Adventure writing: Could you avoid giving the Unique trait to named NPCs?


Pathfinder Society

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Hi everyone,

I've found this issue when DMing Doom of Cassomir: Most enemies have the Unique trait despite being average members of their race/class (they are based on creatures/NPCs who are common in the books). Bob the guard is unique, for sure, but his neighbour whose name you don't know, too. By giving Bob the Unique trait you increase all Recall Knowledge checks about what a guard is by 10.

NPCs should have the Unique trait only when they are really unique. A bard isn't unique even if all bards are different, a guard isn't unique, and so on. It should be quite easy to succeed at a Recall Knowledge to know what a bard is and what type of abilities they should have. And asking someone their name shouldn't increase all checks to recognize what creature they are by 10.

I'm not sure I'm on the proper forum but I think it's important as my players were a bit annoyed to learn that recognizing what Little Zura is asks for a DC 25 Recall Knowledge instead of the more appropriate DC 15.

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

It's annoying and you're in the right place.

Although personally Recall Knowledge is a thing where I think the GM has to apply greater discretion and common sense than in other parts of the rules.

It's the same discretion I would use if the party ran into a level 10 goblin warrior without a name - I wouldn't ask for a level 10 appropriate DC to know basic facts about goblins. But recognizing insignia and knowing what kind of elite combat tactics these particular goblins might know - sure, then the level 10 DC is appropriate. Likewise, if you want to know about Little Zura personally, then the Unique DC can make sense. But to know about the base species, I'd ignore the Unique tag.


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The rules for the Unique tag explicitly says you use the DCs for normal features of them if they're Unique, save for anything that is specifically unique about them.

https://2e.aonprd.com/Rules.aspx?ID=914

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Grankless wrote:

The rules for the Unique tag explicitly says you use the DCs for normal features of them if they're Unique, save for anything that is specifically unique about them.

https://2e.aonprd.com/Rules.aspx?ID=914

You're right, I missed that.

"Unique elements are one of a kind. You have full control over whether PCs can access them. Named NPCs are unique creatures, though that doesn’t mean their base creature type is unique. For instance, an orc named Graytusk is unique, but that doesn’t mean it would be any harder for a PC encountering her to tell she’s an orc—just to discern specific information about her."
But it's preposterous! An orc named Graytusk is unique but every creature has a name. So all creatures should have the unique tag unless they are strict clones (which may be possible for constructs).

So, it looks like I'm not in the proper forum actually. I should go to the main PF2 discussion boards and report an error in the rules. Named NPCs should have the Common, Uncommon, Rare or Unique tag depending on the actual rarity of their abilities not on the fact that they are unique in the world, which every creature is.

Grankless wrote:
Likewise, if you want to know about Little Zura personally, then the Unique DC can make sense.

I don't think knowing about Little Zura personally should be handled through a Recall Knowledge check unless Little Zura is especially famous in Golarion. It should be a Gather Information check or a Society check depending on their fame.

2/5 **

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SuperBidi wrote:
But it's preposterous! An orc named Graytusk is unique but every creature has a name. So all creatures should have the unique tag unless they are strict clones (which may be possible for constructs).

There's really no need for this. Uniqueness isn't a function of identity, it's a function of mechanics. Steve, Jim, and Larry can all be named orcs with the identical stat blocks to a base orc. The fact that a GM gave them a name suggests they have something worth noting in their statblocks.

Recalling knowledge on an orc is fairly simple. Recalling something specific about Steve, Jim, or Larry absolutely is difficult *especially* if there isn't anything particular unique about them.

This is really making a mountain out of a molehill.

1/5 5/5

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Given how some GMs react to RAW (Rules as Written) versus RAS (Rules as Suggested) the OP's concern is a valid one -- When the players in say, a L1-4 scenario are struggling to hit the DC 15 (whether due to a lack of skills or dice hatred) having them critically fail all or most rolls (DC 15+Unique=DC25) does nothing to help move the story along and acts as a massive demoralizing roadblock.

Definitely not the sort of experience that someone new to a game wants to experience. I know it nearly turned me off PF2 because my first six play experiences were 'table couldn't seem to roll above a 5 most rolls' -- and that gets old really quick.

At higher levels, where it's not *as* swingy?

