Recall Knowledge EVERY single time?


Rules Discussion


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Do you need to make a Recall Knowledge check EVERY time, even if it is something you have encountered before?

After all, you are "recalling" information that you might have forgotten, so the name itself implies that said "knowledge" is impermanent.

Let's say you're cleric encounters a rare demon and uses Recall Knowledge to determine that it has a petrifying gaze and low will saves.

You gain several levels and a few in-game years pass for your character. You've fought hundreds of other terrible monsters since that terrifying, petrifying demon.

But now another of its kind stands before your cleric again. You as the player may or may not remember that it had a petrifying attack and low will saves, but that's inconsequential; does the CHARACTER need to waste an action making a new Recall Knowledge check to remember those details? Or does he just know them?

Would it matter if it was only a week later? Or that the demon is the same type, but a more powerful version?

What if it was a wizard encountering a +1 potency rune for the 50th time? Would you, as the GM, really insist that he roll to identify it?

I have seen at least one player in PFS assume that such information was never forgotten. He kept detailed notes on every monster his characters ever fought and their abilities, every NPC he ever met and their personalities, and every location he ever visited and the many landmarks and attractions there. That way, any time he encountered them again in other sessions at other tables, he could justifiably roleplay into it without metagaming (even citing the prior adventure sources where his specific character had encountered it before).

I'm interested in hearing RAW interpretations as well as what people's thoughts and opinions on how they think it should be handled.


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I don't think the rules actually specify this directly. It is left up to the table to decide on the details.

You have already covered the 'no, you can remember stuff you have encountered before' already. So I'll take the other side.

Not all demons of the same type look or even behave exactly the same. Recognizing that this creature that looks similar to a demon that you have encountered before is actually the same type of demon that you have encountered before would require a Recall Knowledge check.

Same with a +1 potency rune. Those are all crafted by hand individually. They don't all look the same. So yes, you have to analyze them to determine that a) it is in fact a magical rune at all (and not just some decorative squiggles etched into a weapon), and b) that it is a +1 potency rune instead of some other rune.


What he said

And re: RK on monsters, etc. that your PC has encountered before. You can make what I like to call an "assumption" based on prior experiences too, even if you haven't taken meticulous notes. If your PC has fought a skeleton and learned its resistances you can take a leap and assume the next thing you fight that looks like a skeleton is resistant to S/P damage. You might not be correct if it's not actually a skeleton, or it's some variant, but you wouldn't be metagaming. I feel like RK is a mechanic to get some definite feedback from the GM about a monster you as a player might not have ever heard of, but your PC could have read or heard about offscreen; not a gatekeeper on what your PC can remember of its experiences during play

I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on


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The more distinguishable something is, and the more recent in time, the more likely I am, as the GM to say something like "you see <bleh> you've fought them before and remember x,y,z" -- especially if it was a memorable fight for whatever reason. Or if you're traversing a complex and many rooms, have the same looking creatures, I won't require new rolls each time. (I'll allow new rolls for classes that want them though)

The Skeleton versus Druagr versus Bone Golem, etc, can be a good example of why a check is needed every time, just to tell which of a very similar appearance creature you're dealing with.


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I say you do have to do it every time.

Army vehicle identification classes teach you to drill the silhouettes and stats (armament and range, crew/passenger capacity, speed/terrain capabilities, etc.) of common enemy equipment, but no matter how good you get at it in the class room, you're never going to instantly look at an armored vehicle that has a custom camo (including mud and brush and add on cages breaking up the standard look, not just paint job) appearance and remember whether it's a BMP, BTR, tank (which version), and the dangers and weak points without taking a couple of seconds to identify it by distinguishing features and then pulling up the associated facts. Even if you are attacked by a platoon of BMP-3s, you may be sad to realize after toasting the first three of them with relatively light weapons that the fourth one, that you didn't look at closely, was actually a T-72.

Plenty of Golarian monsters look somewhat like other monsters. I think you need the time just to look at them and distinguish them from close cousins even if you recall was super fast.


Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on

Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.

Liberty's Edge

Farien wrote:
Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on
Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.

I think they mean the Thorough Reports skill feat of the Pathfinder Agent archetype.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Farien wrote:
Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on
Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.

