Is diplomacy impossible or just hard to accomplish in combat?


Rules Questions


Reading under the diplomacy skill there this line:"Diplomacy is generally ineffective in combat and against creatures that intend to harm you or your allies in the immediate future.". Does it mean that diplomacy usually auto fails in combat even if you take no hostile actions against the enemy as a group, or does it only mean that it's hard to accomplish in combat?


There are items and feats that allow you to make diplomacy checks during combat to do very specific things (eg. Antagonize, Authoritative Vestments, etc.). For the most part I think the line is there just to remind players/dms to use common sense when it comes to diplomacy checks.

Imagine a bar brawl with one guy standing on a table trying to get everyone to calm down and stop fighting. Depending on who the guy on the table is and what kind of patrons are brawling this might work or it may be completely ineffective. Though, you might argue that in the cases where it's effective, the guy on the table isn't using diplomacy but rather intimidation instead.


But if you had the ability to improve attitude in a round by taking a said amount of penalty to that roll, would being in combat alone break the attempt or would it take hostile actions from your team to make the attempt autofail?
Edit: fixed missing text in first phrase.


I could also note that hostile creatures have a listed DC to improve their attitude, which is also reasonably high (25+cha modifier+5per additional step improved) and the ability in question adds in a flat -10 penalty.
This would make a normal angry bandit require a check of at least 35+their cha to make them unfriendly, or 40+ to make them indifferent.


I believe you cannot be diplomatic and hostile at the same time. If you want to improve the attitude of your opponent, you'd need to limit yourself to defense for the time that it takes to use Diplomacy (usually 1 minute, unless you have some ability that would make it faster).

Note however, that not every opponent that is fighting you needs to have Hostile attitude, and improving attitude over Hostile won't necessarily stop the combat. A guard that doesn't know you and just was ordered to arrest you is probably Indifferent to you (though he may easily become Unfriendly if you fight back, and Hostile if you kill any of his companions). That doesn't mean he'll stop fighting if you ask him to, just that he'll accept your surrender and won't mistreat you when you do.

In general, an opponent that has a reason to fight you won't stop fighting just because your words made him to start to like you more. Because of that, Diplomacy is rarely a good tool to stop fights. You'd actualy need to take actions that remove the reason why your opponents fight you. Unless the fight broke out because of emotions or misunderstanding, words alone won't be able to stop it.


The main issue, as I see it, is that generally once combat starts most combatant aren't willing to talk or listen to you for a full minute.

Now, if you can reduce that time to make the check down to a single round, as a GM I would increase the likelihood that an enemy combatant would listen (at all) which would enable you to make the check (at all). Regardless, some enemies cannot be reasoned with or talked down.

So, not impossible. But practically impossible in most circumstances. Special abilities can increase the likelihood, making in conceivable to even practical.

But I imagine that the following is still a reasonable outcome, though probably not what players want:

Princess Bride wrote:

Inigo Montoya: You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.

Westley: You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die.

Inigo still attempts to kill Westley, only to be defeated. Westley spares Inigo, who befriends him later in the adventure.

If Inigo had won, perhaps he would have only timed him up and let Vizzini get away with Princess Buttercup, with a successful diplomacy check.

As Adjoint said, sometimes often no amount of diplomacy will stop a fight that has already started. It might just make it easier on you if you lose.


The call truce is basically what you want, it still has a DC 30+ highest enemy Cha diplomacy check. And it only lasts for 1 minute.

And as all diplomacy instant combat end, it heavy tells you you will get penalties and DC rises due to circumstances.

Silver Crusade

Before Ultimate Intrigue many GMs would allow diplomacy in combat to call a truce, to negotiate surrender, etc.

Officially not allowed but then there were no official rules so it was in GM fiat territory.

I mean, in reality people DO attempt to negotiate surrenders in combat.


Diplomacy -> Influence Attitude wrote:
Diplomacy is generally ineffective in combat and against creatures that intend to harm you or your allies in the immediate future.

