"get a clue" check?


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion


This is similar to my self awareness check question. If the players miss out on important plot point or just can't figure out what to do how would you have them make a "get a clue" check? Maybe just a straight WIS check?


I'd make them roll a INT check (DC15), to see if they can "remember" what happened and then let them figure the clue out themselves. You don't want to spoil to much.


It might be more productive to coax the players into examining what clues they have. Making them do checks to remember stuff is not really needed. Either you want to remind them of something, or you want to risk them not getting the clue because they roll a 2. So don't roll. Either give them a hint or don't.


If the players forget things their characters should know/notice/remember I either tell them straight out, or just have them roll Int checks. The DC of the check depends on how obvious the clue is, anything from 10 to 30.
Sometimes saying "just look at what you know again" works, sometimes it doesn't, often because it seems like people are being spoonfed or led by the nose, which few people like. At worst it turns into a game of "guess what the GM is thinking", which is not something everyone thinks is a lot of fun.


I used to be in the "don't interfere with the Players' thought process - give them an Int check to remember some relevant info, but let them figure out WHY it's relevant/important, and if they fail their save, their out of luck" camp, but I've adapted a more hand-on approach over time: "the symbol on the Baron's necklace (which I just described in great detail) jogs your memory, reminding you a great deal of the symbol on the wall you saw in the necromancer's lair (which I had also described in great detail at the time). You think there might be a connection."

This is something I would do only if it's pivitol to the adventure that the PC's make this connection. If it was just a side detail that the plot didn't depend on, but maybe would give the PC's a heads up that the Baron would be a future mini-boss, then I usually leave the details there, but don't otherwise linger on, unless one of the PC's heard my description of the Baron's necklace and went "wait, we've seen that before, but I can't remember where...", in which case, I'd ask for an Int check.

Also, something built into the rules that you can use is to get a "hunch". It's usually reserved for social situations, such as when you're talking to an impostor, but as the GM, you could use it retroactively, after a certain piece of evidence is uncovered to gain a hunch involving the Baron, but not necessarily why. It's a flat DC 20 Sense Motive check.


At Dave's table, when we as players decided we were missing something big we asked for a "spot obvious check" and would get a hint or two. If we were determined to be oblivious, we paid that big price. You have to give the players their agency, even if it kills them, otherwise, why have players at all?


The main reason players miss clues is the GM. Too often the GM writes up a plot and is unwilling to adapt when things don’t go as he plans. Using published adventures makes the problem even worse. A good GM will be able to adapt to the situation and adjust the plot if things don’t go as planned. Your question itself shows bias towards this way of thinking. By relying on the characters finding the clue, you have tied your plot down.

A better way to handle it is to focus on the information in the clue instead of the clue. If the players find the clue great you simply move on. If they miss the clue find another way for them to discover the information. If they miss that opportunity give them another. With each failure become less and less subtle. Players tend to be very unpredictable. When you expect them to be clever they turn dumb as dirt. When you expect them to be dumb they get clever. Adapting to this is the mark of a good GM.

If the players are completely lost have them make appropriate knowledge checks. This not only gets the story moving it also encourages players to invest more in knowledge skills. Knowledge local, geography, history and nobility are usually particularly good for this. There will almost always be an appropriate knowledge skill to almost any circumstance where the players are truly stumped. If the players have ignored knowledge skill suggest they put some points into them.

The Exchange

There’s two things I do in my PFS games.

If the players can’t remember a piece of information they were given earlier (“what was our contact’s name? Did no one write it down?”) I give them each an Intelligence check (DC 10-20, depending on how critical it is to the plot that they remember).

If the players have fixated on trying to do something useless/irrelevant despite repeated hints (PC: “Alright; if I roll mad damage on the wall of force I might do one point of damage to it”:..Me: “Let me read you the room description again, including this colorful mosaic on the south wall.”) I will give them a DC 2 to 5 check that - depending on how friendly I am with the group - is either called “Spot Obvious” or “Knowledge: Dumbass.”


It mainly depends on how magnanimous I feel at the moment. Sometimes I'll tell them to make an INT check vs varying DCs based on how easy it should have been for the players, other times I just let them go merrily along their way and wait for the hilarity when they wander into the Drow ambush.

If they ask me to allow them an INT check then I'll do so. But they gotta speak up most of the time.


