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I'm a level 1 fairy barbarian, and I, along with my party, killed an enemy that turned out to be a ghost, meaning they couldn't pass on to the afterlife. I asked to intimidate the universe into letting them pass on.

DM:

You can TRY.

Me:

'rolls'...18.

It worked after some RP, but now I'm curious of the DC for that. I had +3 to intimidation, if that helps, so I rolled a 15+3, so 18 total. How far was I past the DC?

To clarify, I'm talking about a ghost that dies after becoming a ghost, thus ceasing to exist and losing the chance to move on, and I intimidated the universe to let them move on anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is the same character from the grapple someone's mouth shut question \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Commented Apr 10 at 21:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Umm, so how did you intimidate it? Did you rage against the dying of the light? Did you scream I am here I am here? In lore, the universe generally cares not, although passers-by might, and it might do you some good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Apr 10 at 21:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't really specify, nor consider, how I would do it, as I had been rolling poorly up to that point, so I didn't really expect it to work @Jack \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Commented Apr 10 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have made other comments about your DMs but I would seriously recommend that you (re)read the rules, and your DM does too. Some of these questions are fairly basic and your DMs don't seem to reference rules very often in the things you talk about. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Apr 10 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only other time I rolled highly that session was when I rolled to intimidate fog. Which also worked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Commented Apr 10 at 23:40

4 Answers 4

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In addition to Nobody's answer, I would also say that not all things require or should require a dice roll.

It sounds like that ship may already have sailed with your DM's answer and allowing you try (not to be rude, but are they new to DM-ing?). But generally, if something is simply impossible, like a player wanting to leap a mountain or...well..."intimidate the universe" (whatever that means) then it is perfectly acceptable for a DM to just say it can't be done.

(Likewise, if the DM decides something is easy, like a PC with a high Athletics score wanting to climb a small tree - where there aren't really any consequences for failing - then they can just allow it without a dice roll).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I asked the DM what the DC was and they said they didn't know and they were tired when I asked if I could do that \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Commented Apr 23 at 19:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tasi This just goes back to my answer that not everything should require a check. It sounds like you or your DM may be new to RPGs (or at least to D&D). A lot of DM-ing (and playing) just requires basic common sense. There may not be rules for everything but that doesn't mean a player can just do anything wild that pops into their head! A player can always ask of course, but a DM can just say "No, your character can't do that". And that's the end of it. No DC. No dice roll. Such judication is part of DM-ing! \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Apr 24 at 11:26
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The universe is not typically eligible for intimidation.

Intimidation is used to influence someone:

When you attempt to influence someone through overt threats, hostile actions, and physical violence, the DM might ask you to make a Charisma (Intimidation) check.

"The universe" is not a "someone," so we're outside RAW already. I'd take this in one of two ways:

  1. Convince the non-sentient rules of the universe to change, like intimidating a river into flowing upstream.
  2. Convince a deity responsible for something specific to alter the rules, like convincing Kelemvor.

DMs decide the DC for ability checks:

Task Difficulty DC
Very easy 5
Easy 10
Medium 15
Hard 20
Very hard 25
Nearly impossible 30

5e has no precedent for convincing the non-sentient rules of the universe to change, so that would generally just fail outright with no roll ("When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results."). Convincing a deity, apropos of nothing, to change their mind would likely be "nearly impossible" at best at a DC of 30.

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Your DM determines the DCs of ability checks

Unless the DC is prescribed in a printed adventure, it is up to your DM to determine how difficult any given check is. Page 238, DMG:

It's your job to establish the Difficulty Class for an ability check or a saving throw when a rule or an adventure doesn't give you one. Sometimes you'll even want to change such established DCs. When you do so, think of how difficult a task is and then pick the associated DC from the Typical DCs table.

The typical DCs are

Task DC
Very Easy 5
Easy 10
Moderate 15
Hard 20
Very Hard 25
Nearly Impossible 30

So, if you DM picked one of the standard DC classes, especially considering it also took some roleplay, it is likely that they used Moderate (15) as the DC, or initially used Hard (20), and gave you some kind of bonus for the roleplay, which I think is quite generous. They also could have decided that because there is nobody to intimidate, you even do not get to roll:

When deciding whether to use a roll, ask yourself two questions:

  • Is a task so easy and so free of conflict and stress that there should be no chance of failure?
  • Is a task so inappropriate or impossible-such as hitting the moon with an arrow-that it can't work?

If the answer to both of these questions is no, some kind of roll is appropriate

That said, I love that they allowed you to try that check. My impression is that you are having a lot of fun imagining what it would be like to be a tiny fairy barbarian trying to intimidate the universe. While it maybe is not a conservative choice if you look at what the intimdation skill normally allows, imagination and fun are at least as important as getting all the rules exactly right.

These things however can become less fun, if they are repeated and exploited (which is why following the rules can help a balanced experience). So don't expect that "intimidating the universe" will always be a DC 20 way to get around things -- this may have well been a one-off experience for this particular situation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, thanks for the help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tasi
    Commented Apr 10 at 21:13
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There’s no fixed DC for something like this, but think about what it means for your game

As you might expect, ”intimidating the universe” is not a task the rules have in mind, so your DM will have had to make up a DC for it.

In most circumstances I would suggest this would simply be ruled impossible - the universe is not aware of your actions, and even if it was, you can’t meaningfully harm or even affect “the universe”, so how could it possibly be intimidated? Besides which this is a magical act, altering the rules of nature (as they exist in D&D). Whether souls move on from being a ghost, in the default idea of D&D cosmology at least, is more the purview of gods, usually some kind of god of death, though often any god can assist. That’s why it’s generally cleric spells and abilities that deal with this sort of thing, at least where ghosts are concerned: they’re a kind of undead, an upset in what’s supposed to happen.

In any case, how difficult this would be depends entirely on your DM’s idea of how the universe works and how they interpret what’s actually happening. The Dungeon Master’s Guide gives a table of ”Typical DCs” for tasks of varying difficulty in Chapter 8: Running the Game, in the “Ability Scores” section:

Task DC
Very easy 5
Easy 10
Moderate 15
Hard 20
Very hard 25
Nearly impossible 30

So this would place “intimidate the universe” in the “moderate” difficulty range. That seems pretty low, but if your DM likes to give you a chance to do just about anything, then perhaps that suits the tone of your game: in this world, yelling at the universe might well have a chance let a ghost move on…in this specific set of circumstances. Those could include lots of things we don’t know. Did this act of kindness somehow alter the conditions under which the ghost was kept here? Were you really “intimidating the universe”, or did a god hear you plea and decide to intervene? Only your DM knows.

However it might be best to talk to your DM about this. If your barbarian can alter the whim of the universe by shouting at it, then what could possibly challenge them? What’s to stop you “intimidating the universe” into doing any number of other things? And does this make for a sensible story that will be consistent with your later adventures as the campaign goes on?

Of course you and your fellow players might not care about any of that, and see the fun in just doing weird stuff and letting the dice see if it works. As long as everyone is truly cool with that - DM included - then there’s nothing wrong with playing that way.

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