It might be a useful balance to exceptionally skilled tables, but there's still a chance of dice hatred or lack of appropriate skills -- but at least folks have some ways to mitigate those failures at that point (and hopefully not a lot of critical failures).

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

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I really am in camp "fix the actual problem" here. In this case, the actual problem is running recall knowledge badly, not the unique tag.

Because some subsystems, like Recall Knowledge, are really written to need the GM to use some sense and judgement, not execute a formula, and not taking that into account when running this system is a problem.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

For what it's worth, I have also seen complaints from people running non-society games about the society scenarios NOT using rarity tags on creatures when they should, because of people searching for common creatures on Archives of Nethys and trying to summon unique scenario bosses that didn't get a Unique tag. (Obviously, this is also a fixable issue by expecting people to know the source of rules they're invoking and not do that, but I think that not using appropriate rarity tags would increase the amount of adjustment people need to do, instead of decreasing it, on the whole).

Dark Archive 5/5 5/55/5 * Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South

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The problem is, that creatures whose only "unique" thing is the name they got get the unique tag, which causes problems with abilities that rely on recall knowledge.

PF2 also still has the old recall knowlegde problem of:
"Oh this newly born red dragon might be identifiable by the villagers it attackes"
"after 500 Years terroriszing the village noone can even know they are a terrorized by a RED dragon but they only get critfails on recalling it"

Dark Archive 5/5 5/55/5 * Venture-Captain, Germany—Rhein Main South

For example the Mastermind rogue looses its racked (effectively) if a lot of enemies are unique.

1/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Agent, Online—VTT

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Alexander Lenz wrote:

The problem is, that creatures whose only "unique" thing is the name they got get the unique tag, which causes problems with abilities that rely on recall knowledge.

PF2 also still has the old recall knowlegde problem of:
"Oh this newly born red dragon might be identifiable by the villagers it attackes"
"after 500 Years terroriszing the village noone can even know they are a terrorized by a RED dragon but they only get critfails on recalling it"

The dragon having terrorized your village for 500 years falls pretty deep into the territory of when "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." from page 505 would be used.

And, of course, anyone who actually saw it isn't making a knowledge check at all for what color it is, unless they were looking at it from darkvision and trying to tell from their knowledge of dragon anatomy.

Many Mastermind woes are already covered by only using Unique adjusted DC for things that are really unique info, as has already been cited in this thread. As for things that are just that weird being a bit harder for some features and feats to work with? That's more feature than bug.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
I know it nearly turned me off PF2 because my first six play experiences were 'table couldn't seem to roll above a 5 most rolls' -- and that gets old really quick.

Yes, rolling poorly sucks, but that has little to do with the rules. Even trained people failure more often than not on single digit rolls. If everyone is rolling unusually low, that’s not an indictment of the game rules. YMMV

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TwilightKnight wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
I know it nearly turned me off PF2 because my first six play experiences were 'table couldn't seem to roll above a 5 most rolls' -- and that gets old really quick.
Yes, rolling poorly sucks, but that has little to do with the rules. Even trained people failure more often than not on single digit rolls. If everyone is rolling unusually low, that’s not an indictment of the game rules. YMMV

On a Critical failure, a PC gets erroneous information.

That can rapidly compound with low rolls for other things, like combat.

Grand Lodge 4/5 * Contributor

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

On a Critical failure, a PC gets erroneous information.

That can rapidly compound with low rolls for other things, like combat.

If someone is inexperienced and uneducated in a subject, maybe they shouldn't be telling others how to deal with it in the first place.

PF1 encouraged crit-fishing if you had a single rank, whereas PF2 handles things more realistically in that people with no experience rf education are more likely to mix up fact and fiction.

(Although... Recall Knowledge is still a very limited system. In home games you can houserule previous experience, background, local knowledge, and other things, but in Society play people are loathe to do so.)

Unfortunately, most GMs I've seen don't use secret rolls and so the whole thing has little effect.

(TBH, now that we have the Pathfinder training modeled, "schooled" Pathfinder PCs should just auto-identify the base creature type for anything of their level and under, to model the years of training they took. Ideally, there would be a "5 things everyone knows about <MONSTER> like there used to be in the old "<MONSTER>s of Golarion" setting book, so that most people could still know something from their education.)

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5 **

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Scott Young wrote:


PF1 encouraged crit-fishing if you had a single rank, whereas PF2 handles things more realistically in that people with no experience rf education are more likely to mix up fact and fiction.

