View Full Version : [House Rule] Intimidate Bonuses

2006-09-01, 11:54 AM
I just came up with this idea over in the "dumb rules" thread. Most of the complaining about the Intimidate skill I've heard focuses on the fact that it doesn't take Strength into account. High-strength, but low-charisma, characters currently find it hard to intimidate somebody. Fighters and Barbarians especially tend to get the shaft, since Charisma is a typical dump stat. But then I got to thinking, isn't that also true for Wizards? They don't tend to have a high charisma, either.

So why does this bother me? Think about what Intimidate is supposed to be doing: threatening the target. For any threat to work, the target has to believe you have the capability and will to carry out the threat. If you're a fighter, being able to carry out the threat involves being strong. If you're a wizard, the threat you present is very different from a fighter. It involves being smart. If you're a sorceror, it involves being charismatic. And so on.

Charisma matters, too; probably a bit more than your raw ability. You still have to be able to craft a reliable threat and communicate it effectively to your target.

So, my modification.

As a bonus to Intimidate checks, add half of the following ability bonus, based on class: Strength (fighter or barbarian); Wisdom (cleric or druid); Intelligence (wizard); Charisma (in addition to original charisma bonus; sorceror or bard); the better score of Wisdom or Strength (monk or paladin); the better score of Strength or Dexterity (ranger or rogue).

What do you all think? I think it's good so far, but I'm a bit unsure about the bonuses for cleric and paladin. Should Cleric add Wisdom/Strength? Should Paladin add Strength/Charisma? Or should I just go with "half the bonus of your highest ability score?"

2006-09-01, 12:04 PM
I'd say class-based stuff works, but...dexterity?
What are you gonna do? Flex at them?
I'd make it optional as Charisma, Strength, or Intelligence.
You can use force of personality, break a table nearby or something, or describe to them exactly what happens when a person is thrown into a lake wearing concrete shoes.
...Wisdom doesn't make much sense either, come to think of it.

2006-09-01, 12:19 PM
If you think of Wisdom in terms of being able to cast spells (paladin and cleric spells are based on wisdom), I think it makes a bit more sense. For Dex, you can slit their throat before they know what's happening (for rogue) or shoot a fly off a fence at 200 yards (for ranger or other ranged fighter). That can be intimidating.

2006-09-01, 12:57 PM
I say NAY.

A demonstration of power of any kind gives a circumstance bonus. It doesn't matter what the actual score is. Whether you need to roll a natural 10 or a natural 19 to bend an iron bar, if you hit it, it gives the same bonus. Relative size should give Intimidate bonuses if beyond the scope of natural environment (in a world where halflings are common, most people won't believe them any more incapable of threats than another Medium-sized being).

Casting a spell that looks harmful works.

Numbers help.

2006-09-01, 01:41 PM
IME, it can be a good idea to ask yourself: "What problem do I want to fix with this houserule?"

In other words: if you think Intimidate is too weak in the RAW, this might be one way to fix it. But otherwise, I don't think basing Intimidate on Cha only is any less illogical than having all the other skills being based on single ability scores.

(That said, I use a feat in my campaigns that allow Str to be used instead of Cha for a couple of skills. No players has been interested in it yet, so it's probably not too broken. ;) )

2006-09-01, 02:36 PM
Well, the mechanical problem I see is that a fighter or a barbarian, no matter how strong they are, is almost never going to be as good at using the Intimidate skill as a Rogue, or even a Sorceror (even though intimidate is not a class skill for the Sorceror). It's a class balance issue, rather than an "Intimidate is weak" issue.

Some numbers for the example. Let's say you have your standard half-orc barbarian, who has put his dump stat into charisma like a good half-orc. Let's say that stat is now 8. But you have a wimpy elf sorceror with charisma of 18. At level 1, half-orc puts 4 ranks into intimidate. -1 to charisma, that gives a net bonus of +3. The sorceror puts two ranks into it, for a total of +6. (This probably wouldn't actually happen, since sorcerors have spellcraft etc. to worry about, but just for the sake of argument). Let's say this keeps up. At 2nd level it's 4 to 6; at third, it's 5 to 7. At fourth it's six to seven. At fifth it's seven to eight. At sixth it's it's eight to eight. At seventh it's nine to nine. Eighth level, barbarian finally pulls ahead.

Or does he? Barbarian probably put his stat increases into something other than charisma. But the sorceror hasn't - he lives on the stuff! Sorceror's Charisma bumps up +1, so it's ten to ten. At ninth level, it's eleven to eleven. Finally, at tenth level, barbarian pulls ahead. It's not until then, halfway through a standard 20-level campaign, that the barbarian would pull ahead on a skill in which he, as a barbarian, should excel. (And that's not even counting magic items that increase charisma, which sorcerors would probably have by then).

