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Knowledge Skills and Identifying Creatures


Skills & Feats

Andoran

Someone noted this on the WotC forums as one of the issues with 3.5 skills, and I thought it was worth some discussion.

According to the rules, and without taking major cross-class skill ranks, a farmer has trouble identifying what his cow is.
He is also baffled by his dog, his pigs, and horses, donkeys, or mules he has.
Depending on how you interpret the rules, he might just know what his cat and chickens are, otherwise he is out of luck.

That needs to be changed.

Also, there are issues, particularly at higher levels, with identifying advanced creatures as well as those whose HD go up faster than their CR. You could literally know what a goblin warrior 1 is, but be somewhat confused as to what the goblin rogue 3 standing next to him is, since the DC to identify the rogue 3 is technically 2 higher. Of course, you would somehow identify him as a rogue that way. You could also know just what a baby dragon is, but be completely perplexed by what the larger, lizard looking thing that is the same color and standing behind it is.

The later Monster Manuals started to address this by having the DC to identify creatures based on CR rather than HD, and letting you identify the type and name with a lower roll above CR 10.

So how about some sort of revision to using Knowledge skills to identify things? Particularly at low levels. We really do not need certain individuals taking advantage of this:
DM: The farmer agrees to sell you some fresh chicken.
DM: (secretly rolls Knowledge (nature) and Knowledge (local) for the farmer, noting that the farmer's wife is a Commoner 2)
DM: He brings it back out, nice and fresh.
PC 1: Yes! I am so sick of iron rations.
PC 2: This is the funniest looking chicken I have ever seen. I thought chickens had more bones?
PC 1: Whatever. It tastes just like chicken!


Another identification problem involves rangers & their favored enemies. Abiding by the RAW, a ranger who has undead as a favored enemy who does not take any cross-class ranks in religion can't make any knowledge checks regarding his favored enemy, yet gets bonuses on spot, survival, and other skills?

A work-around would be to let the ranger use his level + int + favored enemy bonus as a modifier on all knowledge checks regarding favored enemies, so a 1st level cleric won't have more undead knowledge than a 10th level ranger.


I think you forgot about:

SRD wrote:

Untrained

An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, you know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).

Yes a farmer can identify cats, dogs, cows, etc. Now he might not be able to tell the difference between a gorgon and a bull or a dog and a hell hound until it is too late, but he can identify common knowledge items/creatures.

Taldor

You could use the creature's environment and organization details to determine the difficulty in identification. Set up a environment/climate chart akin to the alignment chart that determine's degrees of seperation from the viewer's native environment. Add organization modifier (strictly solitary creatures have a higher modifier, yada yada) and then roll.

Animals are considered automatically identifiable unless the DM wants to make an issue of it.

Something like that.


Yes, the system can definetly use some fine-tuning to be usable as written, but I don't always use such things quite as written and it has worked well for me. What I do about knowledge checks:

There's always some general knowledge you don't ever have to roll about. Farmers don't have to roll knowledge (nature) tell a cow from a chicken, just as a commoner doesn't have to roll knowledge (architecture) to tell a house from a fence.

Concerning monsters and general knowledge, there's some things literally every children will know about them - parents tell their children stories, and they impart some general pieces of information. In a world where monsters are very real, those stories are extra important.

So there might be the story of the unwise warrior who hacked the troll to pieces and went to sleep, and then was woken by a troll who had trapped him. When he asks the troll whether he wants to revenge the death of his brother, the troll replies "I want to avenge my own death!" and as he was eaten alive, he belatedly remembers that trolls don't stay dead unless you burn them.

Sufficiently gruesome to interest small children, this story also tells you that trolls must be attacked with fire or they heal even from deadly attacks.

So for numerous or famous monsters, they don't have to roll anything to get some basic information. It's common knowledge.

Other monsters that aren't quite as famous, but still famous will have a lower DC, while really obscure critters will have a higher one.

