Monster Knowledge Checks . . . causing a lot of tension in our group

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Being held prisoner by these idiotic rules.  What were they thinking when they made them?

Were these deleted on the Essentials edition?  Please say yes . . .   There's no mention of them in any Essentials materials; just the 1st Player's Handbook (p. 180).

The DM (me) would like to delete them on the grounds that players nearly always pass them.  This means that before any fight, the players get to know all about the creatures, their resistances, vulnerabilities, powers, keywords, you name it.

This totally ruins the supense, suprise, and enjoyment for everybody.  Most of all the DM.  It's like carefully wrapping up a present but then being forced to declare what's inside.  What's the point?  You find yourself not caring whether future presents are "wrapped."

A big part of the fun of being a DM is springing surprises on your buddies, but with Monster Knowledge Checks, there are no more surprises.  You're reduced to presiding as players roll dice and trade numbers.

To get an idea of what I'm talking about, why don't you try sitting down and play chess with yourself?  You won't get a couple of minutes into the game before realizing a profound truth about chess:  its chief appeal is not mathematical elegance but the wicked thrill of springing a nasty surprise on your buddy.  But without a buddy there, the game quickly becomes intolerably jejune.

Yeah, the net result is that Monster Knowledge Checks are disincentive for the DM to use his imagination.  Why bother creating monsters or scouring the Monster Manuals for interesting monsters if the players are going to get to know everything in advance?  In fact, what's the point of even having monsters attack with anything except their claws and tentacles?  The ending has been given away for everything else.

Given my druthers, I would like to delete that table completely and make Monster Knowledge Checks impossible, or redifficulty the table at +10.  But characters are protesting that they (now level 9) have made training decisions based on these rules and that such a ruling would be tantamount to punishing them for being "too good."

Which argument is not completely unfounded.  However, other players are complaining that something definitely seems wrong and I'm fully on their side.

The current situation is that when a player makes a knowledge check, I just hand them the monster stat sheet and tell them to read what they think their character would know.  But even this is too much of a hassle.  From now on, I'm just going to photocopy all the monsters's stat blocks and give each character a sheaf of papers before every session begins.  Or just email them the info the night before.  That's how sick of this I am.

Game definitely seems broken.  Am I the only DM who wants to rip page 180 out of the Player's Handbook?  I can't find much discussion of the inanity of these rules in these forums.

Thoughts?
Given my druthers, I would like to delete that table completely and make Monster Knowledge Checks impossible, or redifficulty the table at +10.  But characters are protesting that they (now level 9) have made training decisions based on these rules and that such a ruling would be tantamount to punishing them for being "too good."

Which argument is not completely unfounded.  However, other players are complaining that something definitely seems wrong and I'm fully on their side.


If it's also ruining the game for other players, houserule it and let those who want to retrain knowledge skills/trade in skill boosting items.

And yes, there is mention of them in Essentials: pg. 283 of HotFK, 285 HotFL. Monster Knowledge checks are now based on the Skill DC table, with basic knowledge being a moderate DC for the level of the monster, and full knowledge a hard.
Personally I don't think much of the tactics or enjoyment comes from them not knowing the resistances/vulnrabilities of monsters.  For one a lot of monsters don't have either, so the monster knowledge check goes like this. Player: "Okay I got a 37 on my Nature check, does it have any weaknesses?"  Me: "Nope, unless you count hitting it in the face with a sword until it dies"

Secondly, the monsters that DO have a  resistance or vulnrability are often pretty easily guessed even without a check.  I.e if it breathes fire, there's a pretty good chance its also resistant to fire.  If they've fought undead more than a couple of times they have probably learned that radiant is usually good to use and necrotic bad, etc.  So more often than not, the knowledge check just confirms something they already guessed.

All in all, I find that monster knowledge checks are an opportunity to to give a little bit of flavor and background "Got a 25 on your religion check eh?  Well you learn that Elite orders of undead hunting paladins of Pelor would often train themselves in Lance of Faith and other such attacks in order to slay the undead") but have very little mechanical impact at all.

If you are using the DCs from Rules Compendium, PCs should not be easily succeeding on a regular basis.  The easy DC is, well, easy, but only gives you trivial information like name, rank and serial number.  You only get the whole kit and kaboodle of information if you hit the hard DC and that isn't even a sure thing for someone trained with the right key ability.

Also, don't get caught up in the minutae.  Information is rarely specific.  For example, rather than give the exact specifics of a Medusa's gaze attack, you can simply say something like: "Your remember hearing that Medusa can use a gaze attack to turn enemies to stone."  You certainly don't have to give numbers.

I use the information to give hints (this foe tends to deal necrotic damage, maybe you should drink a gravespawn potion), some tactical advice (this foe is very hard to pin down, even with attacks that normally would immobilize most foes), and to ease my burden (it is a lot easier for me if the PCs learn the name of the creature, so I don't have to avoid using its name when referencing it).

-SYB
If it's bothering you that much, just make a house rule that monster knowledge checks don't exist. You're the DM.
There's actually been enough debate about the techniques around monster knowledge checks that it has spawned at least one DDI article a while back. The upshot of that was "the rules don't say you have to provide the PCs with all the numbers, nor that the DM is locked into always using the standard DCs or giving out all the information indicated if the situation justifies something less." Beyond that there are different styles of revelation. You could give out all the numbers, sort of 'handing the player the stat block' but you can also simply describe the features the PCs know about in general terms.

