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  • Intimidation in Combat, Hostage Situations

    Intimidation is (or should be) a good skill for getting the enemy to give up and avoid violence instead of getting a bonus on inflicting violence. But how do you apply it in combat and how do you handle the fiction around it? I'd like to get a few tips and best practices from your tables.

    Say, for example, the PC team is tasked to kidnap the leader of the militia.
    They're in a fight with the militia. One of the PCs manages to grab the leader and put him in a hostage situation (blade at the throat, gun to the head, etc.) "Retreat, or your leader is going to die."
    He rolls on Intimidation. Against the leader? Against the other fighters (group roll)? Bonus of +2? More? Does the leader need to be Incapacitated?
    What does he get with a Success?
    What does he get with a Raise?
    Can he get the NPCs to retreat at all?
    How to handle a negotiation? Stop combat, switch to Social Conflict? With Intimidation instead of Persuasion?
    What happens if he fails? "Go ahead, kill him / me, I don't care"? "You won't do that anyway"?

  • #2
    I wrote a blog post about Using Intimidation Outside of Combat, you might find it worth a read.
    My blog: Savage Stuff. I've also written some free tools and supplements.

    Comment


    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      I definitely do, but it doesn't help me a great deal in my particular problem to introduce that *in* combat. I mean, letting the combat go on for 10 rounds while one PC tries to talk down the enemies doesn't really make a lot of sense – both mechanically and fictionally – does it?

    • dentris
      dentris commented
      Editing a comment
      Nothing stops the GM from making his NPCs surrender. However, implementing a mechanic allowing PCs to force ennemies to surrender with a good enough skill roll is risky. Would you allow NPCs to do the same against PCs?

      In such cases, I think GM's fiat is the best way to go. "Two extras remaining? Ok they surrender."

    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      dentris Yes, but I'd like a way to handle the situation specified in the opening post. If I solve this via GM fiat, their Intimidation skill is useless.

  • #3
    By RAW, you can only roll a Test of Will (Taunt, Intimidate, and sometimes Persuasion) against a single target at a time. But, in the above example, there's nothing stopping you from instead using the Social Conflict rules. Those require multiple opposed rolls to get the desired result. And the Extras in the militia, since they'd be making an out-of-combat group roll, get to add a Wild Die to resist.

    In combat, a Test of Will is meant to be fleeting. Taunt might be a snappy quip that gets inside someone's head. Intimidate might make them momentarily waver out of fear. Persuasion might be flirtatious (see The Mask of Zorro and Get Smart), an appeal to their better nature, or an attempt at striking a bargain.

    But the big thing to remember is, even if you succeed, motivations don't change on a dime. Maybe they'll feel guilty about robbing you, but it's you or them and they need to survive. Maybe there's a contract taken out on you they can't simply break. Maybe they're fanatics so even if the leader of the militia dies the cause will live on. (He might even tell his troops to open fire on him.)

    Comment


    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      So it's more than *initially* requested? Okay.
      Still, I don't know if "we want to kidnap your leader" is the same as "your honor, this guy is guilty, here's the proof". What would the first example incur on the roll? -4? Or no penalty since you use Intimidation instead of Persuasion (...do you?) and have a bargaining chip?

    • Jounichi
      Jounichi commented
      Editing a comment
      I'm not picky on the skill being used, so long as the players can justify its use. And any penalty (or bonus) would hinge on how well the players make their point. Dude, I modified the Chase rules to simulate an escape from a burning building. Be flexible.

    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      Jounichi, don't take this the wrong way, but to be flexible, I need to properly understand how the skills and rules are supposed to work. If I just wanted to have *any* mechanic, I could just go "ok, roll Intimidation, on a success, they all give up". But as dentris mentioned, that might not be a great idea

  • #4
    In this specific case, I'd roll against the leader and if they fail, they order their men to fall back.

    Comment


    • Jounichi
      Jounichi commented
      Editing a comment
      Assuming they're not fanatics, sure.

    • Brickulos
      Brickulos commented
      Editing a comment
      Sure, the specifics matter.

  • #5
    You know, I'm reminded of this sequence at the beginning of 2006's Casino Royale. Specifically, the end of that and how Bond has a guy at gunpoint, surrounded by a cadre of soldiers guarding an embassy. And that clearly wasn't his first plan. Rather, it was an impulsive decision to storm the compound without a plan. And only after his first plan failed. I guess what I'm saying is your example is a very specific situation that any group of players wouldn't normally get to. And if that's what happened with an actual group of yours, then I feel for you. Improvisation isn't easy. But, in my experience, if often necessary.

