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Is a character aware of the consequences of a monster power or trait?

For example, does the party leader know that healing an ally within a KlurichirDDI's Malign Influence is useless? Or does he discover this only after trial-and-error, or through a monster knowledge check?

Malign Influence (Fear) * Aura 2: Enemies within the aura cannot regain hit points.

Note that this question could be easily reversed: do monsters know about characters' abilities?

My general feeling is that the rules and power's mechanics are known to both parties, but I couldn't find an explicit wording about it.

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

This is partially covered on page 26 of the DMG:

"Gotcha!" Abilities: Pay attention to monster abilities that change the basic rules and tactics of combat and give players the cues they need to recognize them. Describe the ability as it might appear in the game world, and then describe it in game terms to make it clear.

For example, if the characters are fighting a pit fiend, whose aura of fire deals fire damage to creatures within 5 squares, you might tell the players (before their characters come in range), "The heat emanating from the devil is intense even at this distance. You know that getting within five square of it is going to burn you."

So in the case of your example, yes, the players should be informed about the aura. They should also probably be informed of particularly unusual reactions/opportunity actions. They probably don't need a blow-by-blow rundown of every power the creature has, however... That's what knowledge checks are for.

For example, the fighter player-character class has the ability to make an opportunity attack whenever someone marked by it shifts. I would tell player characters (and allow monsters to know) about this ability at the time one of them is marked.

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That being said while the players should be made aware that there is some sort of mystical field radiating from the creature they probably should make a knowledge check to know what the aura might do if they've never encountered the creature before. – mirv120 Mar 28 '11 at 19:27
@mirv120 Not necessarily. For example, I can tell that a fire is hot well before the skin on my hand starts to sear away. I'm aware that the fire is generating an aura that inflicts fire damage while I'm still officially outside that aura. It's not unreasonable for a hero to notice that their breath is catching in their throat and terror start to claw at their heart as they approach the creature (i.e. combat starts), and to have that translated into the abstract game system for the players. – AceCalhoon Mar 28 '11 at 19:42
@mirv120 That said, having the occasional foe with a known to be unknown ability can be a blast. But in the general case, making the players guess at every monster's abilities will often degenerate into either being unfair or tedious over extended periods of time. – AceCalhoon Mar 28 '11 at 19:44
@AceCalhoon: I'd say it heavily depends on whether the ability is based on race or training. Racial abilities are quite easy to remember (e.g. "all Dragonborn have a breath weapon", or "all Eladrin can teleport once in a while") but abilities gained by training are much harder to know. Unless the ability requires a certain tool (e.g. spiked chain, book implement, etc.) it's imho impossible to know what the other creature is capable of. Therefore I'd allow knowledge checks to easily tell racial abilities and trained abilities only with a higher difficulty. – user660 Mar 28 '11 at 20:19
@mirv120 The problem with that line of reasoning is that D&D is an imperfect simulation. I know what dread does in the real world... As adrenaline courses through my system, I get stronger and faster, but my abstract reasoning capabilities diminish. I start to make poorer decisions. I have difficulty with tasks involving patience, and I may lose control of certain abilities. In D&D, a "feeling of dread" could mean any subset of these. It could mean my wounds don't heal(??), it could mean I move slower, it could mean a penalty to attack. My real-world knowledge of dread simply doesn't translate – AceCalhoon Mar 28 '11 at 20:51

For special abilities like these, I usually drop hints that "Somethin' just ain't right". I would describe an uneasy feeling from the aura, dropping hints that the effect is physical, possibly dropping more hints if a character is hurt.

I would never straight out tell them the exact game effect. Even if they pass a knowledge check, I would try to describe the effect in an in-setting way. I.e. "It's said that no creature would recover from it's wounds while a Klurichir is nearby, even by magical means".

At least with the players I usually game with, they prefer to be kept a little in the dark, if it enhances the immersion (without shafting them too much of course".

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That information is usually made available through a Knowledge check of the appropriate kind. The klurichir is a kind of demon, so a Knowledge: Arcana check should reveal that kind of thing.

As for whether monsters know about character abilities, I would say that — although it depends upon the background you've decided for the monster, the default answer is that they do not. They don't have a Knowledge: Adventurers skill to take.

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What's a "Knowledge: Planes" check? We're talking 4e here. I think demons fall under Arcana. – Iszi Mar 28 '11 at 12:59
You're right; I've been playing too much Pathfinder lately. – Jadasc Mar 28 '11 at 20:08
The naming differences aside, there are things that a Monster Knowledge check won't tell you in 4e. You can only identify Name, Type, Keywords, Powers and Resistances/Vulnerabilities. Everything else - e.g. movement modes, senses, or auras - is not covered by Monster Knowledge checks by the rules. – user660 Mar 28 '11 at 20:32

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