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Player always relies on Persuasion and Animal Handling to avoid combat. HELP!

I have a player who has high levels in Animal Handling and Persuasion and consistently uses them to avoid combat situations and I don’t know how to handle this in game. Is there something in the rules that I’m missing to keep him from doing this? I’m being hyperbolic here but there’s nothing keeping him from taking high level threats like Thoth Amon or a Forest Dragon even at Diff 5 and just dismissing them with a few Doom and the roll of the dice. It wouldn’t be so bad once in a while but it’s ruining encounters that are meant to be fought, after all there are warriors in the group too. Any help is welcome. Thanks.

Threaten Attacks are part of combat, part of fighting - it is in the name “attack”.
And if you stage opponents with low Willpower and Fortitude, no Courage or Morale soak, then that is what you get.

And, maybe this type of social fighting is what makes for the most fun this player had in years, instead of having to physically grind down opponents and walk through gore?


You completely missed my point. He isn’t using Threaten Attacks, he’s using Persuade and Animal Handling depending on whether or not it’s human or animal and the part that ruining things is that there are other players in the game, 3 others to be specific, that aren’t getting to enjoy the game because of this but aren’t confrontational enough to say anything, except to me, and as GM I need to figure out how to get around this when said player decides he wants to Animal Handle an Alpha Wolf to sic his pack on the enemy camp or turn a Forest Dragon into a docile creature who ignores the party as they search his cave or with a Persuade roll get Thoth Amon to simply give up and go home. He’s treating these high level skills like Charm Monster/Person spells and I’m sure this isn’t the intent of the rules or if it is then something needs to change. As for opponent stats, a Forest Dragon doesn’t stand a chance against Animal Handling 17 and 5d20 nor does anything else including human opponents against Persuade 17 and 5d20, something seems broken and I need help figuring out what it is and how to fix it.

Now I understand. Persuade and Animal Handling are NOT an Enslave spell or other forms of mind control.
Here, talking to the player might help.

You can persuade a guard to let you pass, you won’t persuade an already resolved enemy to simply not attack you.
The same with animals. You cannot persuade a Forest Dragon to do anything it does not want.
For that, the Enslave spell is the way to go. And it is risky, does not keep up for an extended time, and you need to be a sorcerer in the first place.

So, Persuade and Animal Handling are not magic. Point that out to the player, as this is not at all an effect covered by the rules for Persuade or Animal Handling. No matter how high the TN and how many d20s the player might be rolling, those skills are not mind control magic skills at all.


This! So many people think for whatever reason that being a good talker is somehow mind control. It’s absolutely, positively not. You may be able to convince the attacking enemy to kill you last but you’re not going to convince them to not attack you.

Definitely talk to your player(s) though because I know player who get seriously peeved if being good at a skill is not the same as actual magic powers. Stealth is not invisibility, Persuade is not mind control.


Except that people get talked out of killing other people all the time. That is exactly what hostage negotiators do. Having a Persuade TN of 17-19 or something like that represents someone who is not merely good at talking, but spectacular and amazing at it. It is a level of skill every bit as breathtaking as a sword master with a 17-19 in Melee. So no, it doesn’t function like magic, but it can at least theoretically work. If you want to reflect the improbability of being able to talk the Forest Dragon out of eating you, then it is up to the GM to give it a higher Difficulty class. A novice negotiator might not be able to pull it off, but the best negotiator in the world (14 Personality, 5 Persuade) just might.

While that might be true, it also depends on what the goal of the NPCs is. A few bandits might be able to let themselves be persuaded to go away if they are paid a little money.
Fanatical devotees of a death cult, not so much.
It is again a question who wants to do what and which characters time it is to shine atm. A negotiator will not have fun in the game if he has noone to talk to, while the warriors will get bored if they have noone to fight, so you should have both in your adventures, people who can get reasoned with and people who can’t. Happens all the time in literature and TV, after all.
Same goes for the forest dragon… a lazy, well fed forest dragon will probably not want to pick a fight, but where is the fun in that?
A ravenous, nearly starved forest dragon will stampede out of the underbrush and add a few steps to the difficulty of the defense for the first round due to the sudden ferocity of the attack - and he will simply eat the first fool trying to calm him down. Whom I would rule as defenseless in that case since he is trying to show the animal that he means no harm.
Of course, the easiest answer is undead… thousands and thousands of undead. Open the tombs of the crypt kings and suffocate your players in lich-dust.


