A monster knowledge check, if successful grants:

The character identifies the monster and knows its origin, type, typical temperament, and keywords.

If the character meets of exceeds the hard DC for the monster's level, he or she knows the monster's resistances and vulnerabilities, as well as what its powers do.

How do people play that? Does making the hard check entitle the player to know all the actions that the monster could take? Including range, area of effect, damage, etc? Or should the DM just summarize it all?

Is there an efficient way for the DM to provide this information to the player?

Currently my group has 3 different DM's, all do it a bit differently. Generally a brief summary of the powers is given. However, my current character is rather specialized at passing these checks and it occurred to me that if I was entitled to know that a creature had a ranged 10 power with burst 2 that did acid damage (for example), then I'd really like to know that prior to experiencing it directly. :)

After reading the relevant rules, I'm unsure what the "official" stance is. If there isn't one, I'm eager to learn if there is a majority view of how this should be played.


3 Answers 3


"Is there an efficient way to provide this information?"

Yes. Players should generally have an index card with monster defenses (at the very least) in their hands around turn 3. Enough attacks will have been made that the defenses will be obvious and it is an excellent way of speeding up combat. If you have a character who routinely makes monster knowledge checks, add sufficient detail to cover her worst possible check, then write additional information on the back. Inform your players when they are allowed to turn over the cards.

This way, there's no interruption of play as the players can read the cards outside their turns. You are not simply printing out the statblock for the players (though that's a quite viable option as well) and you are allowing players to use their knowledge skills to speed up combat.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - do you provide the full power description with a successful hard monster knowledge check? IE: range/area of effect/targets/damage and riders? \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wouldn't expect it. It's not particularly useful. On a hard, I'd expect defense targeted, keywords, and "gotcha" powers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 21:47

The Monster Manuals have Lore sections which are good guidelines for the kind of combat information that the PCs can make checks for.

Monster Manual, page 19

When a fire archon blazesteel is bloodied, it unleashes a burst of searing flame. It also gains its fiery revenge by unleashing a similar burst when slain.

An ash disciple can hurl fire, unleash pounding waves of heat, and engulf its enemies in a blinding cloud of cinders.

Resistances and vulnerabilities, as the question mentions, are also good things to drop if the players meet the check.

As DM, I wouldn't describe every power or go into great detail for two reasons:

  1. It's boring.
  2. 4e is already a tactical game, and if the players know the exact capabilities of every monster they're up against, the game degenerates into pure tactics and rote.

I run that as written: if the players meet or beat the hard DC, I tell them the monster's resistances and vulnerabilities ("Resist 5 fire; vulnerable 5 radiant"), and I'll broadly describe the monster's powers ("It has a daily that can do a lot of damage and grant combat advantage....").

Edited to add: You can always call the D&D hotline to get an official answer from Wizards.

To answer the edited question: the intent of the rule seems to be to provide a general sense of the creature's powers, not to let players read its stat block. In the real world, even an expert animal handler can't know a given creature's abilities to that level of detail, especially based on less than a minute's interaction with it. So, no, I'd say that the GM wouldn't provide specific numbers, even for a character who's specialized in it.

Of course, it is up to the DM.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I would go further to describe the flavour of the attack. A firey breath or a magical power. Just so it isn't like you're reading out the stat block. :D \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 22:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely agreed! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 17:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ As on of the OP's DM, I tend to fall go with the above without providing numerical data: "The monster is resistant to cold and immune to poison. Fire is a problem." As for powers, I avoid naming them and instead provide general flavor text, "The monster has a fire breath weapon that he can hurl" I avoid telling them "area burst 2 within 10" \$\endgroup\$
    – Trey Kirk
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 21:46

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