"General" recall knowledge checks


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


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How do you handle "generic" recall knowledge checks? For instance, it seems weird that you'd have to roll against the PC's basically impossible unique RK DC to know what ability they're using (brought up in another thread). In the same way IDing spells monsters cast uses the DC for the spell, not for the monster. Same thing applies to "knowing that red dragons breathe fire", "vampires are vulnerable to garlic" or "demons are vulnerable to cold iron". This is folklore that random people on the street can tell you - sure, you might not know that the six armed snake lady is a demon and thus that she's vulnerable to cold iron, but you know demons are vulnerable to cold iron in the abstract.

The most egregious example I've ever seen of this is a named velstrac having a DC 10 points higher than a generic one despite having literally the same statblock as the one in the bestiary, because it had the "unique" tag.

What sort of DC is appropriate? It seems somewhat important, since we all know PCs may metagame vampire weaknesses anyway, and it seems bizarre that you might have to make a DC 40 check about a level 17 vampire... when a level 3 adventurer can tell you that vampires are vulnerable to garlic and silver off a DC 18 check.


I remember hearing that this was greatly improved on in the Remaster. I currently only have Player Core, not GM Core, and I am not seeing the changes to Identifying Creatures (only to recall knowledge generally). But I hear rumor that the 'unique' trait only increases the DC of learning about the unique abilities or plot relevant details. It still uses the standard creature's DC for standard creature information.


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I personally consider that:
- Very generic information about a broad type of monster (Demons vulnerability to Cold Iron, Skeleton-type undeads resistance to multiple types of damage etc...) is known by the character as long as they are at least Trained in the corresponding skill. I may add more specific information to this list (like red dragons breathing fire or vampire vulnerability to garlic) if they are Expert or above.
- I disregard the Unique tag entirely. All creatures are by definition unique and naming an NPC shouldn't increase all RK checks by 10 immediately. When trying to learn about a unique being abilities, I base the DC on the renown of the creature. So you don't necessarily need a DC 60 Religion check to know something about Treerazer or the Tarrasque.


In my games when a creature has multiple versions and variants I usually do only a single RK vs all versions. For example:

Mengkare is a Unique ancient Gold Dragon. He's RK DC is 56 for Arcana and player asks me an RK check to know if he have some weakness.

So I as to my player a single RK roll and compare vs:

Mengkare: DC 56
Ancient Gold Dragon: DC 42
Adult Gold Dragon: DC 34
Young Gold Dragon: DC 28

So if this player have Arcana +35 in its arcana checks and rolls a Arcana: 1d20 + 35 ⇒ (2) + 35 = 37.

So my answer to this player will be:
This dragon is pretty imposing, old and unique. You don't know exactly about it but you remember that Adult Gold Dragon have weakness vs cold. Maybe could be the same with it?

Due the failure in this RK you cannot do more checks vs it but you can try new check about Adult and Young dragons that you may know more info that may be useful against it.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The GMG and GM Core both have guidance around exactly this. You can identify the features of a specifies without identifying the details of that individual member of the species and use a lower DC to do it.

Also, you mention how you've seen a named Velstrac use a DC to identify 10 higher despite having the same stats as an unnamed Velstrac. Worth noting those DCs are 99% of the time not coming from Paizo. Bestiaries and published stat blocks do not include them. They are added by Archive of Nethys, PF2 Easy Tool, and Foundry to make GM's lives easier but they completely ignore the rules I referenced above.

To use a specific example, let's say you have a named Marileth named Mary the Merciless.

To know the abilities of the Marileth species, it is a DC 36 Religion, a DC 34 fiend or warfare lore, or a DC 31 demon lore. The fact that she's weak to cold iron as a demon shouldn't constitue its own roll, but knowing she is a demon in the first place likely requires a success.

But let's say Mary is two levels higher than usual and knows Horrid Wilting, unlike other Marileths. Knowing she has that Would probably be DC 49 by default. Unless...

What if Mary famously slaughtered an entire battlefield of Mandevian Crusaders with a single spell, leaving nothing but dessicated corpses of knights? You might just use a simple DC of 20 here for Society or Religion, and lower it to DC 15 for Warfare Lore. A success would indicate you heard this story, and then you could roll a separate check to identify the Horrid Wilting using the normal spell identification rules. If you crit succeed on the story, maybe another scholar noted the spell already.

