Skill Challenge: Research

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 14, 2009

When PCs need information they generally go to a sage or some other knowledgeable NPC. But many PCs have training in the various knowledge skills so why not give them an opportunity to use them for more than monster identification. This skill challenge provides DMs with a way to reward PCs who have opted to take training in the knowledge skills with XP.


The PCs need to spend time in a library searching for important information. Time is of the essence so you can’t afford to wade through every single book and tome. You need to narrow your search quickly in order to move on with your goal.

  • The PCs have an old treasure map or encrypted message written in an ancient language. They need to learn the exact nature of the message while not tipping their hand to other would-be treasure hunters.
  • An important NPC is in trouble with the law. The PCs can try to find a legal loophole to help free him through proper channels or perhaps they want to find the best way to break him out of prison. Information on the best way to do both awaits them in the library.
  • New information has recently surfaced about the possible locations of a legendary magic item. If the item does exist the PCs need to find it before the forces of evil do. They may want the item for themselves or they may have been hired by the local church, a powerful wizard or even the king to ensure its safe return to the right hands.


2 PC level +0 (requires 6 successes before 3 failures).

Note: the PCs may attempt to complete the nested challenge. If they succeed they earn 2 successes towards the main challenge. If they do not succeed it only counts as 1 failure towards the main skill challenge.

Primary Skills

All knowledge skills, Bluff, Diplomacy, Perception, Streetwise

  • Each skill can only be used to accomplish 1 success towards the overall skill challenge unless noted otherwise.
  • Skill checks denoted as assist do not count as a success or failure towards the overall skill challenge.

Other Skills

Bluff, Perception, Stealth, Thievery

Scholastic Training

PCs trained in any of the knowledge skills (Arcana, Dungeoneering, History, Nature or Religion) provide a +4 bonus when assisting with these skills (rather than the usual +2) due to their formal training in these areas.

Any knowledge skill (moderate or hard DC)

You find a clue or detail that leads you to believe you’re on the right track.

Note: The same knowledge skill cannot be used to gain more than two successes.

It’s up to the DM to determine exactly which knowledge skills are appropriate for the skill challenge at hand. It’s unlikely that all of them will be applicable in all situations. However, if the PCs can draw a connection between their best knowledge skill and the objective, the DM is encouraged to let the PC attempt the check.

Bluff (moderate DC)

You attempt to enlist help from the librarian or a scholar present in the library through half-truths, lies and deception.

Diplomacy (moderate DC)

You attempt to enlist help from the librarian or a scholar present in the library by telling them the truth. Depending on how much information you choose to leave out or keep hidden, the DM may determine that Bluff is a more appropriate skill in this circumstance.

Perception (hard DC, maximum 2 successes)

As you quickly scan the shelves for anything useful a book title catches your eye. Closer examination reveals that this book will definitely help you.

Streetwise (easy DC)

You learn that the librarian can’t keep his mouth shut. His reputation as the town gossip should be weighed heavily before providing him with too many details about your objectives.

Streetwise (moderate DC)

You’re able to find out what kind of bribe or favour may get the librarian to assist you beyond the scope of his job requirements. This may include granting you access to the rare book room or leading you to other, less reputable or dangerous sources of information. If you choose to act on this information you gain +2 on Bluff checks made to bribe him.

Rare Book Room (Nested Challenge)

Many libraries have a rare book room or some other area with restricted access. The PCs may attempt the following mini-skill challenge in order to gain access.


1 PC level +0 (requires 4 successes before 3 failures).

Bluff (hard DC)

You attempt to bribe the librarian or guard in order to gain access to the rare book room. An offering of at least 1gp x PC’s level provides a +2 bonus on this skill check.

Perception (moderate DC)

You manage to find out where the keys to the rare book room are kept.

Stealth (hard DC)

You manage to sneak into the rare book room unnoticed.

Thievery (hard DC)

You attempt to steal the keys.


You find the information you’re looking for without arousing suspicion.


You cannot find the information you’re looking for with enlisting the assistance of the librarian, local scholars or other researchers. You eventually get the information you require, but many others are now aware of your objectives. There is little chance that this information will be your secret for much longer.

1 BeanBag November 22, 2011 at 10:51 am

History? For that character who is a walking library.

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) November 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm

History would certainly fall into the knowledge category I mentioned at the outset. However, History is a pretty general category so depending on what your character’s back story is you might gain special modifiers if you’re looking for something that you’re considered an expert in.

For example, a Rogue PC in one of my adventures was an art thief. He was trained in History which he explained as an expertise in art history. This helped him when he was appraising art but wasn’t necessarily as useful recalling fact and dates that had nothing to do with major art movements.

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