As for the problem with advanced versions and DCs: That is indeed an oversight: I'd say that a great red dragon is easier to recognise than a red wyrmling. I take these things into account - advanced monsters (with extra HD) use the DC for the basic version, including dragons who use a low age category as basis

I think adding a sidebar for each monster, with the skill(s) you can use to identify it, along with what information you get with what check result (like wizards did in the most recent books) wouldn't be such a bad idea.


I bet most of the people reading this could name 5 out of the 10 Beholder eye rays. Why is that a DC 21 Knowledge (dungeoneering) check? I would love to see a good, sensible system for identifying monsters integrated into the Pathfinder RPG.

Andoran

pres man wrote:

I think you forgot about:

SRD wrote:

Untrained

An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, you know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).
Yes a farmer can identify cats, dogs, cows, etc. Now he might not be able to tell the difference between a gorgon and a bull or a dog and a hell hound until it is too late, but he can identify common knowledge items/creatures.

The DC is 10+HD.

A cat is less than 1 HD.
A dog is 1 HD.
A cow, extrapolating from a bison, is more than 1 HD.
By RAW, the farmer is baffled by the livestock he is fully capable of training through his animal handling class skill.

That is hyperbole to illustrate the point.

Andoran

Rob Bastard wrote:
Another identification problem involves rangers & their favored enemies. Abiding by the RAW, a ranger who has undead as a favored enemy who does not take any cross-class ranks in religion can't make any knowledge checks regarding his favored enemy, yet gets bonuses on spot, survival, and other skills?

Yes, that is another issue that comes up regularly.


Samuel Weiss wrote:

The DC is 10+HD.

A cat is less than 1 HD.
A dog is 1 HD.
A cow, extrapolating from a bison, is more than 1 HD.
By RAW, the farmer is baffled by the livestock he is fully capable of training through his animal handling class skill.

That is hyperbole to illustrate the point.

By the RAW it says:

SRD wrote:

Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monster’s HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster.

For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Knowing what live stock is, is a common knowledge for a rancher (DC 10). The in general rule is for the situation where the party is facing unusual creatures. Making issues out of things like this is pretty meaningless, the rules already cover the situation, DC 10 check is all is needed, which means it can be done untrained.

Andoran

pres man wrote:
Knowing what live stock is, is a common knowledge for a rancher (DC 10). The in general rule is for the situation where the party is facing unusual creatures. Making issues out of things like this is pretty meaningless, the rules already cover the situation, DC 10 check is all is needed, which means it can be done untrained.

It is?

Where does it say that?
If that is your house rule, that is fine. But it is not actually the written rule of the game, no matter how "obvious" it may seem.


Samuel Weiss wrote:
pres man wrote:
Knowing what live stock is, is a common knowledge for a rancher (DC 10). The in general rule is for the situation where the party is facing unusual creatures. Making issues out of things like this is pretty meaningless, the rules already cover the situation, DC 10 check is all is needed, which means it can be done untrained.

It is?

Where does it say that?
If that is your house rule, that is fine. But it is not actually the written rule of the game, no matter how "obvious" it may seem.

Well I have quoted the actually rules, but I guess it is like the adage says, "You can lead a horse to water, ..."

Qadira

This is ridiculous. A farmer by RAW would not be baffled by his livestock. He would know what they are and can tell you something about each one of them. Livestock fall under the title of common knowledge. If a farmer did not have this common knowledge, he would never be able to Handle them. I think you are taking a little snippit of the rules and blowing it up. Same with the ranger. He would know what common undead look like, Zombies and Skeletons are clearly the undead. A Bodak or Vampire are a little harder to discern but you can tell that they too are undead because they are not breathing. Just because he doesn't have ranks in Knowledge(Religion) doesn't mean he can't discern that. This goes along the lines of saying that a dwarf that trains himself to battle Orcs and Goblins and takes no Ranks in Knowledge(Local) wouldn't know what one of those were.

Andoran

fliprushman wrote:
This is ridiculous.

