Whidou
▶ Godbound
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

Godbound

How do you all handle the Knowledge gift The Omniscient Scholar in play?

Players at my table ask for a geopolitical info dump every time they get to a new realm, which is a huge bore and sucks a lot of fun out of exploration.

I have been able to circumvent this issue by using realms troubled enough (war, chaos, unknown…) that no human sage could be reasonably learned into their recent history. I then proceed to give the players some rumours about various places in the realm so that they don't feel cheated out of their gift.
Obviously, this does not work for every realm, especially the bigger Arcem-like ones.

If anyone around these parts has an interesting way to handle this gift in play, I'd be glad to hear about it. Thanks :-).

Ian Borchardt (Reverance Pavane)
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

One of the assumptions in RPGs is that the characters knows things that the players don't. For example a character might have a skill in Leatherworking while the player wouldn't have a clue. We [generally] don't tell the play how to use the expertise and then get them to decide how they are going to make the belt, we simply assume that they will make the belt at a quality appropriate to their skill.

The same applies to this ability. It grants the player knowledge of all Academic skills: History, Law, Literature, Astrology, Engineering, Natural Philosophy, actual Philosophy, Algebra, Geometry, Political Science, Theology etc. Which means when a character needs to make an attribute test regarding these aspects they can succeed automatically - without needing the player to know the details.

Even worse these are academic disciplines, which tend to be both theoretical and often subject to interpretation.

As far as the player knowledge of a realm is concerned, it should be exactly the same as everybody else gets (which is a brief overview). Of course, the character could go on and recite in depth about the details of the realm's history and geography, but mostly this is useless detail. How many times gas it been important to know the succession of the Kings of England when one has been invited to one of Queen Elizabeth's Garden Parties. At most it might be able to provide an amusing anecdote; at worst it bores the people you are talking to to tears (in other words, you Charisma is more applicable). Similarly a perfect knowledge of the Law may not convince a judge that he is wrong if the character lacks in tact, for example. And being able to identify that it is the Lesser Southern Giant Rock Spider that is trying to eat you at the time is of limited assistance in avoiding being eaten.

Basically, use it to answer questions rather than try to give the player the answers to all the possible questions before they are asked.

It does mean that you cannot ambush the character with a little known or regional item of law or custom however, and any attempt to do so is bound to failure. In that way faux pas can be readily avoided.

It's still an incredibly useful ability. You have context in which to operate.

Mason Munden
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

My own Knowledge Player questions the legitimacy of the gift often, despite having taken it. I've had to go through great pains in order to make them feel as though it was justified. They believe that, having been bound to the word of Knowledge, they should just automatically succeed in any Knowledge checks. I disagree with that—I argue that being bound to the word of Knowledge would allow them to summon any knowledge that fits their background/facts allowing them to automatically succeed at such knowledge checks, however Omniscient Scholar simply lets them ask a question in mortal academia and receive an answer and also succeed at any knowledge checks.

It's tough though. I've had to give a couple of info-dumps, because there may be "political academic scholars" who would keep track of current events and so-forth. It makes Omniscient Scholar more like a long-term long-range divinatory burden on the GM.

So far, I haven't found anything that mitigates that.

David Bartram
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

I would never consider current events to be academic knowledge. Some scholars might have notes on the subject but none of it would have entered the "scholarly canon". This will vary from GM to GM, but that's my view. Great for history and geography, but not great for finding out that the king died last week and was succeeded by his incompetent nephew.

Mason Munden
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

+David Bartram I disagree somewhat, I believe that knowledge of current events is well within the bounds of the focus of the Knowledge Word, but it may be less burdensome to perhaps only provide the information when it becomes a question.

David Bartram
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

The purviews of the Knowledge Word and Omniscient Scholar are distinct, IMO. Irresistible Query or the Unveiled Truth can certainly tell you about the unfortunate royal succession. But for me, Omniscient Scholar wouldn't cut it.

Mason Munden
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

Knowledge of nobility is certainly a sphere of mortal academic knowledge, however. If a player with Omniscient Scholar asked a directed question: "Can Omniscient Scholar tell me whether or not the King of this place is still in power, or if recent social upheaval has caused them to lose power?" I would definitely give the answer to them. Doing less, I think, doesn't justify it being a greater gift.

