[RPG] the opposed check for an NPC’s attempted Intimidation?


My group's adventurers just went and got themselves captured and enslaved by a city-state that runs Roman-style gladiatorial deathmatches. They're in the dungeons under the arena, across the hall from their soon-to-be opponents and reigning arena victors, a band of brutal orcs.

I want the orcs to attempt to indimidate the party, but can't figure out what the opposed check or DC should be for each character. An intimidation vs. intimidation contest-type roll doesn't make sense unless the characters decide to use the same tactic (which they likely won't).

In addition, if the intimidation check is successful, what should the resulting effect be in the upcoming battle? The frightened condition seems a little harsh, but I suppose it would work for a very successful roll.

I'm all for preserving player agency, but am of the opinion that becoming intimidated doesn't fall within those boundaries, i.e., I don't think they should have any more say over what scares them than they would on the day's weather.

Another way to rephrase my question (which I don't see adequately answered in similar questions) is: how is the Orc's +2 to Intimidation skill supposed to work in the game mechanically, and what are the range of effects?

Best Answer

Let the players choose how to handle it

Rather than simply telling the players that the Orcs are trying to intimidate them and roll X to resist, I'd suggest asking the players how they would like their characters to try to resist. Some examples:

  • Be Intimidating right back, cursing at the orcs and calling them cowards
  • Perform a feat of great Athleticism, lugging some huge rock over your head to show you need fear no one
  • Remember your Religious teachings, that there is nothing to truly fear in this world because your sould is untouchable
  • Use your Insight to realize that the Orcs attempts to intimidate you are just a way for them to hide from their own fears of death

If the players are having problems thinking of ways to react you can easily suggest some options to get them going. Then each character can roll their skill versus the orcs intimidate and you can see what happens.

Keep outcomes mild

It sounds like this is just going to be one little set of contests before a big battle so you want to keep the outcomes mild and let the battle stay interesting. Some options could include:

  • Each character was competing against one particular orc in the skill check. If that orc won the skill check then that character is Frightened of that particular orc. If that character won then that orc is Frightened.
  • Those who won their pre-battle contests have Advantage during the first round or two
  • A character who was particularly intimidating might draw more attention in the battle. Perhaps a successful Barbarian would find it easier to keep the enemy focused on them and away from the others.
  • The crowd is on your side! The crowd shouts out in horror as an enemy tries to sneak up on you so you're at an Advantage to dodge out of the way.

There are a lot of options here and it really depends on how much roleplaying you like to have in your game. It's a great opportunity to let the players have some fun with their characters and to let you play up how you imagine the enemy and the city as a whole.