Thursday, August 15, 2013

Monster Lore

An adventurer that doesn't know the first thing about monsters isn't a very qualified adventurer. At the same time you don't want your players to have the ability to game the system with knowledge their character isn't likely to have. So here's a rule I propose:

Monster Knowledge: Upon encountering a monster for the first time, have each player roll a die... the exact size is up to you but I'd say that it oughta be at least a d6 and probably no more than a d10. They know a number of important facts about that monster equal to the number they rolled. Start with the players who rolled lowest (come up with your own method of breaking ties), then keep going until you reach the person who rolled highest. Everyone who rolled the same or higher has a 4 in 6 chance of already knowing the same fact. Important facts equal things like one special attack or defense ability (troll regeneration, for instance), the number of them that tend to group together, basically any statistical thing that can be rationalized in terms of actual in-character knowledge. Creatures that have a reason to be obscure (for instance because they're extraplanar, very rare, or newly created) might grant a penalty to the roll.

If a character has a particular reason to know a lot about a given creature you might give him a bonus to the roll. If he's intimately familiar you might even let him ignore the "common knowledge" roll. This way your players are unlikely to go into an encounter completely ignorant of what they're facing. I mean surely they're not complete newbies, right? They've heard the campfire stories or read a few bestiaries or something. If you like you can have a chance of them knowing something false or trivial, but I wouldn't make it too high of a chance, the whole point is that PCs are reasonably informed about their own world.


ProfessorOats said...

This whole character vs. player knowledge divide is part of why I got fed up with the newer editions. Players stop playing a game and begin acting according to social expectations. I can rationalize alot of their knowledge as coming from common lore, especially in the case of such iconic monsters as Medusa. To balance things out, don't give them any knowledge-related boons like a background in architecture or whatever. I might also make it harder to identify monsters, at least when first encountering a species, through description rather than naming the beast

I will say, this is far simpler than 3.5's approach of dividing monsters among six or seven different Knowledge skills, or Kalamar's single Knowledge (monsters) skill that required you to first identify a monster (DC 20) before determining such things as special abilities or trade value of parts (DC 20-30)

David Larkins said...

Ah, this takes me back. The first house rule I ever implemented for AD&D (2e, as was the style at the time) was to create a "Monster Lore" proficiency. The better your roll, the more you knew about a given monster. It worked well, since the monster format for 2e was so jam-packed with information.

ProfessorOats said...

Plus there were all those "Ecology of ..." articles in Dragon to take advantage of

TheHomelessNerd said...

Charles Ryan had a great post on his blog about "5 Things Everybody Knows" that really got me thinking on this topic. His idea was to have an index card with 5 things everybody knows for monsters, cities, important people, etc that you could give/read to the players. What I would really love to do though is have a computer program where I could shuffle around the monster stats (to break the player knowledge) and print out a short "5 things" booklet for my PCs (giving extra things to the guy who took the monster lore skill(s) - I do like skills). Would be a chore to write and prep, but still feels like the best way to customize a setting and shake up the players.