How local is local?


Rise of the Runelords

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

This is kind of a dumb question but I'm relatively new to Pathfinder and returning after a looooong hiatus from GMing.

For the Knowledge (local) skill, how local is local for most of you? Is it knowledge related to Varisia? Or local to Magnimar or Sandpoint? Would a PC with a Magnimar back story get a shot at local checks in Sandpoint, perhaps with a higher difficulty?


Knowledge (local) is badly named. It really means Knowledge (people), and it applies to everywhere humanoids live.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Knowledge (local) is badly named. It really means Knowledge (people), and it applies to everywhere humanoids live.

The rules refer to "legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids," so that sounds more to me like regional knowledge. Are you saying you treat it as knowledge of people across all of Golarion?

I've been treating it as knowledge of local rumors, people and events, and including some facts from both Magnimar and Sandpoint, even though none of my PCs are from Sandpoint. I was curious what others were doing.


Local is local. Think about where you live: you know the local personalities, politics, short cuts and even ghost stories that no one who doesn't live there would even know about. For example, someone with local knowledge Magnimar would have more insight into the inner working of the city vs someone that was born and raised in Riddleport. Making it "all encompassing" ruins the intent and spirit of the skill.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Sadly, Knowledge(local) has never made any sense. I agree with Orfamay that it's just badly named.

It does two things. One: it lets you identify humanoids, much like Knowledge(religion) lets you identify the abilities of undead. That has zero to do with locality. You can use the skill to identify the abilities of elves, even if you've never been near an elf settlement. Same as knowing about vampires even if you've never seen one.

Two: it lets you know things about an area instead of a creature. Looking at what the table says, the third entry doesn't lock you to any specific region. You don't need Knowledge(local[Magnimar(West[3rd Street(Appartment B)])]). When you travel to Absalom and you're curious if it's legal to spit in the streets or if you'll get arrested for doing so, you make a Knowledge(local) check, even if you're from Somal.

Know local laws, rulers, and popular locations
Know a common rumor or local tradition
Know hidden organizations, rulers, and locations

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Thanks for the input. I think my interpretation is closer to Backfromthedeadguy and I'll probably continue to treat it like that--tying the idea of "local" to the PC back story.

And although they're not from Sandpoint, I'll let the Magnimar local perform knowledge (local) checks since it's not that far away. (Although in a world without combustion engines, 50 miles is still pretty far away. But the PC is a noble and more affluent and better educated than the average resident.)


I would term Knowledge [local] as more of a streetsmarts ability to know the kind of people to turn to for information and the ways in which to best get that information, regardless of where.

Definitely would be modified by environment, and could be tied to background - i.e. a hoodlum might not know which toffs to turn over for intel, nor a genteel nob which beggars to chat up.

Tying it a specific location is, to me, absurd, and needlessly restrictive.


Knowledge local is a weird combination of social studies class and the sorts of things you learned while skipping social studies class, like which flayleaf dealers aren't lacing their stuff.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TomParker wrote:

This is kind of a dumb question but I'm relatively new to Pathfinder and returning after a looooong hiatus from GMing.

For the Knowledge (local) skill, how local is local for most of you? Is it knowledge related to Varisia? Or local to Magnimar or Sandpoint? Would a PC with a Magnimar back story get a shot at local checks in Sandpoint, perhaps with a higher difficulty?

If you look back at some of the original 3e setting material (such as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting), Knowledge(local) was interpreted as a specific area. For example, a character might have a +5 to Knowlege(Shadowdale). This format was dropped by the time 3.5e came about because everyone realized how impractical it was, especially for PCs because it rankles players to put ranks in a skill only to have it completely invalidated because you walked over to the next country over.

-Skeld


There is absolutely no way to make Knowledge: Local work, period.

If you take it as an understanding of the world just in the area you have life experience, then you'd need a different, specific version per-area, as well as a solid definition of what distance from where you live counts as "local".

If you take it as a general knowledge to identify people and cultures and customs and rumors, your character automatically knows everything about every country, culture, practice, intimate details of the unsavory aspects of every city, and custom that ever existed. Because they're allowed to make the roll, meaning they're allowed to succeed. There's no check on it.

Honestly? Scrap it. There's no problem it solves that merits it being a skill people waste time on.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Skeld wrote:
If you look back at some of the original 3e setting material (such as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting), Knowledge(local) was interpreted as a specific area. For example, a character might have a +5 to Knowlege(Shadowdale). This format was dropped by the time 3.5e came about because everyone realized how impractical it was, especially for PCs because it rankles players to put ranks in a skill only to have it completely invalidated because you walked over to the next country over.

That makes a lot of sense. I'd probably treat it differently if this was a wide-ranging homespun campaign. For an AP where most of the action takes place in a handful of locales, the restriction doesn't have much impact.

