Why is Van Helsing bad at hunting Dracula?


Thaumaturge Class


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I made this post over on the PF2e subreddit, but figure'd I'd post it here as well to get as broad a discussion as possible.

Thaumaturgist needs Esoteric Antithesis to keep up martial damage, but the need to Recall Knowledge and the weakness mechanic make it actually worst against the kinds of things Thaumaturgist seems intended to interact with.

Esoteric Antithesis requires you to not critically fail on a Recall Knowledge as part of Find Flaws. The strange and bizarre creatures as Thaumaturgist feels most flavorful fighting are Uncommon, Rare, or Unique, which means they have hefty increases to the DC of Recall Knowledge. APs are chock full of unique named foes, who RAW have a whopping +10 their Recall Knowledge DC. The Thaumaturgist doesn't feel very "magical secrets" when they're better fighting Ogres than Hounds of Tindalos.

Since DC also raises with target level, they're doubly penalized trying to "turn on" versus single, PL+X bosses. This is the Swashbuckler problem, where they're actually best mopping up mooks because their features most reliably turn on there. Its even worse for Thaumaturgist, who can't Feint a mook and Finisher the boss.

Esoteric Antithesis gives its damage bonus by granting a weakness, but if that creature already has a weakness, then Esoteric Antithesis doesn't really grant you any bonus. Consider a case where you're hunting werewolves, which seem appropriately cursed for a Thaumaturgist. His knowledge of dark mysteries tells him they're weak to silver, so he tells everyone in the party to bring Silversheen. Now the other martials do bonus damage, and Esoteric Antithesis, your entire damage bonus feature, does... nothing, because you're already triggering the weakness. The net result is that the Thaumaturgist is actually best at fighting flavorless, weaknessless humanoids.

So a Thaumaturgist is good at hunting vampires (Common, no numerical weakness), okay at hunting werewolves (Common, but double dipping weaknesses), bad at hunting Dracula (High level, likely Unique), and terrible at hunting Werewolf Dracula (High level, likely Unique, double dipping weaknesses). Against hypothetical Werewolf Dracula, you're practically a featureless martial, while everyone else proceeds as normal.

Except Swashbuckler, I suppose, who can't get his groove on, but that's another issue entirely.


I think you're overlooking the One For All Swashbuckler build, who really doesn't care because he gets panache from cheering on his allies instead.

But yes, that's the issue with Antithesis. (You may also note that level 20 Werewolf Dracula probably has Weakness 20 to Silver, and a level 20 Thaumaturge only get 12 for custom weakness)


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Dubious Scholar wrote:

I think you're overlooking the One For All Swashbuckler build, who really doesn't care because he gets panache from cheering on his allies instead.

But yes, that's the issue with Antithesis. (You may also note that level 20 Werewolf Dracula probably has Weakness 20 to Silver, and a level 20 Thaumaturge only get 12 for custom weakness)

You only use the custom weakness if the creature doesn't already have a weakness. A thaumaturge would always hit that weakness 20 silver, even with their wooden club.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

While the weaknesses thing is an issue it also helps with hard to carry weaknesses. An Akatas weakness to Salt Water is something a Thamaturge could exploit that would actually be fairly difficult otherwise unless you knew way ahead of time that you would be fighting Akatas. I'm sure there are other niche options as well. And accounting for these niche situations doesn't fix the issues where exploiting weaknesses don't matter because everyone else is prepared for them.

That being said in addition to niche options thamaturges are the best when something with a weakness gets the *jump* on you. You aren't always the one doing the hunting and you don't always know whats in the cave or on the next floor of the dungeon.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Maybe it's not what devs are going for, but it would be cool if the monster that a thaumaturge has a big weakness, like a werewolf does silver, is increased for the thaumaturge when they use esoteric antithesis? So at level 20, a creature with weakness 20, is successfully esoteric antithesis'd, the weakness increases to 32 for the thaumaturge.

Edit - also I said the same thing about very high recall knowledge dc with increased rarity/higher cr in another thread.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
RexAliquid wrote:
Dubious Scholar wrote:

I think you're overlooking the One For All Swashbuckler build, who really doesn't care because he gets panache from cheering on his allies instead.