No, it is hyperbole to illustrate a minor loophole in the rules as written that becomes a somewhat bigger flaw with some creatures.

Yes, obviously a farmer should be able to identify his livestock.
Yes, a ranger should be able to identify his favored enemies, and a cleric should be able to identify undead.
The rule is a bit different, and other than using a house rule, it is possible for a ranger to be unable to identify even the type of his favored enemy, or a cleric to be able to identify undead that he can turn, or a paladin to identify the horrific demons he should be slaying.

If you read the Introductions in MM IV and MM V, you will see they introduce two variants to the PHB rules on identifying monsters. In MM IV they add that a straight DC 15 check identifies the type and subtype, with all the relevant information about those from the glossary. In MM V they change the DC to identify something from 10 + HD to 10 + CR.
Both would be useful to introduce into the PFRPG if possible, as well as something to help rangers who takes a favored enemy identified by a cross-class skill, and a definite statement to always use the base HD of a creature to identify it.


Didn’t know this one needed to be put in writing, but here: “In situations where the rules as written are obviously preposterous, the DM is under no onus to follow them.”


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Samuel Weiss wrote:


It is?
Where does it say that?
If that is your house rule, that is fine. But it is not actually the written rule of the game, no matter how "obvious" it may seem.

Under the Knowledge Skill -- SRD Link.

Untrained: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, you know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).


Samuel Weiss wrote:
No, it is hyperbole to illustrate a minor loophole in the rules as written that becomes a somewhat bigger flaw with some creatures.

It is not a loophole. The RAW covers a farmer identifying his livestock. We have quoted the RAW to you. Read it, know it, play it.

As for the ranger, well his insight into his favored enemy need not be conscious. He may not even be aware of it. You'll notice the bonus damage in 3.5 is no longer precision based (hitting in a vital spot). You could say it is "mystic" damage and insight into the favored enemy. Remember that a ranger is a holy warrior, similiar but not identical to the paladin. His abilities need no logical explanation, they are just "divine".


Samuel Weiss wrote:
fliprushman wrote:
This is ridiculous.
No, it is hyperbole to illustrate a minor loophole in the rules as written that becomes a somewhat bigger flaw with some creatures.

I'm not sure I see the somewhat bigger flaw.

I've played several knowledge skilled characters, including the archivist, and I never ran into any problems.

We understand the farmer and the dell hyperbole, and it just isn't a good argument for a rules change. But, what problems exist that would require a rules revision, and what would you suggest as a fix?

Do you have a house rule that deals with it?

I am sincerely interested. :)

-Casey


Samuel Weiss wrote:
According to the rules, and without taking major cross-class skill ranks, a farmer has trouble identifying what his cow is.

Just a thought... to me a farmer would be an NPC expert, not a commoner, and hence would have the knowlege skill as a class skill, and plenty of skill points to use.

The commoner would be hired help to feed the pigs, pick up the eggs, or whatnot, and wouldn't be expected to have ranks in any knowledge skill. Or possibly the husband of the farmer, who doesn't know anything about farming and would probably lose the farm outright if his wife died.

Either way, could we just put the argument over the hyperbole to rest and move the discussion onward and upward?

-Casey

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Or you just give a +20 circumstance bonus to identify stupidly common creatures who live with the farmer their entire lives,and were possibly bought by him, or delivered by him...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Big Jake wrote:
Samuel Weiss wrote:
According to the rules, and without taking major cross-class skill ranks, a farmer has trouble identifying what his cow is.

Just a thought... to me a farmer would be an NPC expert, not a commoner, and hence would have the knowlege skill as a class skill, and plenty of skill points to use.

The commoner would be hired help to feed the pigs, pick up the eggs, or whatnot, and wouldn't be expected to have ranks in any knowledge skill. Or possibly the husband of the farmer, who doesn't know anything about farming and would probably lose the farm outright if his wife died.

