Knowledge

Like the Craft and Profession skills, Knowledge actually encompasses a number of unrelated skills. Knowledge represents a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline. Typical fields of study are listed below. This list is not all-inclusive; the DM can create new categories as necessary.

  • Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, dragons, magical beasts).
  • Architecture and Engineering (buildings, aqueducts, bridges, fortifications)
  • Combat and Tactics (weapons and armor, fighting styles, large and small unit tactics)
  • Dungeoneering (aberrations, caverns, oozes, spelunking)
  • Geography (lands, terrain, climate, people)
  • History (wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities)
  • Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids)
  • Nature (animals, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, plants, seasons and cycles, weather, vermin)
  • Nobility and Royalty (lineages, heraldry, family trees, mottoes, personalities)
  • Poisons (poisons and venoms, their creation, use, and antidotes, if any)
  • Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead)
  • The planes (the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, outsiders, elementals, magic related to the planes)

Check: Answering a question within a given field of study has a DC of 10 (for really easy questions), 15 (for basic questions), or 20 to 30 (for really tough questions). See the individual field entries for more details.

Action: Usually none. In most cases, making a Knowledge check doesn’t take an action — the character simply knows the answer or he doesn't.

Try Again: No. The check represents what the character knows, and thinking about a topic a second time doesn’t let him know something that he never learned in the first place.

Untrained: An untrained Knowledge check is simply an Intelligence check. Without actual training, PCs know only common knowledge (DC 10 or lower).



Specialization

In addition to broad fields of study, a PC can choose to specialize. For example, Herne the wizard has 15 ranks in Knowledge (history), but he is especially interested in ancient cultures, so he spends a good deal of time digging through old archives in search of information related to the lost Talenese Empire. In this case, he gains a bonus to checks related to Talenese history – past rulers, major events, etc. - but suffers a slight penalty to other Knowledge (history) checks – he's still picking up bits of knowledge as it relates to his subfield of study, but he would tend to ignore things that don't apply directly to the Talenese Empire.

How this works in practice is that for every 5 ranks the PC gains in his chosen Knowledge skill, he gains a +2 bonus to checks related to his specialization, but suffers a -1 penalty to other checks using that skill. Going back to the example above, Herne would have a +6 bonus to recall the events leading up to the fall of the Talenese Empire, but he would have a -3 penalty to remember details of a war in a neighboring nation.

Each Knowledge skill is divided into several subcategories; a PC can choose to specialize in one of those, or can choose something entirely different. Loremasters gain an extra benefit – as one of their secrets, they can choose a second specialization in a given Knowledge skill. The level + Int modifier score for this ability is 11.



Sages and Research

Sages are generally either experts (the NPC class) or bards, clerics, or wizards with levels in Loremaster. For purposes of this guide, the former are called "expert sages" and the latter are called "Loremaster sages", as their knowledge pools vary widely - experts tend toward mundane fields, while Loremasters are generally more informed on esoteric topics. A third type, called "nonstandard sages", are simply members of PC classes who have one or more Knowledge skills and may possess a fair bit of knowledge on the topic, but aren't active sages. Bards (any), clerics (religion, the planes), druids (nature), and wizards (arcana, the planes) are the most likely classes to be nonstandard sages.

To create a random sage, follow these steps:

Type: Generally Expert or Loremaster. Lower-level sages can be simply those with lots of knowledge (see Section 4 for examples of nonstandard sages), but sages of Accomplished or Master rank will always be experts or Loremasters.

Race: DM's choice, but this often has a bearing on what Knowledge skills the sage will have. For example, an elf is not very likely to know much about dwarven architecture, but he will probably be a good source of information on magic.

Int Score: 10+1d6 for nonstandard sages, 10+2d4 for expert sages, or 12+2d4 for Loremaster sages. These can be assigned instead of rolled randomly. Other ability scores are of little importance, though the DM can generate them as he sees fit.

Areas of Knowledge: Sages of all types can have a combination of Knowledge skills and specializations equal to their Int bonus +1 – these are minor and major fields of study, respectively. The actual number of minor and major fields a given sage will have varies:


Sage Minor Fields Major Fields
Nonstandard 1-2 0-1
Expert 1-3 1-2
Loremaster 2-4 1-3

The number of fields is limited by the sheer wealth of knowledge that is available – a greater number of fields of study becomes too broad to handle.

A sage can choose any combination of minor and major fields that adds up to the total (for example, a sage with Int 15 can have three fields total), but the number of major fields cannot exceed the number of minor fields. Loremasters will always have ranks in Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (the planes), and will often specialize in subsets of one or both of those.

The number of ranks in a Knowledge skill for a minor field (skills for which the sage is not specialized) is level - 1d3; major field skills are always maximum ranks (=level). These skills can be assigned instead of rolled randomly, if the DM wishes, to more closely reflect the minor and major fields of study.

Level: There are four "ranks" of sages, based on ranks in the specific Knowledge skill: Novice (5-9), Journeyman (10-14), Accomplished (15-19), and Master (20+). To randomly determine a sage's level, roll 2d4+4 for nonstandard sages, 3d6+2 for expert sages, or 3d6+5 for Loremaster sages. A sage's character level will never be below 5th – anyone below that has not gathered enough knowledge to go into business for himself. Experts of lower level often apprentice to established sages, or spend their time wandering the world or doing their own research, gathering the knowledge they require.

