How are GMs determining the result of Recall Knowledge regarding creatures?


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Liberty's Edge

How are GMs actually determining the results of Recall Knowledge regarding creatures?

In 1e, I’d let everyone who had the relevant skill roll a check, then I’d let the player whose character rolled highest ask me one question on a success, plus one question for every five over the DC. Questions would generally be Special Defenses, Special Abiltities, Special Attacks, Weaknesses, Strong Save, Weak Save, Languages, and I’d basically just give whatever info the statblock included that answered it, or “None.”

In 2E are GMs letting the player ask a question, or are you just picking one or two (on a crit) bits of information?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

They have to take the action (which they often don’t) and then you give them a single useful piece of information.

My own interpretation is that if they are trained in the relevant skill they will know the basics of that type (such as religion for undead) without a roll and the roll tells them a useful piece of info.

They can roll again for more info if they like.

I may on occasion tailor the info to what they are asking. Such as “I recall knowledge to see if I remember anything about how to hurt these things” would maybe give them a weakness for example.

It does not feel as “gamey” as 1st edition and I am enjoying it a lot more.


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As I understand it, the idea is you have to spend an action to observe and study the creature when you see it.

Given that, the only time spending an action is an actual cost is in combat. (If you just spy on it or talk to it, you have as many actions you like, so why not tell the players everything?)

However, the cost of spending two combat actions on average (given that the DC of a level-appropriate foe gives you roughly a 50% chance of succeeding on your roll) is actually quite steep.

So I tend to give out much more than merely a single piece of info. I tend to reveal all the essentials they need to battle this monster right away (such as resistances, weakest save and so on). If a second character succeeds at a Recall Knowledge he gets to ask specific questions and I'll answer them too.

The idea per RAW seems to be you're supposed to make half a dozen attempts just to paint a somewhat clear picture of how to fight the guy, but I find that doesn't work in practice.

Had I ran with that, my players would just have attacked the foe to find out what works through experimentation instead.

After all, every Recall Knowledge action is a failed attack, a spell not cast, or a buff that didn't happen.


I guess the pertinent question to ask is:

How many Recall Knowledge actions do your players spend, in combat, on average?

(I'd say a practical maximum would be three. You can't expect the party to devote more effort than that against a monster that's trying to bite your head off! If none of those succeed, it's time to fight the monster "blind".)


Zapp wrote:

I guess the pertinent question to ask is:

How many Recall Knowledge actions do your players spend, in combat, on average?

The answer for my group heavily depends upon what type of characters they are playing, and what kind of monsters are present.

For example, monster hunting rangers and know-it-all wizards go for Recall Knowledge an average of once per creature type encountered, while characters with less conceptual reason and/or less variety of attack options basically never roll.

Then adjusting for creatures present, rolls are more likely to happen the more exotic the description of the creature is. If it's just a humanoid with a unique skin tone probably no roll will be made, but if it's looking like it's from another plane or has inherent magic or even just advantageous biology, a roll might be made - and then the chance jumps exponentially if something is tried and found to be less than fully effective (i.e. "This cow is fireproof?! I'll Recall Knowledge as my next action then.")

Liberty's Edge

This is an additional complication I haven’t fully decided how to deal with:

“CRB p. 506” wrote:

Additional Knowledge

Sometimes a character might want to follow up on a check to Recall Knowledge, rolling another check to discover more information. After a success, further uses of Recall Knowledge can yield more information, but you should adjust the difficulty to be higher for each attempt. Once a character has attempted an incredibly hard check or failed a check, further attempts are fruitless—the character has recalled everything they know about the subject.

This seems to strongly point toward the “one fact per check” interpretation, but the harshness of an increasing difficulty (per character) and full stop on a failure, especially at the cost of multiple actions, reinforces my tendency to let the players ask questions.


I'm not opposed to players trying to ask questions via Recall Knowledge, but I also don't think it's necessary - so long as the GM is willingly providing relevant information.

Effectively, if the first thing you offer up tells them one of the options their character have on hand that will do good things, the need for further information isn't strong so the fact that gaining additional info is going to be harder isn't an obstacle to knowing something useful - it's just a push from the game mechanics to stop gathering info and start applying info instead.

And as a counter-point, I should mention that a player asking a question can actually push the GM into giving a non-helpful response because not all questions are actually relevant. For example, if a player isn't sure what they are facing when facing a man-faced bat-winged monstrous tiger and asks for a Recall Knowledge to determine if using fire will hurt it, the GM might feel the appropriate thing to do is answer that question with a "Yes" because there's no resistance or immunity to fire on the creature... but if the player wouldn't have specifically asked that, the GM could have mentioned Spike Volley that is much more beneficial to know about when battling a Manticore for your first time.

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

Players usually spend one or two actions to recall at most between the various party members. Usually only those who are good at it.

Sometimes a 1 is rolled and hilarity ensues (my party last night took great pains to deal with a “venomous” frog swarm that were actually just angry mundane frogs).

To me the real question is “Why does the party have to know everything there is to know about the monsters they fight for the game to be fun?”

That was one of the things I liked least about PF1 by the end.

Sovereign Court

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The ShadowShackleton wrote:

To me the real question is “Why does the party have to know everything there is to know about the monsters they fight for the game to be fun?”