Either way, could we just put the argument over the hyperbole to rest and move the discussion onward and upward?

-Casey

The DMG specifically mentions farmer as an example of a Commoner, unfortunately for this case.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Monster Lore would be a good solution for the ranger. Its just a small extra ability at 1st level that allows them to ID their favoured enemies. They get 1d20+ranger level+Int mod, and they gain a +2 bonus if they have 5 or more ranks in the ascociated knowledge skills.

Under the new CR rules instead of HD the following animals are now DC 10 and therefore common knowledge.

Badger, Baboon, bat, Cat, dog, donkey, eagle, hawk, lizard, monkey, owl, pony, war pony, porpoise, rat, raven, tiny/small vipers, toad, weasel.

Still leaves out horses though. ^^;

Anyways this debate has come up a number of times in my groups. I honestly like the CR vs HD. Really the debate shouldn't be about whether NPCs can it should be whether or not a PC can even know what their horse is. *chuckles*

In general, I rule that domesticated creatures of a region are DC 10 for anyone from the region. You can't more details about them like week points and such but you can point to the horse and say. "That's a horse, you ride it or make plow fields"

Or in deserts, replace with camel. *chuckles*


fliprushman wrote:
Same with the ranger. He would know what common undead look like, Zombies and Skeletons are clearly the undead. A Bodak or Vampire are a little harder to discern but you can tell that they too are undead because they are not breathing. Just because he doesn't have ranks in Knowledge(Religion) doesn't mean he can't discern that. This goes along the lines of saying that a dwarf that trains himself to battle Orcs and Goblins and takes no Ranks in Knowledge(Local) wouldn't know what one of those were.

The problem with rangers is more than mere identification. The ranger should have far more than "common" knowledge of the society, habits, environment, diet, ecology, etc, of his favored enemies. A ranger with a +6 favored enemy bonus against gnolls, for example, should not have to turn to the party's city-dwelling rogue for this information just because he doesn't have any ranks in Knowledge (Local).


pres man wrote:
Samuel Weiss wrote:
No, it is hyperbole to illustrate a minor loophole in the rules as written that becomes a somewhat bigger flaw with some creatures.

It is not a loophole. The RAW covers a farmer identifying his livestock. We have quoted the RAW to you. Read it, know it, play it.

As for the ranger, well his insight into his favored enemy need not be conscious. He may not even be aware of it. You'll notice the bonus damage in 3.5 is no longer precision based (hitting in a vital spot). You could say it is "mystic" damage and insight into the favored enemy. Remember that a ranger is a holy warrior, similiar but not identical to the paladin. His abilities need no logical explanation, they are just "divine".

The only thing "divine" about rangers is that they cast divine spells. All of their other class abilities are extraordinary. To quote the rules, "extraordinary abilities do not qualify as magical, though they may break the laws of physics," which casts serious doubt on your claims about "mystic damage" and "holy warriors."


Rob Bastard wrote:
The only thing "divine" about rangers is that they cast divine spells. All of their other class abilities are extraordinary. To quote the rules, "extraordinary abilities do not qualify as magical, though they may break the laws of physics," which casts serious doubt on your claims about "mystic damage" and "holy warriors."

No it only casts doubts on if I had claimed that they were magical. Unless you content that a paladin's Aura of Good and Divine Health (both extraordinary abilities) are not "divine" in nature (sure they are not spell casting but they are traits of a "divine warrior").

Anyway, if you don't like that fluff, well don't use it. Stick with whatever makes sense to you. I was merely offering an alternative way of looking at the ranger, not suggesting it was the only way of looking at it.

Andoran

mwbeeler wrote:
Didn’t know this one needed to be put in writing, but here: “In situations where the rules as written are obviously preposterous, the DM is under no onus to follow them.”

That is the point. The PFRPG is putting new rules in writing, and fixing other rules currently written.

ShadowChemosh wrote:
Untrained: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, you know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).

