|Well, the message seems clear, but the double meaning could be the key to this whole thing...|
Appraise, Linguistics, Sense Motive, and More!
There are some skills that get all of the attention when it comes to a Pathfinder game. Perception checks are legion, for example, and Bluff, Diplomacy, Stealth, and Acrobatics checks tend to be made pretty often as well. Intimidate checks, too, if you're sassy or have class features that rely on demoralizing opponents in combat.
But when was the last time you heard a DM call for an Appraise check? Or a Linguistics check? Or when someone actually used Sense Motive for something other than giving the rogue the hairy eyeball?
|I'm watching you, knife boy.|
As an example, it's possible for someone who has a solid Appraise skill to tell you the approximate value of an item, sure, but you can also discern if the item is magical or not. It won't tell you a magic item's properties, but if the dwarven craftsman and the half-elf sorcerer put their heads together, suddenly you've turned what was a boring bit of bookkeeping into a team effort to yield some impressive results. You could treat the successful Appraise check as granting a small bonus to the caster who's trying to figure out what the item does through Spellcraft, as well, as it's something of a clue as to the potency of the magic when you know what it might go for on the open market.
Or if you'd prefer someone roll a Knowledge (History) check on an item, perhaps the person with Appraise could get some of the information. They may not know precisely why this style of weapon is so valuable, but that maker's mark, unique crossguard, and the pattern of waves in the steel always goes far above market price. Maybe they've heard it was the product of a dead master smith, or because the blade never needs to be sharpened, and it can cut through steel like butter.
|Can't say for sure, but I know a guy would give us half his year's take for that thing.|
As with most skill checks, it shouldn't be the only way for the party to get clued-in to the plot, but if the monk who took this skill solely because it's necessary for his fighting style feats gets a chance to shine with it out of combat, so much the better!
Linguistics is a skill most players only take to speak more languages, but it can also be used to create and spot forged documents, as well as to translate hidden meanings in old or cryptic writing. So if you've got a puzzle that needs to be deciphered, or the bard really needs the proper passes with notarized seals to pull off the lie that he's a knight errant in the city on official business with his retinue, then whoever invested in this skill can make sure the party has all the props and information it needs. Those with ranks in the Profession skill know all the basic things about their profession, and they can answer questions without even making a roll... which is why they would be the first to notice if the "soldiers" at the door, or the supposed "sailors" on the diplomat's boat are sending up red flags. Use Magic Device can be used to activate wands and scrolls, sure, but it can also be used to trick an item into believing you have a certain stat, a particular alignment, or even that you're a member of a particular race, which might allow the overly curious rogue to dope out what the enchanted robe responds to so the party can figure out what it's for.
Know What Your Party Can Do (And Include It)
While you have a lot to balance as a DM, it's important to know what your party is actually capable of when you're setting them their challenges. Otherwise you're liable to get blind-sided when your big bad bosses get creamed in two shots because you forgot how smite worked, or when the supposedly simple encounter ends up crippling the party because you overlooked the fact that they can't repair ability damage.
|Crap... ugh... walk it off?|
The other thing I would recommend is that you show your players how these skills can be used; either by asking for checks in these lesser-used skills at lower levels when the DCs aren't as tough, or showing how they could be beneficial through NPC interactions. Because if a player knows that their slightly oddball choice of Profession: Chef or Linguistics might be an important addition to the party, they'll be a lot more likely to put it on their sheet.
And, even more importantly, they'll remember your table for being a game where they were asked to roll something other than Perception, Initiative, and saving throws.
Need More Resources?
It's not easy being a DM. If you've been looking for some resources that will do some of the heavy lifting for you, then the following might be useful for you.
- 100 Random Oracular Pronouncements: Coming up with mystical-sounding pseudo-prophecies on the fly is a feat that can sprain your creativity. Best to have a few picked out beforehand!
- 100 Encounters in a Fey Forest: Speaking of encounters that are more than just combat, this list of oddball, strange, and potentially dangerous encounters is full of strange creatures, weird riddles, and moving clearings. There's also a 100 Random Encounters For On The Road Or In The Wilderness, if you need something to shake up the status quo. Both of these are written for Pathfinder, but there are 5th Edition versions, too.
- 100 Merchants to Encounter: The folks most likely to demonstrate the uses of Appraise, or even Use Magic Device, merchants sometimes become samey background characters. This collection has 100 strange, unique, and unusual folks, from fey peddlers on the road, the black market poison dealers, to those odd wizards who deal in lightly cursed goods.
Like, Follow, and Stay in Touch!
That's all for this week's Moon Pope Monday. Hopefully you enjoyed, and if you've used run these kinds of games before, leave us a comment to let us know what worked for you!
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