ALookAtTheIntimidateSkill: A quick review of the Intimidate skill in D&D

A quick review of the Intimidate skill in D&D

Want to find secret doors, avoid traps and be lead straight to the treasure? How about doing all that without even shedding a drop of blood in combat, and without casting a single spell. Then Intimidate is the skill for you!

Intimidation is a fine skill that can be used to coerce your sworn enemy into providing the same aid and assistance as a friend. Whilst under your influence he will spill the details of the tribal treasure horde, offer you his weapon and lead you through danger. As per the SRD:

You can change another’s behavior with a successful check. Your Intimidate check is opposed by the target’s modified level check (1d20 + character level or Hit Dice + target’s Wisdom bonus [if any] + target’s modifiers on saves against fear). If you beat your target’s check result, you may treat the target as friendly, but only for the purpose of actions taken while it remains intimidated. (That is, the target retains its normal attitude, but will chat, advise, offer limited help, or advocate on your behalf while intimidated. See the Diplomacy skill, above, for additional details.) The effect lasts as long as the target remains in your presence, and for 1d6×10 minutes afterward. After this time, the target’s default attitude toward you shifts to unfriendly (or, if normally unfriendly, to hostile).

It won’t turn him into actually being your friend, and will hate you more after 10-60 minutes, but by then you have all of the advantage.

It’s a Standard Action too, so you can approach the Orc guard and Intimidate him in the first round then attack on the second. He’s at -2 to attack if you have demoralized him, and the battle is won before it’s begun. Alternatively, you could just ask him to open the door and let you through. He is your “friend”, after all :)

The key is maxing your Intimidate skill to the highest possible level. The ideal path is a Rogue with high Charisma, as this is the only class with both Intimidate and Bluff as core skills. Get max ranks in both, and by second level a Human CHA 16 Rogue with the feats Persuasive and Skill Focus(Intimidate) will have Intimidate at 5 (rank) + 3 (CHA) + 2 (Bluff skill synergy) + 2 (Persuasive) + 3 (Skill focus) = +15.

Note: You could also include the Willing Deformity feat from Heroes of Horror to add a further +3 to Intimidate, but not until 3rd level. A human Fighter could get all the feats at 1st level, but Bluff isn’t a class skill, so the net gain is only +1 by second level – hardly worth the effort. The alignment has to be Evil too, which isn’t appropriate for all campaigns.

+15 Intimidate means your average Orc (1 HD, WIS 7) rolls d20-1 for the DC. Even on a roll of 20 for a total of 19, you only need to roll higher than a 4 to browbeat the poor critter.

Goblins (1 HD, WIS 9) fare even less well. They roll d20+1, but because of their Small size our Medium-sized CHA 16 Rogue-2 rolls d20+19. Even if they roll a 20 (total 21) you only need roll higher than a 1 and they are yours.

Looking at something tougher like an Ogre (4 HD, WIS 10) and things are a little trickier, though the odds are still stacked in your favour. They roll d20+4, and the example Rogue above would roll d20+11 (thanks to the -4 for their large size). Yes, a Second level Rogue can browbeat an Ogre. It’s true :)

I’d suggest that trying to Intimidate more than one opponent at a time is a tricky prospect incurring a -2 penalty for each opponent above the first. A true master of Intimidation can cow down a mob! Reputation will also play a part. I’d be inclined to apply bonuses (or penalties) to the roll if the poor schmuck knows of the character’s cruelty (or lenience).

This is the ideal skill setup for someone who wants to play a character like
Waylander (by David Gemmell), who can cause even hardened warriors to doubt their own ability to fight without lifting so much as an eyebrow.

Vampires have nothing on a good Intimidate skill :)

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