And thus is a gloriously circular manner, it defines "common" knowledge as anything with a DC 10 or lower, making anything with a DC 11 or higher "uncommon".

Hence the potential issue if you do not employ mwbeeler's not yet written rule.

Big Jake wrote:

I'm not sure I see the somewhat bigger flaw.

I've played several knowledge skilled characters, including the archivist, and I never ran into any problems.

We understand the farmer and the dell hyperbole, and it just isn't a good argument for a rules change. But, what problems exist that would require a rules revision, and what would you suggest as a fix?

Do you have a house rule that deals with it?

I am sincerely interested. :)

-Casey

Some classes, like ranger and paladin, do not have Knowledge skills as class skills for things they should be able to identify, like most favored enemies for rangers, and fiends for paladins.

Further, without using the MM IV and then MM V "errata" to using Knowledge skills to identify monsters, or at least their types, there are issues at higher APLs, and with certain creature types whose HD increase much faster than their CR, in even having a clue what certain things are.

As for a house rule, I do not have one. I am evil and cruel, and make my players take cross-class skill levels while I taunt them. Or I see it in LG where house rules are not permitted.

As a suggestion, I would start with using those two changes from MM IV and V, add that rangers get Knowledge (whatever) for their favored enemies as an extra class skill, and possibly add Knowledge (planes) to the class spell lists of clerics, paladins, and other classes. Related to the last, I would add Knowledge (religion) to the druid class list so a druid can identify those horrible undead they hate so much, or at least add something that allows Knowledge (nature) to properly identify the unnatural.


Idran wrote:
The DMG specifically mentions farmer as an example of a Commoner, unfortunately for this case.

Wow... just when I thought I knew what I was talking about. :(

Or is it, just when I knew I talked about my thought?


I agree that I would much rather use the DC 10 + CR rule, though since that appeared in the Monster Manual V, I'm not sure how you could word this so as to not step on any toes. I've been using this in my campaign for a while now, and its handy.


Samuel Weiss wrote:

Some classes, like ranger and paladin, do not have Knowledge skills as class skills for things they should be able to identify, like most favored enemies for rangers, and fiends for paladins.

Further, without using the MM IV and then MM V "errata" to using Knowledge skills to identify monsters, or at least their types, there are issues at higher APLs, and with certain creature types whose HD increase much faster than their CR, in even having a clue what certain things are.

As for a house rule, I do not have one. I am evil and cruel, and make my players take cross-class skill levels while I taunt them. Or I see it in LG where house rules are not permitted.

As a suggestion, I would start with using those two changes from MM IV and V, add that rangers get Knowledge (whatever) for their favored enemies as...

I see what you mean. It seems that I've simply been running the rule as it makes sense to me, not necessarily by the strictest letter of the RAW.

I was also looking at the situation from the point of view of a PC that has access to the knowledge skills needed, so it seemed pretty cut and dry to me.

So this could be "fixed" by simple class skill changes to the various classes, plus some clarification on the knowledge skill when used to identify creatures.

Part of it might have to come from the monster compendium itself: static DCs to identify creatures, plus what information you'd know from higher checks.

Though this would technically be a house rule, the DC to identify well-known, sometimes well-feared, creatures is automatic:

You see a really big dragon. It's red.

A knowledge check against its HD would identify age and powers.

Now, maybe a creature that looks like a dragon but isn't could also be described the same way.

You see a dragon. It's green.

A knowledge check identifies it as a T-Rex.

Of course, people that live in an area dominated by dinosaurs wouldn't make that mistake, but they might mistake a dragon as a dinosaur if they weren't common in the area.

It does seem that there can be some improvement made on this.


Samuel Weiss wrote:
ShadowChemosh wrote:
Untrained: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, you know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).

And thus is a gloriously circular manner, it defines "common" knowledge as anything with a DC 10 or lower, making anything with a DC 11 or higher "uncommon".

Hence the potential issue if you do not employ mwbeeler's not yet written rule.