Beyond that the concept of monster knowledge was to avoid 'gotcha' situations where the players can't determine what sort of tactics to use because they lack sufficient information to make reasonable decisions. Now, maybe in some styles of play you want more mystery, which is fine, just up the DCs or give out only very vague hints. In other styles of play people are more focused on tactical fights where they enjoy working out how to use their PCs capabilities to best effect and the excitement comes more from seeing how to match yourselves against the monster's abilities. In that kind of game the players will probably enjoy having more detailed information.

There are other considerations too. Most experienced players will pretty quickly figure out what most typical monsters do. They are likely DMs themselves or have the books/DDI, so it isn't as if most monsters remain secret for long. You can certainly easily change things around in 4e, so this is less of a consideration than in say 1e where the MM was the only source of monsters for years and most players had it pretty much memorized by 1980 or so. Still, there's a dose of practicality in there. Why punish players that haven't happened to have read the book? Why benefit players who have? Knowledge checks tend to put players of all experience levels on more of an even footing and eliminate some of the meta-gaming that otherwise is encouraged by the players researching the rules. It provides something of a reasonable path by which player knowledge can be ascribed to the character, and by which character's inherent experience with the world and specific areas of knowledge can apply in a concrete way.

Obviously these things are all highly dependent on the type of game, the players level of experience, goals, etc. It certainly isn't unreasonable to modify these checks where it interferes with the fun in a given game. No rule is perfect and these kinds of rules often don't mesh perfectly with all games. The same can be said of treasure distribution rules, wealth, crafting, etc. which are hard to make fit all 'sizes' of games.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
As a DM I call every shot.


You have done Fire damage,  but It resist almost all of it. Resist : 15.
Same way for vulnerable.
For knowledge check I put more detail on what could realy mess with players: Stun, swallow, immobilize and so.

I also give full defense stat, You hit. You need to hit: 38 Ref.

Player can adjust their power as they know the Def of their opponents.

Same way when a monster spot a weak Def on the player side I dont hesitate to strike on it more.

I definitely think handing out stat blocks is the wrong way to go.  I wouldn't use numbers at all.  Use this as an opportunity to set the mood and build anticipation.

Rather than saying, "It has a bite attack that does 3d10+8 poison damage," say something like, "Its jagged fangs drip with poison as it gnashes its teeth in anticipation for its next meal."

If It's defenses are AC 20, Fort 16, Ref 19, Will 15, say something like, "It can move quickly to avoid attacks, but it doesn't seem so tough and has a weak mind."

Radiant vulnerability: "It flinches in the light of your (light source)"

etc. etc.

Give them clues and hints.  It still gives them an advantage, but doesn't give everything away.  Knowledge checks can be a lot of fun if you enjoy describing monsters and building tension for the fight.
op its you that have it wrong, you do not give away all that info, though there are magic items that do. if you look at any mm, a monster knowledge check really only gives a little lore. even a hard dc
Why is it bad for your players characters to know about monsters? If they roll a good knowledge check that means the character has learned about the monster. They shouldn't always be clueless.

Besides, like other posts have said, you are the DM. If you don't want them to know, get rid of the checks altogether.
Game definitely seems broken.  Am I the only DM who wants to rip page 180 out of the Player's Handbook?  I can't find much discussion of the inanity of these rules in these forums.

Because it's pretty much a non-issue.

Thoughts?

Increase the DCs in your campaign if your game world warrants it.  Some civilizations, monsters will be rare, new to the region, or completely foreign.  DCs should go up.  Other civilizations, monsters are a dominant force and well documented, DCs could go down.  It can even be diverse: humanoids are common and have easier DCs while magical beasts are very rare and have increased DCs.  You can make whatever adjustments that your campaign calls for.  That is the one consistency about Dungeons and Dragons that has persisted throughout all versions.

Celebrate our differences.

To answer your fears, I am going to post up a few of my monster knowledge cards I have created for this expressed purpose (note, some of this text is in fact ripped from the monster books. For the medium difficulty, anything italicized is a "power" the monster has. Level is noted for DC reference, if the card is only meant for a creature of a single level.):

Zombie: animate (undead)

Easy Religion DC of Monster Level: A zombie is an animated corpse of a living creature. Imbued with the barest semblance of life, this shambling horror obeys the commands of its creator, heedless of its own wellbeing. Most zombies are created using a foul ritual. Once roused, a zombie obeys its creator and wants nothing more than to kill and consume the living.


Medium Religion DC of Monster Level: Zombies like to attack in packs, allowing one to Grab and hold a target with the strength of the grave, while the other pulverizes the intended meal by Slamming it with its fists.  Corpses left in places corrupted by supernatural energy from the Shadowfell sometimes rise as zombies on their own.  These zombies have no master and generally attack all living creatures they encounter. Most zombies are only weakly held together, and crumple at an extremely hard hit.


Hard Religion DC of Monster Level: Zombies are immune to diseases and poison and resist necrotic damage; they are vulnerable to radiant damage.



Young White Dragon (Level 3): magical beast (dragon)


Nature DC 9: White dragons are highly adaptable but prefer to dwell in cold places such as glacial rifts, cold mountain peaks, and icy caves linked in the Elemental Chaos.  A white dragon’s breath is a bone numbing blast of elemental frost.


Nature DC 13: White dragons are easy to bribe with gifts of gems, especially diamonds, but they are even more responsive if the proffered gift includes meat.  A dragon’s breath is more properly vomited forth from their upper stomach, not breathed out; this energy can also leak forth in small amounts from that upper stomach (where it is used to digest their food), dealing most of the true damage of a dragon’s bite.  When a dragon is badly injured it vomits forth any remaining energy within it. Sages originally thought this to be some sort of reaction of rage; now they think that the dragon’s system floods with adrenaline in an attempt to use their energy breath again.  In effect, this causes the dragon to vomit forth any remaining elemental energy within them. Older white dragons can trap enemies within a block of ice, restraining them for a later meal.