If you have a player who genuinely wants to play this sort of character then your job as the GM is to accommodate that within the parameters of

  1. It’s not mind control. It’s also not instant. This can give the player the option for some pretty great RP but Persuasion is not a one turn action (or shouldn’t be)
  2. Everyone is having fun. That means the other players and the GM as well. I have a player in a D&D game who will always, always, always, always cast Pass Without Trace and sneak. Overland, in the dungeon…doesn’t matter. Stealth all the time, every day. Sometimes though the party is going to get noticed because otherwise the game is boring as **** for the other players and me.

But that is not a single action in a combat encounter. That takes time, often quite a bit of time.

I find, that Infinity 2d20 RPG does a good job at modeling that in their social combat rules.
Every character has a certain “Intransigence”, this is the number of “social harm”, here called “Metanoia”, you need to cause to make someone actually comply with a certain demand of yours.
The amount of “social harm” varies depending on the actual demand you have. If you want someone who is already not quite sure that he is doing the right thing convinced to simply stop doing this concrete action, that would be a single “social harm”.
If you want to get into the good graces of a member of a criminal organisation, so that she will introduce you to possibly join this organisation, that could be two “social harms” (one to befriend, the other to gain the favor of being introduced).
But if you have fanatical cultists that are not easily shaken in their beliefs, that would require four or more “social harms” to only make them stop in their current action, changing their conviction would be next to impossible and require an extended time of (de-)brainwashing.

In that regard, you could use the Threaten attack rules in Conan for causing “social damage” against Resolve stress, but not causing Trauma but the sometimes mentioned “alternative harm”, which in this case would be a “social harm”, a “Metanoia” effect.
Convincing a street thug not to rob one, because there are better targets, that could be a single “social harm”.
Using Animal Handling to send off a hungry pack of wolves requires three “social harm” against the alpha wolf.
Motivating the evil sorcerer not to conclude the ongoing human sacrifice of the child of one of the player characters, that would be four “social harm”.
Bringing a Forest Dragon to simply ignore the group instead of trampling or eating them, that requires five “social harm”.

And seeing that several harm requires several successful social attacks, several damage rolls that actually cause 5 or more Resolve damage, or drop the Resolve track to 0, or cause damage against a Resolve track already at 0, that obviously requires several (usually opposed) actions on the persuader’s part.
That might happen during a combat scene, but is still risky for the persuader.
Usually it happens outside of combat, but still takes time. And if time is critical, things get thrilling.

I recommend giving the Infinity social combat way a try for Conan, too.


That’s the way I’m using them in my Conan campaign as well. It is a great way to model a type of “social conflict resolution” using the same basic system as combat.
Infinity has a lot of really cool ideas and rules that fit nicely into Conan campaigns.


I like those ideas a lot. Will check it out.

I ended up doing this one week just because it seemed to make sense . . . At the ending of one session the Sorceress at the end was very grateful for the PC’s bringing her beloved prince out of the city to be her . . . husband, Yeah, that’s it! Husband! :wink: This may have been the fist week with new characters and one of my slayer PC’s had made a new character as sort of a Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) type character. Cool! So with the prince safely delivered they were intrigued by the oasis and the other hidden residents. They had successfully accomplished the mission set out for them at the beginning of the session but I was deliberately baiting them with unknown mysteries around this oasis. She offers them refuge there for as long as they might wish with the only caveat being they not leave the clearing around the pool and not venture into the surrounding, quite unnatural, jungle.

It was potentially filled with all manner of half-human hybrids all designed to provide me with some sort of edge in combat if another evening of genocide was on the table. :wink: The Sorceress used her standard as they left to make an Insight check and perceiving some deception on the part of the PC’s and follows up with a big persuade as a quickened imploring them not to proceed into the jungle once they leave the oasis. Much grumbling was made by the PC’s during the ensuing rules discussion and I finally told them they were completely free to disregard her warning but they would all be taking her Threaten damage for doing so. At no point had the Sorceress used sorcery but they had no doubt of the power she could potentially wield and the point of the session for me as a DM was to offer an adventure with more opportunities for skill use and Social interactions vs the slayings which occurred regularly during the Nordheimer (was supposed to be pirates . . .) campaign. :wink:


That’s another point I like about the social combat system. Normally, PCs are very resistant to persuasion and/or intimidation attempts of NPCs as the player dictates all their actions and should not be forced to take actions they don’t like.
If the forcing is the result of “social wounds” (metanoia), it’s just like any other wound effect. After all, no reasonable player would try to declare that he didn’t take a wound from that last hit in regular combat…
This also forces the players to spend points in social skills to close of that avenue of attack. After all, what help is your mighty combat skill, when everyone’s little sister can just manipulate into doing what she wants you to do.

