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View Full Version : [3.5] "Have we fought this monster before?"



Saintheart
2009-11-12, 10:43 PM
Probably this is a very stupidly simple query, but I was wondering -- at 3.5, is there some system for determining whether your characters have fought a particular monster in the past?

(Answers like "Yeah, go look back through your notes of your campaigns with the party since Level 1" will receive eCreamPies to the eFace. :smallbiggrin: )

This is for the situation where you're playing with a party, you want to throw a monster at them, and you're not sure whether to say "It's an X" or "It's a rather tall creature with bat-like wings, black skin, and pointy teeth that looks like this picture I'm showing you right now". Yes, I could ask the players to RP out whether they recognise it, but that's got a lot of capacity for abuse. Is there some skill roll or other determinant that covers whether the characters have encountered this monster before in their travels prior to the players taking hold of the characters, or should I just make it entirely random?

unre9istered
2009-11-12, 10:47 PM
The various knowledge skills cover certain groups of monsters (arcana for dragons, religion for undead, nature for giants, etc.). Just identifying a creature shouldn't be that hard.

EDIT:
From the PHB:

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monsterís HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

sofawall
2009-11-12, 10:59 PM
The various knowledge skills cover certain groups of monsters (arcana for dragons, religion for undead, nature for giants, etc.). Just identifying a creature shouldn't be that hard.

EDIT:
From the PHB:

Ok. You are a level 20 fighter. Using all your knowledge skills that a level 20 fighter is expected to have (none) you cannot successfully identify a single piece of useful information (race would be a useful piece of information) about a level 1 orc warrior.

Now how are you going to know it is a dragon, since the DC is based on HD? Since the colour of a dragon is something that gives clues about abilities and vulnerabilities, seems like that would be useful, no? It seems like most people cannot even figure what colour a dragon is.

And that's not even getting into the spot skill.

Zeta Kai
2009-11-12, 11:08 PM
No one can identify the Tarrasque. Only trans-epic demigods could point at it & say for sure what it is. Everyone else is stumped.

KillianHawkeye
2009-11-12, 11:12 PM
It makes more sense if certain extremely common or legendary creatures didn't require a check to at least know about. As per your examples, orcs are a common race and there's not really that much to know about them to begin with, so you shouldn't need a check for them.

Likewise, dragons are such famous creatures that probably everybody has at least heard of them, so knowing that dragons are big flying lizards which breathe fire probably doesn't require a check. Now, knowing that some dragons breathe fire while others breathe electricity or ice or whatever might require a check, or knowing that white dragons are immune to cold and weak against fire would definitely require one.

One possible solution to the problem of scaling DC with Hit Dice for monsters who gain lots of Hit Dice over time is to determine the minimum DC for particular bits of information. For example, "red dragons breathe fire" is true at all age categories, so even if you're presented with an ancient red dragon it shouldn't become more difficult to know about. On the other hand, "X dragon has Y spell-like ability" is usually only true for a certain subset of dragon X, and thus the DC to know about it would be higher to reflect the dragon's increased Hit Dice.

sofawall
2009-11-12, 11:15 PM
Amusingly, as a hero becomes more and more powerful (and, you would assume, more and more famous), it becomes harder and harder to figure out anything about them.

Haven
2009-11-12, 11:18 PM
Amusingly, as a hero becomes more and more powerful (and, you would assume, more and more famous), it becomes harder and harder to figure out anything about them.

Well, sure. They get shrouded in myths, and accurate information is overwhelmed by wild exaggerations without even a kernel of truth.

Alternatively: use Gather Information instead of a Knowledge check. :smalltongue:

BobVosh
2009-11-12, 11:19 PM
I always love the baby-daddy dragon quandary: What is that? A baby blue dragon. What is that? Some sort of giant blue lizard. Nice claws on it.


However isn't it a DC 10 knowledge check for "common knowledge"? Like "orc" and "dragon."

Jothki
2009-11-12, 11:38 PM
That's why I like how 4e handles skills. There's a certain base level of competancy that comes with simply being an adventurer for a while, once you're experienced enough you're expected to know what most things are.

Grommen
2009-11-13, 01:06 AM
That's why I like how 4e handles skills. There's a certain base level of competancy that comes with simply being an adventurer for a while, once you're experienced enough you're expected to know what most things are.

Lest it has one redeeming quality.

We have always just faked our knowledge of monsters. The common ones like orks and stuff we just assume people know. I mean we don't quite know their courtship habits but we know that they like to use sharp poky sticks to kill us. For everthing else we use either a skill check or a stright wisdom roll, or we ask our bard who seems to pick up on such things quite often.