It gets even worse if you substitute the word "Bard" for "Sorceror" above. Would the quintessential fifth wheel really scare people more than the foaming-at-the-mouth barbarian? Or compare a Rogue to a Barbarian; compare a Wizard to a Sorceror. Rogues and Sorcerors almost always have more charisma than barbarians and wizards, respectively. Why should a Rogue practically always be able to out-intimidate a Barbarian? Or a Sorceror out-intimidate a Wizard? It doesn't make sense to me mechanically or in the flavor.

I don't think that this is something that anybody would use a feat on - you'd get at most +4 or 5 to a single skill check by switching the base modifier. But I do think it's a balance and flavor issue, so it's best addressed in the (house) rules.

2006-09-01, 02:41 PM

No, barbarians aren't as good at intimidating as sorcerers and bards with high Charisma. If they're foaming at the mouth and such, sure, nobody wants to pick a fight with them, but they have a hard time convincing the king's Honor Guard that it would be best just to back down.

A sorcerer or bard just has that kind of presence and majesty. Their way with words is akin to having the feat Craft Disturbing Mental Image. They know what the target is most afraid of, and they know how to exploit it. They don't just go around telling people that they'll 'smash'. They use veiled threats and subtlety, letting the victims imagination fill in the blanks. Ranks just contribute toward putting the blanks in the right context.

There's a reason melee classes aren't as good at Intimidate as Charisma based classes. They aren't supposed to be. It's factored into class balance.

2006-09-01, 02:45 PM
Intimidate isn't just being scary. Being scary makes people run away, cower in the corner, or decide that they have to hit you first. Intimidate makes them do what you want.

A barbarian is certainly a quite scary character. However, anyone at 3rd level or higher, even a bard, is scary to a 1st-level commoner. Also, strength is less scary in D&D; a weak-looking elf sorcerer could have enough save-or-lose spells to beat an entire town. The barbarian just has his axe.

2006-09-01, 02:56 PM
EDIT: Hmm. Looks like this idea is meeting a lot more disagreement than I thought it would. Back to the drawing board then. :)

2006-09-01, 05:10 PM
The problem is that the word 'intimidate' means something different to most people than the way the skill uses the word. Most people equate intimidation with fear. The skill considers them two seperate things. In D&D you might be in fear of your life, sanity, or whatever, and not be intimidated. You may also be intimidated, but not feel any fear whatsoever. You may be both intimidated and fearful, but it's not required in D&D.

Charisma is used to define intimidation because it's the ability used for almost all social skills and intimidation is very definately a social skill. The fact that it is used as a dump stat so often demonstrates that many D&D players have very low opinions on social skills. Characters with low Charismas may be very strong, or fast, or quick witted, but low charisma means they are wall-flowers, shy, and have difficulty speaking up or taking command.

Charisma is a difficult stat for a lot of people to understand, because it covers personality rather than the more obvious physical or metal abilitities. And, people tend to use Charisma as a dump stat, while still playing a high-Charisma character unwittingly. How many low-Charisma barbarians are there who supposedly dominate the room with their animal magnetism? How about low-Charisma wizards with their regal bearing and dark intimidating stares? There shouldn't be any, because low-Charisma characters can't dominate a glass of water, can't have regal bearing, or dark intimidating stares.

If you are using Charisma as a dump stat, play the character as low-Charisma. Thog from the OotS comic is low Charisma. Yes, he's a strong, dangerous half-orc, but do you take him seriously? He's obviously an immature child who babbles to himself about silly things. Even if he did the whole 'bending steel bars in front of you' thing, he'd probably look at you with wistful eyes as if to say 'Did that work? Are you inti...intimi.... scared yet? Nale said to scare you, am I doing it right?'

2006-09-01, 06:30 PM
One problem with your Thog analogy is that he also seems very low in the other categories. A person with low Charisma but very high Intelligence probably isn't going to be walking around talking about puppies and fudge ripple, and even if they have the same Charisma, I have a feeling the person with high Intelligence is going to be much better at intimidation.

Maybe the best thing to do would instead be to use circumstance bonuses excessively with Intimidate. No matter how unremarkable or, well, uncharismatic that wizard is, if the shortkeep's heard stories about how he removed the skin from that other guy a few months ago, I think that's a pretty good Intimidate bonus. 8-foot-tall raging barbarian screaming in his alien tongue? A different circumstance of bonus with a different intended effect, demoralization instead of maybe coersion, overt instead of sublte.

2006-09-01, 09:52 PM
Sucks when modifiers aren't used correctly. I lost in a Fight Club PvP non-lethal as an elf druid to a half rogue cause I was 'intimidated.' I've known him for a year and I'm supposed to be afraid of this guy? He hasn't been in melee range in 3 levels. wtf?