Intimidate is Not the Torture Skill

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on May 11, 2012

How often does a player at your table want to do something – in character – that is morally apprehensible and blatantly evil? It doesn’t happen often in my games, but it does seem to come up every once in a while. When it does and the action is questioned by the DM or the other players, the player whose character is taking the action usually says something like, “I would never do this, but my character has no issue with it.” I realize that fantasy RPGs provide an escape from reality and you can play any kind of character you want, but I think it’s important to know where to draw the line.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that there are some things that are deemed acceptable in the context of D&D even thought most players would never condone or support such actions in real life. For example, slavery in the context of D&D isn’t usually seen as a big issue. Killing is also given tremendous latitude if the creature or person on the other end of the sword is evil. Theft is perfectly acceptable and is essentially what the majority of adventurers do to earn their loot. I guess it really comes down to the context of the situation and the justification for these actions. If killing an entire tribe of Orcs will make the nearby city safer for “civilized people” then the act of genocide is seen as acceptable and even heroic.

Lately the despicable act that has reared its ugly head in my games is torture. In a lot of the encounters during public play the PCs had the opportunity to ask NPCs questions. In some cases the NPCs are friendly and will cooperate with nothing more than a polite request or a few gold pieces. But when it’s a villain or monstrous NPC, someone who clearly does not want to share information with the PCs, a lot of players have their character get violent and resort to torture to gain the information they seek.

I think the problem is that many players believe Intimidate is the torture skill. They think that if an Intimidate check is required they have to follow it up by inflicting bodily harm. If the check fails, if the person provides information the PCs don’t believe or if they simply don’t know the answer, the PC using Intimate will more often than not proceed to torture the respondent.

When I’ve had this happen at my table or I suspect it’s moving in that direction I often remind the PC asking the question that they should act according to their alignment. Good PCs are unlikely to resort to physical abuse to solicit information. If the interrogator is evil or unaligned I will then look to the rest of the party. After all, they’re a team and the action of one will reflect on the actions of all. I find it hard to believe that any good aligned PC would knowingly let the less scrupulous members of the party beat a prisoner senseless just to get information out of him. Yet I’ve seen this happen more and more in recent months.

Intimidate is a Charisma-based skill. It’s about imposing fear and often about subtlety. The threat of violence is an acceptable way to use the Intimidate skill, but the actual act of striking or stabbing someone to get information out of them is not. When a character begins crossing that line I will increase the DC. If the act clearly conflicts with their alignment or the party’s overall alignment I will again increase the DC. I don’t believe that Intimidate (or any skill) should be an automatic failure just for trying it, but I do think that sometimes the DC can be out of your reach.

In order for a subject to reveal informant following an Intimidate check there needs to be a plausible reason for them to give in (at least plausible in their own mind). This is where fear plays an important part in any Intimidate check and the Charisma part comes in. A threat to do something awful if they don’t talk is a way for them to avoid potential torture (which I hope few PCs would actually carry out anyway). If you’re already torturing them they have no incentive to reveal what they know since it’s safe to assume you’ll kill them anyway. A person under duress will often tell you anything to make the pain stop, usually incorrect information or what they think you want to hear. In fact using torture to solicit information may reveal bad intel which could lead to other problems down the road.

If a PC does resort to unnecessary acts of violence and torture to try and garner information from a suspect, there should be in game consequences for this PC and the party. Heroes gain a reputation and if your party is known for mistreating and torturing prisoners then others will start to treat you differently. People who might normally help you with an easy Diplomacy check may become tight-lipped. The more you torture your prisoners and the more brutal the acts, the less others will want to help you. All social skills will become harder. If one PC is the torturer he’ll likely face the worst of it, but everyone in the party will be painted with the same brush and find checks more difficult.

Fantasy games are supposed to be a fun way to escape reality and become a character unlike anything you could possibly be in real life. From the Wizard who hurls fireballs to the Knight who slays Dragons, your imagination is the only limitation. So if you want to play a character that is cruel and gains perverse pleasure from inflicting pain and torturing the helpless who am I to judge? I’m the DM – that’s who I am and I will judge. There needs to b a line at the gaming table and as the DM it’s up to you to make it clear where the line is. Treading it on occasion may be acceptable but crossing it at every opportunity is not. So the next time players decide that they want to use Intimidate and feel that cutting off fingers or stabbing out an eye is the way to accomplish this, strongly discourage such behaviour even if it’s deemed to be just in character, and remind them that Intimidate and torture are not the same thing.

