Demoralize and the language based penalty


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
beowulf99 wrote:
The GM has the leeway to create creatures that perform feats that a PC simply can't.

The GM absolutely does. But if all you did to the custom Bear is give it intimidate so it can use a player facing mechanic without the player accrued penalties - you didn’t create some grand unique bear. You slapped on something that wasn’t there so you could have a cool edgy bear.

“beowulf99” wrote:
Your position appears to be that the rules are rigid and immutable to both the GM and the players.

No, my position is that if you’re grafting a PC centered mechanic onto an NPC but applying it more loosely to the NPC because “they don’t use the same rules” is a lame way of having your cake and eating it to just to have an advantage.

“beowulf99” wrote:
How boring must it be to only ever fight creatures straight out of the bestiary, or some other official source.

How frustrating it must be to have no consistency in what you’re facing because the GM applies rules inconsistently and only when it pleases him or gives him an edge or scratches his weirdly specific fascination with bears

Shadow Lodge

CRB wrote:
Demoralize: With a sudden shout, a well-timed taunt, or a cutting put-down, you can shake an enemy’s resolve. Choose a creature within 30 feet of you who you’re aware of. Attempt an Intimidation check against that target’s Will DC. If the target does not understand the language you are speaking, you’re not speaking a language, or they can’t hear you, you take a –4 circumstance penalty to the check. Regardless of your result, the target is temporarily immune to your attempts to Demoralize it for 10 minutes.

Demoralize has the Auditory, Concentrate, Emotion, and Mental traits.

Nothing in there requires a language. In fact it specifically states if "you’re not speaking a language,' you can still do it, just with a -4 penalty. So no, it is not language based, but language does improve its effectiveness.

on bears:

I think it makes perfect sense that bears lack any intimidation skill. When a bear rears up and roars, yes it is trying to scare you away, but there's really no skill behind it. The scare part is the simple fact that it's a bear, it's bigger and stronger than you, so you back off. The stand up and roaring is really just to make sure you see it. Yes, I'm here, I'm a bear, go away. The bear roaring thing is an attempt to avoid a fight. It's the discussion that happens before a fight breaks out.

To me this is not at all the same as demoralizing someone which is done during a combat as an attempt to undermine the opponents will to fight. I see demoralizing as a people thing, not really something that animals would normally do.

Game terms wise however, I think it is crummy to have a special ability for characters with a built in hidden penalty. In this case the intimidation for animal companions. The -4 penalty makes it a "trap" option.


dirtypool wrote:
beowulf99 wrote:
There is no expectation of parity between players and monsters anyway.

I was talking about parity between you the GM and the players in your game.

See there is this expectation that players play by the rules and SO DOES THE GM. When you, on a whim, decide that a creature should have full access to an action that is incompatible with the creatures stat block and usually requires a PC to have multiple levels of proficiency and a feat to use it in the way you're applying it to the creature that shouldn't be using it - you've violated the expectation

You are approaching this from the wrong point of view. The GM IS playing by the rules when he uses a monster's stat block as written. Monsters, for various reasons, DO NOT play by PC rules, they DO NOT have to to have any PC proficiencies or PC feats to justify their stat block. In fact, they do not have to justify anything at all. They just are what the stat block states they are.

dirtypool wrote:


beowulf99 wrote:
A monster can, and frequently do, have access to abilities they does not necessarily meet the requirements for.
When that happens it's noted in the stat block,...

In the case of a bear as a monster, the stat block tells you which modifier to use for the demoralise roll. So yes, the bear having the ability to demoralise at +X is a monster ability that a bear has - which the stat block dutifully informs you about.

dirtypool wrote:
Giving a bear the ability to use demoralize at the same level as a PC who acquired through XP both the expert proficiency in intimidation and two feats is not you correcting the flawed oversight of the rules, it's you throwing those rules out the window so that you can apply the frightened condition to your players. Use a different monster.

I'm sorry to have to say it so bluntly, but you just don't understand that PCs and monsters (and by extension, NPCs), DO NOT operate under the same rules.