But yes, that's the issue with Antithesis. (You may also note that level 20 Werewolf Dracula probably has Weakness 20 to Silver, and a level 20 Thaumaturge only get 12 for custom weakness)

You only use the custom weakness if the creature doesn't already have a weakness. A thaumaturge would always hit that weakness 20 silver, even with their wooden club.

You're right, but it does sort of mean that their martial combat feature gets 'subsumed' by a monster's native weaknesses if they could exploit it otherwise, which feels a little bit weird.

Like in a short one-shot I started today we fought a group of goblins and a gibbering mouther.

Against the goblins, I did 3 additional damage on every strike, owing to Antithesis. Against the mouther, since I could do bludgeoning damage anyways, I didn't get any extra damage.

It feels a little odd because I felt like I was getting less out of my class when facing a weird monster with a weakness than I did fighting a standard enemy (where I could just invent a weakness).


As a note for in class help with that DC. They can get Esoteric Lore. Which works like Loremaster Lore. In that its a Lore that can be used for any Recall knowledge.

In rules, Lore recall knowledge attempts are at adjusted DCs-They're a little to signifcantly easier DCs depending on the GM's whims to an extent.
So while it does rely on the GM a bit. They do have an inbuilt method of attempting lower DCs. Albiet they don't get that to expert until way high level.I might even go for Loremaster instead to get it with decipher ability. More so considering how limited the skill numbers are.

While there is a lot of leeway due to recall knowledge rules. I'd argue Esoteric or loremaster Lore (As well as any lore you just happened to have) will not suffer from the higher adjustements for that extremely rare creature. As you have a (functionally by rules) lore for exactly that creature. So. Sometimes at least, I think that trained lore might be a better use than an expert or master general check.

This paired with dubious knowledge as a freebe means a fair decent chance I'd imagine by Lore Rules. But its not like every thauma will want that lore. I'd probabl go loremaster ever time.

-
edit. I do however thinnk it would be cool if you did extra on something with a weakness you already could do.
I also wish it would apply to anything you did. Not just unarmed or weapons. (i.e. i wish the Wand would work, or cantrips if you mulitclass).

I kind of wonder if persistent damage would quailfy or not. I should go read stuff again and figure that out. As they are weapons.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Some of this is just a counterintuitive (and unfortunate, IMO) interaction of the rarity system with recalling knowledge. It's pretty easy to recognize a ghoul and its distinctive features, but if you give a ghoul a name and a spell list, suddenly she is Unique and her basic ghoul details are nearly impossible to discern. The thaumaturge's issue is that it relies on a system that doesn't make much sense when it comes to unique variants of common creatures.

Of course, if Dracula were the only vampire, he would in fact be unique and the sky-high DC would be appropriate.


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goodkinghadrian wrote:

Some of this is just a counterintuitive (and unfortunate, IMO) interaction of the rarity system with recalling knowledge. It's pretty easy to recognize a ghoul and its distinctive features, but if you give a ghoul a name and a spell list, suddenly she is Unique and her basic ghoul details are nearly impossible to discern. The thaumaturge's issue is that it relies on a system that doesn't make much sense when it comes to unique variants of common creatures.

Of course, if Dracula were the only vampire, he would in fact be unique and the sky-high DC would be appropriate.

When it's a unique variant of a more common monster, the correct approach (imo) is to subset the abilities. Meeting the base monster's DCs gets you the basic info, the higher DC is for what makes it different.


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I'd like to see a feat option for Esoteric Antithesis that lets you pick you an alternative bonus. I'm not sure what that would be, but if you're armed to the gills with silversheen to fight werewolves, this feat would give you a different option. Alternatively, if you find yourself not wanting the pure weakness bonus, you'd also take this feat to get a bit more versatility against different monsters.

I think I'd go for something that accentuates knowing the weakness already and being prepared for it, and also helps solve the Big Bad problem. Something like a straight bonus to hit would be good, but boring. Maybe flat-footed against your attacks (you've got the upper hand!), plus an additional bonus for any subsequent Find Flaws you use on that creature for the rest of the day (even if they escape you've got their number).


