How do players roll for knowledge on monsters?


Running the Game


Excuse me if this is something obvious, but my GM and I have gotten to the first combat, and we're not sure what Recall Knowledge we would have to roll for the sewer ooze. Is it something listed in the Bestiary, or is it in the handbook, or is it just always Nature?

Also, are we expected to get similar results to knowledge checks in PF1, or how does that work?


It's a common complaint, there's no guidance on what skills apply to all monsters. Presumably this will be fixed in the final version. It might someday get an errata update during the playtest.


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For now I'm going with

Arcana - alchemical/magically inclined or magically created creatures

Occultism - spooky, ritualistic, cursed, supernatural monsters

Nature - pretty much any animal not covered by the other ones as well as magical beasts

Religion - anything divine, angels demons and such

Society - any creature that has or had a complicated society that has written or oral laws and such

It takes some reading but looking at the skills and the monster can usually say what it falls under. I believe they left it out on purpose to leave it up to the GM whether or not the character has knowledge of it. Though I believe just stating which one it belonged to on the monster would have been better.


Let's see what the rulebook says...

Arcana's description of the Recall Knowledge action says "...knowledge regarding... creature of alchemical or arcane significance."

Nature's description of the Recall Knowledge action says "...knowledge on flora, fauna... creatures of natural significance."

Occultism's description of the Recall Knowledge action says "...knowledge regarding... creatures of occult significance."

Religion's description of the Recall Knowledge action says "You can also recall some bit of lore about creatures with divine significance."

Society's description of the Recall Knowledge action says "...knowledge regarding... creatures with complex societies."

So it looks, to me, like all the types of creature you might encounter are already covered by the rules in the book. Though I guess they could assign DCs and explicitly list which information can or can't be gained, by I personally wouldn't like the game trying to take those decisions away from me as a GM.

Dark Archive

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Quote:
So it looks, to me, like all the types of creature you might encounter are already covered by the rules in the book.

Really? And, how do you classify the sewer ooze, as a basic example? Is it natural, since it seems to be a naturally occurring (although very simple) life form? Or is it of alchemical or arcane significance? Or occult significance? I mean, sure, you can probably rule out divine and complex society, but there really isn't anything to pin down any of the others as more relevant than the others in this case.


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YogoZuno wrote:
Quote:
So it looks, to me, like all the types of creature you might encounter are already covered by the rules in the book.
Really? And, how do you classify the sewer ooze, as a basic example? Is it natural, since it seems to be a naturally occurring (although very simple) life form? Or is it of alchemical or arcane significance? Or occult significance? I mean, sure, you can probably rule out divine and complex society, but there really isn't anything to pin down any of the others as more relevant than the others in this case.

This would have been Knowledge: Dungeoneering (Underground version of Nature) before, but that skill has been removed with nothing to replace it. So yeah, it's awkward.


YogoZuno wrote:
Quote:
So it looks, to me, like all the types of creature you might encounter are already covered by the rules in the book.
Really? And, how do you classify the sewer ooze, as a basic example? Is it natural, since it seems to be a naturally occurring (although very simple) life form? Or is it of alchemical or arcane significance? Or occult significance? I mean, sure, you can probably rule out divine and complex society, but there really isn't anything to pin down any of the others as more relevant than the others in this case.

The sewer ooze has the traits medium, mindless, and ooze. The one of those that is helpful in the answering of your, likely deliberately obtuse, question is the ooze trait.

Looking up that trait in the creature and hazard trait appendix says "oozes are creatures with simple anatomies."

That has a noticeable difference from some other creature traits like undead which mentions magic, or construct which mentions other animating means than those that create undead, or demon/devil which mention another plane of existence, and from traits like humanoid which mention reasoning and acting like humans (i.e. have society).

It also has noticeable similarities to other creature traits like animal and plant that just say "an animal is a creature with a relatively low intelligence" and "vegetable creatures have the plant trait."

So that answer, derived by no means other than reading the book, comes to that oozes - other than those with obvious influence or origin from magic, alchemy, or other planes - are covered by that description of the Nature skill's Recall Knowledge action.


When in doubt, I am generous. A sewer ooze used to be dungeoneering, thus Occult. But it is also a natural creature, thus Nature. Alchemists can bottle oozes, thus Arcana. Unless the PC's religion somehow involves oozes, I'd not allow religion, but any of the other 3 would do at my table.

