Thank you for joining us for the next part in the Using Skills series. Last week we covered Performance, and this week we’ll be covering Persuasion. Enjoy!
Using Skills – Persuasion
The duke walks among the guests of his fete, speaking to each in turn with a good-natured comment or a knowing wink. The street urchin appeals to the good graces of the guardsman who holds him aloft by the scruff of his shirt. The knight makes an impassioned plea to the chamberlain of the city, trying to convince him that the dangers in the forest are a danger to the city as well. Persuasion is the ability used by those who wish to influence others with their personality and grace.
The Player’s Handbook describes it thus: “When you attempt to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature, the DM might ask you to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check. Typically, you use persuasion when acting in good faith, to foster friendships, make cordial requests, or exhibit proper etiquette. Examples of persuading others include convincing a chamberlain to let your party see the king, negotiating peace between warring tribes, or inspiring a crowd of townsfolk.” (PHB, pg. 179)
In most campaigns Persuasion will be the skill you use with Charisma the most, though this might not be totally true in more evil or criminal based campaigns. It is recommended that someone in your party is trained in this skill because it can grease a whole lot of wheels and make certain things a lot easier. As can be seen from the description, this skill has a wide variety of uses with the impetus being on the creativity of the players. Though remember that it is the Dungeon Master that actually calls for the roll; when attempting to persuade role play it out and let the DM decide on whether a roll is needed or not.
Chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides a more structured guideline to interactions, and is worth taking a look at especially when it comes to players using Persuasion in these social situations. There are a lot of situations in which a roll won’t have any affect, especially when considering the starting attitude of the person trying to be persuaded.
What it is Not
- A Charm Spell – Persuasion is a powerful tool in the PCs toolbox, but it is not a surefire way to get people to do what you want. Though this comes down to DM arbitration, you’re not going to be able to convince someone to do something that they would never do under normal circumstances, no matter how high you roll. This is why it is important that the DM calls for rolls. A PC trying to convince a king to give up his kingdom and crown to him/her is going to end up in the dungeon without the need for a roll. I’ve seen way too many instances of a Persuasion check being rolled with a critical and the verisimilitude being shattered because the PC was able to convince someone to do something completely against what they would normally do. It’s just a skill, not a wish spell.
- Deception, Intimidation – Just remember the difference between the skills are a means vs. ends situation. Deception involves lying and otherwise deceiving the target which can lead to a change in behavior, Intimidation influences through threats and fear. Persuasion uses politeness, earnestness, and the gift of gab.
The following are optional or edge cases for Persuasion, and are entirely dependent on the Dungeon Master.
- Rally – When dealing with a battle situation in which the PCs have allies, Persuasion can be used to affect morale. If the PC wants to get them to fight less timidly or to get them to charge forward when they otherwise might not, a PC can spend a minor action to rally them. Roll a Charisma (Persuasion) check against their Wisdom Saving Throw. This might also be used to stop an ally from fleeing or to try to give other commands they might not usually follow. The ally won’t, however, do anything obviously suicidal.
- Etiquette – There are some social situations that would require a person to act with etiquette during the duration of the situation. Royal feasts, formal meetings with nobles or religious figures, and other such situations. To do so one must focus on maintaining the variety of acts and actions called for in such a situation. Before engaging in a situation, roll a Charisma (Persuasion) check and keep the number almost as if it were a stealth check. The DM should determine a DC based on the difficulty and complexity of the etiquette required (10 = normal, 15 = highly detailed, 20 = near arcane levels of etiquette). If you roll at or above the target number you are able to keep your composure, if you roll below for the duration of the situation you have disadvantage on all Charisma rolls called for. Optionally, if you roll at least 10 over the target number you get advantage on all Charisma rolls during the situation.
Dungeon Master Examples
Persuasion is such a ubiquitous skill that I hardly need to give you examples of designing around it. As long as you have NPCs willing to listen to the PCs this skill should get a looot of use. If it isn’t, however, the party might engage in more of a kick in the door style of play anyway. Just try to pepper in some non combat encounters in your dungeons and wilderness with obvious reward for doing well socially.
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading. Join us next week while we take a break from Using Skills and instead we’ll be doing a review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. After that we’ll be looking at Religion. Until then, happy gaming!