Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I was debating with a Redditor about whether or not it was proper for a GM to target a Resentment witch's familiar that was using Ongoing Misery to curse enemies.

I argued that most enemies would not go out of their way to attack a familiar that, to all outward appearances, was little more than a hissing cat over more dangerous and pressing threats, like the fighter they're in melee with.

He countered that Recall Knowledge is a single action that anyone could do to learn that the cat is a familiar actively engaged in the combat and is using supernatural abilities to curse people despite showing no obvious signs of hostility other than hissing.

That surprised me. I have never seen an NPC make a Recall Knowledge check. Every GM I've ever played under has always had NPCs either know something, or not.

To me in my mind, Recall Knowledge is a player-oriented ability, kind of like how PCs can never have their attitudes changed or actions coerced by NPCs using Diplomacy and Intimidate, respectively. This seems more true than ever before in Remaster where it is clarified that the player asks targeted questions of the GM when using Recall Knowledge.

What do you think? Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?


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If an NPC is suddenly going to have knowledge about my character's abilities above and beyond what I may be actively showing them in combat then yeah. Them having to spend an action to know what I'm capable of feels appropriate to me. The flipside is enemies just happening to know stuff your party can do, which can feel real weird if you sit and think about it for a while.

Dark Archive

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In the original argument, the effects from the familiar don't have the subtle trait, so it should be plainly obvious where the effect is originating, right? NPCs should be able to discern without action where the effect is coming from and target appropriately.
I dunno, I'll have to check my player core later.

More broadly, I haven't had much cause to use recall knowledge as a GM, largely because it wouldn't have been particularly useful for them to do so.
Though I haven't played many smart spellcasters who would be interested in targeting specific saves. And even the few times I have, my groups' parties have been pretty typical in their compositions so it's often plainly obvious who's gonna have the lowest fort save (the others are less obvious, but I don't keep the player's stats immediately on-hand so I'm not metagaming that either).

Actually I did have one particular NPC who used RK pretty often.

Probably not even really a spoiler for Extinction Curse:
In Lord of the Black Sands (book 5 of extinction curse) the party is joined by a local Urdefhan for reasons. The book says that she can reveal a single detail about each creature they encounter in the desert.
I was having her roll Recall Knowledge checks for what kinds of things she knows to tell the party about.

Occasionally, I've had players ask NPCs something to the effect of "Do you know what kind of creature could have caused this?"
If the NPC isn't one who specifically does or does not know what might have caused whatever it was (based on what the adventure says), I'd have them roll. Heck, even if they specifically do or don't know, I'd probably go through the motions of rolling the dice.


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Ravingdork wrote:
What do you think? Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?

I've already used RK checks with NPCs. The main difficulty to do so is that most NPCs are Untrained in Society (the god skill to RK about PCs) and in most RK oriented skills. I've mostly used it outside combat (before the combat starts) or for spells (as some spell effects are both very visible but not obvious, like the Protector Tree one).

Without RK checks, I've sometimes used flawed deductions from enemies. For example size doesn't matter for most outsiders as sometimes Medium ones end up far more dangerous than Huge ones. As such, without a hint at their enemies' abilities, a demon can target the Familiar before the Barbarian just because in his mind the Familiar seems as threatening than the Barbarian (that's obviously before the Barbarian starts hacking).

It sometimes lead to funny fights:

"Why did the demons started the fight by downing my familiar?!!?
- Because it's unarmored so it has to be a caster.
- It's a cat...
- A what?"

As a side note: If you engage your Familiar in combat expect your Familiar to take some hits.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

In general, I think the idea of the enemy team using something to justify information they have about the players is reasonable.

Most NPCs aren't really equipped to use recall knowledge though so a GM would have to figure out something, but it seems reasonable that experienced and knowledgeable NPCs might either already know some things or be able to attempt to ascertain what's happening.

But I also think the specific example isn't great either. An NPC might not specifically know that you are a resentment witch activating ongoing misery, but they can still see both the caster and the familiar interacting with the battlefield. Many GMs would probably even run the characters having some inclination standing near the hissing, curse-spreading familiar is bad for their health. It's definitely reasonable, from an in-character perspective, that someone might want to swat the nuisance out of the way, especially since doing so requires relatively limited effort.

... The more direct issue here is whether or not it's kind of shitty for a GM to target a witch's familiar, which is more about the metagame aspects of play (and the answer is yes, it's all kinds of shitty).


Squiggit wrote:
... The more direct issue here is whether or not it's kind of s&#~ty for a GM to target a witch's familiar, which is more about the metagame aspects of play (and the answer is yes, it's all kinds of s!*%ty).

I question your point of view here. Why is it censored to target the Familiar?

Edit: During a memorable fight, I Dominated both the Summoner's Eidolon and the Fighter's mount. The Eidolon got no action and as such didn't act during its turn but I gave it an attack when a player triggered its Eidolon's Opportunity, and the mount trampled its former cavalier to the hilarity of the whole table.


Squiggit wrote:
The more direct issue here is whether or not it's kind of s@!!ty for a GM to target a witch's familiar, which is more about the metagame aspects of play (and the answer is yes, it's all kinds of s+%~ty).

