Welcome to the next edition of Using Skills! Last week we looked at Medicine, and this week we’ll be looking at Nature. Enjoy!
Using Skills – Nature
The wise woman pulls a cluster of dried herbs from a flour sack and tosses them in a cauldron while making a note in her book. A struggling wood elf scours the floor of the dense forest for a certain white flower, knowing the taproot of this local plant will neutralize snake venom. The green knight scans the trees, confused as to how birch trees could be growing so far south. Nature is the knowledge of flora and fauna, and the lore of the wilderness.
The Player’s Handbook describes it thus: “Your Intelligence (Nature) check measures your ability to recall lore about terrain, plants and animals, the weather, and natural cycles.” (PHB pg.178)
Nature is a lore skill, and its main use during your sessions will generally be information gathering involving the natural world. Especially useful for wilderness campaigns, though as all lore skills it is mainly Dungeon Master driven. Try to use it to find alternative solutions for problems that occur in wilderness, such as asking the DM if you can find an herb to help someone with poison or other status ailments, or even just trying to determine if there are any valuable flora in the area. Most of the time, it’ll be the DM asking you to make a check in response to something that happens in the adventure.
What it is Not
- Survival – Survival covers the abilities used to survive in nature; the ability to track a creature through the wilderness, identifying local dangers, and being able to guide a group through terrain. Nature is far more information based, while Survival has to do with practical ability. Essentially Nature is how you figure out what the plant or tree in front of you is, whilst Survival might tell you how many creatures have been near it recently. They do work well together for a complete wilderness explorer.
- Other Lore skills – As has been noted in other entries, each lore skill covers a broad but separate sphere of knowledge. Arcana: magic and the planes, History: the past and the people/places/things within it, Nature: terrain, weather, and flora and fauna of the natural world, Religion: divinity, the gods, and religious practices. There may be some overlap, but it is generally easy to keep them separate. Consider the Owlbear. Arcana could tell you what processes or theories there are about its magical origin; History might tell you about notable owlbears of the past, perhaps that were hunted as trophies as war-chiefs or that cause particular havoc; Nature could tell you about their normal habits and behaviors and where they tend to live and hunt; Religion wouldn’t have much to say unless a certain people might use them as a symbol of worship or sacrifice.
The following are optional or edge cases for Nature, and are entirely dependent on the Dungeon Master.
- Know your Enemy – If your DM allows it, you may roll a Intelligence (Nature) check to determine the weaknesses and resistances of an enemy of the Beast or Plant type. The DC of this roll is equal to 10 + the CR of the creature, rounded up in case of fractions. In battle this takes an action to perform as you need to do so with full concentration.
- Theory and Use – If your DM allows it, you may spend a short rest trying to find a natural remedy for a non-magical condition that you or a party member are suffering (poison, disease, etc.). To do so you must make two checks: an Intelligence (Nature) to recall what local plants might help and what they look like, and a Wisdom (Survival) check to actually seek it out and find it. Both DCs should be set by the DM, depending on the severity and rarity of the condition and the plants that might help cure it. The checks need not be performed by one person, two can work together by choosing which roll to make. Any that help with the search, however, forgo the chance to recover Hit Points with Hit Dice.
Dungeon Master Examples
The following is meant to inspire a Dungeon Master to design with Nature in mind. As a lore skill a lot of its use is going to depend on you giving it the chance to be used. Often this will involve setting pieces that require Nature to be figured out. Weird weather might point to an unnatural event occurring, a strange rise in wolf attacks during the day might point to the same thing.
- Mysterious Attacks – A local village is coming under attack in the dead of night. As fearful peasants try to sleep, growls and scratches are heard throughout the area – while doors and shutters creak under the weight of something trying to get in. In the morning, scratches and bite marks are seen all over the place. So far no one has been dragged off into the night, but the peasants believe it is only a matter of time before “they” get in. Cue the PCs – when they arrive in the village the peasants try to convince them to help them, either by figuring out what it is that haunts them (wolves? bears?) or staying the night and confronting the beasts. A DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) check will bear out something unusual if succeeded: the scratches and bites are made from a variety of small woodland animals. Squirrels, mice, weasels, the like pointing to something stranger then hungry beasts in the night. In point of fact, the beasts are being sent to torment the villagers because they keep chopping down trees near a holy glade guarded by a druid, and so the PCs must negotiate to end the night time shenanigans. If they do not succeed on the check, they must stay the night and be attacked by a rabid swarm of small woodland critters before figuring out what is going on.
- The Arkvault – Deep underground, a part of a huge dungeon complex, is a strange vaulted area of glass and stone. Almost like a gallery or a zoo, there are a variety of glass cases containing very strange objects which might be either flora or fauna that the PCs have never seen before. The ancient glyphs that stand near them are unreadable even with magic, and so the PCs must use their intelligence and logic to figure out what these things are and how they can help them. The following are two alien objects and what they actually are. A DC 25 Intelligence (Nature) check is required to figure them out from context clues as the PCs have never seen or heard anything like these before.
- The Aphex – This object resembles a chitinous seed with one of its point sticking into dirty. It has multiple shiny circles set into an otherwise rough textured surface, and from the top of the thing slipper tendrils drape down onto the dirt. It is actually a creature, however, deep in hibernation. If bothered the seed opens into wings of an insectoid creature with crab like claws that will attack immediately. However, if given blood as an offering, it will serve the giver of the blood for twenty-four hours before returning to a hibernating state for 1d10 years, with no amount of bothering awakening it.
- The Column – An object resembling an obsidian rod is embedded into the dirt, the top of which float out (1d10+3) tendrils like that of a jellyfish. The shaft of the object is beaded with moisture, as if it were sweating. The thing is actually a plant. If anyone comes within reach of a tendril it will strike (+10 to hit, 0 damage) and whoever is struck by it is immediately paralyzed for 1d6 hours. The tendril that strikes becomes rigid and brittle and will break off. However, if a creature makes a Dexterity (sleight of hand) check against DC 20 they can grasp the rod itself. Anyone grasping the rod portion of the plant is ignored by the tendrils, and can then use it as a weapon. However, each tendril that hits and paralyzes is made useless. When all tendrils are gone, the shaft itself will turn brittle and begin to break down into an ashy substance.
Thanks for reading! Next week we’ll be taking a break from this series and I will instead be presenting to you version 2 of the Automaton race. I can’t wait! See you then!