We have a recurring villen in our campaign right now. it's a troll/red dragon deciple. Now we know it's immune to fire, but we have not quite deduced that acid will kill it for good. So we keep beating the snot out of this thing and leaving it for dead. Only to find out that well...It didn't die. He has taken to stalking us now, were all very scared. :smallfrown:

Random832
2009-11-13, 01:11 AM
However isn't it a DC 10 knowledge check for "common knowledge"? Like "orc" and "dragon."

"orc" is DC 11. Everything else is higher.

Nothing about any creature with more than zero hit dice is common knowledge by RAW

Coidzor
2009-11-13, 01:20 AM
Lest it has one redeeming quality.

We have always just faked our knowledge of monsters. The common ones like orks and stuff we just assume people know. I mean we don't quite know their courtship habits but we know that they like to use sharp poky sticks to kill us. For everthing else we use either a skill check or a stright wisdom roll, or we ask our bard who seems to pick up on such things quite often.

We have a recurring villen in our campaign right now. it's a troll/red dragon deciple. Now we know it's immune to fire, but we have not quite deduced that acid will kill it for good. So we keep beating the snot out of this thing and leaving it for dead. Only to find out that well...It didn't die. He has taken to stalking us now, were all very scared. :smallfrown:

What. You never tried cutting it into pieces and scattering them?

chiasaur11
2009-11-13, 01:23 AM
What. You never tried cutting it into pieces and scattering them?

Or acid?

It's fire for when you're too big a wuss to use enough fire.

Asbestos
2009-11-13, 01:27 AM
Or acid?

It's fire for when you're too big a wuss to use enough fire.
"Only a silver bullet can kill me!" (http://video.adultswim.com/robot-chicken/silver-bullet.html)

herrhauptmann
2009-11-13, 01:59 AM
We have a recurring villen in our campaign right now. it's a troll/red dragon deciple. Now we know it's immune to fire, but we have not quite deduced that acid will kill it for good. So we keep beating the snot out of this thing and leaving it for dead. Only to find out that well...It didn't die. He has taken to stalking us now, were all very scared. :smallfrown:

A game I was in last year, the DM warned us not to powergame since there were quite a few newbies playing. Also, we couldn't metagame and say "Trolls, fire or acid!" So I figured out a sneaky way around him. I included a troll in my backstory, "We kept knocking it down but it jsut got up again. Eventually a sorcerer in the caravan came up and hit it with a fan of flame from his fingers, and it died."
So when we encountered some trolls, I was able to use that bit of player knowledge. Also got 10 bonus XP for backstory. :)

TheCountAlucard
2009-11-13, 02:01 AM
How about Intelligence checks for monsters you've fought before? After all, among other things, Int is supposed to represent your memory, right? Not quite sure on DCs yet, though.

Akisa
2009-11-13, 02:03 AM
"orc" is DC 11. Everything else is higher.

Nothing about any creature with more than zero hit dice is common knowledge by RAW

Actually Orcs are DC 10 because they're 0 HD creatures. They require a n/pc class to gain HD. Now knowing any in particular about that specific Orc would be at least 11 + some conditional modifiers.

Grumman
2009-11-13, 02:12 AM
As far as I'm concerned, if it's an animal, or if it's a magical beast, dragon, humanoid, monstrous humanoid, fey or giant that's in the MM1 and lives on the material plane, you know what it is. If you're RPing a character who has grown up living in a world where trolls are a threat on the roads, your parents or teacher would have warned you about them.

Draz74
2009-11-13, 02:17 AM
"Look both ways before you cross the troll-bridge, laddie ..." :smallamused:


I always love the baby-daddy dragon quandary: What is that? A baby blue dragon. What is that? Some sort of giant blue lizard. Nice claws on it.

"And what is that?"

"Oooooh! That's the exotic butterfly herpevidiusicaoloporandinen frimmenu'kulapaikaki, which lives only on this particular mountain. There are only an estimated 17 of them in the world. They subsist on poppy nectar, except on Tuesdays, when they drink oak nectar instead."

"Why the crap did you study that creature so carefully in your classes?"

"... well, it has zero Hit Dice ..."

Kol Korran
2009-11-13, 05:01 AM
i'm not sure if this has been covered (don't have much time to read all the thread), but my system regarding identifying monsters is this:
i give every monster one of five "rarity" rating, with 1 being really common (goblin), 3 might be known by legends or adventurers (gorgon, dragon), and 5 quite rare (obscure creatures from different planes, the Tarrasque and so on).

the DC to identify a monster is 10 for level 1, and 5 more for each level. (2 is 15, 3 is 20 and so on). identifying gives you a general description, basic HD, type, and 2 basic abilities/ qualities. every 5 points more that you get, you know 2 more abilities/ qualities/ pieces of information.

characters can use their "adventuring skill" to try and identify stuff, which equells 2+ level+ int. if the creature is close to something they have fought before they get +2 to +4 to the check.

templates raise the DC by +2 to +10 (depending on the rarity of the template, again- 1 to 5)

it's not a perfect system, but it has worked for me.
hope it works for you too...
Kol.