The remastered recall knowledge rules don't actually support this idea at all anymore. Any time you see a creature, you can ask a basic question like "what is it?" Increasing the difficulty is about knowing more about the creature, but I think the remastery has cleared this one up and a mastermind rogue should always be able to ask "what is it?" about a new creature they haven't tried to identify before.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

If the player remembered the details (and was playing the same character), I certainly would not force them to roll a new Recall Knowledge for their character.

This would be doubly true if the player actually took extensive notes (like the one Ravingdork described), especially if the archivist behavior was part of the way they roleplayed the character.

As far as I am concerned, the whole idea is RK is an action that is used as needed.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Farien wrote:
Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on
Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.

Note that this would not be true at all for a PFS character like the one in the original question, since it's opposite to the guidance that campaign has:

PFS FAQ wrote wrote:

For the purpose of abilities that require successfully identifying a creature using Recall Knowledge (like the mastermind rogue racket), how do I know what creatures I have successfully identified?

Let us imagine that Robbie the Mastermind Rogue is attacked by three identical wolves: Alice, Bob and Charlie.

For the purposes of such abilities, a character is considered to have successfully identified a creature when they succeed or critically succeed at a Recall Knowledge check, regardless of what information they gain. If Robbie successfully Recalls Knowledge against Alice, their racket ability triggers against Alice, but not against Bob or Charlie. The information they gain would still be useful against all three.

If Robbie later tries to Recall Knowledge against Bob, they would use the typical DC, not an increased DC for a subsequent check against the same creature. Similarly, if Robbie is later attacked by two new wolves, the checks to Recall Knowledge would start at the typical DC.

In short, each creature is treated as a separate creature, even if they appear to be identical.


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Davelozzi wrote:

If the player remembered the details (and was playing the same character), I certainly would not force them to roll a new Recall Knowledge for their character.

This would be doubly true if the player actually took extensive notes (like the one Ravingdork described), especially if the archivist behavior was part of the way they roleplayed the character.

I don't necessarily disagree - but the idea has some problems.

The risk with that is that it rewards players for their personal memory. Or rather - it punishes players who don't have as much memory skills or ability by requiring their characters to spend actions that characters of players with better memory don't have to spend.

I prefer what NielsenE proposed - if there is information that the characters should remember from previously encountering the type, the GM can give it to the player with no action cost. No matter the memory abilities of the players involved.


Unicore wrote:
The remastered recall knowledge rules don't actually support this idea at all anymore. Any time you see a creature, you can ask a basic question like "what is it?" Increasing the difficulty is about knowing more about the creature...

That's what it suggests in the "when encountering a subject for the first time' sentence of the call-out box, but it is not required by the rules. The rules just say: ask a question. If it's a walking set of bones and the player wants to assume their character's general knowledge of skeletons is already pretty good because they just encountered skeletons yesterday, and they want to use RK to ask something more specific today, that's perfectly fine. There are pros and cons to that. The pro is, obviously, you get more information faster if your character skips the initial "what is it" questions that they think they know the answers to, and asks something you don't already (think they) know. The con is, as NeilsonE says, that you might think you know more than you do, and might think you know something that turns out to be wrong. As a GM I'm not a fan of metagaming, but I'm totally okay if characters use their past experiences as a knowledge base.


Unicore wrote:
Farien wrote:
Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on
Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.
The remastered recall knowledge rules don't actually support this idea at all anymore. Any time you see a creature, you can ask a basic question like "what is it?" Increasing the difficulty is about knowing more about the creature, but I think the remastery has cleared this one up and a mastermind rogue should always be able to ask "what is it?" about a new creature they haven't tried to identify before.

Mostly I just think the ruling should be consistent.

If the Wizard doesn't need to Recall Knowledge that this skeleton is just a skeleton that resists cold, electricity, fire, piercing, and slashing damage like the last skeleton that they fought - and not a bone golem,

then the Mastermind Rogue isn't allowed to make the Recall Knowledge check asking that same information.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Farien wrote:
Unicore wrote:
Farien wrote:
Baarogue wrote:
I think there's a feat somewhere that encourages (if not requires) you to record all the monsters you've fought and RK'd on
Mastermind Rogue Racket. Once you have used Recall Knowledge on a particular type of monster, then that character can't benefit from the Racket again. Ever.
The remastered recall knowledge rules don't actually support this idea at all anymore. Any time you see a creature, you can ask a basic question like "what is it?" Increasing the difficulty is about knowing more about the creature, but I think the remastery has cleared this one up and a mastermind rogue should always be able to ask "what is it?" about a new creature they haven't tried to identify before.