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Some sort of alternate effect would be neat. It definitely feels strange that if you know you're hunting werewolves, the barbarian (or ranger or whatever) with silversheen is better at it than you are.

But if you're wandering around Absalom and get ambushed by Generic Human Thugs, bam one good roll on Find Flaws and you'll rip them to pieces.

... It's sort of odd because it essentially makes being prepared for a threat redundant with your class features. Which means rather than carefully preparing for a fight, the Thaumaturge's specialty is actually in pulling something out of their ass at the last second.

The Thaumaturge isn't the one who's best at hunting down a werewolf... but they are the best at saying "It seems the stories were wrong, that's a daemon not a werewolf. Luckily I happen to have some holy charms just in case something like this happened."

Maybe that's on purpose?


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Squiggit wrote:

The Thaumaturge isn't the one who's best at hunting down a werewolf... but they are the best at saying "It seems the stories were wrong, that's a daemon not a werewolf. Luckily I happen to have some holy charms just in case something like this happened."

Maybe that's on purpose?

That's the vibe I got from a read through, more Hellboy than Van Helsing.


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I feel like they should get some form of bonus to AC like an outwit ranger. "I know the habits of this beastie, swing once, swing twice, bite, OPENING!" a la learning a Dark Soul boss pattern. Because while they are a martial in terms of battlefield functionality, their defenses aren't that great: staying trained on Fort their whole lives, expert in Ref at 9th, Legendary in Will at 13th (which is standout as being only 1 of 2 classes to get Legendary anything before 15th) and master in medium armor>= at 19th. They're also a d8 class, meaning they're about as squishy as a Bard on average unless they pick up the Amulet Implement at some point in their career.

TL;DR: Find Flaw should potentially have the option to give a bonus to AC and Saves instead of weakness sometimes because Thaumaturge is squish


So, I see people really frustrated with this problem... but for me it is one of the easiest house rules ever. Which I won't be using during playtest, and I won't even push for, because the wording would end up clunky. So I guess it should probably be looked at, it does feel clunky, but personally this is how I would run it.

"You fight the terrible void Zombie, what do you do?"

"I use find weakness."

"Ok, roll me a Religion check."

*Result is a 7*

"Ok, you are pretty sure Zombies are weak against slashing, acid, and positive energy. However this looks like a variant you are unfamiliar with. You may use your esoterica, but you must choose one of those three types, you are flat footed until your next turn."

-----------------------------------
They failed to identify the void zombie, they will not get the salt water weakness, but maybe they choose slashing and get that, maybe they choose positive or acid(Dubious Knowledge) and it does nothing. But I have always had a bad time with identify in games and this is how I run it anyways.

Just cause it is a super special unique zombie doesn't mean it should be hard to know it is a Zombie.... just hard to know it is a 'Void Zombie"


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I like the alternate effect idea, but in keeping with the theme of finding and using a monster's weakness against them, I would rather inflict some sort of condition on the monster instead of gaining a vanilla +1 to hit them or to my AC. I think it would make combat more interesting (also, monsters are always inflicting conditions on my party, so turnabout is fair play). For example, maybe the devil or werewolf monster is scared of what they clearly see as silver dust sprinkled on your weapon. Perhaps the monster that is normally weak to fire is dazed or blinded by the light of your torches/lanterns/light spells. A monster normally weak to cold could become sluggish getting clumsy or slowed upon exposure to spells with cold/water/wind as part of their effects... and so on.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I can't put my finger on it, but there's something odd about a Thaumaturge not overcoming resistance. Say if something has resistance 10 physical and esoteric antithesis is successful and you make it weak 10 to your sword, it just does normal damage, right? That feels odd for some reason.

I also a little confused on how the weakness from esoteric antithesis would work against the myriad of things that have things like resistance X (except vs _____). Would a weapon wielded by a thaumaturge who had successfully made a new weakness (but whos weapon wasn't made of the material that cuts through the resistance) have to deal with said resistance but include the weakness they made? It's a little confusing to me.

