Value of stealth in LFR

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Hi,

Currently, our group has come to the conclusion that stealth is the least useful skill in LFR, for two reasons. Firstly, it is only very rarely used in skill challenges, and secondly the double edged nature of scouting.

Whilst there are definitely some encounters where having a scout is very useful, there seem to be a similar number of encounters where scouting is made very difficult, for example where adventure box text mandates that the PC's be surprised, no matter how good a scout he is. In this situation anyone brave enough to scout significantly ahead can find themselves horribly exposed by the surprise situation, perhaps facing the entire enemy force for a round with no back-up.

Furthermore, monster groups often seem set up in pre-prepared ambush situations with defensive terrain advantages, as if they have been continuously waiting for nothing but the appearance of the PC's for the past decade. Sometimes this makes sense according to the plot of the adventure. Sometimes it doesn't, but it happens anyway. There is seldom any chance to take advantage of the opportunities that scouting might offer a group in other settings (or even in the real world), such as bypassing an enemy group entirely, choosing the direction of attack, waiting for the enemy to sleep, hit and run tactics, feints and diversions etc.

Is it worth gaining a minor advantage in a few fights, if the scout pays for that by putting himself in mortal peril in a similar number of situations? So whilst I'd consider scouting capability to be a vital ingredient of any successful party in a home campaign, I can't help thinking that maybe my group is right. Stealth isn't worth it in LFR.

Your opinions?
The act of sneaking around isn't all that useful in LFR modules, I agree.

But the skill itself is worthwhile - its another way for Rogues to self-generate combat advantage.
Whilst there are definitely some encounters where having a scout is very useful, there seem to be a similar number of encounters where scouting is made very difficult, for example where adventure box text mandates that the PC's be surprised, no matter how good a scout he is.

If possible, I'd like a reference for what module(s) you may be referring to. Having run most of them, I can't remember any situation off the top of my head where this happens. Of course, that may simply be poor memory on my part.

Also, LFR very much assumes that the DM is running the game, not just reading the module. That means that, for example, if people are actively scouting ahead they should start any battle further ahead and not with everyone lumped in the 2x3 PCs start here box.

Also, by 4e rules, if a character is using stealth and has not completely broken cover it is stealth vs perception for enemies to spot them.
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If possible, I'd like a reference for what module(s) you may be referring to. Having run most of them, I can't remember any situation off the top of my head where this happens. Of course, that may simply be poor memory on my part.

Well it's not always easy to know exactly what's going on behind the scenes, since I normally play rather than DM. But to give a few examples.

In the "Menace of the Icy Spire" mod, first encounter, it seemed as if being caught in an exposed situation against a pre-pared enemy was mandated - any scout in that situation would have been turned into a pin-cushion.

The most recent adventure I played was "Flames of Initiation". 3 combats. All 3 involving alert enemies with defensive terrain. All 3 with only one way in and no other entrance (not even a window). Combat in 2 of them started by opening a door (and hence revealing your presence to anyone vaguely alert), the other involving a dark area and well hidden enemies. To be fair, group stealth was useful in the last encounter, but that offers little incentive for any individual character to take stealth skill. It would have been pretty hard for a scout to, for example, determine the composition of enemy forces in any of the encounters, without revealing his presence.
Well it's not always easy to know exactly what's going on behind the scenes, since I normally play rather than GM. But to give a few examples.

In the "Menace of the Icy Spire" mod, first encounter, it seemed as if being caught in an exposed situation against a pre-pared enemy was mandated - any scout in that situation would have been turned into a pin-cushion.

Show

Well in the 1st combat in that module. It is called "Goblin Ambush". You just finished a survival skill challenge and came out of a blizzard. You could have scouted ahead but you truly have no superior cover or cover to speak of to scout stealthily with. The Goblins in the encounter all have a minimum of +10 Stealth as well. Having had plenty of time to hide themselves they could easily have had a 30 stealth check each.


And in your other example its hard to scout thru a door. I cant speak to your other adventures.
Whilst there are definitely some encounters where having a scout is very useful, there seem to be a similar number of encounters where scouting is made very difficult, for example where adventure box text mandates that the PC's be surprised, no matter how good a scout he is.

There are, for example, several modules in which surprise is determined by the success or failure of the just-concluded skill challenge. Tactical advantage seems to be the next-most favorite skill challenge reward or penalty after healing surges.

