Fox’s Cunning – I Hope You Know That

Meta-knowledge is a tricky topic, especially in encounter mode. Trying to limit the use of one’s out of character knowledge is admirable, but has the unfortunate side-effect of limiting your ability to apply creative solutions. After all, no one is going to fault a new player for guessing the specific spell vulnerability of a golem without a recall knowledge check. But when the player who ran the same adventure last week pulls out that stone to flesh scroll? Things get muddy.

And this does not make you a bad player! Sometimes your character just won’t have the skills to make the recall knowledge check. And when your party is on the verge of the TPK, it can be tricky to determine what your character can figure out without your encyclopedic knowledge of kolyarut weaknesses. It can put a player into an awkward position, especially when the desired knowledge is something that could be logically deduced.

Enter: Recall Knowledge!

Facts about Recall Knowledge

Recall Knowledge is one of the most significant party buffs in Pathfinder Second Edition. From learning a creature’s reaction to learning their weakness, Recall Knowledge is an invaluable single action that can turn the tide in battle. Learning a weakness or resistance is not just extra damage for you, it’s potentially 5-10 extra damage per round for every other character in the party. Learning whether or not a monster has an attack of opportunity or a dangerous aura. Back on my First Edition blog, I gave the acronym “GASP” for remembering what actions players can take when they haven’t used their entire action economy. In Second Edition, just remember your skills. Especially Recall Knowledge

Recall Knowledge is not what your character knows. Recall Knowledge is what your character recollects. You aren’t so distracted that you become flat-footed or can’t concentrate in the same turn, but when a two-ton leathery death machine is barreling down on you it should take some effort to maintain your wherewithal to remember what facts you know about that particular breed of awful.

Recall Knowledge is not always the same skill for every monster of the same type. In addition to golem lore, stone golems use arcana or crafting to determine their abilities. Crafting would be the ideal skill to learn about its physical defenses and attacks. Arcana for its spell vulnerability and magic resistance. This allows the recall knowledge to better reflect the variety of monster’s abilities, rather than the awkward pause that frequently follows asking “what would your character know about golems?” If you are using custom monsters or the skills aren’t listed, think in advance which skills a player can use.

You can use Recall Knowledge more than once for the same monster! You can use different skills! You can get more information! You can even ask if the information you got three rounds ago was fake! You can even use Recall Knowledge more than once the same turn, which isn’t a terrible thing if your character is otherwise debilitated or unable to participate in combat.

Recall Knowledge as a Player

Make sure the GM understands what kind of knowledge your character wants. If your swordsman is always listening to stories from other swordsmen at bars, they might not know that a dragon has exceptional resistance to arcane magic. Many monsters have different skills you have to roll, so it’s much easier to ask the GM in advance specifically what you want to know before you roll. After all, you might just not have a high enough rank in Recall Information to know a specific question!

Don’t forget your Lore skills! While this is fairly apparent with skills like Gnoll Lore and Undead Lore, some GMs will often allow geographical or professional lores when it comes to very specific types of monsters and hazards.

Any class can improve Recall Knowledge, and it’s never a bad investment. Dubious Knowledge is an incredible double-edged sword, not to mention the kind of thing you should tell a Gamemaster your using in advance. (Ask if you can spend an action to Recall Knowledge to ask if potential dubious knowledge is true or not!) Survey Wildlife can let you Recall Knowledge during Exploration Mode, potentially more useful than even free action Recall Knowledge checks, especially since you can do it more than once if you have enough time. Automatic Knowledge is super useful in a campaign focused around one specific type of monster. In Pathfinder Society it’s much easier to qualify for the feat with that free Assurance at level 5 from your school benefit!

Cognitive Mutagens are fairly expensive but will ensure you don’t critical fail an important check (especially during a research encounter). Scholarly Journals look expensive too, but can frequently be found at a library, noble’s manor, or adventurer’s guildhall.

If you want to specialize in Recall Knowledge, the Pathfinder Agent and Scrollmaster Archetypes open access to the powerful Recognize Threat and Font of Knowledge feats. The Pathfinder Agent also let’s you use the rogue feat Battle Assessment via the Educated Assessment feat!

Recall Knowledge as a GM

Try different approaches for determining what information is learned. Some groups prefer when players ask specific questions and the GM will explain what skill to roll for that question. In other cases, the GM will tell you which skills are relevant and give you information based on your roll.

Keep Recall Knowledge in mind when you prep your games. Read over your monsters and at least make a mental footnote of what possible information you can give. Try using word doc comments, or just a good old fashioned highlighter. Preparing misinformation can be even more critical. Hesitating on those failures can make it obvious the information is wrong. And if you run out of ideas, look up similar monsters with only slightly different statistics to try to confuse your players. Or try to imply that the monster they are facing seems different even if the monster is straight from the Bestiary!

Sometimes you can let players Recall Knowledge in Exploration Mode. This happens in a certain PFS Scenario when you are using Survival to track a monster in the wilderness. It also makes sense when you are spying on an enemy who hasn’t seen you yet or you meet a non-hostile creature in a social encounter that you expect to break down. It should be rare without a feat, and learning information once doesn’t mean you automatically recall it the next time you come face to face with that monster. This is all very group dependent, and there is no right or wrong answer!

And there are many groups who don’t need the secret rolls as much. And in a standard adventure there’s nothing wrong with that! But I find keeping Recall Knowledge a secret roll enhances your standard game, especially in intrigue based adventures, or against disguised monsters! And a final piece of advice for GMs: Don’t let players roll dice if you’re not prepared for them to fail! Recall Knowledge specifies that a player might know something without the check.

Pathfinder Society Boon Cards

I’ve recently received a great deal of positive feedback about my Pathfinder Society Boon Cards! The “master files” will be updated (at that link) by the end of the week, pending tomorrow’s monthly scenario drop! Furthermore, you can download files containing the boons for individual scenarios at PFSprep in the sub-forum for each individual scenario! Please drop by our Know Direction Discord for further updates, or to just hang out and chat with me and the rest of the Know Direction crew. Thank you for your time. Don’t forget the Explore, Report and Cooperate.

Dustin Knight

Dustin has been playing and improving on RPGs since AD&D in 1999. He ran games and conventions around California while studying Graphic Design, Philosophy, English & Architecture. After developing a tabletop game seminar he began working freelance for Alderac Entertainment Games. During his stint on the East Coast, he became a Venture Lieutenant and began reviewing Pathfinder mechanics for Organized Play. After moving to Washington in 2019, he met Alex Augunas at Paizocon and developed, designed and wrote for Everybody Games LLC. He has since published work with Rogue Genius Games and Paizo. He can be found on the Know Direction discord where he goes by the username "KitsuneWarlock".