One thing to remember is that unless the persuading character is also a polyglot the difficulty of any persuasion rolls should be increased when the target does not speak the same language.

Not necessarily. A character with at least Focus 1 in Linguistics is deemed to have a working knowledge of all major languages. If a Persuade attempt relies on complex ideas, then sure, increase the Difficulty. Otherwise I would keep it at base Difficulty.

It’s the GM’s decision as to when to apply such difficulty increases, and as this GM is begging for advice on how to curb the overuse of persuasion, I’d suggest he be a bit more liberal with them.

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Perhaps; but then we can also direct this GM’s attention to p.69 of the CRB, where it states that anyone with at least one or more ranks in Linguistics “is assumed to have a working knowledge of all languages”. I would say that for most Persuade attempts, a “working knowledge” would be sufficient.

This is pretty old, so the OP might not even monitor this anymore, but don’t forget that you are the storyteller. It’s a collaborative effort, sure, but you’re the one steering the ship. Nothing happens without your say so. That’s a very extreme way to put it - and you shouldn’t rule your game with an iron fist, but you should have that mind set.

Think about it; you could very well run your game without a single die roll. You could just consider the player’s skill (maybe focus), ask how they’re approaching the situation, and if it sounds plausible, let it happen (or not). You already do this kind of thing without realizing it. No one rolls for movement all the time; it’s assumed if there’s nothing to complicate the move, it happens. If you want to open an unlocked door, no one rolls to see if they miss grabbing the door handle.
Dice rolls are there to add tension and for situations where you (the storyteller) don’t know the outcome because at this point in the story, it could go either way. They should be a “see what happens” situation, not a “let me break the laws of physics just because I can.”

So knowing that, lets look at Persuade and Animal Handling.
Persuade shouldn’t make someone do something they wouldn’t do; no matter how amazing your Persuade skill, you shouldn’t be able to convince someone to slit their own throat. Maaaaayyyybe if you’ve been gaslighting this person for a while and you’ve convinced them that this is the only way to avoid some danger, but that’s a long con; you’re not doing this in the moment with zero buildup.

To build on this point, not EVERY guard you meet is negotiable. Some, sure, but not all. No matter how persuasive you can be, nothing will be worse than what their boss will do to them (or their family) if they find out this guard let someone through. Or who cares how much persuasion someone has? Unless there’s gold being exchanged the answer is always no. If Thoth-Amon wants to sacrifice this virgin to the outer gods, no amount of smiling is going to convince him otherwise. Maybe you can convince him to go for the throat instead of the heart, but this virgin is a goner either way. Even before you get to Thoth-Amon, wouldn’t you assume the guards closest to him would be his MOST loyal? People have agendas, no mater how small.

Same with Animal Handling; you can’t Crocodile Dundee a wolf into forgetting it’s starving and all of you look like steak. Animals have instincts and are predisposed to do things. If you somehow convince a wolf to attack its pack, it might try for one round, but if it can’t kill another wolf in one hit, do you think it’s going to keep trying, or change targets to something easier (like the two legged thing that showed no hostility)?

If those aren’t convincing enough, then go to the book. Persuade says, “Non-player characters will eventually shake off the effects of a Persuade test, whether having second thoughts, seeing through a lie, or overcoming a scare,” and, “As a rule of thumb, a Persuade test should take as long to attempt as you wish the effects to last.” (76) You could probably convince a guard to look the other way, but you’re not going to convince them to leave their post and go home for the day (not without spending an equal amount of time convincing him/her). Even if you do, they shake off the effects. Animal Handling says, “Untrained animals cannot be controlled in combat, acting purely on instinct.” (58) Wolves aren’t going to give you a moment to try and perform Animal Handling before going in for the attack; they’re just going to attack.

Be fair, but remind your players this is Conan. Jedi mind tricks are in a different game.

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Unless you load your character with the Animal Handling Talents that allow you next to magical (or even real magical) control over even wild beasts.

Ok, I see the Jhebbal Sag talents push the boundaries there. The whole point of those two talents are to have a Beastmaster level of connection with animals, so it wouldn’t be exactly fair to nerf them. I don’t really have answer to this except that “particularly willful animals” can attempt to resist commands with Discipline. I’d say any animal trained by someone else would fall under willful, as would a very feral animal. Probably doesn’t matter against a high Animal Handling Skill though.