Fair ruling for Intimidate?

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I DM'd a non-combat encounter with three vampires. Each of them had different backgrounds. One of them, Chantal, happened to work for the king (she does not mention this), who the party is trying to get an audience with. Vampires being vampires, they mess with the PCs to test their limits since they see them as inferior. As a verbal warning/defense, the PCs mention that they killed someone that night, and that they have an audience with the king. The last part makes Chantal interested since she should know about this.

Chantal decides to give her vampire friend a treat: if one of the PCs agrees to "grab a bite" from her friend at the club, she'll expedite the process to get an audience that same night. PCs refuse and one of them says "better let him go, or else the king might hear about this". I ask him if he's trying to intimidate or use diplomacy. He's not sure so I say "roll an initimidate" (because or the "or else " part). Following what I remembered of "The negotiation" skill challenge example from the DMG, I say that the NPC refuses to be intimidated, regardless of the check (success). I give them a chance to react to her getting offended and try to fix things, but nobody jumps in so I say that she frowns, tells the party that she'll make sure to get their audience request "lost in the mail" and they eventually leave.

The player then complains that a sucessful intimidate check is supposed to make them back down. I told the player that some individuals do not like to be intimidated, and that should he have used intimidate on Chantal's friend (who did not have a position of power), that would have worked, but he doesn't buy it. Was my ruling fair?
The player then complains that a sucessful intimidate check is supposed to make them back down. I told the player that some individuals do not like to be intimidated, and that should he have used intimidate on Chantal's friend (who did not have a position of power), that would have worked, but he doesn't buy it. Was my ruling fair?

You're within your rights not to allow Intimidate to work, but if it wasn't going to work, why did you ask for the roll? If you had just said that it failed, the player would not be able to point to the "successful" roll as something that "should" have worked.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's fair enough, but not particularly fun and that's probably the objection your player is making in so many words. It might have been more fun to have her defer demurely but plot revenge of some kind later (vampires having long memories and all). Maybe they get their audience, but she tries to embarrass them somehow or fill the king's head with lies before they meet him. The story goal where important plot developtment takes place, I assume, is the audience with the king. I would have kept that in focus, but complicated it.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

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but if it wasn't going to work, why did you ask for the roll?


I thought that if the intimidate roll failed miserably, I would have her be amused instead of annoyed.

get their audience, but she tries to embarrass them somehow or fill the king's head with lies


The audience is important enough that the party will probably look for alternate ways to get it. Maybe even interact with the vampires again. I prefer to add difficulties in trying to meet the king than having the king negatively biased for something that the PCs didn't even say to him. Though I'm sure the party will try to intimidate the king anyway
but if it wasn't going to work, why did you ask for the roll?


I thought that if the intimidate roll failed miserably, I would have her be amused instead of annoyed.



My own two cents: I can understand why, from a DM's perspective, this seems like it's worth a roll, but from a player's perspective, there ultimately is no reason for it. Instead of the typical "success v. failure" scenario that a player expects when rolling, this is a "fail one way v. fail another way" scenario that the player could not have possibly expected. When a player believes he has a reasonable chance of succeeding with a roll, and finds that there was, in fact, no real hope of success, it's easy for him to think that the DM set him up for a "Ha! Gotcha!" type moment.

There's also the fact that, when the player hesitated, you decided the roll couldn't be Diplomacy, but needed to be Intimidate, which could be interpreted by the player as you purposefully steering him away from a skill that *might* have yielded success towards a skill that could  - only - fail.

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> Following what I remembered of "The negotiation" skill challenge example from
> the DMG, I say that the NPC refuses to be intimidated, regardless of the check

This is the problem. The fact that several of the DMG1 examples did this is a big part of why they're now generally seen as bad ones.
If you ask someone to roll a check, you need to abide by the result. The player feels cheated because you let them think there was a possibility for success when there was none. Being up front about it is better than being suprised that something you thought would work doesn't. (Skills work by rolling higher than the DC. I got higher, my skill should work)

If the vampire cannot be intimidated, you shouldn't even ask for a roll or reference the skill.
"Do it or else" "The vampire refuses to be intimidated and says 'What are you going to do about it'" reworded as the NPC would say it. Now your player knows this isn't a skill they should try, and knows you generally won't let the intimidate skill work in the future against anyone important.