The thing is that the reason it's kind of a mean move is that familiars are like house pets which nobody really want to see get hurt while having a class focused on them where the main counterplay to their abilities is to kill them. Like targeting a familiar mechanically is fine, witches have ways to protect them in that case, the issue is that you are stabbing a character's housecat which most players don't want to happen and most GM's don't want to do. It's my big problem with the witch changes.


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SuperBidi wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
... The more direct issue here is whether or not it's kind of s&#~ty for a GM to target a witch's familiar, which is more about the metagame aspects of play (and the answer is yes, it's all kinds of s!*%ty).
I question your point of view here. Why is it censored to target the Familiar?

A witch without a familiar loses a significant amount of mechanical functionality. Most of the reasons you'd want to play one are tied to the familiar being around.

The issue is destroying a familiar is both trivial to do and significantly negatively impacts the witch. Occasionally that can be fine, hardship is good storytelling.

But I've seen a decent amount of discourse online to the effect of turning this into a habitual tactic to counter certain witch abilities, which is mostly just a good way to annoy people into not wanting to play the class anymore, imo.


I use RK with NPCs many times and I also target familiars/companions/summons when this makes sense for the situation, creature type, abilities and knowledge.

For example:

  • Vs animals: I know that animals act for instinct and this instincts usually resumes to hunt, territory defense, self-defense, defense of offspring and domination. So if the players are facing a pack of wolves hunting I usually focus into the weakest creature of the party (commonly familiars) because they are hunting and their instincts and natural intelligence makes then to focus into the creatures that looks like more easier to kill and carry while avoid and try to distract the rest of the party members. While when facing an animal in territory defense I make it focus into the most frontline creatures no matter how stronger they are, in self-defense in most closer creature while it tries to find a way to run, in defense of offspring focus into those who are closer or damaging to their offspring, and in domination the char that looks like more stout.
  • Vs mindless: Most closer target.
  • Vs inteligent beasts: Depends from the beast objectives and personality. It's not rare to target minions if the beast notice that this minion is making dangerous things and is easier to kill.
  • Vs humanoids (NPCs): Will depend from NPC abilities and objectives. How integrated with the society the NPC is it? It has frequently interaction with adventurers? with casters? it's a caster? Of what tradition? It's trained or more in some RK skills? Depending from these answers and some others questions I made their decision and RK checks to know or not some of the PCs classes weaknesses.

    Also as already pointed by many of you most NPCs created for encounters doesn't have some skills by default because they usually are more combat oriented so sometimes I have to add some skills to then to allow me to roll a RK to know if they know some common weakness of the PCs classes or not.


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    Squiggit wrote:
    But I've seen a decent amount of discourse online to the effect of turning this into a habitual tactic to counter certain witch abilities

    Well, it's hard to judge. I agree that if the GM specifically targets the Familiar on a regular basis that's rather unfair. But on the other hand, I read some players stating that, roughly, a Familiar should never be attacked as it's cute and doesn't look threatening and its abilities are not obvious and you need a RK check to know it's not a normal cat, etc...

    I feel that this Familiar thing is very dependent on how you picture Ongoing Misery. Some people want it to be totaly invisible while I'm in the opposing side where the enemy clearly feels the Familiar is affecting them and I'll even go as far as saying that the enemy feels that the Familiar hissing at them prevents them from getting rid of some negative conditions.

    As a player, having the GM affecting my PC with effects and not even giving a hint at what they are is extremely unpleasant and feels unfair. I don't see why I'd not treat the enemies equally.

    So, I'm not sure I'd blame the GM if I was at one of these tables.


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    When I run it, I don't usually target a familiar unless the party was so weak that the familiar truly did seem like the greatest threat. I generally play the enemies being reactive to the greatest and most immediate threat, which is generally realistic barring some greater intelligent leader focusing them on a threat they may perceive as greater.

    If attacking from ambush, a predator might go for the weakest or most easily kill threat which might be a visible familiar if moving openly. It is more likely to be a straying PC or AC or a weak looking character.

    I don't see a familiar being targeted too often unless it truly is causing a huge problem that the enemy is aware of. Then again there is general AoE damage. That can hurt familiars real bad and is pretty common, especially at higher level.

    As far as RK against the PCs, I definitely use it if a powerful enemy like a lich or some powerful NPC is aware of them. They will use it offscreen and know how to deal with the PCs when they arrive. I pretty rarely use it in encounter mode.


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    I was debating with a Redditor about whether or not it was proper for a GM to target a Resentment witch's familiar that was using Ongoing Misery to curse enemies.

    I argued that most enemies would not go out of their way to attack a familiar that, to all outward appearances, was little more than a hissing cat over more dangerous and pressing threats, like the fighter they're in melee with.

    He countered that Recall Knowledge is a single action that anyone could do to learn that the cat is a familiar actively engaged in the combat and is using supernatural abilities to curse people despite showing no obvious signs of hostility other than hissing.

    That surprised me. I have never seen an NPC make a Recall Knowledge check. Every GM I've ever played under has always had NPCs either know something, or not.

    To me in my mind, Recall Knowledge is a player-oriented ability, kind of like how PCs can never have their attitudes changed or actions coerced by NPCs using Diplomacy and Intimidate, respectively. This seems more true than ever before in Remaster where it is clarified that the player asks targeted questions of the GM when using Recall Knowledge.