That was one of the things I liked least about PF1 by the end.

This sometimes got so bad. You're playing a PFS1 group special so you want to move through encounters at a brisk pace so you get to see everything. But you have a bunch of wizards at the table who all learn multiple facts about each different monster in each encounter and then they have to agonize over which of twenty spells to use, to get that last extra 1% optimal performance.

Liberty's Edge

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thenobledrake wrote:
And as a counter-point, I should mention that a player asking a question can actually push the GM into giving a non-helpful response because not all questions are actually relevant.

I feel like that risk is balanced by the increased feeling of player agency, but yeah, it’s a risk.

Quote:
For example, if a player isn't sure what they are facing when facing a man-faced bat-winged monstrous tiger and asks for a Recall Knowledge to determine if using fire will hurt it, the GM might feel the appropriate thing to do is answer that question with a "Yes" because there's no resistance or immunity to fire on the creature...

In that situation I’d probably say “It has no particular vulnerability or resistance to fire,” but I agree that’s making the most of a bad question. My players tend to ask categorical questions, which leaves a little less room for useless questions, but doesn’t solve the problem entirely.


The fire vs. the Manticore question is a bad question, but you can give a broader answer (up to what you feel is right).
Ex. You could answer that Manticores typically do not resist any energy attacks, nor are they particularly vulnerable either.

The broad categories I use are:
Defenses vs. physical
Defenses vs. magic
Offense
Nature (as in culture, temperament, etc.)
If a creature has many variants in one category, then I might split it further.

If a creature is famous for one thing, i.e. a Basilisk's gaze, that takes priority, especially since I can also tag on how its blood helps restore petrified victims.

My players tend to use Recall Knowledge most every combat, often vocally regretting when they didn't. So the casters maybe don't move that first round or the warriors may (perhaps for the better!) have to let the monster come to them.
It's paid dividends.


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Categorical questions can still be bad questions to ask because if the GM answers them you've not gained useful information about the creature.

And "you can spend an action, succeed at a skill roll, and still get nothing" - which is what happens if a player asks a bad question and it gets answered - is pretty much the definition of reducing player agency.


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I've been shying away from letting my players choose a question and more towards trying to choose an actionable item to give them. Not just an attack the creature has if it can't be avoided or mitigated. Lacking anything especially notable and exploitable, telling them a weakest save might be ok.


thenobledrake wrote:

Categorical questions can still be bad questions to ask because if the GM answers them you've not gained useful information about the creature.

And "you can spend an action, succeed at a skill roll, and still get nothing" - which is what happens if a player asks a bad question and it gets answered - is pretty much the definition of reducing player agency.

Make the answer useful. Move it toward the nearest topic where a significant answer might be found.

Sovereign Court

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thenobledrake wrote:

Categorical questions can still be bad questions to ask because if the GM answers them you've not gained useful information about the creature.

And "you can spend an action, succeed at a skill roll, and still get nothing" - which is what happens if a player asks a bad question and it gets answered - is pretty much the definition of reducing player agency.

How do you define agency? The base rules have agency only in deciding whether or not to Recall Knowledge. The GM tries to offer the player more agency by letting the player choose what kind of knowledge he might recall. The player exercised their agency by making a poor choice - but that's still agency. Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices. The player could have also said "no I don't want to ask a specific question, just tell me what you think would be useful". The player chose not to do that, and that happened to be a poor choice. But it was a real choice.


I've only had one knowledge roll so far. I asked what he wanted to know about and he wasn't sure, so I gave what I thought would be the most useful to that character. I'll still leave the option open of them being more specific if they have a particular plan, but otherwise will just be telling them the most important bits first.


Having a Bard with know-it-all and hypercognition in my group, I had practice with this.

Spend action. GM suggests skills to use for best result, other skills could be used at higher DC.
Success grants basic information such as creature name, type, and common lore. The PC can also ask two questions about its statblock.
Critical success allows four questions.
Critical failure (since I don't do secret rolls) gives no general info, but two pieces of information of the GM's choice. One is a lie.

So for example, when players meet a Redcap, they can roll a Nature DC20 (or Occult DC22, or others at DC25) to know it's a vicious fey that delights in murder and blood magic, and its hat is soaked in the blood of previous victims.
The question "do they have any weaknesses?" could lead to different answers. I'd likely tell players that, like most fey, they are vulnerable to cold irons, and if players used Occult or Primal, that stealing their hat weakens them. If they used Religion, I'd tell them they are repulsed by divine magic. If they used Arcana, I'd tell them they are agile, but weak-willed and frail, and they heal very quickly. Either way, I'd let them know there's more, and they can spend more questions on this.
The question "do they have any special powers?" would likely play out similarly, but in regards to blood soak, stomp, cleave, or their insane Speed.

Sometimes players ask specifically about saves, or AC, or something else. The amount of information I grant is usually scaled based on how much there is to say - if figuring out a single ability is a big deal, I'll scale up other answers. If a monster has very few powers and is essentially a beatstick, one question won't necessarily give out everything.

Ps. for a critical failure on redcap, I'd probably state something like "it looks like a little malignant gnome. You deduce from the way he's moving that while he runs very fast, he lacks proper control. His Reflex saves are likely pretty low. Additionally, he looks pretty frail, but seems to draw strength from somewhere. You think he might have some form of healing power."