Don't forget that earlier on in the skill it said:

SRD wrote:
Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).


Rob Bastard wrote:


The problem with rangers is more than mere identification. The ranger should have far more than "common" knowledge of the society, habits, environment, diet, ecology, etc, of his favored enemies.

Not necessarily. He knows how to stalk and kill them, not necessarily how to beat them in their favourite card game.

I can see some of the information, but not necessarily all. Not every ranger is Ahab.

Qadira

Can you take 10 on knowledge checks? I know you can't take 20 and all, but I forget if you can take 10 or not... Even if so an 8 int farmer couldn't ID his livestock by raw, unless the DM gave a 'favorable' condition to him(+2).
Seems pretty ridiculous.
I usually just run loose and fast with Knowledge skills being used for creatures.
And what happens when a PC runs across a unique monster from Pathfinder that they never heard of before but manages to roll really well? I had it happen in game and the mage hit a 35 with his check. I told him there was no chance for his mage to have heard of the creature (it was on the Isle of Dread in Savage Tide) but he could ID it's Type, but it didn't feel right. It felt like a DM trying to not let someone figure out what he was fighting, even though I felt justified somewhat with my logic.

Andoran

pres man wrote:

Don't forget that earlier on in the skill it said:

SRD wrote:
Answering a question within your field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions).

"within your field of study" = having skill ranks.

That is the trap of trained only skills.
Take another example:
Disable Device
Jamming a lock is DC 10. I quite assure you, I am perfectly capable of putting a key in a lock, turning it half a degree, then snapping the key off.
According to the rules, your average farmer is utterly incapable of doing that.

I would say it comes down to this:
The current skill system models training quite well.
It completely ignores general life experience, particularly with Knowledge skills.

Does that mean the solution is giving everyone a basic level in all knowledge skills?
Probably not.
It may be just saying that you can identify a creature without being trained, despute the DC of the check, and that you can take 10 or 20 to doing so.
(As silly as it may seem to imaging a farmer contemplating deeply before remembering the thing with the udder is a "cow", and that it goes with the thing with the horns which is called a "bull", and that things with extra neck hair do not have mullets, but are called "horses". At least he can identify them.)
Naturally, taking 20 to identify the undead horror that is about to swallow your soul is probably a Bad Thing (TM), but hey, if the farmer really wants to watch his friends and neighbors getting eaten, let him.
Or you can limit it to the DC 15 or less check to identify type, subtype, and name, with various "obvious" special abilities. (If you do not realize a t-rex is going to bite you, a Knowledge check really will not help.)

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I don't like chaining the Knowledge DC to a creature's HD.
It makes for too many anomalies, and is often counter to the logic of the setting.

A creature the size of a house, with a highly visible and impressive special ability (like, say, a local red dragon) should be pretty darned famous, and be the subject of innumerable old-wives tales, hunters' anecdotes, and 'monster-in-the-closet' warnings for naughty children.

A rare, reclusive, non-combatant tree frog or insect, living in the remotest corners of the globe should be vitually unheard of.

Which has the higher HD; which has the higher CR?
Which has the higher Knowledge DC?


Something else to consider is how much information you get when you get over the DC of the check. For example, just getting the basic check gives you name and type and subtypes of the monster, but that's it. For every five over the base DC, you get another piece of information about it, DM gets to decide what.

That's very vague. For example, I've had DMs list the entire set of spell-like abilities a monster has for getting five over the DC. I've also had them tell me one spell-like. Or all the monster's resistances, or just that it's immune to fire. In one instance, because a dragon's flight is supernatural, the DM told me that the large red dragon that was flying over the city could fly (gee, thanks). My second piece of information was that it breathed fire (again, thanks). Admittedly, that DM just liked being evil, but still . . .

Additionally, does a player get to request which bit of information they want or not? Ie, if the DC is 20, and I roll a 25, I tell the DM I want to know if the monster has SR or not. Do I get that information, or does the DM decide which information I get? Do I get a yes or no answer, or am I told the actual number of its SR? If the players fight these monsters a lot, can the rogue remind the wizard about something the monster does, even if the rogue doesn't have the requisite knowledge skill?