    What do you think? Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?

    PCs have the unique trait, so good luck with the recall knowledge check...

    But in all seriousness, I think resentment is just as obvious as silence under snow. The familiar glows or tendrils of darkness flow from it to the target or something.


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    I'd go with The Crow guidelines; mobs (and beasts) are generally too dumb/simplistic in tactics to see the familiar as a threat. Henchmen can figure it out with repeated interactions ('hey...every time that crow shows up, this guy becomes unkillable...hmmmm...'). Villains get it quickly, IN the first encounter. In-game, this is best represented by a villain doing an RK check, learning stuff like "that's a witch; much of their power comes from their familiar's connection to the supernatural. Kill the crow and the human becomes much more vulnerable."


    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Ectar wrote:

    In the original argument, the effects from the familiar don't have the subtle trait, so it should be plainly obvious where the effect is originating, right? NPCs should be able to discern without action where the effect is coming from and target appropriately.

    I dunno, I'll have to check my player core later.

    Why do you believe that a non-spell ability should in any way be governed by the rules for spells?

    If, a cat say, is hissing at you, it is clearly hostile, but what indication do you have that it is the source of the curse, indeed that you have even been cursed at all?

    I don't believe characters intrinsically know how long their negative conditions are going to last what's more, so how or why would they suddenly know that an ongoing condition is going to last a round longer.

    A person on fire or bleeding out isn't going to be thinking about killing the hissing cat. They are likely going to be looking for traditional means to put out the fire or stop the bleeding.

    If a GM wwnt a different way, and killed the cat, that would be such a departure from normal behavior in most scenarios as to destroy my suspension of disbelief.


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    Why do you believe that a non-spell ability should in any way be governed by the rules for spells?

    If, a cat say, is hissing at you, it is clearly hostile, but what indication do you have that it is the source of the curse, indeed that you have even been cursed at all?

    I don't believe characters intrinsically know how long their negative conditions are going to last what's more, so how or why would they suddenly know that an ongoing condition is going to last a round longer.

    A person on fire or bleeding out isn't going to be thinking about killing the hissing cat. They are likely going to be looking for traditional means to put out the fire or stop the bleeding.

    If a GM wwnt a different way, and killed the cat, that would be such a departure from normal behavior in most scenarios as to destroy my suspension of disbelief.

    Well, I think we have nailed down the issue.

    As a GM, I would kill the cat, sometimes, because it's using Ongoing Misery at my monsters.

    In my opinion, GMs should talk with their Resentment Witch players and tell them how they handle this case.


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    Ravingdork wrote:
    Ectar wrote:

    In the original argument, the effects from the familiar don't have the subtle trait, so it should be plainly obvious where the effect is originating, right? NPCs should be able to discern without action where the effect is coming from and target appropriately.

    I dunno, I'll have to check my player core later.

    Why do you believe that a non-spell ability should in any way be governed by the rules for spells?

    If, a cat say, is hissing at you, it is clearly hostile, but what indication do you have that it is the source of the curse, indeed that you have even been cursed at all?

    I don't believe characters intrinsically know how long their negative conditions are going to last what's more, so how or why would they suddenly know that an ongoing condition is going to last a round longer.

    A person on fire or bleeding out isn't going to be thinking about killing the hissing cat. They are likely going to be looking for traditional means to put out the fire or stop the bleeding.

    If a GM wwnt a different way, and killed the cat, that would be such a departure from normal behavior in most scenarios as to destroy my suspension of disbelief.

    See, I'd say that they can feel the condition getting worse when the cat hisses or sense palpable malice coming from it or something like that.

    It's similar to silence under snow. Sure, it could be a big coincidence that snow keeps showing up right next to the familiar, but it feels deliberately obtuse to say that the monsters don't realize the cat is the source.


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    Ravingdork wrote:
    If, a cat say, is hissing at you, it is clearly hostile, but what indication do you have that it is the source of the curse, indeed that you have even been cursed at all?

    The characters live in a magical world where animals sometimes cast curses and that sickness you feel could easily be the fault of a curse rather than last night's chili. So it is a reasonable GM call to decide how much background knowledge sentient beings in the setting will have (i.e. without RK rolls) on how witches and other spellcasters work. This does not mean every enemy must automatically know about familiars and what they can do. This does not mean no enemy ever knows that. It means in different games the npcs will have different levels of background information, and it's important for the players and the GM to understand what that setting is, before bringing their familiars out to play in combat.

    Quote:
    If a GM wwnt a different way, and killed the cat, that would be such a departure from normal behavior in most scenarios as to destroy my suspension of disbelief.

    It would be a departure from OUR normal behavior, in the real world, in the west. Because we have given up the superstitious belief that cats can be satanic messengers of evil who cast curses. But even in the real world, there are places where they kill cats to try and break curses, and in a fantasy world where cats actually can cast curses and be shapeshifted combatants, it would be far more reasonable to think that the tiny cat standing it's ground in a full-on sword clashing, fireball slinging battle, might be a supernatural agent rather than someone's pet caught in the crossfire.


