Monster Lore Skill (Home Rule) – Episode.069

While your strike is true on the beast, your blade seems to only enrage it more, whipping its body around to face you.  The grip of your sword holds firm, however, and you are spun around with the sword to the creature’s back, hanging on for dear life.  It seems you are completely outclassed in this fight, and it may be your final battle.  Yet in the back of your mind, you recall hearing from a peddler about such beasts having a sensitive area susceptible of injury between the shoulder blades.  Still holding the sword in one hand, you deftly pull out the dagger from your sleeve and jam it into the creature’s shoulders, sinking the blade much deeper and sending the beast to its knees in misery.

I have always implemented a minor action into my “House Rules” whenever running an RPG with new players.  Monster Lore is an exciting feature that players can use to learn about the monsters of the world, especially in Dungeons & Dragons or any other fantasy setting that is heavy with beasts.  While many people inexperienced to the game may recognize dozens of creatures that have been made famous through literature or movies, statistically they don’t know just how harmful they are.  Granted they can assume a Cyclops is lethal and they should run away, but if they keep that mentality, they will never engage in any enemies.

This is where Monster Lore comes in.  For 3.0, 3.5, 4th, and 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons as well as Pathfinder, having rollable skills makes adding this feature quite easy.  For other systems not as strong in this area, minor modifications can be made to build this into the game.  Whenever a character encounters a creature that is found to have statistics (i.e. immunities, resistances, vulnerabilities, behavior patterns), a player may roll to see if they discover one of these traits the monster has.  The GM will be the one who determines what information the players receive.  They are welcome to continue rolling this, but combat is still moving along at this time, and their action is being used to learn more.  As an added challenge, the number they must roll to obtain such information could go up incrementally as they try learning more information about the same creature.  Particularly devoted GMs could even create 3 or 4 categories that all traits fall into, each category having more critical information than the last, and the target number to roll would be assigned to each and progressively get larger.  For example, the creature’s Armor Class could be in Category 1 with a DC of 11 while its vulnerability to fire would be in Category 4 with a DC of 20.

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Many GMs already offer this feature through Perception Checks during combat to spot vulnerabilities.  Monster Lore Checks would essentially be the same, but this skill implies the characters might recall from a past book they read or a person that warned them of something relating to the creature.

While taking up an action to make the roll during combat could make a player disheartened of missing out on the real action, I will offer the check to be made in lieu of their movement so they could use a ranged weapon or spell, or they could wait until they are in melee range before making the roll.

This then provides another angle of interaction for the players: archiving.  They could keep a single binder and create a page for each creature they meet where they obtain information.  That knowledge would stay with them as long as the characters remain alive.  As they continue, the players would slowly learn and understand just what makes any particular monster dangerous.  Granted, they would not want to meta-game with this information, but at the same time, newcomers should be able to have some caution when gauging a fight in order to avoid preventable TPK (total party kills).

With more seasoned players, this feature is not necessary and would be quite monotonous for them.  But with new players fresh to the gaming world, it could really prove to be a great way for them to get a better grasp on what to expect while playing a roleplaying game.

Until next time, lie about your dice roll as much as you can get away with.  Thanks for stopping by.

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