The Thrushmoor Terror
Knowledge is power, and this is just as true in an ancient dungeon as in a queen’s court. Knowledge checks can often answer specific questions, but sometimes a character either fails the Knowledge check or has no hope of success, such as when the knowledge she seeks is forgotten, hidden, or important enough to the story that uncovering it with a simple skill check would be anticlimactic.
This is where research comes into play. Under the following rules system, characters can visit a library and use its resources to discover new information. While simple questions (such as identifying a monster, knowing a local rumor, or recognizing a deity and her symbols and clergy) may still be answered with a single Knowledge check as presented in the Core Rulebook, this system addresses more complex issues, such as learning details of an ancient pharaoh whose name has been lost to history, interpreting an infernal contract, or studying a comprehensive book of arcane lore. Many character concepts focus on the pursuit of knowledge, and spending time researching the topic in a library using the following rules can be a fun way to let that aspect of a character or party take center stage.
These rules can represent researching any repository of lore or knowledge: an actual library, a vast historical archive, a complicated legal contract, a city’s hall of records, a hoard of ancient scrolls, a magical tome of esoteric lore, a wizard’s personal collection of books and scrolls, or even a psychic’s memory palace. For the purposes of these rules, however, the term “library” is used to represent all of these possibilities.
Using A Library
Every library has two primary statistics: a Complexity rating, which reflects the intricacy or confusing nature of the library’s contents, and knowledge points (abbreviated kp), which are an abstract representation of the sum of the library’s collected information.
To research a specific topic or question within a library, a character must succeed at a Research check, using one of the skills listed in the library’s stat block. A Research check is akin to a Knowledge check, though each library stat block lists the specific skills that can be used for Research checks based on the nature of that library’s collections. A library’s Complexity rating serves as the DC for Research checks that attempt to unravel that library’s clues.
Attempting a Research check requires an uninterrupted 8-hour period of research, and a character cannot take 10 or 20 on a Research check. Each 8-hour period of research grants a cumulative +1 bonus on Research checks. If a researcher stops researching at the same library for a month or more, she loses any cumulative bonuses gained for that library thus far. Up to two additional characters can use the aid another action to assist a primary researcher. In addition, some libraries grant a Knowledge bonus— a bonus on specific Knowledge checks (including Research checks) attempted within that library— due to the depth and completeness of its collections. Research checks cannot normally be attempted untrained unless the library’s Complexity is 10 or lower, the Research check involves a skill that allows untrained checks, or the library’s collection is extensive enough to allow untrained checks, as detailed in the library’s stat block.
Succeeding at a Research check reduces a library’s knowledge points, similar to dealing damage to a creature’s hit points. As its knowledge points decrease, a library reveals its secrets. Characters learn information when a library’s knowledge points reach various research thresholds, as detailed in each library’s stat block. The amount of knowledge points reduced on a successful Research check depends on the nature of the primary researcher and the type of library. It is generally a reflection of the character’s training and Intelligence score, represented by a die roll modified by the character’s ability modifier (see Research by Expertise, below).
In addition to these base amounts, for every 5 by which a Research check exceeds the library’s Complexity rating, the library’s knowledge points are reduced by 1 additional point. Rolling a natural 20 on a Research check acts like a critical threat. If the researcher confirms the critical hit by succeeding at a second Research check with all the same modifiers (this takes no additional time), the resulting knowledge point reduction is doubled. Conversely, rolling a natural 1 on a Research check automatically results in failure, and the library’s knowledge points increase by 1/4 of the library’s maximum knowledge points as the library’s complexity causes a researcher to follow a wrong avenue of investigation.
When a library’s knowledge points are reduced to 0, the characters have learned everything they can from that library, and gain experience points according to the library’s CR. To learn additional information, they must visit another library and continue their research there.
Research By Expertise
A successful Research check reduces a library’s knowledge points by a certain amount, just as a successful attack roll in combat reduces a creature’s hit points, and this amount depends on the primary researcher’s training in the skill she used for the Research check. A primary researcher reduces a library’s kp by 1d12 + her Intelligence modifier if she has either 10 ranks in the skill, Skill Focus in the skill, or both 5 ranks in the skill and the skill as a class skill. She reduces a library’s kp by 1d8 + her Intelligence modifier if she has either 5 ranks in the skill or the skill is a class skill for her (but not both). Otherwise, she reduces a library’s kp by 1d4 + her Intelligence modifier.
At the GM’s discretion, a character with an ability that replaces her Intelligence score with another ability score for the purpose of Knowledge checks (such as a lore oracle or shaman) can also use that ability score instead of Intelligence to determine the reduction of kp. Beyond that, characters well suited for research in a particular library might modify the result of the die roll with a different ability modifier. For instance, a brawler or fighter carrying out research in a fighting school’s library might add her Strength modifier instead of her Intelligence modifier to the result. With the variety of options available to characters in the form of character classes, archetypes, prestige classes, and other customizable selections, it’s ultimately up to the GM to decide which characters are best suited for research in a particular library.
The town’s sage has been missing for about a month. Not only do the various notes and tomes in his study contain secrets about his hometown, but a careful search can also uncover clues as to his disappearance.
Town Sage’s Abandoned Study (CR 2)
Complexity 13 (easy)
Research Check Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (nature); Knowledge Bonus +0
kp 3 At low tide, a hidden entrance to underground caverns becomes visible beneath the town’s docks. According to a number of local legends, pirates hid their booty in the caves.
kp 1 The flower seller in the town square is the local priest’s illegitimate daughter. Given the priest’s vow of chastity, if this knowledge became public, he could lose respect among the townsfolk and likely his position as the town’s priest.
kp 0 The leader of the bandits in the woods outside town claims to be the deposed lord of the neighboring barony, and wants to raise an army to take back his title and lands. The sage’s notes indicate that he was planning on seeking out this bandit lord and using his records to help prove the veracity of the claim.