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5E Is Intimidate the worse skill in the game?

Undrave

Hero
Thread title. All this talk about alternate ability use on skills brought up the old 'use STR for Intimidate' and it got me thinking about Intimidate and how is SUCKS.

Animal Handling is a pretty close second because more DM and players forget how important it would actually be in a pre-steam society and make it far too situational... but I still think Intimidate is worse.

The reason is that Intimidate will usually make things worse in 75% of the time you try to use it to force someone to do something. If you fail you usually shut down the entire social encounter right then and there, and even if you do succeed, that NPC is probably gonna hate you for quite a while. It's almost always a bad idea unless you're dealing with someone you're ready to fight.

At best it can be used to make enemies surrender and cut down the 'mopping up' phase of combat? But usually the DC isn't gonna be easy, and how can you trust someone who would do or say anything so you don't kill them?

Maybe Intimidate should have been rolled into Persuasion and just be a way to go about it and be left to the DM, like a lot of thing in 5e...

Anyway, discuss!
 

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MarkB

Legend
Including it in Persuasion seems sensible to me. Where it gets particularly awkward is when you're trying to convince a character to do something, and you feel like you're laying out the pros and cons in a persuasive manner, but the DM decides that the way you presented those cons means that this is actually an Intimidation check - or vice versa.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I'm not sure I understand your objection to this skill proficiency. Like any other task a character may choose, it's best to engage in the task that best fits the situation and, ideally, one for which the character has an applicable skill or tool proficiency in case the DM calls for an ability check. Therefore, if the stakes and difficulty of the social interaction challenge are such that trying to influence someone through overt threats, hostile actions, and physical violence isn't likely to result in the outcome the party wants, then maybe don't do that?

The rules suggest several situations in which a DM might call for a Charisma (Intimidation) check, when the outcome is uncertain and there is a meaningful consequence for failure: Prying information from a prisoner, convincing thugs to back down, or to convince someone to reconsider a decision with violence.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
I partially agree in the sense that I think persuasion suggests less consequences in a case of failure. But in the end, just like everything in D&D, it comes down to your approach.

If for you intimidate is limited to the "put a knife to the man's throat and order him to unlock the door" then intimidate will see less use. It has the potential to yield results arguably unreachable through persuasion in most situations, but there's also some consequences to it. However, I would argue that there's a milder approach to intimidate that encompasses a CHA based roll. By definition, to intimidate is to frighten or overawe someone to make them do someone. I don't think you must be the thing that frightens them. What about a "the king's man are on their way, if you don't share information with us and let us help you, you'll hang by the morrow". I'd say that most DM would ask for persuasion roll, but I would classify that as intimidate.

And I'd argue that my previous example wouldn't have more drastic consequences than a persuasion roll in case of failure.

I'm honestly pondering on this as I'm writing this. But maybe think of the difference between Intimidate and Persuasion as a motivational or emotional difference. Are you trying to use or instill fear, panic or worries to make someone change their mind? Intimidate. Is it through a show of force? STR based roll. Is it through logic? CHA based.

I'm curious to see what are some other approaches to this.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
There is definitely a lot of possible overlap between Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion. I mean, often isn't Deception really just trying to Persuade someone you are telling the truth? In many ways you could roll them all up into one skill: Influence, because that is what you are really trying to do IMO 9 out of 10 times.

Regardless of how you try to influence someone in a social setting (lying, intimidating, etc.) if you fail in the effort, there will be consequences (of course, this is why an ability check was called for...). Intimidating isn't alone in this.
 

Tallifer

Hero
I see Intimidate used at every table at the end of every fight to interrogate the prisoner when Persuasion fails.

I do think however sometimes that Deception (or Bluff), Intimidate and Persuasion (or Diplomacy) should all just be rolled into one social interaction skill.
 


dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I do think however sometimes that Deception (or Bluff), Intimidate and Persuasion (or Diplomacy) should all just be rolled into one social interaction skill.
Do you like the term "Influence" for the skill if we rolled them all into one?

There are many times when I think of the time/training required for one skill is not remotely what it would be for another, and "combining" skills would help that. I know a number of people think Athletics and Acrobatics could be put into one skill, used either off of STR or DEX (or even CON) as the situation demands.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Including it in Persuasion seems sensible to me. Where it gets particularly awkward is when you're trying to convince a character to do something, and you feel like you're laying out the pros and cons in a persuasive manner, but the DM decides that the way you presented those cons means that this is actually an Intimidation check - or vice versa.
This can be resolved by the DM only asking for an ability check and then letting the player apply the relevant skill or tool proficiency, according to the player's understanding of the approach described. The game assumes the DM is doing this anyway, sometimes, and that the player may ask whether a proficiency applies. Assuming good faith on the players' part, the DM can just delegate this to the player to skip the question.
 

