The cheese of Intimidation (Demoralize)


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Back when I was running my second playthrough of In Pale Mountain's Shadow, I had an inkling that Intimidation (Demoralize) was rather strong when it allowed a character to transform an otherwise meager third action into an opportunity to obliterate an enemy turn; Zakfah the gnoll had little use for a third action, so I thought to try Intimidation (Demoralize), and it turned out to be a good shot at wiping away an enemy turn.

Now, in my second playthrough of The Frozen Oath, two PCs happen to be optimized for Intimidation. Both have Intimidating Glare (languages are no barrier), and both have Battle Cry and demon masks. As it turns out, there is actually a really good chance of destroying enemy turns by fishing for critical successes with Intimidation (Demoralize), especially at the start of combat with Battle Cry.

I personally find this extremely cheesy, because no other skill has the potential to wreck enemy action economy with initiative-triggered free actions, or cheap potshots with otherwise paltry third actions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

If your players aren't finding a way to effectively use their 3rd action they are playing the playtest wrong. Demoralize is a great one but it's pretty hard to pull off unless you have high charisma and a high proficiency. Many classes will give you options to spend that 3rd action on. Druids or Rangers can command their animal companion, bards can perform, other spell casters can cast the shield cantrip, a martial character with a shield can raise their shield, and everyone always has the option to take a move action.

Frightened is a pretty good debuff, but remember that it ticks down a point at the end of the frightened creatures turn.


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The frightened is not the point. The fleeing is, which characters can fish with non-negligible odds, especially with Battle Cry on a character who already had high Charisma to start with.


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Frightened 2 and Fleeing makes them skip their turn. You could get a +20 to Intimidate as a fighter/paladin/Ranger With 20 Strength 18 charisma at level 10 with Intimidating Prowess. If you compare that to a lot of monsters that is a very favorable chance of critical success. My rogue in Mirrored moon had a similar setup to the one described and scared the Rocs in that chapter several times thereby negating their turns.

Colette's Playtests have read like the party is really in dire of need anything to shift the balance in their favor so I imagine every action counts.


I'm not sure if battlecry works with intimidating glare.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I mean it's not guaranteed by any stretch. Even a hyper optimized intimidate build is probably only landing a critical demoralize on a 15 against same level creatures with average will. Against higher boss level creatures with good will saves it's only going to work on 20s. And depending on the battlefield. A fleeing creature might just flee into another room, or around a corner. Meaning the PCs will have to waste their movement to get to them anyways.


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Demoralize is a pretty dirty, and an overly effective use of a single action. It is basically an Attack which doesn't suffer MAP, and if used correctly can cost the target multiple rounds.

For example; during a boss fight with a Weak Ghost Commoner (so lvl 3 and -2 to all published statistics) a Critical Success chased my group's melee-Fighter out of a small crypt, screaming like a B-movie victim. That one action cost her both the round she spent fleeing and the round it took her to return.

Two rounds without worrying about a melee or short range combatant's contribution is far too strong a benefit for a check that doesn't have the Attack Trait. So I say, odd as it feels, Demoralize should be an Attack, and thus suffer MAP.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cantriped wrote:

Demoralize is a pretty dirty, and an overly effective use of a single action. It is basically an Attack which doesn't suffer MAP, and if used correctly can cost the target multiple rounds.

For example; during a boss fight with a Weak Ghost Commoner (so lvl 3 and -2 to all published statistics) a Critical Success chased my group's melee-Fighter out of a small crypt, screaming like a B-movie victim. That one action cost her both the round she spent fleeing and the round it took her to return.

Two rounds without worrying about a melee or short range combatant's contribution is far too strong a benefit for a check that doesn't have the Attack Trait. So I say, odd as it feels, Demoralize should be an Attack, and thus suffer MAP.

In this scenario couldn't the rest of your party just move out of the crypt as well? regroup with the fighter and then back into the crypt?


They could have, yes. They didn't know the ghost wouldn't follow. During play though they floundered to find the solution(s).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Even if the ghost does follow, it's wasting it's turns to move, and it ends up moving back to where the fighter had run off to so essentially all that has happened is the battle has moved to a new area. Fleeing doesn't automatically = wasting a turn while your opponents get free shots on you. Someone who is fleeing would prioritize running to the closest place that let's them have cover from whatever is making them flee.