Scarab Sages

Gaulin wrote:

I can't put my finger on it, but there's something odd about a Thaumaturge not overcoming resistance. Say if something has resistance 10 physical and esoteric antithesis is successful and you make it weak 10 to your sword, it just does normal damage, right? That feels odd for some reason.

I also a little confused on how the weakness from esoteric antithesis would work against the myriad of things that have things like resistance X (except vs _____). Would a weapon wielded by a thaumaturge who had successfully made a new weakness (but whos weapon wasn't made of the material that cuts through the resistance) have to deal with said resistance but include the weakness they made? It's a little confusing to me.

It is explained that the Thamaturge has an array of stuff on them that can act to trigger weaknesses, but only they know how to use them correctly. A thing is vulnerable to fire? Here is some ash from a forge that, with the right words, rekindle enough to act like fire for the purposes of triggering weaknesses.

And yeah, little weird that it doesn’t bypass resists but, I mean, their shtick is finding weaknesses not bypassing strengths. Also a crit success on identifying a creature COULD also get you their resistance.


How the weakness interacts with a resistance or even an immunity also confuses me a bit.


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Personally, I feel like the best approach here would be to ditch the whole weakness-causing thing entirely and replace it with something that gives a damage bonus against a specific creature trait, in the style of the bane rune (but with a broader choice of traits). Or, in other words, basically take the bane ability from 1e's inquisitor and stick it on Thaumaturge. Same end result in the generic case (assuming the amount of bonus damage is balanced correctly), less janky against enemies that already have weaknesses, and better encourages actually targeting weaknesses instead of sidestepping them.


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In some ways it might be nice to see Thaumaturgists encouraged to act in a Thaumaturge way... so you'd be encouraged to carry blunt and sharp weapons, and doses of silversheen, and whatever else. That... conflicts oddly with the idea of a weapon implement, though.

Maybe they could get an interesting debuff if they're already targeting a weakness? Like, if you hit someone who doesn't have a weakness, and you've got your juice, you get some extra damage. If you hit someone who does have a weakness, and you have your juice, but you don't actually have something on hand that targets the weakness, you trigger their weakness (assuming it's more). If you hit someone who has a weakness, and you're already triggering it (because blunt weapon or silversheen or whatever) then you get their standard weakness damage and you also get one of a variety of entertaining debuffs, as you really leverage the vulnerability that you're hitting.


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I'm thinking that maybe you should be allowed to always use a custom weakness. If you know they're weak to silver and are packing silversheen, then you use that and also a custom weakness to wolfsbane. If you aren't packing the silversheen, you apply the silver weakness. You come out ahead either way.

I'm looking at it like this - custom weakness needs to be balanced when used on a monster with no weaknesses, whose stats are balanced around that. Monsters with weaknesses have that accounted for in their stats, so if it's fair to add custom weakness damage in the first case, getting that on top of normal weaknesses should be fine in the second.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Sanityfaerie wrote:

In some ways it might be nice to see Thaumaturgists encouraged to act in a Thaumaturge way... so you'd be encouraged to carry blunt and sharp weapons, and doses of silversheen, and whatever else. That... conflicts oddly with the idea of a weapon implement, though.

Maybe they could get an interesting debuff if they're already targeting a weakness? Like, if you hit someone who doesn't have a weakness, and you've got your juice, you get some extra damage. If you hit someone who does have a weakness, and you have your juice, but you don't actually have something on hand that targets the weakness, you trigger their weakness (assuming it's more). If you hit someone who has a weakness, and you're already triggering it (because blunt weapon or silversheen or whatever) then you get their standard weakness damage and you also get one of a variety of entertaining debuffs, as you really leverage the vulnerability that you're hitting.

I think this is the best way to go about it. Because I do think people are underestimating the benefit of targeting weakness for a creature you were not prepared for or whose weakness would be difficult to have on hand(salt water for instance) but this benefits those who are in fact prepared for the situation. And everyone loves a good debuff.


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If we're going thematically for twisting the knife on the weakness, I'd go with Sickened, and a rider that says it can't be removed if you've hit them in the last round. Sickened is rarer than Frightened so it doesn't overlap as much, and I feel it's more appropriate for when someone just got stabbed with something that is attacking their very essence.