    Honestly, I think you're being too simplistic in your approach. "Guard post to get money, stay alive" is someone who's merely been hired to do a job. He just wants to put in his 9-5 and get home in one piece. That sounds more like a toll booth operator than a militiaman. And if the leader of the militia is worth capturing or killing, then they're not state-sanctioned. It's likely an independent militia; terrorists or insurgents fighting for a cause. Martyrdom might be welcome, hence the desire to capture instead of killing the leader. So the leader might order their own death for the cause, and their followers will call it a heroic sacrifice. And even if that's not the case, there are sure to be lieutenants. The leader can't run everything by themselves. And since the cause is bigger than any one person, just taking out the leader isn't going to stop the militia.

    Comment


    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      Taking that scene into Savage Worlds: *Why* aren't they all just shooting at Bond? Because he successfully grappled the guy or because he had that guy and succeeded with an Intimidation roll, getting everybody shaken? Because there's no negotiation there or anything*– that scene is totally doable with the core rules on Test on Wills in combat, isn't it?

    • Jounichi
      Jounichi commented
      Editing a comment
      Like I said, by RAW a Test of Wills is only one-on-one. They're not meant to be used against crowds. And there are settings with Edges which allow for skills like Intimidate to be used on anyone in a given template. That being said, it's your game and you can house rule whatever you want. Just remember to be consistent. If you let your players do it, then you can do it to them as well. And you can easily imbalance an encounter.

      But I would like to point out that, in the scene with Bond, nobody really speaks. The guards are essentially on Hold, their weapons trained on him should he shoot his hostage. So he releases the hostage, comes off hold, succeeds on his Agility roll to interrupt, and then successfully rapid attacks to both kill the former hostage and cause a distraction to cover his escape. At least, that's my interpretation of the events.

    • Vasant
      Vasant commented
      Editing a comment
      Good points! So it's not only that the situation could be handled with (house-ruled) intimidation – it could be handled with just going on Hold! So there'd be no need for prolonged negotiation (since the point is clear: Release the hostage or die) *and* no need to break up combat. Of course, that wouldn't make use of Intimidation that way. Hum. Might need to negotiate, err, talk to the player about that.

  • #6
    Originally posted by Jounichi View Post
    You know, I'm reminded of this sequence at the beginning of 2006's Casino Royale. Specifically, the end of that and how Bond has a guy at gunpoint, surrounded by a cadre of soldiers guarding an embassy. And that clearly wasn't his first plan. Rather, it was an impulsive decision to storm the compound without a plan. And only after his first plan failed. I guess what I'm saying is your example is a very specific situation that any group of players wouldn't normally get to. And if that's what happened with an actual group of yours, then I feel for you. Improvisation isn't easy. But, in my experience, if often necessary.
    It's what the player specifically and repeatedly likes to do with Intimidation, hence I need a way to deal with it. If it doesn't make sense and/or doesn't work with the rules, that's fine. Telling him "you know, that doesn't really work" is a legitimate way to deal with that, too.

    Originally posted by Jounichi View Post
    Honestly, I think you're being too simplistic in your approach. "Guard post to get money, stay alive" is someone who's merely been hired to do a job. He just wants to put in his 9-5 and get home in one piece. That sounds more like a toll booth operator than a militiaman. And if the leader of the militia is worth capturing or killing, then they're not state-sanctioned. It's likely an independent militia; terrorists or insurgents fighting for a cause. Martyrdom might be welcome, hence the desire to capture instead of killing the leader. So the leader might order their own death for the cause, and their followers will call it a heroic sacrifice. And even if that's not the case, there are sure to be lieutenants. The leader can't run everything by themselves. And since the cause is bigger than any one person, just taking out the leader isn't going to stop the militia.
    Maybe the term "militia" was mistakable, sorry for that. I was being simplistic to not overburden the topic with a rundown of the complete adventure – I just wanted a simple example for the discussion's sake.

    Comment


    • #7
      Originally posted by Vasant View Post
      It's what the player specifically and repeatedly likes to do with Intimidation, hence I need a way to deal with it. If it doesn't make sense and/or doesn't work with the rules, that's fine. Telling him "you know, that doesn't really work" is a legitimate way to deal with that, too.
      That most definitely is an option. If this all stemmed from your problems with the player, then maybe you should have begun with that instead of a pure hypothetical. But if they've done that, then I understand. Have you tried having a talk with your player?

