Chris Chinn  drops some knowledge about knowledge rolls, and as usual I like the cut of his jib

The bit I’m a little torn about is giving info that is deliberately wrong. Namely, in some games I feel like you should just tell the player that their PC believes a bogus piece of info and let them play out the consequences, but I know that for some games and some players, that sort of authorial perspective is anathema.

That said, I do like the idea that mere possession of a given skill means the PC has a base level of knowledge, and the roll is simply to know more than that. (That’s one of the few things I liked about GUMSHOE.)

(Aside: it seems like the good ideas born out of PbtA games is just never-ending. Definitely a milestone in RPG design.)

Knowledge Rolls

10 thoughts on “Chris Chinn  drops some knowledge about knowledge rolls, and as usual I like the cut of his jib

  1. I, too, have a problem with PbtA knowledge rolls, but I don’t feel like this fixes it in the way I’d like.

    I have this idea that each playbook may get a certain number of hold each session, and a certain list of questions they can spend a hold to ask. DW Fighter asks “what here is vulnerable to me?” or the AW Brainer asks “what would it take to convince them?”…

  2. < ![CDATA[I, too, have a problem with PbtA knowledge rolls, but I don't feel like this fixes it in the way I'd like. I have this idea that each playbook may get a certain number of hold each session, and a certain list of questions they can spend a hold to ask. DW Fighter asks "what here is vulnerable to me?" or the AW Brainer asks "what would it take to convince them?"...]]>

  3. I”ve been wresting with this for some time now. I’m definitely in the same ballpark as Chris. I found a similar approach that I might like a little more in a Reddit thread. You can see Dungeon World/Apocalypse World under the surface. Here’s something from my notes (ignore that it’s in first-person, I copied/pasted from the thread):

    I give players as much accurate information as I think is relevant, and if they ask for more I give them more. If they want to do something extra for some tactical advantage, I have them roll Knowledge to see if the action would give them the advantage or not.

    Example: the rulebook says that Skeletons are immune to poison and disease, resistant to necrotic damage, vulnerable to radiant damage, and make extra-powerful opportunity attacks.

    In a traditional game, the DM decides how much of this information applies to their games and how much doesn’t, and then uses a Knowledge check to decide whether to tell the truth to the players or to lie to them (in which case they get the correct information eventually, but only after getting hurt).

    In my games, I give my players this information outright, and if one player comes up with a plan based on a strength/weakness that I hadn’t already decided on, then I have him/her roll Knowledge to decide whether the creature has that strength/weakness or not:

    Player: “I’ve heard that skeletons are drawn to electrum, so I wave my pendant in the air and make a lot of noise to attract the skeleton warrior away from [PC] and attack me instead.”

    Me: “That’ll take a Knowledge (Religion) check. If you succeed, the skeleton will move away from [PC] on it’s next turn to attack you. If you fail, the skeleton will continue attacking [PC] and possibly kill her. If you critically fail, the skeleton will be whipped into a frenzy by the electrum and gain a small number of HP. Sound good?” [I would change this example a bit, since the failure is pretty much what the skeleton’s going to do anyways. There’s no Twist. I’d make the example’s “critical fail” into the regular fail condition.]

    Player: “I’ll do it” [rolls, determining how skeletons react to electrum in the campaign]

  4. < ![CDATA[I"ve been wresting with this for some time now. I'm definitely in the same ballpark as Chris. I found a similar approach that I might like a little more in a Reddit thread. You can see Dungeon World/Apocalypse World under the surface. Here’s something from my notes (ignore that it’s in first-person, I copied/pasted from the thread):
    I give players as much accurate information as I think is relevant, and if they ask for more I give them more. If they want to do something extra for some tactical advantage, I have them roll Knowledge to see if the action would give them the advantage or not.
    Example: the rulebook says that Skeletons are immune to poison and disease, resistant to necrotic damage, vulnerable to radiant damage, and make extra-powerful opportunity attacks.
    In a traditional game, the DM decides how much of this information applies to their games and how much doesn’t, and then uses a Knowledge check to decide whether to tell the truth to the players or to lie to them (in which case they get the correct information eventually, but only after getting hurt).
    In my games, I give my players this information outright, and if one player comes up with a plan based on a strength/weakness that I hadn’t already decided on, then I have him/her roll Knowledge to decide whether the creature has that strength/weakness or not:
    Player: “I’ve heard that skeletons are drawn to electrum, so I wave my pendant in the air and make a lot of noise to attract the skeleton warrior away from [PC] and attack me instead.”
    Me: “That’ll take a Knowledge (Religion) check. If you succeed, the skeleton will move away from [PC] on it’s next turn to attack you. If you fail, the skeleton will continue attacking [PC] and possibly kill her. If you critically fail, the skeleton will be whipped into a frenzy by the electrum and gain a small number of HP. Sound good?” [I would change this example a bit, since the failure is pretty much what the skeleton’s going to do anyways. There’s no Twist. I’d make the example’s “critical fail” into the regular fail condition.]
    Player: “I’ll do it” [rolls, determining how skeletons react to electrum in the campaign]]]>

  5. Dave Turner I always found D&D really hard for this sort of thing, because everyone at the table has always read the MM, so it becomes a game of mother-may-I use the knowledge we all know is true or not. In the games I’ve played, whatever the players know is fair game, as the challenge was tactical, not simulation.

    D20 Modern had a great take on this. Every monster had a “secret” which was rolled for randomly. I.e., not every vampire was vulnerable to the same things. Researching the monster then became a thing, which is awesome, because it’s totally genre-appropriate, e.g., the Scoobies going into research mode when a new demon crops up.

    And there’s always the BW Wises method where a successful roll means that the player adds a new fact to the game world. I love that.

  6. < ![CDATA[Dave Turner I always found D&D really hard for this sort of thing, because everyone at the table has always read the MM, so it becomes a game of mother-may-I use the knowledge we all know is true or not. In the games I've played, whatever the players know is fair game, as the challenge was tactical, not simulation. D20 Modern had a great take on this. Every monster had a “secret” which was rolled for randomly. I.e., not every vampire was vulnerable to the same things. Researching the monster then became a thing, which is awesome, because it’s totally genre-appropriate, e.g., the Scoobies going into research mode when a new demon crops up.
    And there’s always the BW Wises method where a successful roll means that the player adds a new fact to the game world. I love that.]]>

  7. The Modern secret approach is new to me. Also not a bad idea. Maybe set that up in advance for a player who wants to make a Knowledge roll, but can’t come up with a cool detail they want to add to the world?

  8. < ![CDATA[The Modern secret approach is new to me. Also not a bad idea. Maybe set that up in advance for a player who wants to make a Knowledge roll, but can’t come up with a cool detail they want to add to the world?]]>

  9. Dave Turner I think the d20M approach makes sense for a certain genre. D&D? I’m not so sure. My gut says to leave it to player knowledge, and if they can’t remember the stat block entry, they can make a roll. If they fail, then no more info. If they succeed, then they get some more info.

    Basically, monsters are not am mystery unless the DM wants to make them a mystery. Otherwise, if it’s in the MM, it’s fair game.

  10. < ![CDATA[Dave Turner I think the d20M approach makes sense for a certain genre. D&D? I'm not so sure. My gut says to leave it to player knowledge, and if they can't remember the stat block entry, they can make a roll. If they fail, then no more info. If they succeed, then they get some more info. Basically, monsters are not am mystery unless the DM wants to make them a mystery. Otherwise, if it's in the MM, it's fair game.]]>