Have you run into similar issues at your table when PCs want to use Intimidate? How have you handled it? Where have you drawn the line? How would you deal with a party who resorts to violence and torture (basically extreme brutality and violence) whenever they have to question prisoners?

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adirassi May 11, 2012 at 10:25 am

Alot of times, i play drow, since i know cannonically the most about them. because of that, i usually end up running an evil character who is, more often than not, an assassin.
physical torture is not something i particularly enjoy, so i don’t tend to go there. but i do alot with intimidate. i have read many books with inquisitors, so i use alot of the ‘threats of violence’ and mental torture. as a shadow caster in a way, i use that alot. people don’t like having senses taken away so i will often obscure vision. sometimes i like to use the random item approach.
usually, “i don’t want to hurt you, but i will if i have too.” and then when they won’t do anything i smile sadistically and as for a mouse, some string, and salt. it works wonders.

2 herebewonder May 11, 2012 at 10:59 am

This reminds me of a letter from an old Dragon magazine about a party of evil PCs that slowly transition from pick pocketing and bullying to murdering innocents and attempting to gang rape a princess (which led to the break up of the group I believe.)

There are always people who go too far and this I why I don’t like people playing evil PCs: it’s too easy to use the excuse of “I’m not really like this, but this character is.”

It’s a slippery slope in some ways.

In the case of intimidate, I think it’s pretty clear that it should be a mental exercise. Once you move beyond trying to psych someone out and actually physically assaulting them, it’s not intimidation anymore.

Players who try to argue that are deluding themselves.

-c

3 Dromish May 11, 2012 at 11:18 am

This comes up less often in D&D then it does when playing games like Shadowrun. After all, the weakest link on any password protected system is the human who knows the password. However most situations, particularly in D&D are in that gray area where a clearly villainous NPC is refusing to provide information, and without the information they are withholding more innocents will suffer.

It’s a moral dilemma, and you as DM have carefully constructed this situation to see what the characters will do. Why are they torturing for information? Because there is no clear path to their goal, and the victim can at least get them in the correct direction. Plant more obvious clues, and the need for torture goes away.

A different option is to have the “Extract Information” skill challenge include the option for giving a bonus to intimidate checks for actually hurting the target, but include negative effects directly tied to the torture later. For example a later skill challenge including diplomacy is harder because they chose the easy route in this challenge. Or perhaps the reward would be less than it would have been otherwise.

4 Sean_Mc May 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I have a player in my 4E game that has gone down this road. It is his first real RPG, so he is still getting used to the whole idea of “even though it’s a game, actions have consequences”, and the group of friends around the table are being very gentle with him (the cleric is still healing him, despite his evil acts, etc). I think this week I finally got through to him.

He is a fighter (of course) who is pulling background ideas from the stories of Conan, Thor, and God Of War. Many of our encounters ended with a variation on “Can I take the shock staff from the kobold’s body and shove it [somewhere very uncomfortable]?” No joke, that exact action happened several times. The whole group are IRL friends, so there was a lot of gentle prodding that maybe it wasn’t the best course of action. The response always was that he was responding to being attacked by slavers who had killed innocent people themselves.

There is a strong connection with his ancestors, so what I finally did was have his ancestors visit him in a dream and give him a stern talking-to. We’re disappointed, you’re ruining the name, etc. They promised punishment if he continued. He did, and they sent him a “we warned you” dream. This was quickly followed by a plot point where the group was unjustly jailed, and then freed in exchange for embarking on a quest. The quest-giver heard about the fighter’s exploits, and told the group that he didn’t want the fighter being associated with him, so he was going to let him rot in jail. A very extended RP session ensued where the fighter swore to change his ways, and entire group agreed to keep the fighter in line, or be killed themselves.

This week’s session was the first time since the dreams where the fighter went unconscious. He immediately felt the pull of his ancestors dragging his soul to the afterlife…..and effectively had one strike on his death saves already. He failed his first death saving throw, and was now only one roll from dead-dead. The player panicked, got a little irritated, but when I reminded him of the dreams, seemed to get the picture. Other than this one personality choice, the character is great, and the player is beyond creative in helping his allies.

I’m anxious to see how next week’s BBEG battle plays out.

5 Liam Gallagher May 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm

As a DM I’m 100% ok with my players doing any vile thing; I know that I play with adults who should have the judgement required to navigate the balance between the sense of what’s happening in game and the sense of what people are ok with at the table.

