Knowledge (Skill)


Step: Rank + PER
Default: No
Action: Standard
Strain: 0

Serves as a template for all Knowledge skills.

The character is knowledgeable about a certain topic. The precise definition of a Knowledge skill is determined by the player, keeping in mind that all Knowledge skills are subject to the gamemaster’s approval. A Knowledge skill may cover broad areas of knowledge, meaning that the character knows a little bit about a lot of things, or he may have more focused knowledge, giving him more detailed knowledge within a smaller area of expertise. While the area of expertise is determined by the player, the gamemaster determines how applicable the knowledge is to the question at hand.

The Typical Knowledge Skill Table lists some different Knowledge skills that might be appropriate or useful for characters.

Alchemy and Potions Creature Lore Province History
Ancient Weapons Discipline Lore Racial Lore
Baking Farming Scourge History
Barsaive History Horror Lore Trade Routes
Botany Legends and Heroes Wild Animals
Court Dancing Military Organizations

On Knowledge Skills

Your character has lived in the world of Earthdawn for his entire life, and so he will know more it than you possibly can. Knowledge skills represent that experience.

In a game session, Knowledge skills come into play whenever something your character might know would help you make an informed choice about what to do next. Your character may know a tremendous amount about the world of Earthdawn, but you, the player, will only learn that knowledge when the story dictates the need. Knowledge skills serve two main purposes:

• They simulate your character’s knowledge of the world. The gamemaster reveals or adds to this knowledge when it will advance the story.
• They allow you to further define your character, giving him unique quirks and interests.

Using Knowledge Skills

Using Knowledge skills follows the same procedures as using other skills or talents, but as the exact nature of each Knowledge skill can be freely chosen with very narrow focus or broad perspective, and as knowledge of any area may cover huge amounts of information with different levels of insight, there are different ways for players and gamemasters to use Knowledge skills during the game, and different ways to interpret Knowledge skill Test Results. Your character typically uses a Knowledge skill in either one of two ways:

• To determine if he knows a specified fact.
• To see how much about a given subject he knows.

Both ways require a Knowledge skill Test to be made, referred to as a Knowledge Test. While learning a specific fact often simply means beating a Difficulty Number, and while finding what body of knowledge a character has often means making an open roll, with higher Test Results representing more knowledge, both ways follow the same procedure when making Knowledge Tests.

Note that the use of Knowledge skills does not reflect a character’s absolute and only knowledge about any given situation. It is a combination of remembering the right thing at the right moment or drawing of conclusions between knowledge and situation. As such, a character knows things that he does not have a skill for, and may know something he failed to “remember” earlier.

Making Knowledge Tests

When making a Knowledge Test, a character rolls the Step Number (Rank+PER) of the Knowledge skill against a Difficulty Number determined by the gamemaster, requiring a certain Result Level. To determine the Difficulty Number, the gamemaster examines how well the character’s skill covers the subject of the Knowledge Test, how related the skill is to the subject (see Knowledge Relation below). He then determines how central the desired information is inside the subject, if it is a well-known fact in that particular area of expertise or information known only to a few insiders (see Knowledge Obscurity below).

If the character is looking for a fact, the gamemaster’s decision results in a Difficulty Number and a Result Level to be achieved against that Difficulty Number. This can be re-interpreted into a new Difficulty Number, which will sometimes be the case in various Earthdawn products. For example, if a Botany (7) Test requires an Excellent Result because the information is not well-known even among botanists, a Botany (15) Test might be asked for instead (as 15 is an Excellent Result against a Difficulty Number of 7).

If the character tries to learn as much as possible about a subject, the Difficulty Number is determined as normal, but there is no specific Result Level required. Rather, with every Result Level achieved, the character learns additional information. Earthdawn products will often suggest a number of Knowledge skills and associated Difficulty Numbers along with a table of Result Levels showing what a character achieving that Result Level learns. Knowledge learned in a higher Result Level also grants access to that learned in lower Result Levels. For example, if a character tries to remember all sausages important to Throal cuisine, a Throal Cuisine (5) or a Barsaivian Cuisine (9) Test might be called for, and an Average Result with either skill would allow the character to learn the five most important Throalic sausages, while a Good Result would allow him to learn both the five most important, plus another four less important sausages, and so on for Excellent and Extraordinary Results. Although skills and Difficulty Numbers differ, the knowledge gained would be the same if identical Result Levels were achieved.

Jim, the gamemaster, has designed a scenario where the player characters are stranded in the wilderness without food. They now have to determine if a certain berry is edible, and possibly what other edible plants are available to the group in the forest they are currently traveling through. The players call out three skills they deem suitable to this task: The Swordmaster knows the Nature Lore Knowledge skill, the Scout knows the Botany Knowledge skill, and the Archer knows the Wild Animals Knowledge skill. Jim now has to determine how these skills are related to the two tasks, and then how accessible the information is within the individual areas of expertise.