PCs have one set of rules to ensure there is a relative parity between them, so we aren't back in Linear Fighters/Quadratic Wizards territory. PCs have to pay for their every ability with class levels, proficiencies and feats.

Monsters are under no such obligation. Monsters are what their stat block states they are. No more, no less. That is NOT 'throwing out the rules', it is 'playing by the rules as written'.

Bears as animal companions are in a weird space since they are effectively PC class features and thus very much DO fall under PC rules. A bear as an animal companion is an animal companion, not a monster. Monster rules do not apply to animal companions. Therefore you can not use bear animal companion stats to cry foul at bear monster stats.


Lycar wrote:
That is NOT 'throwing out the rules', it is 'playing by the rules as written'.

I don't really get this argument. Your entire point is that you should ignore part of what the Demoralize action does because you don't think it makes sense.

That, in and of itself, is reasonable enough. Especially as a GM when you're empowered to do whatever.

But why all these mental gymnastics to try to justify the notion that saying "just ignore that part" doesn't actually mean "just ignore that part"?

It seems like way too much effort wasted on what's effectively a semantic argument and totally irrelevant to the question of whether or not certain creatures should be better at demoralizing or not.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lycar wrote:
You are approaching this from the wrong point of view. The GM IS playing by the rules when he uses a monster's stat block as written. Monsters, for various reasons, DO NOT play by PC rules, they DO NOT have to to have any PC proficiencies or PC feats to justify their stat block. In fact, they do not have to justify anything at all. They just are what the stat block states they are.

You and I are in agreement on that. What beowulf99 said he would do is NOT what you just described. Bears in the Bestiary have a low charisma and are not trained in Intimidation. He wants to allow the low charisma bear to perform Demoralize action without the -4 penalty because it isn't using a language. Per the Bears stat block it cannot perform this action, which is why that action is not listed on the stat block. So if it can't do it according to the Monster rules and it can't do it according the PC rules, then it shouldn't be doing it.

Lycar wrote:
In the case of a bear as a monster, the stat block tells you which modifier to use for the demoralise roll. So yes, the bear having the ability to demoralise at +X is a monster ability that a bear has - which the stat block dutifully informs you about.

Demoralize isn't on the Bear's stat block. That's the point. It's not there, but beowulf wants the Bear to be able to do it anyway, and he wants the bear to be able to do it better than the version of demoralize in the CRB allows.

Lycar wrote:
Monsters are what their stat block states they are. No more, no less. That is NOT 'throwing out the rules', it is 'playing by the rules as written'.

In this case no it isn't, because by the rules as written, the bear can't perform that action because it lacks training in the requisite skill. beowulf wants to ignore that the bear can't do, and wants to graft that action onto the bear's existing stat block without taking into account the penalties that are built into the demoralize action as written. He is choosing to "throw out" the written rules of the action and ignore the Bear's written stat block to give it access to something it doesn't have the capability of doing.


Okay, but your argument boils down to: The bear's stat block does not list the demoralise action as something a bear can do.

Then, I have to ask, why does the stat block even bother listing an Intimidate skill value?

I say, it is there to inform the GM what modifier to use when performing actions using the Intimidate skill value. Such as the Demoralise action. Which implies that, yes, bears can use the Demoralise action.

I would simply conclude, that word count limitations prevented the stat block from spelling out what the presence of an Intimidate skill value implies.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lycar wrote:
Okay, but your argument boils down to: The bear's stat block does not list the demoralise action as something a bear can do.

Nope, my argument is that the bear's stat block does not list the intimidate skill

Lycar wrote:
Then, I have to ask, why does the stat block even bother listing an Intimidate skill value?

It doesn't. It's not included at all.

Lycar wrote:
I say, it is there to inform the GM what modifier to use when performing actions using the Intimidate skill value. Such as the Demoralise action. Which implies that, yes, bears can use the Demoralise action.