More troublesome is, what information is so obvious you don't even need to spend an action? If no information is given out, it comes down to the players' knowledge, which is metagamey. Trivial facts, such as the resistances of skeletons or that oozes are not subject to critical hits or precision damage ought not to require a roll.

Its almost impossible to write rules for this; I guess each GM has to decide on their own. That won't do in organized play, though.


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Xenocrat wrote:
It's a common complaint, there's no guidance on what skills apply to all monsters. Presumably this will be fixed in the final version. It might someday get an errata update during the playtest.

Yeah, it's pretty vague as is. Maybe they wanted GMs to be flexible? But for me, I appreciated the clear-cut way they assigned creature types to each knowledge in PF1. Easy to look up and remember to be consistent.


Starfox wrote:

More troublesome is, what information is so obvious you don't even need to spend an action? If no information is given out, it comes down to the players' knowledge, which is metagamey. Trivial facts, such as the resistances of skeletons or that oozes are not subject to critical hits or precision damage ought not to require a roll.

Its almost impossible to write rules for this; I guess each GM has to decide on their own. That won't do in organized play, though.

Yeah, I'm really unsure what the scope of one Recall Knowledge action should be. I wish there were some info or an example in the book.

I doubt that one should know a complete monster stat block with one action. The rules imply that you get bits of information and will need multiple actions for big topics.

Should a player say "I want to recall the next bit of information of that monster"? Or more specific "What are special attacks/ defenses/ resistances & weaknesses/ social behavior"?

I know hard rules on that are impossible but a few guidelines would be nice. I was surprised that there is absolutely nothing on what you get with recall knowledge in the rules.


On the topic of the rules providing more specific guidance as to which skill can or can't be used for a particular creature, and which DC provides what resulting information, and even what information is automatically known, I am firmly opposed.

If the rules remain in their current state of just enough info for a GM to make their own decision on the matter that fits their own group, then neither I nor another GM are "house-ruling" - we are both just running the game as best fits our own table.

In all likeliness, if the rules become more specific, I'll be the one ending up house-ruling because I like the current state of the player being able to pick a fairly specific thing to see if their character knows such as "I attempt to recall anything I've heard about the resistances of elemental creatures." and then me just tell them the relevant bits if they succeed at the DC I've assigned based on the current situation and the details of the campaign/setting - and my players will not be confused as to why it works that way if they go read the rules themselves.

If the feeling is that PF Society play needs a guideline that applies across all tables, it can be added by the Society guidelines, rather than being the default rule even for non-organized play.

Dark Archive

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Quote:
The one of those that is helpful in the answering of your, likely deliberately obtuse, question is the ooze trait.

I was not deliberately being obtuse. I have hardly looked at the bestiary, and my point to the original poster was that the choice was not as clearcut as he (or perhaps you) were making out. Some will see this as flexible, some will see it as aimless, especially when compared to the 1e version of the same rule.

Liberty's Edge

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Yeah, trying to figure out what skill to use to know things about a Sewer Ooze was literally the first thing I tried to figure out in terms of non-character creation playtest rules. The lack of guidance was annoying and problematic.

In order to make characters who are good at what you want them to be good at there need to be actual guidelines for what skill is used for what. Say I want to play a lawyer who knows about Devils due to them being Lawful and big on contracts. Do I need Religion because they are creatures of religious significance, or can I use Society (something I was gonna take anyway) because they have a complex society?

Either answer is fine, but there needs to be a definitive one or I can't actually make a character who knows what I want them to know. I could ask my GM, but that really increases the GM workload if everyone is asking that kind of thing, and gives them a lot of what amount to house rules to remember. And what about something like PFS where you don't have a single GM? The answer likely varies in an unpredictable and unpleasant fashion.

Really, given the way the game operates, clear guidance on something like this is absolutely essential.


Why isn't the guidance that suggests that a creature might be equally identifiable with differing skills, like how "identify magic" is an action that shows up in multiple skills and is the "definitive" answer to how a character figures out what magic items or whatever do, clear enough?

Is it because of a fear that a GM will say "No, Society doesn't let you know about devils, you have to use Religion"?

It doesn't amount to increased workload or what amount to house rules to just say "yeah, that skill makes sense according to the description in the book, go ahead and roll it."


