Taking the Thyme (Sages)

Last Updated: 200217…200702

[DMG] “In order to find out, they must consult with a sage”

Sage-o-matic Calculator

Although all classes can consult with a sage, nowhere are details on how to find one! Finding one sage isn’t good enough—the PC might want more than one. The DMG states: “any sage is capable of carrying on a discussion in any field of knowledge,” yet the costs and time for sagery are directly linked to the sage’s area of knowledge. The PC is best off starting with general questions to determine if the sage is knowledgeable in the area they care about, before they get heavily invested in a research project where they’re paying to teach the sage something the sage otherwise knows nothing about!

Of course, there could be a variety of “right” sages. If one is seeking information about an artifact or unidentified object, an expert in mushrooms might know that an item like the one asked about is known to help mushrooms grow. A historian might know of a kingdom that flourished because of an item as described that made mushrooms grow, etc.

So how does a PC find a sage? I use the chances of hiring henchmen as the baseline to fill in some of the gaps.  Information here also reordered to be (hopefully) more usable.

The chance of a sage knowing the answer to a question depends on the competence of the sage in the area of the question and the nature of the question: general, specific, or exacting. Many different fields could apply depending on the nature of the question, learning from the history of a culture, their nature of the planes, etc. But how to determine the nature of the question is more complex.

For the “default” case—”What does this magic item do?”—the PC has created the most exacting of questions. However, the nature of the item can be considered based on the commonality of the item in question. A fairly common item might be only specific. A unique item that shaped the entire culture might be answerable in the general sense.

Step 1: How Many Sages Are There?

The number of henchmen normally interested in employment is 1 in 1000, varying from 1 in 200 in an active adventuring area to a settled/staid area of 1 in 5000. Given the requirements about sages and libraries, we can assume the sage ratio is more likely the inverse—more of them in a settled/staid city, and less in an active/adventuring area (with Jane Goodall out there somewhere). There are likely fewer sages for hire than henchmen. How many? I don’t have a by-the-book reference except to use the most rare of henchmen hiring rates: 1 in 5,000, and then using the same 5-factor used for henchmen (1 in 1,000 in towns with at a research university, to 1 in 25,000 in agrarian areas). In a city of 25,000 there might be up to five sages present and interested in talking to the PCs if the PCs can find them.

Step 2: How Many Can Be Found?

1E provides insight on the hiring from henchmen. The PC can make but one attempt each month to locate a sage. Per henchmen, it will take 2-8 days for all information about available sages to flow back to the PC.

The more gold the PC spends, the more likely they are to find the sage they seek. They may try any or all of the below:

  • Hiring agents to seek prospects: 150 gp, effectiveness 20-50% (d4+1 * 10%)
  • Posting notices: 50 gp, effectiveness 10%-40%
  • Spreading the word in places where one might find or hear of sages. The cost is 10 gp for each 1% – 4% chance of finding a sage (50 gp maximum per establishment, up to ten establishments). For each additional establishment, the effectiveness of the others is reduced by 1%. Example: If the PC visits 10 places @ 50 gp each, then each establishment causes -9%, or (5d4-9)% chance per establishment, cumulative.


Multiply the total % effectiveness against the number of available sages to determine how many nearby sages (see Step 1) are available to query.  The PC can then go ask their questions.

Step 3: Who Are They?

While you can calculate the ability scores and spells of the sage (normally unnecessary), of more importance could be the sages’ alignments:



How that affects the answers likely depends on the questions!

Step 4: What Do They Know?

Determine the fields of study for each sage. Each sage will know one major and one or two minor fields, and also specialize in a number of subcategories under their major field.

Dice Score Special Fields in Major Field Minor Fields
01-10 2 1
11-30 3 1
31-50 4 1
51-70 2 2
71-90 3 2
91-00 4 2

Roll for the major field, and the proper number of special categories within that field. Then roll for the indicated minor field(s) (with no specialization). See Appendix A for those details.

Worth considering that all sages believe they know what they need to answer questions, so the fields and categories of each sage won’t be evident.

Step 5: What Do You Want To Know?

The PC then presents their question(s). The DM needs to determine:

  1. Whether each question is: General, Specific, or Exacting
  2. What field from the sage’s knowledge is the closest match.

Step 6: How Long Will It Take

It will take a sage a relatively short period of time, and no additional costs to speak of, to discover information of a general nature, but as questions became more difficult, the time and cost to give an answer becomes a factor. This is shown on the following table:

Information Discovery Time

Question Is General Specific Exacting
Out Of Fields 1-6 r. 2-24 d.
In Minor Field 1-4 r. 2-20 d. 5-40 d.
In Major Field 1-3 r. 1-12 d. 3-30 d.
In Special Category 1-2 r. 1-10 h. 2-12 d.

Note: A sage will only work for the PC for a maximum of 7 days each month. An answer that requires 14 days will take at least 1 month + 7 days. The sage will only bill for those days he’s working for the PC.

All durations assume that the sage is in a position to conduct research and obtain necessary equipment within a day or two of the discovery of the need, and the costs shown assume these activities.

Step 7: How Much Will It Cost?

