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Persuasion - How powerful do you allow it to be?

GreyLord

Adventurer
I've had several situations pop up recently with a player that wants to use this skill for EVERYTHING.

They want to force other players to do what they want them to do. The player doesn't agree with it or want to do it...they roll a persuade check.

They want to persuade a soldier to defy their king and not arrest them with a persuade check.

They want to seduce a Priestess of Homemaking and the Hearth (meaning that they also believe in absolute fidelity only after marriage...etc) they think they can succeed on a...persuasion check.

I've basically secretly decided...they simply WILL NOT be able to actually succeed on some checks (for example, the latter, there is simply NO force possible to persuade some people to abandon principles or their personal morales).

IS this a step too far? I mean, this is a fantasy game, but in reality, you can't persuade everyone to your point of view no matter HOW Charismatic you are. There are ALWAYS those that will have a different opinion, different idea, different morals or other things.

Each of the situations above are examples of how I've handled the persuasion skill differently.

1. For the first situation, I will NEVER (or at least the situation has not come up yet) allow one Player to dictate what another player HAS to do with their PC with the exception of a few spells. Ever. A persuasion check is NOT going to cause another player to do what someone else wants them to do. I think that is against the spirit of the game and the spirit of playing. It abridges the freedom of the other players and is sort of like almost an unacceptable power move to try to unacceptably force others to do things how you want them to do it.

Does anyone see this as acceptable?

What I DO currently in these situations (as I have one problem player who constantly tries to do this...actually, all of the items above center on this one player) is to tell the PC they are trying to influence that the other has rolled such and such. In some situations I'll relay information in a way that is favorable to the Persuading Player's character's point of view, sometimes with extra information that was not there to begin with.

For example, the Persuading PC wants to convince another PC to go into a building on fire to get a talisman important to the quest before the town guard comes and puts out the fire and confiscates everything in the building. I would relay to the player that the persuasion check is against that the Persuading PC wants them to go into the building. It appears to them that their character is the most able to get in and out with the least amount of damage and the highest amount of success compared to anyone else in the party...

And then I leave it up to the player on what they want to do. Is that too much, or too little if a persuasion check (let's say the Persuading character rolled a natural 20) succeeds against another player?

Personally, I think it's trash that they would resort to trying to make a persuasion roll instead of simply talking to them over the table...but...how would people here handle it?

2. The soldier is highly loyal to the King. Very UNLIKELY to EVER disobey, especially when not just their job, but their home and family are also subject to the whims of this ruler if they choose to betray their orders.

Thus, I allow the player to make an argument on WHY the soldier should not arrest them and depending on the statements will make the DC higher or lower.

Let's say they make a very reasonable argument that seems plausible (perhaps the King will never find out, they player is innocent and needs time to prove it, seems dependable to follow through on the promise, and has shown evidence that they will turn up eventually and prove that they are innocent) I could make a DC of 10 or 15.

On the otherhand, if they are not able to make a good argument, that DC could be 40 (so, yes, they can still roll and IF SOMEHOW they have the ability to make a roll that high...they would actually succeed in the check).

I would modify this depending on how charasimatic the player is themselves...thus if you have a very uncharismatic player playing a charismatic PC, the player would not have to be as convincing as say...another player who was very charismatic.

I think this is reasonable when strong loyalties or strong duty is present.

3. In the last case, there are some things that people are NOT going to change. It doesn't matter if you are Henry Cavill or Bradley Cooper, you aren't going to be able to change certain people's opinion. On these, they can make their argument or idea, and I even allow a roll...but secretly...they are ALWAYS going to fail the persuasion check.

I simply don't think persuasion should be so powerful as to be all convincing no matter what, that people would simply abandon lifelong morals or convictions that they hold. So that Bard could try to seduce all the chambermaids and whatever they want but unless the chambermaids are already predisposed in that direction or don't have qualms about being seduced, the Bard is not going to succeed constantly. It really would depend on the character of the NPC in those areas.