I personally have not played a game of D&D yet where the intimidate skill was able to be used to my satisfaction. I have never been able to use this skill to gain meaningful information from an NPC that actually mattered, and even more so, I have never been able to bully an enemy into giving up before a fight broke up.

I think the way that D&D 4th ed is structured is as such that combat encounters require too much time to create to then not have the PCs fight. I think as a system D&D 4th ed discourages the reasonable use of intimidate and as aresult players resort to more extreme measures which will hold more sway in the mind of the DM.

6 Alton May 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

It has always been a fine line as a DM and as a player. I remember one time at the table playing a warmage as a follower of Pelor. We were getting hit and run, over and over again and I was tired of being the target of these maurauders. We finally caught up with some higher ups and they esentially killed a human child to show they are not afraid of us. We captured one of the bad guys who would not reveal any information, under any circumstances. The prisoner just happened to be the guy who sacrificed the girl to intimidate us.

My character was frustrated and the guy kept spouting stuff at our party, insults and the like, how his group would not be defeated and how he was going to be rescued etc… I took out my dagger and tortured him till I got some information. What I ended up doing is carving a symbol of Pelor in his chest and released him after I got the information we needed. I told him that if he ever touched another human being in that way would elicit my wrath and the wrath of my God. I told him to start making right what he has made wrong, if not my symbol would tell me and that I would return for him and make him pay for it twofold.

Right or wrong? I don’t know. It was a priceless moment to see the players faces at the table, especially the DM’s. They were not expecting this at all. I personally think I hit a huge grey area, but I did not kill, and hopefully turned the guy to “better” than he was.

I believe that the ends justify the means. As mentioned above, does torturing someone justify torturing? I was trying to save people and may have. Who knows? Excellent article.
Alton´s last blog post ..Jeremy Crawford. The Future of DndNext?

7 Charlie May 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm

It seems to me that if the purpose of the Intimidate check is to elicit information than the act of torture cannot help but initially providing a bonus. Of course the bonus would have to be one of diminishing returns as greater tortures are threatened and used against the NPC the fear and effectiveness of those tortures would lesson (thus if you provided a +4 bonus initially it would be reduced each time that torture is used until the NPC begins to benefit from the act – similarly to how tortured captives tend to build up an immunity to the tortures inflicted on them over time).

Now is the information reliable?

Of course not, but then any information gathered through intimidation and fear is without question unreliable.
Charlie´s last blog post ..Torture, YoQ Day 132

8 Amanda May 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I’ve seen problems with torture both as a DM and as a player, perpetuated by both the DM and the players. Though I’ve never seen anyone try and use the Intimidate skill as part of a torture check… Usually it was Dex and Str checks (Dex to determine how well/accurately the torture was applied, and Str to determine how effective it was/how much damage).

In one instance, we had captured a Drow elf from a group that had, in turn, kidnapped one of the PCs. Unfortunately there was a paladin in the group, and despite the fact that we came up with a clever ruse to have her be absent during the torture, the DM ruled that she should have known and hit her with a negative level until she attoned.

While I agree that in some instances torture makes sense for the characters, even when they’re good, it should be a rare occurence. There should be penalties for the players that participate (though I’ve always disagreed with the ruling about the absent paladin…especially considering the rest of us weren’t punished in any way). As far as ramping up DCs for Intimidate checks…well I wouldn’t even let them use Intimidate in that way.

In the group I DM it happens fairly often that somebody tries to do something that goes against the skill’s “proper” use (proper in that it’s a reasonable use) and I usually just tell them that they have to use the modifier from the appropriate skill instead. Because trying to use Jump to do a sumersault might make sense in a strange, round-about way, it isn’t the proper/best-suited skill… so I don’t care if they don’t have any ranks in Tumble, or that they’re calling it a Jump check, they roll the dice and add their Tumble.

We’ve only ever used Intimidate in the context of multiple skill checks, or role-play heavy situations. Things like athletic contests, or bar brawls (or preventing a bar brawl)… Nothing else really makes sense to may as a “proper” use of the skill. (Or at least, the best choice -more often I find that Bluff, Diplomacy, or Gather Information would make more sense than Intimidate)

9 Charlie May 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I wouldn’t use Intimidate as a part of a torture check, but rather the use of torture would provide a modifier to the Intimidate skill. It’s based off the idea that you use the simplest skill to facilitate play while using their actions to modify the check. Using ability checks for a torture check seems ineffective when you consider that the purpose of an intimidate check is to cause the NPC to react out of fear.