You may think that it is realistic that trained smart people get incorrect information a LOT but I certainly don't.

I know that in subjects that I actually know about its quite, quite rare for me to be actively wrong. I'm often unsure but I'm wrong way, way, way less than 5% of the time.

And in PF2 its quite common for somebody who is trained and reasonably good at a task to crit fail on more than a 1.

In fact, even on subjects that I know quite little about I'm a lot more likely to not know than to get the wrong answer. While in PF2 it is extremely easy to get to the point where one is actively wrong a LOT (well over 50% of the time).

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Captain, Online—VTT

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pauljathome wrote:

You may think that it is realistic that trained smart people get incorrect information a LOT but I certainly don't.

I know that in subjects that I actually know about its quite, quite rare for me to be actively wrong. I'm often unsure but I'm wrong way, way, way less than 5% of the time.

And in PF2 its quite common for somebody who is trained and reasonably good at a task to crit fail on more than a 1.

In fact, even on subjects that I know quite little about I'm a lot more likely to not know than to get the wrong answer. While in PF2 it is extremely easy to get to the point where one is actively wrong a LOT (well over 50% of the time).

I think that comparing knowledge in a world with google and the internet, as well as wide spread higher education and often easy access to continuing that to a world such as Golarion where such things either don't exist are are far rarer and more uncommon probably isn't terribly useful tbh.

2/5 5/5 *

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I don’t think Google or the internet plays into that comparison. I don’t have a Google-Fi chip in my brain feeding me answers when I try to remember the Krebs cycle. If you asked me to diagram it, I’d not be able to and pretty much only be able to say it generates ATP, but I certainly wouldn’t “Crit Fail” and make up some chemical cycle for photosynthesis that I assert with confidence that this is the Krebs cycle. I don’t remember trigonometry, but if shown an equation to solve for the cosine of theta, I’m going to draw a blank, not “Crit Fail” and spout out a random number. I can’t tell you the difference between a house sparrow and a field sparrow anymore, but I’m not going to confuse a sparrow for a grackle, robin, chickadee, and certainly not an owl. None of that has to do with the internet or Google.

But we have the system we have.

4/5

Common sense would certainly suggest that the only time Bob the Guard's Unique trait should apply would be for things unique about Bob - who is Bob's wife, what kind of beer does Bob drink, what street does Bob live on, etc. Unique should not apply to stuff about every human. Sadly, common sense is not always common.

Radiant Oath 1/5 *

RealAlchemy wrote:
Common sense would certainly suggest that the only time Bob the Guard's Unique trait should apply would be for things unique about Bob - who is Bob's wife, what kind of beer does Bob drink, what street does Bob live on, etc. Unique should not apply to stuff about every human. Sadly, common sense is not always common.

It's not just common sense, it's also the current rules of the game, as noted above. This whole thing is literally a non-issue.

1/5 5/5

So, in the future when running as a GM in PFS2 the 'normal'-ish things about a 'Unique' character are a lower DC, and the actual honest-to-goodness 'Unique' items are a higher number?

Just want to make sure, don't want someone either accusing me of 'softballing' or 'Hard Mode-ing' a run.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Rarity rules

Rules wrote:
Named NPCs are unique creatures, though that doesn’t mean their base creature type is unique. For instance, an orc named Graytusk is unique, but that doesn’t mean it would be any harder for a PC encountering her to tell she’s an orc—just to discern specific information about her.

Unique trait

Rules wrote:
The DC of Recall Knowledge checks related to creatures with this trait is increased by 10.

Reading these two rules together it seems like it should be normal DC to determine that Bob the Butcher is an Orc and that orcs have ferocity, but +10 DC to know that Bob the Butcher's cleaver attack does bleeding damage to frightened targets.

2/5 5/5 ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Massachusetts—Boston

Robert Hetherington wrote:


...
Reading these two rules together it seems like it should be normal DC to determine that Bob the Butcher is an Orc and that orcs have ferocity, but +10 DC to know that Bob the Butcher's cleaver attack does bleeding damage to frightened targets.

I agree with this in spirit, but I'm not sure what the best way to actually adjudicate that as a GM is.