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    I use recall knowledge on NPCs all the time, though mostly out of combat. Have been doing this since PF1. I roughly know what an NPC knows about the main plot mostly, but that's about it. There are infinitely many unforeseen situations while roleplaying so that I could not imagine NOT rolling dice to determine what an NPC knows.

    'I ask the bartender what he knows about the barbarian king' <GM rolls dice, crit fails> 'The bartender has heard rumours that the barbarian king can turn into a dragon'

    'I tell the fruit merchant in a subtle way that I know the fish merchant is using false weights' <GM rolls dice, crit success, PC rolls diplomacy, crit success> 'It seems that she already knew that, but she is impressed by your gossip and trusts you a lot more'


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    @Ravingdork: "invisible" effects is a can of worms I'd prefer not to open.

    To take an example: Diseases are mostly "invisible". If a character gets hit by a Ghoul I can roll a secret Fortitude check as they have no way to know they're contaminated. Every day, I can roll secret Fortitude checks to determine how the disease evolves and just give general information ("You feel life is sucked out of you."). If the characters try to determine what happens I can roll (secret) RK checks to recognize the disease. I can even roll secret counteract checks if they use Remove Disease (after all, what visual effect Remove Disease has?).

    With a bit of luck, I'm pretty sure I can turn a character into a Ghoul with most of the table being puzzled about what's happening. But I'm also sure the second they understand how I've handled the situation they'd burn me at the stake.

    If a Resentment Witch player tells me enemies shouldn't understand what their Familiar hissing at them does, I'll answer them that from this moment on I'll keep for myself anything that happens to their character and that isn't "clear". Their hp pool will become secret and I'll just tell them if they are feeling "good", "bad" or "close to death" (after all does anyone knows how much "hp" they have?). I won't tell them anything about the conditions affecting them but just give general descriptions ("You feel dizzy and have hard time to focus. Ho, you cast a spell, roll a flat check."). And obviously, anything that isn't obvious will just be kept silent and I'll roll much more secret checks than I'm used to (especially saves).
    I'm pretty sure in less than an hour the player will ask me to go back to a world where they know what's happening even if it costs them their Familiar.

    The game is much better when you have clear and precise information about nearly everything.


    We actually run diseases like that, at least at initial infection. After that we say what the condition is. Helps prevent metagaming where PCs go "oh I probably failed a Fort save this encounter but nothing happened. Better prep cure disease tomorrow before it actually starts doing something"

    But yeah I agree - PCs should know what is going on mechanically at least.


    Calliope5431 wrote:

    We actually run diseases like that, at least at initial infection. After that we say what the condition is. Helps prevent metagaming where PCs go "oh I probably failed a Fort save this encounter but nothing happened. Better prep cure disease tomorrow before it actually starts doing something"

    But yeah I agree - PCs should know what is going on mechanically at least.

    I've seen both ways of handling the initial infection.

    But experienced players tend to check their characters after an encounter against monsters that typically carry diseases (undeads and monsters with hygiene issues). So it's sometimes hard as a GM to completely hide the thing without feeling adversarial.


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    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

    I run diseases in much the same way.

    Easl wrote:
    The characters live in a magical world where animals sometimes cast curses...

    Ongoing Misery is not "cast."

    SuperBidi wrote:
    If a Resentment Witch player tells me enemies shouldn't understand what their Familiar hissing at them does, I'll answer them that from this moment on I'll keep for myself anything that happens to their character and that isn't "clear". Their hp pool will become secret and I'll just tell them if they are feeling "good", "bad" or "close to death" (after all does anyone knows how much "hp" they have?). I won't tell them anything about the conditions affecting them but just give general descriptions ("You feel dizzy and have hard time to focus. Ho, you cast a spell, roll a flat check."). And obviously, anything that isn't obvious will just be kept silent and I'll roll much more secret checks than I'm used to (especially saves).

    The difference is that the player would be following the rules, and you wouldn't be. Players know how many hit points their characters have and how much damage their character's attacks do. A great many abilities just don't function as intended if you keep that from the players.

    Any GM is well within their rights to make up new rules, such as Ongoing Misery causing an observable effect such as trailing lights or a feeling of unwellness, but since the ability mentions nothing of the sort, that would undoubtedly be a house rule.

    If a discussion and agreement is made in advance then that's well and good, but a surprise house rule that entirely changes how an ability is described is tantamount to punishment for having dared to take and use the ability in the first place.

    It would be nothing less than a breach of the social contract that everyone has agreed to play the game by the same rules, to the best of their ability.

    If you then change a bunch of other rules to spite your players just because they rightfully called you out on your shenanigans, then that is detestable GM behavior.


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    I would roll a recall knowledge check for something an NPC could know that would be helpful to them in the given situation in those cases where I"m ambivalent about whether they know the thing or not. This hasn't come up a lot but I could see it coming up.

    The thing about "attacking the familiar" is probably a separate question entirely that comes down to "how the players in the game feel about cutthroat tactics by the bad guys." It's like how some tables like it when NPCs will finish off downed PCs before moving on, and some people hate that.


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    SuperBidi wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:

    We actually run diseases like that, at least at initial infection. After that we say what the condition is. Helps prevent metagaming where PCs go "oh I probably failed a Fort save this encounter but nothing happened. Better prep cure disease tomorrow before it actually starts doing something"

    But yeah I agree - PCs should know what is going on mechanically at least.