It doesn't amount to increased workload if the GM has to read up about the sewer ooze, look up its traits, read the trait descriptions, compare that to the available skills, and make sure there's no reason to think that the ooze is magical or alchemical?

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thenobledrake wrote:
Why isn't the guidance that suggests that a creature might be equally identifiable with differing skills, like how "identify magic" is an action that shows up in multiple skills and is the "definitive" answer to how a character figures out what magic items or whatever do, clear enough?

Using multiple skills is fine. What's not fine is never being sure what skill you need to achieve X. Which is the current situation given the absolute lack of guidance.

You can't make a character with the in-universe capability you want unless you know what game mechanic grants that capability. For an analogy, what if there were rules for disarming an opponent, but they never mentioned what skill it used? Anyone who wanted to be able to disarm would have to just guess what skill their GM wold allow (most GMs would probably have it be Athletics, but Acrobatics and Deception might also see use, and some GMs might not allow Athletics at all). That would suck, and it's exactly the situation for someone who wants to know about, say, Oozes is in right now.

thenobledrake wrote:
Is it because of a fear that a GM will say "No, Society doesn't let you know about devils, you have to use Religion"?

It's not about fear. It's about wanting to actually know what your character is capable of. In PF1, if I want to know about Devils, I take Knowledge (Planes) and can confidently state that I know about them.

In PF2, it might be Religion in one GM's game, Society in another, either one at your option in a third, and possibly even Arcana or Occultism in yet another person's. The guy who says it's only Society is weird (and the Arcana and Occultism ones even weirder), but there's not any proof he's wrong at the moment. If you have a forgetful GM, it might even be different ones of those from week to week. In PFS or any other situation with multiple GMs, it'll definitely be different skills from week to week.

Uncertainty about your character's own capabilities is deeply not fun, in addition to breaking verisimilitude profoundly for those who care about that.

thenobledrake wrote:
It doesn't amount to increased workload or what amount to house rules to just say "yeah, that skill makes sense according to the description in the book, go ahead and roll it."

It does if you want to be consistent and avoid the uncertainty problem above. You allowed Society on Devils once? Well either you now need to remember to always allow it, or you run right back into the uncertainty issue I note above. One such call is easy enough to remember, sure, but when you start having to make them on every monster (and in the current system you have to do precisely that) it becomes a bit of a chore to try and keep track of them.

You can certainly just be very permissive and allow anyone with the least excuse to use whatever skill they want, but that has its own serious issues in terms of making the distinctions between them meaningless.


Yeah, I use circus lore to identify devils because we totally had an imp in the last circus I was with.

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thorin001 wrote:
Yeah, I use circus lore to identify devils because we totally had an imp in the last circus I was with.

Random Anecdote: I'd never allow Circus Lore for this, but I actually did use this for the explanation of how the Acrobat Monk succeeded at an untrained Religion check to identify a jann when everyone else flubbed the roll.


Matthew Downie wrote:
It doesn't amount to increased workload if the GM has to read up about the sewer ooze, look up its traits, read the trait descriptions, compare that to the available skills, and make sure there's no reason to think that the ooze is magical or alchemical?

Presumably (the rule's presumption, not mine) the GM has already read the general parts of the rules like traits and skills before using any specific monster, and is going to read the whole entry of a monster when using it, so there isn't any extra step added.

As for "make sure their no reason to think that the ooze is magical or alchemical" No. The GM is not required to make sure another skill would not also apply; they only need to be able to answer the player asking "Can I use [insert skill] to Recall Knowledge relevant to this situation?"

If there are 3 skills that could reasonably provide information, let a player use any of those 3 skills - that's a worlds better approach than being restricted to a single skill (which makes players that are concerned with knowing about monsters required to pour more of their limited choices of skills into that one endeavor).


Deadmanwalking wrote:
What's not fine is never being sure what skill you need to achieve X. Which is the current situation given the absolute lack of guidance.

That's false. Every Recall Knowledge action describes what creatures it applies to.

If a player can't get their GM to agree that, for example, the Religion skill can be used to recall information about devils, that is 100% a problem with the GM, not with what the book supposedly doesn't say.