      Comment


      • #8
        Originally posted by Jounichi View Post
        That most definitely is an option. If this all stemmed from your problems with the player, then maybe you should have begun with that instead of a pure hypothetical. But if they've done that, then I understand. Have you tried having a talk with your player?
        Wait, whoah, I don't have a problem with the player. Not at all! I think this is a totally legitimate and cool thing to do in a fight (well, cool if you think as a viewer/player, not as a hostage ). I like to have that in my game, he likes to do that with his player character – I don't want to talk him out of it if we can make it work! The question is just how we're gonna handle that.
        I had that a few times before in Savage Worlds and it was just awkwardly handwaved, so I want to come up with something more satisfying. Having something that takes into account the idea of the player, the circumstances, the skill of the player character and the result of the dice.

        Comment


        • #9
          Originally posted by Vasant View Post
          Wait, whoah, I don't have a problem with the player. Not at all! I think this is a totally legitimate and cool thing to do in a fight (well, cool if you think as a viewer/player, not as a hostage ). I like to have that in my game, he likes to do that with his player character – I don't want to talk him out of it if we can make it work! The question is just how we're gonna handle that.
          I had that a few times before in Savage Worlds and it was just awkwardly handwaved, so I want to come up with something more satisfying. Having something that takes into account the idea of the player, the circumstances, the skill of the player character and the result of the dice.
          Okay, so you don't have a problem with it. Do your other players feel the same way? Does the serially intimidating steal other peoples' thunder? At the very least, should you work with the player to better craft opportunities where their favored tactic can properly shine? Intimidation is about making the enemies afraid. That's why it doesn't normally work against crowds; because there's strength in numbers.

          But there are Edges to improve it. Both Deadlands and the Wizards and Warriors supplement have Edges for letting Intimidate affect everyone in a Large Burst Template. Deadlands also lets undead (harrowed) characters force victims of Intimidation to roll on the Fear Table instead of the normal results. But that's pretty setting specific, so unless that's the game you're running I don't recommend allowing it.

          Comment


          • #10
            Originally posted by Jounichi View Post
            Okay, so you don't have a problem with it. Do your other players feel the same way? Does the serially intimidating steal other peoples' thunder?
            Yeah, the group's fine with that, don't worry (at least that's what they tell me ). The escapes mostly still feature explosions and chases (even if they got rid of one group of enemies), so it's not like he can solve everything with hostages.

            Originally posted by Jounichi View Post
            But there are Edges to improve it. Both Deadlands and the Wizards and Warriors supplement have Edges for letting Intimidate affect everyone in a Large Burst Template. Deadlands also lets undead (harrowed) characters force victims of Intimidation to roll on the Fear Table instead of the normal results. But that's pretty setting specific, so unless that's the game you're running I don't recommend allowing it.
            Yeah, since I noticed that the German core rules incorporate setting edges (e.g. from 50 Fathoms and Deadlands), I check the English SWD if that's core or not. But that's another topic...

            Comment


            • #11
              Originally posted by Vasant View Post
              Yeah, since I noticed that the German core rules incorporate setting edges (e.g. from 50 Fathoms and Deadlands), I check the English SWD if that's core or not. But that's another topic...
              I wouldn't worry too much about that. So long as the book is official, it's core for you. Hell, even if it isn't official it can still be core for you. That's one of the beautiful things about Savage Worlds; everything is technically compatible. The only thing that matters is picking and choosing what to use.

              Speaking of Social Conflict and Intimidation, there are some wonderful interrogation rules in Deadlands Noir you may want to look at. It gives your serial intimidator something to do with their skill outside of combat.

              EDIT:
              I've ported over or adapted at least a dozen total Edges and Hindrances from various other Savage Worlds settings just into my Deadlands house rules. Some of it was just because I found out some options from Classic didn't make it into Reloaded. Other times I brought over equipment because it should exist. (Space 1889: Red Sands was a huge source of that miscellanea.)
              Last edited by Jounichi; 03-13-2018, 09:28 PM.

              Comment


              • #12
                Vasant -- I've had a similar thing come up. First step was an intimidation roll v the boss, +2 for the weapon to the throat, boss may have a bonus for fanatical etc if a cultist or militia leader and maybe -2 if a steroetype bully boss who is really a wimp when threatened -- if the intimidation is successful the boss orders the Extras on hold and the fighting pauses (maybe with a raise he orders them to surrender) , maybe giving the players The Drop but if they start the fighting then the Extras go a little mad (berserk?)-- in reverse if a gang boss grabs a hostage your players could face the same problem. Once everybody is on hold it becomes a Social Conflict with the players using Persuasion to persuade the Extras to surrender or run away -- again modifiers should apply, fanatics are hard to persuade. The Intimidate player doesn't need to be the Persuade player but if not then maybe their is a situation mod of -1. In the Bond example the intimidate was silent and that is some Legendary Edge.

                Comment


                • Vasant
                  Vasant commented
                  Editing a comment
                  That sounds like a very good solution. Thanks for that!
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