OTOH, I don't know that I agree with your premise. Let me offer Intimidate as a very chancy skill in skill challenges. Sometimes it is disallowed in social situations, sometimes it is an automatic failure, sometimes it preempts any subsequent social skill attempts. And you had better have Insight to sense these situations.
for example where adventure box text mandates that the PC's be surprised, no matter how good a scout he is.

IMO its a poor DM that does this.
I agree, stealth is pretty weak thus far.
There are, for example, several modules in which surprise is determined by the success or failure of the just-concluded skill challenge. Tactical advantage seems to be the next-most favorite skill challenge reward or penalty after healing surges.

Just to clarify - are you saying that stealth is an important part of these skill challenges that give tactical advantage?

Not sure I've played in those scenarios. Or could it be the case that we didn't even enter the skill challenge since we weren't trying to sneak, so the GM omitted telling us there was one.

OTOH, I don't know that I agree with your premise. Let me offer Intimidate as a very chancy skill in skill challenges. Sometimes it is disallowed in social situations, sometimes it is an automatic failure, sometimes it preempts any subsequent social skill attempts. And you had better have Insight to sense these situations.

If a character is set up for it, intimidate can be incredibly powerful, due to it's ability to instantly defeat bloodied enemies.
If a character is set up for it, intimidate can be incredibly powerful, due to it's ability to instantly defeat bloodied enemies.

Only if the DM decides it makes sense. It is not automatic.

As with any skill, Stealth (or Intimidate) depend on how you use it. Stealth can be used in every Dalelands adventure - and sometimes to great effect. Intimidate has been proven useful to my paladin several times.
In the end, the player and DM determine together when a skill is useful. Some adventures may offer ready opportunities (or deny use due for a specific reason), but if an adventure doesn't list a use, it doens't make it impossible.

Gomez
Just to clarify - are you saying that stealth is an important part of these skill challenges that give tactical advantage?

I said no such thing. For example, this hypothetical skill challenge is typical of some I've seen in modules:

Skill Challenge: Find a route through the Tangled Woods.
Athletics, Endurance, Nature, Perception
Success: The PCs approach the monsters in the next encounter from an unexpected direction and gain a surprise round.
Failure: The next encounter is run as written.

Or it can be flipped so that failure gives the monsters a surprise round. The point is that Stealth is not necessarily an allowed skill in the challenge.
Currently, our group has come to the conclusion that stealth is the least useful skill in LFR, for two reasons. Firstly, it is only very rarely used in skill challenges, and secondly the double edged nature of scouting.

You raise some good points. I believe that most modules are not written with stealth in mind, and that this is expected to be handled through creative DM'ing. However, at least locally, I notice that many DMs are uncomfortable with the concept of DME. They seem to feel that they Must play everything By The Book, and some even feel they can't adjust difficulty on skill checks to account for circumstance. Incidentally, the thievery skill sees little use for much the same reasons.

On the other hand, on the concept of useless skills, I note that (1) many people confuse acrobatics with athletics, or expect either to substitute for the other given a halfway decent explanation; (2) likewise, people confuse bluff with diplomacy, or either with streetwise; (3) perception for dungeoneering, since both (apparently) involve seeing things on dungeon walls; and probably some other examples.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with that (I don't). However, skill challenges to have a tendency to end up as contests of "finding a far-fetched excuse for why your highest skill is applicable to whatever the current situation is". So many people end up with muddled concepts of what skills do.

The single worst skill in LFR, I think, is intimidate, because it is all too often an automatic failure when used in skill challenges.
I agree about Intimidate. Most skills are useful in the LFR, but Intimidate is usually an autofail, which sucks.
Well, depends on where you use it. The only situations i have seen it be an autofail is where it is used on the resident authority figure. So, if you walk up to the town guards and make an intimidate check, it's more likely to get you arrested than get you out. Which makes sense. When a cop pulls you over, is intimidation likely to get you out of a ticket?

Oh the other hand, it seems to be a valid choice just about anywhere where it would make sense to use it. Uncooperative shopkeeper? Sure. Last remaining goblin? No problem? Room full of orphans? You bet! (true story)
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Oh the other hand, it seems to be a valid choice just about anywhere where it would make sense to use it. Uncooperative shopkeeper? Sure. Last remaining goblin? No problem? Room full of orphans? You bet! (true story)

I've had intimidate auto-fail on an uncooperative shopkeeper.