Are you asking the player if they are attempting to recall knowledge about the "type" of the opponent, or the "identity" of the opponent on every check? Are you comparing the skill check to two different DCs? Are you assuming every first check is for 'type' but giving an extra (free) bit of information that something about them seems 'famous' and you might be able to learn more with a targeted check?, etc

2/5 5/5 *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Since the information you give is at the GM discretion, you can have a tiered response.

If their result is a regular success for the creature type you give one piece of information common to the creature type, but if their result is a critical success (+10 above regular creature type DC) you can give 1 piece of common information and 1 unique piece of information or 2 unique pieces of information and 0 pieces of common information.

E.g. The Burning Basilisk is a unique basilisk that can breathe fire. If the character rolls 20-29 on his Arcana/Nature check, he knows about the petrifying gaze. If the character rolls 30+, then he knows about the petrifying gaze and that this basilisk is the Burning Basilisk who is known to breathe fire.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Eric Nielsen wrote:

Are you asking the player if they are attempting to recall knowledge about the "type" of the opponent, or the "identity" of the opponent on every check? Are you comparing the skill check to two different DCs? Are you assuming every first check is for 'type' but giving an extra (free) bit of information that something about them seems 'famous' and you might be able to learn more with a targeted check?, etc

Definitely not asking them what kind of recall knowledge check.

Giving additional information on 10 higher DC is a lot like giving extra information on a critical.

Let's look at Bob the Butcher above who we'll assume is a modified Orc Brute

The default Orc Brute is level 0 so DC 14, so 24 for Bob's special abilities.

Billy the Baby adventurer has Society+5 and tries to recall knowledge against his cleaver wielding foe.

Results:
Natural 1: Critical Fail, give erroneous information. (Example: Bob is a half-orc and as a result of his upbringing is extremely resilient against mental effects.)

2-8 (+5 = 7-13): Fail: Learn nothing.

9-18: (+5 = 14-23) Success: Bob is an Orc and can survive deadly blows, hit him again when he staggers to finish him off (Ferocity)

19: (+5 =24) Crit Success: Bob is an Orc (with Ferocity) and will leave a bleeding wound on frightened foes.

20: Here's when things get slightly tricky, we've now crit succeeded against both DCs. Do we give more personal info? if I had something interesting I'd probably share, if not it's easy enough to treat the same as the 24.

3/5 ** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro

Blake's Tiger wrote:

I don’t think Google or the internet plays into that comparison. I don’t have a Google-Fi chip in my brain feeding me answers when I try to remember the Krebs cycle. If you asked me to diagram it, I’d not be able to and pretty much only be able to say it generates ATP, but I certainly wouldn’t “Crit Fail” and make up some chemical cycle for photosynthesis that I assert with confidence that this is the Krebs cycle. I don’t remember trigonometry, but if shown an equation to solve for the cosine of theta, I’m going to draw a blank, not “Crit Fail” and spout out a random number. I can’t tell you the difference between a house sparrow and a field sparrow anymore, but I’m not going to confuse a sparrow for a grackle, robin, chickadee, and certainly not an owl. None of that has to do with the internet or Google.

But we have the system we have.

Actually as an abstraction it works out fairly well. My favorite example of this is treating hypothermia. It's all scientifically speaking complete and utter b+~$$&!* but for almost 50 or so years people were spreading what was effectively a natural 1 on a dice roll. I could go on because it's a really fascinating subject but suffice to say competent people do screw up in amazing ways.

2/5 5/5 *

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

But the people treating hypothermia in 1980 were accurately replicating the standard of care, they didn’t Crit Fail their recollection and do something randomly and actively wrong from what was taught.

Radiant Oath 1/5 *

But that is also something represented by a Critical Failure- it doesn't have to be a mistake on the part of the character, it can represent incorrect knowledge they have been taught. Whether they remember it right or wrong doesn't matter, all that matters is that it's incorrect.

2/5 5/5 *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

When the methods reflect the best science at the time and there is no other better way to "recall" then it is not even a function of recall. You would have been unable to "Crit Succeed" what you learned about treating hypothermia and do anything different. But I'm going to move away from the example of treating hypothermia as it is too close to home and a roll of a d20 does not accurately model the evolution of medical science.

The misinformation that a critical failure could represent could certainly reflect accurately recalling misinformation that had been passed to you. E.g., the sailor at the bar describing a sea monster exaggerated or misperceived something in the encounter, the history of House So-and-So was relayed to you by an unreliable source, etc.