The standard is that one cannot influence attitude once combat has begun. Specific exceptions are called out elsewhere in the rules, and the GM is encouraged and empowered to create/allow novel applications for skills. In this case, since reasonable rules were made for calling a truce, I'd just use those. It's mind-bogglingly stupid that calling a truce requires a feat, though, so I recommend ignoring that prerequisite as a house rule.


blahpers wrote:
Diplomacy -> Influence Attitude wrote:
Diplomacy is generally ineffective in combat and against creatures that intend to harm you or your allies in the immediate future.
The standard is that one cannot influence attitude once combat has begun. Specific exceptions are called out elsewhere in the rules, and the GM is encouraged and empowered to create/allow novel applications for skills. In this case, since reasonable rules were made for calling a truce, I'd just use those. It's mind-bogglingly stupid that calling a truce requires a feat, though, so I recommend ignoring that prerequisite as a house rule.

The feat allows you to compel a truce; there's nothing preventing you from shouting out offers of truce as combat banter every round until the enemies accept (if they do) for their own self interested reasons. You just can't mechanically talk them into it against their own preferences (and the GMs wishes) without the feat.


For negotiating surrender I feel like that's not so much a diplomacy check (for unconditional surrender) as it is a "I throw down all my weapons, drop prone, and ask for mercy" and the GM decides whether or not the character would accept. I mean I guess they could ask for a diplomacy check to see if they accept. Though if the players get into a situation where they need to ask for mercy at their enemy's hand the GM ought to have something planned in the first place and a roll for diplomacy would be superficial.


Well there is also the option of offering all your gold (or other valuables) to the thief. But yeah, without the feats the other characters have no reason to stop fighting without a really good incentive.


Most of the time by the time you have a chance to make the diplomacy roll the combat is over. I would also say that any attacks by your or your party negate any chance of diplomacy working until after the combat is over. So basically in order to use diplomacy in combat you need to take only defensive actions for the entire time it takes to use the skill. The skill unlock for diplomacy and 10 ranks of diplomacy allows you to reduce the time to 1 round.

You could also end combat by another means and then use diplomacy once combat ends. Intimidate works well for this.


It is difficulty, but not impossible. Generally it is a very high DC to improve the attitude of a hostile NPC and the attempt takes 10 rounds in combat without feats or special abilities.

However, if you can manage it and the rest of the party is not trying to kill the NPC's, it is possible.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Note that using most forms of diplomacy in combat will incur in circumstance modifiers.

Shadow Lodge

There is no hard rule here, nor should there be. Diplomacy in combat is completely situational and up to the GM to adjudicate when its use would be appropriate or not.

Grand Lodge

Not impossible but there's the need to use the good approach and the good arguments. I would suppose that, given there's enough tact given, that it's on the interests of everybody that stopping the fight is the best course. Now not every NPC will be sensitive to that arguments, but there's trying anyway.

Call Truce has disclaimers for players wanting to use it as a foolproof, there's cases when it won't work, and it is still at the GM's discretion, though again, if it does sound reasonable, it shouldn't be disallowed.


Philippe Lam wrote:

Not impossible but there's the need to use the good approach and the good arguments. I would suppose that, given there's enough tact given, that it's on the interests of everybody that stopping the fight is the best course. Now not every NPC will be sensitive to that arguments, but there's trying anyway.

Call Truce has disclaimers for players wanting to use it as a foolproof, there's cases when it won't work, and it is still at the GM's discretion, though again, if it does sound reasonable, it shouldn't be disallowed.

Which even more suggests that the idea of calling a truce being a feat instead of a regular use of Diplomacy is ridiculous.


Well there are rules to not use the feat,
But it's a very very vague rule that in simplest most average way amounts to: You may try if you really really want, but you have absolutely no say what so ever and the roll is just a placebo.

Grand Lodge

The funniest part of the feat disclaimer :

" When there's ongoing spells with short durations, the NPC may GTFO the attempt "


blahpers wrote:
Which even more suggests that the idea of calling a truce being a feat instead of a regular use of Diplomacy is ridiculous.

It is a regular use of Diplomacy. Check Ultimate Intrigue pg. 186. The feat broadens out the situations where you can do so, for an increased DC.

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