My point is that there should be a clarification of what information knowledge checks will tell you, and how much information a player gets.


This thread is pretty silly, though it raises some interesting questions. Like any instance where player knowledge may interfere with character knowledge, this is a DMs call. I tend to think that everyone could know a little bit about everything, so knowledge skills are open to everyone.

Personally, I think the easiest fix would be to lower the base DC. For instance, common animals should have a base DC of 0 + CR; essentially, automatic. Who ever needs to identify a horse in DnD anyways?

Then, on a DM's discretion, other monsters would get higher base DCs. Something that's a fantasy staple, like a goblin or a troll, would have a base DC of maybe 5 or 10. Something a little more unusual, but with a real world mythos, like a hydra or a dryad, would have a DC of 15 or 20. And so on.

The bottom line is, you are the DM. Do things the way you like. This is not a game-breaking mechanic, and I would tend to think that many DMs have different tastes for letting players identify what they're fighting, whether its a gorgon or a gelugon.


Well, I agree with the OP that this is a weird issue. My problem with the RAW is that identifying creatures should have little to do with their HD, CR etc.., and everything to do with rarity. DUdley the Drow should have no trouble identifying an Aboleth (or some other big bad Darkland beastie), but should have trouble identifying a cat.

I came up with the following system a couple of years ago. I'll share it here, in case somebody feels it's worthy to look at:

Identify Creature: To identify creatures and their abilities, a knowledge check result determines what information, if any, you obtain. The DCs listed are for creatures qualified as common. For more mysterious or unknown creatures, adjust the DC.

The tiers of Knowledge checks, and the information they provide are:

DC 5 Basic: Name/Type of creature.
DC 10 Advanced: How big a threat it is? (Give CR range for example)
DC 15 Expert: A Strength and a weakness. (A special attack, and one of it's vulnerabilities)
DC 20 Master: A complete understanding of the beast.

Creatures can be catalogued as:

I) Common: Use base DCs
II) Uncommon: Adjust base DCs by +5
III) Rare: Adjust base DCs by +10
IV) Extremely Rare: Adjust base DCs by +15
V) Nearly Unique: Adjust base DCs by +20

Common - seen frequently, mostly animal or very prevalent in area (ie goblins in a area known to be controlled by goblins)

Uncommon - one of the local top predators in an area, travelers frequently warned about them. (i.e.) Ogres, Ghouls, gaint spiders, demon/devil identification (lemure vs drech)

Rare - The impressive and locally famous beasts, monsters that are native to the area, but have not been refered to or previously mentioned in the campign. ie Dragons in nearby habitats, Sphinx in dessert or barrens, Aboleth in underdark most demons/devils.

Very Rare - WTF monsters - Grey Renders, Purple Worms, Tojanda, beholders, Gotorsti demons

Nearly Unique - a monster that the party would have no way of knowing about, new to the world or where only one exists in the world - ethergaunt, katori, juggernaut, Radient Dragon.

Some unique monsters are better known, ie if your world has a tarrasque, and it has ever been awake in recorded history people may know of it.


It occurs to me that the problem with the scenario doesn't just lie within whether or a knowledge skill is a class skill, or what it means to answer a question within one's field. It also isn't limited to the farmer scenario.

One problem is that there is a DC 10 for "easy" questions. How easy?
If it were easy, it should be a DC 0. The only way you might not know is if you have a negative INT modifier.

Having a DC 10 for "easy" questions also sets up this bit of hyperbole:

Let's suppose a certain 1st level cleric of Heironeous has 4 ranks in Knowldege (Religion) and has a +1 INT modifier for a total of a +5 bonus.

A curious person asks the cleric: "What's Heironeous' holy symbol?

The player rolls a 2, for a total of 7 on his knowledge religion check.