Grizzly Bears and Cave Bears in the Bestiary have two skills: Athletics and Survival. They DO NOT HAVE Intimidate.

Bestiary 2 Spoiler:
The Black Bears and Polar Bears in Bestiary 2 don't have Intimidate either

Lycar wrote:
I would simply conclude, that word count limitations prevented the stat block from spelling out what the presence of an Intimidate skill value implies.

There was no limitation to spelling out what the presence of the intimidate skill value implies, because the intimidate skill value is not present.


Lycar wrote:

PCs have to adjust their Intimidate score according to the language tag. Monsters just roll their assigned stat and call it a day.

Why do you feel the need to make things needlessly complicated?

I don't see a difference in your reasoning for ignoring the Demoralize penalty for not having a language your target understands because "monster stat block has numbers, just use them" and someone saying monsters don't take MAP.

Plus, in my campaigns over the years I'm likely to have not just a bear (or other creature from the bestiary that is "scary" but doesn't use language) but also a more-intelligent talking bear - and since the latter should be better at Demoralize actions even assuming all other details of the two bears are identical, that leaves me two options:

Option A) Follow the rules already in the book.
Option B) House-rule that "scary" creatures from the bestiary don't follow the existing rule. Then also house-rule in a bonus for when these creatures get to talk.

And I don't do the whole "I made up a house-rule to fix the problem my other house-rule made for me" thing.


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Yeah I think what the disconnect here is when I see a bear, Im going to be frightened because I have a realistic sense that in a straight fight the bear is going to turn me into breakfast.

I’m not necessarily frightened the condition so much as I am frightened because I’m about to have my insides become my outsides.

If I was a pc, would I be that intimidated by just a bear being a bear? Or would I be frightened by Smokey the Bear with commando gear taunting me in the dark while I make shifty eyes.

I feel like people are confusing the ability to intimidate with being good at it. A bear is better than other animals sure, but is it better than a person who can talk and is trained in intimidation? Not sure I’d say it is.

Context obviously matters though, it makes sense sometimes.


dirtypool wrote:
Nope, my argument is that the bear's stat block does not list the intimidate skill

... So it doesn't. My bad for not actually looking up bears. I was just assuming they did, since the OP explicitly asked about a bear taking a -4 to demoralising player characters.

Assuming that a bear's stat block would list, for example, 'Intimidate +7', would you still insist it takes a -4 to its roll vs. the player characters? Presumably in the absence of a mention of the Intimidating Glare feat in the stat block?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Lycar wrote:

Assuming that a bear's stat block would list, for example, 'Intimidate +7', would you still insist it takes a -4 to its roll vs. the player characters? Presumably in the absence of a mention of the Intimidating Glare feat in the stat block?

Not getting into a hypothetical about how I might feel if intimidate were on the stat block.

My argument this whole time was proceeding from the fact that it isn’t a skill the creature has and the other guy wanted a creature without intimidate to be more intimidating than PC’s trained in intimidate.


I had originally intended to leave the discussion, but a bit of misinformation rearing it's head brings me back right quick.

A creature does not have to have a skill listed in it's stat block to utilize that skill. They are simply untrained in such a skill, unless the GM modifies them in some way, and only gain their relevant ability bonus to it when they do. And in fact the GM also has the right to require a completely different Stat for any skill check they deem appropriate. It's just a choice they can make for PC's making skill checks, or NPC's.

This means that any creature can attempt Demoralize, regardless of whether their stat block lists Intimidation or not. No speech needed.

Saying that, this means that a Grizzly Bear (sticking with the bear since it's well worn ground by now) would make such a check with a -2 modifier as a baseline, which depending on whether you want to apply the language penalty to it or not, can become a -6. Which is pretty bad. But it is an option.

My entire point was that I wouldn't apply the language penalty to an animal as they, without some special quality granting them speech, can't speak a language but naturally would still have an analogue to Demoralize they can make use of.

Saying that any creature can't use Demoralize, trained in Intimidation or not, is patently false.