End of the day though, you should have just let the vampire be intimidated. Your player wants to be intimidating, invested resources in being intimidating, and successfully rolls checks for it. For you to just decide "nah not right now" and override all of that is pretty lame.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

> Following what I remembered of "The negotiation" skill challenge example from > the DMG, I say that the NPC refuses to be intimidated, regardless of the check This is the problem. The fact that several of the DMG1 examples did this is a big part of why they're now generally seen as bad ones.

Only one of them, The Negotiation, does this, though others lock skills until another has been used or after a failure. Locking a skill is a viable option for DMs, though I don't think the OP handled it in an ideal way.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Looks like it was my bad for asking for a roll with "reversed success criteria". Guess I should have just go on with the verbal response and no dice.

you should have just let the vampire be intimidated



I still feel odd about this. It's like saying that diplomacy should work on Klingons. It could, but the players better know the Klingon mentality pretty well (history, streetwise, insight checks?). I give plenty of opportunities for my players to use their other skills to figure out what could work and what wouldn't (and getting related bonuses to other skill checks). I guess that's related to "locking" skills but also "preventing" negative skill use.
> Only one of them, The Negotiation, does this,

It isn't the only one. It just the most well-known example. The challenge for getting information out of the spirit (can't remember the name of it) is another.

> It's like saying that diplomacy should work on Klingons.

Of course it does. Diplomacy isn't conceptually limited to "quasi-European courtly blathering", and a big part of being adept at it involves presenting yourself (and your arguments) in a way that will impress the audience.

Cultural understanding certainly makes it easier, although a good diplomat would know how to size things up and wing it when that understanding is incomplete.
I still feel odd about this. It's like saying that diplomacy should work on Klingons. It could, but the players better know the Klingon mentality pretty well (history, streetwise, insight checks?). I give plenty of opportunities for my players to use their other skills to figure out what could work and what wouldn't (and getting related bonuses to other skill checks). I guess that's related to "locking" skills but also "preventing" negative skill use.



An important thing to remember is that things work or don't work because you said so, not because of any other reason. You can offer justifications for limiting options in a fantasy game if you want, but ultimately it boils down to "because I said so." To that end, I find it's better to simply roll with the results and see what happens with an eye toward creating more action and drama using the players' ideas.

Maybe as I said, she does her duty in setting the audience, but makes it more complicated for the PCs by telling lies about them. Or maybe nobody's talked to her like that in 200 years and she becomes fascinated by that PC (blessing and a curse?). Or she backs down, but she quietly seethes and sends undead proxies to deal with the PCs sometime before the time they're supposed to meet with the king. Or a rival to this vampire overhears the exchange and, after she's told the PCs they're out of luck getting an audience, the rival - a lich, perhaps - offers to help them go before the king, if they'll help him deal with the vampire.

Point is, I can keep coming up with reasons why it could work all day long because it's a fantasy game and there's always a good fantasy justification for something happening. But there's only one reason why it can't work - the DM said it can't. Isn't it therefore better to simply use the player's idea and the result of his roll to make the game more interesting rather than shut off potential avenues of exploring the story? Doesn't that make for a happier player and possibly a more exciting tale?

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I still feel odd about this. It's like saying that diplomacy should work on Klingons. It could, but the players better know the Klingon mentality pretty well (history, streetwise, insight checks?).


So Klingons should get +2 against diplomacy checks to reflect their racial resistance. Increase the bonus more or less depending on who wrote the episode/which series.

Maybe you give a circumstance bonus of +X to the vampire to make it hard. That isn't unreasonable. "This is the big bad vampire queen. Nothing scares her, especially not you. She gets +10/you get -10". Then you let the player roll, and if they win they were just that good. 

Alternativley, I'm sure this super tough unflappable vampire queen doesn't like being threatened. While she is intimidated now and does what the PCs want, there is nothing stopping her from revenge. The PCs have made a powerful enemy and better hope they can back their words up.

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

It isn't the only one. It just the most well-known example. The challenge for getting information out of the spirit (can't remember the name of it) is another.

The Dead Witness? That challenge locks off Religion until Insight is used, but Religion doesn't automatically cause a failure, nor does any other skill in that or any other challenge as far as I can tell.

I have heard that many Living Forgotten Realms skill challenges involving negotiation made Intimidate automatically produce a failure, to the point where people never bothered to try it. I won't say it can't be over used, or used poorly, but causing a skill to automatically fail can be a viable, fair option.