    I've seen both ways of handling the initial infection.

    But experienced players tend to check their characters after an encounter against monsters that typically carry diseases (undeads and monsters with hygiene issues). So it's sometimes hard as a GM to completely hide the thing without feeling adversarial.

    Yup, very fair.

    It's also sort of weird because of hero points, which make it so that if you want to not break immersion ("Gee, I just bombed a Fort save after getting hit with its claw attack, I wonder if I'll get sick in a couple days") and roll the saves in secret, then by definition the PCs can't spend hero points on them (since then they'd know they were making a save).

    Of course, given the fact that diseases aren't initially all that crippling, I'd almost rather not have the opportunity to waste a hero point on them. I've definitely wasted some when I was worried that the fort save was actually against poison, drained, doomed, stunned or something vastly more likely to get me and my party killed in combat.

    But yeah our group started doing the secret checks after the umpteenth "well I bombed a Fort save during combat with no visible effects, better throw some cure diseases at it just to be sure" moment.

    I agree that extremely paranoid PCs may just start checking themselves for diseases after every single fight though.


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    I run diseases in much the same way.

    Easl wrote:
    The characters live in a magical world where animals sometimes cast curses...

    Ongoing Misery is not "cast."

    SuperBidi wrote:
    If a Resentment Witch player tells me enemies shouldn't understand what their Familiar hissing at them does, I'll answer them that from this moment on I'll keep for myself anything that happens to their character and that isn't "clear". Their hp pool will become secret and I'll just tell them if they are feeling "good", "bad" or "close to death" (after all does anyone knows how much "hp" they have?). I won't tell them anything about the conditions affecting them but just give general descriptions ("You feel dizzy and have hard time to focus. Ho, you cast a spell, roll a flat check."). And obviously, anything that isn't obvious will just be kept silent and I'll roll much more secret checks than I'm used to (especially saves).

    The difference is that the player would be following the rules, and you wouldn't be. Players know how many hit points their characters have and how much damage their character's attacks do. A great many abilities just don't function as intended if you keep that from the players.

    Any GM is well within their rights to make up new rules, such as Ongoing Misery causing an observable effect such as trailing lights or a feeling of unwellness, but since the ability mentions nothing of the sort, that would undoubtedly be a house rule.

    If a discussion and agreement is made in advance then that's well and good, but a surprise house rule that entirely changes how an ability is described is tantamount to punishment for having dared to take and use the ability in the first place.

    It would be nothing less than a breach of the social contract that everyone has agreed to play the game by the same rules, to the best of their ability.

    If you then change a bunch of other rules to spite your players just because they rightfully called you out on your shenanigans, then that is detestable GM...

    I'm pretty sure this comes down to personal taste. But for me, given how OBSCENELY strong Ongoing Misery is (try it with Command or the sorcerer focus spell You're Mine and watch your GM's head explode) I'm fairly certain that it's meant to be high risk/high reward. And that was likely a balance point.

    As a witch, you get your familiar back on a long rest. It's not a long term issue if they get killed like a PC death is. If you want to send your kitty into melee...they might get attacked sometimes. No more than any other PC would, but sometimes.


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    I run diseases in much the same way.

    Easl wrote:
    The characters live in a magical world where animals sometimes cast curses...
    Ongoing Misery is not "cast."

    Sigh. Really? Okay, the characters live in a magical world where animals may do a variety of magical things that go under a variety of game rule terms. Better? The point still holds - in their world, suspicions about animals that would be unreasonable in our world may make a lot more sense. Do you agree, or disagree?

    Quote:
    If a discussion and agreement is made in advance then that's well and good, but a surprise house rule that entirely changes how an ability is described is tantamount to punishment for having dared to take and use the ability in the first place.

    Agreed: surprise rules bad, prior agreements on rules good. But in a fantasy world where witches gain magical powers through their familiars, it may be reasonable for enemies to look at the magical power-wielding character with the black cat and go "hmmm...I bet that cat is helping the witch do magicy stuff. I'll take it out if I get the chance." And again, I'm not saying all enemies should think that way and I'm not saying no enemies should think that way. I'm saying it is reasonable but game world specific. So talk to your GM about the background info "most people" in your world know. So that you understand whether a hissing cat in combat is going to be shrugged off as an angry pet or whether the enemy might naturally connect the hissing cat to "witch! Get it!"


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    Ravingdork wrote:

    [...]

    Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?

    Short: Yes. If confronted with a question where GM wants to let dice decide whether NPCs know the answer - why not?

    (Liked the question, btw.) Actually NPC Recall Knowledge feels not totally common situation, but this could be because (as a player) you don't necessarily get the info when GMs do it for NPCs. So might be under-reported.


    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    calnivo wrote:
    Ravingdork wrote:

    [...]

    Can NPCs use Recall Knowledge? Should they?
    Short: Yes. If confronted with a question where GM wants to let dice decide whether NPCs know the answer - why not?

    Because NPCs are built to different standards than PCs.

    An NPC could have a statblock showing that they are a 5th-level fighter with many of the expected values and abilities appropriate for a combat encounter. Such a character might even have a Recall Knowledge skill or two listed.