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:

Categorical questions can still be bad questions to ask because if the GM answers them you've not gained useful information about the creature.

And "you can spend an action, succeed at a skill roll, and still get nothing" - which is what happens if a player asks a bad question and it gets answered - is pretty much the definition of reducing player agency.

How do you define agency? The base rules have agency only in deciding whether or not to Recall Knowledge. The GM tries to offer the player more agency by letting the player choose what kind of knowledge he might recall. The player exercised their agency by making a poor choice - but that's still agency. Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices. The player could have also said "no I don't want to ask a specific question, just tell me what you think would be useful". The player chose not to do that, and that happened to be a poor choice. But it was a real choice.

I don’t define player agency as “roll a success but get nothing because I didn’t guess what the GM thought was important to ask”. Do you?


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During the playtest, my wife had a request abour Recall Knowledge. She wanted the information expressed in a story about how the character learned the information. She was playing a human nomad barbarian at the time, so her character knew about the scorpions by hearing the tails of hunters. And she knew about scorpion poison on a following Recall Knowledge check by watching the tribal healer tend a victim of scorpion poison.

I am adapting the Ironfang Invasion adventure path to Pathfinder 2nd Edition and I decided to stick to this system. For example, one goblin PC fleed from their hidden village at the mouth of the Valley of Aloi. The other PCs made Knowledge(Nature) rolls for geographic knowledge about that valley. The druid remembered conversations with other druids about some adventurers going to the Valley to seek treasure among the ancient dwarven ruins. The adventurers never returned. The ranger remembered her strategic geography lessons as a Chernasardo hopeful that the valley could be entered only by the mouth. It had no known passes or tunnels out of it.

Luke Styer wrote:
Quote:
For example, if a player isn't sure what they are facing when facing a man-faced bat-winged monstrous tiger and asks for a Recall Knowledge to determine if using fire will hurt it, the GM might feel the appropriate thing to do is answer that question with a "Yes" because there's no resistance or immunity to fire on the creature...
In that situation I’d probably say “It has no particular vulnerability or resistance to fire,” but I agree that’s making the most of a bad question. My players tend to ask categorical questions, which leaves a little less room for useless questions, but doesn’t solve the problem entirely.

That is the advantage of the story-based method. Focusing on the source of information gives the nature of the information. A bard seeing a manticore and successfully recognizing it might recall a ballad about a great hero battling one with sword. shield, and bow. The ballad would not mention fire because the hero did not use fire.

The disadvantage of the story-based method is that it gives a lot of information. But that is not a problem in my games.

Long ago, I houseruled the PF1 knowledge rules to make them valuable enough that everyone regularly made knowledge checks. My players love roleplaying gathering information, talking to witnesses, scouting ahead, and researching old lore in dusty libraries. In Lords of Rust, the 2nd module of Iron Gods, they made up false identities as archeologists on the run from the Technic League so that they could plausibly enter the shantytown Scrapwall as refugees and slowly learn about Scrapwall and its residents rather than arrive boldly as adventurers. I was amused that the writer Nicolas Logue had anticipated that the PCs might enter Scrapwall under a false story, and had written responses for them claiming to be Crusaders, Adventurers, Scoundrels, Technic League, or Members of a Scrapwall Gang, but missed the option of Refugees. The party lived in Scrapwall for weeks slowly learning about the Lords of Rust gang.

Thus, my PF2 Recall Knowledge checks continued my houserule from PF1 and give a paragraph of information.

The ShadowShackleton wrote:

To me the real question is “Why does the party have to know everything there is to know about the monsters they fight for the game to be fun?”

That was one of the things I liked least about PF1 by the end.

My players love tactics. Determining strengths and weaknesses by trial and error means that by the time they learn which tactics would have worked, the combat is over.

My wife and I love stories. If the players ask for Recall Knowledge, then I can give them a glimpse of the mythology that Paizo built into the creature or the lore. In my Ironfang Invasion campaign the ranger had a critical success to identify a fungus leshy and once she recognized it as a leshy she recalled that leshies served as guardians of nature and the Chernasardo rangers viewed them as allies. That was much more of a story than describing its Spore Cloud attack, which is the additional information she gained from critting. The party had already seen it change shape.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices.

The choice between getting a die roll that provides useful information if successful and getting a die roll that will not provide you useful information no matter how it goes is not a real choice.


I just give them information that will help them because it makes it easier for me to adjudicate critical failures and misinformation on recall knowledge.

Sovereign Court

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thenobledrake wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices.
The choice between getting a die roll that provides useful information if successful and getting a die roll that will not provide you useful information no matter how it goes is not a real choice.

I really don't understand what you're talking about here. Are you saying the GM takes away the player's agency by respecting the player's choice to ask a question that turns out to be a poor one?


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Ascalaphus wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices.
The choice between getting a die roll that provides useful information if successful and getting a die roll that will not provide you useful information no matter how it goes is not a real choice.
I really don't understand what you're talking about here. Are you saying the GM takes away the player's agency by respecting the player's choice to ask a question that turns out to be a poor one?

Yes.

It’s double jeopardy; success on the check can be negated by “asking a poor question” in your setup. Why bother with the check then, if you use the player’s question to determine if they gain useful information?
Success on a check *which used an action*, one of a character’s limited resources, provides useful information. A critical success provides more.