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Dire Ursus wrote:
Fleeing doesn't automatically = wasting a turn while your opponents get free shots on you. Someone who is fleeing would prioritize running to the closest place that let's them have cover from whatever is making them flee.

This is very true, and also why I specified "if used correctly" and "a melee or short range combatant", who're the ones most likely to be within range to demoralize anyway. A long-range combatant likely only loses one round, or maybe only an action and a higher range penalty.

Demoralize's best use isn't to take pot-shots against the victim (don't hit the mes'ed mob yo), but rather removing certain combatants (such as a defender or healer) so that you can focus fire on opponents that needed their support.


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So my thoughts on Intimidate are similar to other parts of the game system: it's overpowered compared to your other options, but not necessarily gamebreaking. So buffing up other options to the same level as Intimidate would probably be the better option, but as it stands it is overpowered compared to other effects it's competing with.

I do think that there is a serious problem with the way the skill feats work for the intimidate skill. The entire point of skill feats in the first place was that they would be in a separate pool and wouldn't have to compete with your more combat-oriented feats. This makes feats like Battlecry and even Intimidating Prowess a bit problematic as skill feats, and they probably should be general feats instead.

The biggest problem I have is how well it compares against the Fear spell. While the frightened level is 1 point lower than the spell, it's at-will, only takes 1 action as opposed to 2, and is more likely to get the critical success since there are more ways to increase your intimidate skill than your spell DC (proficiency comes earlier, item bonuses are available, and intimidating prowess gives an easy and passive +2). Put bluntly, if this is the power level skills are going to have, then the Fear spell should be a cantrip.


Battle Cry doesn't have auditory associated with it, so it should be fine.

I found intimidate valuable enough that I picked up bard archetype for versatile performance so I could snag the +1 from virtuosic performance and cheaper skill items.


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Dasrak wrote:
So my thoughts on Intimidate are similar to other parts of the game system: it's overpowered compared to your other options, but not necessarily gamebreaking. So buffing up other options to the same level as Intimidate would probably be the better option, but as it stands it is overpowered compared to other effects it's competing with.

I'd personally very much like to see diplomacy get mildly more use in combat, because it makes it seem almost like it's impossible (bar legendary negotiator) to flip combat out of combat by the book. IDK, I'd like it to be an option.


scoutmaster wrote:
I'm not sure if battlecry works with intimidating glare.

Like it seems like "you yell a mighty battle cry" and "you can Demoralize those around you with a mere glare" should at the very least not synergize.

Game is full of things that seem like they should not work together (e.g. Combat Grab and Dueling Parry) but by RAW it looks like they do.


Why is it cheese? If you have concerns about the mechanical implementation of Intimidate in this playtest why not address them in a proper manner rather than using a term generally used as an insult. It's an overly hostile approach to a concern that may or may not be valid, and that approach makes it harder for rational people to see merit in your point. Paizo are literally asking for feedback, it's not like you need to be overly aggressive in trying to convince them there may be an issue.

Silver Crusade

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In my experience intimidate is definitely too powerful right now. At the very least, it shouldn't be spamable ( eventually, yelling boo at the giant Sea serpent really shouldn't work)

And versatile performance still doesn't work in combat


How does using Intimidate compare to casting Call of the Grave, Dirge of Doom, Dread Aura, Fear, or Mask of Terror.


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pauljathome wrote:


And versatile performance still doesn't work in combat

Why not; What did I miss?

Silver Crusade

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ErichAD wrote:
pauljathome wrote:


And versatile performance still doesn't work in combat
Why not; What did I miss?

Many disagree, but I think that one has to read ALL the words in an ability and don't get to eliminate the ones which "obviously" are flavour.

"In social situations, you can rely ..."

Note, this is a side issue I don't feel like discussing here so I'll try and not reply to all the posts saying how wrong and downright stupid I am.


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Intimidation is too strong compared to other in-combat skills but some of it might be due to monsters having too high skill levels (for perception vs feint for instance). I do think that is more the rest needing a boost than the other way around. However I wouldn't mind huge monsters and larger to get a benefit vs demoralize; it seems somewhat weird how scared they are off the glaring little guy with half the strength of them.


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pauljathome wrote:
ErichAD wrote:
pauljathome wrote:


And versatile performance still doesn't work in combat
Why not; What did I miss?

