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What's the purpose of hiding Flavor Text behind knowledge checks?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Elamdri wrote:


Well, I hate to say it, but perception is always the "Something is about to go down" skill. I've never, in all my years of gaming, rolled a perception check without having mechanical repercussions.

You may not have but others have. Also, like with knowledge, sometimes Perception doesn't give you "this is the key" knowledge, but rather "this might or might not be useful". You example of knowing the major has two dogs and their name might be useless trivia or it might be valuable information if they, say, want to break into his home or hear someone say "here, Skipper! come here!" suspiciously close to a crime scene.


I was thinking of adding a houserule that everyone gets one free 'minor' skill point per level. Minor skills being: Profession (any), Craft (not alchemy), Knowledge (History, Nobility, Engineering...) But there are some skills I'm not sure about like Appraise.


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Elamdri wrote:
And those are all very practical uses of the skills, and I have no problem with that. But very often, information with no gameplay value, only story value, is also hidden behind those knowledge checks and I just can't see a good reason for it.

Any information can have gameplay value with a willing GM and players who pursue it further.

Knowing that the mayor has dogs he's fond of, for instance, might just buy you some favor with the mayor if you play your cards right. And knowing a bit about the Tyrant King could lead to further questions that might allow you to determine any number of things about the castle, from likely monsters to traps to potential weaknesses when you inevitably deal with his raised corpse.

In my mind, pure fluff is usually only pure fluff if you can't personally think of a way to use it.


I kinda agree with Elamdri, but I also have players who chose to put ranks in Profession(Tailor) and K(History), so I feel bad letting just anyone be as good as them at doing it.

My solution to that was the following:

1: I got rid of K(Geography), that is now a part of the Survival skill (or K(Local), if they want to know about cartography stuff).

2: I fused K(Nobility) and K(History); so the skill is slightly more useful. I usually greatly reduce "fluff knowledge checks" DC.

3: This one is my favorite, and I got the idea in this forum: Give every player one extra skill point per level, but it must be spent on any Profession, Craft or Perform skill. This way they're not sacrificing anything mechanically relevant, but get to fluff their characters a bit more. Maybe the fighter was an expert smith, out to learn more about warfare in order to improve his products, or maybe he is on a journey to learn lots of different stuff, so he puts one rank in a different profession/craft skill every level.

Fudging fluff skill rolls one in a while also helps.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Poldaran wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
And those are all very practical uses of the skills, and I have no problem with that. But very often, information with no gameplay value, only story value, is also hidden behind those knowledge checks and I just can't see a good reason for it.

Any information can have gameplay value with a willing GM and players who pursue it further.

I'd like to also emphasize that interacting with the story is part of the gameplay with RPGs. It's not story vs gameplay as if they're separated by a wrought iron fence made of tigers.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sir Jolt wrote:
Shadowdweller wrote:
It is the DM / Module writer's responsibility to ensure that ANY ability is useful.

How many AP's/modules has Paizo written where Profession (Cobbler) was a useful skill to have? Is Skulls & Shackles a bad AP because the Ranger who chose Arctic as his favored terrain isn't provided with a chance to use it? Or his Profession (Shepherd)? How useful is any Profession skill? Or any Craft skill outside of magical item creation?

The modules can't really account for every quirk an individual group of PCs may have, though they can incorporate some quirks that thematically designed PCs (like skilled sailors in Skulls and Shackles) can take advantage of. Fortunately, this game is refereed by a DM and the DM can take those sorts of things into account for his particular mix of players and characters (hence the DM *slash* Module writer in Shadowdweller's post).


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This is one thing I liked about 3.0's 4 * skill points at 1st level vs the current system. You could spread them out among a bunch of flavor/background skills to give your character's history a bit of mechanical grounding. It's much harder to do that now, without completely gimping your adventuring skills at 1st level.

I know that in the long run you can wind up with as many or more "points" in skills with the current system, but for things that are really just for background you don't need a lot of investment and it doesn't make sense to take them after character generation.

Silver Crusade

Poldaran wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
And those are all very practical uses of the skills, and I have no problem with that. But very often, information with no gameplay value, only story value, is also hidden behind those knowledge checks and I just can't see a good reason for it.

Any information can have gameplay value with a willing GM and players who pursue it further.

Knowing that the mayor has dogs he's fond of, for instance, might just buy you some favor with the mayor if you play your cards right. And knowing a bit about the Tyrant King could lead to further questions that might allow you to determine any number of things about the castle, from likely monsters to traps to potential weaknesses when you inevitably deal with his raised corpse.

In my mind, pure fluff is usually only pure fluff if you can't personally think of a way to use it.

And if that was the case, I would not make a player roll to know those things.