CRB p239 wrote:


You attempt a skill check to try to remember a bit of knowledge regarding a topic related to that skill. The GM determines the DCs for such checks and which skills apply.
Critical Success You recall the knowledge accurately and gain
additional information or context.
Success You recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful
clue about your current situation.
Critical Failure You recall incorrect information or gain an
erroneous or misleading clue.

&

CRB p506 wrote:


A character who successfully identifies a creature learns one of its best-known attributes—such as a troll’s regeneration (and the fact that it can be stopped by acid or fire) or a manticore’s tail spikes. On a critical success, the character also learns something subtler, like a demon’s weakness or the trigger for one of the creature’s reactions.
The skill used to identify a creature usually depends on that creature’s trait, as shown on Table 10–7, but you have leeway on which skills apply. For instance, hags are humanoids but have a strong connection to occult spells and live outside society, so you might allow a character to use Occultism to identify them without any DC adjustment, while Society is harder. Lore skills can also be used to identify their specific creature. Using the applicable Lore usually has an easy or very easy DC (before adjusting for rarity).

Why are you trying to rip off your players? Why are you devaluing their choices in building characters and choosing how to spend resources? THAT’S why it’s removing player agency.


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The "players ask for a category" one is also begging for out of character knowledge to be used. I personally wouldn't ask about manticore defenses, because I know they don't have anything special there, I would ask about their tail spine attack so my character could plan for that. But that's because I as a player know what the manticore is, not because my character does. Should I ask about defenses, knowing I won't get anything special, because it's what my character would do?


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Ascalaphus wrote:
I really don't understand what you're talking about here. Are you saying the GM takes away the player's agency by respecting the player's choice to ask a question that turns out to be a poor one?

You say "respecting the player's choice to ask a question," but I hear "forcing the player to say just the right thing or automatically fail."

And the result over time will not be the player feeling like they've been allowed to be in control of their character and make meaningful choices - it'll be that they feel like their GM is a jerk constantly undermining everything they try to do.

Liberty's Edge

Dragonstriker wrote:
I don’t define player agency as “roll a success but get nothing because I didn’t guess what the GM thought was important to ask”. Do you?

Who said anything about what the GM thought was important to ask? I thought we were talking about the player asking a question that yielded information that isn’t useful to the player in the situation they are in.

Like if the player asks for weaknesses and the creature has none. That information isn’t particularly useful because it offers little guidance, bit because the GM didn’t think it’s useful.

Liberty's Edge

Mathmuse wrote:
The disadvantage of the story-based method is that it gives a lot of information.

Other disadvantages are that I have to come up with a story for every PC who makes a Recall Knowledge check, and I am put into the position of dictating details of the PCs’ backstory, which I feel should be in the players’ hands as much as possible.

It’s probably the coolest variant on “GM decides what you recall,” but I prefer “PC asks a question.”

Liberty's Edge

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Dragonstriker wrote:
It’s double jeopardy; success on the check can be negated by “asking a poor question” in your setup.

Successful checks that are motivated or even negated by poor choices are endemic in the system. Every time a PC lands a hit with a versatile weapon using the damage type the monster resists the successful attack roll is mitigated by the poor choice of damage type.

Every time the Sorcerer scores a hit with Ray of Frost on a monster who is immune to cold his spell attack roll is negated. Do you instead decide for him that he casts Acid Splash?

Quote:
Why bother with the check then, if you use the player’s question to determine if they gain useful information?

That’s a perfectly fine position, but it’s not one that increases player agency. It’s one that prioritizes utility over agency. Again, not a wrong choice, but not an agency-focused choice.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:
You say "respecting the player's choice to ask a question," but I hear "forcing the player to say just the right thing or automatically fail."

It’s fairly uncommon that there is exactly one useful bit of information about a given creature, so a question that yields no useful information is pretty rare unless we are up to third or fourth questions.

Quote:
And the result over time will not be the player feeling like they've been allowed to be in control of their character and make meaningful choices - it'll be that they feel like their GM is a jerk constantly undermining everything they try to do.

I’ve had players ask questions rather than selecting the information for them for years and I’ve never gotten the sense my players felt like I was undermining them, and my players aren’t shy when they have an issue with how I run something. I can also very easily imagine a situation in which PCs suffer because of something the GM didn’t decide to tell them about, the players might feel like their GM is a jerk trying to undermine them.

I’m certain there are players who would prefer the GM select the information, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a difference in play style.


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

I'm curious to know, do you GMs provide information in general terms (the manticore can sling volleys of deadly spikes from its tail) or in gaming terms (the manticore has a single action, two-target ranged strike called spike volley that allows it to hurl its tail spikes to damage and pin targets to the ground).

One feels more natural and immersive, but the other is undoubtedly more useful.

Luke Styer wrote:

I’ve had players ask questions rather than selecting the information for them for years and I’ve never gotten the sense my players felt like I was undermining them, and my players aren’t shy when they have an issue with how I run something. I can also very easily imagine a situation in which PCs suffer because of something the GM didn’t decide to tell them about, the players might feel like their GM is a jerk trying to undermine them.

I’m certain there are players who would prefer the GM select the information, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a difference in play style.

I agree. We too have never had any issues with the question answer format.