My previous statements on giving the bear ersatz Intimidating Glare was just a way of justifying the bypassing of that penalty really. It is immaterial whether you justify it or not though: If you rule that a creatures uses "Not Demoralize" instead of "Demoralize", which just so happens to utilize Intimidation, then that is fine. As is you providing the creature with stats to heighten that effect, if you feel it is necessary or cogent to the narrative.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
beowulf99 wrote:
My entire point was that I wouldn't apply the language penalty to an animal as they, without some special quality granting them speech, can't speak a language but naturally would still have an analogue to Demoralize they can make use of.

Right, you wouldn’t apply the -4 penalty that is BUILT IN to the rule to a creature with no intimidation and a negative charisma because... reasons?

“beowulf99” wrote:
My previous statements on giving the bear ersatz Intimidating Glare was just a way of justifying the bypassing of that penalty really.

Just a way of justifying bypassing the Bears lack of charisma to make them better at demoralize than something that has both a charisma score and an intimidate score, sure that’s perfectly reasonable.


dirtypool wrote:
beowulf99 wrote:
My entire point was that I wouldn't apply the language penalty to an animal as they, without some special quality granting them speech, can't speak a language but naturally would still have an analogue to Demoralize they can make use of.

Right, you wouldn’t apply the -4 penalty that is BUILT IN to the rule to a creature with no intimidation and a negative charisma because... reasons?

“beowulf99” wrote:
My previous statements on giving the bear ersatz Intimidating Glare was just a way of justifying the bypassing of that penalty really.
Just a way of justifying bypassing the Bears lack of charisma to make them better at demoralize than something that has both a charisma score and an intimidate score, sure that’s perfectly reasonable.

It is perfectly reasonable, so long as it fits the narrative. If I intend a Grizzly Bear to be a difficult encounter for a level 1 party, then I would feel perfectly fine in making that decision. After all, allowing the Grizzly Bear to do more than move and strike only serves to make the encounter more interesting.


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Does any one else keep picturing The Girl who loved Tom Gordon when discussing this topic.

I feel like this is one of those “monster rules do as they please and that is a feature” situations. When the bear deserves to be scary without a language, he gets to be. I feel like it’s always fair to make that call in the right moment.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
beowulf99 wrote:
It is perfectly reasonable, so long as it fits the narrative. If I intend a Grizzly Bear to be a difficult encounter for a level 1 party, then I would feel perfectly fine in making that decision. After all, allowing the Grizzly Bear to do more than move and strike only serves to make the encounter more interesting.

I thought it was about being true to the flavor of real bears, but this makes it sound like it’s really just about ignoring the written rules so that you can give yourNPC a bonus that by RAW it shouldn’t have so you can make a Moderate encounter more challenging.


dirtypool wrote:
beowulf99 wrote:
It is perfectly reasonable, so long as it fits the narrative. If I intend a Grizzly Bear to be a difficult encounter for a level 1 party, then I would feel perfectly fine in making that decision. After all, allowing the Grizzly Bear to do more than move and strike only serves to make the encounter more interesting.
I thought it was about being true to the flavor of real bears, but this makes it sound like it’s really just about ignoring the written rules so that you can give yourNPC a bonus that by RAW it shouldn’t have so you can make a Moderate encounter more challenging.

Why can't it be both? What if during one encounter, I decide that an Emperor Bird doesn't have to take the penalty to stay true to the creature, and during a separate encounter I decide that an Elite Gorilla picked up a modicum of the Megaprimatus' ability on his own way to become a Megaprimatus?

What if it is both in the case of that aforementioned bear?


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
beowulf99 wrote:
What if it is both in the case of that aforementioned bear?

What if you decided to ignore written rules because you’re both convinced that Bears are notorious for their taunting jibes and you’d like to invent whole cloth a bonus just for the purpose of ekeing out a win over your players by running a monster with actions that aren’t justified by their stats?

I go back to my previous statement of: “use a different monster”


dirtypool wrote:
beowulf99 wrote:
What if it is both in the case of that aforementioned bear?