Mostly I just think the ruling should be consistent.

If the Wizard doesn't need to Recall Knowledge that this skeleton is just a skeleton that resists cold, electricity, fire, piercing, and slashing damage like the last skeleton that they fought - and not a bone golem,

then the Mastermind Rogue isn't allowed to make the Recall Knowledge check asking that same information.

but a wizard that has already recalled knowledge that skeletons have x weaknesses doesn't ever have to recall knowledge to know that, they just might not know whether the creature they are looking at is a skeleton or not. That is not in the rules, and is just something some tables maybe want extrapolate over their games and others wont. Some parties like taking their own notes, some like having the GM give a recap.

I think the issue is GMs using tools that make it where the player is very easily able to extract information about creatures all being the same type or giving descriptions that make it seem that way, or where the name of the creature is attached to the art in such a way where that becomes apparent to the player. The reliance of some parties on 3rd party technology that is making its own rules or rules interpretations isn't really something paizo can try to control.


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Unicore wrote:
but a wizard that has already recalled knowledge that skeletons have x weaknesses doesn't ever have to recall knowledge to know that, they just might not know whether the creature they are looking at is a skeleton or not.

Wait... Why not?

Not all skeletons are even the same. Check out the list of Skeleton Abilities. Some of them even change what they are resistant to.

Now, the Wizard can certainly make an assumption based on their previous experience regarding skeletons. But knowing that the skeleton is resistant to both fire and cold and not resistant to acid... well, that is something that they have to Recall Knowledge in order to actually find out.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Finoan wrote:
Davelozzi wrote:

If the player remembered the details (and was playing the same character), I certainly would not force them to roll a new Recall Knowledge for their character.

This would be doubly true if the player actually took extensive notes (like the one Ravingdork described), especially if the archivist behavior was part of the way they roleplayed the character.

I don't necessarily disagree - but the idea has some problems.

The risk with that is that it rewards players for their personal memory. Or rather - it punishes players who don't have as much memory skills or ability by requiring their characters to spend actions that characters of players with better memory don't have to spend.

I prefer what NielsenE proposed - if there is information that the characters should remember from previously encountering the type, the GM can give it to the player with no action cost. No matter the memory abilities of the players involved.

The problem is this just shifts the burden of memory to the GM, and the GM knows the creatures full stat block so remembering what was shared and what wasn't is harder.

That said, I agree with it in theory. It just gets tricky in practice if a lot of real life time has passed.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Finoan wrote:
Unicore wrote:
but a wizard that has already recalled knowledge that skeletons have x weaknesses doesn't ever have to recall knowledge to know that, they just might not know whether the creature they are looking at is a skeleton or not.

Wait... Why not?

Not all skeletons are even the same. Check out the list of Skeleton Abilities. Some of them even change what they are resistant to.

Now, the Wizard can certainly make an assumption based on their previous experience regarding skeletons. But knowing that the skeleton is resistant to both fire and cold and not resistant to acid... well, that is something that they have to Recall Knowledge in order to actually find out.

I think there is some confusion, I am not saying the wizard should know everything about all skeletons because the succeeded one time against some skeleton in the past. I am saying they should be able to act upon what they remember, but if they are wrong about this type of skeleton being exactly the same as the last, without making any checks to confirm that, then they were wrong. If they ask the question “what is it?” And the GM just says “its a skeleton,” and that is exactly what they said about the other skeleton though, only this one is different from that one, then the GM is setting the player up for failure and not giving useful information.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

One of my characters in my game is a Mage and the player takes extensive notes on all monsters, lores, and spells because that's what his class would do, which is great. Another is a player that takes extensive notes and has done so since he picked up his first dice. That's also great cause he's kind of like my fallback anchor if I can't read my own notes (no judging).

I still make them roll a new RK on all monsters, even ones they've met. However if it's one they've been successful against with RK in the past I have a lower DC for them to meet as a "reminder" DC. If they meet that (which generally only requires the D20 to get a 5 or better before modifiers) then I remind them they've faced X before and they know it does Y and Z. If they roll high enough they uncover any additional info they may have missed in the past, if any.

