5e Creature Knowledge


4th Edition

Shadow Lodge

How do you handle creature identification/knowledge?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Our DM asks for Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion checks, or just Intelligence checks. Depends on creature type and context. I don't know what the DC is. Probably also depends on creature type and context.

Identifying a white flying lizard in a snow storm as a white dragon is pretty easy.

Identifying a shambling corpse or diaphanous spirit can be trickier.


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I've been doing Arcana, History, Nature or Religion, DC=10+CR. Well-known creatures (like goblins and dragons) don't require a roll, though details and weaknesses do.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Kalshane wrote:
DC=10+CR.

Isn't that gonna be an issue at higher levels? I mean, in Pathfinder, the ability to get +1 per level through ranks means you can keep up with the CR scaling. But in 5E, your proficiency bonus only goes up by four points in 20 levels, and the relevant statmod isn't likely to improve by more than +1 or +2.

In effect, the ability to make the check is scaling at less than half the rate that the DC scales.

For myself, I'm putting like 99% of skill DCs (monster ID or otherwise) somewhere in the 11 to 15 range, with the exact number being purely a matter of what I feel like.


True. I'm still in a bit of a PF mindset for setting DCs.

On the other hand, I don't want to easily know the ins and outs of legendary beasties.

Maybe something like 10+ CR/2 would be more appropriate.


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I really struggled with this. My initial inclination was to have some objective, mechanical scale. However, I didn't feel it added very much to the game. What I ended up doing was to try and adjudicate it based on PC 'worldliness' and background. Essentially DM fiat (with the option for a player to argue why they should know something).

As a group, we're not terribly good at utilizing backstory and backgrounds, so I'm happy to incentivize any such effort. If one of my players makes some half-baked attempt to justify how they'd know it was good to burn trolls (or whatever) then that's a win for us, so I'm happy to just let that succeed.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Also, a lot of "sacred cows" were sacrificed in 5E monster design, which can lead to a lot of wrong assumptions.

Monstrous Spoilers:

For example, white dragons are no longer vulnerable to fire damage. They just take regular damage to it.

EDIT:

A DC of 5 + 1/2 CR might be manageable. If there was a rarity mechanic, that would have been nice. Or maybe make some monsters harder to learn about, like aberrations, and some easier, like dragons.


I try to avoid making it a mechanical rule of any kind, and instead I ask the player to tell me how they would know something about a monster they have never encountered before.

If the answer is, "my character read it in a book"

Then I tell them what that book had to say abut this monster (as DM I decide what was in the book, whether it was helpful or not)

If the answer is something like, "I learned it from the elders of the village."

Then I tell them what those elders told them (as DM I decide what those elders know, whether it is helpful or not)

And most of the time, there will be things the character knows that are helpful, and some things that are not

Because in the end, for my taste, I prefer that characters learn about monsters the hard way.

But that's just me


I have done this

Everyone knows about goblins, trolls, werewolves, dragons etc

Anything common but odd is a dc10
Anything not at all common is a dc20

Pc backgrounds, race, class etc may mean a roll at advantage


Kalshane wrote:

True. I'm still in a bit of a PF mindset for setting DCs.

On the other hand, I don't want to easily know the ins and outs of legendary beasties.

Maybe something like 10+ CR/2 would be more appropriate.

If you're going to create a roll, it might make more sense to have the DC something like 25 - CR. That way, everybody knows about dragons, but most people have never heard of an intellect devourer.

Things like goblins and orcs, that are constantly a danger, are the exception, of course.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

That seems okay for those specific examples, but overall the more powerful monsters are going to be more rare than the less powerful ones, so you get weird situations where most people don't know what the heck an imp is but can explain the difference between a glabrezu, a balor, and a hezrou.

My recommendation is to just completely abandon the idea of mathematically connecting DCs to CRs. In fact, the foundational difference between 5E's math and 3.X's math is that the latter uses level as a key variable while the former divorces levels and d20 rolls completely. As soon as you try to turn levels back into d20-altering math in 5E, you've broken it.

Personally, I just spitball my DCs somewhere around 11-15, or maybe in exceptional cases go as high as 18 or 20 (but only for really hard stuff).

For monster knowledge, I recommend the same, with the difficulty being based on rarity, not CR.


Jiggy wrote:

That seems okay for those specific examples, but overall the more powerful monsters are going to be more rare than the less powerful ones, so you get weird situations where most people don't know what the heck an imp is but can explain the difference between a glabrezu, a balor, and a hezrou.

My recommendation is to just completely abandon the idea of mathematically connecting DCs to CRs. In fact, the foundational difference between 5E's math and 3.X's math is that the latter uses level as a key variable while the former divorces levels and d20 rolls completely. As soon as you try to turn levels back into d20-altering math in 5E, you've broken it.

Personally, I just spitball my DCs somewhere around 11-15, or maybe in exceptional cases go as high as 18 or 20 (but only for really hard stuff).

For monster knowledge, I recommend the same, with the difficulty being based on rarity, not CR.

I meant only if you're going to have a roll related to DC. I agree that I wouldn't do it that way.

Basing knowledge on rarity is the best, but that's something that can only be a DM judgment call, because it's going to be completely dependent on the setting.

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