Knowledge/Intelligence checks

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MinusInnocence's picture
Knowledge/Intelligence checks

I ask for these pretty much all the time. Not just to give the PCs hints, although that is a great way to feed information to them and I think investigative-themed adventures and side-quests should be utilized more in just about every campaign. But also because this is a great way to share part of the setting with the players that maybe they wouldn't be aware of outside of this context. The other side of this coin is that calling for Knowledge checks all the time can let you be a little sneaky and throw red herrings at the players. Maybe not 100% of the intel you're feeding them is relevant to anything at all. We had a "who's the werewolf in town?" adventure a few years ago in an all-dwarf campaign I was running and we had a lot of fun with them running all over town looking for evidence and accusing people. Their suspect list grew and grew, I think in part because they assumed everything I was divulging was a clue (it was not). They didn't find him.

How liberal are you with clues or hints? If an adventure or encounter is predicated on solving a riddle or some other kind of mystery, do you have a sliding scale for the XP reward, ticking off points for each freebie you have to throw their way?

Fixxxer's picture

I rarely like giving away information that I otherwise hope the PCs will earn during the course of an adventure, but at times it's warranted to do so. From a storytelling perspective, it sucks. But I make up for those situations by making a shitty roll equal possible misinformation. Nothing off the wall out there, but something that could feasibly have been tossed into the mix of things the PC has heard. For example, a bunked Knowledge (religion) roll to determine what the PC knows about vampires might include, among other things, that vampires have an allergy to silver, which might lead the PC to conclude that bringing a silvered weapon to a fight with a vampire is going to give him an edge.

Doing this usually means I end up rolling about 75% of Knowledge checks myself in secret to prevent metagaming, but I don't mind so much.

Talanall's picture

I follow the DCs elaborated in the SRD for knowledge checks, and generally I ask for them anytime the characters encounter something they don't know about, especially if the outcome might affect how they handle a non-random encounter later on.

But I also ask for Knowledge checks regarding non-critical information. The recent encounter with the fiendish ettercap in the Ancestral Burdens campaign is an example. That was a random encounter, and the ettercap had no useful information about the PCS' quest to find and kill Berger Cole. But in the course of the encounter, the PCs also had reason to ask how a fiendish ettercap even managed to end up on the Material Plane. I handled that as a Knowledge check, too.

For the bardic knowledge ability and similar lore mechanics, I usually assess a +5 to the DC to get useful information from a Knowledge check on the most relevant topic, and if the check passes, the character gets a tidbit of information that isn't QUITE as good as a real Knowledge check would give, but which I think could be helpful as a sort of hint to what's going on.

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