Basically, on some areas, the Bard will be able to succeed like normal, or even all the time if they roll well. Other times it depends on the loyalty and convictions, and sometimes, they won't be able to succeed as the DC = impossible...ever.

Is that wrong to have certain times when skills, no matter WHAT the roll...will not succeed? Especially when, in some ways, I feel it is against the spirit of free agency and choice on what people might do if we have an iota of reality...or when other players are involved?
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
No. Persuasion is not Charm. If you can't do it with charm, then you can't do it with persuasion. Persuasion is the ability to sway someone towards your viewpoint. They will not do something that will cause harm to themselves, their family/fiends/loved-ones, or betray their word, reflect poorly upon their honor or values or compromise their values.

That's for trying to persuade an NPC. It has absolutely NO, Zero, Nada influence upon another PC. EVER. No player can ever tell another player what their character does/says/thinks. That is an inviolate rule.

If another player tried to do that to me, I would ignore them the first time, the second time I would announce that their character slits their own throat and gives me all their treasure. End of story.

As the DM, step in now and shut it down. Plain and simple.
 

aco175

Explorer
Checks should never be allowed on other PCs. Same as the DM making checks and forcing the player to have his PC act a certain way. The player controls his PC and acts how he wants. You can fudge a bit and suggest some things and maybe say that it appears one way or the person seems to be telling the truth, but never say that he persuades you to do something, unless the PC is charmed by a spell.

The persuasion skill should be allowed to do minor things or talk your way past small things. If your haggling and not sure if you want to give a break to the PC, roll a check. If you are trying to get past a guard to meet the sheriff or get into the back room of a thieves' den, roll a check. There is also the NPC that is being persuaded. Not all guards will be loyal to the death. Some should fall into a scale of less than honest or motivated to sacrifice themselves for their king. I assume that most will not let the PC into the bedchamber or the king, but could be persuaded to let them pass into the jail cells or climb over the wall. Money could also be involved.

You also need to take into account the skill of the player vs. the PC. Some players are more persuasive themselves and can think fast on their feet. Some cannot and freeze when put on the spot. The check allows the game to move forward and for less linguistic players to fit in.
 

Saelorn

Explorer
You should remind your player that a natural 20 is not always a success on a skill roll, and some things really are impossible. No matter how high you roll, you can't jump to the moon. No matter how high you roll, you won't convince someone to betray their ideals.

As for Persuasion, I try to imagine myself as a player being persuaded by another player, and use that to set the DC. As a player, outside of very strong character traits, I'm open to the possibility of my character being convinced of something. If I imagine that I'd be willing to go along with something, if the other player rolled a 20, then I'd set that as the DC for the PC to persuade the NPC. If I imagine I'd go along with a 12, then that's the DC. And if I wouldn't be persuaded, even if they rolled 50, then there's no point in rolling.
 

WaterRabbit

Villager
This is the "Jump to the Moon" idea I pointed out in the other thread. There are a group of games that believe they should get to roll a d20 no matter how impossible the task would be in the hopes they roll a natural 20.

Persuasion isn't charm or anything of the sort. It is a good place to drain gold from players however. You want to persuade a guard to look the other way? Well, a good persuasion roll and some gold might work. To me persuasion is used to convince someone of something they would be inclined to do anyway as long as there isn't any risk to themselves.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I would go even further than [MENTION=6804070]LordEntrails[/MENTION]. Persuasion is not dominate person; charm merely makes them friendly. Getting them to go against basic morals and tenets just isn't going to happen.

Basically, I agree with you, [MENTION=4348]GreyLord[/MENTION]. When it comes to another PC, the player of the target PC gets to decide how they react. If the target player asks for a check (I may depending on my PC) so be it.

When it comes to NPCs, that's all over the board. Is the soldier loyal? Disloyal? What's the cost and what's the benefit of doing what the PC wants. I would set the DC anywhere from automatic to impossible. Other factors may come into play like bribery, threats, reason, appeals to a higher power and so on. It's completely up to you how you do it, I've had players think they could bribe someone who would have to flee town with a 10 GP bribe. It didn't work - that may be more gold than they've ever seen at one time, but it still won't get them very far based on D&D valuation of gold. In another case a soldier who was starving let people pass after being given a day's worth of rations. If I have no clue, I do an opposed loyalty roll with a modifier based on appropriate factors but usually varying from -10 to +10.