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I follow these guidelines:

-All Recall Knowledge can be used for any creatures.
-No skill is specific to creature type (but see later)
-All Hail 10.2, Master of Masters
-We use creature level to set the challenge level, and creature popularity to set the check difficulty

Then, I evaluate the skill used by my players. For each creature, independently, I determine which skill is most appropriate, which one is partially appropriate, and which are inappropriate.
For the partially appropriate skill, difficulty increases by 1 step. For inappropriate skills, the difficulty increases by 2 steps.
An appropriate Lore skill would have its difficulty reduced by 1 or 2 steps, depending on how narrow. Trivial checks get reduced by 2 levels if that is required.

Practical example:
The Vampire in Sombrefell Hall is a lv4 creature. Vampires are fairly common in folklore, so I assign it an Easy check. I then determine it fits most with Religion because of their many ties with holy lore, with Occult and Society being a good second choice due to the many legends and mysteries.
As such, these are the DCs:
Religion: DC17
Occult, Society: DC19
Arcane, Nature: DC20
Undead Lore: DC13
Vampire Lore: DC11

Note that most characters in Sombrefell have a +10/+12 at their knowledges, so that's pretty good.

Print 10.2 out and keep it on a small altar, I guess.

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thenobledrake wrote:
That's false. Every Recall Knowledge action describes what creatures it applies to.

Not in any useful way for most Skills it doesn't. 'Creatures of divine significance' is all that Religion says on the matter. I personally agree that Devils count, but that's a judgment call rather than anything I have proof of.

The only one that provides real evidence is Nature, which specifies 'flora and fauna'. That's the sort of useful information I'm looking for.

thenobledrake wrote:
If a player can't get their GM to agree that, for example, the Religion skill can be used to recall information about devils, that is 100% a problem with the GM, not with what the book supposedly doesn't say.

No, it isn't. There is absolutely no evidence in the rulebook to support Devils as falling under Religion. I mean, Asmodeus is their ruler but by that logic information about almost all monsters should also be Religion since Lamashtu is their God.

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Best IMO would be to add the specific creature types to the description of what can be identified

For example :

Arcana's description of the Recall Knowledge action might say "...knowledge regarding... creature of alchemical or arcane significance, Magical Beasts, Dragons and Constructs."

Nature's description of the Recall Knowledge action might say "...knowledge on flora, fauna... creatures of natural significance, Animals, Vermins, Elementals, Plants and Oozes."

Occultism's description of the Recall Knowledge action might say "...knowledge regarding... creatures of occult significance, Fey and Aberrations."

Religion's description of the Recall Knowledge action might say "You can also recall some bit of lore about creatures with divine significance, Undead and Outsiders."

Society's description of the Recall Knowledge action might say "...knowledge regarding... creatures with complex societies, Monstrous Humanoids and Humanoids."

Way I see it this would allow both to specialize in a skill that is sure to identify a given creature type AND allow for the use of different skills to identify a given creature if it falls within their scope (aka GM's freedom to help the players)

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I'd put a 'such as' in there to make the sentences flow better, but yeah.

An example, for Society, would be:

"knowledge regarding...creatures with complex societies, such as humanoids and monstrous humanoids."


Might as well toss an extra line in restating that other skills can be used as GM deems appropriate these are just general guidelines. Simply to keep it where even using other skills aren't houserules at that point that way everyone wins.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

The vagueness of "occult significance" and "divine significance" is another frustrating example of rules vagueness throughout PF2.

Is an outsider divine significance? Sure, it could be if it's an angel or devil, but what about elementals, or outer planar "animals" like hell hounds? Are undead divine significance? What if they're created by arcane magic? What if they're created by the negative energy plane itself?

Are ghosts occult significance? Are they also divine significance? Can a given creature be covered by more than one skill for Recall Knowledge?

These are all things I'd love to know.


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Ediwir wrote:

I follow these guidelines:

-All Recall Knowledge can be used for any creatures.
-No skill is specific to creature type (but see later)
-All Hail 10.2, Master of Masters
-We use creature level to set the challenge level, and creature popularity to set the check difficulty

Then, I evaluate the skill used by my players. For each creature, independently, I determine which skill is most appropriate, which one is partially appropriate, and which are inappropriate.
For the partially appropriate skill, difficulty increases by 1 step. For inappropriate skills, the difficulty increases by 2 steps.
An appropriate Lore skill would have its difficulty reduced by 1 or 2 steps, depending on how narrow. Trivial checks get reduced by 2 levels if that is required.