Cleric: Huh... I'm not sure.
Person: What's that picture that embossed on your shield? It looks like a hand with lightning bolts. Cool. Look, it's on your necklace, too!
Cleric: Yeah... I've noticed that. But everyone in my church has something like it, too. I don't think it means anything.

Obviously, I have never run a scenario like this, and I never would. But it shows a "trained" person making a knowledge check for an "easy" question "within his field" at the suggested DC 10.

Maybe if there was a sentence added that says "DC 0 for simple questions."

But I suspect that the game designers figured that they didn't need to create a rule to say that everyone knows "simlple" things like what a chicken is or how to tell the difference from a house and a fence.

Do we really need to have everything spelled out for us?

No, absolutely not.

But... I have to admit that I am a stickler for rules, and one part of my brain WANTS that extra sentence written into the book. :)


And going back to the original hyperbole, (and I can't believe I didn't remember this sooner) there's a great Far Side strip where a farmer went around with a paint brush and painted words on everything:

"Door" on the door.
"Barn" and the barn.
"Cow" on the cow.

And the caption says: "That should clear things up!"

I love that strip.


Fake Healer wrote:
... but it didn't feel right. It felt like a DM trying to not let someone figure out what he was fighting, even though I felt justified somewhat with my logic.

It sounds like a good call, and I understand how you felt about it, too.

I had a player roll an AMAZING diplomacy check to try to avoid paying taxes to the clerk in a tax office. (Yes... I sometimes use taxes. This particular instance was in Shackled City, so it was actually part of the plot.) However, the clerk feared for his job and livelihood, (and his life) if he wasn't able to levy the increased taxes.

So the diplomacy check worked: the tax collecter was very helpful to the PCs as he levied a fair tax on them. And felt bad that he couldn't actually help.

And I liked that you gave the player something for a creature that he had never heard of or seen before.


Big Jake wrote:

A curious person asks the cleric: "What's Heironeous' holy symbol?

The player rolls a 2, for a total of 7 on his knowledge religion check.

Or if they are not in a stressful situation they take a 10.

Andoran

Big Jake wrote:

Maybe if there was a sentence added that says "DC 0 for simple questions."

But I suspect that the game designers figured that they didn't need to create a rule to say that everyone knows "simlple" things like what a chicken is or how to tell the difference from a house and a fence.

Do we really need to have everything spelled out for us?

No, absolutely not.

But... I have to admit that I am a stickler for rules, and one part of my brain WANTS that extra sentence written into the book. :)

I agree.

That is why I once took several hours to start a rather extensive Knowledge check database for Keoland, just to set up a baseline for what would be a DC 10 skill that Joe Farmer, and adventurer, should be expected to know, because yes, you do get hit with those ultra-letter of the rules situation.
And yes, I have seen situations where people fail to identify common holy symbols. I typically it see it handwaved to DC 0 so you always know yours.

That or we summon that farmer with his paint brush. ;)


pres man wrote:
Big Jake wrote:

A curious person asks the cleric: "What's Heironeous' holy symbol?

The player rolls a 2, for a total of 7 on his knowledge religion check.

Or if they are not in a stressful situation they take a 10.

Pretty sure you can't take a 10 on knowledge checks.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

Pretty sure of that myself. Mainly I believe it is because if you fail a knowledge check, you can't retry.


the Shifter wrote:
pres man wrote:
Big Jake wrote:

A curious person asks the cleric: "What's Heironeous' holy symbol?

The player rolls a 2, for a total of 7 on his knowledge religion check.

Or if they are not in a stressful situation they take a 10.
Pretty sure you can't take a 10 on knowledge checks.

Pretty sure you are wrong. Now you can't take a 20 since you can't retry a knowledge check, but very few skills are you not allowed to take a 10 on in non-stressful situations, and those clearly state it like Use Magic Device does. As the saying goes, "an exception that proves the rule" (the rule in this case being that you can take a 10).

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