> It's like saying that diplomacy should work on Klingons. Of course it does. Diplomacy isn't conceptually limited to "quasi-European courtly blathering", and a big part of being adept at it involves presenting yourself (and your arguments) in a way that will impress the audience. Cultural understanding certainly makes it easier, although a good diplomat would know how to size things up and wing it when that understanding is incomplete.

Sometimes some skills will be harder to apply than others, or be locked off behind other skills.

Sometimes skills will have no chance of success and will, in fact, make the situation worse.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.



Sometimes skills will have no chance of success and will, in fact, make the situation worse.



This happened in a module I ran from a Dungeon Magazine.  I think it was called "Beneath the Sands". 

In it, the party meets a group of thri-kreen with a similar goal as their own.  The guide to the skill challenge of talking with the thri-kreen specifically says that any intimidation attempt with them equals one failure in the challenge.  This had a further reaching implication in the campaign if the ultimate challenge was successful and the thri-kreen joined the party, in that the thri-kreen would work with the players but would be distrustful of them and attempt to undermine their goals at a later point.

Just because a skill is bound to fail is no reason to not have the players roll the attempt.  Some people don't like to be bullied, and respond in kind to that. 
Just because a skill is bound to fail is no reason to not have the players roll the attempt.

Quite so, though such a situation should be handled with some care. The PCs could be given hints ahead of time not to try to use a particular skill.

Some people don't like to be bullied, and respond in kind to that. 

The real problem here is the perception of Intimidate as "bullying." It's potentially much more subtle than that, and doesn't need to have anything to do with physical violence or the threat of it. Even outright seduction can be seen as a form of intimidate. It can be about using the force of your personality to dominate the situation.

And, yes, it's okay if an NPC doesn't like that in a PC. But we should also see NPCs who don't like it when PCs try to sweet talk them with Diplomacy, or read them with Insight, or show off their knowledge. Only Intimidate tends to get the automatic failure treatment. Maybe Bluff sometimes, too.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Just because a skill is bound to fail is no reason to not have the players roll the attempt.

Quite so, though such a situation should be handled with some care. The PCs could be given hints ahead of time not to try to use a particular skill.



I like the combination of Krusk and iserith's advice. A skill use might be very likely to fail or make things worse, but if the character knows the odds are against him through hints or other skills, and if he is/rolls just that good at intimidate, it should succeed. Big Bads might not like being intimidated, and they might seek vengeance for the embarassement, but that doesn't mean they can't feel threatened. A "partial success" which complicates things later on.
I like the combination of Krusk and iserith's advice. A skill use might be very likely to fail or make things worse, but if the character knows the odds are against him through hints or other skills, and if he is/rolls just that good at intimidate, it should succeed.

The specific skill aside, it's plausible and fair that certain skills won't work and will make things worse sometimes. Ideally it's based upon the fiction being used, but if the DM wants to block the use of a skill and can do it without alienating their players, they should do it.

 Big Bads might not like being intimidated, and they might seek vengeance for the embarassement, but that doesn't mean they can't feel threatened. A "partial success" which complicates things later on.

Another way to play this is to just mark the failure, and then integrate the NPC's reaction into the overall outcome of the skill challenge. Some skill challenges already have partial failure mechanics, so the challenge could say that if the PCs suffered any failures (or specifically failures due to the use of Intimidate) the NPC drags his heels or follows the letter of the agreement in a spiteful way.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

There is an example in the DMG about a skill challange where Intimidate is an automatic failure.


You made that decisions your the DM end of story.


If the players want to argue they can.  Show them the DMG and explain your point of view if you wish.


Either way your in the right in my opinion.        

The DM isn't always right just because he is the tallest, oldest, sits on the north facing side of the table or whatever method your group uses to decide who should DM. 


All deciscions should be made by the group, because the group is playing. If the DM makes a choice that everyone else complains about, than the DM made the wrong choice. 


If the players disagree, its not you they have to convince. You have to convince them you are right. They can just straight up all say "no that doesn't happen" and there isn't a lot you can do. 


(I assume everyone wants to keep playing DND because otherwise there is no reason to have this discussion)

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

All deciscions should be made by the group, because the group is playing. If the DM makes a choice that everyone else complains about, than the DM made the wrong choice.

DMs certainly aren't infallible. I do hope that everyone who sits down for a game has good enough grace not to argue the point during the game.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

My rule of thumb is thus and it works:

If I don't know something with a certainty, I throw it back on the players and let them tell me what the rule is or what's fair to them. Then I go with that.