Knowledge Relation

Before making a Knowledge Test, the gamemaster determines how related the Knowledge skill and the subject at hand are. The relation of skill and knowledge determines the Difficulty Number of the Knowledge Test, as shown on the Knowledge Test Table. There are five broad categories for the relation a Knowledge skill has to a subject:

To-the-Point Knowledge skills match the knowledge sought after exactly and are often very specialized Knowledge skills. For example, the Current Throal Politics Knowledge skill is the skill known to a character who keeps up-to-date on the day to day politics of Throal to the very detail, and the ideal source to learn about the change in Throalic politics brought by king Neden’s ascension to the throne.

Closely Related Knowledge skills cover the knowledge sought very closely, either by covering a slightly larger focus or a strongly related field of expertise. For example, the Throal Politics Knowledge skill is still a good source of knowledge about the ascension of King Neden.

Related Knowledge skills are the most common Knowledge skill found and cover a wider area of expertise, but skill and knowledge sought are still quite related. For example, both the Barsaive Politics and Throal History skills allow some access to knowledge about king Neden’s ascension and policies. Hardly Related Knowledge skills might contain small bits of relevant information where the desired knowledge is concerned. For example, the Throal Military Knowledge skill might cover some of the knowledge connected to Neden’s ascension, as he served time in Throal’s military.

Unrelated Knowledge skills cannot be used to learn anything about a given subject. For example, the Theran Cuisine Knowledge skill does not allow one to learn any facts about king Neden at all, even if he liked Theran food. They do not allow any Knowledge Tests to be made.

For the task of determining edibility of the specific berry, Jim decides that the Wild Animals skill is Unrelated, the Nature Lore skill is Hardly Related (as it covers a very wide area) and the Botany skill is Related (it is the typical skill for this task). A skill like Plants of the Woodlands would have been Closely Related, while a skill like Natural Food Plants would have been To-the-Point. For the task of determining other possible edible plants in the area, Jim decides that the Wild Animals skill is at least Hardly Related (animals have to eat), that the Nature Lore skill is Related (it covers general knowledge about typical edible plants) and that the Botany skill is Closely Related.

Knowledge Obscurity

Once the relation of Knowledge skill and the field of expertise the knowledge is part of are determined, the gamemaster decides how successful the Knowledge Test has to be to either learn a specific fact or to what extent a character’s Knowledge Test Result covers it. The more obscure a piece of Knowledge, the higher a Result Level it requires on the Knowledge Test.

General information requires (or is available on) an Average Result. For example, the approximate date and rough circumstances of Neden’s ascension are General informat ion wi thin the subjects of Neden’s person, Throal politics, or Throal in general.

Detailed information requires (or is available on) a Good Result. For example, Neden’s accurate age and the day he ascended to the throne are Detailed information.

Intricate information requires (or is available on) an Excellent Result. The stances that Throal’s noble houses took towards Neden’s ascension and their immediate reactions and displays during the coronation ceremony are Intricate information.

Obscure information requires (or is available on) an Extraordinary Result. Obscure information is typically secret knowledge, available only insiders. The details of king Varulus’ murder and his son Neden’s reactions to learning of it are only known to members of the royal family and close friends, and are obscure information.

For determining if the berry is edible, Jim decides that all skills that allow tests are General Information – you cannot get any more obscure than edible or poisonous really. So he calls for Nature Lore (12) and Botany (9) Tests from the characters, but no Animal Lore Test. Both succeed, and both characters learn that the berry is edible. To find out about other options for edible food, he calls for Wild Animals (12), Nature Lore (9), and Botany (7) Tests. Now, the Result Levels of the tests determine what the characters learn. The Difficulty Number is of no importance once the Result Level has been determined. As it so happens, both the Scout and Swordmaster do not even achieve an Average Result – they learn nothing from their test. The Archer, however, achieves a Good Result on his Wild Animals (12) Test, and learns what Jim intended to let the characters know for both Average and Good Results: that many of the trees in the area grow nuts, and that a wide variety of mushrooms in the area are edible. To tailor the information to the skill used, Jim explains to the Archer that he remembers that a lot of nut-eating squirrels live in the area and that wild boars here find mushrooms a delicacy.

Knowledge Skill Limits

Knowledge skills give your character facts, not abilities. They do not enable your character to perform an action. For example, knowledge of art does not make your character a painter; your character may know everything about every ship ever built and remain unable to sail one out of harbor. Knowledge skills let you determine what your character might want to do next; they do not necessarily enable your character to put a plan into action.

A character successfully using a Knowledge skill knows critical information applicable to his current situation. The gamemaster gives the pertinent information to the player, allowing the character to act knowledgeably. If the gamemaster considers the information the character is looking for unimportant to the adventure, using a Knowledge skill will likely yield little information. Quite simply, players cannot expect the gamemaster to know or create and catalogue every possible fact about the world of Earthdawn, nor every bit of knowledge they have to help them out in each and every circumstance.

Knowledge (Skill)

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