Nature DC 21: White dragons are resistant to the cold.


 


These are just two examples of the deck of 3x5 cards I have printed for myself for Monster Knowledge checks.  It gives the story people what they want, tells the more mechanically minded players a few things to watch out for in terms of monster tactics, and gives everyone a sense of knowing what is going on.  Sure, stumbling through an encounter can be fun for some people.  Just no one I have yet met.


My question is this: you have complained about skills twice now.  What are the skill numbers for your players?

"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- ) Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right.
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quote author=56832398 post=519321747]Considering DnD is a game wouldn't all styles be gamist?[/quote]
Being held prisoner by these idiotic rules.  What were they thinking when they made them?

Were these deleted on the Essentials edition?  Please say yes . . .   There's no mention of them in any Essentials materials; just the 1st Player's Handbook (p. 180).

The DM (me) would like to delete them on the grounds that players nearly always pass them.  This means that before any fight, the players get to know all about the creatures, their resistances, vulnerabilities, powers, keywords, you name it.

This totally ruins the supense, suprise, and enjoyment for everybody.  Most of all the DM.  It's like carefully wrapping up a present but then being forced to declare what's inside.  What's the point?  You find yourself not caring whether future presents are "wrapped."

A big part of the fun of being a DM is springing surprises on your buddies, but with Monster Knowledge Checks, there are no more surprises.  You're reduced to presiding as players roll dice and trade numbers.

To get an idea of what I'm talking about, why don't you try sitting down and play chess with yourself?  You won't get a couple of minutes into the game before realizing a profound truth about chess:  its chief appeal is not mathematical elegance but the wicked thrill of springing a nasty surprise on your buddy.  But without a buddy there, the game quickly becomes intolerably jejune.

Yeah, the net result is that Monster Knowledge Checks are disincentive for the DM to use his imagination.  Why bother creating monsters or scouring the Monster Manuals for interesting monsters if the players are going to get to know everything in advance?  In fact, what's the point of even having monsters attack with anything except their claws and tentacles?  The ending has been given away for everything else.

Given my druthers, I would like to delete that table completely and make Monster Knowledge Checks impossible, or redifficulty the table at +10.  But characters are protesting that they (now level 9) have made training decisions based on these rules and that such a ruling would be tantamount to punishing them for being "too good."

Which argument is not completely unfounded.  However, other players are complaining that something definitely seems wrong and I'm fully on their side.

The current situation is that when a player makes a knowledge check, I just hand them the monster stat sheet and tell them to read what they think their character would know.  But even this is too much of a hassle.  From now on, I'm just going to photocopy all the monsters's stat blocks and give each character a sheaf of papers before every session begins.  Or just email them the info the night before.  That's how sick of this I am.

Game definitely seems broken.  Am I the only DM who wants to rip page 180 out of the Player's Handbook?  I can't find much discussion of the inanity of these rules in these forums.

Thoughts?



Complaint seems unfounded. Check out your chess example. It's not the rules that make chess 'sneaky' it's the way the pieces are moved under the context of the rules that both players know that make it sneaky. There is no cleverness in playing chess against a noob who doesnt know about pawn promotion, castling,or en passant and pulling off one of those moves and then busting out the rule book and saying GOTCHA!

Secondly these are adventurers. The characters SHOULD know about the world they live in. Especially characters that are approaching godhood in the epic tier.  
I think you need to take a happy medium here. That is, a PC may know much about Bugbears and general tactics and abilities of that race, but why would it know a particular bugbear's unique attack that isn't generally the norm for its race? Pick and choose the information one gives, based on what makes sense that a PC would know.

Now, if the PC has time to research a particular adversary, reward him/her with full knowledge, or if the adversary is very famous, allow a check(like a powerful demon,diety or such) for full knowledge.

Most important, use your judgement as what is appropriate.
I definitely think handing out stat blocks is the wrong way to go.  I wouldn't use numbers at all.  Use this as an opportunity to set the mood and build anticipation.

Rather than saying, "It has a bite attack that does 3d10+8 poison damage," say something like, "Its jagged fangs drip with poison as it gnashes its teeth in anticipation for its next meal."

If It's defenses are AC 20, Fort 16, Ref 19, Will 15, say something like, "It can move quickly to avoid attacks, but it doesn't seem so tough and has a weak mind."

Radiant vulnerability: "It flinches in the light of your (light source)"

etc. etc.

Give them clues and hints.  It still gives them an advantage, but doesn't give everything away.  Knowledge checks can be a lot of fun if you enjoy describing monsters and building tension for the fight.

good post


To get an idea of what I'm talking about, why don't you try sitting down and play chess with yourself?  You won't get a couple of minutes into the game before realizing a profound truth about chess:  its chief appeal is not mathematical elegance but the wicked thrill of springing a nasty surprise on your buddy.  But without a buddy there, the game quickly becomes intolerably jejune.



Another thought I just had.  The problem with your analogy is this.  The surprise element in chess comes in what you do with the abilities of the pieces, from your own tactics.  It does not come from your buddy not knowing that a bishop can move diagonally.  Chess (as RAW anyway, I know there are variants) is really the most transparent game there is.  You aren't going to have some sort of secret ability that lets your queen suddenly teleport anywhere on the board or lets your castle move like a knight.  So its a pretty bad example to use to argue that having less info on the opponents capabilities is necessary for a good game.
I think you might be giving out a bit to much information

The lowest DC, they get to know common knowledge about the monster for in Heroic Tier is 15 - with that they get to know the Name, Type, and Keyword: So for a Goblin Grunt - they would get to know "Goblin Grunt", "Skirmisher", and "Goblin" - based off that, nothing I personally worry about - knowing the type of Skirmisher could be helpful so they have an idea how to tactically deal with it.