Many disagree, but I think that one has to read ALL the words in an ability and don't get to eliminate the ones which "obviously" are flavour.

"In social situations, you can rely ..."

Note, this is a side issue I don't feel like discussing here so I'll try and not reply to all the posts saying how wrong and downright stupid I am.

Sounds like something that could use a "non-combat" trait to clear things up then. I'm not entirely sure you could use the demoralize action without combat starting though. Being able to cause people to run off in fear outside of combat would add to the cheese of intimidate though, so I think it's worth discussing.

Silver Crusade

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ErichAD wrote:


Sounds like something that could use a "non-combat" trait to clear things up then. I'm not entirely sure you could use the demoralize action without combat starting though. Being able to cause people to run off in fear outside of combat would add to the cheese of intimidate though, so I think it's worth discussing.

Intimidate is very definitely useable (at least in PF1) in social situations. Not sure if that is the demoralize "sub action" but it seems to me that it applies. They're frightened, they take -1 on sense motive, bluff, etc. Seems reasonable to me


Agreed, it's currently a bit too much on the strong side. I brainstormed a few changes to it but it doesn't feel like they were well received - most people I talked to seem to think buffing other actions is a better approach. Not sure if that's possible, with many of them. It definitely beats any kind of combat manouver, since it doesn't suffer or impose MAP, and it's ranged...


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Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Bolstered seems like a reasonable way to rein in the abuse


To be a little fair, Demoralize in PF1 also lead to taking some AoO blows. With that not as wide spread, running away seems to cost a turn unless you have something to take advantage of them being feared.


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Intimidate was certainly more valuable than casting spells during the first few adventures.

Silver Crusade

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Right now Demoralize is in a pretty weird situation right now.

It gives some materials an effective thing to do as their third action each turn (or rather as the first to debuff the enemy before you attack), since some classes have decent options for this, and others do not. I could even see it quite useful on a caster to increase decrease enemy saves.

Actually, skill feats that improve intimidate are among the ones my players actually want to take, a lot of others seem rarely useful.

The problem with Demoralize boil down to these:

- Tracking: The condition bleeding of every turn is a bit challenging to track at first, but I have gotten used to it.
- Theme: It is a bit silly for the half-orc paladin crusader to intimidate all the nasty demons, but the player seems to have fun.
- Critical: I am perfectly fine with frightened 2 as a reasonable debuff as the result of getting a critical demoralize... but having an enemy become fleeing that often is not too great, to be honest. It just happens way too often, losing a turn and potentially provoking AOOs should be a bit harder.

....

Actually looking at the monster stats, players likely need any bonus they can get, so ignoring my personal problems above, this is likely a good option, it just feels too good compared to other combat options like spells and some powers.

Sovereign Court

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I found Demoralize enjoyable.

The way MAP is set up, you're really not supposed to be taking a third attack. Even taking a second attack is not always a good choice. But you do want to use all your three actions. Intimidate gives some characters a good third action to use, and it also helps the whole group.

Is it cheesy? Maybe a bit, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. We need more choices for skills and other abilities to spend actions on. Intimidate is currently a very good one; make others too, so we don't all have to use this one.


demoralize this very good use of the third (actually 1) action for the barbarian. What's more, the barbarian should be a master of demoralization.


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As an old TORG player, using interaction skills in a fight makes perfect sense. I feel the other skills are lacking in interactions. Diplomacy could be used to taunt, Acrobatics to outmaneuver. Athletics can already do shove and trip, and with Assurance takes no penalty because of attacks. Great way to trip goons.

Spells being overall useless is a separate matter.


Starfox wrote:
Athletics can already do shove and trip, and with Assurance takes no penalty because of attacks. Great way to trip goons.

There's only a very narrow level range at which this works. Trip needs you to beat the target's reflex DC to work, which is 10 plus their reflex save. This makes trained assurance completely useless, and expert and master assurance dubious. Legendary assurance does have a window where it shines, working against the majority of enemies you'll encounter at 13th and 14th and maybe getting some traction into 15th level. But by 15th it'll be hit and miss as to whether your assurance trips will work.

This is typical of assurance combos; they're marginal to useless until 13th, where they become really solid, then they completely fall off the radar a few levels later.

Dark Archive

Cantriped wrote:

Demoralize is a pretty dirty, and an overly effective use of a single action. It is basically an Attack which doesn't suffer MAP, and if used correctly can cost the target multiple rounds.

