This, of course, relates to the skill found in various forms throughout the history of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Most of the time this skill is only chosen by players because of it's requirement for some other ability or feat. Many never truly expect to use this skill in game and when they do, it is often after things have abraded to a halt in the story. Many of us have vivid images of a player sighing wistfully while massaging their head, only to groan out loud "I would like to use my knowledge of History to figure this **** out."
Why does it work this way? Does it mean your story sucks? Does it mean that it is just a boring skill that serves no other purpose than to take our precious skill points? Well, probably a little bit of each. Just as it is with most things I find in games, not just D&D, taking the boring and misunderstood and making it better is not only fun but rewarding as well!
For the remainder of this article, I will be using the 4th Edition rules for Dungeons & Dragons. It's not because I don't like any other edition or game, it's just the most prevalent in my life at the moment as I am continually hacking away at creating content for it. This doesn't mean that you can't find value in what is presented -- in fact, I hope you can adapt it for your own use in other games. Also, my standard disclaimers apply -- you're mileage may vary (and likely will!) Take what I suggest and run with it. I don't expect everyone to do things the way that I do, but it is totally cool to take my ideas and make them more awesome
Fixing History, one bullet at a time...
- By doing the homework necessary for creating an intensive and detail-oriented world, you will undoubtedly create plenty of opportunities where this skill can be of use. As an example, I allow my own players to use History to gain an advantage over an opponent. In one such example, in my upcoming Dark Sun campaign, players who are knowledgeable in history might just get a bonus to all attacks made against a specific enemy. This represents their acute knowledge of their opponents tactics and strategies and the ability to exploit it. This should work for as long as you deem appropriate, but I usually cut it off after several scenes as the enemy is capable of adapting.
- History is cool, just ask Indiana Jones. Running an Indiana Jones-like campaign can be as awesome as it sounds. Allow your players to run around finding artifacts of significance and reward them for their knowledge of History in the process. Maybe a player gets better stats from an item because they know more about it and it's application? Yes, it is very fun and your Historian players will love it even more!
- The Big Picture. Maybe you are in a long-term campaign and the overarching story has some very important points. Allow your History-totting players the opportunity to glean from this stream of plot and allow them to influence it as they go. At the end of the campaign, they will be able to see how their knowledge directly influenced the events and how the outcome was largely due to their actions (or inaction). For some players, this is worth more than gold itself!
Until next time!