OK, if this is a PFS discussion, where canned asdventures and ticking off boxes is more valuable to many, allowing the players to fail occasionally is less of an option, so I suppose it is more of an issue here. Yes, communication failures happen a lot, even especially with over prepared GMs. Everyone gets wrapped around the axle sometimes. Even in PFS, if the players are being recalcitrant and obtuse, they should fail. If they are asking for extra help, the GM has to consider that the information disconnect may be his own failure, not the player's. AARs can work out where the train jumped the tracks, but during play we hope there is skill enough to muddle through.

The Exchange

It's not really a PFS discussion.

I mentioned PFS because, as Daw noted, in that campaign it's forbidden to go off course and make up a new side adventure based on players' misunderstandings or forgetfulness. Though I have totally done that in home games.

If you absolutely have to give them a certain plot point, the INT check is the way to go. If you have the option, just let them go their own way and bring the plot point in from another direction.

Grand Lodge

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Usually a DC5 ability check, then point out whatever stupid thing they are thinking/missing.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Knowledge checks are often a decent way for characters to "remember" things that the players don't.

One other technique is to use the Three Clue Rule when designing adventures, plot arcs, and campaigns.

As a last resort, "cheat." Basically go along with the direction the players think is the "right" way ("Curses... You stumbled on my super-secret agenda. Everything else was supposed to be a distraction.").


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When I run a game, the PCs are typically in frequent - if not constant - contact with at least one friendly NPC. If they aren't, I could always have such an NPC wander by. And if missing a clue truly grinds the campaign to a halt, that NPC could point it out.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
One other technique is to use the Three Clue Rule when designing adventures, plot arcs, and campaigns.

I only just read that article.

Justin Alexander wrote:

For any conclusion you want the PCs to make, include at least three clues.

Why three? Because the PCs will probably miss the first; ignore the second; and misinterpret the third before making some incredible leap of logic that gets them where you wanted them to go all along.

That gave me my chuckle of the day.


Yqatuba wrote:
This is similar to my self awareness check question. If the players miss out on important plot point or just can't figure out what to do how would you have them make a "get a clue" check? Maybe just a straight WIS check?

Straight up Intelligence check. The higher they roll, the more information you give them. Also called a "hail mary".


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I recently added a house rule for occasions such as this. At the start of each session, every players rolls for 1d4 Insight Points that can be spent during the session. It is a free action to spend an Insight Point and basically ask for a clue. Unspent Insight Points expire at the end of the session.

I only recently added this as my players had a few sessions where they missed important clues in a Pathfinder scenario and then they drew a blank at the end of an important mission and couldn't figure out what to do. Rather than outright tell them what to do, I figured I may as well give them the ability to ask for help.


You know, in the last campaign I ran, one PC made up for overlooking obvious clues with heavy use of the Divination spell.


I sometimes let them do it with INT or WIS checks. Sometimes hints, other times help.

And still other times I basically flash it in front of them. Like "Strange hooded man fled a battle" and a few sessions later they meet with the same character, I think the characters would realize it even if the players don't so I flat out tell them.


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If the players have missed a critical plot point or are stuck, enough so that you think it is necessary for them to get a clue from the GM in order to proceed, why would you introduce a random element into it?

GM: "You guys are stuck, make a DC 15 INT check."

Player: "I Failed"

GM: "Ok, I guess the campaign is over."

Every situation like this will have a 'best' way to solve it, and they will probably all be different, but if the players need you to provide a clue in order to move forward, then give them a clue, don't give them a roll to get a clue.


I like the insight points idea.


Dave Justus wrote:

If the players have missed a critical plot point or are stuck, enough so that you think it is necessary for them to get a clue from the GM in order to proceed, why would you introduce a random element into it?

GM: "You guys are stuck, make a DC 15 INT check."

Player: "I Failed"

GM: "Ok, I guess the campaign is over."

Every situation like this will have a 'best' way to solve it, and they will probably all be different, but if the players need you to provide a clue in order to move forward, then give them a clue, don't give them a roll to get a clue.

Usually if I make them roll it's for "How much of a clue".

Like a good roll would go "You realize the hole is about the same size and the metal is the same kind as the key you picked up from the cult"

A bad roll might be "You feel like you've seen the sigils on the door on an item you've picked up recently". Which should hopefully cause people to go down the inventory list of anything rather new and or not defined.

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