Of Monsters and Men
Academics measures the character’s “book learning”, ie knowledge that doesn’t explicitly fall under Science, Mysteries or Art, though some overlap exists. Characters with high Academics include scholars, mages, priests, and the idle rich.
The main use of Academics is to answer questions, including those about history, literature, sociology or the “soft” sciences – information that is neither art nor science. The player can ask the Story Teller “What do I know about this subject?” or “What does this mean?” Often there’s no need to roll, especially if the subject concerns the character’s specialty (see Scholar, page 65), but if the Story Teller feels the information is hard to obtain, like a clue in a mystery, she may set a difficulty and call for a roll.
The best yardstick for difficulties is the obscurity of the knowledge sought.
If the Story Teller decides an item of information can’t be known, for whatever reason, not even a Legendary (+8) Academics effort will uncover it. That’s what adventures are for!
Shifts generated correspond to the depth of detail discovered. If the character succeeds, he receives the information; if he fails, he doesn’t, but may still attempt to research the topic (see below), or (perhaps more entertainingly) stumble onto a false lead into still deeper trouble.
|Difficulty||Degree of Obscurity||Example|
|Mediocre (+0)||Nearly everyone in society||“Demons are evil.”|
|Average (+1)||Anyone with a modicum of education||“Demons are from another plane of existence.”|
|Fair (+2)||All scholars||“Arch-demons rule over other demons with an iron fist.”|
|Good (+3)||All scholars in the relevant field, many scholars in a related field||“One of the most powerful arch-demons is Khaliss.”|
|Great (+4)||All prominent scholars in the relevant field, a few experts in a related field||“The ritual to summon Khaliss is not difficult, but only a fool would try to control him.”|
|Superb (+5)||A handful of experts in the relevant field||“Every demon has its own weakness. Khaliss will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who might know his.”|
|Fantastic (+6)||One or two people in the world||“Khaliss is vulnerable to diamonds.”|
|Epic (+7) or more||Lost knowledge||The true name of Khaliss|
A character failing an Academics roll but with access to a library can spend time researching to find the answer. The margin of failure on the original Academics roll is the number of extra time increments (see the Time Increments Table, page 178) required to find the answer. The Story Teller should decide the default time required for the research based on the library’s quality; half an hour is certainly within reason for most inquiries.
The hardest question answerable by research is equal to the library’s quality (for example, a Good (+3) difficulty question requires a Good (+3) or better library). Library quality depends on the campaign (see “Academics in a Fantasy World” below): most schools and private individuals have Mediocre, Average, or Fair libraries; small colleges have Good libraries; while larger institutions have Great ones. Superb and better libraries are rare. Many libraries have a specialty or two in which they’re considered one step higher. For example, the Selantine College of Magic’s library is Good (+3) quality and specializes in chronomancy, so it’s treated as Great (+4) when it comes to chronomancy research. Characters may also have their own libraries: see Resources (page 105).
Exposition and Knowledge Dumping
The Story Teller can use the character with the highest knowledge skill to impart information to the group. The player receives a Fate point for introducing the information in an interesting way: “I recall a similar account in Chrant’s Annals of the Second Kingdom, a text I studied as a young acolyte in Koborreth...”
Declaring Minor Details
The player can use Academics to declare facts appropriate to the skill, filling in minor details which the Story Teller hasn’t mentioned. The Story Teller can veto details she considers too contradictory, difficult to weave into the story, or silly. If the Story Teller agrees, the player makes declaration using the declaration rules (page 61): if successful, the fact is true; if not, the character is mistaken.
If a character takes action based on the declared fact, they can tag the declared aspect. If the academic is wrong, there’s no penalty, but there may be complications: the Story Teller can place a temporary “Mistaken” aspect on the academic, compelling it to represent the fallout (and netting the mistaken academic a Fate point!). If the academic was right, the aspect is treated normally.
Exotic scrolls written in forgotten tongues are a fantasy staple. A character may speak one language (not counting his native language) for each point of Academics above Mediocre (+0). The player needn’t define these languages beforehand, but may choose them in the course of play, as convenient.
A character sometimes has no way of knowing a wrong answer from the truth. Such errors should only result from one of two things: a compelled aspect (the player receives a Fate point for his character to go haring off on a tangent or jump to the wrong conclusion), or an active deception (ie someone planting bad information).
