Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rules Review: Intimidate

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm spending a lot of time with the rules, and posting about them in an attempt to up my game as a dungeon master.  If I know the rules better, it will be a better gaming experience for everyone. On Saturday, I was a little off my game mentally, and I felt the game suffered. I still need to figure out the best way for me personally to manage combat.

Anyway, intimidate...  Well, Grace likes to intimidate, so this one has come up a lot in the current campaign.  My adjudication of this rule has been inconsistent at best, completely wrong at worst (to the party's advantage though, in the latter case).  So, the reason Grace's ability to successfully intimidate foes has varied over time is that I haven't been applying the rule correctly.  So let's look at it in detail. Here is the text from the Pathfinder System Reference Document.



You can use this skill to frighten an opponent or to get them to act in a way that benefits you. This skill includes verbal threats and displays of prowess.
Check: You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act friendly toward you for 1d6 × 10 minutes with a successful check. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target's Hit Dice + the target's Wisdom modifier. If successful, the target gives you the information you desire, takes actions that do not endanger it, or otherwise offers limited assistance. After the Intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may report you to local authorities. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the target attempts to deceive you or otherwise hinder your activities.
Demoralize: You can use this skill to cause an opponent to become shaken for a number of rounds. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target's Hit Dice + the target's Wisdom modifier. If you are successful, the target is shaken for 1 round. This duration increases by 1 round for every 5 by which you beat the DC. You can only threaten an opponent in this way if they are within 30 feet and can clearly see and hear you. Using demoralize on the same creature only extends the duration; it does not create a stronger fear condition.
Action: Using Intimidate to change an opponent's attitude requires 1 minute of conversation. Demoralizing an opponent is a standard action.
Try Again: You can attempt to Intimidate an opponent again, but each additional check increases the DC by +5. This increase resets after 1 hour has passed.
Special: You also gain a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks if you are larger than your target and a –4 penalty on Intimidate checks if you are smaller than your target.
If you have the Persuasive feat, you get a bonus on Intimidate checks (see Feats).
A half-orc gets a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.

So... Intimidate isn't really a combat skill.  Once the initiative dice come out, the time to intimidate is over.  Unless you want to spend an entire minute (10 combat rounds) to attempt it.  So, basically, if you walk into a situation where you're likely to be attacked on sight, or where you have already initiated combat, intimidate isn't going to allow you to change a foe's attitude towards you.

But, it is going to remain a useful skill in non-combat situations.  It will also remain useful in combat situations, as the Demoralize action makes clear.  Adding a shaken status to your opponents, even if just for a round, can certainly come in handy.  So, that's how intimidate should work (sorry for the earlier confusion), and how it will work in the future... if I can keep my rules straight. 

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