Friday, March 9, 2012

The Special Problem of Knowledge Skills

As I alluded to in my last post, knowledge skills present special challenges. It seems like a perfectly reasonable way to allocate skill points ("my character knows stuff!") particularly when you think about the academic wizardly types. However, knowledge skills present a problem for D&D. For me, D&D is at its best when it is the players up against the unknown and the game is about discovery and exploration. Knowledge skills inevitably undermine this. If a player has invested a lot of points in say, knowledge dungeoneering or knowledge nature, it is pretty unfair of me to say they know nothing at all about a new monster. Likewise, knowledge geography or knowledge history can be a real bugaboo in terms of hex crawling and exploration. 

Obviously a good DM can work with these to skills to create interesting bits of knowledge, but I find that they tend to be a mystery killer. Instead of investigating in character, the player simply asks, "what do I know about the [monster, mountain range, ancient city]?"

Possible solutions:

Take them out of the game completely.

Water them down in some way.

Replace them with more general knowledge sets: for example, world, culture, and academic.

1 comment:

Brendan said...

Knowledge skills have given me problems too. I've been trying this:

I've been using knowledge skills to allow players to make stuff up about the setting on the fly with a successful roll. Said invention can benefit the PC in the current situation. DC set based on the outlandishness of the idea, referee veto and/or modification always possible of course. No more than one try per specific idea.

It has been working okay.

I don't like how knowledge skills put the referee on the spot with regard to pretty much the entirety of the campaign. I don't mind improvising (not that I'm very good at it), but I feel like I would rather save my improv fuel for situational and immediate things.