For example; during a boss fight with a Weak Ghost Commoner (so lvl 3 and -2 to all published statistics) a Critical Success chased my group's melee-Fighter out of a small crypt, screaming like a B-movie victim. That one action cost her both the round she spent fleeing and the round it took her to return.

Two rounds without worrying about a melee or short range combatant's contribution is far too strong a benefit for a check that doesn't have the Attack Trait. So I say, odd as it feels, Demoralize should be an Attack, and thus suffer MAP.

Yes, the fleeing effect from a critical demoralize success needs adjusting. It is the go-to skill exploit that takes more away from the game than it adds. Add the attack trait to demoralize or change the critical effect.


Starfox wrote:

As an old TORG player, using interaction skills in a fight makes perfect sense. I feel the other skills are lacking in interactions. Diplomacy could be used to taunt, Acrobatics to outmaneuver. Athletics can already do shove and trip, and with Assurance takes no penalty because of attacks. Great way to trip goons.

Spells being overall useless is a separate matter.

Again, yes please to a diplomacy buff.

Silver Crusade

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As much as I disliked it in PF1, but something like a Diplomacy based Antagonize "Attack me if you are hard enough..." could work as an alternative to Intimidate.


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StratoNexus wrote:
How does using Intimidate compare to casting Call of the Grave, Dirge of Doom, Dread Aura, Fear, or Mask of Terror.

How many of those are cantrips?

Because if they're not, you certainly can't use them as often as Demoralize (which can be used 43,200 times in a single calendar day).


Make it 'wear down'? Take a cumulative penalty to your rolls if you keep targeting the same foe? Because, you know, going 'Boo!' is only every really scary once. If at all.

If we had taunts (Perform skill?), think of it as running out of good insults. That way, while you *can* use intimidate all day long (or insult or maybe even acrobatics and athletics), but you better vary your approach if you have one tough nut to crack (the enemy gets wise to your tricks), and a one-trick-pony will be less effective then a more versed character, at least in the long run.


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What if a demoralizec critical made the target frightened 2 and slowed 1?


Dasrak wrote:
Starfox wrote:
Athletics can already do shove and trip, and with Assurance takes no penalty because of attacks. Great way to trip goons.
There's only a very narrow level range at which this works...

You are right - comparing to monsters of the PC's level. That is why I said goons. An equal-level opponent is a boss monster, but a single boss monster is boring - there are likely to be lesser level goons to trip.

There are also other reasons why Assurance can work. Due to lack of interest among my players, I am playtesting with only 2 players. In Doomsday Dawn, they play two characters each. But in the Pathfinder Society playtests, they play one character each, at two levels above the recommended level. We've only done one so far, but its been fun (TBH more fun than the regular playtests) and Assurance combat maneuvers worked like a charm.


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My thoughts are:

* Frightened should last more than one round.

* Fleeing should NOT be an effect of Intimidate, except maybe on a critical success against someone who is already Frightened. That's fine, I think; just not "zero to sixty" and making someone flee who wasn't already scared.

* Alternately or additionally to above, Fleeing might be a rider added by a skill feat. If you are Expert, you can make someone Fleeing if they are already Frightened 2, if you are Master you can make someone Fleeing if they are already Frightened 1, if you are Legendary you can make someone Fleeing even if they aren't Frightened yet at all.

* Once you use Intimidate on someone, succeed or fail, they should be bolstered against you for at least 10 minutes, maybe an hour. That way you can't keep cheesing it every action of every turn like the alchemist in my Pale Mountain run, but it still has some synergy with other players in the party if multiple people build for it.

* Other skills should be brought up to be good.


Note that if Versatile Performance can be used outside of "social situations," and if Virtuosic Performer applies to Versatile Performance in general, then this can lead to some rather silly Demoralization with a persona mask.


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My big problems with Demoralize are:

* It has almost no downside. Players can literally spam combat with it until someone gets unlucky enough to crit-fail. There's a definite "pound the macro" feel to it.

* It is completely disconnected from any other events. Your entire party can be stomped into paste, with most of you dying or dead, and yet you can still critically succeed on a Demoralize action against the monster that did it to you. In what reality does that make any sense?

