I'm researching a new character that I want to build, who I'm aiming to make the king of social skills, especially Bluff (though Intimidate and Diplomacy will be high too). For now I'm thinking a Mesmerist would be the best class for this, though I'm open to other suggestions.

My real question is, how far can Bluff go? The typical example is the guard who hears a noise, says "who's there?" and I say "oh, it's just the wind" and he believes it (despite the fact that the wind wouldn't say that). What if the party rogue sneaks up to the guard and drops some sand down into his armour and I tell him "you've just had Itching Powder shoved down your back!"? Does a successful Bluff check here cause him to suffer the effects of that powder?

Taking that even further, if I somehow make it known to a noble at a courtly dinner that I've emptied some 'poison' into his goblet and tell him "how're you enjoying your Nightshade?", will he start to choke and/or die if I pass my Bluff check here?

Looking at the Bluff PRD page, I can see that there are modifiers applied to really unlikely lies, but even a -20 penalty is surmountable. It also says;

Note that some lies are so improbable that it is impossible to convince anyone that they are true (subject to GM discretion).

...but itching powder isn't that improbable, neither is death by poison (especially if I've spent the past few days setting up an organization antagonistic to that noble and his aims, etc.).

So what's the limit here? Obviously the low-hanging fruit like convincing a guard I'm his boss is easily achieved, but what about convincing the guard that he's a chicken?

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2 Answers 2


A lie using the Bluff skill can only make a creature believe a lie is actually the truth—the creature's response to that belief is beyond the liar's control

No matter how good your Bluff skill check result when telling a lie, you can't force the victim to react in a certain way. This means until the GM finally draws the line and says, for example, that it's actually completely and utterly impossible (not just impossible) to convince anyone you're a pickle, lies can convince victims of less than that. However, what it means to the victim after you've convinced him that a lie is the truth—that is, what the victim does about the lie—is up to the GM.

Examples are addressed in turn below.

Example: The Guard and Gust

GM: The guard's Perception skill check beats your Stealth skill check, but you have total concealment. The guard says, "Who's there?"
Player: I say, "It's just the wind."
GM: [Sighs.] Make a Bluff skill check.
Player: I got a result of 30.
GM: [Rolls dice.] "Huh," says the guard. "I better check on the wizard to make sure his new talking wind spell is working okay."

Then play continues from there, likely requiring more Bluff skill checks. Instead, though, the GM could've just drawn the line there, saying that absolutely no one in that GM's low-fantasy campaign would believe poppycock like a talking wind. Nonetheless, in a typical Pathfinder setting there's actually a whispering wind spell, so a new spell that a guard's never heard of that makes wind really talk? Not impossible. However, the PC can't control what the guard subsequently does about the talking wind—the guard may take out his sword in case the wind's hostile, look around for a physical manifestation of the wind in case the sinister wind's trying to steal what he's protecting, or attempt to interrogate the wind to see if it overheard him gossiping with his coworker about the guard captain.

Example: The Guard and the Grit

GM: As you creep through the darkness, the guard appears unaware of your approach.
Player: I drop some sand down the guard's pants.
GM: [Sighs.] That's the surprise round, and that'll take your standard action and a successful melee touch attack against the guard's flat-footed AC.
Player: My attack roll result is 18.
GM: That's a hit.
Player: "I've filled your pants with itching powder!" I say. "I am so zany!"
GM: [Sighs.] Make a Bluff skill check.
Player: My Bluff check result is 30.
GM: [Rolls dice.] The guard totally considers the ramification of having itching powder in his pants, but, since the sand doesn't actually itch, the guard says, "Looks like your alchemist buddy sold you a bad batch. I'm not itchy at all!" The guard appears ready to fight you.

In other words, in all likelihood, this just won't be that helpful.

Example: The Noble and the Nightshade

Player: "An excellent vintage, your highness," I say. "Does the nightshade that I added to the wine—to which, of course, I have built up an immunity—add a little punch?"
GM: [Sighs.] Make a Bluff skill check.
Player: My Bluff check result is 30.
GM: [Rolls dice.] The king looks horrified, takes a potion from his pocket, and chugs it. Then he says, "Guards, seize this miscreant and toss him in the dungeon for his attempted regicide!"

There are dozens of ways this could play out, but most will involve the victim assuming he succeeded on the first saving throw against the poison then doing something, like the king above drinking a potion of neutralize poison (or, in lesser kingdoms, antitoxin) or a less accommodating victim just straight-up trying to murder the PC before the victim himself thinks he's going to die anyway. Spinning an elaborate lie might convince a victim of some equally elaborate scheme involving the poison, but the liar won't ever be able to impose psychosomatically a poison's effects.

Example: The Guard and the Guard Captain

GM: You round the corner and run smack into a guard.
Player: "Thank heavens I found you!" I say. "I'm the captain of the guard. An evil wizard has infiltrated the castle and is using polymorph any object spells to make castle residents look like handsome devils like me!"
GM: [Sighs.] Make a Bluff skill check.
Player: My Bluff check result is 30.
GM: [Rolls dice.] The guard looks confused and torn. "That sucks, I guess," he says.

A lot of what happens next—if the above even happens at all, the GM possibly ruling that this is a flat-out, nuh-uh, no-way impossible lie—depends on too many factors to list. In a world of magic, that tale could, in fact, be plausible—if highly improbable—, and, if the guard believes you, he may allow you as the faux guard captain to order him around if you make a successful Diplomacy skill to make a request (which should be easy if the guard thinks you're his boss).

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    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 22:51

Bluff Bluff Bluff the Stupid Ogre!

The Bluff PRD page is going to be my main source, as well as years experience in GMing.

Bluff, and other social skills, have always been a bit nebulous. This results in sometimes ridiculous situations, as you point out. (Which is why I like Rich Burlew's This Old Rule: Diplomacy article and have adopted that whenever I can.)

How far can lies go? As you note, there is no definite line. As far as I can tell, it's all up to the GM. (Once gain, look at the "this old rule" link for a potentially better approach!)

I would encourage you and your GM to consider and discuss the following:

  1. How silly are your adventures? It all depends on how much silliness your GM is willing to put up with. Adhering to rules-as-written results in Sir Bearington, which some groups want, while others don't.

  2. What purpose does the GM and the rules serve? The Same-Page Tool helps with this and establishing general silliness levels.

  3. There is such a thing as Voodoo Death, where people die because of some great mental shock. It's common in societies which have a very strong belief in the supernatural or in POW camps.

  4. There is psychosomatic pain, where people feel pain in spite of no apparent physical harm.

  5. The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Everyone is willing to entertain immediate threats until there is proof otherwise. I would implement this in your itching powder and nightshade example: they would act as if it were the case, until they unexpectedly didn't die and the itching went away. It's a good bit of plot: you get to feel clever but you also don't get away with murder.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for this answer. I honestly wanted to accept both since both answers are very good ones and help a lot. As for Sir Bearington, if I could pull off a character like that, it'd be awesome. I think my current campaign can support that level of silly. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 1:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IronWaffleMan Yup, it's all about knowing what kind of game you're in. Although I am surprised that you accepted an answer so quickly: SE works best when you give it a few days. Oh well! Have fun, and good luck with your "all-talk" build. \$\endgroup\$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 3:04

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