Knowledge (Monsters)?

How does one determine what a character knows “in character” about the special abilities and weaknesses a monster has? Doe he need to make a special proficiency throw? Is it assumed that everyone can simply identify a Cockatrice on sight?

Should he have to take a Knowledge proficiency to be aware of monster abilities? If so, how would you adjudicate it?

If players are expected to metagame this information (using player knowledge instead of character knowledge), then leafing through the monsters section is no problem for me, but I’m looking for a more elegant solution.

The free “adventuring” proficiency helps with this a bit, at least (apparently, people tell the armored fighter to avoid giant, rust-colored bugs). Otherwise, there are knowledge skills and knowledge-like skills. A lot is left to GM’s discretion, though. Personally, I’d be pretty lax since “what’s out to eat me and my children and how do I kill/avoid it” tends to be a VERY popular subject for most individuals.

Slippery Chicken, the way I handle this is to assume that characters possess whatever meta-game they knowledge they happen to possess by virtue of Adventuring proficiency.

HOWEVER, in conjunction with this rule, I also rule that characters relying on “Adventuring proficiency” will not be alerted to possible alternatives that might exist within the setting, or be told if they are wrong. Whereas Characters with appropriate Knowledge proficiencies can confirm that their meta-game knowledge is true in-game. As Judge, I like to tweak monsters a bit here and there to keep the players constantly guessing.


  1. The PCs see a large, metallic bull in a courtyard filled with statues. “It’s a Gorgon,” warns Marcus. The player knew this because he’s read about Gorgons in the 1e Monster Manual, while Marcus knew this because he has Adventuring proficiency.

  2. The PCs encounter a holy symbol of a serpent eatings its own tail. “That’s a holy symbol of Iskara, a Chthnonic goddess”, says Marcus. The player knows this because he played a Cleric in my last campaign. Marcus knows this because he has Adventuring proficiency. Then I ask Balbus, an actual Cleric, to make a Theology proficiency throw. He succeeds. I say “Balbus knows this is true. He also knows that the serpent-eating-its-own-tail represents Iskara in her incarnation as the Destroyer, an apocalyptic avatar.”

  3. The PCs encounter a black gooey mass in a dungeon corridor. Marcus says “It’s black pudding! It’s immune to fire, hit it with lightning!” This is actually wrong, of course. The player “knows” this from reading the ACKS book (but is forgetting the actual rule) while the character “knows” this from Adventuring proficiency. A player controlling Grimm, a Dwarven Delver, thinks Marcus is wrong, but can’t quite remember. Grimm has Naturalism (subterranean terrain) so the player says “That doesn’t sound right… Judge, can I roll against Naturalism?” The Judge nods, and he rolls. His roll succeeds. “Grimm thinks that if this IS a black pudding, fire will kill it, while lightning will make it split up into more puddings.”

This is a great way to handle things. Of course, it goes without saying that the “adventuring proficiency” players should not be able to look through the bestiary during play. Furthermore, I would also give a few pointers to characters whose build/backstory strongly suggest familiarity of a particular monster. For example: if a dwarf had goblin-slaying as a proficiency and stumbled upon the symbol of a Goblin God, he might not know what the god was called or much about it, but he would recognize that it was a goblin symbol (he killed enough with that funny necklace). A character who had his entire family killed by kobolds in front of him would definitely recognize kobolds without a skill roll.

Thanks a lot, this is a good way to deal with it.