As a bonus, this means the well-prepared Thaumaturge is not only boosting their own damage, but tearing the defenses down for the rest of the party. And with CHA they can turn and stack Frightened on top, and so if they don't get a ton of extra damage per hit... they and the whole party are going to hit a whole lot more.


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Dubious Scholar wrote:

If we're going thematically for twisting the knife on the weakness, I'd go with Sickened, and a rider that says it can't be removed if you've hit them in the last round. Sickened is rarer than Frightened so it doesn't overlap as much, and I feel it's more appropriate for when someone just got stabbed with something that is attacking their very essence.

As a bonus, this means the well-prepared Thaumaturge is not only boosting their own damage, but tearing the defenses down for the rest of the party. And with CHA they can turn and stack Frightened on top, and so if they don't get a ton of extra damage per hit... they and the whole party are going to hit a whole lot more.

I really like this idea. It doesn't push their damage overboard but provides a nice reward if you are extra prepared. They could also add other riders through feats, but I don't think that's as necessary as adding feats to customize other parts of the class.


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I like Sickened too, it's flavorful (anathema!) and seldom seen coming from the PC side. Note that as a status penalty it's not stacking with Frightened, but it's also not ending automatically.

I think Persistent damage could be another route, especially with Weaknesses involved (though perhaps only when they already have one).

Conditions & impairment in general might be better to focus on then trying to match the same numbers game as most martials. And as for flavor, a Thaumaturgist setting up a tough foe for destruction seems more thematic than direct damage.
"Let me throw some blessed silver dust on this devil for y'all to get through it's defenses." (Applies Sickened 1, Persistent Damage 1 Holy, lowers Resist by X)
Perhaps have different packages of effects available, or a recipe system to build a set. I'd liken this to Snares in a way, but targeted.
Immobilized, Blinded/Dazzled, Slowed, all sorts of cool possibilities.
For many media representations that seems more on theme than weapon use.

I also think the more esoteric the creature, the more effective the Thaumaturgist should be, perhaps because those enemies are more likely to have strange abilities (et al) for the class to exploit. It feels off for a Thaumaturgist to use tricks to overcome a human bandit.

Hmm, maybe this isn't the right thread for this though. :/


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I keep seeing people talk about this and everyone keeps making the same mistake. Everyone knows the rule, and everyone agrees the rule is bad, and everyone has problems because of how the rule works. That used to be a thing during the starting playtest, and the answer was, obviously, that nobody really read the rule.
So, let's read how the rule works.

crb p.505 wrote:
For a check about a specific creature, trap, or other subject with a level, use a level-based DC (adjusting for rarity as needed).

We all agree on this, right?

BUT. You are reading this because I brought you here. You have NOT actually opened page 505, and you haven't in a very long time.

Wanna know how I know? Keep going:

crb p.505 wrote:
You might adjust the difficulty down, maybe even drastically, if the subject is especially notorious or famed. Knowing simple tales about an infamous dragon’s exploits, for example, might be incredibly easy for the dragon’s level, or even just a simple trained DC.

Dracula, a lv15 unique vampire lord who terrorised the country for centuries, is famed across the land, and stories of his attacks, victims, and the few survivours abound. Recall Knowledge DCs against him are not set as DC44 (as the rarity to encounter him would suggest), but DC24 (as the rarity of the knowledge of him states).

Of course, this is just RAW. You can set the DC higher, if you like.
Just don't screw your players.

As for the designers, my recommendation is the same as in starting playtest - write up a clear reminder to people to use the rule as it is and not as they understood it, because clearly there's a difference.

(and perhaps poke AoN to stop giving people automatically generated DCs which are not part of the rulebooks)


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Ediwir wrote:
Of course, this is just RAW. You can set the DC higher, if you like.

You have that backwards: 505 says "You might adjust the difficulty down". So RAW is what is being talked about as the DM has the option of lowering it but the DC default is the higher DC.


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graystone wrote:
Ediwir wrote:
Of course, this is just RAW. You can set the DC higher, if you like.
You have that backwards: 505 says "You might adjust the difficulty down". So RAW is what is being talked about as the DM has the option of lowering it but the DC default is the higher DC.

