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Old 12-04-2015, 05:12 PM   #1
Night Watchman
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Intimidation

Intimidation is an Will/A social skill, in its own way. It's hostile persuasion, convincing people to do things rather than suffer consequences. The commonest threat is of personal violence, but a superficially polite form of intimidation is a common tool in international diplomacy. The defaults are Will-5 or Acting-3, and Interrogation is the only skill that defaults to Intimidation. Intimidation seems to have first appeared in a 3e supplement, although I don't know which one. If you want high levels in Intimidation, buying up Will only costs an extra point per level, and has plenty of advantages, if it fits your character concept.

Intimidation is one of the skills that is penalised for lack of Cultural Familiarity. Fearlessness helps you resist this skill, and Unfazable gives immunity. Bloodlust gives +1 to Intimidation, Fearfulness reduces your ability to resist it and Oblivious and Shyness give penalties to use of the skill. Social Regard and Social Stigmata can both boost Intimidation, as can the Kiai skill.

There are lots of other modifiers: up to +4 for displays of power and/or willingness to use force, with an additional +1 to that if you are Callous. +2 to +4 for low Appearance; your SM, relative to the target; your Reputation modifiers (possibly negated, depending on what the Reputation is about); +1 or -1 at the GM's option for good or poor dialogue, and -3 if you're requesting assistance.

Intimidation can be used in place of any reaction roll, although if it works, you may get less enthusiastic cooperation that you would with other skills. Some people might respond well and become loyal; someone who lives by Intimidation might react well even if he resists. A critical success on Intimidation causes a Fright Check, in addition to other effects.

There are a couple of special mechanics in Basic: you can attempt to intimidate up to 25 people at once, at -1 for each five people, and there are rules for groups intimidating groups. If you can win a contest of Fast-Talk with the subject's IQ, you can claim +3 as specious intimidation, with a story that will impress the subject, even if you can't back it up. However, if you tie or lose the Fast-Talk, your Intimidation automatically fails, with a Very Bad reaction.

Intimidation is a very common skill on templates, mentioned in 93 of the 4e PDFs that I have. It's characteristic of criminals, common in any kind of combat background and a secondary skill for face-men. It's also useful for making arrests, and otherwise persuading a target to give up and come quietly; Action covers all these bases, along with using complementary skills, which can be almost anything that can looks like a way to do harm. DF10 explains the vital role of this skill in tavern brawls, and DF14 lets you use it for Psionic Terror. Gun-Fu has lots of tricks for Intimidation via guns and Pulp Guns 2 adds modifiers for grenades and flamethrowers. Loadouts: Low-Tech Armour emphasises the +1 to SM for Intimidation that a good helmet crest can give; Low-Tech qualifies this with a few drawbacks, and gives Intimidation bonuses for blunderbusses and whipping. Martial Arts has moves and weapons that give a free Intimidation attempt, or a bonus. Monster Hunters has streamlined rules for intimidating groups of opponents, or taunting them into attacking. Mysteries covers use of Intimidation on people who won't appear in court, to frighten them into talking. Power-Ups volumes 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 all have examples for Intimidation, of which the Fearsome Stare perk, which lets you use Intimidation with just a look, is notable. Powers has abilities that boost Intimidation, and lets the skill replace Will when used with the active version of Terror; Enhanced Senses has another ability to add. Psionic Powers has abilities for intimidating fellow-psis.

Social Engineering has a lot for Intimidation. Bonuses for the Impressive variety of Appearance, and for low Appearance, how to use Intimidation, how it differs from Streetwise, using it through voice- or text-only communications, staging distractions, confidence games, unfair business competition, trade unions, gangs and organised forces, such as military units. Trying to intimidate a mob with an organised force is tricky, just as it is in the real world. The Soft-Spoken perk is arguably cinematic, but good if you can get it. Back to School deals with Intimidation in teaching (it isn't very good).

Thaumatology has curses via Intimidation; Chinese Elemental Powers has several abilities that can boost the skill, including earthquakes, and Magical Styles allows this to be generalised to any sufficiently scary spell. Transhuman Space: Changing Times can use the skill in deprogramming victims of mimetic attacks, but it's rarely any use on Zombies.

I'm a bit puzzled by GURPS saying -- in several places -- that Intimidation can't be used on subjects with IQ 0-5 unless you have an appropriate form of Empathy. OK, IQ 0 creatures aren't aware enough to be frightened and powerful monsters may well be hard to frighten, but normal IQ 2-3 domesticated animals can be scared off fairly readily and you don't need Animal Empathy to do it.

One use of Intimidation that gets neglected in RPGs in general is its use on the battlefield. A bayonet charge, or any kind of charge into melee is as much about intimidation as about doing direct injury: you hope that the other side will run away, and sometimes it works. RPGs tend to focus more on actual combat, possibly because that's what movies and TV dwell on. Intimidation is also a key skill for realistic criminals: it's easier and safer than actual assault, and doesn't tend to attract as much attention.

I have a character who tries to use Intimidation a lot, because TORG tries to encourage players to use it, and that has carried over into our GURPS TORG campaign. It doesn't often work, because you need large margins of victory to activate the TORG mechanics, but it's great fun when it does, and much quicker than winding a crossbow.

How have you intimidated your problems?
johndallman is offline   Reply With Quote

basic, intimidation, skill of the week

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