But as GM, you know ahead of time what info is and isn't "Mechanically" useful. And I guarantee you that there are games where certain information isn't "mechanically" useful.


Krome wrote:


In role playing it is not really necessary to have the actual skill. The player roleplays going to a bar, or to a sage and roleplays acquiring the knowledge. There are no die rolls required at all in this kind of play.

Actually, I'd make that a Diplomacy roll.


Also, from a role-playing perspective, I think my bard would be a little miffed if I started handing out free knowledge/local information to a fighter, even if it is only story. Having those ranks tells the DM your character knows the subject, so that even if the DM doesn't decide to require a roll, he/she knows which PC would most likely have the information. It makes the PCs look more realistic.


Elamdri wrote:
But as GM, you know ahead of time what info is and isn't "Mechanically" useful. And I guarantee you that there are games where certain information isn't "mechanically" useful.

That's what I'm saying. You can't be certain what information your players might find a way to make mechanically useful, either by further pursuing the story hook that your information leads to or by figuring out an outside the box way to use it that you never considered.

Unless, of course, you aren't willing to allow them to follow up on it. Or your players rarely think laterally.


First things first; I try not to hide interesting points I want the party to investigate, be they fluff or clues. If I WANT them to find out that there's wererats killing travelers outside a village then when they investigate the most recent attack I give em the obvious signs of a scuffle but I throw in a curve to MAKE them investigate further such as "... but amidst the trampled earth you spy a bloody clump of short, coarse fur, like that of a giant rat".

Secondly I feel like the skills are there to learn MORE about what they already know. My party will be coming on a ruined tower during their overland journey this weekend. I will describe the architecture to the Knowledge: History expert wizard as "the tower shows obvious signs that it was created in the time of ancient Karnoss and more importantly you sense an austere significance, as if this relic shaped the very course of history in this land."

Knowledge: History then kicks off a skill challenge. That skill will reveal this is one of the legendary Varazslat Towers of the Karnossov. They are essentially giant magic items meant to confer some boon to the men stationed at them along the frontier. This then leads inevitably to some investigation into the arcane and eventually Spellcraft and Use Magic Device. If successful the whole party receives the benefit of the spell Endure Elements for the next 24 hours. If they fail they are all auto-fatigued for the next 24 hours and further fatigue will elevate that to exhausted.

In summation I'd just like to say that I agree with the OP; if the GM thought of this cool thing or fluff or detail they should share it in some way with the PCs. There's a fine line between how much and how little, but for the most part it should ADD to the collaborative nature of the game, not detract from it.

Silver Crusade

Poldaran wrote:
Unless, of course, you aren't willing to allow them to follow up on it. Or your players rarely think laterally.

Which is what I'm saying. There are plenty of times when you just simply don't have time to prepare for scenarios like that or expect that kind of behavior from your players. Modules are a great example. I run modules when I don't have time to prepare my own games. I'm not really looking for something with billions of different routes when I run a module, I'm looking for a prepared adventure that I can sit down, read in a few hours and get a good sense of what's happening.

Andoran

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What is the point of hiding plot behind monster encounters?

The answer is the same - to give the players a sense of accomplishment. Pathfinder rewards players who place ranks in knowledge skills by rewarding them with interesting information or clues, just as it rewards players who put their high ability scores into strength with an improved ability to hack n' slash, or rewards a wizard by allowing them to bend the rules of in-game reality with magic.

The trouble is, the flavorful background imparted by knowledge skills (ESPECIALLY in adventure modules and PFS scenarios) is usually interesting stuff that's not terribly helpful from a mechanical level. The player may still get a sense of satisfaction about knowing various campaign secrets, but they're still secrets that (if using pre-published information) any player can look up in a Pazio book.

I don't have a really good solution here, but I think it warrants looking at individual campaigns to understand if this parceling of knowledge is useful or not. Personally, if players fail a knowledge check that would have revealed something interesting about the setting, I tell them what their characters know, and then what the astonishing truth is (that their characters do not know)! Most of them are good enough players that they can handle the separation between player and character knowledge (and a few are great, walking right into the lion's den while roleplaying the hapless naivety of their character). I feel like information that gets the players interested in the campaign setting is never a bad thing, and that the best-kept secrets in the game are the ones you come up with yourself.

Lantern Lodge

Elamdri wrote:
Poldaran wrote:
Unless, of course, you aren't willing to allow them to follow up on it. Or your players rarely think laterally.
Which is what I'm saying. There are plenty of times when you just simply don't have time to prepare for scenarios like that or expect that kind of behavior from your players. Modules are a great example. I run modules when I don't have time to prepare my own games. I'm not really looking for something with billions of different routes when I run a module, I'm looking for a prepared adventure that I can sit down, read in a few hours and get a good sense of what's happening.