Master sages should be specifically created by the DM, not randomly rolled.

Fees: A good rule of thumb is that a sage charges 25 gp per rank he has in a given Knowledge skill, multiplied by his level of knowledge: x1 (Novice), x2 (Journeyman), x3 (Accomplished), x4 (Master). These prices go up even further for questions in their specialties – x1.5 to x2 is a good range. Specifically created sages can charge more or less, as the DM sees fit.

Note that this is the standard fee simply for answering a question that requires no thought – the sage will charge this much or more each day if he has to research the information himself.

Chance of Success: Just as every sage varies in fields of study and amount of knowledge he has, so too does every sage have a varying chance of answering questions. Master sages, obviously, have a greater wealth of knowledge to call upon – their own and others' – than a novice, but they also charge far more. Generally speaking, a sage can answer any question with a DC equal to or less than his ranks in the appropriate Knowledge skill, or his Int score, whichever is higher, without having to make a roll. Anything over the base DC (noted on the table below) requires a roll.


Finding the Right Sage

Most PCs will try to find the cheapest sage they can, but as with any service, cheaper is not always better. The table below notes the minimum level at which a sage can answer a question at the given DC. There is a limit to every sage's knowledge, however, beyond which the information is too obscure for him to find – this is noted as the Max DC. A novice sage, for instance, would have no chance of knowing (or finding out) the name of the leader of a small cult that existed for a brief period 1,000 years ago (DC 35-40).

Consulting a higher- or lower-level sage decreases or increases the DC by 3 per rank, respectively – consulting a master sage about the above question would be DC 12, while asking a novice sage would be DC 21.


Base DC Source Max DC
15 Novice 25
20 Journeyman 30
25 Expert 35
30+ Master

Base DC: The DC of information the PC is seeking.

Source: The lowest level sage the PCs can consult without increasing the DC.

Max DC: The highest DC for a Knowledge check for which someone can consult a sage of a given level. This is the base DC, not the one modified for the sage's level (see above).


Research

Sometimes PCs want or need to undertake their own research – they don't have the money to consult a sage, or are seeking something they want to keep to themselves. Researching information for a question is much like researching a spell – it costs time and money, though both vary depending on the resources available. Seeking out information is easier with a well-stocked library and a broad range of resources, as reflected by those provided by a large city as opposed to a smaller one. Generally speaking, a PC stands the best chance of finding a piece of information at a given DC in the population center listed on the chart below (the Base DC), or any one higher on the chart.


Base DC Source Max DC
5 Village 20
10 Small town 25
15 Large town 30
20 Small city 35
25 Large city 40
30+ Metropolis

Base DC: The DC of information the PC is seeking.

Source: The smallest population center where someone can search for information without increasing the DC.

Max DC: The highest DC for a Knowledge check for which someone can do research in a given population center. This is the base DC, not the one modified for size of the source (see below).

Example #1: Karrena the PC rogue is trying to find out where the kingdom's mints are located, so she and her friends can steal the tap and die sets used to mint the coins. The DM rules that this isn't fairly well known, but it's not a closely-guarded secret, either, so he gives it a DC of 15. Doing some research in a large town has a good chance of turning up the information.

Example #2: Herne the PC cleric is trying to find information on an old statue he and his friends found in a ruined temple dating to around 500 years ago, during the height of the Salamancan civilization. He knows it has some sort of religious significance, but not what. The DM has assigned a DC of 25 to the check – it belonged to a fairly powerful religious order when the city was still inhabited, but few records remain after they were wiped out, and it was 500 years ago. Herne would have to go to a large city to find the information he's seeking.

Obviously, going to a larger population center grants a better chance of finding the information in question – with greater size generally comes better and more varied resources - and this lowers the DC by 3 per category over the minimum – doing the research in a metropolis would reduce the DC in Example #1 to 6, or Example #2 to 22. PCs can also attempt to find information in a smaller population center (if they don't have access to a larger one, for example), but this increases the DC by 3 per category – if Karrena tried to find the location in the library of a small town, the DC would be 18. This is subject to the Max DC noted above – Herne would have no chance of finding out anything about the statue in a village, since the information he seeks is DC 25 and the village's max DC is only 20.

Having access to resources that are specifically geared toward the search, or that are comprehensive in general (a fantasy analog of the Great Library of Alexandria or the Library of Congress) also reduces the DC – for example, if Herne were to search through the archives of his temple in the capital city, he would stand a greater chance of coming across references to the religious order and/or the city where the statue was found. These are situational modifiers, but the bonus granted should be no more than +10.

Comprehensive sources should be unique in nature – even if someone in the campaign setting has invented the printing press or another method of rapidly copying books and scrolls, a massive source like this is very hard to create and maintain. Most libraries of this sort have exorbitant access fees – lots of gold, or new books/information – or monthly or yearly "dues" people can pay to have access anytime they need it. These fees should be set by the DM according to the campaign world.


Research Time

Generally speaking, researching a question, whether a sage or a PC, takes 1 day per 2 points of the DC over 8. This time can be reduced by 1 day per 5 points by which the researcher's check result exceeds the DC (to a minimum of 1 day or half the original time, whichever is greater). DCs under 10 take half a day of research (and cannot be reduced further). Each day of research costs 100 gp – this covers materials, access fees, and miscellaneous expenses incurred. Half a day of research costs 50 gp.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License