What if you decided to ignore written rules because you’re both convinced that Bears are notorious for their taunting jibes and you’d like to invent whole cloth a bonus just for the purpose of ekeing out a win over your players by running a monster with actions that aren’t justified by their stats?

I go back to my previous statement of: “use a different monster”

Imagine needing to "win" a ttrpg. You misunderstand me. If I alter a rule to suit my purposes, I do so to benefit the narrative. Your assumption that I'm some kind of hostile GM, just trying to get an edge on my party is absurd to me. After all, if I wanted to do that all I would need to do is consistently throw Extreme encounters at my party.

Then they would abandon me, or at the very least quit my campaigns. This hasn't happened in the years I've had the same group, so I must be doing something right.

And sure, I could use a different monster. But what if I want to use an Emperor Bird because I like it? I can't utilize the tools given to us in the bestiary and GMG to alter the creature to be relevant beyond it's stated level? Or act in a way that feels thematic for the creature to me? Then what good is an "Elite" adjustment? What good is playing a pen and paper RPG if I'm locked into using stat blocks as is, with no possible alterations?

Guess Paizo just wrote all those rules for altering or creating creatures for nothing then. And go ahead and throw out the Adjudicating the Rules section, lump in that much maligned Ambiguous Rules clause while we're at it.


The narrative of a bear trying to scare the party doesn't depend on the modifiers, though. Whether it passes or fails, it has been a bear and been scary.

So when you say "If I alter a rule to suit my purposes, I do so to benefit the narrative" it actually sounds a lot more like what you're doing is rigging the narrative so it goes the way you want it to... which is a common trait of hostile GMs, and GMs that otherwise feel like they have to "win" or to phrase "win" more aptly "get the outcome they wanted."


thenobledrake wrote:

The narrative of a bear trying to scare the party doesn't depend on the modifiers, though. Whether it passes or fails, it has been a bear and been scary.

So when you say "If I alter a rule to suit my purposes, I do so to benefit the narrative" it actually sounds a lot more like what you're doing is rigging the narrative so it goes the way you want it to... which is a common trait of hostile GMs, and GMs that otherwise feel like they have to "win" or to phrase "win" more aptly "get the outcome they wanted."

Or I have a party that enjoys a challenge that comes out of left field. Fighting another grizzly bear gets stale. I tend to like to modify creatures after using them a few times to keep combats fresh, and introduce new mechanics to fights that otherwise wouldn't use them.

I never said I advocate giving a creature an overwhelming advantage. But adjusting a creature to challenge your party is not the same as trying to "win".

Then again, I have no need to justify what I do and don't do at my table. It is just helpful, especially for newer GM's, to point out that you have the ability, and rules that support that ability, to alter creatures to fit the role you want them to fit.

Can you sometimes just find a creature that better fits that role? Sure. Does that mean they fit the theme and narrative of your campaign? Nope.


Again, "the creature rolls a Demoralize with a total of X added to the roll" and "the creature rolls a Demoralize with a total of X+Y added to the roll" are not differences in narrative (or theme) of the campaign.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
beowulf99 wrote:
Imagine needing to "win" a ttrpg. You misunderstand me. If I alter a rule to suit my purposes, I do so to benefit the narrative.

The needless change to the bear benefits the narrative how?

“beowulf99” wrote:
Your assumption that I'm some kind of hostile GM, just trying to get an edge on my party is absurd to me.

What other assumption should I draw from a GM who ignores multiple rules to justify a creature imposing conditions it shouldn’t easily do just to make a moderate encounter harder?

“beowulf99” wrote:
After all, if I wanted to do that all I would need to do is consistently throw Extreme encounters at my party.

At least that would be a choice that would be within the rules.

“beowulf99” wrote:
And sure, I could use a different monster. But what if I want to use an Emperor Bird because I like it?

We aren’t talking about the damn Emperor Bird, we’re talking about the Bear.