If they can make the next DC, they get to know the powers as well.  Now, going through the DMG and the PHB - I couldn't find out exactly how much information you need to give out.  Going back to the Goblin Grunt example, I would give out the following "You see the goblin is equiped with a rusty short sword and has a shortbow with some arrows slung over it's shoulders, based on your knowledge of Goblins they are cowardly, and if given the opportunity from a failed attacky they will put some space between them and the attacker"

If they can make the hardest one, they get to know resistances and vunerabilities.  Now I personally also give out defenses with that as well - but not the actual numbers.  So for the goblin grunt I would say "Goblins arent' known to have any particular resistances or vunernabilities, but this goblin is wearing leather armor, and combined with Goblin's natural agility he may be a bit harder to hit with a normal attack, they are cowardly though, even this soldier may be of weak will"

That there, gives them all the details of the monster without giving out too much information.  Nothing I could find says you have to give out actual details.  You can be a bit more descriptive - like if it was a goblin hexer, you could say the following for their abilities:

* They have a hex they can cast that shrouds their victims vision (i.e. blindness)
* They can inflict powerful curses that cause painful muscle cramps in the legs if you try to move
* They can unlease a poison cloud that not only shrounds their movement but the choking gas make it harder to fight when with in

*etc.

You aren't giving ALL the details - you aren't saying that this power is at-will vs. encounter vs. recharge, you aren't giving out specific damage dice or attack modifiers, but it is tactically good advice - they may know to be ready with saving throws against blindness attacks or be ready to move out of the gas. 
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Also, don't get caught up in the minutae.  Information is rarely specific.  For example, rather than give the exact specifics of a Medusa's gaze attack, you can simply say something like: "Your remember hearing that Medusa can use a gaze attack to turn enemies to stone."  You certainly don't have to give numbers.

I use the information to give hints (this foe tends to deal necrotic damage, maybe you should drink a gravespawn potion), some tactical advice (this foe is very hard to pin down, even with attacks that normally would immobilize most foes), and to ease my burden (it is a lot easier for me if the PCs learn the name of the creature, so I don't have to avoid using its name when referencing it).


+1
I don't generally give precise details of powers, but I say things like "You recall that Bugbear Stranglers like to grab their enemies and have nasty tricks up their sleeves". It can be hard to describe the ability on the spur of the moment. Sometimes there isn't much to say about basic creatures ("Yeah, well, it's a kobold with a sword...")

I also just tell the names of monsters from the start, I tried running the game by saying "those green lizard type guys" or "the brown hairy dudes" but it got kind of silly as they players starting making up their own names up for the monsters and using them even after they identified them.

I use a moderate DC and if successful I will always tell if the monster has resistances or vulnerablities (not the numbers). Sometimes if the monster has a power I want to keep a surprise I won't mention it, or just hint at it.

Try to think from the player's perspective. They are excited about this monster you've put in front of them and being able to plan even a little in the fight is fun for them.
I do agree that knowledge checks are easy to pass.   Even at first level the hard DC is 19.   That's way too easy since PCs will usually have very high skill check modifiers.     With high modifiers you'll pass that DC 19 check 50% of the time with a +9 bonus.       I would add another 5 to the DC just to make things more difficult.     Then add another bonus for each level the monster is above the player.    So a level 1 PC facing a level 4 monster would need to roll a 19 or 20 in order to know everything about it  (DC 28).   

I would also just describe the monsters abilities in non mechanical terms.      Typically, I don't tell the players what the name of the monster is either.   If they are fighting a troll I might call it a Forest Troll or a Green Troll, but I won't ever use the same name as what is found in the Mosnter manual.    Basically, just do everything you can to prevent metagaming.  

Adding templates is another way to introduce surprises for your players.   Sure their monster checks might reveal everything they know about a red dragon.  But what they didn't know is that Smog the red dragon is also a wizard.  
I do agree that knowledge checks are easy to pass.   Even at first level the hard DC is 19.   That's way too easy since PCs will usually have very high skill check modifiers.     With high modifiers you'll pass that DC 19 check 50% of the time with a +9 bonus.       I would add another 5 to the DC just to make things more difficult.     Then add another bonus for each level the monster is above the player.    So a level 1 PC facing a level 4 monster would need to roll a 19 or 20 in order to know everything about it  (DC 28).   

I would also just describe the monsters abilities in non mechanical terms.      Typically, I don't tell the players what the name of the monster is either.   If they are fighting a troll I might call it a Forest Troll or a Green Troll, but I won't ever use the same name as what is found in the Mosnter manual.    Basically, just do everything you can to prevent metagaming.  

Adding templates is another way to introduce surprises for your players.   Sure their monster checks might reveal everything they know about a red dragon.  But what they didn't know is that Smog the red dragon is also a wizard.  



Kev, you appear to have a very poor concept of exactly how this is supposed to work.  In order to have a +9 bonus you need to be trained in the appropriate skill and have a high bonus in the correct attribute.  Wizards will generally reach this point in Arcana (maybe Religion) and Druids will usually have this bonus in Nature, but the majority of classes simply don't have the stat/training combo to be doing better than approximately a +5 and untrained with bad/moderate stat comes to about +1.

Wizards intentionally designed the hard DC to be ~50% success rate for someone who is focused on that skill.  Increasing the DC by 5 simply punishes the focused person by making the skill less valuable and makes it impossible for anyone who isn't fully focused to even get lucky.  That isn't fun for players.  The guy who is trained (but doesn't match attribute) shouldn't have to roll a 20 to hit the hard DC (a 15 already makes it unlikely).

