Skills: Religion, Arcana and History

Yaarel

Adventurer
Since some time, I have deleted the Religion skill. It is either redundant with Arcana for planar knowledge or else redundant with History for cultural beliefs and customs.



Now it occurs to me. Religion can instead be the skill that is explicitly for planar knowledge. Whether it is the fey and elemental nature spirits, or the astral angels and fiends, or the shadow underworld, all of it is explicitly relevant to various religions.

So, now.

• Arcana − magic spells, magic auras, magic items, and similar
• Religion − planar knowledge
• History − cultural knowledge

Neither Arcana nor History offer any detailed information about planar features or planar creatures. Extraplanar questions are Intelligence (Religion) checks instead.

Oppositely, planar knowledge doesnt imply an understanding of how magic works. For example, a Cleric with Religion proficiency might know much about the otherworldly, but not really know how ‘miracles’ actually work. A Religion check wouldnt detect a magic item per se, but might sense if an item had any connection to an other plane.



With this approach, I am finding a new use for the Religion skill that seems desirable and ... useful.
 

delphonso

Explorer
I run all three as Knowledge(whatever). Let's say theres a magic weapon.

History might let you know if this item was the target of some past wars or was the weapon used to slay a dragon and start a kingdom.

Religion might inform you of a cult which worships the hero or the weapon itself. Perhaps a dragon cult sees that hero as a villain.

Arcana could tell you about how these weapons can be created. Perhaps what wizard enchanted this blade originally, and the powers it is supposed to have.

If the item is totally unknown to the world - say, a Lich's phylactery. None of these skills will help. A good skill check of any of those three might give the players information about phylacteries, though.

Religion is also what I use for ritual (not spells but participating in religious ceremonies). History might be useful for discussing interesting topics with nobles, and arcana might help recognize runic traps. They're knowledge skills, to me.

Because of that, I see them as 3 sides to the same coin. They all overlap because they're all basically history - but they give you different points of view.

Let's think about planar knowledge - religion makes sense, you're right. Religions would have stories about 'heavens' and 'hells'. But Arcana makes sense too - since plenty of magic is related to planes (find familiar, astral projection, etc). History makes sense too if extra-planar beings have ever come to the material plane. Elves are the descendents of Fae, so you must know a little about the Faewild and how they got here, for example.
 

Kobold Stew

Adventurer
For me, one of the key uses is to learn about creatures one encounters. Religion is valuable in that context:

ARCANA dragons, aberrations, constructs, mostrosities
HISTORY humanoids, *giants
NATURE plants, beasts, oozes
RELIGION celestials, fiends, undead, *elementals, *fey

I admit the three marked with a * could fit elsewhere, but this division seems to work well.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I use these skills as active skills, ie. when the player wants to do something involving religion, like conduct a ritual or stop one. Same with arcana. History is about discovering things in old stuff, not remembering history.

I treat knowledge as something I want to give players, so I don't often hide it behind a knowledge check. Instead, I use the "knowledge" skills are things to engage the fiction with. Thus, history is less about what the PC remembers and more about if the PC can properly work that ancient puzzle lock the party just found. It's the application of religion, arcana, or history that I can about. What the PC knows is something I'm more often going to not obscure. Not enough game time to fumble around wondering how to figure out something the player knows must be there but their dice keep preventing.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I run all three as Knowledge(whatever). Let's say theres a magic weapon.

History might let you know if this item was the target of some past wars or was the weapon used to slay a dragon and start a kingdom.

Religion might inform you of a cult which worships the hero or the weapon itself. Perhaps a dragon cult sees that hero as a villain.

Arcana could tell you about how these weapons can be created. Perhaps what wizard enchanted this blade originally, and the powers it is supposed to have.

If the item is totally unknown to the world - say, a Lich's phylactery. None of these skills will help. A good skill check of any of those three might give the players information about phylacteries, though.

Religion is also what I use for ritual (not spells but participating in religious ceremonies). History might be useful for discussing interesting topics with nobles, and arcana might help recognize runic traps. They're knowledge skills, to me.

Because of that, I see them as 3 sides to the same coin. They all overlap because they're all basically history - but they give you different points of view.
Yours seems a fairly standard − by the book − usage of Religion, Arcana and History.

But it is also the usage where I found Religion less useful and unable to compete with the better, more useful, skills. Heh, and is the reason why I had removed Religion.

Also, History can identify cultural information, like who is known to make this kind of weapon in this style. Even if any cultic rituals tend to associate with it. If a particular religion is prevalent in a culture, then the History check would be an Easy DC check. If the religion was secretive and obscure, then it would be a Hard DC check. Moreorless, History obsoletes Religion.