    The very same NPC might also have a non-combat statblock showing their abilities as a 15th-level chef, with all the expected values and abilities that would make them an absolute beast in a high level kitchen.

    When you have that kind of wishy washy disparity, how do you decide what values to use?

    An NPC likely knows and can do far more than their starblock indicates. The stats only exist to progress the combat encounter or, in the case of the chef example, a skill encounter. They are not, and never were intended to be, indicative of everything an NPC can do or know.

    What is a GM to do then? What they always do: decide for themselves what the NPC should or shouldn't know.


    Understandable. I might add: From time to time and when the plot doesn't demand otherwise, I like to let chance play a part in the question what an NPC knows. This could be a flat-check or d100 roll, e.g. when I determine that a given chance is X %. Or it can actually be a recall knowledge check according to usual rules player characters use as well. (If I have the skill value up front or want to set it ad-hoc.)

    Liberty's Edge

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    It is as reasonable for an enemy to know that Familiars are crucial to a Character as it is for them to know that a Spellbook or a special Holy Symbol is.

    If anything, Familiars should be more obvious as a source of power and have a bias toward being targeted than basically any other thing that a PC uses to leverage power since, well, they have their own HP and can easily be targeted to great effect.

    Kill the cat.


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    My table is generally fairly player-favored in terms of rulings but I always make it clear that the NPCs can do anything the players can. This tends to stop my players from trying any exploits they wouldn't want me doing back to them. So if they want to instantly recognize that an effect is coming from a familiar that's cool and that's how we'll run things but they won't be able to get mad when their familiar is targeted when it starts to do spooky stuff on the battlefield.


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    Ravingdork wrote:
    The difference is that the player would be following the rules, and you wouldn't be. Players know how many hit points their characters have and how much damage their character's attacks do. A great many abilities just don't function as intended if you keep that from the players.

    I agree that I was getting into the hyperbole. But take a simple thing the GM can easily hide to the player: Results to saving throws against your spells. After all, nothing tells you if the monster succeeded or failed at your Slow spell, in both cases the monster is Slowed.

    Now, imagine playing your Resentment Witch when the GM never gives you information about the results of your spells. Are you really sure you want to play the hiding game with the GM?


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    I feel like it should be pretty common sense given superstitions that if a cat is standing in the middle of the battlefield hissing instead of running all the way to the other side of the dungeon (as mine does when an object falls and males unexpected noise), that this cat is probably the servitor of some malicious spellcaster. Granted, if it's not obvious what the hissing is doing (how badly and how visibly the target is affected) I might ignore it, but if my buddy is staring into space with a cat hissing at him in the middle of the fight, I might cry "witch" and kill whichever of them is closest, the hissing cat or whoever is giving it orders.

    (Because witches are the only spellcaster whose familiar has this much utility beyond just being a spy and messenger, the reaction of course might depend on Recall Knowledge or local beliefs. In Ustalav I'd treat a familiar as bad news to those on the receiving end, but in Nex everybody can do a little magic and they might see familiars as daily events, do they'd be more likely to know what familiars can do but more likely to target the caster about it unless desperate.)


    SuperBidi wrote:
    Ravingdork wrote:
    The difference is that the player would be following the rules, and you wouldn't be. Players know how many hit points their characters have and how much damage their character's attacks do. A great many abilities just don't function as intended if you keep that from the players.

    I agree that I was getting into the hyperbole. But take a simple thing the GM can easily hide to the player: Results to saving throws against your spells. After all, nothing tells you if the monster succeeded or failed at your Slow spell, in both cases the monster is Slowed.

    Now, imagine playing your Resentment Witch when the GM never gives you information about the results of your spells. Are you really sure you want to play the hiding game with the GM?

    There's an even more blatant analogy.

    Namely, your PC gets dominated by an enemy caster (let's call him Jafar) with no resaves for no apparent reason. Meanwhile on an unrelated note, Jafar's pet parrot Iago is swooping over the battlefield.

    I know as a PC that I'd be extremely annoyed if my GM later said "yeah you actually could have ended the effect by shooting the parrot" but had given NO verbal cues that the parrot was in any way involved with the domination.

    That's basically the precedent this sets.


    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
    Calliope5431 wrote:

    There's an even more blatant analogy.

    Namely, your PC gets dominated by an enemy caster (let's call him Jafar) with no resaves for no apparent reason. Meanwhile on an unrelated note, Jafar's pet parrot Iago is swooping over the battlefield.

    I know as a PC that I'd be extremely annoyed if my GM later said "yeah you actually could have ended the effect by shooting the parrot" but had given NO verbal cues that the parrot was in any way involved with the domination.

    That's basically the precedent this sets.

    Aside from the usual "crap, I can't play my character for a while" that inevitably comes with dominate effects, this actually wouldn't bother me too much.

    At least, not until the session ended without a resolution. Then I'd probably freak out.


    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

    I generally have intelligent creatures meta game knowledge checks (or the lack thereof) about the same as players do. If they see someone slow and clanky, they are more likely to target reflex saves. A dumb brute might get targeted for will, and a waifish caster or rapier wielder would have fort targeted. But that can of course backfire just like it does for PCs if the "rogue" is actually a swashbuckler with charmed life or an otherwise strong will save.

