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I’m making a fighter who was tortured in the past. He has a badly healed broken nose, one of his ears was cut off, his face was branded, etc.

I was thinking it would be neat for him to have advantage on Intimidation checks because he’s horrifying-looking and disadvantage on Charisma checks because of his looks - but I was wondering if that would be balanced, or if maybe he should have other disadvantages to even it out.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you discussed your idea with your GM? This will be a vital part of answering this question. Also, welcome to the site! Take our tour when you get the chance to learn about how things work here. Happy stacking! \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Feb 2 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ When it comes to rules, it's important to be a bit pedantic -- to say exactly what you mean, because otherwise you're going to have people who don't get the intended sub-text. In this case, Intimidation checks are also typically Charisma checks, so you would roll intimidation at normal, and other Charisma checks at disadvantage. You probably don't want that outcome, and should word your ability as 'disadvantage on non-intimidation Charisma checks' -- or, better yet, define a specific skill(s) such as 'disadvantage on persuasion [and performance] checks.' \$\endgroup\$ – RonLugge Feb 2 at 22:02
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It is probably balanced

There is actually precedence for this in the variant rule for Lingering Injuries on page 272 in the Dungeon Master's Guide:

Horrible Scar. You are disfigured to the extent that the wound can’t be easily concealed. You have disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks and advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks. Magical healing of 6th level or higher, such as heal and regenerate, removes the scar.

These injuries are intended to provide either a neutral or detrimental effect, so the game designers, at least, see it at as balanced.

In my experience, ability checks that involve Intimidation are prompted by the GM much less frequently than other Charisma checks, but that will vary from table to table and from game to game. Overall, I don't see a balance issue with your proposition.

All that being said, it is ultimately up to your GM whether to allow it in the game, as there are no rules to cover starting with injuries in the rulebooks (and the Lingering Injuries rules are optional).

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    \$\begingroup\$ In my experience, players simply try to deceive or persuade more often than they try to intimidate. After all, intimidating someone marks you as somewhat hostile - persuading doesn't, and deceiving only if you fail. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Feb 2 at 19:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, as this answer incorporates rules in the DMG, as opposed to an opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Feb 2 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster That's assuming the PC is not inherently better at one than the other. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Feb 2 at 22:46
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This is generally to the character's advantage

The character is clearly better at intimidation than normal, but worse at other tasks requiring charisma. The weakness here is easily circumvented in usual circumstances by having a dedicated "party face" --- that is, another character who handles the more diplomatic tasks dedicated to charisma while the scary Fighter sits on the side. The weakness in other charisma tasks doesn't really kick in unless the character is forced to make charisma checks as a part of their adventuring, or if their player is eager to push their character towards more challenging rolls despite them being quite weak at them.

How big is the impact depends almost solely on the GM, though. Ability checks have few rules and their role varies a lot between tables: some GMs allow bypassing entire encounters with well-executed Persuasion, Deception or Intimidation checks, while in other tables all those checks will earn you is a cheaper night in a tavern or five gold off the price of a fancy broadsword. There's no single right answer here --- you will have to judge where your game lies on this spectrum yourself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree; this is typical min/maxing aka specialization. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthieu M. Feb 3 at 15:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Add in the UA Menacing feat, and you have a character who can scare almost anything at the cost of letting the bard do the normal talking. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 4 at 12:29

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