I do this because it's possible for a person to have a mind blank (the non-TM kind) on something well studied. Heckfire, I've worked with Excel for over 20 years in a professional capacity and 2 weeks ago I forgot that cells were called cells while in a meeting. Adding in other information to retain and learn can make that recall of things you just "know" even more challenging sometime.

So far there has been no instance where every player in the group has failed a reminder DC on a RK, but if that does happen that would be hilarious.

There have been a couple of instances of a single player failing one with others passing and the roleplaying for that has been hilarious.


Unicore wrote:
Finoan wrote:
Unicore wrote:
but a wizard that has already recalled knowledge that skeletons have x weaknesses doesn't ever have to recall knowledge to know that, they just might not know whether the creature they are looking at is a skeleton or not.

Wait... Why not?

Not all skeletons are even the same. Check out the list of Skeleton Abilities. Some of them even change what they are resistant to.

Now, the Wizard can certainly make an assumption based on their previous experience regarding skeletons. But knowing that the skeleton is resistant to both fire and cold and not resistant to acid... well, that is something that they have to Recall Knowledge in order to actually find out.

I think there is some confusion, I am not saying the wizard should know everything about all skeletons because the succeeded one time against some skeleton in the past. I am saying they should be able to act upon what they remember, but if they are wrong about this type of skeleton being exactly the same as the last, without making any checks to confirm that, then they were wrong. If they ask the question “what is it?” And the GM just says “its a skeleton,” and that is exactly what they said about the other skeleton though, only this one is different from that one, then the GM is setting the player up for failure and not giving useful information.

Ah, OK. Yes, I can see where you are coming from.

Yeah, Recall Knowledge is a bit of a knife edge path. Straying to either side will result in disaster.

On one side is what I am talking about - where the players want to only have to spend an action on Recall Knowledge once in the entire campaign for each monster type. Once they have succeeded once, they never have to spend actions on RK of that creature again.

And on the other side is your point - the GM who wants to play mind games with the players and give out as little information as possible by only literally answering the exact question asked - so if the player phrases their question badly the GM feels justified in giving no useful information at all and effectively wasting that player's action cost.

Liberty's Edge

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WarDriveWorley wrote:
I still make them roll a new RK on all monsters, even ones they've met. However if it's one they've been successful against with RK in the past I have a lower DC for them to meet as a "reminder" DC. If they meet that (which generally only requires the D20 to get a 5 or better before modifiers) then I remind them they've faced X before and they know it does Y and Z. If they roll high enough they uncover any additional info they may have missed in the past, if any.

I like this and am gonna steal it. Thanks!


Unicore wrote:


I think there is some confusion, I am not saying the wizard should know everything about all skeletons because the succeeded one time against some skeleton in the past. I am saying they should be able to act upon what they remember, but if they are wrong about this type of skeleton being exactly the same as the last, without making any checks to confirm that, then they were wrong. If they ask the question “what is it?” And the GM just says “its a skeleton,” and that is exactly what they said about the other skeleton though, only this one is different from that one, then the GM is setting the player up for failure and not giving useful information.

They should say it's a [size] creature made from bones in a humanoid shape. Skeleton, bone devil ("oh, you didn't notice the scorpion tail until it attacked you with it"), other, who is to say.


Xenocrat wrote:
Unicore wrote:


I think there is some confusion, I am not saying the wizard should know everything about all skeletons because the succeeded one time against some skeleton in the past. I am saying they should be able to act upon what they remember, but if they are wrong about this type of skeleton being exactly the same as the last, without making any checks to confirm that, then they were wrong. If they ask the question “what is it?” And the GM just says “its a skeleton,” and that is exactly what they said about the other skeleton though, only this one is different from that one, then the GM is setting the player up for failure and not giving useful information.
They should say it's a [size] creature made from bones in a humanoid shape. Skeleton, bone devil ("oh, you didn't notice the scorpion tail until it attacked you with it"), other, who is to say.

An excellent example of the GM playing mind games with the players and doing their best to make Recall Knowledge feel like a useless waste of actions. Thanks.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think Xenocrat was talking about the initial description of the creature and not the response to a player successfully recalling knowledge about "what is it?"