I now rarely use it unless I have no other options, and if I do am in the habit of asking the DM whether my passive insight (which is good for the character that also has good intimidate) gives me any hints about whether or not he will be susceptible.

Auto-fail is ok if it's clear either through the circumstances or through a character's insight that it may not be a good idea. An auto-fail with no way of knowing, short of rolling the die, is not fun or particularly fair.
I recently instructed the writing directors I work with to avoid auto-fail skill checks. While it might be difficult to intimidate the king of a nation, everyone has something they fear. Just because the king might be sitting on his throne, surrounded by guards, doesn't mean he cannot be intimidated--no matter how brave he might be. The threats made do not have to be physical and immediate. "Sire, we know where the secret sword that prophecy says will kill you is. Perhaps you can see fit to give us what we are asking for, or perhaps that information, which we have shared with a close friend, will find its way to the rebels."

Shawn
If there are no extenuating circumstances mentioned in the adventure, the DM should adjudicate Stealth checks on a case-by-case basis. All the rules the DM's need are in the PH, DMG, and MM. Do the PCs meet the conditions to attempt a Stealth check? Allow a Stealth check. Does it beat the perception checks of the bad guys? Allow surprise. Are there any extenuating circumstances (such as a successful or failed skill challenge previously)? Take those circumstances into account.

That is not creative DMing. That is just plain DMing. The adventure is a framework upon which the DM and the players create the story. It is not, nor is it meant to be, the story itself.
I recently instructed the writing directors I work with to avoid auto-fail skill checks. While it might be difficult to intimidate the king of a nation, everyone has something they fear. Just because the king might be sitting on his throne, surrounded by guards, doesn't mean he cannot be intimidated--no matter how brave he might be. The threats made do not have to be physical and immediate. "Sire, we know where the secret sword that prophecy says will kill you is. Perhaps you can see fit to give us what we are asking for, or perhaps that information, which we have shared with a close friend, will find its way to the rebels."

Shawn

Thanks.

It's terribly frustrating when you roll a natural 20, score a 30+ (epic level DC; should scare a frost giant), and the shopkeeper just calls the watch.
It's not about not scaring people, but about what it does.
Sometimes a skill just won't work, unless, perhaps, you do or know something very specific - often stuff not mentioned or dealt with in the adventure (such as the King's prophecy above).
You shouldn't shoot it down too often - generally it is best to just not mention the skill - but when it makes sense that it doesn't work, I personally feel that, well, it shouldn't work. Then again, when something doesn't work it need not always be an automatic failure (thet would dpend on whetehr the skill would actually hurt your case). One king may get angry, and the other may just laugh at the foolishness and wave it away (granting either success nor failure).
And in at least one case, Intimidation doesn't really 'work' - the target doesn't get scared - but instead gets sufficiently amused for the attempt that it generates a success anyway.
If there are no extenuating circumstances mentioned in the adventure, the DM should adjudicate Stealth checks on a case-by-case basis. All the rules the DM's need are in the PH, DMG, and MM.

Actually, the rules for Stealth have been changed so much that they're now in the PHB2 which you can't assume all DMs have.

I'm personally avoiding playing all Rogues until I buy PHB2 for this reason.

I recently instructed the writing directors I work with to avoid auto-fail skill checks.

Thankfully its something that's easy to DME.

The adventure is a framework upon which the DM and the players create the story. It is not, nor is it meant to be, the story itself.

Unfortunately because its a Living campaign we need to stick reasonably close to the mod. Otherwise I'd be sending my players on weird tangents that have nothing to do with the certs at the end of the mod ;)
Sometimes a skill just won't work, unless, perhaps, you do or know something very specific - often stuff not mentioned or dealt with in the adventure (such as the King's prophecy above).
You shouldn't shoot it down too often - generally it is best to just not mention the skill - but when it makes sense that it doesn't work, I personally feel that, well, it shouldn't work. Then again, when something doesn't work it need not always be an automatic failure

Well, exactly. If I wanted to make a history check when we've got a wall to climb, for example, the DM would just say 'no, that's irrelevant'. He wouldn't say 'ok', let me roll the die, then announce I'd failed automatically because I'd picked the wrong skill.
Still, in some cases doing something would simply be BAD.
Intimidating the king is something you should normally expect not only to not work, but to actually have averse effects.
Similarly would be jumping off a cliff or bluffing an archfiend.
No, FAILING at certain things is bad. Attempting them should never be automatically disallowed, and attempting them should never be an automatic failure--regardless of what the PC's check is.

