JP On Gaming

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tweaking Pathfinder: One-line fix to the Intimidate Skill

Here is a situation that happened (the names and places )

GM: As you break in to the Protectorate enclave, a number of towering ironforged surround you. They are sword-wielding ten feet tall golems.
Player: I growl at them menacingly.
[Player rolls well on an Intimidate check vs. 10+HD+Wis]
GM: ...and the creatures recoil in fear, obviously demoralized.
[At this point the GM swears]

As that kind of situation happened to you? I know I've faced it more than once. Although I love the Intimidate skill and use it quite often (based on character), I think there is potential for... not really abuse, but more a case of silly usage.

Back in the days of 3.5, there was a line which disappeared from the Pathfinder rule set that opened the door to such ridiculous situations.

To quote the 3.5 SRD: A character immune to fear can’t be intimidated, nor can nonintelligent creatures. This meant that oozes or skeletons would not cower when your character goes "BOO!"

In Pathfinder, creature types are no longer specifically immune to fear. Reading through the books, everything SEEMS to indicate the fact that intimidate doesn't work on creatures immune to fear, such as paladins. And that the mindless monsters would not be affected by someone growling or threatening them.

But they are not.

You fighter or bard could scare anything he meets by "looking impressive." This just doesn't make any sense.

Looking at the most common fear-based spells (cause fear, fear, etc), all of these have both the "Fear" and "Mind-Affecting" descriptors, thus making them useless against a number of creatures you normally do not expect to feel fear.

How I would fix it

I thought of making the penalties for shaken be explicitly a morale effect but that would really make the shaken condition become much weaker. Plus I think there might be unexpected side-effects to this. So I let that one go.

Quite simple, I would reintroduce the line from the 3.5 SRD, making creatures immune to fear and non-intelligent create immune to Intimidate. This would leave the skill to have a lot of usage while closing off the biggest loopholes. Thus you can dazzle the gelatinous cube with a Dazzling Display of your nunchuks!

What do you think?



  1. I think the problem with the original 3.5 line was that people kept playing paladins that would yawn through Intimidate checks.

    Maybe the answer is to re-introduce just half of that line, so that only non-intelligent creatures are explicitly immune to Intimidate checks?

    1. Paladins yawn at Intimidate in PFS as it. Because Intimidate clearly mentions that's it a fear effect... So Paladins still yawn at Intimidate.

    2. Well, I don't play in the Pathfinder Society, but as written there's nothing in the Intimidate still description that says that it's a fear effect...which was a large part of your post (or so I thought).

      The skill description does mention that it's used "to frighten an opponent," and the demoralize use mentions that, if you demoralize a creature more than once, it "does not create a stronger fear condition," but that's it. There's nothing about it being a fear effect.

      So by the rules as written, paladins in Pathfinder are not yawning through Intimidate attempts (and I don't think that's necessarily a wacky way to interpret it, either).

    3. Society or not, the thing is that when demoralized, you become shaken which IS a fear effect. It's not specifically in the Intimidate, but if you look under the shaken condition, it's in there.


    4. Okay, that does make for a stronger case. Ironically though, while that rules out demoralizing paladins, you can still Intimidate them to "force them to act friendly" towards you.

  2. I can get behind that. The old "tell me or I kill this bunny" to whom Paladins tend to be vulnerable... :)

  3. Intimidate to demoralize, simply put does not say that the character is afraid, merely that it is "shaken" which is a status. Granted it’s a status normally associated with fear however, there are many status' that can be applied to characters; prone, pinned, flat-footed, etc... and there are many cases where monsters and characters can become immune to certain effects. But in this case the effect of the intimidate check is what is in question. Even though the skill does not say that it specifically is a type of effect it is called a "Demoralize Action" now if there was no other mention of demoralize in the system I would probably let it go as a fear effect and be done with it. However things such as oozes, undead, and others specifically have a portion of their description saying that they are immune to mind effecting including MORALE. The ability is called "Mindless" in the case of oozes, or simply referred to as an immunity in the case of undead. So I belive that a "Morale" effect is different from a "Fear" effect and the status of "Shaken"(Which in the intimidate description specifically says that it does not stack with any other form of Shaken and does not make the creature frightened, whereas in most cases if you are already of a status then has an effect applied to you that amplifies or enhances that status you move to the next degree more severe of that effect if possible, this implying that they are not the same thing.) Is merely the name of the status that is applied to characters that are Demoralized. Thus Demoralization makes you shaken, and that’s it. Whereas fear can make you shaken or worse BUT there are several characters who are immune to fear.
    So if the creature is immune to Demoralization (or in the case of an satisfying label in their description, incapable of being swayed by such a thing as morale, such as a unintelligent construct that is set to perform certain instruction regardless of how it “feels” about it. Or in the case of creatures who do not have the mental capacity to comprehend morale) then the “Demoralize Action” would be wasted on them, but in the case of a paladin who is immune to fear (but can certainly recognize when someone is better than he is and has his faith in his own abilities to defeat said creature called into question) but not a morale effect then the “Demoralize Action” should work just fine on him.