Much as I like the concept of Rule & Go, it's all too often the DM that makes that call in a needlessly one-sided way.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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I read all the posts on page 1, skimmed the posts on the remaining pages and I have a question, or maybe a statement.. ..possibly an idea, or a thought.. ..I am not really sure at this point in time..


One thing that I did not see explained is the uh.. ..stature? of the persons in question.

On one side you have a group of PC's; mortal, squishy, malleable.. ..on the other side you have a group of vampires, immortal, durable, resiliant.



Look at it like this, if a group of 7 year olds walk up on me and tell me to go buy them some cigarettes or else - I do not care what they "roll" I am not going to be intimidated.


..does that make any sense..?
A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willy Wonka
a group of 7 year olds walk up on me and tell me to go buy them some cigarettes or else...



"...I tell that police officer that you told us to get into your van". A well placed intimidation does not necessarily have to be physically threatening.

But I see your point. Some of the thread replies were trying to expand "it doesn't work" into "it can work but..." and even "it doesn't work and...", creating new roleplaying opportunities and challenges.

a group of 7 year olds walk up on me and tell me to go buy them some cigarettes or else...

"...I tell that police officer that you told us to get into your van". A well placed intimidation does not necessarily have to be physically threatening.

I'd think the fact that Intimidate is entirely independent of physical skill would make it clear to people that it's not merely about threatening physical force. My one hope for the next edition of D&D is that they'll finally explain that.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Look at it like this, if a group of 7 year olds walk up on me and tell me to go buy them some cigarettes or else - I do not care what they "roll" I am not going to be intimidated.

..does that make any sense..?



Not if they roll high enough to be successful on the check. A DM would be perfectly reasonable in giving them a penalty to the check if they threaten physical violence though. 

"In a way, you are worse than Krusk"                               " As usual, Krusk comments with assuredness, but lacks the clarity and awareness of what he's talking about"

"Can't say enough how much I agree with Krusk"        "Wow, thank you very much"

"Your advice is the worst"                                                  "I'd recommend no one listed to Krusk's opinions about what games to play"

I'd think the fact that Intimidate is entirely independent of physical skill would make it clear to people that it's not merely about threatening physical force. My one hope for the next edition of D&D is that they'll finally explain that.




I think that this could be effectively handled by allowing for some skills to have more than one key ability.  So if, for instance, when rolling for Intimidate a player could choose to either use Cha or Wis, using Wis would demonstrate, and even the option to use Wis, that this particular brand of Intimidation is not about physical threatening, but about finding the angle psychologically to leverage someone.  This is also appropriate with the Religion skill, which is Int based when most Religion users are Wis based characters.

Of course, there is a perfectly good mechanic for this in 4e.  I like to use secondary skill checks in uncertain situations.  Like in the OP's case, I would've asked the player for a secondary skill first like Bluff, Insight, or a knowledge skill, to determine whether or not the player had successfully found the angle they needed for leverage.  Fail that check, and you can't roll intimidate, or at least I'd set the DC very high.

That being said, if you asked for a dice roll you need to be prepared fairly for either result.  That's why you roll dice, to determine what happens out of two possible outcomes.

You could always find a middle ground, like the successful intimidate gave the player half of what they wanted, or gave them what they wanted at a price.

Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
I think that this could be effectively handled by allowing for some skills to have more than one key ability.  So if, for instance, when rolling for Intimidate a player could choose to either use Cha or Wis, using Wis would demonstrate, and even the option to use Wis, that this particular brand of Intimidation is not about physical threatening, but about finding the angle psychologically to leverage someone.

The use of Cha should already highlight that its not about physically threatening.

This is also appropriate with the Religion skill, which is Int based when most Religion users are Wis based characters.

Wouldn't most Religion users be the ones with the highest modifiers?

Anyway, it looks like the next version of D&D is taking this approach. Explain your use of the skill and the DM will tell you which bonus to add. So, if you want to intimidate but not physically, make sure you explain how you're leveraging your personality and presence. Also, make sure to explain how it's your knowledge of locks, not your nimble fingers, that makes Int relevant in your lock picking attempts.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The use of Cha should already highlight that its not about physically threatening.



I've always imagined Charisma to be about body language as much as anything else.  It's how you communicate your personality through your physical presence, how you carry and express yourself.  So whether you're beautiful, physically imposing, or horribly grotesque, your body is an important factor in how your Charisma works in terms of communicating with and/or influencing people.

Even though it is an "ego" ability, the body is the instrument through which it functions, your presence or demeanor.  That's why Sorcerers and Warlocks use it to cast spells, because it represents how their consciousness and arcane mastery are aligned with that intangible quality of their body in concert with their mind.