PCs are the individuals who laugh in the face of conventional wisdom. Normal people do not try to intimidate a king or bluff an archdevil. PCs are exactly the kind of people, who if they are well versed enough and lucky enough, can do exactly that. The DMs need to be the ones who decide such things, and saying that an Intimidate check against a person in authority automatically fails takes the decision out the DMs hands and denies the PCs a chance to use skills creatively to acheive goals.
Well, depends on where you use it. The only situations i have seen it be an autofail is where it is used on the resident authority figure. So, if you walk up to the town guards and make an intimidate check, it's more likely to get you arrested than get you out.

To be fair, that's a situation where the DC should just be higher, perhaps out of the individual's reach, but not necessarily an autofail.

And, indeed, there are a number of modules where that is the case (e.g., you need to make a DC 11 Diplomacy check to succeed, but a DC 21 Intimidate check for success), as well as the ones where you autofail just for trying. (Am I misremembering, or is there even a skill challenge where using Intimidate can cause an autofail for the entire challenge?)

I find it both indisputable and odd that Intimidate is so severely disfavored.

I've seen some bizarre and odd attempts by PCs to use their primary skills in a skill challenge (and doubtless made some of my own), but the worst result is generally going to be "Nah, you can't really use that skill that way" or "Hmm, you can try that, but it's going to be a tough DC".

Intimidate is the only skill that even breathing its name penalizes the PCs.

This is particularly troubling because Intimidate is usually the only social skill of fighter-types, and since post-errata skill challenges generally don't require the entire group to participate, it creates a strong incentive for those types of PCs to just sit back and leave the entire encounter up to the more social types.

Just once, I'd like to see "The duke is strongly atheistic; any use of the Religion skill is an automatic failure" or "The merchant was scared by a clown as a child; any attempt to use the Acrobatics skill counts as a failure and gives a -2 penalty to Diplomacy checks". If we're really going to play the "Think twice before getting involved in the skill challenge" game, I'd like to at least spread out the pain a little.

-- Brian Gibbons.
Still, in some cases doing something would simply be BAD.
Intimidating the king is something you should normally expect not only to not work, but to actually have averse effects.

You assume a very typical stance on Intimidate.

What category would this fall under:

Your Majesty, If you don't let us through to the front gate the Minotaurs will get in and slaughter everyone - including you!

- That was an intimidate. The PC just pointed out that not following their course of action would result in negative effects to the King. Most folk in the LFR community seem to think that was a Diplomacy. It was and it wasn't. problem is Diplomacy (the noun) INCLUDES intimidate, as it is the art and practice of Negotiation, as well as it's more common modern interpretation as the use of tact (which again, intimidate can be tactful as well).

This is a common lack of understanding with Intimidate, equating it with only being 'do what I say or we physically harm you'. That is a very naive interpretation of 'Negotiation'. I am personally sick and tired of Mod Writers arbitrarily banning intimidate. (then again Gamers aren't always known for their social skills...) I hope that you will stand up against this sort of thing - you assume ONE use of intimidate, as your 'something that is bad' rather than taking into account the more subtle uses of the skill. Perhaps recommending a penalty/failure if a PC uses the skill badly -i.e: Physically threatening harm - is wiser? (Which should apply to all skills imho, not just Intimidate)

I have personally done far too much work on Industrial Relations and Negotiations to discount the importance of negotiating from a position of strength, and am tired of seeing it disallowed.
Well, exactly. If I wanted to make a history check when we've got a wall to climb, for example, the DM would just say 'no, that's irrelevant'. He wouldn't say 'ok', let me roll the die, then announce I'd failed automatically because I'd picked the wrong skill.

Yeah, that's just bad DM'ing.

But that falls right in with what I was saying earlier, that many people (around here, at least) are uncomfortable about using DME. So these people would indeed say that no, you can't do that because it isn't written down here, and/or give you an automatic failure because the adventure didn't specify that what you wanted to try could work. That's no fun, it discourages creativity.

Myself, I'd give the player some historical information on the wall if he passed his history check, and some incorrect, irrelevant or silly information if he failed the check, but in neither case would I count it as a failure.
You assume a very typical stance on Intimidate.

