Oct 20, 2017

Posted by in RPG | 1 Comment

Intimidate checks are like Lightsabers

One common trope is to interrogate a captured enemy using Intimidate. Often, this looks somewhat like this:

Player: I hold my dagger to his throat, and ask him to tell me everything he knows about [The Red Herring].

GM: Ok, roll an intimidate check

And this makes no sense to me.

Both from a story as well as from a game mechanics perspective. From the mechanics, an intimidate check has the the same basic outcome as a diplomacy check, but with an added flavor of threat. So, the change in attitude is only short lived, and afterwards it is worse than before.

Imagine a situation where you’d normally use Diplomacy. You’re asking for help or assistance. Say getting a better price or asking to get introduced to an important person. Instead of coating your interest with honey, you lace them with the idea of danger. You might hint at your own importance. Or that you have incriminating information that you might spread (which you would hate to do, of course). That they might miss a future opportunity. That you could make their life harder. Or you could stare them down.

If you actually put a knife against their throat, the game changes. In a lot of situations, you might not really need to roll an intimidate check at all. If you intend to harm them, the question is only if they value their life more than whatever you ask from them. And if they think they can get out alive.

And this means, it’s more a bluff situation. Do you actually intend to kill/ harm them if they don’t do what you want? Would you let them go if they do?

Only if you mean your threat and you’re also willing to let them go, the actual intimidate mechanic comes into play. And in this case, the knife on the throat will normally give you a really high circumstance bonus, so that actually rolling the check might not be able to change the outcome that much.

Intimidation is an art. A subtle threat. That’s why it’s based on Charisma. You hint at possibilities. The choice between life and death is a very blunt one. It’s like a lightsaber compared to a blaster. A lightsaber is an elegant weapon, not as clumsy or random as a blaster.

Be a lightsaber. You know you want to.

If you’re more into Star Trek then watch this perfect example of intimidation to get a favor:

  1. I agree completely. When I DM, I will give circumstance bonuses to the players depending on how they go about the interaction just like you said. I’ve never thought about the bluff check aspect in the way you described it though, very interesting and could really mix things up!

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