Also, you seem to have made a common misconception about how skill DCs work.  The level of the PC does not set the skill DC.  The level of the CHALLENGE sets the skill DC.  Thus, whether the PC is level 1, level 4, or level 7, when facing a level 4 monster, the DCs are based on level 4 DCs on the skill chart.

Your example of a level 1 PC facing a level 4 monster is awful.  First, you are assuming the PC has a maxed out skill (a pretty terrible assumption for skills like Dungeoneering and Religion).  Second, you are arbitrarily making it more difficult for no good reason.  A player who has focused on a skill likes to feel some benefit from that focus.  A 10% chance for full information is basically a slap in the face and simply isn't fun for the player.

-SYB
A wizard who can bend reality cannot go to the town library or wherever the wizard got his ritual book and browse through a copy of Ye Olde Monsters of the Realm while drinking some Nenthir Vale brew with soy?
A wizard who can bend reality cannot go to the town library or wherever the wizard got his ritual book and browse through a copy of Ye Olde Monsters of the Realm while drinking some Nenthir Vale brew with soy?



sure but that doesnt translate into numbers for defenses now does it?
First:  the DCs of skill checks per level are ridiculously easy to pass.  I'm doing some research on our 22nd level epic adventure and they have skill checks in there with DC 16-19.  I mean... really?  16-19?  That's a good challenge at say oh level 5 lol.

I think monster knowledge is good.  I think being able to make a roll to see what you know of the monster is good.  Here are the problems though:

1) players love to meta-game.  That means some will undoubtedly have scoured the monster vault / manuals and know all of the meta game info already and will game with it. 

2) the DCs are so low that it's basically going to come down to not rolling a "1" to know everything you need to know.  So in the case of non-meta gaming players they are going to know everything anyway 95% of the time.

What I do to circumvent this when I want a monster to be mysterious is to up the DC of the check and swap resistances around on monsters for the meta players who memorize manuals. 
must be some old dcs iced bc the new epic hard dcs are hardcore. i have trained epic pcs with maxed stats for the skill and still need 11 for a hard dc in some cases
Tomb of Horrors hardcover.  I thought that that was pretty up-to-date.

I upped the DCs to mid 20s / 30s.  COnsidering that they have arcana / religion scores of +22 or so, a 30 is an 8 or higher. 


Kev, you appear to have a very poor concept of exactly how this is supposed to work.  In order to have a +9 bonus you need to be trained in the appropriate skill and have a high bonus in the correct attribute.  Wizards will generally reach this point in Arcana (maybe Religion) and Druids will usually have this bonus in Nature, but the majority of classes simply don't have the stat/training combo to be doing better than approximately a +5 and untrained with bad/moderate stat comes to about +1.

Wizards intentionally designed the hard DC to be ~50% success rate for someone who is focused on that skill.  Increasing the DC by 5 simply punishes the focused person by making the skill less valuable and makes it impossible for anyone who isn't fully focused to even get lucky.  That isn't fun for players.  The guy who is trained (but doesn't match attribute) shouldn't have to roll a 20 to hit the hard DC (a 15 already makes it unlikely).

Also, you seem to have made a common misconception about how skill DCs work.  The level of the PC does not set the skill DC.  The level of the CHALLENGE sets the skill DC.  Thus, whether the PC is level 1, level 4, or level 7, when facing a level 4 monster, the DCs are based on level 4 DCs on the skill chart.

Your example of a level 1 PC facing a level 4 monster is awful.  First, you are assuming the PC has a maxed out skill (a pretty terrible assumption for skills like Dungeoneering and Religion).  Second, you are arbitrarily making it more difficult for no good reason.  A player who has focused on a skill likes to feel some benefit from that focus.  A 10% chance for full information is basically a slap in the face and simply isn't fun for the player.

-SYB




First of all there will always be a PC in the party that can make the monster check with +9 modifier.    It only takes one PC to let everyone else in the party know everything about the monster.   In practice, the other PCs with untrained skills are inconsequential and are excluded by default every time the trained character passes his check anyway.      It is the norm that any given party will have PCs with their core stats maxed out or at least close to it.   Therefore just about every skill is covered by the party and just about every check is easy as hell.     




First of all there will always be a PC in the party that can make the monster check with +9 modifier.    It only takes one PC to let everyone else in the party know everything about the monster.   In practice, the other PCs with untrained skills are inconsequential and are excluded by default every time the trained character passes his check anyway.      It is the norm that any given party will have PCs with their core stats maxed out or at least close to it.   Therefore just about every skill is covered by the party and just about every check is easy as hell.     






You are going to stand by that "fact" are you?

Unless I have missed something, there is only one Intelligence primary class that can choose Arcana as a trained skill that isn't an arcane class (Psion).  The classes that have Intelligence as a secondary that can train Arcana are also arcane.  Thus, in a non-arcane setting, Arcana is an unlikely skill to be maxed (say, like Dark Sun).

Religion is even harder.  Wizards can max it easily, but after that there are only a specific (Intelligence secondary) build of Avenger or Invoker easily maxes it.

About half the primal classes easily max out Nature and I believe Warden has a build that does.  Barbarian does not.  After that, only a good Wisdom ranger easily does it (which means that Str/Dex rangers don't).  A game without any primal classes is almost assured not to have a maxed out Nature.

Finally, Dungeoneering.  Wisdom secondary rangers should max this out.  The only other class that easily maxes this out is a Virtue of Prescience build Bard.