A problem is that at least 5% of the time you recall misinformation, not merely that you don't know the answer, but you actively recall that you remember and believe something untrue about a subject to be true. This is compounded in PFS where you could critically succeed a Recall Knowledge check against a griffon and critically fail a Recall Knowledge check against a different griffon the next session, which requires some suspension of disbelief.

My animal Druid with Expert proficiency in Nature with a +11 modifier is going to remember something untrue about at least one of: a bat, a cat, a cow, a dog, an eagle, a fox, a goat, a horse, a pony, or a raven.

3/5 ** Venture-Agent, Massachusetts—Boston Metro

Blake's Tiger wrote:

When the methods reflect the best science at the time and there is no other better way to "recall" then it is not even a function of recall. You would have been unable to "Crit Succeed" what you learned about treating hypothermia and do anything different. But I'm going to move away from the example of treating hypothermia as it is too close to home and a roll of a d20 does not accurately model the evolution of medical science

I mean that wasn't best science at the time. You know as well as I do know what the issue is and the fact that nobody bothered to fact check the science until 1990 is a major screw up. I think that's why it stuck with me for so long because how do you not fact check your sources.....

Grand Lodge 5/5 ****

RealAlchemy wrote:
Common sense would certainly suggest that the only time Bob the Guard's Unique trait should apply would be for things unique about Bob - who is Bob's wife, what kind of beer does Bob drink, what street does Bob live on, etc. Unique should not apply to stuff about every human. Sadly, common sense is not always common.

The issue is: the +10 is explicitly mentioned to be applied in the CRB. There is no common sense phrase anywhere around it (I looked - very hard - RAW is pretty clear).

The common sense only comes with the GMG. I'm glad it was added in the GMG as 'common sense' told me to do it that way anyhow.

But if you ever have done a rules discussion on the rules question forum then common sense quite often loses to RAW. And as GM here you are supposed to run be RAW.

2/5 **

Thod wrote:
RealAlchemy wrote:
Common sense would certainly suggest that the only time Bob the Guard's Unique trait should apply would be for things unique about Bob - who is Bob's wife, what kind of beer does Bob drink, what street does Bob live on, etc. Unique should not apply to stuff about every human. Sadly, common sense is not always common.

The issue is: the +10 is explicitly mentioned to be applied in the CRB. There is no common sense phrase anywhere around it (I looked - very hard - RAW is pretty clear).

The common sense only comes with the GMG. I'm glad it was added in the GMG as 'common sense' told me to do it that way anyhow.

But if you ever have done a rules discussion on the rules question forum then common sense quite often loses to RAW. And as GM here you are supposed to run be RAW.

You didn't look hard enough:

Quote:

Ambiguous Rules

Sometimes a rule could be interpreted multiple ways. If one version is too good to be true, it probably is. If a rule seems to have wording with problematic repercussions or doesn’t work as intended, work with your group to find a good solution, rather than just playing with the rule as printed.

2/5 **

Blake's Tiger wrote:
My animal Druid with Expert proficiency in Nature with a +11 modifier is going to remember something untrue about at least one of: a bat, a cat, a cow, a dog, an eagle, a fox, a goat, a horse, a pony, or a raven.
Quote:

Recall Knowledge

To remember useful information on a topic, you can attempt to Recall Knowledge. You might know basic information about something without needing to attempt a check, but Recall Knowledge requires you to stop and think for a moment so you can recollect more specific facts and apply them.

Your Druid with expert in Nature probably wouldn't need to roll about any of those creatures unless you're trying to remember something very specific about them with tactical significance (e.g. made up example: swarms of ravens can be distracted by shiny objects). You aren't going to confuse any of them.

Grand Lodge 5/5 ****

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cavernshark wrote:


You didn't look hard enough:

Quote:

Ambiguous Rules

Sometimes a rule could be interpreted multiple ways. If one version is too good to be true, it probably is. If a rule seems to have wording with problematic repercussions or doesn’t work as intended, work with your group to find a good solution, rather than just playing with the rule as printed.

It wasn't about how I use it as GM - the remark was about how other GMs used it on me - and that citation doesn't cut it then.