No, just on what use of Intimidate would typically fail. Threatening the king 'let us in or else', would be an autofail. Period. Sorry, that is my stance no matter what anyone (whatever his/hers position) says. I'm fine to leave that to the DM, but I really have no issue in spelling it out once or twice.

What category would this fall under:

Pointing out real negative effects in order to convince someone to change his mind is Diplomacy,a s you already showed. Initmidate makes *you* threatening.

Now, I can imagine Intimidate would work if, say, you want to show that you are mean dude and can take those mino's, no problem, look at them muscles right here, kingy, let me in and we'll whoop some mino behind...
This is why, when I say a skill fails, it fails for a specific use (threatening the king).

PC being special does not mean you should encourage them to act like morons or jerks.

Gomez
Pointing out real negative effects in order to convince someone to change his mind is Diplomacy, as you already showed. Intimidate makes *you* threatening.

Actually no it doesn't, at all. Intimidation means compelling someone to do something by fear or threat. It doesn't have to be personal, it can be subtle and take the form of what I described.

It by no means is a personal physical threat. This is an extremely common Gamer mistake and it's plain wrong. The union threatening to go on strike? The adventurer stating that he will tell the watch? The PC letting the Ancient construct know that without their help his tomb will be destroyed? ALL are intimidate.

By the very definition of the word, as well as it's classification in negotiation.

You are approaching it from a very simplistic angle.

Arbitrarily banning the skill thus removes the sensible option, as well as the silly ones. It should NOT be banned, but left up to the DM to decide what works.

That is my point, and in a roundabout way, I think we agree - hopefully we will see Dalelands mods not banning skills arbitrarily. (I have no idea if they have already)

And PCs being special has got nothing to do with the debate. It has to do with Mod writers actually understanding what intimidate is, rather than assuming one dramatised version of it in popular media.
It by no means is a personal physical threat. This is an extremely common Gamer mistake and it's plain wrong. The union threatening to go on strike? The adventurer stating that he will tell the watch? The PC letting the Ancient construct know that without their help his tomb will be destroyed? ALL are intimidate.

The first two of those still make *you* or *you and your allies* threatening.
The third is not necessarily an Intimidate check - using the threat of your own enemies as an argument does not seem like Intimidate, just as an argument in a discussion, where the way the discussion is run determines what it is. It might be more an Intimidate if you couple it with an intent to leave someone to their fate, rather than trying to convince them your aid is needed.

The definition of Intimidate as a skill is:
Make an Intimidate check to influence others through hostile actions, overt threats, and deadly persuasion.

I just don't think the mino's invading or the tomb being destroyed by an outside force fall under these (not normally, anyway, circumstances may dictate otherwise, and DMs may judge otherwise). Intimidate is fairly narrow in application.

You are approaching it from a very simplistic angle.

It is simplistic because I disagree with you? I already gave an example on who Intimidate could be used differently.
I merely feel that the Intimidation is something that must come form the person doing the intimidating. You can use arguments that give your attempt extra weight, but, imo, you still need to issue a form of a threat that stems from your own actions.

Arbitrarily banning the skill thus removes the sensible option, as well as the silly ones.

I am not talking about arbitrarily banning it, but banning a specific use of the skill (i.e. threatening the king). Other Intimidation attempts might work - I just don't think all examples given are Intimidate checks (or all possibilities are available in an adventure - i.e. there needs to be a potential scandal in order to use it as coercion).

That is my point, and in a roundabout way, I think we agree - hopefully we will see Dalelands mods not banning skills arbitrarily. (I have no idea if they have already)

Intimidate does occasionally get an auto-failure when used in a specific way (i.e. when applying threats it to people in authority, in a situation where they cannot afford to be browbeaten). I think it is more simple than giving it a ridiculously high DC.
There are several other situations (sometimes the same encounter) where Intimidate does have effect (i.e. when used in a different way or on a different target).
DMs should adjucate whether other uses of the skill would be effective or not.

Gomez
It is simplistic because I disagree with you? I already gave an example on who Intimidate could be used differently.
I merely feel that the Intimidation is something that must come from the person doing the intimidating. You can use arguments that give your attempt extra weight, but, imo, you still need to issue a form of a threat that stems from your own actions.

So telling someone that you won't prevent someone else from hurting them isn't intimidation by your definition? By your loophole one could say 'I won't stop someone else from hurting you - which could be another member of the party - and it falls under 'diplomacy'... this is where the example breaks down.