    I'd try to use a similar approach to PC class abilities. It might be apparent that the familiar is doing SOMETHING, but what that is might call for a DC 15 knowledge check. Kinda like how the sigil makes it obvious there's a connection between summoners and eidolons, but you might need a check to know exactly how it works.

    I'll note that I think people are underselling how trivially a familiar can be taken out. They have the same defenses as their caster and with toughness only a little less HP at low levels. They use dying rules. They can fly to stay out of reach, and occupy a space between the front line and the back line, meaning positions to melee a familiar probably takes you out of reach of attacking anyone else. At higher levels, monsters can bypass those assumptions, but at those levels the monster has less action because of slow and less time alive because of synesthesia. Diverting attacks towards the familiar instead of the PCs who are actively killing you is not necessarily tactically sound. You might weaken the witch for the rest of the day but you're worsening your own odds of survival. How many creatures are smart enough to target the familiar but also lack self preservation?

    Area of effects are really the danger, but there's a lot of mitigation options against those too.


    Ravingdork wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:

    There's an even more blatant analogy.

    Namely, your PC gets dominated by an enemy caster (let's call him Jafar) with no resaves for no apparent reason. Meanwhile on an unrelated note, Jafar's pet parrot Iago is swooping over the battlefield.

    I know as a PC that I'd be extremely annoyed if my GM later said "yeah you actually could have ended the effect by shooting the parrot" but had given NO verbal cues that the parrot was in any way involved with the domination.

    That's basically the precedent this sets.

    Aside from the usual "crap, I can't play my character for a while" that inevitably comes with dominate effects, this actually wouldn't bother me too much.

    At least, not until the session ended without a resolution. Then I'd probably freak out.

    Quite fair! And that's honestly great, if it works for you.

    (Myself, I think of domination more as mandatory suggestions from the GM and let people keep on playing their PCs, since getting put on the bench is no fun. It works pretty well and nobody has ever abused it or complained)


    My question would be, do PCs have the Unique trait, thus raising the DC of RK to ID them?


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    Bongo BigBounce wrote:
    My question would be, do PCs have the Unique trait, thus raising the DC of RK to ID them?

    That question is better answered on this thread.

    Basically, yes... but it generally won't make a difference for the things that the enemy is wanting to learn.


    Themetricsystem wrote:

    It is as reasonable for an enemy to know that Familiars are crucial to a Character as it is for them to know that a Spellbook or a special Holy Symbol is.

    Well if it's reasonable for them to know the power level of familiars then it's totally unreasonable for them to do anything about them. Perhaps one in a hundred will dimly recall legends of the rare resentment witch, but everyone else will know they can safely ignore those furballs.


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    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
    Themetricsystem wrote:

    It is as reasonable for an enemy to know that Familiars are crucial to a Character as it is for them to know that a Spellbook or a special Holy Symbol is.

    If anything, Familiars should be more obvious as a source of power and have a bias toward being targeted than basically any other thing that a PC uses to leverage power since, well, they have their own HP and can easily be targeted to great effect.

    Kill the cat.

    ... This seems like a weird example because "GM destroys the wizard's spellbook" is one of the prime examples of an 'obvious' good tatic that's generally considered bad form because it just makes one player kind of miserable and useless.


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    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm pretty sure this comes down to personal taste. But for me, given how OBSCENELY strong Ongoing Misery is (try it with Command or the sorcerer focus spell You're Mine and watch your GM's head explode)

    Neither of these is a problem. It's obvious from the heighten effect of You're Mine (and how Dominate works) that simply extending the duration doesn't take away the save every round to end the spell. Getting an extra round out of the crit fail effect on You're Mine is strong, though, sure. (The failure effect doesn't give a condition that can be extended.)

    Command forces certain actions, but it doesn't directly impose any conditions (it can tell you to drop prone, but your action, not the spell, is what made you prone) so there's no condition for it to extend.

    Squiggit wrote:
    Themetricsystem wrote:

    It is as reasonable for an enemy to know that Familiars are crucial to a Character as it is for them to know that a Spellbook or a special Holy Symbol is.

    If anything, Familiars should be more obvious as a source of power and have a bias toward being targeted than basically any other thing that a PC uses to leverage power since, well, they have their own HP and can easily be targeted to great effect.

    Kill the cat.

    ... This seems like a weird example because "GM destroys the wizard's spellbook" is one of the prime examples of an 'obvious' good tatic that's generally considered bad form because it just makes one player kind of miserable and useless.

    GM destroy's the wizard's spellbook is one of the infamously bad tactics that's generally regarded as psychopathic and unrealistic because it doesn't help anyone survive a fight. It would be like sundering someone's wallet during a gun fight in the hope that even if they do shoot you they might slowly starve afterwards if they're unemployed and you took out all their credit cards and forms of ID.


    Xenocrat wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm pretty sure this comes down to personal taste. But for me, given how OBSCENELY strong Ongoing Misery is (try it with Command or the sorcerer focus spell You're Mine and watch your GM's head explode)

    Neither of these is a problem. It's obvious from the heighten effect of You're Mine (and how Dominate works) that simply extending the duration doesn't take away the save every round to end the spell.

    Mmm, does it, though?

    You're mine only has the one saving throw normally - when it is cast. If you fail but don't crit fail, you're controlled for a fixed duration. Only crit fails give resaves.

