Charisma and persuasion in D&D is often times done wrong. Many dungeon masters let Charisma and persuasion change reality and that is far too much.
Charisma and persuasion in D&D are only able to affect a person’s opinion of someone. They do not change reality, what the individual knows, or change facts.
We will get into these topics, but most dungeon masters let their players do what they will. This is all fine and good, but sometimes you shouldn’t roll. Sometimes an ability cannot do what a player wants.
What Charisma and persuasion do
Charisma helps a person seem more attractive. Not sexually, (although this can help) but it attracts people to that person. Charisma helps a person get their point across and convey information in a sincere manner. The information might not be sincere, but others perceive it as such.
Since charisma makes people like you more persuasion is a natural extension of charisma.
Persuasion is about convincing others with matters pertaining to yourself. It does not affect the world, what a person knows, or anything o the sort. Persuasion just affects a person’s feelings towards you.
Think of it this way. A person who has a different political belief states their belief. You say ‘no that isn’t right’ and are very persuasive. Just saying this will not change that person’s view no matter what you ‘roll.’
If you make the case that candidate A is better to run for office than candidate B but a person whole heatedly believes candidate B is better than no argument is going to change their mind. You might start to get that person to question their beliefs, but they will not change right then and there.
This is a minor variation on what some people do in D&D
Players try to use persuasion and charisma in D&D to fundamentally change what a person believes. This is not how we should use charisma and persuasion.
This has become so meme worthy that there are multiple media sources that have satired this ridiculousness. Here is a great example.
What you can do
Now that we have gotten that huge misconception out of the way, lets get into what you can do with charisma and persuasion.
Charisma and persuasion in D&D are used to make a person believe you or feel good about you. If you state that you are part of the royal guard and are wearing royal guard attire, they might believe you.
If you state that you swear person A is a lying crook, they might believe that you are truthful in what you are saying. This does not mean that another person believes you. If you are trying to convince and NPC that person A is a lying crook, but both NPCs are best friends they will not change their mind.
The NPC might believe that person A did something to offend you and that you were wronged, but they will not think that person A is just a lying crook.
When a player commits vile acts before a person’s eyes no matter what the roll a player should not be able to persuade someone that they didn’t do it. Instead, the player can persuade someone that they were manipulated to do this heinous thing and are an unwilling criminal.
This might end up lightening your sentence and helping you out.
Do you see the difference? Charisma and persuasion in D&D do not change facts or opinions. They only can only change how others view you.
If you are wearing a royal guards uniform and are getting into a disheveled group of chaos, it might work. If the royal guard is a tight-knit group where they all know each other, the chance is less likely.
Instead of grabbing a grunt’s armor you grabbed an officer’s armor. Now it is much harder to pass off as an officer and others probably will not believe you. Instead of saying that you are new and providing papers, you just say that you have been here a while but are never noticed. Your chances are now lower.
Do you see how the difficulty and likelihood of success changed with each circumstance?
You can change the likely hood of success based on a few things.
First, we had the situation change. The guards were a tight-knit group in one instance and in another, the guards were a disheveled group of chaos. In a chaotic group where order isn’t important, it is more likely that you can pass off your ruse. In a tight-knit group where order is important your chances are very close to 0 if not 0 already.
Second, your choice of props affected your persuasiveness. If you try something that is very unlikely or makes no sense then the chances of success are slim.
Third, you tried to make a persuasive argument with papers, documents, and other reasonable excuses. When you just say something that doesn’t help your case like ‘I have been here a while’ people are less likely to believe you.
Charisma and persuasion in D&D are not static rolls like a lock would be. They are fluid and change based on the circumstance. If you plan well and make reasonable arguments people might believe what you are saying about yourself.
This applies to haggling as well. A person may be convinced that the item you are selling is more important by believing the knowledge you give them. That person may also just like you more and want a returning reputable/nice customer.
Whatever the reason, circumstance plays a huge role with charisma and persuasion in D&D.
When not to roll
“Role persuasion.” “I roll a nat 20!” “That doesn’t matter. You still don’t succeed.”
Don’t do this. Do not let a player roll when the outcome is fixed. A player could try to infiltrate the tight-knit royal guard while wearing a seargent’s armor that they stole with no documentation or excuses other than “I have always been here.” If they do this, don’t even have them roll. Tell them that the guards are not buying it and have them act accordingly.
Some people may disagree with this, but let me give the alternative. You let them roll and they get a nat 20 or 23 with disadvantage. Those are good rolls that would normally convince most guards. Do you now just have them change reality?
Does the guard who works directly under the sergeant not question this sudden change? Do circumstances not matter? Do the rules for a super strict guard not apply anymore?
If you let the player roll they have the potential to not have any of that matter. So now you have to answer the question.
Would you rather allow situations like this.
Or would you have the player be a bit disappointed that they cannot warp reality?
If they cannot persuade someone due to circumstances, do not let them roll.
Some dungeon masters disagree and still want their players to roll, but when you let players roll you are allowing the chance of success. Be careful. If you allow your players to succeed and they do be ready for the consequences. Do not shaft your players on what they have rightfully earned.
That is called railroading and if you want to learn more about railroading check out our railroading article. Now back on topic!
How should you decide if something is too much?
Deciding when to roll charisma/persuasion
Charisma and persuasion in D&D is a tricky thing that most dungeon masters get wrong so when should you use it?
Only have them roll charisma or persuasion (deception/bluff also) when the player is trying to influence someone’s opinion of that player. If the player is trying to change facts, it automatically fails. When the player is trying to make someone like them more, have them roll.
If the player is trying to make a deal seem sweeter, have them roll.
When pleading their case, have the player roll but do not let them change reality!
Charisma and persuasion are still excellent skills to take, but understand when to use them properly.
Charisma and persuasion in D&D is something that most people get wrong.
Charisma and persuasion are still useful, but they are not reality-bending abilities. Instead, they only affect how others perceive you and that might give a small benefit like haggling.
Neither of these will change a person’s basic beliefs or facts.
I hope that I have helped you not fall into the trap that so many dungeon masters have to make it meme-worthy.
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!