All of this is contextual. Don't get too hung up on what Archive of Nethys says above the stat block.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Finoan wrote:

I remember hearing that this was greatly improved on in the Remaster. I currently only have Player Core, not GM Core, and I am not seeing the changes to Identifying Creatures (only to recall knowledge generally). But I hear rumor that the 'unique' trait only increases the DC of learning about the unique abilities or plot relevant details. It still uses the standard creature's DC for standard creature information.

This was already the case before the Remaster. That guidance is just tucked away in the GMG section on rarity, instead of conveniently up front in the CRB.


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Calliope5431 wrote:

How do you handle "generic" recall knowledge checks? For instance, it seems weird that you'd have to roll against the PC's basically impossible unique RK DC to know what ability they're using (brought up in another thread). ...

What sort of DC is appropriate? It seems somewhat important, since we all know PCs may metagame vampire weaknesses anyway, and it seems bizarre that you might have to make a DC 40 check about a level 17 vampire... when a level 3 adventurer can tell you that vampires are vulnerable to garlic and silver off a DC 18 check.

PFS now has the following clarification:

"The Unique tag on a creature does not necessarily increase the DC to Recall Knowledge. Players can choose to roll against a standard DC for the creature’s level to learn general information about that creature or its creature family (such as learning what a particular dragon might be weak to, or what its breath weapon might be). They could also opt to roll against the increased Unique DC to learn specific information about a creature’s history or storied abilities (such as learning that Bob the Orc Warleader has defeated dozens of armies with his unique military strategy)."
I guess non-PFS GMs could do that too.
Also, there are several types of vampires in PF2 even now with different weaknesses. And even for most common ones they can be changed by GM (as they aren't that fundamental as far as I remember). Even silver could be not universal (though I could be remembering it wrong).


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gm core page 55 wrote:
General vs. Unique: Some elements, such as creatures or items, might require you to draw a distinction between a general concept and a unique individual, such as “pirates” vs. “Tessa Fairwind, the Hurricane Queen” or “a harrow deck” vs. “the Deck of Harrowed Tales.” When a PC tries to Recall Knowledge, let them choose whether to ask about the general category or the unique person or item, and determine the DC and specifics based on that choice. If the unique character or item is famous enough, the DC might even be easier than for the general topic!

Sidebar guidance.


Well this is all awesome and answers basically all my questions! Thanks!


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'll note that I'd personally allow you to learn an ancient dragon's elements based on the DC for a young dragon, but I would not share saving throw information or higher level only abilities. Use your judgement on what is appropriate and remember that you should be rewarding the action. Being generous with it is usually better.


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Good to know!

Anything on identifying class features and similar non-ancestry abilities?


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Ravingdork wrote:

Good to know!

Anything on identifying class features and similar non-ancestry abilities?

Well I know there's the rules on IDing spells - I wonder if it would correspond to the level of the class features?


Calliope5431 wrote:
I wonder if it would correspond to the level of the class features?

That seems like a very good ruling idea to me.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Finoan wrote:
Calliope5431 wrote:
I wonder if it would correspond to the level of the class features?
That seems like a very good ruling idea to me.

That is what I do.


1. Generic monsters like trolls and vampires: I assume the players know how to kill them as well as the local townsfolk. Sort like most people know something about how harm vampires or troll due to ubiquitous pop culture infomrmation.

2. For unique creatures based on an existing creature: DC of base creature for shared base weaknesses or abilities. For unique abilities, the higher DC associated with the creature.

3. For PCs: Society DC or assumed use of divination type magic on minions or interviewing of enemies they've fought. Obvious exhibition of powers showing the PC to be an extreme threat or to have an obvious weaknesses like a heavy armored warrior having a poor Reflex save on average.


Can someone tell me what Remaster does with Recall Knowledge, specifically with combat knowledge?

Is it still the same resolution, highly GM dependent or can you guarantee to get say low save now with a use of action?


hsnsy56 wrote:

Can someone tell me what Remaster does with Recall Knowledge, specifically with combat knowledge?

Is it still the same resolution, highly GM dependent or can you guarantee to get say low save now with a use of action?

They provide some example questions, although they don't provide example answers, per se:

Player Core wrote:

What’s its most notable offensive ability?”
“Is it highly vulnerable or resistant to anything?”
“Are any of its defenses weak?"