That seems to be what you're saying. Hence, I think that is simplistic. there is more to coercion than that. Just because the PHB says:

'Make an Intimidate check to influence others through hostile actions, overt threats, and deadly persuasion.'

Doesn't mean it is all the skill can be used for. And what is the definition of deadly persuasion? The use of many other skills give examples, but they aren't restrictive examples! Perception can include smell, Nature include determining north, and so on. Arguing the base example is the only thing that can be done is pretty dangerous; as unlike 3.5 we only have a few skills.

It has already been interesting arguing over whether alchemy is Arcana or Nature elsewhere...
Let's take an example as it might come up in an adventure. I'll use Waterdeep only because I am familiar with those adventures and it fits my example. Let's say in a level 7-10 adventure set in Waterdeep, the PCs get involved in a combat on the street, in front of many witnesses. It turns out that the foes the PCs defeat in Encounter 1 are actually hired guards in the employ of a minor noble. At the end of the fight, 12 members of the Waterdeep City Guard arrive, led by a captain, to arrest the PCs.

Encounter 2 is a long skill challenge, and the first scene of the skill challenge is to deal with the guards so that the PCs can be free to investigate why these hired guards were [fill in the blank with what they did to cause the fight in Encounter 1]. From what I have seen in a few adventures, the adventure might called out various skills to be used, such as Bluff (trick the guards into letting the PCs go), Diplomacy (explain what happened so the guards will let the PCs go), Athletics (outrun the guards), etc. Then the adventure might specifically say, "If the PCs try to use Intimidate against the guards, the check automatically fails and the PCs are arrested." To me, this is just plain wrong.

The PCs, by that point in their adventuring in Waterdeep, probably have Story Awards containing favors/favorable notice of several important people, including members of the City Watch. If the PCs in the above situation said, "Listen, Captain, you had better let us go about our business or I will tell [insert name of person on favor], or you are going to be lucky to have a solo patrol in Mistshore each night," that is an Intimidate check. And that is a perfectly reasonable use of Intimidate in that situation. Yet because the adventure writer just sees Intimidate as cracking knuckles and threatening to punch someone's light out, it removes completely legitimate uses of the skill from the PCs' arsenal and/or forces the DM to contradict the adventure.

I am guilty of letting such things get through into adventures, so I am not trying to single out writers or admins as being culprits. But I can admit that I was mistaken in letting such things through in adventures, and I am trying to correct that mistake now by point it out to the admins I work with.
I am guilty of letting such things get through into adventures, so I am not trying to single out writers or admins as being culprits. But I can admit that I was mistaken in letting such things through in adventures, and I am trying to correct that mistake now by point it out to the admins I work with.

I'm glad to hear my crusade against the banning of skills (particularly intimidate) isn't a solo fight.
So telling someone that you won't prevent someone else from hurting them isn't intimidation by your definition?

It could be Intimidation if you threaten them with your own inaction, and perhaps, if you would go into a gruesome telling of the horrors that will be inflicted by the enemies - might also be fit for Bluff though.
However, merely telling someone that they need you to survive, while it is clear that you wish to help them, isn't Intimidating imo. There need to be a certain effort there to be scary (though I guess making a gruesome tale of it DOES make you - as the story teller - scary).

I am not arguing against creatively applying Intimidate. I think we should be a bit flexible in how you use Intimidate. But I do think that Intimidate applies not every time you relate a bad message. And I think that PCs should not rely on Intimidate as the 'fix all' for a situation, and start bullying everyone because they think they can - because, sometimes, they can't.

Btw I have a PC that frequently uses Intimidate, I do know when to use it (most recently in a game of Sava, a kind of Chewbacca moment there. Still lost that game though).

That seems to be what you're saying. Hence, I think that is simplistic. There is more to coercion than that.

True, but that goes both ways. Not every glare is an Intimidate check.

Gomez
Metz, I agree that the Intimidate skill has been badly misinterpreted and limited. We have to recognize, however, that this problem isn't just with the LFR modules. It extends to and, at least in part, comes from the 4th edition PHB. Gomeztoo's quote about "hostile actions, overt threats and deadly persuasion" comes straight from the PHB text.

Even worse, the rules text for Intimidate suggests that the target will usually become Hostile to you after the situation is over whether or not you succeed on the check. I can't seem to find 4th editon's outlay of what the different NPC attitudes mean, but if we go back to 3rd edition for reference, that means that some random street rat the PCs Intimidated to pump for information is now automatically willing to take risks to hurt them.

