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I'm a Halfling Warlock with a +17 to my rolls in Intimidation. As such I want to be able to make use of this as much as I can. So far I've only really used it to force bloodied targets to surrender. Whilst this is pretty cool, I feel there should be more to Intimidation.

Firstly, the description of the skill in the Player Handbook says it can "cow a target into taking some other action". What does that mean? What sort of other action?

Secondly, could I use this on NPCs in a town like shopkeepers or just random citizens? I figure it would be cool to intimidate someone into giving me their lunch.

And lastly, the Player's Handbook also says that "target becomes hostile" if I use Intimidate in combat. Does this count outside of combat as well? If so, what does it mean for them to be hostile to me in a non-combat situation?

Thanks for the help!

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Is it me, or is +17 a lot? I mean, that is one scary halfling... –  deworde Feb 21 '13 at 10:10
@deworde that depends entirely on their level. At L1 that's really impressive (and a massive investment) at L20 that's a meh score. –  wax eagle Feb 21 '13 at 13:26
The +17 was including Beguiling Tongue which gives me a +5 in as an encounter power –  K1NG Feb 21 '13 at 17:50
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3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Caveat: the answer to this question is going to depend heavily on your DM, and how they feel about and portray the use of social skills. Some DMs don't much care, and will allow you to use these skills with little penalty or roleplay required. Other DMs may view social skills as potentially game-breaking, or at least very important to handle correctly. If you intend to use your Intimidate often, I would recommend finding out your DM's policy on social skills, and adjusting your expectations accordingly.

That said, in general, Intimidate is meant to be a representation of your character's ability to bully or scare someone. So, to address your three points:

  1. To "cow a target into taking some other action" generally means to frighten them into doing something other than what they had planned. For example, let's say you're fighting a group of goblins. One of them runs at you with his sword. You roll an Intimidate check, and describe the action as "I tower over him, my staff smoking from my last spell and my eyes glowing with power". A successful check might cause the goblin to attack someone else instead. Alternately, if you are particularly successful (let's say you rolled high on your Intimidate check, and in the previous round you critted a different goblin) you might scare him into losing an action or even running away.

  2. Can you use Intimidate on NPCs? Yes, but remember: it's a representation of your ability to bully or scare people. Intimidating townsfolk might get you the information you need about the evil lich lord - but it might also cause the NPC's bigger, more powerful friend to come after you for bullying his pal. Likewise, bullying a shopkeeper once might mean he hides his best wares next time you're around, or simply closes up shop entirely to avoid you.

  3. (2a) You didn't ask specifically, but it's the flip side to #2 so I wanted to address it. As a DM, I don't allow social skills like Intimidate or Diplomacy to work on other PCs unless you both a) roleplay it out, and b) have a very good reason for doing so. Skill checks are meant as an abstraction; when you are interacting strictly with other players, you don't need that same level of abstraction. It's very frustrating, as a player, to be forced to act a certain way because you rolled badly and your fellow player rolled well. But again, this depends on your DM and your group, and their take on social skills in the game.

  4. Do targets become hostile out of combat, and what does it mean? They will very likely become hostile - as I mentioned, even if your initial target is too scared to fight back, his big bad friend might not be. Or, if you Intimidate a member of the criminal underworld, say, he might act on his fear by drawing a weapon on you, forcing you to fight (and spend resources) when you might otherwise have not needed to. And 'hostile' doesn't always have to mean 'immediately attacking'. A hostile bar wench, for example, might get revenge by poisoning your drink, or by spreading vicious rumors that bring the city guard down on you. A hostile merchant might raise his prices, or avoid selling to you. And so on.

Intimidate, like the other social skills, can be very powerful when used correctly. The key is to ask yourself whether bullying or scaring someone is the best way to get what you want out of a situation. If the penalties are worth the payoff, then go for it.

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To piggyback on the caveat, going around intimidating people is a great way to end up on the wanted list of the local law and aristocracy looking to keep peace and order. As a DM I allow wanton intimidation, but as with everything there is a price. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Feb 21 '13 at 19:15
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Intimidate is basically used to scare people.

1) This could mean any number of things, but most likely it means you can scare targets into not doing something they were about to do. You might scare them out of attacking you or doing some non-combat thing that would anger you.

2) You can absolutely use it on NPCs. Just keep in mind that if you go around trying to coerce people into doing stuff, you're probably going to eventually have a run in with the city guard.

3) "Target becomes hostile" means that very, very few people like a bully, and you're basically going up to people and saying, "Do what I want or horrific magical 'accidents' will happen to you." Your high score represents you being very convincing when you threaten people. Any NPC you threaten won't like you, probably won't like the party in general (since they're associated with you), and might actually attack you.

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I'm not sure what resources you have available, but all of the trained skills (including intimidate) have utility powers you can substitute for your class utility powers within the phb3.

For instance at level two, you could take Ominous Threat which is a free action encounter power that you can use when you hit an enemy. The effect would be you mark him, and an ally of yours has a mark taken off of them.

By taking the above level two skill utility you would have to give up your class' utility power.

There are various skills at level 2, 6, & 10 to choose from.

All of the above options are in addition to the basics of the skill (such as scaring opponents into submission).

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This doesn't really answer the question. –  Oblivious Sage Feb 21 '13 at 4:38
I thought that it addressed the question in King's original post of what is intimidate useful for. I was merely highlighting that each skill comes with the potential of several additional utility powers to choose from when leveling your character. @Oblivious Sage –  silversociety Feb 21 '13 at 4:54
Unfortunately titles are rarely complete questions; they're brief descriptors of the nature of the query laid out in the question itself. This post is germane and would make an excellent addendum to an answer, but is not by itself an answer to the question being asked. –  BESW Feb 21 '13 at 5:01
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