“In the group I DM it happens fairly often that somebody tries to do something that goes against the skill’s ‘proper’ use (proper in that it’s a reasonable use) and I usually just tell them that they have to use the modifier from the appropriate skill instead . . . We’ve only ever used Intimidate in the context of multiple skill checks, or role-play heavy situations. Things like athletic contests, or bar brawls (or preventing a bar brawl)… Nothing else really makes sense to may as a ‘proper’ use of the skill. (Or at least, the best choice -more often I find that Bluff, Diplomacy, or Gather Information would make more sense than Intimidate)”

Have you ever used Intimidate during combat? I prefer to use it as opposed to Bluff because you can make even non-humanoids shaken and gain a +2 combat bonus for 1 round (3.5). In fourth I’m with you 100%. They greatly reduced the effectiveness of Intimidate.

10 Nex Terren May 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

“I would never do this, but my character has no issue with it.”

If a player said this to me (as I tend to GM, not play), and I knew it wasn’t an excuse but an honest statement I would be perfectly happy with it. I have only once–for my very first character, a human paladin–attempted to use a character who would make the choices I would. I have never used an NPC who made the same choices I would.

Of course, I and most of my players come from a background of story-driven forum RPs where you’re not really playing a given character as much as detailing the character’s role in a story. Save my before mentioned first tabletop character, I’ve never attempted for the character to be me, or escape into the character; every character since then (PC or NPC) has been a simple matter of trying to play the character in his role.

I say this because I’m of the mindset that if the player is honestly playing his character in the spirit of his character, that is what he should be doing. If his character is the sort to maim, kill, and torture, then it’d be strange for his character to do otherwise.

In a WH40K: Dark Heresy game I played as a stoic, reserved, and thoughtful psyker who served the emperor with a matter-of-fact and absolute loyalty. He was polite, kind, and considerate to every PC and NPC multiple game sessions in (I think it was around eight four hour games?) until the group came across some heretics. My character had no issue using torture, since that was simply for him the most logical and efficient way to break the unforgivable, godless traitors and pull the information from them; he had no respect for their lives or their souls on any level, but did have a great respect for the citizens he was trying to protect. Once the information was extracted, he turned the heretics over to the law, thanking the officer (who came for the heretics) for his time.

Now, I would say there are two strong exceptions to the “Play your characters as your characters are” mindset:

First, if the character’s character works against party cohesion–most importantly, Out of Character cohesion. I encourage players to be true to their characters, even willing to manage three or more subgroups, abandon story lines, or watch critical NPCs die long before their role was finished, if that’s the true path their characters would take. However if it starts to cause tension and aggravation I aim to curve this spirit as GM, or change my character as a player.

Second, if the character’s personality isn’t, and the player’s choices are just an excuse to play how he wants to, with no mind given to story or characters. This also extends to very poorly thought out characters who don’t fit in the given setting.

As for using the Intimidate skill for torture, I think absolutely you can, but it depends. Just cutting someone up doesn’t call for it, but if the PC is using any psychological tactics there more likely than not can apply intimidation. Then again if they don’t have a strong personality/ego (which, in 4e that’s all CHA really measures), they can opt to depend on simple pain and not make a single intimidation check during the entire duration of that scene.

11 ej May 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Interesting and timely post for me. I play a dwarven fighter who is a bit of a loose cannon in my table top game. Long story short, after questioning a captured marauder so we could find out where their base camp was (some had escaped), my character beheaded the bandit. This enraged the dm (we hadn’t been playing that long together so I didn’t anticipate the reaction) and he sent me a strongly worded email later that contained a lot of your rationale regarded torture, “that’s something a good character wouldn’t do!”. Although I told him its his game and I’ll play as he wishes, I couldn’t agree more! It’s all about the context. I think of myself as a good person but wouldn’t hesitate to torture someone who had kidnapped my child, for example. How do you think the family of the bandits next victim would feel if they’d known my character had the opportunity to prevent their death? I know we play as heroes but there are many heroes in life and in legend that show no mercy to the wicked!

12 Amanda May 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

“I wouldn’t use Intimidate as a part of a torture check, but rather the use of torture would provide a modifier to the Intimidate skill… Using ability checks for a torture check seems ineffective when you consider that the purpose of an intimidate check is to cause the NPC to react out of fear.”