But seducing a priestess who's dedicated their life to monogamy? Not going to happen.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I think you're doing it well with your method.

You don't need to call for a roll if you think the result is impossible. For the persuading of a player, if they can't persuade them in real life to do something then they can't do so in game with a skill check.

For the situation with the soldier, you can decide how loyal the soldier is. If he is absolutely loyal and doesn't waver from the law then you can disallow a persuade check. Perhaps he's more loyal to his paycheck, in which case he might be persuaded for a price.

For the priestess, I think it is entirely plausible to say that the persuade check is impossible, or you can allow it and he can start a rather lengthy courtship (assuming she isn't already married, in which case, impossible).

Persuade isn't something that let's players get away with whatever they want, the DM calls for the rolls so if you don't think a roll is possible, then tell the player that persuade isn't going to work. Do make sure there are situations where persuade will work, a corrupt bureaucrat, gate guard, or a rogue in a seedy tavern might be all valid options for persuade.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I've had several situations pop up recently with a player that wants to use this skill for EVERYTHING.

They want to force other players to do what they want them to do. The player doesn't agree with it or want to do it...they roll a persuade check.

They want to persuade a soldier to defy their king and not arrest them with a persuade check.

They want to seduce a Priestess of Homemaking and the Hearth (meaning that they also believe in absolute fidelity only after marriage...etc) they think they can succeed on a...persuasion check.

I've basically secretly decided...they simply WILL NOT be able to actually succeed on some checks (for example, the latter, there is simply NO force possible to persuade some people to abandon principles or their personal morales).

IS this a step too far? I mean, this is a fantasy game, but in reality, you can't persuade everyone to your point of view no matter HOW Charismatic you are. There are ALWAYS those that will have a different opinion, different idea, different morals or other things.
No, it's not a step too far - it's the very rules of the game. The DM is the only person in the game who can decide if there is an ability check used to resolve a task proposed by a player. Once a player has described what he or she wants to do, the DM narrates the results, sometimes calling for a check when the outcome is uncertain. The criteria for when it's needed is simple: The task has to be somewhere between trivial and impossible and there has to be a meaningful consequence for failure. If the task is trivial, impossible, or there is no meaningful consequence for failure, there is no check. The DM just says what happens without a roll.

When it comes to players having their characters try to influence other player characters, the player of the character who is being influenced always decides what happens. The rules of the game say that the player is the one who determines what his or her character does, thinks, and says. Given that rule, there is no uncertainty as to what a player's character does - the character does whatever the player says it does. Given the fact that the DM is the only one who can call for ability checks and that there is no uncertainty as to what a player's character does, there is no mechanism by which a player can call for a check to influence another player's character. Now, magic spells or the like may be handled differently, but there is no making a Persuasion check on another player's character. Even the DM can't do that.

Each of the situations above are examples of how I've handled the persuasion skill differently.

1. For the first situation, I will NEVER (or at least the situation has not come up yet) allow one Player to dictate what another player HAS to do with their PC with the exception of a few spells. Ever. A persuasion check is NOT going to cause another player to do what someone else wants them to do. I think that is against the spirit of the game and the spirit of playing. It abridges the freedom of the other players and is sort of like almost an unacceptable power move to try to unacceptably force others to do things how you want them to do it.

Does anyone see this as acceptable?

What I DO currently in these situations (as I have one problem player who constantly tries to do this...actually, all of the items above center on this one player) is to tell the PC they are trying to influence that the other has rolled such and such. In some situations I'll relay information in a way that is favorable to the Persuading Player's character's point of view, sometimes with extra information that was not there to begin with.