After making an incredibly high roll, I once had a GM tell us that the cloaked attacking us could see in the dark, fly, and envelop its prey. This was after we saw it swoop down out of the dark and wrap around one of our fellow party members. He neglected to tell us ANY new useful information we didn't already know and felt totally justified in doing so.

We felt totally cheated, and have been asking the players questions ever since.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
thenobledrake wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
Agency doesn't mean all your choices will be good ones, just that you have real choices.
The choice between getting a die roll that provides useful information if successful and getting a die roll that will not provide you useful information no matter how it goes is not a real choice.
I really don't understand what you're talking about here. Are you saying the GM takes away the player's agency by respecting the player's choice to ask a question that turns out to be a poor one?

I think that the choices in Pathfinder are intended to occur at the action level of the rules, rather than in sub-choices inside the action. Slicing choices too fine diminishes the gameplay.

Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 provides an example. Its version of Power Attack was to chose X and get -X to the attack roll and +X to the damage roll (or +2X to two-handed damage): "On your action, before making attack rolls for a round, you may choose to subtract a number from all melee attack rolls and add the same number to all melee damage rolls. This number may not exceed your base attack bonus. The penalty on attacks and bonus on damage apply until your next turn...." Chosing the right number was difficult, because the best number depended on the target's AC, which was unknown.

In Pathfinder 1st Edition, Jason Bulmahn changed that so that the number was fixed at 1 plus 1/4 the Base Attack Bonus. The player no longer had a choice of numbers. To compensate for no longer customizing the number in fine detail, he increased the damage boost to twice the number for one-handed attacks and three times the number for two-handed attacks. Power Attack became one of the most popular feats in Pathfinder.

For enjoyable gameplay, the choices in Pathfinder need to be meaningful rather than arbitrary. Chose an energy type before you ask about a creature's weakness is an arbitrary choice. Chosing whether to take an action for Recall Knowledge or to go for an extra Strike is a meaningful choice.

Fortunately, the question, "Is the creature vulnerable to fire?" is not a question most people will ask. It is a limited yes-or-no question that gives no room for extra information on a critical success. Most players would instead ask, "What are its vulnerablities?" That gives the GM more room for a serious answer. At the very least, for a mundane creature without special vulnerabilities, the GM could provide hit points and AC. However, BellyBeard makes a good point that even a question that covers a full category is limiting:

BellyBeard wrote:
The "players ask for a category" one is also begging for out of character knowledge to be used. I personally wouldn't ask about manticore defenses, because I know they don't have anything special there, I would ask about their tail spine attack so my character could plan for that. But that's because I as a player know what the manticore is, not because my character does. Should I ask about defenses, knowing I won't get anything special, because it's what my character would do?

I think that that is why my wife wanted the story-based answer. She does not want to play her character based on tactical decisions. She wants to play her character based on background and personality. Making a 3-dimensional fictional person takes a lot of roleplaying, so being able to incorporate the roleplaying into actions like Recall Knowledge is a big benefit for her.

Luke Styer wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The disadvantage of the story-based method is that it gives a lot of information.

Other disadvantages are that I have to come up with a story for every PC who makes a Recall Knowledge check, and I am put into the position of dictating details of the PCs’ backstory, which I feel should be in the players’ hands as much as possible.

It’s probably the coolest variant on “GM decides what you recall,” but I prefer “PC asks a question.”

My players have been asking questions, but my response is not a direct answer, but a story shaped to fit their backstory and answer the question. If the player does not have much of a backstory (or has too much: one player started his backstory with the adventures of his grandfather and never got as far as the birth of his character), I generalize from ancestry, background, or class. I try to make it a story about the setting the character lived in, rather than about the knowledge the character sought on his or her own, since setting is the job of the GM.

Imagine that her barbarian encounters a rare creature like a Simurgh (PF2 Bestiary, page 295) and she wants to identify it. "Does it speak I language I know?", my wife asks as she rolls Recall Knowledge Nature. Natural 20, success.

Now I would be in a pickle. No-one in the barbarian's tribe ever heard of a Simurgh, let alone encountered one. Thus, no tribal tale. But I have to tell something because she succceded. She established that her barbarian often escorted travelers through the mountains, so I use that. I suppose that I would quickly type into my laptop a search for M.C. Escher's Another World II. I would show the image and say, "You once saw a tapestry like this, in a merchant's wares as you escorted his caravan. He was a talkative fellow and explained that the scene was a fictional representation of staring into the unknown. The bird in the picture is a Simurgh, though real Simurghs are gargantuan creatures with the head of a fox and rainbow-tinted wings. They represent peace in the face of the unknown and forewarnings to prepare for dire threats. Many people consider it good luck to see one. You guess that a harbinger like a Simurgh would speak all languages."

The Simurgh representing peace and warnings is not anything a character would have asked for, but it fits better than, "You vaguely remember that Simurghs are divine messengers. Such messengers usually have ways of speaking any language."

Liberty's Edge

CRB p239 wrote:
You attempt a skill check to try to remember a bit of knowledge regarding a topic related to that skill.

Am I attempting to remember a particular piece of knowlege, i.e. asking a specific question of the GM? Or am I hoping to recall any old piece of knowledge, i.e. the GM tells me what he thinks is useful? That sentence supports both readings, so let’s keep going and see what else we can figure out.

