During our last play session (it was our second session, so everyone is first level) my fighter dwarf had a conflict with another player's human fighter. My dwarf became annoyed at the human's dismissive reaction to a roar outside the village that sounded like ogres (my dwarf has a bad history with ogres).

So, in order to emphasize the seriousness of this situation, my dwarf grabbed the human by shirtfront and pulled him closer (done with a successful roll). Still bent double, the human drew his sword and pointed it at my dwarf's belly (dwarf wearing chainmail). At this point the DM made the other player roll an Intimidation (Charisma) check, and me a Wisdom check to resist. I lost and my dwarf, chastened, let the human go.

That was pretty funny situation, but one thing is bothering me. By using a Wisdom check against Intimidation (Charisma), my dwarf (who has −1 Wisdom modifier) was at a disadvantage (literally, not in the D&D disadvantage mechanic sense) against the threats. Although he is a strong and capable warrior, he is not that wise.

But I have to wonder: is willpower really represented by Wisdom in 5e? I think that many not-so-wise creatures/characters can stand bravely against threats.

What ability/skill should be used in a contest to resist intimidation?


Broadly speaking, manipulation-related skill check shouldn't be used on players. One of the important tenets of D&D is the idea of player agency, where you always have control of what your character thinks, feels, and does. There are some exceptions to this rule (like mind-altering magic), but the only time your character should feel intimidated is when you, the player, judge them to be intimidated.

So, if another player was lying to you, you'd still do the normal opposed Deception/Insight. However, if a player was trying to convince you of something, he would have to actually convince you of that thing through roleplay, not just by making a Persuasion check.

Even if you like resolving things using skill checks most of the time, you shouldn't be able to control another player's actions through a skill check. Someone's roleplay shouldn't be dictated by the Rogue just because he has a +10 in Deception and Persuasion.

This isn't to say that you can't allow other party members to intimidate your character with a roll, if that's the kind of dynamic that your group is comfortable with, but you shouldn't have your agency taken away without knowing up-front that that's something you can expect. There is no such thing as badwrongfun, but anything that involves loss of agency needs a considered approach.

If I were the DM in that situation, I would ask the two of you to try working out the problem through roleplay without attacking each other, knowing that you are party members who trust each other with your lives on a regular basis. Be sure not to fall into the My Guy Syndrome trap where you tank the session because you feel like your character would never back down, but it's a lot more interesting to come to an actual conclusion rather than just having a skill check decide a social interaction between players.

I would suggest that you bring your problems to your DM, and talk to him about it before your next session, so that you can have a better agreement between the two of you about how to deal with similar problems in the future.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One consideration: he can roll to tell whether your character feels intimidated, but you decide how your PC reacts with that knowledge. An intimidated person might back off, but he might decide that he needs a tactical advantage instead. Throwing sand in his face and disarming him could very well be your character's reaction to his threat. \$\endgroup\$ – Sawyer Jan 13 '16 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the purpose of a bonus to Intimidation skill in a monster's stat block, then? How did the designers expect this information to be utilized? \$\endgroup\$ – MunchyWilly Apr 14 '16 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl 'Shaken' isn't a 5e condition I'm aware of, nor have I seen how Intimidation/Persuasion and the like apply in combat. Could you provide an example? \$\endgroup\$ – MunchyWilly Apr 14 '16 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MunchyWilly Two reasons come to mind for why a designer would include Intimidate in a monster's stat block. One is for when a GM might want to have the monster intimidate another character. The other is that some designers and GMs disagree with me, and want to play a game where the DM can dictate players actions in some circumstances. I'm not claiming that there is some authorial voice saying that it was the designers intent to not allow manipulation of PCs this way, just that manipulating PCs directly with social rolls is a terrible idea. Designers can have bad ideas sometimes, too. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Apr 14 '16 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl I get it. While I do happen to feel differently than you about this (no one chooses to be intimidated in real life so it baffles me why player choice in that matter needs to be preserved in game), I'm curious how these stats were intended to be implemented with PCs. \$\endgroup\$ – MunchyWilly Apr 14 '16 at 22:50

An alternate approach I don't see mentioned here: instead of using an opposed ability/skill check, assign a DC both players can live with. The two players can (briefly!) discuss how difficult it might be to intimidate the dwarf. Maybe he appears to be twice as strong as the human? Maybe the dwarf is known to rarely back down from a challenge? Maybe he is fuming and eager to come to blows? That could suggest that it's going to be very difficult to intimidate him.