Let's think about planar knowledge - religion makes sense, you're right. Religions would have stories about 'heavens' and 'hells'. But Arcana makes sense too - since plenty of magic is related to planes (find familiar, astral projection, etc). History makes sense too if extra-planar beings have ever come to the material plane. Elves are the descendents of Fae, so you must know a little about the Faewild and how they got here, for example.
Not only is Religion likely to have more lore about extraplanar creatures, it is also more likely to routinely meet extraplanar creatures who can answer various questions about the extraplanar creatures. Similarly, Religion implies a kind of ‘spiritual sensitivity’ that can sense the presence of an extraplanar creature or feature. Compare Paladin sensing fiends and undead and Cleric sensing presence of sacred beings. I see the Druid using Religion to communicate with Fey creatures and Elemental creatures.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
For me, one of the key uses is to learn about creatures one encounters. Religion is valuable in that context:

ARCANA dragons, aberrations, constructs, mostrosities
HISTORY humanoids, *giants
NATURE plants, beasts, oozes
RELIGION celestials, fiends, undead, *elementals, *fey

I admit the three marked with a * could fit elsewhere, but this division seems to work well.
I like what you did there. Your Religion usage seems identical to the one I am contemplating in this thread − all the extraplanar stuff.

Giving monstrosity to Arcana seems perfect. Good call. Constructs too. Aberration in the sense of a ‘nonplane’, I can see that. For me, the Dragon is a special monstrosity, blending snake-eagle-lion. Arcana works great.

More particular to my setting, giants are elemental, thus Religion. And aberrations feel more like demons as nihilistic creatures, basically demons for a scifi setting, focusing on mental oblivion moreso than physical destruction. Thus also the Religion skill check.

Anyway, you suggest good assignments to the skills.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
I admit the three marked with a * could fit elsewhere, but this division seems to work well.
I would put Fey into Nature if only to balance out the lists a bit more. It's arguable that History would still be a bit underrepresented at that point, but there are so many types of humanoid it might balance out in the end.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I would put Fey into Nature if only to balance out the lists a bit more. It's arguable that History would still be a bit underrepresented at that point, but there are so many types of humanoid it might balance out in the end.
Personally, I prefer Fey to be ‘otherworldly’, so less so Nature.

But you are right, Nature might seem a bit lack-luster.

Nature is all plants and animals. It should be extremely useful. But in practice, my use of Medicine (healing herbs, anatomy, toxins) and Survival (foraging, navigating, tracking) tends to obsolete Nature.



Maybe expand Nature to cover all of the sciences − including structural engineering, material strength, constructing buildings, plus metalworking techniques. And so on.



I find History useful − history, military history, culture, cultural artifacts, important people, places, customs, languages, navigating an urban environment.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Since some time, I have deleted the Religion skill. It is either redundant with Arcana for planar knowledge or else redundant with History for cultural beliefs and customs.
I don’t see this redundancy. Cultural beliefs and customs are more the subject of anthropology than history. I use history as the knowledge skill for historical events, and religion as the skill for cultural practices and beliefs about prehistoric events.
 

S'mon

Legend
I generally let players roll on any relevant-looking skill and not worry about overlap. Arcana tends to be more powerful than History but it works ok.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I have found that using the Variant Ability Score variant rule has increased the amount of times the traditional "knowledge" skills get used in my games, as now many interactions with people from the fields of arcana, religion, and nature get made with CHA (Arcana), CHA (Religion) and CHA (Nature) checks.

I think your re-categorization will work well for you, but if you were looking for additional ways to use Religion, CHA (Religion) checks for interacting with religious workers or individuals could also give you more options.
 

gyor

Hero
History can include rescent history, so you can use it like streetwise, in addition to historical knowledge factiods.

Arcana in addition to using it to know spells, it would know the laws of magic.

Religion knows scriptures, what they mean, the underlying philosophies of religions, symbols. So if you character can figure out what the moral action in a situation would be have them make a religion check. Other uses sermons, both mortal and immortal hierarchies of Gods, the domains of Gods (as opposed to the less deified regions of the planes), crafting holy symbol and temples.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
For me,

History includes sociology, anthropology, archeology, popculture, knowing ones way around town, and whos who.

Insight includes psychology, motives, ideals, alignments, bonds, flaws, and empathy.
 

ChaosOS

Explorer
Generally speaking I'm not a fan of knowledge rolls... If I want player/characters to know something, I'll tell them. If I don't, I don't. To me a good knowledge system would tie into the setting & background system, where different backgrounds would give different collection of knowledges. Give "smart" classes (aka Wizard) bonus selections, while still spreading the love for who knows things. The war-vet fighter knows different things than the scholarly cleric who knows different things from the street-smart rogue.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To me Arcana is for knowledge of arcane forces and areas, spells, dragons and other magical creatures, etc. Religion would be specifically for things pertaining to religions and gods, as well as angels and demons, and undead. History is for those things which fall into history classes. Ruins, old books, cultural artifacts, etc.

I could not get rid of religion. It's used more than arcana and history combined.
 

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