If, upon first entering the room, the GM says "you see three skeletons" or "there are 3 kobold warriors sitting around a fire," and the party has already fought/recalled knowledge about skeletons or kobold warriors, then the players are being set up to assume that these creatures are the same as those other creatures. This is especially the case on a VTT when all the tokens for a certain type of creature look the same. I don't even know how a GM could try to enforce that the characters can't make assumptions about those creatures having similar strengths and weaknesses in that situation, and I wouldn't think it worth the time to try. Maybe a mastermind rogue spends actions to do so because it is the easiest way to get off-guard, and maybe some wizards or investigators or Magi want to do so as well because of specific feats they have, and it is perfectly fine for them to do so. The action cost is enough that inflating DCs is pretty absurd.

Now, there might be some GMs that don't use VTTs or use generic enough or unique enough tokens that it is impossible to tell if all the creatures are the same type or not. That is an example of table variance that is a good subject for a session 0 discussion. Many tables wont have that conversation and players will just have to decide for themselves whether they should trust that the same art/mini/token means the same creature type or different art/mini/token means different creature types, and if that is fair or not will only come into discussion if people at the table ever bring it up.

But as far as the rules go, the remaster does clear up that class features based upon identifying a creature for the first time can be done any time you want to spend the action for it, and that is a fair use of recalling knowledge that shouldn't increase the DC. It also shouldn't increase the DC for asking a very different question about the creature afterwards. Asking the same types of questions about the same creature, or asking the same question about another creature that you have already identified as being the same type of creature is where the increased DCs would start to come into the picture.


Yeah, the concrete examples are great. Not being sarcastic about that. I have a different alias for being sarcastic.

Yes, the initial description of an enemy as 'a vaguely humanoid shaped animated pile of bones coming towards you' is really good.

Then the players can RK and ask 'what is it?' meaning, "is this a skeleton like we fought yesterday, a skeleton different than we fought yesterday, or just something that looks like a skeleton?"

And if I spend an action on Recall Knowledge, ask 'what is it?' and get "it's a [size] creature made from bones in a humanoid shape" then the GM is just being obstinate.


I think that this is the sort of thing that's fundamentally a GM call. If the party has been fighting a lot of trolls because the trolls got riled up for some reason, it's reasonable that once they've established "fire is helpful against trolls" then that's just a thing the party gets to know for here on out. The way you shortcut the player who wants to memorize the bestiary is not "you have to roll RK every time to remember what to use on trolls" but to introduce some trolls that have different weaknesses as a change-up.

But a lot of the RK knowledge roll is about "am I certain of what the thing I'm fighting is" not "what do I know about the thing I'm fighting". If context would make the party already know things about the expected opposition like (you are infiltrating the Giants' Stronghold), they can just have those things without rolling. It's just a normal GM call to figure what the PCs can be expected to just know off the tops of their heads, which is often going to hinge on other anticipated story beats. Like is it fun if the PCs don't know how to kill a vampire permanently? Do you actually want the vampire to come back later, or can they just kill the vampire so we can move on?

Shadow Lodge

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Unicore wrote:
Now, there might be some GMs that don't use VTTs or use generic enough or unique enough tokens that it is impossible to tell if all the creatures are the same type or not. That is an example of table variance that is a good subject for a session 0 discussion. Many tables wont have that conversation and players will just have to decide for themselves whether they should trust that the same art/mini/token means the same creature type or different art/mini/token means different creature types, and if that is fair or not will only come into discussion if people at the table ever bring it up.

If there is an encounter against 4 skeletons, I will usually pull the pawn for, like, a Skeleton, a Skeleton Warrior, a Mhorg, and a Bone Golem so that I can easily tell them apart since they will have separate initiatives. I'll tell the PCs that they are all the same thing, but not which one of those things they are. *Usually* the correct pawn will be in the mix.

If there are more than one kind of creature there, I'll *always* tell the players which pawns are similar to each other. (2 of one kind, 3 of another).

They can make whatever assumptions they want, but without RK they won't be sure.


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Not only do you not have to roll Recall Knowledge when you already remember the details, you don't have to roll if you don't because I'm going to tell your that your character remembers because I'm re-using creatures on purpose they are supposed to be familiar.

You also will not have to roll to remember other details of the campaign or have your own memory bleed into the game in a negative way because "roll to remember the point" is not fun game-play.

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