View Full Version : PCs searching in books

2011-01-11, 03:44 AM
How would you do rolls for PCs who think that The Next Clue is in a set of books (say some book on a bookshelf)? Search but with a longer time increment than 1 round? Knowledge of the most relevant type?

(Assume the PCs can read the language. Question refers to nonmagical searching - but if there are spells for 'absorbing' the content of books that's interesting to know too!)

2011-01-11, 03:58 AM
For magical reading, you can't beat Scholar's Touch, in Races of Destiny. I don't have the book open, so I may have some of the specifics wrong, but I believe that it lets you read one book a round just by touching it, up to a maximum of one round per CL. It's first or second level, but I think it's first.

2011-01-11, 04:01 AM
Depends on the number of books. If it's, say, ten, I'd make it a search check either at a fairly medium DC for a longer time, or a really high DC for a short period. Perhaps allowing a take 20 for a ridiculous amount of time. Perhaps you could make a generic Intelligence check to find the information in a specific book.

I've noticed most people ignore books in D&D unless the DM specifically has something in it, like in this case. You could make it more worth their time to actually look through the books, by adding colorful titles and ludicrous names to catch attention. Some of them could actually be worth reading by granting a +1 bonus to a skill or something by having them make an Intelligence check after reading the book.

Gabe the Bard
2011-01-11, 06:05 AM
I think it could either be a Knowledge check or a Search check, whichever the character would find more useful.

A wizard with high ranks in Knowledge Arcana would be familiar with the kinds of tomes he's looking through, so he might be able to use his education to guess where the relevant information is.

A rogue who is skilled at searching through reams of papers for the information he needs could use his Search skill instead.

You could also allow the other characters to aid the person who is making the primary skill check, since it helps if there are multiple people looking through all those books.

I think your characters could take as much or as little time as they need, but it would affect the DC. They could skim a book very quickly, but they would have to be lucky in order to stumble upon the right page, so the DC would be higher.

2011-01-11, 11:26 PM
Thanks for your thoughts guys.

I'm inclined to a choice of Search or Knowledge (relevant type, if any), since when DMing I generally players having multiple ways to do things.

I think the difficulty with this scenario is that, in DnD, the ratio of time it takes to try something at all to the time it takes to do the best you can *ever* so is 1:20, pretty much always: taking 10 or regular check, vs taking 20. Whereas a heap of books is a situation where you can imagine one guy who knows the Dewey Decimal System for Arcana and can find the right book quickly (or does so by dumb luck), and another guy who reads every book cover to cover.

I guess doing longer/short checks with DC bonuses/penalties, as someone suggested, is one more to get a wider range.

Or maybe something where the DC is highest, but as you do more checks, even failures, you accumulate bonuses and eventually it's w/i reach.

2011-01-12, 02:22 AM
I saw a rule somewhere that had research as an int-based skill (class skill for anyone that gets all knowledges as class skills). I forget the DCs, but they were pretty low. Might have gotten a synergy from knowledge.

2011-01-12, 03:55 AM
I saw a rule somewhere that had research as an int-based skill (class skill for anyone that gets all knowledges as class skills). I forget the DCs, but they were pretty low. Might have gotten a synergy from knowledge.

Int check is a good suggestion, but Search and K are both Int-modified, and I like to use the 'nearest' skill rather than an ability check whenever it's something that you could plausibly see characters learning to get better at (is is definitely the case with referencing books; librarian is a whole profession, albeit getting outmoded by google in our world).

2011-01-12, 04:43 AM
Use a Search check when the players want to locate a specific book, a specific kind of book, or similar, such as finding books on a particular area. The party should know what they intend to search for, and the results should be nothing obscure. However, include a Knowledge: Whatever check when an obscure book could be found, such as finding books on what the area used to be called or an ancient kingdom within the area. As well, when the players are searching for what appears to be useful in a collection of books, I find a relevant Knowledge search which tells them rare books or curiosities.

2011-01-12, 05:27 AM
Also, if you haven't determined in advance that the books in question do have relevant information, but it's possible that they could (For instance, a character gets a hold of a book of local history and looks through it for clues for how long werewolves have inhabited the local forest), you should simply apply a modifier to the relevant knowledge check (in the example case knowledge (local) or knowledge (history)) which would probably amount to +2 to +6 depending on how relevant the books were.

2011-01-12, 07:51 AM
I saw a rule somewhere that had research as an int-based skill (class skill for anyone that gets all knowledges as class skills). I forget the DCs, but they were pretty low. Might have gotten a synergy from knowledge.

I think in the Ebberon campagin setting? I know there's a research feat in that book.

2011-01-12, 09:15 AM
In my games, it depends on time and on what you're looking for.
Search to look at a library and find quickly a specific book. If the time is not a factor and the characters are not in a rush, they simpy find books not specifically hidden.
Knowledge to determine how a specifico book is good, to catch what is not saying but implying and to obtain a specific information using the book in combination with personal knowledges (with a positive modifier).
For a normal study, however, my PCs automatically get the information in the book. As in real life, if you read and take your time, you'll have the general information; then, you can show the page to your fellows and ask them to read together and point out the meaning.
Unlless they're reading something particularly obscure, they simply get it.