For example, the Persuading PC wants to convince another PC to go into a building on fire to get a talisman important to the quest before the town guard comes and puts out the fire and confiscates everything in the building. I would relay to the player that the persuasion check is against that the Persuading PC wants them to go into the building. It appears to them that their character is the most able to get in and out with the least amount of damage and the highest amount of success compared to anyone else in the party...

And then I leave it up to the player on what they want to do. Is that too much, or too little if a persuasion check (let's say the Persuading character rolled a natural 20) succeeds against another player?
I think it's inappropriate to call for any roll at all either as a DM or player. There is no uncertainty to resolve as I've shown above so no ability check.

Is that wrong to have certain times when skills, no matter WHAT the roll...will not succeed? Especially when, in some ways, I feel it is against the spirit of free agency and choice on what people might do if we have an iota of reality...or when other players are involved?
Players can always say what they want to do. It's their role in the game. But they have no say whatsoever in whether there is an ability check to resolve the thing they said they wanted to do. That is the DM's role in the game to decide.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
The DMG rukes for social interactions are pretty good. They tend to show you good boundaries.

Unless its interaction with friendlies, not gonna talk them into significant risk. So, no, not defy king unless no chance of getting caught. Even then, not if loyal.

Also, persuade is not quick. It's not "an action" but a process.

Really, to me, the real power of "charm" spells is shifting them to friendly. That is huge.

But the DMG social section and its call-to ideals, bonds, flaws etc and referencing initial attitude so strongly I think helps a lot.
 

Draegn

Explorer
There are only two things that I allow players to do to each other's character; what they agree to do to each other and when they are trying to kill one another. As an example of what they agree to do to each other; the wizard suggests he can turn the thief invisible to make to easier to sneak around. The thief says good idea do it.

For npcs I expect some sort of role play. Offering a bribe to the guard to look the other way.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I only call for a Charisma check when the player’s approach to getting the NPC to do what they want has a reasonable chance of succeeding, reasonable chance of failing, and cost or consequence for failing, though most social actions have an inherent opportunity cost, so it’s fairly rare that an action meets the previous two qualifications and doesn’t meet the third. When it does, I will call for a Charisma check, and at that point the player may suggest that their proficiency in Persuasion might be applicable.

As for persuading other PCs, I leave it up to the player of the PC being persuaded whether the attempt succeeds, fails, or is uncertain and requires a check to resolve. I handle all player-vs-player actions that way.
 

lall

Explorer
Agree. No Persuasion checks on other PCs. (That was actually a rule in 3.5.) Up to DM if Persuasion can be used effectively in any other circumstance.
 

Unwise

Villager
A skill can succeed and not have the immediate or desired effect. You can get utterly persuasive and not immediately change somebody's obvious actions.

For instance, I can conceive of no way in which I would cheat on my wife. If Gal Gadot wanted to seduce me, I can guarantee she would succeed the opposed skill check. That just gets me thinking of what she wants me to, it does not constrain my actions or force me to do anything. I would have little control over the thoughts I would have, I maintain sovereignty over my actions. I might have some sleepless nights and soul searching, but its nothing that a PC would see, and certainly not immediately.

If I tried to persuade a religious fanatic that their god does not exist, a critical success would result in them having a crisis of faith over the next few weeks, maybe reading some forbidden texts and questioning their elders. It does not make them immediately change their goals in life in the next 6 seconds.

The kings guard might still arrest you after you made a very convincing case. He might then ask the king to reconsider your case, or ask the captain if the evidence against you is really that strong. He might also be an a-hole and not care, despite the fact he believes you are innocent.

People don't change in minutes, even if they should.
 
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Seramus

Explorer
I allow quite a lot, but persuading someone often takes days or weeks depending on what you are trying to convince them of. Much like [MENTION=98008]Unwise[/MENTION] said above, something like the seduction of a faithful person could happen... over the course of many encounters, building chemistry, the illusion of shared interests, etc.
 
I allow it to go really far. It means that the players have a very large influence in the storyline, which is ok for me. I develop the world around them, and I enjoy the challenge to come up with new bits for each session. I never plan ahead the details very far, so I don't get upset like other DM's when the players derail my storyline.

