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During our last play session (it was our second session, so everyone is first level) my fighter dwarf had a conflict with another player's human fighter. My dwarf became annoyed at the human's dismissive reaction to a roar outside the village that sounded like ogres (my dwarf has a bad history with ogres).

So, in order to emphasize the seriousness of this situation, my dwarf grabbed the human by shirtfront and pulled him closer (done with a successful roll). Still bent double, the human drew his sword and pointed it at my dwarf's belly (dwarf wearing chainmail). At this point the DM made the other player roll an Intimidation (Charisma) check, and me a Wisdom check to resist. I lost and my dwarf, chastened, let the human go.

That was pretty funny situation, but one thing is bothering me. By using a Wisdom check against Intimidation (Charisma), my dwarf (who has −1 Wisdom modifier) was at a disadvantage (literally, not in the D&D disadvantage mechanic sense) against the threats. Although he is a strong and capable warrior, he is not that wise.

But I have to wonder: is willpower really represented by Wisdom in 5e? I think that many not-so-wise creatures/characters can stand bravely against threats.

What ability/skill should be used in a contest to resist intimidation?

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One more related question – Angew Jan 14 at 10:55
up vote 32 down vote accepted

Broadly speaking, manipulation-related skill check shouldn't be used on players. One of the important tenets of D&D is the idea of player agency, where you always have control of what your character thinks, feels, and does. There are some exceptions to this rule (like mind-altering magic), but the only time your character should feel intimidated is when you, the player, judge them to be intimidated.

So, if another player was lying to you, you'd still do the normal opposed Deception/Insight. However, if a player was trying to convince you of something, he would have to actually convince you of that thing through roleplay, not just by making a Persuasion check.

Even if you like resolving things using skill checks most of the time, you shouldn't be able to control another player's actions through a skill check. Someone's roleplay shouldn't be dictated by the Rogue just because he has a +10 in Deception and Persuasion.

This isn't to say that you can't allow other party members to intimidate your character with a roll, if that's the kind of dynamic that your group is comfortable with, but you shouldn't have your agency taken away without knowing up-front that that's something you can expect. There is no such thing as badwrongfun, but anything that involves loss of agency needs a considered approach.

If I were the DM in that situation, I would ask the two of you to try working out the problem through roleplay without attacking each other, knowing that you are party members who trust each other with your lives on a regular basis. Be sure not to fall into the My Guy Syndrome trap where you tank the session because you feel like your character would never back down, but it's a lot more interesting to come to an actual conclusion rather than just having a skill check decide a social interaction between players.

I would suggest that you bring your problems to your DM, and talk to him about it before your next session, so that you can have a better agreement between the two of you about how to deal with similar problems in the future.

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One consideration: he can roll to tell whether your character feels intimidated, but you decide how your PC reacts with that knowledge. An intimidated person might back off, but he might decide that he needs a tactical advantage instead. Throwing sand in his face and disarming him could very well be your character's reaction to his threat. – Sawyer Jan 13 at 20:27
What is the purpose of a bonus to Intimidation skill in a monster's stat block, then? How did the designers expect this information to be utilized? – MunchyWilly Apr 14 at 19:41
@DuckTapeAl 'Shaken' isn't a 5e condition I'm aware of, nor have I seen how Intimidation/Persuasion and the like apply in combat. Could you provide an example? – MunchyWilly Apr 14 at 19:46
@MunchyWilly Two reasons come to mind for why a designer would include Intimidate in a monster's stat block. One is for when a GM might want to have the monster intimidate another character. The other is that some designers and GMs disagree with me, and want to play a game where the DM can dictate players actions in some circumstances. I'm not claiming that there is some authorial voice saying that it was the designers intent to not allow manipulation of PCs this way, just that manipulating PCs directly with social rolls is a terrible idea. Designers can have bad ideas sometimes, too. – DuckTapeAl Apr 14 at 20:26
@DuckTapeAl I get it. While I do happen to feel differently than you about this (no one chooses to be intimidated in real life so it baffles me why player choice in that matter needs to be preserved in game), I'm curious how these stats were intended to be implemented with PCs. – MunchyWilly Apr 14 at 22:50

Opposed Charisma Checks would be appropriate

While it would (IMO) have been better for you two to role play the argument (per DuckTapeAl's point on player agency) both players could agree to a "contest of wills" in the interest of keeping the pace of play going at the table. In that case, it would have been simpler, and closer to how the rules provide resolution for situations via dice rolls, to use opposed Charisma checks.

Contests (P. 58 basic rules )

Both participants in a contest make ability checks appropriate to their efforts. They apply all appropriate bonuses and penalties, but instead of comparing the total to a DC, they compare the totals of their two checks. The participant with the higher check total wins the contest. That character or monster either succeeds at the action or prevents the other one from succeeding.

By using Charisma in this contest you are comparing a like stat versus a like stat. This makes it like an arm wrestling contest (Opposed Strength checks). For Intimidation, use opposed Charisma.

Note from Skills and checks on the same page:


From page 57 of the Basic Rules

Charisma, measuring force of personality

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Wisdom is often a representative of will in D&D, an those with lower wisdom are more easily scared, manipulated and don't notice as much. Instead of rolling with just wisdom, you could make an Wisdom(Insight) check to see if the human would really do it, and if you knew they would not, you would not back down as easily. But to simply answer your question, no, there is not any other check that counters intimidation.

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I think your persuasion should be used (Charisma). It should represent if his anger could intimidate you enough to persuade you to stop or do whatever the action should be.

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