Examples:
Paladin, backstory - he joined the Pathfinder Society because of Tar Barphon. Goes on adventure close to Lastwall - trained in Religion - still doesn't know to use something sharp against Zombies (low roll) - finds some zombies in another scenario - uses knowledge again and still isn't the wiser (low roll again).
It has become a running joke - if you meet zombies - bash them with Torags hammer - best way to lay them to rest.

A while later - fights against a devil. Has some Silversheen and likes to figure out if that is a demon or devil. Knowledge Religion - roll of 18 on the dice for a total of 27 (tier 5-6). Failed as the creature was unique.

The GMs just followed RAW. The problem isn't the rules themselves - the rule specifies a weakness needs a crit success (and I didn't even roll success on the zombies) - but common sense would tell you after three years of Pathfinder training and Tar Baphon coming back if it looks like a dead body walking - cut it down - if it looks like bones - smash it - would be part of Pathfinder 101.
In the second case - well - the creature truly was unique - but if only a nat20 works on your best trained knowledge stat then you just stop.

So yes - I'm glad the GMG sorts it out. But the GMG is less read and some GMs might not even have a copy (was lowest on my list of rule books to buy as I have the GMG 1e already).

And using ambiguous rules as a fix all is problematic in organized play. After all - we strive to keep table variation low.

2/5 **

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Thod wrote:
cavernshark wrote:


You didn't look hard enough:

Quote:

Ambiguous Rules

Sometimes a rule could be interpreted multiple ways. If one version is too good to be true, it probably is. If a rule seems to have wording with problematic repercussions or doesn’t work as intended, work with your group to find a good solution, rather than just playing with the rule as printed.

It wasn't about how I use it as GM - the remark was about how other GMs used it on me - and that citation doesn't cut it then.

Examples:
Paladin, backstory - he joined the Pathfinder Society because of Tar Barphon. Goes on adventure close to Lastwall - trained in Religion - still doesn't know to use something sharp against Zombies (low roll) - finds some zombies in another scenario - uses knowledge again and still isn't the wiser (low roll again).
It has become a running joke - if you meet zombies - bash them with Torags hammer - best way to lay them to rest.

A while later - fights against a devil. Has some Silversheen and likes to figure out if that is a demon or devil. Knowledge Religion - roll of 18 on the dice for a total of 27 (tier 5-6). Failed as the creature was unique.

The GMs just followed RAW. The problem isn't the rules themselves - the rule specifies a weakness needs a crit success (and I didn't even roll success on the zombies) - but common sense would tell you after three years of Pathfinder training and Tar Baphon coming back if it looks like a dead body walking - cut it down - if it looks like bones - smash it - would be part of Pathfinder 101.
In the second case - well - the creature truly was unique - but if only a nat20 works on your best trained knowledge stat then you just stop.

So yes - I'm glad the GMG sorts it out. But the GMG is less read and some GMs might not even have a copy (was lowest on my list of rule books to buy as I have the GMG 1e already).

And using ambiguous rules as a fix all is problematic in organized play....

The problem in both of those examples aren't RAW at all. They're GMs ignoring the guidance in the CRB on how to adjudicate Recall Knowledge by trying for a single passage instead of reading the totality of what's written. Recall Knowledge explicitly says "you might know basic information about something without needing to attempt a check, but Recall Knowledge requires you to stop and think for a moment so you can recollect more specific facts and apply them." A GM is 100% in their rights not to make a paladin of Lastwall roll to know not to bludgeon a zombie and to definitely bludgeon a skeleton.

As for the Demon vs. Devil example, I assume your GM read "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" and called it a day, but that's not even what it's saying. Knowing that a demon is generally weak to cold iron and a devil is generally weak to silver is a much lower threshold. That specific passage is pointing out that demons in 2e have a specific unique 'vulnerability' by type that can be exploited to defeat them. So A) it's not a definitive list, and B) that list doesn't even match the situation you were in.

At it's core, on success "You recall the knowledge accurately or gain a useful clue about your current situation." What's useful is going to change depending on the situation and character. The GM's job is to interpret that; ideally with input from the player.

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ***

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Thod wrote:
but common sense would tell you after three years of Pathfinder training and Tar Baphon coming back if it looks like a dead body walking - cut it down - if it looks like bones - smash it - would be part of Pathfinder 101.

