|Chris Mortika RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16|
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How would you specifically handle this ability at your table (both in how it would work mechanically, and if necessary, how you'd make sure that its use didn't ruin the fun of others)?
In terms of flavor, I'm imagining a Bard spouting off reasonable-sounding information, and the magic of Pageant influencing the bard so that it turns out to be right more often than not. In the same way that a cleric announces whether a possible course of action is a good idea, and is right more often than not, thanks to the magic of augury.
Mechanically, it looks like there's two different concerns going on in this thread: identifying monsters in combat, and substituting for a whole host of skills throughout the adventure.
I honestly don't think that using it for monster identification during combat is all that serious an issue. Using the Bardic Masterpiece takes a standard action, as opposed to using Knowledge (dungeoneering) or such. So, it allows a bard to announce things about the monster, after a standard action's worth of preening and posturing. And it turns out to be mostly correct. (Of course, that's what we expect from bards. They know stuff.)
The bard is also spending resources -- uses of bardic performance -- while her colleague with a lot of ranks in Knowledges can use them all day long. If the bard wants to spend three or four rounds of bardic performance during a scenario on pageant of the peacock, I'm okay with her getting some return on her investment.
In terms of dominating a table by running fough-shod over the Int-based Knowledge monkeys, I would make sure that the other PCs got an opportunity to shine. Maybe they'd know different things about the objects under study. Maybe they'd have better support for their positions. Mechanically, I'd follow the advice other people have already provided: If the wizard gets a Knowledge (dungeoneering) result of 21, and the bard gets a Bluff check of 31, I'd give the Wizard the information that a 21 entitles him to. And then I'd give the bard the additional information that she whipped up, and possibly one more "factoid" that she made up, which is just as plausible, but not correct..
When would I do that? When I think the bard is running rough-shod over her colleagues, and when I think the players at that table would enjoy it.
But in general, I think Akerlof has the heart of the situation. If somebody's using pageant of the peacock to dominate a table, the problem isn't with the Masterpiece.