The GM might tell you a lumbering monster’s Reflex save is its weakest—translating a concept your character could understand using the game term for clarity—but wouldn’t reveal the exact Reflex modifier.

So weaknesses, resistances, immunities, highest and lowest saving throws, notably below or above-level AC...all are fair game. Presumably what level of incapacitation you have to use as well - but I'd allow you to get that on ANY Recall Knowledge check, even if you critically failed, because it's so important.


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Since AoN hasn't updated yet, but the release date has passed, I think I can just post the content of the guidelines.

Recall Knowledge Questions (spoiler for length):
When encountering a subject for the first time, your first
question will likely be a basic “What is it?”, which the GM
can answer with a name and basic description like, “That’s
an ogre, a tough and cruel giant” or “This is the symbol of
Urgathoa, a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath.” If
you already know this base level of detail on the subject,
the list below includes some reasonable questions. The GM
determines what other questions to allow. Usually this is
simple as long as you stick to one question. Any question
must be about something observable in the game world, not
the abstract numbers of the rules. The GM might tell you a
lumbering monster’s Reflex save is its weakest—translating
a concept your character could understand using the game
term for clarity—but wouldn’t reveal the exact Reflex modifier.
The GM can find more guidance on page 54 of GM Core.
Creatures: “Can it be reasoned with?” “What environments
does it live in?” “What’s its most notable offensive ability?”
“Is it highly vulnerable or resistant to anything?” “Are any
of its defenses weak?”
Magic: “How can it be avoided?” “What type of people
use this magic?” “How long does it last?”
Organizations: “What kind of influence does it have?”
“Where is it headquartered?” “How large is it?” “What kind
of members does it have?” “Who are its major authorities?”
“Do they have any notable allies and enemies?”
People: “What’s their personality like?” “What do they
look like?” “Do they have any notable talents?” “Do they
have notable allies and enemies?” “What kind of influence
do they have?” “Do they have any vices?”
Sites: “What’s its general location?” “How large is it?”
“What’s the government like?” “Do any notable people live
there?” “What kind of monsters dwell there?” “What’s the
environment and terrain like?”

Basically you - as the player - get to ask a specific question you are looking for an answer to. Such as what their lowest save is.


Finoan wrote:

Since AoN hasn't updated yet, but the release date has passed, I think I can just post the content of the guidelines.

** spoiler omitted **

Basically...

Ok, great. That is certainly better than before in terms of standardization. The fact that you can share that knowledge with everyone sort of balances the fact that you don't automatically get a status effect inflicted with the roll like say Demoralize but still seems a little stingy. House rule of 2 questions per action during combat might be ok, given the specificity of those examples and you have to have the right Skill to Recall Knowledge with to begin with unlike Demoralize or Bon Mot which only depend on 1 skill.

IMO Recall Knowledge should be the Intelligence way to inflict some 3rd action status effects (w/ feats) as well. Perhaps exclusive to Wizards as the academic but could be for others as well.

But this is a decent enough RAW to work with.


Finoan wrote:

“This is the symbol of

Urgathoa, a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath.”

As a side note, I would not require a roll or even Religion proficiency to recognize the primary holy symbols of gods common in a character's home culture (which for most Pathfinder characters would be the "core 20"). That's the kind of thing that would be common knowledge. I would require it for more obscure symbols. Using Christianity as an example, I would not require a roll to identify a cross as the symbol. Something that's a cross variant (e.g. a Hospitaller cross, or a Saint Andrew's Cross) wouldn't require a check to recognize it as a Christian symbol, but could require one to know the specifics. And identifying a fish as a Christian symbol would definitely need a check.


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Staffan Johansson wrote:
Finoan wrote:

“This is the symbol of

Urgathoa, a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath.”
As a side note, I would not require a roll or even Religion proficiency to recognize the primary holy symbols of gods common in a character's home culture (which for most Pathfinder characters would be the "core 20"). That's the kind of thing that would be common knowledge. I would require it for more obscure symbols. Using Christianity as an example, I would not require a roll to identify a cross as the symbol. Something that's a cross variant (e.g. a Hospitaller cross, or a Saint Andrew's Cross) wouldn't require a check to recognize it as a Christian symbol, but could require one to know the specifics. And identifying a fish as a Christian symbol would definitely need a check.

