Content of the article: "Knowledge should be power!"
Hi all! First time poster here.
I have been DM'ing a 5e campaign for a year or two now and I feel like I might be getting the hang of it. However one thing has been bothering me a bit: I feel like the knowledge skills (History, Arcana, Nature and Religion) could use some love in terms of applicability. Especially in combat. To this end I have written up a more systematic way for players and DMs to use knowledge checks in combat. So far I just call it "Pokêdexing".
This rule/system is something I intend to test in my own games, but I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback. The numbers for setting DCs, how to determine the appropriate skill to use and whether or not to use a monsters Hit Dice Vs its CR is all based on eyeballing and gutfeel. Any suggestions as to what numbers to use, or not, and how to classify a monsters "rarity" would be especially useful 🙂
To gain vital information on the monster(s) that the PCs are fighting, or intend to fight, they may attempt a knowledge check to gain intel.
The goal: To create an Action that characters can take in or out of combat to hopefully gain some sort of helpful information about the monster e.g.: resistances, weaknesses, immunities, abilities (spellcasting, breath-attacks, etc.). Or a potential threat level advice from the DM perhaps, meaning the PC would gain a certain sense of how dangerous this monster could be in their current situation (Low, medium, or deadly).
The motivation: Sometimes it feels as if players/characters just blindly head in to fight a monster with very little idea of what that fight may entail. Unless players themselves have meta-knowledge, and even then, they do not have an easy way of “legitimizing” this knowledge.
A monsters Hit Dice or CR rating, whichever is higher.
Monster "rarity" adds further to the DC of the check. This is meant to show how some monsters are common in many places and are well known, like goblins, while some other monsters by their nature may be lesser in numbers or sightings, like Rakshasas who stay hidden for a living.
Common, rare, and obscure are the classifications I am working with.
-Common: No penalty
– Rare: +4
– Obscure: Another +4
The player rolls the appropriate check: Nature, Religion, Arcana or History
Here the DM determines what source of knowledge may be best suited to the monster in question.
– Religion: Undead, Celestial and Fiend.
– Nature: Beast, Plant, Monstrosity, Dragon, Fey and Ooze.
– Arcana: Elemental, Abberation, Fey, Construct. +Magically created creatures perhaps.
– History: Humanoid, Goblinoid, Orc, Dragon, Construct, Giant. + Civilized Fey perhaps, or maybe Creatures that may have a certain legend to them, meaning they are known threats.
This list is not meant to set boundaries as much as to be a guideline. If a player can make a good argument for it, or they have a backstory/ class feature that ties into it I would much rather err on the side of generosity when determining what skill may be used. Taking an action is costly, and so it should more often than not be rewarded.
Result of check:
After the DC has been set and the check rolled, we have our result. My idea for this part of the action is to give the player an increasing number of questions they may ask based on the number rolled.
If they meet the DC, they get one question, and for each extra increment of 4 they beat it by they get another.
As for questions they can ask for anything they want, but I would like to have a small menu of standard questions that can be asked about a creature.
– Damage resistances, immunities, and weaknesses
– Condition immunities
– Threat level
– Special features, weapons, or abilities.
– Typical behavior
– Highest two saving throws
– Lowest two saving throws
(I do not think I would give any actual numbers or stats as part of an answer to any of these questions.)
Finally they get to share this information with any party-members within earshot as part of the action.
Aghora, 2nd level Rogue, and his party opened a sarcophagus and were surprised to find a living Troll inside. On his first turn in combat, he takes the “Pokedex” action to see if he can learn some useful information to help them put this monster down quickly.
The DM sets the check as a History check. Trolls are a well-known threat in many lands and tales. Common rarity = +0 to the DC. It is CR is 5 and its HD is 8 so the check comes to a DC 8. (This can all be done in prep btw)
The DM tells him to roll. He rolls a 9 and with his 12 INT (+1) and proficiency in History (+2) he totals a 12, this gives him two questions!
The Troll seems to have an ability to regenerate quickly, so he asks about the Troll’s special features. The DM responds that the Troll does indeed regenerate HP every turn unless it has taken fire or acid damage.
Aghora also likes to hide from his enemies so he uses his last question to ask about the Troll’s senses. The DM responds that the Troll has Darkvision and a Keen sense of smell.
As a final part of this action Aghora gets to share this information with his teammates.
What could have been an extended slugfest is quickly finished since the Party now makes sure to deal Fire/Acid damage to the Troll every round.
Thaddeus the 5th level Sorcerer is defending the wall against a Frost Giant assault. He is worried about the Giants turning him into mush and would like to know if there is a way to turn their attention to Krusk the Barbarian, who is much more durable.
He takes the Pokedex action on his turn and his DM tells him to roll a History check.
The DM has set the check at DC 16 History (Creature type: Giant. 12 HD > vs CR 8, and +4 for Uncommon monster).
Thaddeus Rolls a 13, and with an INT of 11 (+0) and Proficiency in History (+3) his total is 16. He gets one question. He uses it to ask about their Typical Behavior, telling the DM he is specifically interested in redirecting their attention somehow. The DM thinks for a second, then answers that Frost Giants establish dominance amongst themselves with wrestling matches. If a “Small one” were to somehow wrestle one of them to the ground he would certainly gain their attention.
Thaddeus shares this information with his group as part of the action.
On the next turn Miriam, the Wizard casts Enlarge on Krusk, who then proceeds to leap off the wall and, using the shove action, wrestles a Frost Giant to the ground. This is such an insult to the Giants that they turn all their attention to putting Krusk down first. The fight ends with Krusk badly hurt, but what could have been a true slaughter was turned into a winnable fight because of Thaddeus’ quick thinking.
The point of this system is not to replace any existing rules of the game, except for how knowledge checks work in combat. It is mainly that I want a clear and presentable system that I can show my players and that lets them use their knowledge skills for something useful in combat. I already describe resistances, immunities, and such when the PC’s hit against it, but that means they are figuring it out the hard way, possibly wasting their attacks and spells on nothing.
I am also certain this should not step on any toes of classes/subclasses that already do something like this (Monster-slayer Ranger) seeing as this action only plays on already existing skills that anyone can have. If anything is might make the Rangers “Favored Enemy” feature a bit more useful.
I also have a hope that this makes players feel like INT is not such a dump stat id you are not a Wizard or Artificer, as well as make them consider knowledge skills a bit more useful when they make their characters.
- How to deal with recalling info about monsters in the world?
- Is this Troll riddle too difficult?
- How I make intelligence a more desirable stat.
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