D&D 5E Persuasion - How powerful do you allow it to be?

Celebrim

Legend
I allow it to be very powerful.

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.

Ok, not that powerful. PC's are immune, and frankly to try to force players to let you play their character is so dysfunctional that I would speak to this player privately and tell them if they don't stop they are out of the group.

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

They could certainly try this in my game and I'd let them roll the check, but the difficulty I would assign to the check would be absurdly high. I take into account three things when assigning DC to a persuade check. First, the relationship of the target to the PC. Secondly, the risk or cost involved of the request with respect to the target. And thirdly, the extent to which the request violates what the NPC naturally wants to do and believes. In this case my assumption would be that the guard doesn't know the PC's and even has some small animosity to them. Second, that the guard is being asked to risk death on their behalf with little to no upside. And thirdly, that the guard is being asked to violate their own sense of honor and feelings of goodwill toward their king. As a result, I would assign a DC for this persuade check probably at minimum in the low 30's. So if you had like a +12 on the check and rolled a 20, then I would indeed allow you to persuade the guard to do that.

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.

Again, they are basically unknown to the priestess who will as a priestess probably rightly perceive herself as higher rank than the PC, they are asking the priestess to make a great sacrifice on their behalf with only a rather slight reward, and they are asking the priestess to violate their most sacred sense of honor and most cherished beliefs. This is actually probably a more difficult check than the first one, and I'd assign a DC around 36 or higher for this check. I suspect in 5e that such a DC would make this check basically impossible, but even in earlier editions you'd need a very high bonus and a very good roll.

IS this a step too far?

No, that is sanity. It's fine to have a very high level character be supernaturally persuasive and I won't just say "no" to a character that really has superhuman persuasive ability. But even superhuman persuasive ability has its limits. If you are trying to convince a dragon which thinks of you only as food, to risk its life in violation of its most deeply held beliefs, you better have godlike persuasive ability because the DC of that stunt is going to be around 50. And even that value assumes that I've made tweaks to magic and magic items that were balanced on the assumption that the DM would just say no, so that they no longer give large and easy bonuses to skills that I'm going to treat as actually valuable.

Rechecks would be allowed if suitably earned at a later point, but remember that all of these requests which violate the target's beliefs would likely engender animosity in the target so that the target is now more hostile to them than before. So essentially the DC's would only be getting higher. The above priestess now considers the would be seducer a scoundrel with base morals and evil intent. So unless she was nearly persuaded the first time, chances are the DC is now 41. And if she was nearly persuaded the first time and her wisdom is high, which she's a priestess it probably is, she'd simply recognize the threat involved her and refuse to see the PC in the future.

If the player argues this with you, you have a simple solution: what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Introduce a high charisma NPC and simply start controlling the PC as a puppet, overriding all the players wishes. Do not allow the player to play their own character using the very rules that they are trying to apply to others until such time that they either storm away from the table (and good riddance) or they concede that you are in fact the DM and they were in fact being ridiculous.

Now that sanity is restored, let's address how the player can play in a way that they get what they want - a character that can talk their way out of anything - without being abusive and ridiculous. And the answer is basically, "Good roleplay." And by that I don't mean simply that the player is themselves charismatic. I mean that the player addresses the weaknesses of their persuasion arguments by intelligently altering the terms of the deal and engages in what amounts to good strategy.

In the case of the guard, through extended RP and multiple skill checks, find a guard that isn't honorable and doesn't actually like the king, and then make friends with that guard, and then offer the guard some sort of tangible reward and means of helping the players without getting caught. If you can do that, then the circumstances of the persuasion check changes. The guard likes you, the guard isn't violating their own beliefs, and the guard while still taking a big risk now perceives that there is a reward that makes that chance more compelling. Same request, but because of the changed circumstances I might lower the DC of the persuasion check to a mere 18 or so - a hurdle any superhumanly charismatic bard ought to be able to leap.