That's generous, as IRL people who don't study religion have hardly any inkling of other religions, confuse practitioners for each other, and fail quizzes regarding even their own denomination & lore. What in game terms would be a Critical Failure is commonplace.

Even "trained+" theologians consistently err re: rival religions, unless specifically invested in studying comparative religion (though that might translate into having Lore for their own & not Religion itself as a skill). Of course doing so for simplicity has its own value, or one could argue people know the gods involved in life-rites or festivals since for those aspects everybody gets involved. Shrug.


Staffan Johansson wrote:
Finoan wrote:

“This is the symbol of

Urgathoa, a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath.”

Wait, I'm quoted saying-

Oh, that is from the rulebook text that I posted. Got it. Carry on.


Castilliano wrote:
That's generous, as IRL people who don't study religion have hardly any inkling of other religions, confuse practitioners for each other, and fail quizzes regarding even their own denomination & lore.

Perhaps, but Golarion is a place where henotheism is commonplace, and people are expected to choose to follow a god that appeals to them and their personality, as opposed to the real world where most cultures kind of coalesce around one religion and others are "foreign". I mean, the months of the year are even named for the gods.

Look at Sandpoint as an example. You have shrines/temples to Desna, Shelyn, Sarenrae, Abadar, Gozreh, and Erastil as part of the Sandpoint cathedral, with a local library also serving as a gathering point for Irori worshipers. Or take Breachill, with at least four places of worship (for Cayden Cailean, Pharasma, Desna, and Shelyn), many of which also serve as places of business. It is common for people in Golarion to be exposed to people who worship many different gods, and they likely know the basics of those commonly worshiped in their home region. Basically, the stuff on page 437-440 of the CRB would IMO be common knowledge. If you remove the mechanical stuff, that's like two pages of information, which is hardly an onerous amount.

So, someone from Avistan would almost certainly recognize a fly with a skull on its back as a symbol of Urgathoa, and know that Urgothoa is a godess of disease, gluttony, and undeath. That doesn't mean they know about things like the Daughters of Urgathoa, or how Urgathoan worship is conducted, but they would recognize it as Bad News.


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Expecting randos to recognize holy symbol’s because they’re in the top 20 on the continent (of relevance to adventures, not necessarily the general populace) and could theoretically join the religion is like expecting people to recognize or describe the flags of the 20 most populated countries because they could theoretically emigrate or go on a long vacation there.

Urgathoa’s symbol is probably as well known as DR Congo’s flag, sure.


Xenocrat wrote:

Expecting randos to recognize holy symbol’s because they’re in the top 20 on the continent (of relevance to adventures, not necessarily the general populace) and could theoretically join the religion is like expecting people to recognize or describe the flags of the 20 most populated countries because they could theoretically emigrate or go on a long vacation there.

Urgathoa’s symbol is probably as well known as DR Congo’s flag, sure.

Really, the Core 20 do not function like most real-life polytheistic religions. Real-life ancient people didn't dedicate themselves solely to one god, as a general rule. For instance, in ancient Rome, you'd have big blowout parties celebrating Bacchus, you'd pray to Mars in war, consult oracles of Apollo, sacrifice to Venus at weddings, and your default god was Jupiter (as the big cheese of the gods). Same thing as far as we know among the Anglo-Saxons. I'd be surprised if Cicero couldn't recognize a statue of Jupiter or Neptune when he saw it.

Similarly lots of Hindus are devoted to one specific incarnation of Godhead (Vishnu, Shiva, or a specific goddess are all popular) but are very aware of others. I am not a Hindu! But I'd be shocked if some of my Hindu friends couldn't recognize images of Vishnu, Durga, Brahma, or Shiva even if that deity wasn't the MAIN focus of their devotions.


I agree with Calliope5431 that followers of a god in a pantheon should be cognizant of the other gods of the pantheon. BUT...

Bacchus, Mars, Apollo, Venus, Jupiter et al. form an actual pantheon. So do the Hindu gods (as I understand it). The Core 20 do not. They generally have nothing to do with each other, which is the opposite of a pantheon. AoN categorizes them as a pantheon but I think that's because it doesn't have anything else to call "a group of gods." (A flock of gods? A worship of gods?)

