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What I mean by this is when in combat with a creature or creatures how do you allow the player to activate his Bane while keeping character over player knowledge in mind?

For example, In PF I play a 7th level Inquisitor that can use this ability 7 rounds per day. When in a battle with a creature that my Inquisitor has not encountered before (but that I know what it is) how would I go about declaring Bane on said creature? A free "Knowledge __" check?

I realize from a mechanical standpoint that I could just memorize creature types and subtypes, but where is the fun in that? How should I approach this as my character while using the existing mechanics?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Knowledge checks are the way to go for this one. At the beginning of combat, players should be pretty well trained to ask "What's the knowledge check for that thing over there?"

Knowledge checks take no action:

Action: Usually none. In most cases, a Knowledge check doesn't take an action (but see “Untrained,” below).

Relevant section on the DC for monsters:

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monster’s CR. For common monsters, such as goblins, the DC of this check equals 5 + the monster’s CR. For particularly rare monsters, such as the tarrasque, the DC of this check equals 15 + the monster’s CR or more. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Typically the first bit of information they'll want is "Type/Subtype". They can ascertain the approximate type without the check (it is what determines the Knowledge check after all), but if they don't hit the DC they don't know what the heck it is. Now, another player could make the check and shout "That's an x! Fangulor, murder it!" to get around the problem.

Additionally, the Bane ability says nothing about the Inquisitor knowing what the creature thing is (and heck if it's disguised, they might get it wrong).

In summary, if no one in the group can hit the DC for the knowledge check, the Inquisitor can't use their Bane ability. Unless of course as @Erik and @Ace point out the Inquisitor guesses the type correctly. :)

Sources: Knowledge Checks, Bane Ability

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+1. But you have been a little too strict in the answer: the Inquisitor could of course activate Bane blindly trying to guess the creature type. – Erik Burigo May 24 '11 at 15:13
I would say this is generally correct, but to keep in mind that creature type will often be something that can be inferred from description even without knowing anything about the specific creature (aberration, construct, undead, dragon, fey and so on). I would think that a knowledge check wouldn't be required to figure out the type for most oozes ;) – AceCalhoon May 24 '11 at 15:15
Most definitely, I'll add in a little edit to that effect. :D – Cthos May 24 '11 at 15:16
@AceCalhoon Though, if you're feeling extra mean, you can make something that is Undead look very much like an Aberration. (As is the case with Will-o-wisps...they very much look like a ghost but is an aberration). Then though you might have to make them guess what the knowledge skill is to keep them on their toes. I'm pretty evil though... – Cthos May 24 '11 at 15:19
@Ace - There are most definitely things that can be inferred, ie. rotting flesh is probably Undead. @Cthos - Your example with the Will-o-wisp actually happened a few sessions back! (Kingmaker Module 2) From a character perspective the idea that someone else in the party could make the check if Inquisitor X fails is ingenious and simple and definitely helps the RP over Player Knowledge issue that I was trying to avoid. Why do we tend to over-complicate things when we think of them on our own?! – Sorcerer Blob May 24 '11 at 15:20

Also, do bear in mind that the inquisitor has a bonus to identify the type/subtype of the creature as per the Monster Lore class feature. This stacks with the inquisitor favored class bonus to knowledge checks to identify creatures as well if the player chose this option.

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