To plant bad information, the player decides what general question he’s providing misinformation about, and must have access to the target’s library (see Research, above). He makes an Academics roll modified by Deceit (see “Combining Skills” on page 159), in addition to whatever rolls are needed to get in and out of the place the information is stored. Alternatively, the player can lie to the target’s face – this is usually a Deceit roll restricted by Academics.
The result of the roll is the difficulty to spot the false information using Academics. If the target’s roll is less than the difficulty set by the deception, then the false information is discovered one time increment earlier (see the Time Increments Table, page 178) than the real information might be; on a significant failure (a margin of three or more), the true information may be unavailable. If the researcher meets or exceeds the roll for the deception, he finds the false information and recognises it for what it is.
Normally, someone may only speak a number of additional languages equal to their Academics skill level. With this stunt, the character may speak five additional languages. This stunt may be taken multiple times.
Gift of Tongues (Academics)
There’s no “mainstream” language you can’t read or speak, and there’s no need to pick languages as you normally would. You may use your usual language “slots” to read and speak languages you have no business having learned, such as languages from long-dead races or ancient civilizations. Your slots remain increased by the Linguist stunt, so someone with Average (+1) Academics and these two stunts can speak every normal language in her civilization plus six (1+5) very unusual ones.
Walking Library (Academics)
The character’s prodigious reading has paid off, and he can recall minute details from even the most obscure works. The character’s always considered to have the equivalent of a library on hand of a quality equal to his Academics skill, enabling him to answer questions with a base difficulty less than or equal to his Academics skill using nothing more than his brain and some time for contemplation. Additionally, research performed in a real library takes one time step less (see “Taking Your Time” on page 178), and libraries with a quality less than his Academics skill don’t limit the difficulty of the question asked as they normally would.
Perfect Memory (Academics)
Requires Walking Library
If the character’s read it, he remembers it. If the answer lies in something you’ve read before (within reason), then reduce the time required for research by two steps on the Time Increments Table (see page 178). Coupled with Walking Library, a half hour’s worth of researching written material you’ve already read can be resolved in seconds, a day’s worth in a mere hour.
Studied Recall (Academics)
Requires Perfect Memory
The character’s incredible memory extends beyond books and scrolls. Once per scene, you may spend a Fate point and roll Academics against a difficulty of Mediocre (+0). Each shift generated may specify a detail you wish to memorize – returning later, in your mind, to assess new details (using an appropriate perception skill – usually Investigation).
This stunt differs from Investigation’s Eye for Detail stunt in that Eye for Detail covers the entire location after the fact, whereas Studied Recall requires you to specify which parts of a location you’re studying while still at that location.
Your character is a respected authority in a specific academic field, such as history, dragons, magic, and so on. In the elite circles of that field you’re recognized for your expertise, and even if your skill level is low, it merely means you’re at the junior end of your circle.
Additionally, pick a specialization within your field, such as ancient Suvethian history or a single species of dragon. When you make an Academics roll pertaining to your field, you receive a +1 bonus: when it involves your specialization, you gain an additional +1 bonus, for a total +2.
Research efforts involving the specialization take one step less time; this may be combined with Walking Library for lightning-fast research. When taking part in academic synods and conferences, or otherwise interacting with others in your field, you may use Academics to complement your social skills (Rapport, Empathy, Deceit, etc) using your skill level plus bonuses: someone with Good (+3) Academics, acting in his area of specialization, would complement skills as if his Academics were Superb (Good+2).
This stunt may be taken multiple times for additional fields; field bonuses don’t overlap.
Dizzying Intellect (Academics)
The character’s specialized knowledge is so advanced, no one can tell if he’s making things up. Whenever your field (as defined by the Scholar stunt) is relevant, and you would use Academics to modify Deceit, you may use Academics instead of Deceit, gaining its full value rather than a simple +1. If you’ve taken Scholar multiple times, this stunt applies to all covered areas.
It’s Academic (Academics)
The character’s scholarship gives him flashes of insight into all manner of things. Once per session, you can use this ability when about to perform an action within your field. The connection can be tenuous, provided you can explain to the Story Teller how it might apply.
Make a declaration attempt as described under “Declaring Minor Details” (see page 63). If you get at least one shift, you successfully declare one aspect about the subject in question; for every point of spin, you may declare an additional aspect (so two aspects total with 1 point of spin, three aspects total with 2 points of spin, etc.). If you opt to declare only one aspect, you may instead convert each additional point of spin into a non-aspect fact or use the spin as usual.
Rhetoric and Debate (Academics)
The character may use Academics instead of Rapport, etc, in social conflicts involving scholastic debate.