Well, yes, Intimidate is about shaking the opponent, causing fear, and intimidating them (obviously enough) to get them to behave a certain way, or give you information. Torture, on the other hand, (and even the threat of torture) inspires fear and terror but rarely does it inspire truthfulness. And the ability to effectively torture somebody is more about knowing which pressure points to hit at what time and having a steady/delicate enough hand to hit only those points with just the right amount of pressure. To me, that seems to fit more in with a character’s basic abilities, and possibly combat expertise, than how effectivley they can scare somebody. Psychological torture without any physical harm, requires a deep understanding of the person’s psyche to work effectively, and like physical torture is all about hitting the right pressure points at the right time.

The PHB (3.5) says Intimidate relies on “verbal threats and body language” which fits fine with a Cha-based skill. Torture crosses that line to physically harming somebody, and as I mentioned above is all about knowing when, how, and where to hit; which doesn’t seem like a Cha-based skill to me.

I suppose the link between the two (torture and intimidation) lies in the fact that if you gain a reputation for torturing people then new people you meet would almost always start off intimidated…

“Have you ever used Intimidate during combat?”

I dunno, intimidating monsters never seemed that plausible. Monstrous Humanoids, and Humanoids alright I’ll grant you, but what on earth could you do to frighten an Ettin? Or a dragon? A demon/devil would sure as heck laugh if you tried, and then there’s all the oozes, plants, golems, and constructs out there that don’t really have a mind (per se) to inimidate. If one of my players wanted to try to intimidate a monster I’d let them because the rules say you can, but it just wouldn’t feel very realistic to me.

I’m glad torture hasn’t come up more than a handful of times; it very clearly is one big massive grey area when it comes to applying it and determining the effectiveness of it. Plus I think how it gets played out would also depend heavily on the specific situation and the group.

13 Charlie May 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

“Well, yes, Intimidate is about shaking the opponent, causing fear, and intimidating them (obviously enough) to get them to behave a certain way, or give you information. Torture, on the other hand, (and even the threat of torture) inspires fear and terror but rarely does it inspire truthfulness.”

Neither act will inspire truthfulness from an NPC; nor will the use of any other skill. If your goal is to garner information from an NPC through the use of intimidation then most certainly torture can aid in that act – though with diminishing returns. But, if your goal is to assure truthful information than you’ll have to resort to a spell such as Zone of Truth.

“And the ability to effectively torture somebody is more about knowing which pressure points to hit at what time and having a steady/delicate enough hand to hit only those points with just the right amount of pressure. To me, that seems to fit more in with a character’s basic abilities, and possibly combat expertise, than how effectivley they can scare somebody. Psychological torture without any physical harm, requires a deep understanding of the person’s psyche to work effectively, and like physical torture is all about hitting the right pressure points at the right time.”

Unfortunately most physical torture techniques are not about subtlety. Water boarding, the wrack, Palestinian Hanging, bone breaking, cutting, skinning, quartering, boiling, crushing, and so on, and so on are all torture methods and none of them rely on subtlety. None of the torture methods used by the inquisition were subtle. It’s all about pain and the fear of more pain. Subtlety is more in line with psychological torture.

“I dunno, intimidating monsters never seemed that plausible. Monstrous Humanoids, and Humanoids alright I’ll grant you, but what on earth could you do to frighten an Ettin? Or a dragon? A demon/devil would sure as heck laugh if you tried, and then there’s all the oozes, plants, golems, and constructs out there that don’t really have a mind (per se) to inimidate. If one of my players wanted to try to intimidate a monster I’d let them because the rules say you can, but it just wouldn’t feel very realistic to me.”

I don’t think that it applies to mindless creatures just as morale checks didn’t in second edition. But to put into perspective for the Ettin/dragon question I have seen grown men, unafraid of any other human being on this planet be terrified small, ankle-biting dogs. The dogs pose no more realistic threat to these men than does a character to a dragon, but their growling, barking, and spit-slinging intimidates the larger creature.
Charlie´s last blog post ..Torture, YoQ Day 132

14 Mersadeon May 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I played D&D only two times now (as the DM, we started the campaign two weeks ago. We are using a 3.0 Starter Set, because nothing else is available), but I think I can say that my guys wouldn’t do that, even though two of them are chaotic neutral Rouges. They did some shady stuff, stealing from the dead, lying, but I don’t think they would go that far. Why? Well, first of all, while they are chaotic neutral, they still try not to be cruel. Also, they have someone with them. A neutral good Cleric who is quite strict with his morals. He is their “leash”, so to say.