David Bartram
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

As I said, it's a GM call really. But I wouldn't describe knowledge of the current goings-on of the nobility as "academic". Either in or out of an RPG context, I don't find the word fitting for that purpose.

Ian Borchardt (Reverance Pavane)
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

I find that a good rule of thumb is "can you replace what you want to know with a recogniised academic discipline as a skill roll? So Law, Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, Engineering, Theology, Geometry, History, Algebra, Geology, Geography, Anthropology, etc, would all be valid topics for an academic ability skill roll, and thus something you would automatically know with this gift.

Think of it as a giant mystic Wikipedia that is always on call for the character. Now how useful is Wikipedia in determining what is really going on at the moment?

For example it will be readily able to provide you with knowledge of the differences between stays, sheets, lines, and rope on a sailing ship, and what each will do, but could you sail a ship using this knowledge?

On the other hand it makes it easier to understand and talk to people that actually have the practical skill of Sailor.

The same is true with more abstract disciplines. You have all the background knowledge about the situation or thing but generally applying it will require other abilities.

With specific regard to current events:

Political Science is an interesting one because as an academic subject the knowledge is mainly theoretical, but whilst in theory theory and practice is identical, in practice they are not. It should tell you how it is all supposed to work, but will almost always skip how it actually works.

History gives you the knowledge of how they got here, but generally involves dates and facts and events, and any reasoning behind them is the work of the scholars interpretation. One advantage of History is that it may provide examples of how this sort of situation resolved in the past. [For example, you could draw parallels with the modern USA and the fall of the Roman Republic due to the corruption of the elected officials (the Plebian Tribunes), causing a plebian revolt against them, but that wouldn't be able to tell you that a modern Caeser will arise (and be murdered for assuming dictatorial - ie royal - powers).]

Law certainly gives you knowledge of the current system of laws, as well as the philosophy behind law, but may not give you the right to practice law or even how the law has been perverted by custom.

Anthropology can tell you the weird customs and traditions of a people, but any interpretation as to why would be that of the scholar. But it would allow you to avoid committing a faux pas because you are ignorant of their little cultural quirks.

One of the big comforts that this ability should give a character is great confidence and surety in what you are doing. [And in line with many academic attempts to "fix" things in the real world, possibly overconfidence as well.] And as well, it should confer the omniscient aura to the character (they know the answer to questions they are asked), The wise sage is a venerated archetype in most cultures.

It's actually quite powerful as an ability, although less directly applicable to an adventurer than either Disclose the Flaw (which will tell you the weakness of the Realm/individual that you may exploit to your advantage), or Irresistable Query (which will tell you the actual truth about what is going on, but is intentionally very limited). Although it can guarantee employment as a sage/academic (if you can avoid being lynched by your fellow academics for making them irrelevant).

And don't forget that you don't have to rely on Gifts alone. You have a Word which can work Miracles which don't have the limitation of this gift. Knowledge is particularly powerful in this regard, although also quite limited. For example using a Miracle to "Solve a Problem" will tell you what needs to be done to fix the problem (gives you the knowledge), but doesn't give you any ability to actually do it or convince people that it needs to be done. That's still up to you.

Nathan Easton
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

I use Doctor Who as a guide. The Knowledge player has about as much academic capability as The Doctor.

Johnny McDuff
2017-07-25T22:19:49.580Z

I think the best solution to your problem is to ask the players why they want all this information at once. If your game is pretty sandboxy, it's likely they are looking for the coolest bits you set up for them to go play with. If it's not sandboxy, it's likely they want to know what's out there to apply to whatever problems you are throwing at them.

And fundamentally, OS let's them do that, and you shouldn't fight it. Once you know why they want the info, you can probably craft a compromise whereby you will give them the relevant information ahead of time, rather than giving them ALL the information at once.

It's a somewhat common happenstance in my experience for players to become annoyed at a GM when they get information AFTER making a big decision. "If I had known the Princess was adopted, I wouldn't have told the Queen they had the same eyes!"