When I'm GMing and trying to create tension by having a big boss fight, invariably one of the players will ask me if his character can, instead, bribe the big boss or try to smooth talk him or make some other roll to resolve the conflict nonviolently.

Generally, I don't think they should be able to bribe the big boss or whatever, but when they try anyway and they fails, the players seem angry that, for example, the King of the Undead found the contents of the PCs' bank accounts insufficient incentive to cease his invasion of the Our World or the King of the Undead doesn't really want to have tea and get to know the PCs better instead of invading Our World with his skeleton army.

This is in a Typical Serious Campaign. Is this my error and I should be allowing PCs to overcome these challenges nonviolently even though I think these methods are dumb and wouldn't work, or is this an error on the part of the players who I think are nuts to believe they can, for example, bribe or seduce Cthulhu?

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    \$\begingroup\$ what game are you playing, or does it matter? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SinisterDesign Why are the players foolish for attempting to resolve the conflict peacefully? There are other means of conflict resolution that aren't "stab him in his stupid face." The mistake would be resolving them with just one die roll - just like a combat encounter, a social encounter should have many rolls! \$\endgroup\$
    – SPavel
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the real question here How can I convince the players to resort to violence instead of wasting their time attempting clever methods to avoid violence? or is it the more subtle How can I leave my players satisfied that their attempts at nonviolent conflict resolution have been sufficient so that now they must resort to violence? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 22:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, and I hope that's okay. What I saw was an interesting question buried in gimmicks that was attracting more downvotes than I thought it deserved, so I pulled it apart and put it back together. If the question's sense is now wrong, please change it or change it back. (And you should edit it anyway so as to get rid of the errors I missed.) The question's on its way to being reopened; let's hope it doesn't stay closed much longer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 13:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do your players understand the motivations of the enemies they're facing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


How to force violence?
Well, you can't. Plainly, you can't force your players to do anything.
On one table, I have a friend who loves making useless characters: a bard (who can only sing and woo women) in a demon hunting campaign, a yoga instructor (whose only skill is to put her ears between her knees) in a murder mystery,... We have to cope with him.

Now, that's not the answer you are waiting for. So instead, I'll give you a few more general tips:

  • Know your group: if you have a bunch of pacifists at the table, design challenge they will overcome naturally. Cops, Mage and the like - probably in a modern society where violence is not the default solution - might work better.
  • Make you villains clear cut: they can be somewhat two- (or even one-) dimensional. Make it clear that the Lich is Evil and wants to end all life on Earth so that every one can be his undead subject.
  • Have the main NPC already try the pacifists' methods: the King might already have tried to buy peace with the Lich and every emissary has been sent back as a disease ridden corpse. Or describe the corpse of a rich merchant, his pouches still full of gold and jewels.
  • Give your PC a chance: the villain will laugh at their offers and send a small group of minion against them. They will spend some resources, making the fight against the boss a bit harder, but not too much.
  • Kill them, if that's your thing - it's not mine but it can teach them something.

As a GM I had the same trouble as you: during a convention, two teenage girls wanted to talk with the disease-ridden, man-eating mummy, who lived in a sarcophagus atop a mount of corpses. Luckily for me, the other players decided to fill it with bullets and one burning ray.

At the end of the day, always remember that every one should enjoy the game. That's why I believe that the "know your player" advice is the most important and why convention games are harder to manage than just playing with friends at home - I tend to bring my wife as a predictable player in those cases.
Tweak the pre-written module so that everyone gets a little time to shine in the way they want and they will naturally fall in line with the group for the other encounters.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How to i enforce none stupidity towards Charming and bribing Bosses? Was more of where i was coming from, but which ever way is possible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 6:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ You really can't: you are not your players. People do stupid things. Though, the priest charming a greater daemon to join his faith always makes for a good story. Make it hard, really hard, with heavy role play and ridiculously hard dice throw. If this other way work, it can be gratifying even for you. And it'll make it clear for the next time that only luck can help achieve such a feat. \$\endgroup\$
    – MakorDal
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find it hilarious how asking a dumb questions could get one so much reputation without pulling a finger xD \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 15:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok... I think the question is worthwhile to new GM who start by themselves, personally. I sure wish I had been told a couple of things as I started. I find your attitude toward your own question... Questionable. \$\endgroup\$
    – MakorDal
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SinisterDesign I think you mean without lifting a finger. In U. S. English, the phrase pull my finger is another thing entirely. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 18:04

You and your players want different thing(s) from the game.