MickJay
2009-11-13, 06:54 AM
Write a long backstory in which you include all of the monsters you know about in some way. Like in "I remember that day very well. An old bard came to our village, and told us dozens of stories about various, mysterious creatures that he saw and fought when he was younger. Among them were the acid and fire fearing trolls, the magnificent red dragons who cannot withstand cold, the skeletons, who can be easily destroyed with maces, but not so much with swords or arrows..." It's that simple. :smalltongue:

Also, add a few lines of backstory after every adventure, in which you record the monsters you fought most recently. :smallbiggrin:

dsmiles
2009-11-13, 07:11 AM
As a DM, I usually allow players some leeway in identifying monsters. I assume ALL characters have some baseline level of knowledge about adventuring, with some classes having more knowledge than others. Even a 1st level commoner can point at a big, flying, red reptile and say, "That's a red dragon, son, they breathe fire." However, he might not know that reds have spell-like abilities or can cast spells like a sorcerer.
So, when you describe an orc, expect your 1st level fighter to say, "Hey that's an orc, let's kill it!" Then expect your 1st level ranger with favored enemy (orcs) to say, "That orc is from the such-and-such tribe, they raided my village, let's kill it!"
When they run into something that a normal person in your campaign world wouldn't know about (such as a Worm that Walks, or a Bulette, etc.) that's when you have to pull the trump card as a DM and tell your players that they've never heard of this creature before. Granted, players may have memorized the stat blocks of every monster in the book, but they need to play their characters as if they don't know anything about most of them.

Haven
2009-11-13, 07:16 AM
That's why I like how 4e handles skills. There's a certain base level of competancy that comes with simply being an adventurer for a while, once you're experienced enough you're expected to know what most things are.

On the other hand... (http://1d4chan.org/images/7/7d/Bear_lore.png)

shadow_archmagi
2009-11-13, 07:32 AM
Equally trying is the obscure

"Useful information" thing.

Player: Ha ha! A twenty! Tell me three useful things about this gelatinous cube
DM: It lives off whatever organic matter it can swoosh up, weighs about a thousand pounds, and lives in the sewers.
Player: In what way are any of those facts useful to me. It is my goal NOT to feed it, I wasn't going to try to pick it up, and you know, being as we're in a sewer and I CAN SEE IT RIGHT THERE, I don't think its habitat is a surprise! Heck, even if I knew it normally only existed on the Astral Plane of Fire, there's one HERE, so where it SHOULD BE is still irrelevant!

katans
2009-11-13, 08:08 AM
I like the idea of a rarity rating for monsters.

I think it'd be a nice idea to have the PCs roll 1d20+character level against some yet undefined DC to just know what kind of creature they're facing. Knowledge checks would still be required to acquire insights on the creature's abilities or weaknesses.

PinkysBrain
2009-11-13, 08:43 AM
The brokenness of knowledge checks and the situation described by the OP are orthogonal.

Anyway, in character knowledge on a character with normal mental stats should not require a roll to recall IMO (that way lies madness). Just tell the players you are leaving it up to them whether anything they know about the critters is in character knowledge.

Anything the player wants to know from the MM should require a roll though.

As for fixing the knowledge checks, it would probably be easiest to simply assign some rarity category to each critter (extremely well known, common, rare, mythical, unique) and have a set of DCs to know something about them based on rarity (lowest DC how dangerous it is, special attacks next, special qualities next). The custom knowledge blocks of the later MMs are more elegant, but also a lot more work.

Gerrtt
2009-11-13, 08:54 AM
I've played in games where the DM wouldn't tell us things that we had done in the past. We either had to write it down, commit it to real life memory, or pass an absurdly high wisdom check.

My poor bard didn't stand a chance.

I'm all for just telling the players that they had faced something before, but not necessarily telling them what the strengths and weaknesses are without knowledge checks.

Lapak
2009-11-13, 09:13 AM
We have a recurring villen in our campaign right now. it's a troll/red dragon deciple. Now we know it's immune to fire, but we have not quite deduced that acid will kill it for good. So we keep beating the snot out of this thing and leaving it for dead. Only to find out that well...It didn't die. He has taken to stalking us now, were all very scared. :smallfrown:This kind of situation is what NPC sages are for! Go find someone with a big 'ol library and pay him to tell you what will finish off the Horrible Monster That Will Not Die.

Bayar
2009-11-13, 09:52 AM
That's why I like how 4e handles skills. There's a certain base level of competancy that comes with simply being an adventurer for a while, once you're experienced enough you're expected to know what most things are.