You want to seduce a priestess of marital fidelity? First become friends with that priestess without raising her suspicions regarding your ultimate intentions which is going to take a prolonged series of role play and skill checks. Then at the same time become someone that the priestess admires and perceives as having great social rank - you are a famous hero, you are well celebrated within her cult as a good man, you have been honored by the king with medals and titles, and so forth. Then ideally, marry the priestess so that she's no longer violating her own deeply held beliefs in order to get the reward you are promising her, and no longer risking the inevitable wrath of her deity when she does so (and for that matter, you aren't either!). Now as the beloved husband, the request you are making with your persuade check is almost trivially easy, and only the most inept sort of request of that sort is going to fail. But even if you do only some of that and your intentions were never honorable, you might just with good strategy maybe get the DC down low enough that with a good check she'd forget her own good sense so that at least the seduction is believable if this is turned into a story.
 
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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.

Indeed!

A player states an approach and goal for their character and it shouldn't matter how. Maybe that is with flowery speech. Maybe not. Maybe it is completely in character. Maybe it is matter of fact out-of-character: "my character tries [this] to accomplish [that]". The DM's role is to evaluate if that approach succeeds, fails, or has some possibility of success OR of failure with a meaningful consequence. In the latter case the DM can call for a roll. If the approach invokes the PC's proficient skill(s) and/or parts of the PC's background and/or the use of a pertinent resource and/or something else clever or logical, well that helps push the needle towards success - perhaps auto-success or a roll with advantage or maybe a lower DC.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
"I want to make an Athletics check to climb up the air."

"I want to make a Persuasion check to convince the loyal Queen to assassinate the King."

Nope. Not reachable. And 20 is not an auto success for anything except attack rolls.
 

Mycroft

Banned
Banned
I have never thought skills, in general, go with D&D, and certainly not the social ones (Cha-based).

With CoC, wonderful; with D&D, somehow seems forced and tacked-on.
 

aco175

Legend
I have never thought skills, in general, go with D&D, and certainly not the social ones (Cha-based).

With CoC, wonderful; with D&D, somehow seems forced and tacked-on.

I meant to reply, not laugh at your post.

I can see where skills are useful at the table, especially with younger players who may not be as social as others and the DM can use the addition of the roll to aid their play. Similar to past threads on traps and bypassing riddles and puzzles.
 



robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Ability checks resolve uncertainty. When trying to persuade an NPC the DM decides if the outcome is uncertain and will ask for a check if there is meaningful consequence to failure.

When persuading a fellow PC I used to say that there is no uncertainty as the player knows what the PC is thinking or feeling so no roll is required. However I can imagine a player feeling uncertain about their PCs response and being willing to roll to resolve that uncertainty. But it is absolutely the target PC players call. Not the persuading PC’s player.

Persuasion is not a button to push to get a desired result.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I agree with the theme of the posters so far.

The other crux to me is to make the players work for it a bit. If they walk up to a loyal guard and go "betray your king for me"....than no its not going to happen. If they have forged documents that show the King is a bad guy (even if its not), and use that as the basis of persuasion....ok, still really difficult but now we are getting somewhere.

Further, your check doesn't have to be one and done, you can do it in degrees. The loyal guard is not convinced to betray his king...but maybe gives the PCs a little information. Doesnt' truly help them, but it shows he's softened to them just a bit. Maybe with some further work he can be turned. Think of how police develop sources, it often takes a lot of time and effort to build that trust. If a player takes equal time, than ok they can start to change a person's beliefs.
 

cmad1977

Hero
I’m pretty loose with it I guess. But no where near as loose as that player would like. Pretty much none of that stuff would fly for me either. I’d just say that out loud. Explain how things work.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I think this is a general problem with the d20 skill system in general, not just persuasion. We have been conditioned to think that a natural 20 (or an 18 or 19) is autosuccess because it beats the DC, but in many, many, many cases, a check should be unwarranted or the DC too high to beat, regardless of the roll. What I hate most is when someone rolls poorly, then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, trained or not, and tries to roll high.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It bears repeating:

Players don't get to say whether there's an ability check. That role is assigned to the DM only. Players can only describe what they want to do.

And if the DM is only calling for ability checks when there's a meaningful consequence for failure - which is a requirement for there to be an ability check at all - then players will tend to try to avoid rolling.