So, unless you are claiming that every single game includes a Wizard and a good wisdom secondary Ranger, your claim that every party has these skills maxed is pure garbage.  Also, a roughly 50% chance of succeeding is not "easy as hell."  That is a modest chance of success that, based on the chart of DCs, continues to drop unless you actively work at increasing your skill modifier (for example, via magic items or feats).

-SYB

2) the DCs are so low that it's basically going to come down to not rolling a "1" to know everything you need to know.  So in the case of non-meta gaming players they are going to know everything anyway 95% of the time.  



A couple of things based on my knowledge (of course with all the updates who knows).

1.  Monster Knowledge checks do not use the same Easy/Normal/Hard DCs -they have their own DC grid to go off of (this is true for General Knowledge checks too - but they have an easier DC than Monster Knowledge)

2. From the best of my knowledge (and was more or less confirmed in a conversation a couple of months ago) - There is no automatic failure for rolling a 1 when making a skill check, the only place that it's mentioned that a 1 is always a "miss" is in combat.  This through me for a loop, but from what I can tell if your skill is high enough you can never fail certain skill rolls.

Finally - is there any real documentation on exactly what detail you hand out? Looking through DMG1 under dispensing information, nothing says to give out the actual numbers - so I still say with monster knowledge checks, as a DM - yeah, you can give out actual numbers, but are nto required to - though I would make sure the group knows up front what level of detail will be given. 
I mean, monster knowledge is not the "Scan" ability from Final Fantasy.
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Yeah, like most folks have said, never give out an actual number.  That's reducing D&D to an exercise in math.  There are lots of ways to give hints "he looks like he could shrug off an avalanche", "she is steely eyed and focused", "they have quick, cat-like movements" could describe strong fort, will, and ref respectively, with something similar being used to describe weak defenses.  As far as resistances go, it's a monster knowledge check, not an ESP check.  "They match descriptions you've heard in tales of great, red-skinned orcs that breathe fire and live in lava" is a ridiculous example, but kind of gets the point across as far as describing abilities or resistances.

2) the DCs are so low that it's basically going to come down to not rolling a "1" to know everything you need to know.  So in the case of non-meta gaming players they are going to know everything anyway 95% of the time.  



A couple of things based on my knowledge (of course with all the updates who knows).

1.  Monster Knowledge checks do not use the same Easy/Normal/Hard DCs -they have their own DC grid to go off of (this is true for General Knowledge checks too - but they have an easier DC than Monster Knowledge)

2. From the best of my knowledge (and was more or less confirmed in a conversation a couple of months ago) - There is no automatic failure for rolling a 1 when making a skill check, the only place that it's mentioned that a 1 is always a "miss" is in combat.  This through me for a loop, but from what I can tell if your skill is high enough you can never fail certain skill rolls.

Finally - is there any real documentation on exactly what detail you hand out? Looking through DMG1 under dispensing information, nothing says to give out the actual numbers - so I still say with monster knowledge checks, as a DM - yeah, you can give out actual numbers, but are nto required to - though I would make sure the group knows up front what level of detail will be given. 
I mean, monster knowledge is not the "Scan" ability from Final Fantasy.



Apologies, you are right.  However, the Monster DCs are still very low and combined with #2 means  you might as well not even have them because someone in the party is bound to have a really high score where needed.  The houserule I have is that a "1" always fails so sometimes I forget that that is a houserule.

I know there is an argument above about how not everyone will always have every skill covered, but that has not been my experience.  In my experience every skill is pretty much covered by someone, and by covered I mean that they have a high enough score to pretty much bypass it on anything but a 1-3 or so. 

Also you are right, DMs are not required to hand out the entire monster stat block.  In fact, I do not give out the entire monster stat block (sometimes to groans from a disgruntled player who because they have a +24 in nature and rolled a 39 and the monster's DC is 18 feels entitled to know everything there is to know and then some), I usually give out generalities about the creature.  But I am universal in it.  (I don't give out hard stats, I woudl say if it has known vulnerabilities)

I find that this is also fairly irrelevant unless I am using custom monsters though since there is always one person in the group who has every monster manual memorized and gladly meta-games the information regardless.  (which is why I like to use a lot of custom-monsters or swap some items around on monsters so that the meta-game is lessened)

"Oh look trolls.  Even though our characters have never encountered trolls, just remember that they have vulnerable # to fire and cannot regenerate (did I mention that they regenerate) etc etc etc.  Don't bother rolling monster info checks I've just told you everything the DM would have told you."
Tomb of Horrors hardcover.  I thought that that was pretty up-to-date.

I upped the DCs to mid 20s / 30s.  COnsidering that they have arcana / religion scores of +22 or so, a 30 is an 8 or higher. 



yeah i prob would have done the same, pushed them til they made sense

i still think tomb of horrors was before the last dc update, hard dc from the epic tier on the third update are challenging, at heroic they are a little low

"Oh look trolls.  Even though our characters have never encountered trolls, just remember that they have vulnerable # to fire and cannot regenerate (did I mention that they regenerate) etc etc etc.  Don't bother rolling monster info checks I've just told you everything the DM would have told you."



Wow.  You are more patient than I am.  The first time somebody did that, I would give them a warning to never do it again.  The second time would be the last time because I would kick them out of the game.

-SYB
I bring it up.  Player will grumble.  It will happen again.  Even if it's not out loud, the next time something similar happens, the player who memorizes the books will just pull out a power or item that triggers creatures' weakness automatically and other players will follow suit.  You can't really do much to police that, though to be fair that also happened in 2nd ed and 3rd ed often as well so it's not a 4th edition-only thing.

Can't stop the meta game it seems.  A lot of players do it.  They don't do it to be dicks, they do it because that seems to be the predominant culture. 