Quote:

Critical Success You recall the knowledge accurately and gain

additional information or context.

Again, which knowledge do you recall — the Knowledge you wanted to recall or the knowledge the GM wants you to recall? No help here.

Quote:

Success You recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful

clue about your current situation.

This seems a little more helpful because “gain a useful clue” sounds a lot like the GM choosing a fact to give you. The disjunctive “or” indicates that “gain a clue” is different from “recall the knowledge,” though, which indicates that “recall the knowledge” probably means the specific knowledge you wanted, i.e., the answer to the question you asked.

Quote:

Critical Failure You recall incorrect information or gain an

erroneous or misleading clue.

By that same logic, you either get a wrong answer to the question you asked, or the GM makes up the lie of his choice.

So my reading is that the rules support both methods. With that in mind, I’ll probably let my players choose on a check-by-check basis whether to ask a specific question or to have me pick something I think is useful.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Luke Styer wrote:
Dragonstriker wrote:
It’s double jeopardy; success on the check can be negated by “asking a poor question” in your setup.
Successful checks that are motivated or even negated by poor choices are endemic in the system.

Indeed, in my most recent game the party druid tried to use Wild Empathy on a foe, but he didn't know that it was a beast, not an animal, and thus it wouldn't work. Me telling him that he could not even attempt the action would be reducing his agency. It failed, of course, and I told him why. So even though he failed at what he attempted he still gained a bit of knowledge about the foe. It is vitally important in my game that players have agency to make poor decisions in the game. As a certain GM is fond of saying to his players: "You can certainly try."

Liberty's Edge

Ravingdork wrote:

I'm curious to know, do you GMs provide information in general terms (the manticore can sling volleys of deadly spikes from its tail) or in gaming terms (the manticore has a single action, two-target ranged strike called spike volley that allows it to hurl its tail spikes to damage and pin targets to the ground).

One feels more natural, but the other is undoubtedly more useful.

I almost always provide game terms. The only exception is if it’s an effect so weird and out there that I don’t think the PCs would understand it, in which case I’ll express it more vaguely.

I don’t imagine that the PCs literally think in game terms, but the rules of the game are basically the laws of physics in their reality, so giving that directly to the players seems like the best way to “model” the PCs’ knowledge and understanding.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
Luke Styer wrote:

How are GMs actually determining the results of Recall Knowledge regarding creatures?

In 1e, I’d let everyone who had the relevant skill roll a check, then I’d let the player whose character rolled highest ask me one question on a success, plus one question for every five over the DC. Questions would generally be Special Defenses, Special Abiltities, Special Attacks, Weaknesses, Strong Save, Weak Save, Languages, and I’d basically just give whatever info the statblock included that answered it, or “None.”

In 2E are GMs letting the player ask a question, or are you just picking one or two (on a crit) bits of information?

considering they can keep using actions to ask more questions, yes, just 1 or 2 bits per action spent.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I don't typically give identification questions in terms of action economy, unless its something that can be done with non-action (reactions, immediate, swift (PF1), etc.).


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Fumarole wrote:
As a certain GM is fond of saying to his players: "You can certainly try."

That phrase implies there is an uncertainty to the outcome that isn't there in your specific example.

You can't "try" to use Wild Empathy on beast any more than you can "try" to have your character propel them self through the sky by means of sustained farting.


Luke Styer wrote:
Every time the Sorcerer scores a hit with Ray of Frost on a monster who is immune to cold his spell attack roll is negated. Do you instead decide for him that he casts Acid Splash?

That's a false equivalence.

The action declared in the case of Ray of Frost doesn't have it's outcome change if the player includes more words than "I cast Ray of Frost at that target."

Where as in the case of Recall Knowledge there are different outcomes that rely not on declaring a different action like declaring Acid Splash would be, but on whether the player said "I Recall Knowledge about that creature," or something like "I Recall Knowledge to figure out <specific detail the player is guessing about the relevance of>."


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
thenobledrake wrote:
Fumarole wrote:
As a certain GM is fond of saying to his players: "You can certainly try."

That phrase implies there is an uncertainty to the outcome that isn't there in your specific example.

You can't "try" to use Wild Empathy on beast any more than you can "try" to have your character propel them self through the sky by means of sustained farting.

I think you may be using a non-standard definition of the word try. My previous example would be the same result as a player trying to cast sleep on a foe that is immune to it. They can try it, thus spending the actions and spell slot, but it will never work. That's what I mean when I say try, and I suspect it's what most other people mean as well.


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Ravingdork wrote:

I'm curious to know, do you GMs provide information in general terms (the manticore can sling volleys of deadly spikes from its tail) or in gaming terms (the manticore has a single action, two-target ranged strike called spike volley that allows it to hurl its tail spikes to damage and pin targets to the ground).

One feels more natural and immersive, but the other is undoubtedly more useful.

FIGHTER PLAYER: What attacks does the manticore have?

