The Dungeon World manual pretty clearly states that forceful interrogation (using the threat of violence as leverage) is a Parley move. However, parley is played roll+CHA which feels a bit strange when you're not talking about negotiating but basically about [the threat of] torture. Wouldn't a roll+STR check make more sense?

Is that something you would solve with a different, or custom move, or does CHA make sense in a way that I don't see?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Why would strength be relevant even to torture? It doesn't take much strength at all to slide a knife under a fingernail. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 19:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps you can choose whichever answer you found most helpful as "best answer" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 23:48

3 Answers 3


"To parley, you have to have leverage."

For the Parley move to trigger you have to have something over the NPC or something the NPC wants. Dungeon World uses the term leverage to describe this:

"Leverage is anything that could lure the target of your parley to do something for you. Maybe it's something they want or something they don't want you to do. Like a sack of gold. Or punching them in the face."

Thus the threat of violence only establishes the ability for the parley move at all. You still need to convince the target that its in their best interests to work with you, that you won't simply kill them when you are done or that you really will pay them what you promised etc.

This already exists as an advanced move for the Fighter

Available from level 2-5 when the player levels up.

  • Interrogator

    When you parley using threats of impending violence as leverage, you may use STR instead of CHA.

As such I would suggest leaving it where it is as a fighter advanced move, vs. having this open to other classes.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you add elaboration on why it is normally CHA, since that is also part of the question? (Force of Personality and such.) \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 15:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon A decent point, though really its a RTM issue because the parley move in the Dungeon World book clearly explains it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Suggested edit: It's Charisma because convincing people to do things requires understanding them (even when you're convincing with threat of force), and the essence of being charismatic and charming is understanding people. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! Also nice to know about that Fighter move; I hadn't studied the advanced class moves yet for our first session. I think our Fighter will almost certainly use that move :-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 7:05

Why CHA and not STR? Because CHA is the stat you use to manipulate people.

There are a lot of reasons why sheer brute strength might not work for interrogation:

  • The subject might not believe you'll actually follow through with your threats.

  • The subject might not believe you'll stop hurting him if you accede to him.

  • The subject might not believe that being honest with you will help.

  • The subject might not realize how badly getting beaten up will actually hurt.

  • And so on...

How do you deal with these problems? By reading the subject, and using a calculated combination of showmanship and patter to work them around to your point of view. That's charisma.

Think of all the interrogations and intimidations you've seen in fiction. There are a few where the big sack of muscles just shows up and things go their way. But most of them involve someone talking.

So what good are muscles to interrogation?

  • Having someone who is obviously physically powerful can give you leverage. You need leverage to parley. If you don't have someone that the target is afraid of, you can't use threats of violence as leverage. Simple enough.

  • If the narrative dictates that the subject would definitely surrender to someone who was physically powerful, then you shouldn't have to roll parley at all. You ask, and they accede. Sometimes things work out for you.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "There are a few where the big sack of muscles just shows up and things go their way", and Fighters have an advanced move that lets them do exactly that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Sure. Also, sometimes the sack of muscles succeeds at a Charisma check. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 19:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Indeed! I'm agreeing entirely, if that was ambiguous. :) (And when the sack of muscles tries with a low CHA anyway and misses, the failure is always interesting, and worth XP!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Is it hot in here, or is it just battleaxe? Anyway, where is the bandit hideout?" \$\endgroup\$
    – corsiKa
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 20:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @WouterLievens The first question is: Will the bandit tell them what they want to know if they just ask? If the answer to that is "yes" (because he's having second thoughts about his life, or wants to screw over his employer or whatever), then no roll is required. If he won't just tell them, then they need leverage and Parley. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 13:03

Have you ever seen someone in real life, whom you would've estimated to have a really low CHA stat? I have two examples ready:

  • The quiet guy: A friend of mine never talks more than two consecutive words, when in a group. In fact he mostly communicates with nods, shrugs and grunts, especially if you try to "force" an answer from him. He is stronger than me, but I'm quite sure, he can't threaten anyone as he won't go out of his usual self.
  • The flippy girl: The girlfriend of a friend played an elven whatever (she comes close to the elven barbarian from "Standard Action" webseries). But every time she tries to get violent, she is so excited about it, that she is unable to form whole sentences. In real life she's a karateka and could probably beat me anytime. However if she'd try to interrogate me the hard way, I couldn't comprehend any questions let alone answer them, even if i wanted to.

Charisma isn't just good looks. It's about your effectiveness in social interaction. Looking good may help with the opposite sex, but if you're unable to speak complete sentences for whatever reason it will only get you into bed without achieving what you wanted (if that was something but bed).

Btw. for threatening someone you can also resort to external resources: If you have a high charisma but low strength just go: "He will punch you." instead of "I". In fact that also allows for the good cop, bad cop setup. "Look everything that's holding him from punching you is me. And look at me I can not hold him by force. So give me something that will satisfy him." Suddenly if you play your part convincingly, you're his friend and he can associate to you as you are both opposing the threat from the same weak position.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In Dungeon World, is CHA also your presence of character? There are those people who walk into a room and you can tell they own the place - or they're just an intimidating presence. That would be a contributor! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say "presence of character" is one good fit, but not the only one. As in strength you might find substitudes: If you are not bulky, you can still apply the strength you have in a more clever way (think about physical term "lever(age)" and ergonomics). Again RL example: A bulky drunk guy tried to lift me at a party just for fun, I saw it coming and held him at arms length. I obviously succeeded the comparative STR check as he was unable to lift me. He never recognized that he was toppling forward, as he had quite some but not enough counter-weight. \$\endgroup\$
    – NoAnswer
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 10:18

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