So I end up with Xenocrat on this one.


I think this is veering way off topic and into dangerous territory.


Finoan wrote:
I think this is veering way off topic and into dangerous territory.

I disagree, we're talking about generic knowledge in Golarion, and speculating on a subset of that, Religion, based on what data we have. Religion would be among the most important "things folk may or may not know w/o training" which would have an impact on NPC interactions & reactions, as well as for whether untrained PCs auto-know much about temples (which are common places for PCs to gather resources/info, and clergy one of the most common professions to interact with).

I think deities involved in rites of passage or the most popular fables should be recognizable, at least re: that topic, but making all 20 instantly recognizable w/ zero chance of error to even yokels seems a bit much. Strong odds that people simply adopt the deity of their family, likely based on profession or which clergy entertain or motivate them best. After that, adherence is likely on auto-pilot with focus on the activities/social dynamics more than learning.

If one goes back into more superstitious times, the amount of occult "knowledge" explodes, with all sorts of charms & odd materials/bodily liquids helping against a bevy of beasties. Or not. There's little rhyme or reason to these items & concoctions. I'd expect untrained people would clasp onto any stray (false) hope to ward against threats, and so have accumulated as much wrong knowledge as right. Or learn some mnemonic song that's errant simply because the writer wanted to rhyme.

Of course, in play what does this translate to?
Since (maybe) all of my prospective PCs has trained Religion (because yeah, I think it's important and typically have 14+ Wisdom), it's hard to imagine a party w/o it, but how much should I expect commoners to see my Holy Symbol and recognize it as actually holy? Or perhaps more importantly to know/suspect my Edicts & Anathema? (and vice versa)
DC 10? Would there even be an action w/ some deities?

As for Devils & Demons, I did have one PC simply write "Devils silver, Demons cold iron", but after encountering them. Who knows what misinformation he might have "learned" beforehand.

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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Staffan Johansson wrote:
Finoan wrote:

“This is the symbol of

Urgathoa, a goddess of disease, gluttony, and undeath.”

As a side note, I would not require a roll or even Religion proficiency to recognize the primary holy symbols of gods common in a character's home culture

I agree with this.

Staffan Johansson wrote:
(which for most Pathfinder characters would be the "core 20").

But not with this.

Every region lists "Common Religions" for that region: Desna, Erastil, Iomedae, Pharasma, Rovagug, & Urgathoa for the Eye of Dread; Abadar, Cayden Caillean, Desna, Gorum, Lamashtu, & Nocticula for the Saga Lands. So I'd give free Recognize checks to the common religion for their Home Region and/or a god they worshipped (and if they worship a defined Pantheon, all the ones in that Pantheon) but outside of those require a check.

EDIT (These are from the Lost Omens: World Guide, but I'm sure they're listed other places too. I'm also sure that individual Countries or Cities have their own entries, but part of what is standardized is that the listing for "common religions" is always exactly 6 deities.)

Liberty's Edge

The Core 20 are the most well-known deities in the Inner Sea Region. So, yes most people there at least know of them and an easy RK feels appropriate to recognize their symbol.

BTW RK can be done Untrained.

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The Raven Black wrote:

The Core 20 are the most well-known deities in the Inner Sea Region. So, yes most people there at least know of them and an easy RK feels appropriate to recognize their symbol.

BTW RK can be done Untrained.

I agree with Easy for the core 20. They were saying they should be automatic (no roll necessary).


pH unbalanced wrote:
I agree with Easy for the core 20. They were saying they should be automatic (no roll necessary).

Indeed I did. Just like I wouldn't require someone to roll Society to recognize an orc.

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Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
Staffan Johansson wrote:
pH unbalanced wrote:
I agree with Easy for the core 20. They were saying they should be automatic (no roll necessary).
Indeed I did. Just like I wouldn't require someone to roll Society to recognize an orc.

Well, again, in Golarion, I'd set that based on common races by character's homeland/where they've spent the most time. If orcs are common there, then sure, make it automatic.

But I wouldn't otherwise assume that someone could distinguish, say, an orc from a half-orc from a hobgoblin automatically. (That said, if it isn't important to the game, I probably wouldn't bother. But if it *is* important, I would require rolls.)

"Core" is about player knowledge/availability, not character knowledge.

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