"if the subject is especially notorious or famous".

Cutting off a whole 2/3 of the rules because it uses a conditional tense (when the condition applies) is not very RAW.

You might have to wear a coat if it's rainy.

You don't have to. You might also not, because sometimes it's rainy but you're not walking far. But most often, you should.

The difference between might and will in conditionals is about certainty vs discretion, not certainty vs dismissal. You might adjust it, but it requires you to make a call. Not making that call is not RAW.


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Ediwir wrote:

"if the subject is especially notorious or famous".

Cutting off a whole 2/3 of the rules because it uses a conditional tense (when the condition applies) is not very raw.

It's 100% meaningless WHY the DM is given a "might" option, the important part is that they MIGHT do it not that the rules require them to. SO the RAW is pretty clear: the DC is the higher one but IF the DM wants to, they MIGHT lower it.

Ediwir wrote:
You might adjust it, but it requires you to make a call.

No, you aren't required to make a call: you can 100% by RAW use the higher DC. The rules just say the DM could lower it if they wish: it's an option but not a required option that needs a call made on it.


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graystone wrote:
Ediwir wrote:

"if the subject is especially notorious or famous".

Cutting off a whole 2/3 of the rules because it uses a conditional tense (when the condition applies) is not very raw.

It's 100% meaningless WHY the DM is given a "might" option, the important part is that they MIGHT do it not that the rules require them to. SO the RAW is pretty clear: the DC is the higher one but IF the DM wants to, they MIGHT lower it.

Ediwir wrote:
You might adjust it, but it requires you to make a call.
No, you aren't required to make a call: you can 100% by RAW use the higher DC. The rules just say the DM could lower it if they wish: it's an option but not a required option that needs a call made on it.

So long as you are aware of what the rule says, you are always making a call.

Specifically, you made the call of never altering the DC due to fame. And that can be ok for you and your table. But I wouldn't put in a playtest complaint over my own choice of interpretation, and seeing as that is not an issue I've had while using the rule in the way it is written, I doubt it's of particular concern.

The book states that if a rule is too good to be true, it likely isn't. I'd like to say it's also the opposite.
If your interpretation causes way too many issues, you might be doing it wrong.


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Ediwir wrote:
So long as you are aware of what the rule says, you are always making a call.

So opting not to use the rule is using the rule... How zen. :P

Ediwir wrote:
Specifically, you made the call of never altering the DC due to fame.

Specifically, you used the default DC as I noted, which is RAW instead of opting for an optional reduction that's as optional as the Variant Rules from the gamemastery guide. Fame in no way insures that you get good info, just MORE info [which would include rumors, conjecture, or outright misinformation] so it's reasonable to not touch the DC unless there is a good way to get GOOD info.

Ediwir wrote:

The book states that if a rule is too good to be true, it likely isn't. I'd like to say it's also the opposite.

If your interpretation causes way too many issues, you might be doing it wrong.

This is a playtest where that doesn't really apply: things MAY be either too good or not good enough but that's the point of the playtest.


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I kind of hope they flesh out lore in terms of recall knowledge DCs.
Since the class inset has Loremaster Lore style lore. So that'll be useful. Also a good way in class to bypass some of of the higher DCs. Although that would result in that feat being pretty required. I'm gunshy on that from my alchemist (that i love)

Silver Crusade

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Dubious Scholar wrote:
goodkinghadrian wrote:

Some of this is just a counterintuitive (and unfortunate, IMO) interaction of the rarity system with recalling knowledge. It's pretty easy to recognize a ghoul and its distinctive features, but if you give a ghoul a name and a spell list, suddenly she is Unique and her basic ghoul details are nearly impossible to discern. The thaumaturge's issue is that it relies on a system that doesn't make much sense when it comes to unique variants of common creatures.

Of course, if Dracula were the only vampire, he would in fact be unique and the sky-high DC would be appropriate.

When it's a unique variant of a more common monster, the correct approach (imo) is to subset the abilities. Meeting the base monster's DCs gets you the basic info, the higher DC is for what makes it different.

this is how I've run it.

Finding out info about Vampires and finding out info about Bob the Vampire are two different things.

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