    I don't believe you get resaves if someone casts You're Mine, you fail, and they extend the duration with Ongoing Misery.

    You don't normally get resaves (because it normally doesn't last long enough for you to need them), so there's no reason at all to believe that you get them now that the duration is longer.


    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm fairly certain that it's meant to be high risk/high reward. And that was likely a balance point.

    You say that, but Ongoing Misery is less risky on pretty much all counts than the familiar ability that lets them flank.

    So it's clearly not balanced that way at all.


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    Squiggit wrote:
    Themetricsystem wrote:

    It is as reasonable for an enemy to know that Familiars are crucial to a Character as it is for them to know that a Spellbook or a special Holy Symbol is.

    If anything, Familiars should be more obvious as a source of power and have a bias toward being targeted than basically any other thing that a PC uses to leverage power since, well, they have their own HP and can easily be targeted to great effect.

    Kill the cat.

    ... This seems like a weird example because "GM destroys the wizard's spellbook" is one of the prime examples of an 'obvious' good tatic that's generally considered bad form because it just makes one player kind of miserable and useless.

    That's different the spellbook will usually be guarded and kept on the Wizard's person. If that same spellbook starts whizzing around the battlefield slinging spells or otherwise being a problem it's fair game to destroy it.


    Squiggit wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm fairly certain that it's meant to be high risk/high reward. And that was likely a balance point.

    You say that, but Ongoing Misery is less risky on pretty much all counts than the familiar ability that lets them flank.

    So it's clearly not balanced that way at all.

    I meant sending your familiar into melee or near it, actually.

    I never claimed witch subclasses are balanced against familiar abilities or against each other. Just that there was A balance point somewhere. Resentment is miles ahead of everyone else. But ALL the witch subclasses are balanced by being within a few feet of the enemies you want to affect. I don't think that's a coincidence.


    Calliope5431 wrote:
    Xenocrat wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm pretty sure this comes down to personal taste. But for me, given how OBSCENELY strong Ongoing Misery is (try it with Command or the sorcerer focus spell You're Mine and watch your GM's head explode)

    Neither of these is a problem. It's obvious from the heighten effect of You're Mine (and how Dominate works) that simply extending the duration doesn't take away the save every round to end the spell.

    Mmm, does it, though?

    Obviously so.

    Calliope5431 wrote:

    You're mine only has the one saving throw normally - when it is cast. If you fail but don't crit fail, you're controlled for a fixed duration.

    This isn't correct. A failure does not impose the controlled condition with a timed duration, which would be necessary to be subject to Ongoing Misery.


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    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
    3-Body Problem wrote:


    That's different the spellbook will usually be guarded and kept on the Wizard's person. If that same spellbook starts whizzing around the battlefield slinging spells or otherwise being a problem it's fair game to destroy it.

    Not really an important difference though. If wizards had a class feature that required them to throw their spellbook into the middle of the battlefield in order to function properly, it would be no less debilitating or obnoxious to destroy it.

    If you want to make a habit of regularly breaking someone's core class features as a GM, it would be easier to just tell the person not to play that class before the game starts.

    Calliope5431 wrote:
    But ALL the witch subclasses are balanced by being within a few feet of the enemies you want to affect. I don't think that's a coincidence.

    Given that no other class, even ones with significantly more potent abilities, run a comparable risk and most Witch familiar abilities aren't particularly out of bounds power wise (or frankly, even very good at all), I'm not sure I can agree. It just doesn't make sense from a broader balance perspective.

    If anything, the centrality of the familiar to the class and the mundanity of most of those abilities seem to point to the same conclusion I'm reaching, that destroying it isn't really something that's supposed to happen often, if at all.


    Xenocrat wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    Xenocrat wrote:
    Calliope5431 wrote:
    I'm pretty sure this comes down to personal taste. But for me, given how OBSCENELY strong Ongoing Misery is (try it with Command or the sorcerer focus spell You're Mine and watch your GM's head explode)

    Neither of these is a problem. It's obvious from the heighten effect of You're Mine (and how Dominate works) that simply extending the duration doesn't take away the save every round to end the spell.

    Mmm, does it, though?

    Obviously so.

    Calliope5431 wrote:

    You're mine only has the one saving throw normally - when it is cast. If you fail but don't crit fail, you're controlled for a fixed duration.

    This isn't correct. A failure does not impose the controlled condition with a timed duration, which would be necessary to be subject to Ongoing Misery.
    You're Mine wrote:


    Heightened (7th) On a failure, the target is controlled for 1 round.

    It does at higher level, actually


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    Squiggit wrote:

    Not really an important difference though. If wizards had a class feature that required them to throw their spellbook into the middle of the battlefield in order to function properly, it would be no less debilitating or obnoxious to destroy it.

    If you want to make a habit of regularly breaking someone's core class features as a GM, it would be easier to just tell the person not to play that class before the game starts.

    I expect my players to understand that some abilities come with greater risks than others and to be smart about it. In the case where you must throw your spellbook and risk it being destroyed I'd expect players to, as much as possible, make back-up spells books or even make spellbooks designed to meet the bare minimum requirements to generate the effect so their main spellbook isn't at risk.

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