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In the 3rd and 4th editions of D&D, there were explicit rules for determining if a character knew anything about a monster before them. In 3rd edition, for example, use of the Knowledge skill with a general DC of 10 + the monster's HD allowed for determining one fact, plus one fact per 5 points over the check.

Looking at the Intelligence section of the 5e PHB, I don't see any similar notation. Does 5e provide any guidance as to when a player could use their out-of-game knowledge about a monster, or when the player might be told things their character would probably know in-game?

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See also ... can-player-characters-identify-monsters – SteveC Apr 23 at 16:58
See also ... how-much-do-i-tell-new-players-about-new-monsters – SteveC Apr 23 at 16:58
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Though it is not as clear as in previous editions, I believe that you would use the various intelligence skills based on what creature you are trying to learn about.

PHB, page 177 - 178, Intelligence Checks

Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about ... the inhabitants of planes

Your Intelligence (Nature) check measures your ability to recall lore about .. plants and animals

Your Intelligence (Religion) check measures your ability to recall lore about ... practices of secret cults

I take this as using the specific skills to figure out the in game knowledge. So, for example, I would organize it loosely in the following way:

  • Arcana - Use this skill to discover more about elemental creatures, creatures of pure magic, arcane creations, and creatures of other planes

  • History - Use this skill to learn more about creatures that play prominent roles throughout history. For example, goblins, kobolds, and most other humanoid races play significant roles in history.

  • Nature - Use this skill to learn more about creatures tied directly to nature. Most often, this means animals (wolves, bats, etc.) but it could also be tied to druidic creations, or guardians of nature.

  • Religion - Use this skill to learn more about creatures of religious creation. Servants of deities, undead, and other holy or unholy beings would be described with this skill.

In terms of setting the DC, use your best judgement based on the typical DC table found on page 174 of the PHB. For example, if you are in a town ravaged by kobolds consistently, it would be fairly easy for someone to know the few different roles they have in battle, so I'd give that a DC of 10.

Whereas if someone wants to know more about unholy creations most people don't see, but are commonly known about, that would be a religion check of 15 for medium difficulty.

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Nice, that makes the use of the skills much more organic. – SevenSidedDie Aug 23 '14 at 16:09
I have, in the past, used the creature's CR to influence the roll. Thus even an Easy DC of 10, such as for knowing basic information about an enemy, might be quite hard for high-CR enemies. I will have to revamp this strategy as bonuses are flatter in DnD5e but I believe a similar system could work well. – Eric Jan 27 '15 at 10:53
@EricTobias I agree in part, but it shouldn't be based entirely on how hard of an enemy it is. For example, dragons are often high CR creatures, but there is a wealth of lore about them. However, if you're up against a relatively unknown group, I'd agree. – SurrealAnalysis Jan 27 '15 at 15:51
@SurrealAnalysis I partly agree. While there is a lot of common knowledge about creatures such as dragons, for example the damage type of their breath weapon, precise information as to their society's social structure, nesting habits, spellcasting abilities, etc, should be known. That type of information may exist but should be rare, as in requiring a good roll. – Eric Jan 28 '15 at 14:16
I know this is an old answer, but it would be super helpful to take the list of creature types from the Monster Manual (Aberrations Beasts Celestials Constructs Dragons Elemental Fey Fiends Giants Humanoids Monstrosities Oozes Plants Undead) and categorize them under the different types of check you'd need for each of them. – PurpleVermont Aug 31 '15 at 3:11

Battle Master level seven feature, Know Your Enemy. That said, I play with open HP and, especially, open AC.

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Are you able to tell us more about this feature, particularly how it meets what the asker is looking for? Generally we need this information to judge an answer. On this SE, one sentence of answer generally indicates there's more that needs to be said that isn't being said. – doppelgreener Mar 2 '15 at 0:51

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