You are, of course, free to disagree.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
The use of Cha should already highlight that its not about physically threatening.

I've always imagined Charisma to be about body language as much as anything else.  It's how you communicate your personality through your physical presence, how you carry and express yourself.  So whether you're beautiful, physically imposing, or horribly grotesque, your body is an important factor in how your Charisma works in terms of communicating with and/or influencing people.

Sure, it's about the whole package: words, actions, appearance. But since the rules don't give specific weight to any of those factors, there's no reason not to weight one of them much higher in situations in which the others are lacking, but the dice roll says the attempt was good. So, the halfling intimidated the orc because the dice said so, but obviously it's not a physical thing. So what was it?

Even though it is an "ego" ability, the body is the instrument through which it functions, your presence or demeanor.  That's why Sorcerers and Warlocks use it to cast spells, because it represents how their consciousness and arcane mastery are aligned with that intangible quality of their body in concert with their mind.

Interesting. I look at Sorcerers and Warlocks as characters who don't have any arcane mastery. They have they have obtained their abilities almost purely out of their own confidence and moxie.  Depending on your interpretation, a sorcerer might have been born with his or her abilities, and it's largely through pure stick-to-itiveness, ego, and a sense of entitlement (aspects that might make one a good intimidator, too) that the sorcerer has learned to control its powers, rather than blowing him or herself up.

The warlock, at some point, made it through a meeting and the forging of an agreement with a force of incredible power. That takes chutzpah, and a good warlock has that in spades. Maybe the warlock bluffed or even intimidated the other presence into taking a bad deal, or maybe the warlock took the bad deal but he or she is confident that it can get out of it.

That's just my take, obviously.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's also worth asking if the player has invested in Intimidate, that's why some skill checks are classed "Trained Only."  If the character in question is Trained in Intimidate, that means they've made a resource investment in Intimidate at the expense of something else, so telling them that they automatically can't do something is unfairly punishing them for how they've managed their resources.

So in Centauri's example of the halfling and orc, if the player trained in Intimidate, they probably already have a solid justification in mind and this is all just a formality.

Likewise, if the player in the OP was actually Trained in the skill, then there should be an assumption of how this particular character goes about Intimidating people, so talking about 7-year-olds intimidating Klingons is kind of missing the point.

If the player Trained in the skill and then rolled high on the check, that should be a validating experience, which is what the player was looking for and why they were upset.

If you're going to allow the dice roll in a situation that you are skeptical about, it is within your right to set the DC high, like level n+5 Hard, or whatever.  But if you allowed the check and they knocked it out of the park, then they should be rewarded for it.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1
Was my ruling fair?




Oh man, I am so bad at these. I would have to say yes and no. I do believe that there are creatures out there that you simply can not intimidate. (emphasis on the period.)

Is a vampire one of those creatures... ..




Objectively no, subjectively .. ... maybe.

I think what is really at question here is how you handled your decision, not so much the decision itself. If you wanted your creature to be immune to intimidate there is a plethora of ways to handle that in the D&D universe.

So, I will end my posts on this thread with yes, I think your ruling was fair, however - I think your execution was.. ..um... ..less then stellar.... ... .. .

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men. - Willy Wonka
Like in the OP's case, I would've asked the player for a secondary skill first like Bluff, Insight, or a knowledge skill, to determine whether or not the player had successfully found the angle they needed for leverage.  Fail that check, and you can't roll intimidate, or at least I'd set the DC very high.



Who's burden is it to ask for a secondary skill? As a player, I always try figuring out an angle before intimidate. So I naturally do some info gathering first by explicitly telling the DM that I'm using insight/history/streetwise/bluff/etc. Sometimes I'll even avoid the secondary skill for the surprise factor. Is it the DM's duty to ask for secondary skills if a player tries to use intimidate? In my example I, as a DM, asked for the roll. Is this situation different?
...Look at it like this, if a group of 7 year olds walk up on me and tell me to go buy them some cigarettes or else - I do not care what they "roll" I am not going to be intimidated... does that make any sense..?




That depends on just how intimidating those 7-year-olds are, doesn't it?

The average 7-year-old, maybe not.

These 7-year-olds, however...









