and web like a spider, but tear up armor. Let's say only 2 party members succeed, the cleric and the wizard. Seeing as how they only wanted to know weaknesses and abilities, the doubled success gets them more info, which will include that they are demons, thus susceptible to banishing and good damage, they can see 60' in darkness, can smell things out, and are telepathic. Oh, and it did not jump out of the bushes, but plane shifted out of the Abyss...

      So, the system in a nut shell:
      *The DC starts as it is listed in the book for the initial contact, the chance for a player to see or know something just from a glance.
      *The DC is lowered as the players take action to gather information depending on what actions they take, like searching specific areas, testing features, asking specific questions to things that can answer them, etc. How much the DC is lowered depends on how much help the action taken would be; dissecting a recently killed noble will not tell you if he is sleeping with your party wizard, for example.
      *Once information sought reaches DC 0 via investigation or creative detective work, it becomes known immediately without a check. Due to the intelligence 3 orc character that made this rule necessary, it is known in my group as the Rule of Thog.

    4. This extended explanation and "reframing" does not really answer the question.

      What benefit does the roll add to play?

      Why is your method superior to allowing the players to learn via what the monster does in combat? Or scouting to watch the monster from hiding? Or searching out victims of the monster? Or going to a library to read up on the monster?

      How is requiring a roll improving play?

  4. How about an Int modifier bonus to the roll, or would that break too much?

    1. Given how this is presented and the curve involved, adding Int modifier might be a bit much. It might be enough to simply give bonus specialties.

  5. Been reading your blog for a little over a month now, and I must say that I've really enjoyed what I've seen. Your series on skill deconstruction was quite eye-opening, and has inspired me to go through the 5th edition (my current game-of-choice) skills and re-tool them to be simpler, easier, and more fun, while requiring no unnecessary die-rolling.

    One of the areas upon which I was truly hung-up was the "knowledge" skills (while not technically knowledge, they're effectively versions of the 3.x knowledge skills) of Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion. This is quite an interesting (and amusing) method of utilizing the "skills".

    In fact, the only change I think I would apply to adapt it to a 5e-specific system would be to add that characters proficient in an applicable area of knowledge (Arcana, History, etc.) also gain a +2, as if it were connected to their specialty (or sub-class).

    I have cannibalized much of what I have found on this blog for my home games, and I think this is going to be something else I toss into a document, print out, and slip in a sleeve of my gaming-binder.

    Thank you for the great work, and I can't wait to see more.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...