GM: You remember one time you worked with a lizardfolk mercenary who pointed out his scars. "That round scar is a manticore spike. We ran, but the real reason we got away is that the manticore went for the human in our group. They have a taste for human flesh. It clawed him to the ground and then bit his head straight off. But the blackhearted beast wasn't going to let us leave unmarked. It shot its tail spikes at us! It hit two at once and hit harder than a longbow arrow. The healer had to use pliers to pull the spikes out. That's why it left a scar." Okay, out of character, the bite is 2d8+8 piercing, the claws are 2d6+8 slashing, and the spikes are 1d10+5 piercing, and if you want its attack bonuses, that's another Recall Knowledge check.


Fumarole wrote:
I think you may be using a non-standard definition of the word try. My previous example would be the same result as a player trying to cast sleep on a foe that is immune to it. They can try it, thus spending the actions and spell slot, but it will never work. That's what I mean when I say try, and I suspect it's what most other people mean as well.

I think there's a distinct difference between picking a valid target that happens to not be susceptible (which is what casting sleep on a foe that is immune is), and picking a target that isn't valid.

Unfortunately, the only time the PF2 rules talk about that is in regard to spells, and I'm still looking into whether "your spell fails to target that creature" stops the spell from being spent or just stops it from doing anything.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:

The action declared in the case of Ray of Frost doesn't have it's outcome change if the player includes more words than "I cast Ray of Frost at that target."

Where as in the case of Recall Knowledge there are different outcomes that rely not on declaring a different action like declaring Acid Splash would be, but on whether the player said "I Recall Knowledge about that creature," or something like "I Recall Knowledge to figure out <specific detail the player is guessing about the relevance of>."

A centipede swarm has resistances bludgeoning 5, piercing 5, slashing 2. A shortsword deals piercing damage, but has versatile P.

Thus in the case of striking a centipede swarm with a shortsword there are different outcomes that rely not on declaring a different action like declaring a strike with a shortsword or a strike with a hatchet would be, but on whether the player said “I strike with my shortsword” or something like “I strike with my shortsword for slashing damage <which the player is guessing about the relevance of>.”

So, do you allow the player’s successful attack roll to be mitigated by his poor choice not to use the versatile quality of his weapon, or do you instead decide for him that he selected the more effective damage type?

In this case, the player, when he made his successful Recall Knowledge check, realizing his PC has a shortsword wanted to know whether piercing or slashing damage was more effective, but his GM told him about centipede venom instead.


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Luke Styer wrote:
So, do you allow the player’s successful attack roll to be mitigated by his poor choice not to use the versatile quality of his weapon, or do you instead decide for him that he selected the more effective damage type?

False equivalence.

The game rules tell the player they have to choose the damage type they deal (by way of choosing which weapon to attack with, and if it is versatile which of its available damage types to do). The game rules do not tell the player they have to choose the specific topic of a Recall Knowledge attempt about a creature.

And a few points of damage difference is not even kind of the same range of effect caused by saying the wrong thing while trying to Recall Knowledge.

Luke Styer wrote:


In this case, the player, when he made his successful Recall Knowledge check, realizing his PC has a shortsword wanted to know whether piercing or slashing damage was more effective, but his GM told him about centipede venom instead.

That's actually a different issue. Yes, a player asking questions via Recall Knowledge can go well - no one said it was always going to go poorly. The argument was that it could go wrong.

And the argument that a GM can decide to tell a player a less relevant piece of information than what else is available is one regarding the quality of the GM, not of the rules - the rules do everything they can to communicate the intent of the Recall Knowledge action to give the player something useful.

Telling a player "it's venomous" when they've got no means of mitigating or interacting with that trait specifically isn't useful - especially not in comparison to damage resistances they can actually interact with.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:
False equivalence.

Nope. It’s not an equivalence at all. It’s an analogy, and it’s a good one. The game rules allows the players to make choices in a variety of circumstances, some of which are more effective than others.

Quote:
The game rules do not tell the player they have to choose the specific topic of a Recall Knowledge attempt about a creature.

The game rules give that option. On a success you “recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful clue about your current situation.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Quote:
And a few points of damage difference is not even kind of the same range of effect caused by saying the wrong thing while trying to Recall Knowledge.

That’s how the GM justified not telling me what damage type was most effective even though I rolled a successful Recall Knowledge. He just wanted the encounter to last longer, so he sabotaged me.

Quote:
That's actually a different issue. Yes, a player asking questions via Recall Knowledge can go well - no one said it was always going to go poorly. The argument was that it could go wrong.

As a player I’d rather live or die by my choices, not the GM’s.

Quote:
And the argument that a GM can decide to tell a player a less relevant piece of information than what else is available is one regarding the quality of the GM,

Putting aside my jokes about the GM trying to screw the players, a player knows his character better than the GM does. The player may know better than the GM what information would be most helpful to him. That doesn’t reflect poorly on the GM.

Quote:
Telling a player "it's venomous" when they've got no means of mitigating or interacting with that trait specifically isn't useful - especially not in comparison to damage resistances they can actually interact with.

The PC may have a versatile weapon in his hand and a vial of antitoxin in his bandolier. Both facts may be useful. I like for the player to have the chance to decide which is more useful for his character. if he doesn’t want to choose, he can always ask for “a useful clue” and I’ll try my best to decide which is most useful.


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Luke Styer wrote:
The PC may have a versatile weapon in his hand and a vial of antitoxin in his bandolier. Both facts may be useful. I like for the player to have the chance to decide which is more useful for his character. if he doesn’t want to choose, he can always ask for “a useful clue” and I’ll try my best to decide which is most useful.