I hadn't considered the idea of street smarts or knowing how to dig up certain information. Whenever I've seen it in practice, the situation has always seemed more "do I know this" than "can I go find this out."

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TomParker wrote:
Skeld wrote:
If you look back at some of the original 3e setting material (such as the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting), Knowledge(local) was interpreted as a specific area. For example, a character might have a +5 to Knowlege(Shadowdale). This format was dropped by the time 3.5e came about because everyone realized how impractical it was, especially for PCs because it rankles players to put ranks in a skill only to have it completely invalidated because you walked over to the next country over.

That makes a lot of sense. I'd probably treat it differently if this was a wide-ranging homespun campaign. For an AP where most of the action takes place in a handful of locales, the restriction doesn't have much impact.

I hadn't considered the idea of street smarts or knowing how to dig up certain information. Whenever I've seen it in practice, the situation has always seemed more "do I know this" than "can I go find this out."

Knowledge(local), as a skill, suffers from a collision between realism and practicality. Realistically, it makes sense for a character that's lived for years in a large city to have a high degree of knowledge regarding things like the movers and shakers of the area, rumors, conflicts, etc. Practically, in game-space, the skill quickly becomes too narrowly focused to be useful (as in the above example where the investment is completely nullified by moving into the next town over).

Making it workable could be as simple as redefining it to be a measure of how easily a character can immerse themselves into a local culture and learn whatever the important information is, similar to Gather Information.

-Skeld


I've got two players that have Knowledge (local) in RotRL, and I've found that this is precisely the game to have it, at least at the lower levels. Since we're based so much in Sandpoint for the first two books, the skill becomes very useful. As far as how far it extends, I would say that ranks in Knowledge (local) when the character is based and lived in Sandpoint, wouldn't help you at all with a trip to Absalom, but a bit of splash over from Magnimar makes total sense.

Not every game is it going to be worthwhile, in the same way that Knowledge (planes) may never come up, but it can be really useful in particular settings. The players have definitely found it useful so far, thought they may find it less useful as they progress through the books. As far as street smarts: I go with backstory more than an actual skill. If your character is involved with a thieves' guild, then he has some understanding of how underworlds typically operate. In the same way that if someone has a military background, I would allow them knowledge of how militaries typically operate, etc.

Grand Lodge

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
slayer_of_gellcor wrote:
I've got two players that have Knowledge (local) in RotRL, and I've found that this is precisely the game to have it, at least at the lower levels. Since we're based so much in Sandpoint for the first two books, the skill becomes very useful. As far as how far it extends, I would say that ranks in Knowledge (local) when the character is based and lived in Sandpoint, wouldn't help you at all with a trip to Absalom, but a bit of splash over from Magnimar makes total sense.

When I've encountered this in the past, I've simply applied a penalty to Knowledge(local) checks when a character made checks for another nearby city.

Using your example, a Sandpoint-based character with Knowledge(local) could make checks in Magnimar at a -5 penalty or whatever seemed appropriate. In Korvosa, the penalty might increase to -10. For Absalom, the penalty might be -20.

-Skeld


I treat it as general knowledge about people, but specialising in one area (perhaps a town, city or county) per skill point invested. So when used as knowledge about humans it works everywhere, but for more specific things such as the mayor's fondness for redheads, the player should name some places. It's a reasonable compromise and seems to work OK.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Knowledge (local) is in effect Gather Information.

Knowledge (local), (3e) Gather Information and (PF) Diplomacy to gather information, are all three essentially the same. :b


Yeah, Knowledge: Local is definitely poorly named. As written, it should be called Knowledge: Society or Knowledge: Urban or something like that.

I do think Mudfoot's compromise is a good one. Lets the skill not be completely useless, but doesn't turn it into "I instantly know everything about everyone in every city we enter." either.


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Even if you keep it limited, rather than Pathfinder's interpretation of it being usable everywhere, I recommend restricting it to region rather than city/surrounding area. So instead of Local: Magnimar or Local: Korvosa, it should be Local: Varisia. This helps strike some balance between too limited and too broad.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Doesn't that put one skill at a disadvantage to others though? Knowledge (Religion) and Knowledge (Nature) are useful whether you're adventuring in Irrisen, Mwangi or Minkai, but if you want to keep Knowledge (Local) useful, you'd then have to invest in 20 different Knowledge (Local/CountryXYZ) skills and have no points for anything else?


My players constantly forget things and names. Knowledge(local) is my way of having them remember. Rather better than getting frustrated and telling them OOC :P.

My theory is if they have been in an area long enough to gather useful rumours, they gather a ton of useless information as well. But useless is a relative term. At the start of the campaign, knowing Nualia was the assumed dead adopted daughter of the last priest who died in a fire might seem useless, until after the Glassworks.