"Ok... DM got angry when I meta gamed last time.  So I won't just announce it.  This time we're up against Fire Orcs.  I know Fire Orcs are resistant to fire and vulnerable to cold.  Ok... I just won't say anything but... I'm going to pull that frost power out now and just use that because I know the vulnerability exists without having to roll for it"

You are going to stand by that "fact" are you?

Unless I have missed something, there is only one Intelligence primary class that can choose Arcana as a trained skill that isn't an arcane class (Psion).  The classes that have Intelligence as a secondary that can train Arcana are also arcane.  Thus, in a non-arcane setting, Arcana is an unlikely skill to be maxed (say, like Dark Sun).

Religion is even harder.  Wizards can max it easily, but after that there are only a specific (Intelligence secondary) build of Avenger or Invoker easily maxes it.

About half the primal classes easily max out Nature and I believe Warden has a build that does.  Barbarian does not.  After that, only a good Wisdom ranger easily does it (which means that Str/Dex rangers don't).  A game without any primal classes is almost assured not to have a maxed out Nature.

Finally, Dungeoneering.  Wisdom secondary rangers should max this out.  The only other class that easily maxes this out is a Virtue of Prescience build Bard.


So, unless you are claiming that every single game includes a Wizard and a good wisdom secondary Ranger, your claim that every party has these skills maxed is pure garbage.  Also, a roughly 50% chance of succeeding is not "easy as hell."  That is a modest chance of success that, based on the chart of DCs, continues to drop unless you actively work at increasing your skill modifier (for example, via magic items or feats).

-SYB




I will stand by it.   Every party I'ved played with has the all the core skills covered.    There are plenty of other classes that players can choose from other than those you listed that will grant a high Wisdom modifer.   Did you forget about the Cleric ?    As for dungeoneering it isn't used that much for monster knowledge checks.    Still, I do recall every party I'ved played in having at least one guy who was trained in Dungeoneering.   

What I don't understand is that you say 50% is a modest chance of success.   So why not, by your own definition, call 50% that a moderate DC? 

     


I will stand by it.   Every party I'ved played with has the all the core skills covered.    There are plenty of other classes that players can choose from other than those you listed that will grant a high Wisdom modifer.   Did you forget about the Cleric ?    As for dungeoneering it isn't used that much for monster knowledge checks.    Still, I do recall every party I'ved played in having at least one guy who was trained in Dungeoneering.   

What I don't understand is that you say 50% is a modest chance of success.   So why not, by your own definition, call 50% that a moderate DC? 

     



I am currently in a campaign that doesn't have "every skill covered."  Thus, my experience is more well rounded than yours.  Thank you for the object lesson on why personal experience is rarely evidence for overall trends.


Once again you show a lack of understanding about the system.  Yes a cleric has a high wisdom.  But a cleric can't train Dungeoneering or Nature (the two wisdom based knowledge skills) unless the cleric is Eladrin or spends a feat to do so.  Similarly, simply being trained in a skill without a corresponding good stat does not give you the roughly +9 you were griping about.  It gives you a +5.  Also, Dungeoneering is used for any abberant creatures (highly campaign dependent).

Also, you show that you don't understand the system of DCs and difficulties.  An easy DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is untrained and doesn't have a good stat in the skill.  A moderate DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is either trained OR has a good stat in the skill.  A hard DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is trained AND has a good stat (and at later levels who continues to increase the skill with magic items or feats).

So, based on your original example of the +9 character at 1st level, that is a character who has assigned multiple resources to the skill in question.  Success rate for a hard DC should be roughly 50-60% because the character has focused on being capable in hard situations with that skill.  You will note that the character that is simply trained (but has the wrong stat) only has about a 25-35% chance of success and the untrained (no stat) character has almost no chance of success (maybe 5-10%).

Those are actually well designed numbers.  They also translate well to a skill challenge.  While a 75-85% chance of success might seem really good (+9 character vs. a moderate DC), that is still a notable chance for failure.  Statistically, having to roll X successes before 3 failures actually proves quite difficult for higher difficulty skill challenges (that require 10 or 12 successes).  In fact, statistically, the odds are against the players unless they work together and use good teamwork.
 
-SYB

Keep them guessing. I think aside from Rule #1 (have fun) that Rule #2 would have to be to keep the players guessing themselves. It will make your knowledge checks so much more imporant.

I apologize if someone covered this in an earlier post, lots of work today but wanted to post about this because my players used to do it. I read an article in print Dungeon several years ago when 3rd had first come out and it talked about changing weaknesses and creating alternate versions of creatures.

So, I have one player one of my current 4E games that metagames. If he sees a troll, he yanks out a flask of oil. A cloistered monk that has no knowledge of the outside world. So... I changed the regeneration into a life drain ability and gave him a radiant vulnerability. I also changed the description of my troll. It took five minutes. I only change my monsters 20% of the time but my players do not metagame like that anymore. Even when facing an undead creature they know is vulnerable to radiant won't send them dropping holy bombs on them... because they faced one of my undead 5 adventures ago that gained temporary HP in the direct amount that radiant damage dealt and gained immunity to all damage for one round. It was easy to kill, very easy to kill but they kept nailing it with radiant damage - then they switched their tactics.