You need to talk to them and ask them what they want to play, tell them what you want to run, and if possible reach an agreement. You can do that using a handy thing called the Same Page Tool.

Of course, you can have it both way. Anime/Manga is prime example of how this is done: The heroes meet a bad guy, they start a fight. The fight pauses so they talk about what is going on: cue flash back to the bad guy past. Fight continues but bad guy makes reference to his past. Now, the heroes realise something about bad guy. They talk some more, they fight some more.

Rurouni Kenshin's story arc starting with Across the Boundary Between Edo and Meiji: Kenshin and Shishio Face to Face! and the subsequent fight with Sojiro are prime example of just this. You can either watch it or you can read it if you wished to.

In addition, have a look at the fight scene tropes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This kind of ties into discovering the motivations for the enemies the party faces. If the Skeleton King has motivations for it's actions, does the party know about them? Otherwise, offering bribes/solutions that have nothing to do with it's motivations are sure to fail. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 18:11

You need to find out why your player(s) want to resolve conflicts non-violently, and in particular you need to figure out whether this is a whole-group issue or a one-person issue. (It's not clear from your question whether a single player is responsible for all the attempts at talking, or if most/all the players do it in turns.)

If a single player is always trying the diplomatic route and getting upset when it doesn't work, then talk to him outside the game, where he won't feel pressured. Ask why he always goes for the diplomatic solution. Perhaps that's his preferred playstyle, or perhaps he built a diplomancer character and feels like talking is the only way he can participate in boss battles. Once you understand his concerns, work with the player to alleviate them. Perhaps give him a chance to roll up a new character with a more martial focus, or find ways to incorporate diplomatic challenges outside boss encounters where his diplomancer can shine.

On the other hand, if the entire group is more interested in talking than fighting, then you've got a playstyle mismatch. Take some time to get yourself and your group on the same page, using the Tool or otherwise. This may mean you modify your Traditionally Serious Campaign into something with more intrigue and interpersonal relationships; or it may mean your players reroll characters or simply alter their own playstyles to fit the campaign you're running. Which you choose is up to you and your group, based on what works best and is most fun for all of you.

A third, middle-ground option would be to give the diplomancer player(s) what they want! Not all the time, but once or twice, enough that they feel they're getting a chance to do what they want. Plan at least one boss for whom a diplomatic solution would make sense. Use this to compare and contrast the traits that make for a talking encounter, with those that make for a fighting encounter. I've had several bosses designed in such a way that they could either be battled or talked down, and let the players choose which they prefer. Done right, this can lead to some incredibly dramatic, interesting, and fun roleplaying opportunities, such as the time one of my players almost talked down a villain (complete with Cooldown Hug!) - only for something to go wrong at the last minute, when the villain betrayed the character and nearly killed him. This drove a huge roleplay moment for the PC, and made a later confrontation with that villain much more poignant (and the earlier confrontation meant that in that later one, they had a much better chance of actually talking the villain down). In a different campaign, we had an ongoing villainous dragon whom the party did successfully bargain with, despite the assassin's, ah, intense desire to the contrary. Again, a tense RP moment for the group and a fun character moment for the assassin's player.

TL;DR: Find out why your player(s) want to talk instead of fight, then find ways to adjust your own or their expectations to make boss encounters more fun for everyone.


When my players try something silly like this, I try to respond in a similarly silly fashion. This tells them that (1) I get the joke they're trying to make, but (2) no, they really do have to fight the guy.

Your first example was about the players trying to bribe an undead lich guy with the contents of their bank accounts.

Players: Excuse me, sir, if we give you forty thousand dollars will you go away and not invade us?



Players: Er, we don't have that much money --


(combat resumes as planned)


Players: Sure, here's a check for fifty million billion trillion dollars.

Undead King: THANKS. BYE.

GM: The skeletal horde withdraws into the portal. The portal closes. All is silent.

Players: (high fives)

GM: Two days later, the signs and portents start up again, with some irritation. Another two-headed crow squawks the Words of Summoning in a graveyard at midnight.

GM: The portal opens. The Undead King and his horrible horde of monsters step out. They're not putting on quite as much a show as they did last time. The Undead King brushes the dust off his robe.




(combat resumes as planned)

Having said all that: usually, when my players try to parley with the villains, it's because one of them is a rogue and has the backstab power, and they're trying to get the guy to let his guard down so they can backstab him. Be careful what you narrate the villain as doing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, only foolish PCs dare write a bad check to the Undead King. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 17:52

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