This issue solves itself by simply following the rules of the game.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
What I hate most is when someone rolls poorly, then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon, trained or not, and tries to roll high.

The way to nip that in the bud is to ask the players who want to make another attempt what is different about their approach. Same approach = same result, no roll required.

Edit: You can also remind them that given enough rolls any reasonable DC is beatable so just rolling until you win is quite boring and really takes the challenge out of the game.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
The way to nip that in the bud is to ask the players who want to make another attempt what is different about their approach. Same approach = same result, no roll required.

Edit: You can also remind them that given enough rolls any reasonable DC is beatable so just rolling until you win is quite boring and really takes the challenge out of the game.

I prefer what is suggested by the rules - If there is no consequence then don't roll.

Or in other words, if there is no drama in a roll it shouldn't be happening.
 



I think, if you are persuasive enough, you might be able to persuade someone to do things that might be against their morals. Here's the problem, it's not going to be one check.

If it is something that is against their morals, like the priestess, it might take many, many private conversations, over an extended amount of time (weeks, months or years) against a dc of 'hostile NPC'. (Even though the Priestess, herself, might not be hostile)

A success might nudge that NPC towards less hostile or Indifferent. In other words, your arguments have managed to sway them enough to doubt their beliefs or, at least, see another perspective. It certainly won't make them go against their vows.

Then, after more time and discussions, you might be able to move them to a 'friendly' disposition. At this point, you might be able to convince them to break their vows. Maybe You've earned their trust and, possibly, managed to make them fall in love with you.

I wouldn't let a single roll in a single night dictate an outcome like that.

So, before you have them roll, ask yourself this: what is their disposition towards what's being asked? How long will will it take to change said disposition? Do they have enough time?

If there's an NPC looking to for a good time and wanting bring someone home for the night, it might only require a 15 minute conversation and a roll against 'friendly'.

So, if you get ambushed by bandits, you might be able to persuade the bandit leader to let you live and maybe let you keep your wedding ring. There's no way you're going to convince him to give you all his stuff and be your bff.

I don't let players roll against other players unless the other player agrees to what is being rolled and is uncertain of how their own character might react. Or, if it's a combat happening (which is rare) like one PC is grappling another(maybe his buddy is charmed), I might let them roll persuasion to escape the grapple instead of athletics as he 'persuades' his ally to let him go.
 

Mycroft

Banned
Banned
It bears repeating:

Players don't get to say whether there's an ability check. That role is assigned to the DM only. Players can only describe what they want to do.

And if the DM is only calling for ability checks when there's a meaningful consequence for failure - which is a requirement for there to be an ability check at all - then players will tend to try to avoid rolling.

This issue solves itself by simply following the rules of the game.

"How to Play
2. Sometimes, resolving a task is easy. If an adventurer wants to walk across a room and open a door, the DM might just say that the door opens and describe what lies beyond. But the door might be locked, the floor might hide a deadly trap, or some other circumstance might make it challenging for an adventurer to complete a task. In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action."

 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith

"How to Play
2. Sometimes, resolving a task is easy. If an adventurer wants to walk across a room and open a door, the DM might just say that the door opens and describe what lies beyond. But the door might be locked, the floor might hide a deadly trap, or some other circumstance might make it challenging for an adventurer to complete a task. In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action."


You'd think it'd be obvious, given it's right in the front of the book and entitled "How to Play."
 

Mycroft

Banned
Banned
You'd think it'd be obvious, given it's right in the front of the book and entitled "How to Play."

Though it may seem revolutionary to some, I have been DMing this way since I started with AD&D back in the day. I just assumed that of course no one would roll dice if there was nothing at stake, nothing would change, regardless of the result, so why would you bother to exert the energy?

I recall one of my first experiences with 3rd Ed, and being a player for a change, in the middle of the DM talking in character as an NPC, one of my fellow players bellowed out "Sense Motive!" sort of incredulously and picked up his d20...well, I was confused, slightly offended, and a bit irritated.

I was like, what, are you having a stroke?
 

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