To be fair, you don’t need a successful knowledge check to make that assumption and do it anyway. Nothing is stopping us from looking at a creature and assuming it’s a zombie, or a skeleton, or a fiend. I would like to think the Pathfinder Academy teaches us pragmatism as much if not moreso than precision. You cannot know everything about everyone so problem solving is more important than memorization. YMMV

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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I think Thod has a point - while the rules about handling ambiguous rules exist, and the GMG gives some more good advice - that advice is kinda all over the place. Not in the first place a GM would go to look up how Recall Knowledge works.

So a GM doing the medium, reasonable amount of work to be up to snuff wouldn't know all the stuff that the GM who's going the extra mile would know - but we lean heavily on that extra mile when insisting the system is already working fine. In practice, it's often not already working fine.

1/5

Richard Lowe wrote:
pauljathome wrote:

You may think that it is realistic that trained smart people get incorrect information a LOT but I certainly don't.

I know that in subjects that I actually know about its quite, quite rare for me to be actively wrong. I'm often unsure but I'm wrong way, way, way less than 5% of the time.

And in PF2 its quite common for somebody who is trained and reasonably good at a task to crit fail on more than a 1.

In fact, even on subjects that I know quite little about I'm a lot more likely to not know than to get the wrong answer. While in PF2 it is extremely easy to get to the point where one is actively wrong a LOT (well over 50% of the time).

I think that comparing knowledge in a world with google and the internet, as well as wide spread higher education and often easy access to continuing that to a world such as Golarion where such things either don't exist are are far rarer and more uncommon probably isn't terribly useful tbh.

Misinformation spreads as readily as true information, so saying that living in the information age mitigates critical failures is simply wrong.

Dark Archive 4/5 Venture-Captain, Online—VTT

I think there's also a whole army of different looks between "skeleton or zombie". It's not that all skeletons are nothing but bone and all zombies look like living people just with fatal wounds, some skeletons have clothing and armour and some flesh on them, some zombies have had huge amounts of flesh eaten away, the "can you tell which is which" with a single look is exactly what recall knowledge is and why someone without any training in it still can't be sure despite years of fighting them. Especially when their main experience is just fighting them, not careful studying of texts and example showing the different ways to tell a difference, just wild guesses in the midst of battle.

tl:dr; Not all undead of the same type look the same, there's many different looks, telling them apart is literally what recall knowledge does.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

I don't think there's any value in defending a poor model for the human brain, learning, and memory. There's some catharsis in lamenting how poorly it works, though.

But it is the mechanic we've got to play with.

Dark Archive 4/5 **

Blake's Tiger wrote:


My animal Druid with Expert proficiency in Nature with a +11 modifier is going to remember something untrue about at least one of: a bat, a cat, a cow, a dog, an eagle, a fox, a goat, a horse, a pony, or a raven.

That's actually not true. Considering that all of those are probably creature -1, 0, or 1 at most, a roll of nat 1 with +11 modifier is still a success, downgraded into fail for the nat 1 - not a critical fail. At most, you can't tell what kind of a bird it was, or whether it's a young horse or a pony.

I do think that the crucial point here is that a crit fail doesn't make you make up some random stuff about a creature you don't know - rather, you misremember something you've read, or you've heard a false fact earlier. A lot of this rests on the GM giving you logical, believeable information.
As an example, an adventure has canine creatures that are fiery in nature. The one PC that tried to identify them rolled a crit fail.
Instead of going wildly off the rails and claiming they are ice creatures instead of fire creatures, I merely changed the name a bit (In the lines of: Instead of calling them Ember Hounds, I called them fire wolves (or something similar)) and instead of telling that they had immunity to fire and weakness to cold, I told that they resist both fire and cold.

It's not like the GM has to go wild and claim they are octopi instead and that they have tentacles with grab, when they clearly don't.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
GM Tomppa wrote:
Blake's Tiger wrote:


My animal Druid with Expert proficiency in Nature with a +11 modifier is going to remember something untrue about at least one of: a bat, a cat, a cow, a dog, an eagle, a fox, a goat, a horse, a pony, or a raven.
That's actually not true. Considering that all of those are probably creature -1, 0, or 1 at most, a roll of nat 1 with +11 modifier is still a success, downgraded into fail for the nat 1...

Not to belabor the issue, but, no, they are critical fails: DCs 13, 14, and 15 vs 12.

I did twist the math up in my head and counted 2s and 3s as critical fails, so add 10 more animals on there.

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