The sage has to charge full cost up front, as the sage doesn’t know how long it will take (or have one heck of a collections team), with a refund of funds left over. The sage should be able to indicate (even if only for game mechanics), “This could take up to [d] days, and cost up to [x] gp. I charge regardless of whether I find an answer or not”. The PC could also choose to pay in advance for only [y] days of research, and if no result is returned, the PC is out of luck!

There is a fixed cost of 100 gp / day, as well as the potential for Additional Cost(see below).

If a town or city is not nearby, double times and costs (or compute the sojourn expenditure necessary to arrive at a locale where the needed materials are to be had, and determine other expenses also).

As DM you must also use judgment as to related questions, so that if a closely-related query is made following one for which an expenditure was necessary, determine whether or not the further question or questions would be answerable from the some materials source which was formerly obtained. Naturally, all costs are NOT for materials, some accruing as payments, fees, and bribes, or offerings.

Step 8: What’s the Answer

Fields of Study and Special Knowledge Categories:

  Chance to Know the Answer
Question Is General Specific Exacting
Out Of Fields 30%+d20 10%+d10
In Minor Field 45%+d20 30%+d10 10%+d10
In Major Field 60%+d20 56%+d10 25%+d10
In Special Category 80%+d20 75%+d20 60%+d20

Each time a particular question is asked, use the above table. First roll to determine the sage’s base percentage chance (within the range shown) to know the answer. Then roll percentile dice again against that number to determine if the sage knows the answer.


Rolling ≤ the chance to know the answer indicates the sage knows the answer. If the roll for knowing the answer is in the lower 20% of the spread there will be no additional costs, as the material is on hand. Thus, if a sage has a 30%+d10 chance of knowing an answer, and the dice indicate a 32% chance of knowing it, rolling 32% or less indicates knowledge, but a roll of 06% or less indicates that the sage has the information about the question available, and there will be no additional cost. Furthermore, in the special category of study, any spread within the lower 80% has no additional cost.

Potential Additional Cost

Question Is G.P. Costs
Out Of Fields 100/d.
In Minor Field 1,000/d.
In Major Field 500/d.
In Special Category 200/d.

Reply hazy, try again

Unknown information will always require from 51% to 100% of the maximum time shown to determine that the knowledge is beyond the ability of the sage. If the sage fails to find the answer, all costs (including the base 100 gp / day) will be halved.


No one’s perfect. On a failure that is 6% or less over the chance of knowing the answer, the sage will return a result that will be incorrect. Costs and duration will be calculated without additional costs. From the above example, a roll of 33%-38% indicates that the sage followed a false trail.

Appendix A: Sage Fields of Study

Roll Percentile for the Field of Study, and then roll again to determine any Specialization.

Humankind 01-30

  1. Art & Music
  2. Biology
  3. Demography
  4. History
  5. Languages
  6. Legends & Folklore
  7. Law & Customs
  8. Philosophy & Ethics
  9. Politics & Genealogy
  10. Psychology
  11. Sociology
  12. Theology & Myth

Demi-Humankind 31-50

  1. Art & Music
  2. Demography
  3. History
  4. Languages
  5. Legends & Folklore
  6. Law & Customs
  7. Philosophy & Ethics
  8. Politics & Genealogy
  9. Psychology
  10. Theology & Myth

Humanoids & Giantkind 51-60

  1. Biology
  2. Demography
  3. History
  4. Languages
  5. Legends & Folklore
  6. Low & Customs
  7. Sociology
  8. Theology & Myth

Physical Universe(s) 61-70

  1. Architecture & Engineering
  2. Astronomy
  3. Chemistry
  4. Geography
  5. Geology & Mineralogy
  6. Mathematics
  7. Meteorology & Climatology
  8. Oceanography
  9. Physics
  10. Topography & Cartography

Fauna 71-80

  1. Amphibians
  2. Arachnids
  3. Avians
  4. Cephalopods & Echinoderms
  5. Crustaceans & Mollusks
  6. lchthyoids
  7. Insects
  8. Mammals
  9. Marsupials
  10. Reptiles

Flora 81-90

  1. Bushes & Shrubs
  2. Flowers
  3. Fungi
  4. Grasses & Grains
  5. Herbs
  6. Mosses & Ferns
  7. Trees
  8. Weeds
  9. Biology

Supernatural & Unusual 91-00

  1. Astrology & Numerology
  2. Cryptography
  3. Divination
  4. Dweomercraft
  5. Heraldry, Signs 8 Sigils
  6. Medicine
  7. Metaphysics
  8. Planes (Astral, Elemental & Ethereal)
  9. Planes (Outer)



Author: Rick

A DM for *mumble* years, I've been playing AD&D since junior high. I've currently got two separate campaigns running, both in Mystara. I've been told when they handed out hobbies, I stood in the short lines. I actively cycle tour, kayak, play board games, read, develop home automation software, play Stars!, volunteer with the International and National American Red Cross, and work on a never-ending stream of home repairs. In my wake I've left paintball, medieval full-contact combat (SCA), computer gaming, Heroclix, and kite construction.

One thought on “Taking the Thyme (Sages)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.