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Question Backstory

In the DMG for 5th ed there is established DC levels for how NPC's will respond to you in social interactions based on whether they are friendly, indifferent, or hostile to you as detailed in the Conversations Reactions Table on pg 255 of the DMG.

Conversation Reaction

DC Friendly Creature’s Reaction
0 The creature does as asked without taking risks or making sacrifices.
10 The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.
20 The creature accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

DC Indifferent Creature’s Reaction
0 The creature offers no help but does no harm.
10 The creature does as asked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved.
20 The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

DC Hostile Creature’s Reaction
0 The creature opposes the adventurers’ actions and might take risks to do >so.
10 The creature offers no help but does no harm.
20 The creature does as asked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved.

These levels of familiarity seem to be more geared towards determining the DCs for persuasion checks more than they are for determining the DCs for Intimidation checks. This perception is reinforced by the common practice that a failed intimidation check can result in a persuasion check no longer being capable (a DM's interpretation I know, and not one I agree with, but one I have seen at more than one table).

To help in explaining here are the descriptions of the three levels

Friendly:
A Friendly creature wants to help the adventurers and wishes for them to succeed. For tasks or actions that require no particular risk, effort, or cost, friendly creatures usually help without question. If an element of personal risk is involved, a successful charisma check might be required to convince a friendly creature to take that risk.

Indifferent:
An Indifferent creature might help or hinder the party, depending on what the creature sees as most beneficial. A creature’s indifference doesn’t necessarily make it standoffish or disinterested. Indifferent creatures might be polite and genial, surly and irritable, or anything in between. A successful Charisma check is necessary when the adventurers try to persuade an indifferent creature to do something.

Hostile:
A Hostile creature opposes the adventurers and their goals but doesn’t necessarily attack them on sight. For example, a condescending noble might wish to see a group of upstart adventurers fail so as to keep them from becoming rivals for the king’s attention, thwarting them with slander and scheming rather than direct threats and violence. The adventurers need to succeed on one or more challenging Charisma checks to convince a hostile creature to do anything on their behalf. That said, a hostile creature might be so ill-disposed toward the party that no Charisma check can improve its attitude, in which case any attempt to sway it through diplomacy fails automatically.

Given this description for the levels, I am going to try to detail a few points of confusion.

  1. This is supposed to be for all charisma checks but the easiest to accomplish is when they are friendly. Why would a character intimidate or threaten someone who is friendly to them, and wouldn't that make them no longer friendly, and therefore make it harder?

  2. The description for Hostile specifically mentions the word diplomacy in lieu of charisma check, which is not a term I would use to describe intimidation most of the time and lends better to the idea of being persuasive.

  3. The description for hostile also indicates that there is a point where a character can become so hostile that no amount of charisma checks could persuade them, however, why would them being hostile prevent them from being subject to intimidation?

Actual Question

There does not seem to be a rules clarification that could help deal with the issue of how to deal with intimidation checks other than using a system that does not adequately represent them. In this absence, I am seeking judgment from a practiced GM on whether one of two alternatives I have come up with constitute a consistent way for creating DCs for intimidation checks? I am also interested in hearing any alternative ways of dealing with this situation that other GMs have found work.

Possible Solution 1:

Would it be reasonable to add two more levels to the Conversation Reaction Table with hostile being the center and having persuasion and intimidation work best on opposing sides of the list so that it looks something like:

Friendly
Indifferent
Hostile
Cautious
Afraid

Possible Solution 2:

Or would it be better to create a separate reaction chart to allow for a character to feel threatened and friendly at the same time as is sometimes possible in reality so that you would have two charts that parallel one another like so:

Friendly|Frightened
Indifferent|Dismissive
Hostile|Amused

Possible Solution 3:

Or are both of these adjustments too cumbersome to work properly and is there a better way to handle this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "usually" is more like a survey than a question with objective answers. Consider changing it to something like "how it should be done by the rules?" or "there are no rules, so what is a balanced and consistent way to rule this?" \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Mar 26 at 9:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Thankyou for the suggestion, will edit now. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Saba Mar 26 at 9:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ You mention wanting to use the Frightened condition for a successful intimidation in your lead, but not in the body. Is that something you want to see if others have used and to what effect? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 26 at 12:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ related question \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 26 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ It appears that you have edited this to include an answer (or a collection of answers) to your question. It is OK to answer your own question here, so I'd like to recommend that you take the answer portion and make your own answer out of it, and limit your question to the question(s) you have. The "some alternae suggestions" portion, and down, is for sure more answer than question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 27 at 11:14
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The general guideline for ability checks (PHB p. 174) give DC's ranging from Very easy (DC 5) up-to Nearly impossible (DC 30). For any given NPC set the DC corresponding to how difficult they are to scare (generally related to their Wisom score).