Practical example:
The Vampire in Sombrefell Hall is a lv4 creature. Vampires are fairly common in folklore, so I assign it an Easy check. I then determine it fits most with Religion because of their many ties with holy lore, with Occult and Society being a good second choice due to the many legends and mysteries.
As such, these are the DCs:
Religion: DC17
Occult, Society: DC19
Arcane, Nature: DC20
Undead Lore: DC13
Vampire Lore: DC11

Note that most characters in Sombrefell have a +10/+12 at their knowledges, so that's pretty good.

Print 10.2 out and keep it on a small altar, I guess.

That seems to be a good set of guidelines. I guess you can easily set these up beforehand, since as the GM, you have an idea of what creatures the PCs will be facing. Then you can easily save what DCs you've set for future cases so as to be consistent. However, I can't imagine doing this one the fly without experiencing a break in the game.

I'm going to try this out. What I like is that it still rewards characters that specialize in a specific knowledge. I was worried with how vague the skill descriptions were that such specialization wouldn't matter as you could BS your way to justify using any skill to determine a monster's abilities, but I think your system neatly sidesteps that issue while still adhering to the intended flexibility that PF2 is aiming for.

The text on Recall Knowledge on page 338 kinda explains this as well, but in a vague fashion. I think it would behoove Paizo to provide GMs a more explicit, step-by-step guidelines such as yours. For example:
1. Determine creature level for base DC.
2. Determine creature rarity to determine difficulty.
3. Determine which skills can be used to identify creature.
4. Determine the level of closeness each skill related to the creature (appropriate/partial/inappropriate)
5. Adjust the difficulty of each based on its closeness level.

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At this point I almost wonder if "Identify" should be Skill, allow PCs who are Trained or better to roll to ID a Monster, and those with the ability to Detect Magic or with Religion/Nature/Occult/Arcane Lore roll to determine the effects of various things, equipment, hazards, monsters etc.

I for one am severely disappointed that you need to critically succeed on ID for a Monster in order to even learn 1 useful piece of information other than the Creature Type and Level. Being able to get 1 bit of useful info for every 5 you surpassed the DC for was one of the best things the Knowledge Skill had going for it and I feel it was needlessly nerfed into the ground by the Critical Success rules.


Kain Gallant wrote:
That seems to be a good set of guidelines. I guess you can easily set these up beforehand, since as the GM, you have an idea of what creatures the PCs will be facing. Then you can easily save what DCs you've set for future cases so as to be consistent. However, I can't imagine doing this one the fly without experiencing a break in the game.

To be perfectly honest and truthful, if I were to write a GM's guide it would probably be a thick, heavy, leather-bound tome with gold edges and silver title plates, and a single written page that says "Just wing it."

Go with what feels right on the spot. If it's entertaining, it's the correct answer.


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Ediwir wrote:

To be perfectly honest and truthful, if I were to write a GM's guide it would probably be a thick, heavy, leather-bound tome with gold edges and silver title plates, and a single written page that says "Just wing it."

Go with what feels right on the spot. If it's entertaining, it's the correct answer.

And you know what feels right on the spot? Playing in a world that is internally consistent, overcoming challenges with the tools at hand and not on a whim, and being clever and creative in the face of limitations.

Liberty's Edge

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I'm all for improvisation, but good games tend to make the level of improvisation a matter for GM discretion, rather than flatly requiring them to make up fundamental game stuff on the fly out of necessity because the game doesn't have it.

The PF2 playtest requires, at least in the area of monster knowledge, a degree of forced improvisation that is actively detrimental to the enjoyment of the game for many people.


Kain Gallant wrote:
Ediwir wrote:

To be perfectly honest and truthful, if I were to write a GM's guide it would probably be a thick, heavy, leather-bound tome with gold edges and silver title plates, and a single written page that says "Just wing it."

Go with what feels right on the spot. If it's entertaining, it's the correct answer.

And you know what feels right on the spot? Playing in a world that is internally consistent, overcoming challenges with the tools at hand and not on a whim, and being clever and creative in the face of limitations.

These two apparently conflicting views are the reason why I, King of Winging It, have a 52Mb archive of highly detailed houserules for PF1.

However, while I do love guidelines (I did, after all, post a fairly effective one, I hope), I won't be writing and assigning knowledge categories to every single monster.
That'd be crazy. Thus, it refers to the GM's guide I mentioned.


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I know it's a little more work for the designers, but I used to love the way MM 3, 4, & 5 did it. With a small chart in the creature description saying what each knowledge DC gave you.

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