[New DM] Advice on Knowledge Checks and Character Knowledge...


Advice


Hello everyone, I'm a pretty new DM and I have a few questions that have come up recently in games.
I have a Skald Half Orc in our party, my universe is set in 80's cyberpunk sci fi appocolyptic. Laser shooting mechanical raptor, neon visors, scrap metal armor, glowing tattoos, alien planets, etc. Its my first real campaign and its full homebrew because I'm a masochist who decided to challenge myself with no experience. Anyhow I commonly use the Knowledge Engineering skill check to have people see how much they understand about ancient elven technology (they ended the world). The Skald was raised in a clan who prides themselves on their skill at understanding and using said technology to advance themselves, they literally run massive interdemensional starship generator that powers the last city, so they know a lot. Anyhow she has like a +8 to knowledge engineering. My question comes in when I have her roll to know if she understands technology the groups come across. Here's the thing, do you make a single knowledge check on a subject and that's permanent (it says no rerolls) and so she just knows that amount about all technology, or am I right in making the character roll over different technologies she has encountered? If so do i need to be literally tracking every knowledge roll she makes and the subject to know what she knows about things? Then allow her to read or study subjects she wants to learn about to grant a reroll with a small bonus? If this is true does that mean i have to track every characters knowledge checks about every single subject they encounter about everything so its set in stone what they know?. To put it more simply, if the skald rolls to understand the mechanics of how the laser raptor function, and say she gets under the DC because its slightly obscure knowledge, then do I need to make a not and even like 10 sessions later if she attempts it again and hasn't gained new knowledge on the subject go "sorry, like 3 months ago you rolled an 11, you don't know how they work". I just need to know how much work i should be putting into this and tracking what the characters know about various subjects. Let me know your advice below, it will really help! Thanks!

EDIT: Also, if someone might explain how Knowledge Checks work a bit more simply it would be appreciated. For awhile I was running them wrong, giving high DC for simple things treating them like any other skill check. Once I understood the DC was based on how easily obtainable the knowledge is i can better change the DC depending on who is making the check and if they would have sufficient chance and ability to know anything on the subject. Had a few times were our Skald that is specially trained in technology happened to know far less than a local scavenger with no training because i gave both the same DC and the Skald failed while the scavenger with no formal training succeeded... Obviously making the skald feel cheated. But I understand better how they work now. Still need help on if i should track every check by each character on every subject to know what they know about various things they have ever made knowledge checks about


Short answer : You should not track them.

Long answer : there have been a lot of questions about the Knowledge skills (especially on the French forum ! for months, it was only that, and they made about six homerule sets about it in the shortest possible time). From what I've read and what I've done until now, Knowledge is great, it's just hard to play.

You don't track them because she can be ill-prepared, distracted or whatever on one day, and then have an illumination. Just like you can have a blank mind on a exam on the very subject you're making an exposé the next day, and that you know by heart. If she wants to roll it again, she rolls it again. While she can retry right of the bat, she can retrain the next time she meets with something triggering a knowledge check, and that knowledge check gives her information (or no information or false information) about what she has before her now, even if it is the same thing.

In case I'm not clear, the next time for the same item cannot be : she doesn't know - she walks out - she walks in - she knows now. It should be when you've forgotten she made the check. You don't need to keep track of it - if you forgot she made the check, then her character might have changed enough her mood that going from ridiculous blank to omniscience isn't too strange. A bit, but not too much.

Personally, I do apply a basic homerule to avoid having the genius failing a knowledge check when the stupid succeeds : I have a "passive" Knowledge value for each character on my GM docs, 10 + their bonuses (as if they had chosen to take 10), and whenever they're in a calm, not stressful situation, I don't ask them the check for real. That passive value allows me, a sadistic GM who dislikes to give things for free but loves to tell tales of lore, to explain things all I want ~

Also, I might apply hidden bonuses if one character has personal history or experience with something - for example, someone with no rank in Knowledge (local) but who was raised in the village knows where the market is. Or, more unusual, a character with no Knowledge rank against a monster he already encountered, if he asks me how he beat it last time, sometimes I'll tell him (or sometimes I'll tell him "shear luck" or "roll a shoon die" or "come on we played it three months ago, remember by yourself"), or have her roll with a +something.


Walls of text are difficult to read. So..., editing by adding space:

NeonScorpion wrote:

Hello everyone, I'm a pretty new DM and I have a few questions that have come up recently in games.

I have a Skald Half Orc in our party, my universe is set in 80's cyberpunk sci fi appocolyptic. Laser shooting mechanical raptor, neon visors, scrap metal armor, glowing tattoos, alien planets, etc. Its my first real campaign and its full homebrew because I'm a masochist who decided to challenge myself with no experience.