Crimson Longinus

Adventurer
There is definitely a lot of possible overlap between Deception, Intimidation, and Persuasion. I mean, often isn't Deception really just trying to Persuade someone you are telling the truth? In many ways you could roll them all up into one skill: Influence, because that is what you are really trying to do IMO 9 out of 10 times.
I am fine with intimidation being a separate skill but the divide between persuasion and deception seems far too blurry to me. Persuasion might often involves exaggeration and half-truths and it is pretty unclear when it should become deception instead. I'd like to eliminate deception and keep persuasion as a skill with which you try to get people like and trust you regardless of the truth of what you say, while intimidation is about inciting fear instead of trust.
 
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Worst skill? No, I would put Slight of Hand and Animal Handling below Intimidation, and probably History as well.

I think the problem is that Deception, Persuasion, and Intimidation shouldn't all be Cha-based skills. I think Intimidation could easily be merged with the other two skills -- use Deception if you're bluffing, otherwise use Persuasion -- but I think either Deception or Persuasion needs to be an Int-based skill by default because those two skills are still too similar on their own.

Truthfully, however, I think the optional rule for skills with alternate abilities should simply be the rule. Sometimes Athletics requires Con, sometimes Acrobatics requires Str, sometimes Persuasion could involve a logical argument, sometimes Deception is done through sheer cunning, sometimes Stealth requires Int, etc.. Yes, I grok that the simple attribute pairing rule makes the game easier to play, but the current breakdown isn't very good. What should happen is that a character should say what they want to accomplish, say how they're going to do it, and then the DM assigns an attribute, a skill proficiency, and a DC.

I don't think knowledge skills should be like normal skills at all. I think each class and background should list the types of knowledge the character knows or can choose from and they should otherwise work like languages and tools do. You might need to add 2-3 more skills for that to work well, but I don't think they're quite deserving of being first class skills. Not even Arcana.
 


tommybahama

Adventurer
This can be resolved by the DM only asking for an ability check and then letting the player apply the relevant skill or tool proficiency, according to the player's understanding of the approach described.
I like your approach, but I would add that there is a podcast where Jeremy Crawford states that there are passive scores for all abilities/skills (not just perception/investigation) and these represent the floor for your success on a skill check. The die rolls is to see if you succeed beyond this floor. It avoids the nonsense of a highly skilled character failing at something relatively easy.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I set up situations to make different skills useful. Depending on who you're talking to and the situation, intimidate can be far more useful. That cowardly goblin is going to be really suspicious if you try to butter them up because they know better so intimidate would be a far lower DC.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
Do you like the term "Influence" for the skill if we rolled them all into one?

There are many times when I think of the time/training required for one skill is not remotely what it would be for another, and "combining" skills would help that. I know a number of people think Athletics and Acrobatics could be put into one skill, used either off of STR or DEX (or even CON) as the situation demands.
If we're going that route, the variant rule where you just get proficiency in ability checks for a couple of abilities (rather than specific skills) deserves another look.

You'd be down to athletics, sneaking, endurance, knowledge, perception, and influence.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Worst skill? No, I would put Slight of Hand and Animal Handling below Intimidation, and probably History as well.
I agree with Animal Handling; I could also agree that Sleight of Hand is very situational. But history comes up all the time in my games. I'd even go as far as say that it's one of the skills that come up the most. It's a reliable way for my players to access internalized knowledge.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
If we're going that route, the variant rule where you just get proficiency in ability checks for a couple of abilities (rather than specific skills) deserves another look.

You'd be down to athletics, sneaking, endurance, knowledge, perception, and influence.
And along those lines I have thought about just such things and using the option in the DMG for proficiency in broad ability checks and not in just individual skills. I know some players like more differentiation between skills, and others prefer broader interpretations.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
If we're going that route, the variant rule where you just get proficiency in ability checks for a couple of abilities (rather than specific skills) deserves another look.

You'd be down to athletics, sneaking, endurance, knowledge, perception, and influence.
That also points out how Con is sort of a crappy stat; its dominance at saving throws and HP nonwithstanding.

Athletics should include Endurance really.

Athletics
Sneaking
Knowledge
Perception
Influence

those are all about as useful.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I am fine with intimidation being a separate skill but the divide between persuasion and deception seems far too blurry to me. Persuasion might often involves exaggeration and half-truths and it is pretty unclear when it should become deception instead. I'd like to eliminate deception and keep persuasion as a skill with which you try to get people like and trust you regardless of the truth of what you say, while intimidation is about inciting fear instead of trust.
Good point. Also given how intimidation is often linked to STR instead of CHA, keeping it separate might be better...
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I like your approach, but I would add that there is a podcast where Jeremy Crawford states that there are passive scores for all abilities/skills (not just perception/investigation) and these represent the floor for your success on a skill check. The die rolls is to see if you succeed beyond this floor. It avoids the nonsense of a highly skilled character failing at something relatively easy.
In that podcast, they are talking in the context of combat where that ruling is the only place that makes sense (since it relates to the rule of characters usually being alert to danger in a combat and the Search action where passive Perception score would be the floor). There's no way to go from the rules of the game to the ruling you mention above outside of trying to find a hidden creature in combat.
 

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