“beowulf99” wrote:
I can't utilize the tools given to us in the bestiary and GMG to alter the creature to be relevant beyond it's stated level?

I wasn’t aware that “take a rule that works one way for PC’s, strip out every single detail of it except the condition it imposes, graft it onto an NPC without the relevant statistics to use it and make it more powerful” was a suggestion made in the GMG. Could you give me a page number?

“beowulf99” wrote:
Then what good is an "Elite" adjustment?

Elite adjustments don’t do that. They increase the creature’s AC, attack modifiers, DCs, saving throws, Perception, and skill modifiers by 2. Increase the damage of its Strikes and other offensive abilities by 2. If the creature has limits on how many times or how often it can use an ability (such as a spellcaster’s spells or a dragon’s Breath Weapon), increase the damage by 4 instead. Increase the creature’s Hit Points based on its starting level (see the table below.).

Notice that “add new skill modifiers” isn’t on there.

Furthermore you said the Bear was for a first level party. Adding an elite adjustment to a CR3 Bear would be a whole lot of overkill.

“beowulf99” wrote:
What good is playing a pen and paper RPG if I'm locked into using stat blocks as is, with no possible alterations?

Right? What’s the point of playing games if you can’t throw out the rules and say you did it to make the game more fun?

“beowulf99” wrote:
Guess Paizo just wrote all those rules for altering or creating creatures for nothing then. And go ahead and throw out the Adjudicating the Rules section, lump in that much maligned Ambiguous Rules clause while we're at it.

You didn’t use any of those, you just gave bears all the benefits of demoralize with none of the written drawbacks because you can’t grasp the simplest concept that demoralize =/= frighten.

You argue that you should apply rules inconsistently so that penalties affect players but not you. That’s lame, and it’s a poor way to run the game.


thenobledrake wrote:
Again, "the creature rolls a Demoralize with a total of X added to the roll" and "the creature rolls a Demoralize with a total of X+Y added to the roll" are not differences in narrative (or theme) of the campaign.

It sure can be, if I decide that I want that bear to have a shot at demoralizing PC who otherwise assumes it couldn't reasonably do so. Providing an unexpected challenge and forcing the party to react accordingly. Which they tend to enjoy afaik.

What is the difference between doing that, and simply placing a creature with a higher level of training in Intimidate before them instead? What if there is no creature within a reasonable level bracket that fits that mold, forcing me to apply the "weak" template to it to bring it to the power level I want?

Would that be preferable?

Shadow Lodge

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Reading through this thread is rather demoralizing.


Beowulf, just call that monster 'scary grizzly bear' instead of 'grizzly bear'; a homebrew monster with the same level and same stats, but with +2 intimidate instead of -2. Done. Everyone is happy. Maybe.

Liberty's Edge

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Ubertron_X wrote:
a gorilla pounding his chest . . . really are not that hard to understand.

Gorillas have a specific two-action activity reflecting this, with mechanics distinct from Intimidate, and have no specific modifier listed for that skill. To my mid that indicates that what gorillas do isn’t the same thing at all, and that animals without either a similar mechanic or an Intimidate bonus just don’t do that.

Liberty's Edge

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beowulf99 wrote:
Demoralize doesn't have to be language based.

That’s true, but when Demoralize isn’t language based it suffers a -4 penalty unless the user has Intimidating Glare or some similar ability.

Quote:
Many animals will make threatening displays,..

Those probably aren’t Demoralize. They are probably some other action or activity, such as the Gorilla’s Frightening Display.

Liberty's Edge

dirtypool wrote:
Per the Bears stat block it cannot perform this action, which is why that action is not listed on the stat block.

I don’t get why the Bear can’t perform the Demoralize action. Demoralize isn’t a trained action, so the fact that the Bear isn’t trained seems immaterial to the question of whether he can try. The Bear presumably isn’t speaking a language, but the Demoralize action accounts for that with a -4 penalty. So why can’t the Bear roll at -5?

Quote:
the bear can't perform that action because it lacks training in the requisite skill.

The action doesn’t require training.

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