Anyhow I commonly use the Knowledge Engineering skill check to have people see how much they understand about ancient elven technology (they ended the world). The Skald was raised in a clan who prides themselves on their skill at understanding and using said technology to advance themselves, they literally run massive interdemensional starship generator that powers the last city, so they know a lot. Anyhow she has like a +8 to knowledge engineering.

My question comes in when I have her roll to know if she understands technology the groups come across. Here's the thing, do you make a single knowledge check on a subject and that's permanent (it says no rerolls) and so she just knows that amount about all technology, or am I right in making the character roll over different technologies she has encountered? If so do i need to be literally tracking every knowledge roll she makes and the subject to know what she knows about things? Then allow her to read or study subjects she wants to learn about to grant a reroll with a small bonus? If this is true does that mean i have to track every characters knowledge checks about every single subject they encounter about everything so its set in stone what they know?.

To put it more simply, if the skald rolls to understand the mechanics of how the laser raptor function, and say she gets under the DC because its slightly obscure knowledge, then do I need to make a not and even like 10 sessions later if she attempts it again and hasn't gained new knowledge on the subject go "sorry, like 3 months ago you rolled an 11, you don't know how they work". I just need to know how much work i should be putting into this and tracking what the characters know about various subjects. Let me know your advice below, it will really help! Thanks!

EDIT: Also, if someone might explain how Knowledge Checks work a bit more simply it would be appreciated. For awhile I was running them wrong, giving high DC for simple things treating them like any other skill check. Once I understood the DC was based on how easily obtainable the knowledge is i can better change the DC depending on who is making the check and if they would have sufficient chance and ability to know anything on the subject. Had a few times were our Skald that is specially trained in technology happened to know far less than a local scavenger with no training because i gave both the same DC and the Skald failed while the scavenger with no formal training succeeded... Obviously making the skald feel cheated. But I understand better how they work now. Still need help on if i should track every check by each character on every subject to know what they know about various things they have ever made knowledge checks about

Welcome to the other side of the screen. :-)

I run a complex hybrid car. I know a bit of theory, but don't even think of giving me a tool to work under the hood without a big manual that I read as I work.

Running an existing item and manufacturing it are very different. If they found it in operational condition, and had an operating manual, then they can continue as the operating staff. Also, consider, that the ones that really understand it, will have the highest skill. They will also have a number of levels in Expert (or other class) and lots of ranks and feats applied. I would say a 10th level Expert with a skill of +25. So your skald's +8 is nowhere in the same ballpark. Creating the generator might be a DC of 45 or higher, but running might be DC 30 to DC 35.

How to run Knowledge checks:
The game does not track minutia, and properly doing this would be serious minutia. So instead, PF treats each check as independent. The no recheck is basically an instant retry prohibition. Rechecks can be made if something changes. If the character learns, via a plot point, something of use, they can try to add it to the skill check as a bonus to a new check. An example would be taking time to study in a library.

As to trying later, without any change, you must also take into account that this check is happening under the stress of the adventure. In the spur of the moment, they may not recall what they need to, but another day they might. The likelihood is proportional to how close their skill is to the DC. If they don't make a special effort to try to figure it out, then they are taking-10. This is useful for when the DC is not much higher than your skill. On the other hand, if the DC is more than 10 over the skill, they will not be able to figure it out in this way. [Their choice to try this.]

Another tradition I have often seen used is to give a significant bit of information for making the check, and another for each +5 they beat it by. DC 20, skill 20, gets 1 bit of info. Skill 25 gets 2. Skill 30 gets 3. This works well for monster knowledge.

The DC should be based on how difficult the check is to handle, and not how easy a PC can make a check.

When your skald fails the check, but the local idiot makes it, just say the idiot got lucky, or that the idiot happened to remember a nursery rhyme that had the needed clue.

/cevah


Thanks for the help everyone, i think i understand a lot better now. Also when i say I'm a new DM, i also mean I have never actually played pathfinder more than 2 sessions. I picked it up to play with my friends because they were interested but I am more of the creative storyteller. So I know a lot of this might have been obvious, but I've literally only picked up pathfinder 5~ months ago, jumped straight into DM'ing and homebrewing. I've only had access to the online SRD so its been slow learning for me and my players. This forum has been a godsend. Thanks again everyone!


Cevah wrote:
Welcome to the other side of the screen. :-)

Its the only side I know. :)

I have been flying by the seat of my pants learning as we play because friends and family were interested.

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