In that way, the human has a chance to accomplish a very difficult thing if he is proficient in Intimidation and has a strong roll; and the dwarf, should he lose this contest, at least feels it was a fair fight.

To use another skill as an example: it isn't likely your dwarf could be Persuaded to jump off a cliff, no matter how low his Wisdom modifier is - so why use an opposed check at all?

When I use this at my table, the con is mainly that it can slow the game down a bit. Fortunately, these kinds of inter-player contests don't come up too terribly often. The pros are that it leads to some fun discussion ("No way your puny human could intimidate my dwarf!" "Oh, come on, my assassin is REAL SCARY!" "Bollocks! He ran away from that dragon last week! My dwarf didn't flinch!"), and that the players seem to agree that it's much fairer this way. The con can be mitigated by DM fiat: allow the 2 players to briefly state their case, then assign a compromise DC and be done with it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this in play much? What were the pros and cons? \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jan 11 '17 at 6:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cool, thanks! The experience with the outcome of using a technique is possibly the most important information that we can share with the question-asker, so I've edited your answer to include that explanation directly. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 11 '17 at 7:01

Opposed Charisma Checks would be appropriate

While it would (IMO) have been better for you two to role play the argument (per DuckTapeAl's point on player agency) both players could agree to a "contest of wills" in the interest of keeping the pace of play going at the table. In that case, it would have been simpler, and closer to how the rules provide resolution for situations via dice rolls, to use opposed Charisma checks.

Contests (P. 58 basic rules )

Both participants in a contest make ability checks appropriate to their efforts. They apply all appropriate bonuses and penalties, but instead of comparing the total to a DC, they compare the totals of their two checks. The participant with the higher check total wins the contest. That character or monster either succeeds at the action or prevents the other one from succeeding.

By using Charisma in this contest you are comparing a like stat versus a like stat. This makes it like an arm wrestling contest (Opposed Strength checks). For Intimidation, use opposed Charisma.

Note from Skills and checks on the same page:


From page 57 of the Basic Rules

Charisma, measuring force of personality

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    \$\begingroup\$ I depends on the context. If they both tried to intimidate each other then both should do opposed rolls to see who is more intimidating. But if only one person intimidates another person it's more a saving throw which depending on DM can be a wisdom or charisma saving throw. \$\endgroup\$ – Morthy Jan 11 '17 at 12:04

Wisdom is often a representative of will in D&D, an those with lower wisdom are more easily scared, manipulated and don't notice as much. Instead of rolling with just wisdom, you could make an Wisdom(Insight) check to see if the human would really do it, and if you knew they would not, you would not back down as easily. But to simply answer your question, no, there is not any other check that counters intimidation.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used such a house-rule in your own games? How has it worked in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 13 at 2:57

I think your persuasion should be used (Charisma). It should represent if his anger could intimidate you enough to persuade you to stop or do whatever the action should be.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Greeting, and welcome to RPG.SE! Please take the tour and get a feel for how this Q&A site likes to do things. You can improve your answer by citing the rules, play experiences, or other supporting information. The Q&A format here tries to arrive at a "best" answer based on the reply itself, and how well it is supported. Once again, welcome! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 13 '16 at 21:22

Here's how I handle this type of situation. The NPC/monster rolls for intimidation. The PC rolls a charisma check for a contest of wills. If the PC loses, the next action(s) the PC takes that would be contrary to what an intimidated person would want to do in real life (i.e. attack, etc.) would be done with disadvantage. The number of rounds this effect would last is dependent on the level of intimidation/situation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. How has this house-rule worked in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 13 at 2:55

I don’t really see how a DC target would be the most appropriate way of resolving this. If role play has failed and the characters (and their players) are at an impasse, it would fall to the DM to resolve the conflict, and the fairest way to do this would be to let the dice decide. The situation described above is almost the very definition of a contest and should be between opposing skill checks. In terms of what skill check should be used to oppose intimidation; the DM should decide based on what exactly the other character is doing to resist (which should have been established during role play). If it is a fighter who is shouting right back at the dwarf, or an assassin twirling his blade and staring him down with an icy glare, then opposing intimidation checks would seem most reasonable. On the other hand, an elven cleric who simply attempts to maintain his composure with a serene expression until the dwarf can be reasoned with might understandably be expected to make a wisdom check.

I always favour role play over ‘roll’ play. The dice have their place, but should be a used as a tool to guide the game, not to dictate it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you used such a house-rule in your own games? How has it worked in your experience? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 13 at 2:57

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