Yes. This is how it is intended to be done, just give the players the option to choose the type of information but let them pass the choice to you if they'd rather. I think the only thing people are objecting to is the idea that the players aren't allowed to concede the choice, and must pick themselves.


Luke Styer wrote:
The game rules give that option. On a success you “recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful clue about your current situation.” (Emphasis supplied.)

The rules do not give the option, not even in the quote you have cited with or without the emphasis you've given it.

Nowhere in the rules does it say "you can ask a more specific question".

Luke Styer wrote:
As a player I’d rather live or die by my choices, not the GM’s.

It's not your choice to be more specific than necessary that you are going to "live or die by" - it's the GM's choice to bend the rules because you were.

Luke Styer wrote:
The PC may have a versatile weapon in his hand and a vial of antitoxin in his bandolier. Both facts may be useful.

Yet again, it seems you are adjusting the parameters of what is being talked about.

Yes, if there are many things that are "equal" in their usefulness for the player to learn, it'd be nice for the player to be able to choose which they'd rather know... but that's not how the game works. And it's not actually possible either, since the situation would require that not only were multiple pieces of information of "equal" use, but that the player know that in order to ask the right question to choose the right trait to learn about... which sounds to me like requiring the player to already know the answer before asking the question.

So the most reliable approach to Recall Knowledge is for the player to not be any more specific than the game rules require they be, and for the GM to make genuine effort to ensure the information gained is useful given the character(s) and circumstances at hand.

Liberty's Edge

thenobledrake wrote:
]The rules do not give the option, not even in the quote you have cited with or without the emphasis you've given it.

False equivalency! In this case meaning “Huh?”

Quote:
Nowhere in the rules does it say "you can ask a more specific question".

It doesn’t have to say that. It already says that on a success you “recall the knowledge[.]” Clearly “the knowledge” is the bit of knowledge the player seeks. Many people seek knowledge by asking a question.

Quote:
It's not your choice to be more specific than necessary

If I make a check to Recall Knowledge, I “attempt a skill check to remember a bit of knowledge regarding a topic[.]” Stating what “bit of knowledge” I’m tying to remember is no more “more specific than necessary” than specifying a target for a a spell or attack is “more specific than necessary.

Quote:
it's the GM's choice to bend the rules because you were.

Nope. On a success I “recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful clue about your current situation.” Now, you, as GM, may choose to say “I’m not going to allow you to recall the knowledge accurately, but have this clue of my choosing instead,” but you don’t have to do that to your players.

Quote:
Yet again, it seems you are adjusting the parameters of what is being talked about.

Am I? Do you live in a worry where only one piece of information is useful at a time?

Quote:
Yes, if there are many things that are "equal" in their usefulness for the player to learn, it'd be nice for the player to be able to choose which they'd rather know... but that's not how the game works.

Barring a clarification or erratum that is, indeed, how the game works, because Recall Knowledge allows a PC to “ attempt a skill check to remember a bit of knowledge regarding a topic” and on a success I “recall the knowledge[.]”

Quote:
which sounds to me like requiring the player to already know the answer before asking the question.

It’s not “requiring” anything because the player has the option to punt and let the GM decide what information is most useful. You seem to believe the GM is infallible on this topic, which is pretty specious.

Liberty's Edge

BellyBeard wrote:


Yes. This is how it is intended to be done, just give the players the option to choose the type of information but let them pass the choice to you if they'd rather.

I agree.

Quote:
I think the only thing people are objecting to is the idea that the players aren't allowed to concede the choice, and must pick themselves.

One might think, but as a counterpoint:

“thenobledrake” wrote:

The rules do not give the option, not even in the quote you have cited with or without the emphasis you've given it.

Nowhere in the rules does it say "you can ask a more specific question".

So someone is objecting to the mere notion that players have any agency in the matter beyond whether to even make a check.


Recall Knowledge wrote:

You attempt a skill check to try to remember a bit of knowledge regarding a topic related to that skill. The GM determines the DCs for such checks and which skills apply.

Critical Success You recall the knowledge accurately and gain additional information or context.

Success You recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful clue about your current situation.

Critical Failure You recall incorrect information or gain an erroneous or misleading clue.

The skill says you attempt to remember a bit of knowledge about a topic. It goes on to list some example topics in a sidebar.

Quote:

Recall Knowledge Tasks

These examples use Society or Religion.

Untrained name of a ruler, key noble, or major deity

Trained line of succession for a major noble family, core doctrines of a major deity

Expert genealogy of a minor noble, teachings of an ancient priest

Master hierarchy of a genie noble court, major extraplanar temples of a deity

Legendary existence of a long-lost noble heir, secret doctrines of a religion

Do you think those topics, which are given as examples of things a player can attempt to recall knowledge about, are less specific than "I want to know about the manticore's defenses"? I think asking a question about a particular aspect of a creature is well within the examples given.


Luke Styer wrote:


So someone is objecting to the mere notion that players have any agency in the matter beyond whether to even make a check.

Which is fine in and of itself. You can make an argument the game runs better if the GM is completely in charge of doling out information.

It is strange to try to frame the decision to not allow the player to choose as somehow increasing their freedom of choice and ability to influence the game on their own terms, though.

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