Alternately you could call it as a contest; either Charisma (Intimidation) against Charisma (Intimidation) for two creatures each trying to be the scariest, or Charisma (Intimidation) against Wisdom (Insight) for the "defending" creature trying to ascertain how genuine the threats are.


At my table we use intimidation as a contest between a Charisma (Intimidation) check against the targets Wisdom saving throw. The idea being a wisdom saving throw represents the creatures ability resist influence on their mind.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So it is easier to intimidate a Fighter than a Wizard? \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 26 at 11:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András wizards are generally intelligent rather than wise. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Mar 26 at 11:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM my point exactly, Wisdom saves have no correlation with intimidatability \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 26 at 11:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also Insight has the problem that if a succesful check shows you the intimidating party is a genuine threat, you should be more intimidated, not less. \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 26 at 11:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot, I agree they should be equally scareable, except Wizards (and Warlocks) add their prof bonus to their Wis saves. So a Wis save is a bad target. \$\endgroup\$ – András Mar 26 at 11:27
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The DC will generally be up to the DM, based on how scared/resolved/etc he feels the NPC is likely to be.

The basic rules suggest typical difficulty levels for any ability check (which would include social interactions) here

Very easy=DC 5

Easy=DC 10

Medium=DC 15

Hard=DC 20

Very hard=DC 25

Nearly impossible=DC 30

Alternatively, the DM could make it a contested check as explained a bit further down in the link above. The DM would compare the player's Intimidation check against some check of the NPC (a straight Wisdom check, a Wisdom(Insight) perhaps or whatever the DM feels is appropriate for the situation).

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According to the DMG:

a successful Charisma check might be required to convince a friendly creature to take that risk, A successful Charisma check is necessary when the adventurers try to persuade an indifferent creature to do something, and The adventurers need to succeed on one or more challenging Charisma checks to convince a hostile creature to do anything on their behalf

(see pg. 244 of the DMG, these are parts of each of the entries on friendly, indifferent, and hostile creatures). According to these, since intimidation is a charisma check, the npc could likely either use a charisma or a wisdom DC.

Another option is to simply choose a target DC. (Very easy=DC 5, Easy=DC 10, Medium=DC 15, Hard=DC 20, Very hard=DC 25, Nearly impossible=DC 30, see DMG 238). When you do this, the PC simply makes a skill check (in this case, intimidation), and if it is above the target's DC, then it succeeds (NOT a contest).

Another way to do this is to simply determine how well they succeed based on their charisma roll, here's an example (see pg. 245 DMG)

Conversation Reaction

DC Friendly Creature's Reaction

0 The creature does as asked without taking risks or making sacrifices.

10 The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

20 The creature accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

DC Indifferent Creature's Reaction

0 The creature offers no he lp but does no harm .

10 The creature does as as ked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved.

20 The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.

DC Hostile Creature's Reaction

0 The creature opposes the adventurers' actions and might take risks to do so.

10 The creature offers no help but does no harm.

20 The creature does as asked as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved.

Basically, you can have a set DC value that a PC has to overcome, the PC must win a contest with the NPC (see pg. 174 of the Player's Handbook), or the result can depend on how well or poorly the PC's roll goes.

Hope these can be useful!

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    \$\begingroup\$ "the npc could likely either use a charisma or a wisdom DC" this is very confusingly worded. Did you mean the DM should set a DC for the NPC for an ability check from the PC? Also how do you get to CHA or WIS for intimidation from CHA for persuasion? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 26 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, and persuasion in the context of the quote means any skill being used to persuade someone (Persuasion, Intimidation, Deception). Basically I'm saying that the DM should set a DC, and saying what stats could be used to determine that DC in the case of a contest situation, with wisdom referring mainly to insight. \$\endgroup\$ – Smart_TJ Mar 26 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the confusion is that when you say one side "sets a DC" and the other beats it, you're talking about a contested ability check and not a DC/Save scenario. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 26 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, the DM chooses a DC value for each NPC in advance (or comes up with it on the spot), and the PC has to roll against that, instead of the DM rolling for the NPC, and the player rolling for the PC, as in a contest \$\endgroup\$ – Smart_TJ Mar 26 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Smart_TJ oh I see, well contests do not use a DC. It's an opposed check. So if that is what you are talking about I would clarify the wording there. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 26 at 19:58

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