Friday Favourite: Skill Focus – Diplomacy / Persuasion

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 19, 2015

On Friday we comb through our extensive archives to find an older article that we feel deserves another look. From October 21, 2009, Dungeon’s Master once again presents: Skill Focus – Diplomacy.

After Perception, Diplomacy seems to be the skill used most often in my games. Any time your PC finds himself in a social situation you know that you’re going to end up making a Diplomacy check. But Diplomacy is more that just talking the talk. It’s usually about knowing what to say and how to say it. Your PC’s body language can also have as much of an impact as the words coming out of his mouth.

Most skills are versatile on their own, but since Diplomacy is generally opposed by Insight it’s probably a good idea to take training in both if your class allows it. Any time a PC is engaged in a back-and-forth dialogue they’ll probably end up using both skills, so taking training in both will greatly improve your chances of success.

Whenever a PC speaks the truth the appropriate skill is usually Diplomacy. As soon as they start leaving out details, deliberately withholding information or outright lying it starts to tread on the ground of Bluff. If you’re trained in Diplomacy but not in Bluff (we’re looking at you Paladins and Clerics) then it’s up to you to convince your DM that a Diplomacy check is still the right one given the circumstances. Letting the Rogue speak only when the party needs to tell a lie is going to be a pretty obvious “tell” that you’ve trying to mislead the king or swindle the merchant.

It’s important to remember that in many circumstances you’re only going to get one shot at a Diplomacy check, so you’d better be sure that you make the most of it. You wouldn’t want to ruin a diplomatic dinner because you drank the lemon scented water that you should have used to wash your fingers.

10 New Ways to Use Diplomacy

1. Sweet talk a lady

You may look like a rough and tumble adventuring type, but you possess a silver tongue.

2. Gain the trust of a stranger

He knows he shouldn’t trust you, but your words are so soothing and deliberately chosen that they appeal to his good nature and he helps you anyway.

3. Perform (oratory)

Whether you’re giving a dramatic reading or making a political speech, you know just how to act and what to say to win over the crowd.

4. Give testimony

You manipulate your response to side-step the actual question and provide facts or an account that the prosecutor was hoping to avoid revealing.

5. Defend the accused during a trial

You ask questions in such a way that the witness reveals more detail than they expected to.

6. Haggle over price with a merchant

You find some common ground with the merchant. This might include mimicking his accent, mannerisms or gestures in order to seem more like a local or a trusted friend. He reluctantly agrees to give you a good price.

7. Calm an angry mob

Your voice booms over the angry crowd and delivers the claming words they need to hear. Members of the mob question their involvement in whatever act led them to join the mob in the first place. Shame is a powerful weapon.

8. Write a letter of introduction

Your diplomatic skills are not limited to oratory. Your mastery of the written word impresses scholars or dignitaries and grants you access to areas not normally open to strangers.

9. Use proper heraldic titles

Knowing what to say is one thing, but sometimes using the appropriate title when speaking to a duke, count, magistrate or even the upper nobility is a skill in and of itself. Using the correct title may give you a second shot at making your point if you flub the first Diplomacy check.

10. Use proper conduct

Sometimes knowing how to act is more important than saying the right words. Knowing which fork to use at dinner, remembering that the colour yellow is offensive in this culture or shaking hands with your left instead of your right hand are the kinds of little details that keep you from causing a serious social blunder.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out all of our Skill Aids, including other entries in the Skill Focus series.


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1 Benjamin Hagen June 20, 2015 at 1:16 am

These are all great ideas. I hadn’t really thought about using diplomacy for at least half of these. I think most of the charisma-based skills aren’t really utilized much, but diplomacy is definitely a big one. I have found that when I design a character to be the “mouth” of the group, the rest of the group steps all over my toes. Seems when one person wants to sweet-talk their way around, everyone wants to either jump in too or start threatening the NPCs. Diplomacy also, in my opinion, tends to be campaign-specific. If the GM has geared their campaign more to combat, you aren’t going to be talking much. This might be why most people treat charisma as a dump stat.

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