Knowledge and Perception (with examples)

This is an excerpt from the upcoming Adventure Hour! It is also part of an effort on my part to make content more “evergreen.”

Follow the design process and receive the finished game as a gift on the Patreon. The Belly of the Fishy Beast dungeon was recently remastered for Patrons only. 🙂

Knowledge and Perception

Players must be given information constantly. The GM is their window into the world, their eyes, their ears, and all other senses. Without being told what they can perceive, the players are blind and cannot take informed actions. The difficulty of the game doesn’t need to be increased by confusion and frustration about what is going on. 

In Adventure Hour!, there are no knowledge or perception rolls like you might see in other RPGs. If something is hidden, they cannot see it. Have players specify how they search a room and look for what’s important. If something is widely unknown, they do not know it. They must find out for themselves by going to the library or asking someone who does know. Players should leverage their tools and contacts to help.

If your adventure relies on a good knowledge or perception roll to figure out what is going on, you’re running a bad adventure. Playing without knowledge and perception rolls is game-changing if you haven’t tried it before.

Give information. More is better here.


When a player asks if their character knows something, consider the following:

• Is it common knowledge? They know it unless there is a compelling reason why they shouldn’t.

• Is it specialist knowledge? They know it if their background or experiences cover it.

• Is it esoteric knowledge? They will need to find an expert or resource in that subject area.


When telling the players what their characters see, consider the following:

• What here is easily seen? They see it unless there is a compelling reason why they shouldn’t.

• What here is difficult to see? They can partially see it. Give only vague impressions of what they can perceive.

• What here is hidden? They only see it if they investigate that area, object, or person further.

These questions apply to other sensory information, like sound and smell, although sight is the most common.

I’m pretty happy with what comes next. The examples run as a continuous example of play, check it:

Knowing Examples

Common Knowledge

Chris: So, what does my character know about this fishy beast that we’re exploring right now?

Game Master: Everyone knows that the fishy beast is a total anomaly. It’s been dead out in the desert for years, rotting away. There were rumors of creatures taking up residence inside the beast’s stomach.

Specialist Knowledge

Dallas: What about the creatures inside the beast’s stomach? Would I know anything about that?

GM: Your background of Gladiator doesn’t really help you here. Maybe if you were something else…

Beau: I’m a Sea Elf! What do I know?

GM: You did business with fish-men a long time ago and they have a liking for building homes inside dead water creatures. Makes them smell pretty bad…

Esoteric Knowledge

Beau: What about leaders? As I Sea Elf, do I know the name of fish-men’s king or a queen, assuming they have one?

GM: You’d need to consult an expert or find a book on the subject to find something more about that.

Beau: Got it. Where to go next?

Perceiving Examples

Easily Seen

Chris: I say we go down the left passageway.

Dallas and Beau: Sounds good.

GM: Going left, you come to a large chamber. There’s a deep, deep pit that’s too far to jump right in front of you. On the other side of that pit, there’s a large clam in shallow water that quickly snaps shut. What do you do?

Difficult to See

Beau: Was there anything inside the clam?

GM: There were a couple small objects inside, but it’s hard to tell at this distance. You only had a quick look.

Chris: Could be a trap. It could be pearls.

GM: Maybe.


Dallas: How many of these small objects are there?

GM: It’s impossible to tell now that’s the clam is shut. You’ll have to get closer and get inside there if you want to know that. What do you do?

Chris: Alright, we need to deal with the pit first. Then we’ll jam it open. Time to get some treasure.

Dallas: Assuming it even is treasure…

Follow the design process and receive the finished game as a gift on the Patreon. Belly of the Fishy Beast was recently remastered for Patrons only. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Knowledge and Perception (with examples)

  1. In response to another on reddit:

    It is reasonable to allow for a roll. But you can skip the middle-man. Just make a call as the GM.

    Streamlining the process (removing the roll) means you go from:
    “World” to “GM” back to “world.”
    With the a roll it’s “world” to “GM” to “die roll” to “GM” to “world” again.

    It’s not just about taking less time, but it keeps up verisimilitude. The believability of the world.

    Some would say it’s “diegetic” or “what’s happening on-screen.” For me, it’s “what’s going on in the world of the game.”

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