This question came up during another question regarding the use of cursed items as offensive weapons; however, I think there's a more general question that's otherwise identical:

If a PC X succeeds on an intimidate/diplomacy check against NPC Y, and proceeds to instruct Y to perform some seemingly harmless action, does Y have to do it? What if the action will actually result in Y's swift and messy demise, though Y would have no obvious way of knowing?

Like I said before, I'm try not to play rules lawyer, just curious about this. Some examples follow:

  1. Cursed item: PC intimidates enemy, instructs enemy to interact with item. Enemy is temporarily friendly towards PC, uses item, and suffers curse.
  2. Trap: PC persuades enemy, instructs enemy to move into position. Once in position, PC springs the trap.

In both cases, an objection might be that you'd need to use bluff if the NPC asked for an explanation. This seems to be easily countered:

  1. Intimidate: Because I said so; Don't test me; Do it or I kill you.
  2. Diplomacy: I though we had a deal; Don't you trust me; All he cool kids are doing it.
  3. Even bluff: It's a surprise!

One addendum: in many, likely most circumstances, there's some skill check the NPC could try to realize the danger. Some of these are passive - perception, sense motive for bluff, etc. - and some are active - casting, etc. The premise is that the treachery is something that gets by passive detection. If the NPC were in the habit of casting detect and dispel magic, remove curse, etc. on his boots every morning, then your cursed boots would also need to beat that; however, for most people that aren't dysfunctionally paranoid, having a friend (or boss) tell you to do something (apparently) harmless isn't going to prompt you to be very cautious.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Seems legit. This is just, y'know, interacting with NPCs as if they were people. I don't see any relevant rules interactions. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Though the static DCs associated with social interactions are one of the biggest failings of the 3.x systems, and can easily turn the skill into auto-mind-control-everything (so-called “diplomancy”). Pathfinder does at least put the target’s Charisma in the DC, which at least gives some way to “defend” but it’s very limited. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Whether the rules around this issue work or not seems to be besides the point. Even if we either assume they either work, or they're houseruled to work, neither situation would solve the issue of the question. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That’s why I posted it as a comment and not an answer ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Darn, with the title (and Halloween) I thought this was about directly scaring someone to death. \$\endgroup\$
    – Izkata
    Oct 31, 2013 at 19:05

3 Answers 3


I would say Y has to do it since Y does not see or know the danger involved in doing what you are suggesting. The only thing that I can see wrong here is that if Y somehow knows that what you are suggesting is 'eventually' dangerous to him.

I base this on the description of charm/dominate where it clearly states that the effected will perform any action that does not pose a threat to his own health. Literal copy of the RAW (I used the 3.5e rules here since they offer a nice example which the Pathfinder version does not) for charm person:

An affected creature never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but a charmed fighter, for example, might believe you if you assured him that the only chance to save your life is for him to hold back an onrushing red dragon for “just a few seconds.”

The suggestion that you made to have Y move to a certain square sure seems to be a lot less dangerous than what is described above, so if it works with charm it should work with dominate/diplomacy in my opinion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In your opinion, would it be metagaming to have the NPC do non-obvious checks to try to detect the treachery? For instance, if given a necklace of strangulation under these circumstances, would it be metagaming to have the NPC blow a wish or miracle spell to detect it? What about detect magic for several rounds on a scarab of death? Or detect thoughts after any questionable instruction? \$\endgroup\$
    – Patrick87
    Oct 31, 2013 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would say that is metagaming. The NPC considers the PC to be her friend (bluff/intimidate both make the NPC friendly) so why should the NPC distrust the PC and use a spell-slot that he might need for an actual dangerous situation. I could see the NPC asking what the PC is intending if the PC gives the NPC a questionable instruction but you should consider what is 'questionable' in that case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bas Jansen
    Oct 31, 2013 at 14:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why quote 3.5 when Pathfinder’s rules are freely available? Also, the effects of charm spells seem, to me at least, to be far more thorough than mere “friendly” or “helpful” status as achieved with diplomacy or intimidate. They even specifically say the target treats you as a “best friend.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because the charm person description on the Paizo site for Pathfinder doesn't give any nice examples like 3.5e does. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bas Jansen
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BasJansen I think you should explain that in the answer, then. I just saw it and thought it was odd/possibly-a-mistake. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 31, 2013 at 15:48

"Have to" is a strong term and makes me hesitate a bit. I don't have the books handy, but I don't think diplomacy or even intimidate would really force an NPC to do something they really didn't want to.

But would they probably do it? Yes. The action seems innocuous and the PC has just passed a relevant skill check to persuade them (in one fashion or another) to do it. They would most likely do it unless they either did notice something to indicate it wasn't innocuous or there was something else in their nature that would make them hesitate more than normal.

As SSD said in the comment, just think about them as though they were people.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for have to vs. probably do it. Especially if in diplomacy situations, there is a probable gain by doing so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Oct 31, 2013 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wraith808 Probably worth noting, however, that the rules pretty much do say “have to” (barring acts “against the target’s nature,” which probably doesn’t cover enough), though that’s almost-universally agreed to be a bad rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Oct 31, 2013 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ No action seems innocuous when forced by an Intimidate check... \$\endgroup\$
    – Sconibulus
    Oct 31, 2013 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ The less the NPC would want to take the action, the higher the DC would be on an intimidate or diplomacy check, it seems to me. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 20:25

Diplomacy? No. It does not allow you to "instruct" an NPC to do something, and it is not equivalent to Charm Person.

You can use this skill to persuade others to agree with your arguments, to resolve differences, and to gather valuable information or rumors from people. This skill is also used to negotiate conflicts by using the proper etiquette and manners suitable to the problem.

Intimidate? Yes.

You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act friendly toward you for 1d6 × 10 minutes with a successful check. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target's Hit Dice + the target's Wisdom modifier. If successful, the target gives you the information you desire, takes actions that do not endanger it, or otherwise offers limited assistance. After the Intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may report you to local authorities. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the target attempts to deceive you or otherwise hinder your activities.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What if your argument is that they would be better suited standing in a different part of the room? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 20:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MirroredFate: I would say that has to be backed up with a player rationale why it isn't a weird request in context of the story. Bluff is the go-to skill for clever ruses, but Diplomacy might get you into a situation/position to try them. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 23:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater I think that's fair. Personally, my call as a DM would be to allow players to possibly acquire allies through the Diplomacy skill, although that ability is not explicitly stated. It just makes sense within the context of what diplomacy actually is. However, were they then to attempt to get an NPC to do something potentially harmful, and the NPC was to question it, it would be all about bluff. If they lied, anyway. If they tried to explain why it would be best if the NPC took the hit for the group, it would be Diplomacy against a high DC. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31, 2013 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MirroredFate "You're reasoning is flawless and I totally agree with you. I should eat less junk food and exercise more. Now pass the Cheetos." \$\endgroup\$
    – E L
    Nov 2, 2013 at 18:47

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