It's all ridiculous. By my reading, the Intimidate text in the PHB assumes that any check using that skill involves threatening the target with immediate physical harm. That's horribly limiting.

Whatever happened to backstreet gutter "diplomacy"? What happened to proving that you were the top dog in a bar full of thugs? (Are all of those thugs that were cowed a minute before going to decide they want to kill you the next day? ) The line between Diplomacy and Bluff is exceedingly thin at times, and the line between Diplomacy and Intimidate shouldn't be so different.

I'm glad to hear that the situation in LFR with regards to Intimidate may be changing some in the future. Given the rancid entry in the PHB, though, I doubt the issue will ever be resolved as it should, though.
D&D rules were never meant to exist without the presence of a DM. RAW is a lie.
Yet because the adventure writer just sees Intimidate as cracking knuckles and threatening to punch someone's light out, it removes completely legitimate uses of the skill from the PCs' arsenal and/or forces the DM to contradict the adventure.

That's why you should limit such auto-failures only for specific actions (when they make sense). I.e. "If the PCs threaten the guards with violence, the check automatically fails". IMO this should then give a failure, not end the skill challenge, unless the PCs actually draw weapons at that point.
Also, I would suggest actually including when Intimidate is a success, if you can think something up (I have done so where possible). Rather than simply crusade against auto failures where they make sense, offer ways to use Intimidate. If you have favors, add them to adventures, because DMs sure won't always take them into account on their own.
Even if you have a means where Intimidate works, that doesn't mean that cracking your knuckles should also work.

Gomez
That's why you should limit such auto-failures only for specific actions (when they make sense). I.e. "If the PCs threaten the guards with violence, the check automatically fails". IMO this should then give a failure, not end the skill challenge, unless the PCs actually draw weapons at that point.

I think that kind of auto-failure shouldn't exist. Even toughened guards are going to get Intimidated in that situation by someone who rolls a 30. The PC may very well need to roll an impossibly high roll like that. But there should be some number where the NPC decides that maybe it isn't really worth messing with the PCs at this point in time.
I think it is easier to just not let skills work, rather than set a silly high DC.
I am not saying this should occur often. I just don't think it is bad practice to list limitations.
If I am not allowed to list limitations with the use of a skill, I probably simply won't include that skill at all in a skill challenge.

Gomez
I think it is easier to just not let skills work, rather than set a silly high DC.
I am not saying this should occur often. I just don't think it is bad practice to list limitations.
If I am not allowed to list limitations with the use of a skill, I probably simply won't include that skill at all in a skill challenge.

Gomez

That's the thing. Decide it's an appropriate skill for the challenge and allow its use at appropriate DCs, or decide it's inappropriate and therefore characters can't use it.

Don't decide that it's inappropriate and therefore characters can use it to accrue failures.
Hopefully there will be many more opportunities to use both Stealth and Thievery in future LFR modules.

Thievery is especially difficult to use, as some traps require multiple successful Thievery rolls in combat to be disabled. Quite a few battles in Heroic only last a few rounds, and the many successes required can take the Rogue longer than the battle itself will even last to disable the thing! This imposes a very harsh in-combat penalty to the character in question, as he is unable to do anything else of value for the duration.
That's the thing. Decide it's an appropriate skill for the challenge and allow its use at appropriate DCs, or decide it's inappropriate and therefore characters can't use it.

Don't decide that it's inappropriate and therefore characters can use it to accrue failures.

Of course, if you do that you are telling the players what their characters can and cannot do and players tend to find that worse then getting an auto-failure. Do you expect the PCs to succeed in the adventure if they draw their weapons and attack the guards?

The skill challenge includes a description of how a PC can use a particular skill in that challenge. It is the perfect spot to detail these things, including advice on how to deal with improper use of a skill.
It is interesting that everyone seems to think an Intimidate roll is a single threatening phrase or the equivalent. I have to admit that I will ignore autofails on intimidate and let them roll. On a success I assume the character started to try to be intimidating as part of how he was talking, posing etc, but read the body language well and pulled back from saying something stupid. Part of the skill has to be knowing when to pull back, even an orc knows there are times when a basic threat isn't the best way to deal with something, someone skilled must have this basic knowledge. I then allow a +2 to the next roll for bluff, diplomacy etc. the group makes, they have better insight into the people they are dealing with thanks to the intimidators skill.