In Pathfinder, can the Intimidate skill be used to cause fear of and act on fear of third party forces?

For example, my veteran Dwarven soldier walks up to a civilian, and says "I've seen the terrors that lie outside these walls, you're better off with us." Is it appropriate to roll Intimidate?


2 Answers 2


Yes, that’s a perfectly acceptable cause for intimidate. Intimidation is all about threatening someone with danger; it doesn’t matter what the source is. Every action movie that has the hero stare down that character who doesn’t believe the danger/wants to negotiate with terrorists/thinks he can go it alone, and tells that character all about the terrible things that will happen if he tries that? That’s intimidate.

Ultimately, I find it helpful to think of the social skills like this:

  • Bluff: convince someone that what you say is true (even if it actually is). This is not exactly in line with its description in the rules, but it’s very weird to be more convincing when you’re lying. Basically, any time a fact is questioned, Bluff should be the skill you use.

  • Diplomacy: convince someone that a given option is best. This is for when someone doesn’t doubt that what you say is true, they just don’t think your solution is best.

  • Intimidate: scare someone. This can be an alternative to Bluff or Diplomacy, in that irrational fear can override both skepticism and judgment, but people resent it.

The social skill rules are extremely simple, and yet often ambiguous or confusing. And run strictly as written, result in anyone with a modicum of optimization into any one of them being able to effectively control anyone they can talk to. For obvious reasons, almost no one plays that way, so some amount of hand-waving and houseruling is necessary. I find the bullet points above to be a decent start to at least clarifying what each skill is for.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Those guidelines are an interesting approach. You could also roll several skill checks, with the former giving bonus ("favorable conditions") to the latter. E.g. Intimidate to scare the civilian, followed by diplomacy (with an appropriate bonus), to actually convince him (and circumvent the "he hates you soon"-clause of Intimidate). The same works with Bluff ("We are the best protection your money can buy."), or even things like Perform(Oratory) ("Have you ever heard the tale of Ragnar the Red?", followed by a cautionary tale/folklore applicable to the civilians situation). \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Mar 11, 2014 at 10:21

Short answer is Yes but with some clarification

Mostly because of the rule here:

You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act friendly toward you...

...After the intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may report you to local authorities.

So in my opinion you need to be more threating, if you want to Intimidate. Your example:

I've seen the terrors that lie outside these walls, you're better off with us.

Is more like a Diplomacy roll. Because Dwarf is trying to help someone. Yes there is somekind of fear involved, but character tries to protect person against that. There is no logic to act hostile after that kind of suggestion.

Intimidate in similar situation is:

I've seen the terrors that lie outside these walls, you're better off with us. You don't want to have somekind of accident on the road, do you? Accompanied with threatening tone, some intimidating moves, checking weapon

As you can see in this example there is a solid threat here. After that it's quite logical that civilian will act hostile against Dwarf.

For my opinion threat to someone is not the same as make person to fear some other force. If you want to just make them fear of something, without actually acting threatening - you should use Diplomacy.


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