In my opinion, each party of 4 heroes can have a Templeton Peck or a James Bond who can smooth-talk the group into or out of situations. Is that realistic? No. Is it fun? Yep!

But I never allow two players to roll against each other unless both parties agree to it. My NPCs will also never roll a persuasion check against a player's character. If anyone (player or DM) want to change the player's character's mind on something, actual real-world charisma or good arguments are the only way.
 
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S'mon

Hero
How I do it:

1. Player says what they are doing (IC speech or OOC statement)
2. GM decides if outcome is uncertain
3. If certain, GM states result
4. If uncertain, GM states difficulty for check, between 5 (very easy) and 30 (nearly impossible)
5. Player rolls (or succeeds/fails if modifier guarantees success/failure)

So if it is impossible, then no roll.

As far as player characters go, I won't go beyond "he seems very persuasive" or "you believe what he's saying is true"; player decides how they react. Partial exception in rare case where we need to separate player & PC knowledge.

Edit: In practice might well allow a check to seduce the high priestess or persuade the guard to look the other way; it would depend on a variety of factors including the NPC personality, which I might randomly determine by rolling a d6. I would be more likely to set a DC of 25 or 30 than outright ban the attempt, but this might depend on what exactly the PC said, & how it interacted with the motivations of the NPC. Eg if the priestess had no interest in being seduced by the PC (eg she's actually a golem) :) then no roll. Or maybe there is no way she'd break her vows & have sex with him, but he might persuade her it was ok to go for a romantic stroll in the rose garden, and steal a kiss.
For the PC who has invested heavily in skills (eg the Rogue-19 IMC) I want them to be able to do impressive stuff, certainly in the DC 25-30 range. Comparable to what you get with combat feats and spells. But there are limits.
 
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Fenris-77

Explorer
Charisma skills don't work on PCs and any player who desperately wants them to is probably a guy you don't want at your table. I know as a player I'd never put up with that shizz, but I'm old and wily and pretty misanthropic, so I'm a hard sell. Setting that kinds creepy shizz aside, neither Persuade nor Deception is the auto-win button some players seem to think it is. In no case will either get some to act contrary to their own inclinations or interests. Not in any serious way anyway. If players want to try that I wave a piece of paper and pretend to be important to get into the place on a deception roll, I'm ok with that, but it's not like the guys they just walked past will forget them, nor will they not tell the watch commander they're there when he shows up.

Really, where those two skills shine is in two very specific areas. First, they are a great tool for experienced players to get great results out of third pillar play because they role play the every-living shizz out of it. That's cool. Those skills are also really useful for non-so-social actual people to play socially adept characters and have fun doing it even if that's not their natural or default actual set of social skills. What those skills are not is a crutch for people to try and game the system. That shizz is off side and mostly ruins whole campaigns, even if stops short of the possible misogyny and whatnot that's possible.

I am actually all for adults playing an adult game that may actually, gasp, involve seduction and sex, but that needs to be played with adults who are going to handle the material responsibly. Guys who are trying to skill check other characters are not that guy. Really, really, not that guy.
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
Players don't call for ability checks.

They describe what their character is doing.

The DM then determines if an ability check is called for and potentially if a skill can modify it.

There are several factors to consider:

Is the outcome in doubt? (if the PC can't succeed for example don't roll)
Is there a consequence for failure? (There is no drama if there is no consequence. The PC will just try again anyway)
Is it interesting? (don't waste time at the table for things that aren't fun)

So yes, the DM determines success, failure, or if the outcome is uncertain. Only in the latter case is a roll potentially called for.

This might all be with how they approach the situation. Succeed, failure, advantage, disadvantage can all be dependent on how the PC goes about things. It helps to know more about the NPC and what motivates them.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
Personally, I would steer away from giving advantages to charismatic players/"good roleplay". For me, it is their character that is persuading, not the player, and I want to be welcoming even to the introverts in my groups, who just want to state what their charismatic character does, rather than do it themselves. We should be roleplaying because we like to roleplay, not for mechanical advantage on a check.
 

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