It needs to change. I agree with everyone that says your target needs to be bolstered, success or fail. This lets the action be useful without being silly. It also needs circumstantial modifiers based on who has the upper hand in combat. That is a tracking nightmare for GM's, but without something like that it's just a bad Saturday morning cartoon.


I like how demoralization works. remember that the opponent can do the same.


The opponents are who I'm concerned about... Enemies have inflated statistics that make Intimidation more successful for them than against them. Since they can use it at range, while prone, there's no protecting a PC from focused-demoralization.
Since in most encounters the PCs are effectively the invaders, there's often nowhere for the enemies to run and the places they can run aren't very dangerous to them... meanwhile anywhere a PC runs is likely to be dangerous because it isn't where the rest of the party is; worst case scenario you could trigger additional encounters, or flee straight into a hazard. Best case you aren't contributing for a round or more.


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Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
As much as I disliked it in PF1, but something like a Diplomacy based Antagonize "Attack me if you are hard enough..." could work as an alternative to Intimidate.

I mean, I don't hate the idea of it coming back, but it was indeed too powerful in PF1 (even after the errata it was still a bit on the strong side).

I could see it being the second layer in a Feat tree, but a one off grab on Skill Feat I think would be on the strong side. It will just become mandatory to take for a lot of melees that want to fill the tank role.

Ironically, the gruff tank types will want that type of Feat the most so it is kind of at odds when it comes to themes and value if we consider the fact that the premise is to use Diplomacy.

There aren't a lot of ways to protect the back lines currently with AoO's gone and more movement being available essentially for free, so this type of ability gets even more valuable vs. how it was in PF1.

Silver Crusade

Midnightoker wrote:
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
As much as I disliked it in PF1, but something like a Diplomacy based Antagonize "Attack me if you are hard enough..." could work as an alternative to Intimidate.
so this type of ability gets even more valuable vs. how it was in PF1.

With essentially no ability to tank it also becomes a little more dangerous in PF2. If you attract a lot of attention you're going down. Although as long as you have a cleric I guess you're getting back up again a second later and better you than the cleric. Given the fact that the dying rules in the final product will almost certainly have changed from whatever they end up as in the playtest (:-() its anybodys guess how dangerous going down will be by then :-(


pauljathome wrote:


With essentially no ability to tank it also becomes a little more dangerous in PF2. If you attract a lot of attention you're going down.

Just like with the issues with Demoralize listed above, this would be targeted to the most valuable person to Antagonize (you also wouldn't do it to all your enemies, just one).

And tbh, if the creature is going to "take you down" that easy, and you're the tank it's probably going to obliterate whoever it was going to attack originally.

So, in essence, I don't agree. It's much stronger in PF2

Silver Crusade

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Midnightoker wrote:
pauljathome wrote:


With essentially no ability to tank it also becomes a little more dangerous in PF2. If you attract a lot of attention you're going down.

Just like with the issues with Demoralize listed above, this would be targeted to the most valuable person to Antagonize (you also wouldn't do it to all your enemies, just one).

And tbh, if the creature is going to "take you down" that easy, and you're the tank it's probably going to obliterate whoever it was going to attack originally.

So, in essence, I don't agree. It's much stronger in PF2

In PF1 making yourself nearly unhittable was quite possible. In PF 2 it isn't. Every character who tries has almost exactly the same AC.


pauljathome wrote:
Midnightoker wrote:
pauljathome wrote:


With essentially no ability to tank it also becomes a little more dangerous in PF2. If you attract a lot of attention you're going down.

Just like with the issues with Demoralize listed above, this would be targeted to the most valuable person to Antagonize (you also wouldn't do it to all your enemies, just one).

And tbh, if the creature is going to "take you down" that easy, and you're the tank it's probably going to obliterate whoever it was going to attack originally.

So, in essence, I don't agree. It's much stronger in PF2

In PF1 making yourself nearly unhittable was quite possible. In PF 2 it isn't. Every character who tries has almost exactly the same AC.

They also have substantially more HP and are a lot more mobile. Kiting is not out of the question and targeting combatants that aren't immediate threats would be particularly strong.

There's have to be metrics to keep it safe, max distance, type requirements, limited duration, etc

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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As a note for those in this thread, we have noticed this problem crop up in a number of games and are looking at it. As we look at ways of loosening up the math, the skills will probably need a fair bit of rebalancing to prevent them from overpowering the play environment.

Carry on...

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