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One of the PCs in the group I am hosting likes to read books about various arcana stuff in the library of the city at night. (He only needs to sleep for 2 hours.)

Should I reward the PC somehow with skill points or something similar? And how much do you think makes sense? Is there some official documentation that describes how to handle this self-educating stuff?

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Point of note... Only 2 hours of sleep doesnt mean he doesnt need to rest for 8 hours to regain spent abilities (spells) and researching in any reasonable manner is definitly not resting. – Andy Jul 7 '14 at 12:53
@Andy - A ring of sustenance explicitly lets you prepare after those two hours. That may or may not be the scenario here, but prep time isn't necessarily a constraint. – Bobson Jul 7 '14 at 16:09
I think this seems really relevant, although I haven't personally read it (it's pretty new): Mundane No More: Texts and Tomes. That rulebook provides rules that allow characters to get all sorts of benefits from reading books. – DaoWen Jul 8 '14 at 3:08
@Andy In addition to the ring of sustenance scenario Bobson mentioned, most characters don't have any ability that requires such resting to regain to begin with. Not everyone is an arcane caster. – Matthew Najmon Jul 20 '14 at 5:59
up vote 27 down vote accepted

A temporary bonus would be reasonable, and is even supported in the rules:

The time to make checks using a library, however, increases to 1d4 hours. Particularly complete libraries might even grant a bonus on Knowledge checks in the fields that they cover.

… but I'd lean away from giving any permanent numerical bonus (in particular for something the character is doing while the other PCs have to sleep) in favour of narrative effects that spotlight the character and allow them to bring something cool to the table.

If they get a success on a knowledge roll then, it could be narrated as "Oh, you remember reading something about Owlbears in the library last week, they are deadly hunters and their young are incredibly valuable."

You can use the same technique to infodump knowledge without a roll. If you're planning this, then you could create a handout in advance and give it to the player so they can relate it to the rest of the party themselves.

You can use the library as a source of quests. "While digging through a tome about the life of the secretive Archmage Zagreus, you come across some scribbled notes in a margin that look like they might be a guide to finding one of the entrances to his pandimensional fortress".

Other people use the library, and they might need or be able to offer help to the party in some way. Dave points out that you can represent this mechanically using NPC Boons (at the time of writing, I can't access but the content is also available via the wayback machine).

The PC will probably acquire a reputation for spending so much time at the library, so much so that people wanting to get in touch might visit the library explicitly to do so. This can lead to scenes set in reading rooms and quiet corners of an atmospheric building, with occasional shushing from librarians. It would make a great change from the usual three venues of Heroes Doing Business (the tavern, the private study and the throne room).

While the rules for levelling do not demand justification, it also provides an opportunity for the player to explain (in the fiction) why they allocate their skill points and spell acquisition to particular places when they level up.

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+1 for infodump, side quests - effectively, you could use this character's activities as a way of enhancing the game for everyone. Love this answer. – LordScree Jul 7 '14 at 12:55
Quest hooks, explaining results of knowledge checks, and using player as a mouthpiece rather than npc researcher - +1 – user2754 Jul 7 '14 at 14:52

+2 Circumstantial bonus to something rather specific, whenever the character has (spent hours doing a thing X to get the bonus, or something similar). You might even allow them to get multiple bonuses from different sources, in which case the game becomes the story about how they spent time and effort to beat a challenge - which sounds okay to me.

One way to look at it is, if they could have bartered, or performed in tavern, to get enough GP - or did they already SPEND enough GP for, say, library access, food, housing - to get (craft?) a potion which would have given them the bonus?

You might discuss with the players if they're intending to put ranks into the relevant skill.

That being said, I can't remember a thing about highschool chemistry, and I did okay at school.

I think the relevant questions are:

  1. How does your group feel about such rules mods?
    • personally, I write custom character classes these days, and implement something like FATE's aspects, whenever I can sneak them in.
  2. Is the modification you're thinking too unbalancing?
    • personally, I'd allow it - if it MIGHT become unbalancing in the future, then we'll deal with that right there - in the future!
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Another solution, and one that in my opinion makes the game much more realistic, would be to let players add ranks ONLY to skills they actually trained during the last level.

In your case, spending enough time studying arcane tomes is necessary to put points into Knowledge(arcana). Learning from a mentor and practicing can be viable alternatives too, and particulary perceptive characters (good scores in WIS, INT, and Perception) could even learn just by watching others do stuff.

If a character has spent enough time studying herbalism before leveling up, then that character can put ranks in Knowledge(nature), Craft(herbalism), and maybe Alchemy as well. On the contrary, if all you did this last level was mincing goblins, then it makes no sense for you to add points to, say, Appraise. Maybe Intimidate, or Use Magic Device if you used one during your rampage (...or Climbing, or Swimming, if you were struggling to get out from under the pile of corpses. ;D )

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If the character read only books about arcana stuff and nothing else, I should give him some "Knowledge: arcana" or "Use Magic Device" ranks (+1 or +2 maximum).

You can also give character a situational bonus like "+2 on 'Knowledge: religion' for a specific religion". Once, I had a character like this who found a library in lost dwarf ruins. Since he was looking for some dwarf forging manual, he spent something like 3 days in this place. I give him +2 bonus to craft warhammer and reduce his cost of crafting masterwork warhammer (312 gp => 200 gp) after he found a "Advanced manual of Dwarf forging".

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I'm giving this a -1. A permanent bonus is not, in my mind, appropriate for something that involves no challenge, is not covered under the standard scheme of PC advancement, and a side-effect of some other bonus (less sleep). The Advance Manual you describe, however, is a great idea as it could be rolled into a treasure budget if costed appropriately. – Dave Jul 7 '14 at 11:28
I don't think it's worth a downvote, but I agree the bonus should not be permanent. You don't get +1 Strength for making pushups all the time. BUT having the "Advanced manual of Dwarf forging" with you may give a circumstance bonus on the forging. Be aware in general you don't carry a whole library with you – user10570 Jul 8 '14 at 5:55
@Lord_Gestalter I don't know why an adventurer wouldn't carry an entire library if he could get one. With convenient access to extradimensional spaces, the cash to afford it, and frequent encounters with known unknowns, toting a library is both practical and reasonable. – Hey I Can Chan Jul 8 '14 at 13:13
@HeyICanChan Because me is big barbarian. Not read, only smash ;-) – user10570 Jul 9 '14 at 6:14

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