How to handle persuasion checks in D&D

Persuasion checks

Persuasion checks in D&D can fundamentally change the game. Persuasion checks can make a guard completely trust the party and make their life easier so how do you deal with persuasion checks?

Persuasion checks in D&D should only be used to affect a person’s perception of the player or an unformulated opinion. Persuasion checks cannot change world views or knowledge.

How do you know what should be rolled for persuasion checks and how do you not become biased when having players make persuasion checks? It can be tricky, but today we will answer those questions and give you the information to have persuasion checks in D&D not become an issue in your games.

Non charismatic players

Jenny has a +10 her persuasion checks and Tim has a -1 to persuasion checks. She is not very social and gives a poor speech about how a guard should let them through. Jenny rolls a 3, and 13 is not enough to make the guards change their stance. Tim, on the other hand, gives a rousing speech and the dungeon master lets the party pass without a roll. Jenny never wants to play a charismatic character again.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed. Whenever we ask someone to lift something in game we do not have them lift something in real life. We roleplay someone that we cannot in real life, but shouldn’t we reward good roleplay?

This is the dilemma that plagues many games and causes non charismatic players to hate persuasion checks in D&D. Good roleplay should be rewarded, so let’s find a balance.

Finding the balance

If Jenny is unable to give a persuasive speech, have her describe what her intentions are before she rolls and then have her make a persuasion check.

I would highly recommend this approach and it puts everyone on equal ground. But what about those of us who want to give a speech for our persuasion checks in D&D?

Should we modify the rolls based on our performance?

No. No we should not. There is an easy way to solve this issue.

Situational modifiers

If the party is trying to convince a king to give them a gift that has a high DC (dice check) that the players need to meet. If the players just did a favor for the king that DC significantly goes down. In fact, the favor could be so big that the gift is miniscule compared to the player’s service. There should be no roll.

If the players show up in chains and have done some heinous act, asking for a favor would be impossible. Just showing up might have an impossible DC and a natural 20 should not give the players what they want. Here though? A natural 20 on persuasion check couldn’t change the king’s mind.

Have the players roll based on the situation, not on their individual performance. If the players don’t need to roll, don’t have them roll. If the players cannot hope to succeed, don’t have them succeed. How do you reward good roleplay and speeches?

Rewarding roleplay

Make it clear that rewarding roleplay should be important, but not a giant factor. A -1 to persuasion checks character should never do something a +10 character to persuasion cannot. (unless the rolls are a natural 1 and a natural 20)

If a person makes a great speech, you can lower the required DC by up to three. Reward the roleplay, but do not make it world changing. If a person makes a speech and completely screws it up, go with their intent and don’t increase the DC.

You can play a jumble of words or stupid speeches off as cute or charming in almost any situation.

One thing to remember is that the players cannot change a person’s mind even with a good persuasion check.

Mind control

The players have decided to ask the king to remove his armies from a war. A pretty big request, but a player rolled a natural 20. The king, despite taking a hard stance that the war is necessary and needed to hold political alliances is swayed and removes his armies.

NO!

The king would not do this even with a natural 20.

Persuasion checks in D&D are for individual’s impressions of you or swaying unformulated opinions. You cannot convince someone that their name is now Greg, or make them change a stance that they have come to.

Persuasion is not mind control.

Players and persuasion checks

Do not let other players use persuasion checks in D&D on each other.

We treat each other differently than NPCS (non player characters). Your players deserve some special treatment and it is never fun to see your character which you control do something you don’t want.

Players want control over their characters. Let them have that control and do not cause any bad blood at the table.

Failure

If a player fails some persuasion checks they do not need to be total failure. If a sword doesn’t hit it does not hit, but if persuasion checks fail they do not need to be so solid.

Persuasion checks in D&D can instead make a character’s opinion of a player change. A neutral opinion turns into a suspicious one instead. An NPC now has a bad feeling about the player and will relate that to others.

Does this mean that the negotiations are over? No. A person can bounce back from a bad roll. Think of a conversation. Does one bad sentence completely kill the entire conversation?

Rarely. Rarely does one sentence kill a conversation. People can recover and fix the bad image that they painted for themselves fairly easily. Perhaps that sentence was a misunderstanding or you were confused on the topic.

Failure does not have to be absolute. Persuasion checks are a fluid back and forth interaction instead of a final black and white outcome.

How difficult should checks be?

Persuasion checks in D&D are a little bit subjective, but the dungeon master’s guide has some answers to help you out.


Realmshelp has a great index for basic persuasion checks if you are unsure how to rank some persuasion checks.

If you are still unsure how difficult a situation should be go with your gut. You should know if the situation is looking bad or good for any reason. Go with that instinct and base the DC that the players need to meet off of that.

How to enhance encounters

Non combat encounters can be tricky for some people. We are used to fighting. That is a very easy black and white situation.

Non combat encounters can be difficult for many dungeon master’s to deal with, but here is an article to help you enhance your non combat encounters.

If you don’t know how to make persuasion checks in D&D work with NPCs and just need some help creating stellar NPCs, look at this article. It will help you make fantastic NPCs for your players to have fun with.

Conclusion

Using persuasion checks in Dungeons and Dragons can be challenging. Many people let persuasion checks completely change and warp reality. Do not do this!

Make your players roll based on the situation and remember that persuasion checks are not mind control.

Persuasion checks in D&D should be primarily based off of the situation, and not player performance.

This has been Wizo and keep rolling!

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