As far as how local is local, my PCs can do any check in Sandpoint without penalty, two of my PCs (who are from Magnimar) can do Magnimar without penalty, while everywhere else in Varisia, until we do some work around there for a couple sessions, will be a penalty for everyone. Not the most intuitive skill to use RAW, but I've personally found it useful.


TomParker wrote:

This is kind of a dumb question but I'm relatively new to Pathfinder and returning after a looooong hiatus from GMing.

For the Knowledge (local) skill, how local is local for most of you? Is it knowledge related to Varisia? Or local to Magnimar or Sandpoint? Would a PC with a Magnimar back story get a shot at local checks in Sandpoint, perhaps with a higher difficulty?

Very often 'local' knowledge would seem to be timely knowledge, moreso than other Knowledge skills its based on what's happening right now or has happened recently... I'd make the difficulty of information increase the further out one goes - for instance, if you were in Sandpoint and made a Knowledge: Local check, it would be higher if the information you were seeking were about someone or something originating in Mangimar. In other words, it'd be easier to get some background history on Titus Scarnetti in Sandpoint than it would be to get background history on Justice Ironbriar in Sandpoint... and vice versa in Mangimar.


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TomParker wrote:
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Knowledge (local) is badly named. It really means Knowledge (people), and it applies to everywhere humanoids live.
The rules refer to "legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids," so that sounds more to me like regional knowledge. Are you saying you treat it as knowledge of people across all of Golarion?

Actually, I'm saying that the rules treat it as knowledge of people across all of the universe. Unless you're suggesting that laws in revolutionary Russia aren't laws, or that the people inhabiting Russia aren't "humanoid," then Knowledge (local) is the skill you'd use to cover those.

I think Story Archer's suggestion of making knowledge of distant or untimely things have a larger DC makes sense, but the same would apply to other types of knowledge as well. If Knowledge (dungeoneering) covers knowing about the mating habits of an aberration from the planet Liavara such as "Dreamers", so would Knowledge (local) cover knowledge about the myths of humanoids from the planet Castrovel such as lashunta.


A simple method would be to treat it like 3.0 Perform:

Each time you take a rank, choose a community (city/town/etc). Your total ability increases for every community you have selected. So with 5 ranks (+ misc modifiers), you'd have Knowledge (local) +9 (Sandpoint, Magnimar, Riddleport, Kaer Maga, Xin Shalast). You could provide a penalty for nearby locations.

Alternatively, you could get half your modifier to checks outside your list of communities, and your full modifier in them.

In PFS games it works decently well as is. For home games, it's easy to adjust - don't be afraid to do what works for you.


Majuba wrote:

A simple method would be to treat it like 3.0 Perform:

Each time you take a rank, choose a community (city/town/etc). Your total ability increases for every community you have selected. So with 5 ranks (+ misc modifiers), you'd have Knowledge (local) +9 (Sandpoint, Magnimar, Riddleport, Kaer Maga, Xin Shalast). You could provide a penalty for nearby locations.

Alternatively, you could get half your modifier to checks outside your list of communities, and your full modifier in them.

In PFS games it works decently well as is. For home games, it's easy to adjust - don't be afraid to do what works for you.

Shrug. There are lots of ways to fix it.

I'm wondering, though, why the hate-on for universal knowledge about humanoids. No one here seems to have any issue with the idea that a person in Sandpoint would know about bakekujira or similar exotic undead from the other side of Golarion. It doesn't seem to be necessary to pick a specific part of the cosmos to specialize in for Knowledge (planes), despite the fact that there are literally more entire planes in the Abyss than there are individual humanoids on the world of Golarion.

But heaven help us if someone from Sandpoint learned about myths and legends of Xin Shalast.

My opinion: knowledge skills are mostly useless anyway. Saying "oh, this knowledge skill is too useful and must be nerfed" is like complaining that bone weapons are overpowered.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
I'm wondering, though, why the hate-on for universal knowledge about humanoids.

Oh, no hate-on here. Knowing about a species works fine universally. Knowing about a culture fits better with Knowledge (History), but could also fit decently.

Knowing street gossip, the best pub, or the secret entrance to the king's harem in a city you've never been is where it gets a bit hairy.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Thanks, everyone. Sorry to bump this old thread but I sometimes have trouble getting back to my own posts here. It's been a good conversation and it's been really helpful. I recognize that we sometimes have to sacrifice realism for game mechanics but I like to have some rational basis for skills. Knowledge (local) as a new Gather Information makes perfect sense to me.

I disagree that knowledge skills are mostly useless, though. They're only as useless as you make them in your campaign. I think RotR has done a decent job of making these work investing in.

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