Keep them guessing. You don't have to throw a wrench into a creature all the time, just once in awhile... enough to keep the metagamers guessing because everytime there is a wrench in it, someone gets killed or banged up pretty good. Now, my players always get in a monster check if they can. They rarely metagame weaknesses because if they are wrong, they might inadvertantly turn an easy encounter into a hard one.... perhaps a ghoul that is a rare subspecies that splits itself when hit by radiant damage. If they make the check the party knows... if not, well it might be a long fight when that radiant AoE goes off on four Level 4 Ghouls... Keep them guessing, my Rule #2.
Excellent point Mindforge.
The chess example is a telling one: none of the abilities of a given chess piece is secret from either of the players, yet it is still possible to surprise one's opponent in chess. So, my advice is to focus less on hiding the powers of the monster and more on using the known capabilities of the monsters in surprising ways.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.



I will stand by it.   Every party I'ved played with has the all the core skills covered.    There are plenty of other classes that players can choose from other than those you listed that will grant a high Wisdom modifer.   Did you forget about the Cleric ?    As for dungeoneering it isn't used that much for monster knowledge checks.    Still, I do recall every party I'ved played in having at least one guy who was trained in Dungeoneering.   

What I don't understand is that you say 50% is a modest chance of success.   So why not, by your own definition, call 50% that a moderate DC? 

     



I am currently in a campaign that doesn't have "every skill covered."  Thus, my experience is more well rounded than yours.  Thank you for the object lesson on why personal experience is rarely evidence for overall trends.


Once again you show a lack of understanding about the system.  Yes a cleric has a high wisdom.  But a cleric can't train Dungeoneering or Nature (the two wisdom based knowledge skills) unless the cleric is Eladrin or spends a feat to do so.  Similarly, simply being trained in a skill without a corresponding good stat does not give you the roughly +9 you were griping about.  It gives you a +5.  Also, Dungeoneering is used for any abberant creatures (highly campaign dependent).

Also, you show that you don't understand the system of DCs and difficulties.  An easy DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is untrained and doesn't have a good stat in the skill.  A moderate DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is either trained OR has a good stat in the skill.  A hard DC is designed to be a roughly 60% success chance for someone who is trained AND has a good stat (and at later levels who continues to increase the skill with magic items or feats).

So, based on your original example of the +9 character at 1st level, that is a character who has assigned multiple resources to the skill in question.  Success rate for a hard DC should be roughly 50-60% because the character has focused on being capable in hard situations with that skill.  You will note that the character that is simply trained (but has the wrong stat) only has about a 25-35% chance of success and the untrained (no stat) character has almost no chance of success (maybe 5-10%).

Those are actually well designed numbers.  They also translate well to a skill challenge.  While a 75-85% chance of success might seem really good (+9 character vs. a moderate DC), that is still a notable chance for failure.  Statistically, having to roll X successes before 3 failures actually proves quite difficult for higher difficulty skill challenges (that require 10 or 12 successes).  In fact, statistically, the odds are against the players unless they work together and use good teamwork.
 
-SYB




Are you suggesting skill challenges for knowledge checks?   If not then your stats don't apply.  

I don't think that someone who is untrained should have a 60% chance of success.    They should have a huge chance of failure if anything.

I guess I just don't agree with the default design which is why I add at least 5 to the DC for everything.     

I bring it up.  Player will grumble.  It will happen again.  Even if it's not out loud, the next time something similar happens, the player who memorizes the books will just pull out a power or item that triggers creatures' weakness automatically and other players will follow suit.  You can't really do much to police that, though to be fair that also happened in 2nd ed and 3rd ed often as well so it's not a 4th edition-only thing.

Can't stop the meta game it seems.  A lot of players do it.  They don't do it to be dicks, they do it because that seems to be the predominant culture. 

"Ok... DM got angry when I meta gamed last time.  So I won't just announce it.  This time we're up against Fire Orcs.  I know Fire Orcs are resistant to fire and vulnerable to cold.  Ok... I just won't say anything but... I'm going to pull that frost power out now and just use that because I know the vulnerability exists without having to roll for it"



Fine, then the orcs are wearing magical armour since their vulnerabilities have become well known. This warms their bodies so that they no longer fear the cold as much, but the downside is that it requires metal spikes to go deep into their bodies to warm them evenly, so lightning will damage them more. If the PCs get the knowledge check, they know a bit about this particular tribe of orcs, and that they have a smith, or if you want a plot hook, a captured artificer, who makes them this armour.

Or the monster's controller (leader) is casting a spell (if it has free actions), or has an aura which is removing the vulnerability, or reducing the damage by the same amount. As the ice bolt flies towards the orcs, they can see it melting in mid air, as the controller gestures towards it.

These can be done on-the-fly so long as it's easy to remove (kill the squishy, or daze/stun the leader), or compensated by an equal vulnerability (or loss of resistance) to something else (though for an all divine party, removing vuln radiant and adding vuln force isn't going to be equal compensation, so watch out).

As for the monster knowledge checks, as stated, they should be 50/50 for everything if you've put a lot of effort into it (there are ways to make them guarenteed, Oghma's recall and the Lorekeeper ED for one (+10 and reroll), but if they're investing that much, then they deserve it), and don't give numbers (especially not defences). I'd normally give a brief description of each attack, the vulnerabilities, and the name/type/keywords, and let them work the rest out themselves.

As said, the surprise comes from how you use them, not what they can do. Also, if you apply a theme to the monster, I'd make it a separate check to discover the powers from that theme (e.g. the orcs want a nature check, but to find out how they've been twisted by their corruption by Demigorgon is going to take some Arcana)

"I am the seeker, I am the stalker, I am the walrus"
1.  Monster Knowledge checks do not use the same Easy/Normal/Hard DCs -they have their own DC grid to go off of (this is true for General Knowledge checks too - but they have an easier DC than Monster Knowledge)


That's under the old system. Monster Knowledge checks now go off of the same grid as any other skill DC. See page 283 HotFK/285 HotFL.
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