Remember that you're playing a fantasy game, where heroic muscle-men bend bars and lift gates, extremely wise men speak directly and literally with the gods, intelligent men of great learning are smart enough to break the very laws of real-world physics and chemistry, and so on... you're dealing with exceptional people in the person of the PCs, and in the monsters!
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
I DM'd a non-combat encounter with three vampires. Each of them had different backgrounds. One of them, Chantal, happened to work for the king (she does not mention this), who the party is trying to get an audience with. Vampires being vampires, they mess with the PCs to test their limits since they see them as inferior. As a verbal warning/defense, the PCs mention that they killed someone that night, and that they have an audience with the king. The last part makes Chantal interested since she should know about this.

Chantal decides to give her vampire friend a treat: if one of the PCs agrees to "grab a bite" from her friend at the club, she'll expedite the process to get an audience that same night. PCs refuse and one of them says "better let him go, or else the king might hear about this". I ask him if he's trying to intimidate or use diplomacy. He's not sure so I say "roll an initimidate" (because or the "or else " part). Following what I remembered of "The negotiation" skill challenge example from the DMG, I say that the NPC refuses to be intimidated, regardless of the check (success). I give them a chance to react to her getting offended and try to fix things, but nobody jumps in so I say that she frowns, tells the party that she'll make sure to get their audience request "lost in the mail" and they eventually leave.

The player then complains that a sucessful intimidate check is supposed to make them back down. I told the player that some individuals do not like to be intimidated, and that should he have used intimidate on Chantal's friend (who did not have a position of power), that would have worked, but he doesn't buy it. Was my ruling fair?



It was probably fair enough, but it sounds like it wasn't satisfying to the players, and the players are the largest part of your audience, and often, satisfying is just as important as fair.

Yesterday, I started reading the fantasy books that inspired the Game of Thrones TV series.  In the first few pages, there was an exchange following an execution, between a boy named Bran, and his father, Lord Stark, that, paraphrased, went something like this:

Stark:  What did you think of the execution?
Bran:  One of my older brothers says the executed man was brave, the other said he was afraid.
Stark:  What do you think?
Bran:  Can a man be brave if he's afraid?
Stark:  That is the only time a man can be brave.

Just because the PCs successfully intimidated the vampires, doesn't necessarily mean they are going to get everything they want from them... in many ways, people and other animals or monsters can be more dangerous when they are afraid and backed into a corner.


Just remember, however, that what you are aiming for is to help tell a satisfying story - it's probably not going to be very satisfying for the players if they've gone through the trouble of building an intimidating character, rolled a decisive success at intimidation, and still fail to get anything out of the deal - they will feel cheated, and rightly so!

It could not at all have hurt your story to have the vampires back down, give the PCs what they were demanding, and then tell them on the way out the door that they will be sorry... and have the intimidated, humiliated, proud, and vengeful vampires come back later behind the protection of summoned devils and that sort of thing, to play the part of recurring villains... always keeping out of reach of the PCs because they are afraid of them, but nevertheless driven by their nature to resist the PCs from a safe distance....



[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Like in the OP's case, I would've asked the player for a secondary skill first like Bluff, Insight, or a knowledge skill, to determine whether or not the player had successfully found the angle they needed for leverage.  Fail that check, and you can't roll intimidate, or at least I'd set the DC very high.



Who's burden is it to ask for a secondary skill? As a player, I always try figuring out an angle before intimidate. So I naturally do some info gathering first by explicitly telling the DM that I'm using insight/history/streetwise/bluff/etc. Sometimes I'll even avoid the secondary skill for the surprise factor. Is it the DM's duty to ask for secondary skills if a player tries to use intimidate? In my example I, as a DM, asked for the roll. Is this situation different?



Well, like I said, if you've trained in Intimidate then I'm sure you've got a justification for how you generally use it already prepared.  What I'm saying is, if I'm skeptical of that justification, whether I'm skeptical that your usual method of intimidation would work, or if your coming up with something completely out of the box, then I as the DM would ask for the secondary roll to determine how successful the approach could be, to determine the actual _potential_ of that approach.

So, say a player  knew that physical intimidation wouldn't work, so came up with an angle based on the politics of the region and knowledge of the vampires allies and the goals of those alliances, I'd ask for some kind of knowledge or Streetwise, or even Dungeoneering, check to determine if that is a valid angle or not.  It take the ruling out of my hands.  It's all on the dice now.  If your narrative of how you plan to do something seems thin, I leave it to the dice to decide before we even go to the Intimidate roll itself.

It's an extra level of resistance, and resistance is texture.  That's all.
Sleeping with interns on Colonial 1