Knowledge Dungeoneering in Pathfinder: How & When To Use It

“Knowing is half the battle! The other half is extreme, cartoonish-like violence.”
The Internet


That word probably sounded good to someone when they were writing it, but honestly, it does not flow well. The tongue-feel of the syllables is just off.

It’s like a wacky term some Saturday morning cartoon villain would use to describe their new secret plan to take over the world.

All that being said, I cannot hold that against the skill itself, which is one of the most useful skills in the repertoire of any adventuring party.  It offers some unique benefits that makes Dungeon Delving so much easier and safer.

Not that journeying underground for fortune and glory could be completely safe.

Plenty of parties actually avoid this skill, so today I am going to show you why you should NOT be sleeping on this one, and how it should always have a place at your table.

Pathfinder First Edition

Knowledge (Dungeoneering) is a skill in Pathfinder. The Knowledge skill in Pathfinder represents the fact that the character has been trained or taught in a particular subject.

It could have been an informal “learn as you do” or formal schooling on the subject. Either way, it represents advanced knowledge on a specific subject. 

When you elect to put ranks into the Knowledge skill, you choose a subject to become knowledgeable in, or in the case of increasing ranks become more knowledgeable in.

There is an expansive list of knowledge skills available in Pathfinder 1e. The most common from the Pathfinder SRD are listed as such:

  • Arcana (ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, constructs, dragons, magical beasts); Although robots are constructs, Knowledge (arcana) cannot be used to identify robots or their abilities and weaknesses.
  • Dungeoneering (aberrations, caverns, oozes, spelunking)
  • Engineering (buildings, aqueducts, bridges, fortifications); This is the most important skill with regard to technological subjects. Knowledge (engineering) can be used to identify a robot’s abilities and weaknesses. Knowledge (engineering) is also used to identify and understand unknown technological objects in a similar manner to how Spellcraft is used to identify the properties of a magic item. The DC to correctly identify and understand an unknown technological object is equal to the object’s Craft DC. An object with a Craft DC of 15 or less can be automatically identified and understood by someone trained in Knowledge (engineering) who also has the Technologist feat.
  • Geography (lands, terrain, climate, people); Used for astronomy.
  • History (wars, colonies, migrations, founding of cities)
  • Local (legends, personalities, inhabitants, laws, customs, traditions, humanoids)
  • Nature (animals, fey, monstrous humanoids, plants, seasons and cycles, weather, vermin)
  • Nobility (lineages, heraldry, personalities, royalty)
  • Planes (the Inner Planes, the Outer Planes, the Astral Plane, the Ethereal Plane, outsiders, planar magic)
  • Religion (gods and goddesses, mythic history, ecclesiastic tradition, holy symbols, undead)

Not all fields of study are considered in class though. Some characters may need to cross-class to pick up a specific Knowledge.

For our purposes today, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) is considered In-Class for Bards, Fighters, Rangers, Rogues, and Wizards.

Mechanics and Uses

Knowledge skills are generally used to simply recall relevant knowledge on a particular subject. Generally to answer a question.

Like with all skill checks, the character rolls a d20 and adds their ranks in the skill plus the governing attribute for that skill, in this case that is Intelligence, and compares it to a DC.

Using Knowledge is almost always a Free Action, though disseminating that information to others could take more time.

The DC is generally based on the difficulty of the question being asked, with a DC 10 for a very basic question, DC 15 for a routine question, or 20+ for tougher questions. The DM will need to set this DC, but here is a good general guide for Dungeoneering questions:

Basic Dungeoneering question: “What kind of rock/crystal/material is this?”

Routine Dungeoneering Question: “How steep is this slope? Will we need Climbing Equipment?”

Tough Dungeoneering Question: “How deep Underground are we?”

In addition to the above, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) can also determine the threat posed by possible underground Hazards. Underground hazards in this instance could be a Cave-In or Collapse or perhaps some Mnemonic Crystals.

In this case, a Dungeoneering check could identify the threat and a hint at a way to neutralize it, bypass it, or defeat it.

Finally, the last big use for Knowledge (Dungeoneering) is for Monster Lore. Should a party encounter a monster, the Knowledge skill can be used to quickly recall information about said monster.

In the case of Dungeoneering, you can attempt to recall specific information about Aberrations and Oozes. The action is a Free Action, and has a DC equivalent to 10 + the monster’s CR.

So for instance, if your party was attacked by Driders. Driders have a CR of 7, so the DC for the Monster Lore check is 17. If you pass the check, you could warn the party of their poisoned bite, and that some are even sorcerer’s with magic of their own to bring to bear!

It’s best to use all these actions when you know you are going to encounter something strange or alien to most perceptions underground. Though, keep in mind that this knowledge is limited to dungeons and caverns.

The Knowledge (Dungeoneering) skill has very little bearing on most above ground hazards or even above ground monsters!

Pathfinder Second Edition

Pathfinder 2e does not exactly have the same skills as Pathfinder 1e. In fact, Dungeoneering doesn’t exist at all! At least not in the core book or on the SRD.

However, there is nothing saying you cannot add it. The Golden Rule of Tabletop RPGS is “If you don’t like something, change it!”

The following is somewhat supposition about how the Pathfinder 1e skill could be used in Pathfinder second edition.

Mechanics and Uses

Pathfinder 2e does not strictly have Knowledge (Dungeoneering). Instead, it has a skill that goes by the name of Lore. Huge change right? Just like the Knowledge skill, Lore has subcategories that you take each time you gain the skill.

There is no Dungeoneering really, but you could convince your GM to let you take a Lore: Spelunking option.

When checking skills in Pathfinder 2e, rather than roll against changing DCs, the DC you roll against is universally set based on how trained someone might be in that skill.

You roll a d20 plus your Skill modifier (Governing Ability + Proficiency Bonus + Other Bonuses + Other Penalties), and compare it to the below chart.

Task DifficultySimple DC

More specifically talking about the way Lore is used, one would use the Recall Knowledge action, which we can see is a Secret roll (meaning the GM rolls it secretly) and then compares the result to the guidelines of the Skill action.

From there, they would judge just how much your character would remember about the Dungeon Hazard, or perhaps the underground aberrant creature. Let’s hope you trust the GM’s dice.

A high roll could get you everything you need and then some, but a low roll might get you nothing or worse: false information!

Keep climbing, Pathfinder!