In an episode of Help Action, we asked a question that seems kind of simple at first, but any Dungeon Master that runs enough games will have to come to terms with it at some point. “How do you deal with Persuasion checks?” Every DM will face this frustration at some point. Your party starts to get higher up there in levels and with certain class bonuses, you now have a player with a +10 to their Persuasion skill. Next thing you know, they’re rolling a 25 on a Persuasion check to convince your big bad villain to stand down and give up. What the hell are you supposed to do at that point?! You don’t want your plot hook to just lay down their weapons and surrender, but you also don’t want their 25 on their check to mean nothing. We gave our advice on how to handle such a situation, which I am going to share with you here. If you would rather just listen to us chat about it, you can find that episode of our show by clicking this link.
1 – Set An Appropriate DC
Our first point is that when you go into any situation like this your NPC is going to have some kind of goal in mind, and you need to know what that goal is. Getting someone to just suddenly go against everything they have been working for isn’t going to be a simple task. This could cause the DC for the check to be very high. Maybe the DC to persuade them is 25, hell maybe it’s even 30. If your NPC isn’t likely to be shaken by some adventurers trying to stop them, then the DC you set should reflect that. If your players are still able to hit your DC, then respect the dice. Besides, you’re the DM, you can come up with something creative to keep things moving. Our next suggestions should help with that as well.
2 – Set An Additional Condition To Resolving The Conflict
Our next suggestion is to require an additional condition to be met that can’t just be solved by a Persuasion check. As mentioned before, your NPC needs to have a goal, and it is very unlikely that a few adventurers walking into the room pictured above and yelling at them to stop what they are doing is going to make them do so unless of course, they can give them something they want. Maybe your party was given an item that could help further your villain’s goals but the players don’t know that when they ask for it in return. Maybe they offer to do a job for them in return or promise to give up some juicy tidbit of information to get them to end their current shenanigans. In other words, make them give the villain something they want that could reasonably cause them to change their mind, an additional win condition if you will. Not everyone can be convinced with words. If they don’t have anything, or can’t come up with anything to offer them, you can always have them make any Persuasion checks with disadvantage.
3 – Persuasion Isn’t Mind Control
This is important to remember and remind your players of. No matter how high of a Persuasion check they roll, they are still just speaking to someone with words. They do not in fact have a psychic hold on someone that forces them to do their bidding, as players often treat it. A successful Persuasion check does not need to mean that an NPC now bends over backward to do whatever the player has asked them to do. A successful check could mean that they have caused the NPC to see something in a different light. It could cause the NPC to change up their strategy or throw them off guard giving the party an advantage in the situation. A successful check doesn’t have to negate an entire encounter.
4 – Maybe Persuasion Is Mind Control
Let’s say you do decide to place some of this power of persuasion into the player’s hands and you do treat their Persuasion checks as more of a mind control power. This can be fun as well. You let them roll their 25 on their Persuasion check, and whatever NPC they are influencing does what is asked, but they remember this later. Maybe they thwart the plans of your big bad villain by convincing them to turn themselves in, the party celebrates and the quest is successful! Or so they thought. Now your villain’s plans have been ruined and they have a grudge. They come back later with a vengeance and they have taken precautions against the manipulative assholes that call themselves your party with some new spells or magic items at their disposal. Just because they succeeded once, it doesn’t mean it won’t come back to bite them in the ass!
5 – Bring In An NPC For Some Help
You can always introduce an NPC to the group that makes it difficult for your player. Even if it is just for a little bit you can bring in an annoying NPC to contradict what your player is doing. Maybe they are someone from the player’s past who sees them in a tavern one night and decides to follow them along contradicting everything your player says, giving them disadvantage on their important Persuasion checks. They could even just be someone that they have been tasked to work with for some time that has a bad attitude and purposefully causes trouble. This shouldn’t be a permanent fix but could be effective for a bit and get them thinking differently.
Figuring out how to deal with groups that have very high bonuses to their skill checks can be a bit frustrating with the Persuasion skill being at the top of the list. Hopefully you find these tips useful and we’d love to hear your feedback! Let us know if these tips helped you at all or if you have a tip of your own. If you’d like to hear the original conversation we had about this on the Help Action podcast, you can listen to that episode by clicking this link!