15 Joe Lastowski May 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm

In a world where the gods are a known, present quantity (or at least their power is), I’m okay with PCs choosing to torture, but I often include divine consequences. In a party where there is a divine PC like a cleric or paladin, often that character will not allow the torture. However, if s/he does, that raises all sorts of issues about whether or not the character’s god is okay with that. Alternately, I have also had representatives of evil deities/forces approach PCs after they do something arguably reprehensible, offering them membership in various evil organizations, etc. That usually reminds the PCs which side they’re supposed to be on, and there is often some great roleplaying as they realize how far they’ve fallen and try to get back on the side of right.

There’s also the option of community response. If word gets out that the party is okay with torture tactics, the DC of streetwise checks and other interactions in the community may skyrocket, as everyone is afraid of the PCs and not willing to interact with them.

In general, the one rule I have in my games is that the players need to have a conscience. They’re supposed to be heroes, for goodness sake, so it’s generally thought that they’ll act like it.

16 Brandon May 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

Once rumors of individuals (or groups) who use torture gets out into the public, the PCs must be ready for that confrontation.

As I’ve seen torture become the technique of choice in some campaigns I have run, it’s amazing how little help the PCs get from local innkeepers, bartenders, local nobles, or wealthy patrons.

In some cases, these normal “helpers” become the bane of the party if they walk on and stray into darker conduct. A good cleric (or other good character class) could lose the benefit of a benevolent god. Have any of the PCs ever been the target of a brute squad (or an assassin)? Have any of the PCs ever been permanently maimed by a torturer?

Personally, I really like the intimidate skill as it doesn’t have to lead towards violence. Veiled and unspecified threats often do more to modify behavior than outright beatings…it’s the fear the target places into his or her own head that makes a intimidation successful (and the non-verbal cues that the person issuing the threat has the means to carry it out).

I agree in the end that the DM has the ultimate throttle on how intimidate is viewed, but the party’s PCs must remember that for every action they take there are second and third order effects that follow, and it’s the unintended effects that are damning.

17 Matthew May 19, 2012 at 9:12 am

I had always thought that Heal was the torture skill (knowing the body). Str could work for just an outright beating, too.

18 Bucks August 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Seriously, this article and responses sound a bit crazy to me beyond agreeing that intimidation is not torture. People seem to be adopting a modern view of torture that would be strange held in the often medievalish settings used for D&D. I’ve had my main paladin torture and murder on occasions because it was exactly what he would do to save lives (and souls). Torture is not a means to capture information (neither is intimidate. In extracting reliable information they fall woefully short. Also, the view of torture here presented by article and replies is often juvenile. Torture is not simply beating someone or behaving in a disgusting manner, any moronic brute could do that. Torture -the art- is bending a subject to your will physically– breaking down the walls inside until there is only willingness to obey. Sometimes that does require broken bones depending on the subject, but can be achieved with minimal physical interaction: Starvation and talking quietly from the other side of a door, for example. Eventually the need for food is so great compliance can be achieved and if the psychological part of torture has been followed through on, the subject might even be grateful to his captor– come to identify with and wish to follow him. — Stockholm Syndrome, as example–), at least I’ve never thought of it as such (unless Stockholm Syndrome occurs), but rather compliance, and perfectly valid if the lives of the many outweigh the life of the one– particularly if that one was involved in whatever nefarious deeds put those many in jeopardy. Smite the wicked, and all. People unused to seeing him in action are often horrified by my paladin (thoughtful, gentle, soft-spoken, tenderhearted, romantic, selfless as a matter of penance for his worldly urges) when he puts on his game face and goes to work. NPCs slander him and treat him like garbage while still expecting his righteous help. PCs mock him for his devotion when the dictates of the church often cause him pain, though they want him to come along for his skillset and expertise– and he must, despite their ridicule, because the cause he serves is larger than his personal discomfort. What he feels is pushed aside for the duty he was raised to serve- duty to the public he loves, the poor abused souls he seeks to uplift and the god he spends endless hours in prayer to. The anguish he feels over his less savory duties has become a great source of character development for him as he examines the whys and wherefores of his life– and while he doubts his church, he has never lost faith in his god. Good is rarely rewarded in the homebrew setting we run– rather it is often kicked in the metaphorical balls. It’s actually seems to make for better, more believable heroes in the long run and victories for the forces of good are that much sweeter.

As one of the authors of this setting (and often DM) I have to say I’m pleased when a player follows my example and makes that leap to be more than a cookie-cutter incarnation of his class.

19 Kiranis November 3, 2012 at 11:12 am

I think players get confused i know i used to.

Being tortured is intimidating yes but the intimidation skill is purely meant to be used mentally.

i parasitically love the face muscle rouge fails to be his normal charismatic self get’s the group brute to stand behind him XD

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