Yeah right, like Bear Lore. You need a score of 20 to know a bear uses its claws and maw to inflict pain. Or 15 to know it is a bear.

Random832
2009-11-13, 09:55 AM
Actually Orcs are DC 10 because they're 0 HD creatures. They require a n/pc class to gain HD.

Nope. They're 1HD humanoids, the class level replaces the RHD, but it does exist on a hypothetical one with no class levels.

Kylarra
2009-11-13, 09:58 AM
Yeah right, like Bear Lore. You need a score of 20 to know a bear uses its claws and maw to inflict pain. Or 15 to know it is a bear.Oh bear lore, when won't you get cited.


On the other hand, that's still vastly superior to 3.X knowledge checks. :smallamused:

jiriku
2009-11-13, 10:02 AM
@Saintheart: No, there is no such system.

bosssmiley
2009-11-13, 10:06 AM
No one can identify the Tarrasque. Only trans-epic demigods could point at it & say for sure what it is. Everyone else is stumped.

IIRC the Know[x] DC gives you hard facts about the monster, rather than rumours, legends and hearsay. So Joe Peasant has heard stories about the Tarrasque, he just doesn't know whether wishing it to death is fact or legend (and he has no desire to find out for sure).

Powerful things always attract rumour, speculation and misinformation.


I like the idea of a rarity rating for monsters.

AD&D should provide some useful info here. That game actually rated monsters by rarity (common, uncommon, rare, very rare, unique) for inclusion on bell curve random encounter tables.


Oh bear lore, when won't you get cited.

On the other hand, that's still vastly superior to 3.X knowledge checks. :smallamused:

In what was is Bear Lore ("That thur's a bear. Thum can hurt y'all.") superior to the idea that you get useful game mechanical information about your enemy on a successful Know[x] check? :smallconfused:

Jayabalard
2009-11-13, 10:15 AM
However isn't it a DC 10 knowledge check for "common knowledge"? Like "orc" and "dragon."Whether things are common knowledge depend quite a bit on the game world.

ghashxx
2009-11-13, 10:59 AM
The best way I have ever heard figuring out what the heck the monster is has just been used on this forum.


i give every monster one of five "rarity" rating, with 1 being really common (goblin), 3 might be known by legends or adventurers (gorgon, dragon), and 5 quite rare (obscure creatures from different planes, the Tarrasque and so on).

the DC to identify a monster is 10 for level 1, and 5 more for each level. (2 is 15, 3 is 20 and so on). identifying gives you a general description, basic HD, type, and 2 basic abilities/ qualities. every 5 points more that you get, you know 2 more abilities/ qualities/ pieces of information.

characters can use their "adventuring skill" to try and identify stuff, which equells 2+ level+ int. if the creature is close to something they have fought before they get +2 to +4 to the check.

templates raise the DC by +2 to +10 (depending on the rarity of the template, again- 1 to 5)

it's not a perfect system, but it has worked for me.
hope it works for you too...
Kol.

Excellent system and I'll make certain to pass it along to my DM. I always hate having to rely on the party wizard or druid or whatever to know anything about what kind of monster we're facing.

sofawall
2009-11-13, 12:24 PM
I always love the baby-daddy dragon quandary: What is that? A baby blue dragon. What is that? Some sort of giant blue lizard. Nice claws on it.


However isn't it a DC 10 knowledge check for "common knowledge"? Like "orc" and "dragon."

As has been said, that would be 11 or higher. Not common knowledge.


Actually Orcs are DC 10 because they're 0 HD creatures. They require a n/pc class to gain HD. Now knowing any in particular about that specific Orc would be at least 11 + some conditional modifiers.

You can know all you want about orcs (even though you actually won't know anything, they are still one HD creatures), but few people can point to one and say "That's an orc!"

daggaz
2009-11-13, 02:16 PM
Ok. You are a level 20 fighter. Using all your knowledge skills that a level 20 fighter is expected to have (none) you cannot successfully identify a single piece of useful information (race would be a useful piece of information) about a level 1 orc warrior.

Now how are you going to know it is a dragon, since the DC is based on HD? Since the colour of a dragon is something that gives clues about abilities and vulnerabilities, seems like that would be useful, no? It seems like most people cannot even figure what colour a dragon is.

And that's not even getting into the spot skill.

*groans* You are doing it wrong. Of course your lvl 20 fighter can see that its a dragon (assuming he has seen dragons so far in his near-epic career) and that it is blue. The HD thing to name its type is for when you have never seen one before. And the color is a standard description.. its not like you are freaking colorblind. You know its blue. You just dont know what blue means. If you then pull out all your protection from electricity gear (assuming you never met a blue one before), you are metagaming, and should be punished.

Thats what those rules are for. Limiting metagaming. Not limiting the game in nonlogical, and frankly idiotic ways.