I think you should practice just a little bit of "on the fly" ability. Don't need much if not your style but even some ability here would expand your ability to do the above with little or no prep.

If I spent even an hour prepping for a game I would rarely get to play. Particularly with my current group, if you don't start immedietly they get lost in Rift, Eve, Smash brothers, or something else like that.


Elamdri wrote:

I guess my problem is that every group I have ever been in has always treated knowledges the same way

You have the "Good" knowledges:

Planes
Religion
Arcana
Dungeoneering
Nature
Religion
Local

and the "Bad" knowledges:
History
Geography
Nobility
Engineering

I always felt History, Nobility, Local and Geography should be rolled into one "Knowledge:Geopolitical" (or some catchier name) and Engineering and Dungeoneering be rolled into one skill (plus take or share constructs with Arcana)

Suprised PF didn't do it when consolidating skills.

Silver Crusade

DarkLightHitomi wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
Poldaran wrote:
Unless, of course, you aren't willing to allow them to follow up on it. Or your players rarely think laterally.
Which is what I'm saying. There are plenty of times when you just simply don't have time to prepare for scenarios like that or expect that kind of behavior from your players. Modules are a great example. I run modules when I don't have time to prepare my own games. I'm not really looking for something with billions of different routes when I run a module, I'm looking for a prepared adventure that I can sit down, read in a few hours and get a good sense of what's happening.

I think you should practice just a little bit of "on the fly" ability. Don't need much if not your style but even some ability here would expand your ability to do the above with little or no prep.

If I spent even an hour prepping for a game I would rarely get to play. Particularly with my current group, if you don't start immedietly they get lost in Rift, Eve, Smash brothers, or something else like that.

I mean, I do that to some degree, but between work and school and a billion other things that need done, sometimes I'm just mentally fried you know?


A concept you find in other games, if failure is boring, just let the player succeed.

That doesn't mean a character with zero ranks in a knowledge skill knows stuff, but rather the character who has maxed out ranks knows the basic fluff.

If a failed roll might give bad information that will impact a future scene, have them roll.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting Subscriber

I find it good to drop hints here and there whenever they find stuff. The more you describe certain details, the more some players will attach to it. Like, if I describe there being a chandelier in the room, some people may think "Huh, I could drop that on people." Or for knowledge and fluffy stuff. Maybe their are dwarven runes that spell a name on the blade. When someone reads it and makes the appropriate check, they get a little taste of who that dwarf was. Especially if they come across pieces of his armor. You cna see some really good examples of this in Dark Souls. Great game and does a lot of good stuff.

Also, in ruins, I like to have frescos that depict certain things that may have happened in the ruined temple. For example, in my mini Temple of the Ghoul dungeon, the ruins were inhabited by degenerate ghouls from eons ago. The frescos on each floor would depict life in those ancient times for these ghouls, with them raiding and burying live people in mass graves, then exhuming them for dinner. Added a little spice to the dungeon as a whole.

Lantern Lodge

A piece of advice from a GMing lecture at Rincon was to always fail forward, I.E. the fighter makes a str check to break down the door, he succeeds, if he passed his check that's it but if he failed the check then he still opened the door but strained his shoulder and takes a penalty using that arm for a while.

A good example they used was Indiana Jones.


DarkLightHitomi wrote:

A piece of advice from a GMing lecture at Rincon was to always fail forward, I.E. the fighter makes a str check to break down the door, he succeeds, if he passed his check that's it but if he failed the check then he still opened the door but strained his shoulder and takes a penalty using that arm for a while.

A good example they used was Indiana Jones.

I particularly like this for anything that helps move the plot forward. Instead of having everything stall on a failed perception or knowledge check, you just have things be a little harder, an extra encounter, the enemy gets a surprise round, a partial red herring (it delays you, but ends up revealing the truth... after expending some of your resources).

Lantern Lodge

Relate this to OP, hmmm, ok,

A failed check reveals the info, but a successful check reveals the info and something extra on how that info can help them, like a GM hint or something.

Shadow Lodge

Might want to steal a concept from the GUMSHOE system. They actually have a full supplement out for Pathfinder (called Lorefinder), but the basic concept is that if a clue is fairly vital, then they DO discover it. A good skill roll nets them hints on interpreting the clue instead of just finding it; while a bad skill roll still lets them find the clue, but doesn't provide any extra information on what to do with that clue.

Qadira

Perception could easily be ignored.

Examples:
K(nature) to spot a stealthed character in a natural setting
K(local) for urban
Apraise for spotting fake items/mimics
K(religion) to notice a clue in a religous painting
And stealth to spot stealth if its a higher roll
Ranger favored terrain and enemy bonuses apply

Although I like a lot of the ideas above too.

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