CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Talk the Talk

Using Social Skills in Combat

Next to skill monkeys, I think that my favorite type of character to play is the face. Bluff, Intimidate, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive are all great fun when you’re dealing with social situations. However, you’re not always going to be in social situations, so how do you use your incredible force of personality in combat? Today we’re going to look at using your skill and charisma in combat.

I mostly want to talk about the actual skills; whether they are a prerequisite for a feat or get rolled for a combat ability. However, all of these social skills do require a decent charisma score to put them to their best use. This, of course, means classes that can make the best use of charisma are your best bet for getting the most out of your choices. Bards go pretty much to the top of the list but not everyone enjoys playing a support character. Swashbucklers and Cavaliers have a number of abilities based on charisma and are a bit more combat focused. A core rogue can make use of all those skill points and if you are using unchained you can do some fun things with the skill unlock mechanic, which are handy, especially for intimidate.

Bluff and Intimidate have some built in abilities that work in combat to start. Feint and Demoralize have their uses, although at their base they are both standard actions. There are a number of feats that improve the action economy of these uses of these skills. There are feats that allow you to feint as part of a flurry, or while attacking using two-weapon fighting. There are also feats that will give you free demoralize attempts for reduced actions and/or on more than one person at a time.

Sadly, diplomacy has fewer uses in combat, with no base use within the skill itself at all. For that reason I will list the few feat that require or make use of diplomacy in combat. Antagonize has two effects but the one that utilizes diplomacy allows you to make an opponent focus on you or take penalties to doing things to your allies. It’s the closest you’ll get to a tanking and aggro mechanic in the game.  Betrayer, which is interesting because it’s used before combat but grants a free attack and gives the opponent negatives to initiative for combat. And lastly, for those of us who try to defuse situations, there is Call Truce which can at least temporarily stop combat so you can talk to your foes.

To be frank, utilizing social skills in combat is never going to be the thing that lets you do the most damage in combat. Many people will skip over these feats because they aren’t going to be overly optimized. But they can be incredibly fun. The bluff feat But a Scratch, which lets you demoralize an opponent by bluffing them into thinking their critical hit didn’t phase you. Or Sliding Dash which lets you charge through an opponent and allows you to basically flank with yourself after passing through his square. Both can be quite fun.

For intimidate, the Thug archetype and the intimidate skill unlock both allow you to move your opponent from the Shaken condition to the Frightened condition, which can be useful. I’ve saved everyone’s bacon on more than one occasion by clearing the battlefield when combining this with Dazzling Display so that Demoralize will affect everyone within thirty feet. And if you’re a rogue, Shatter Defense will allow you to sneak attack anyone who is scared of you. Not having to worry about flanking or concealment can be an amazing boon to a rogue looking to deal a vast amount of damage.

Much like any other ability, there are pluses and minuses to using social skills in combat. The biggest is that anyone immune to fear will be immune to Intimidate, and most unintelligent creatures aren’t affected by social skills period as they can’t be reasoned with. But this is no different than a paladin’s main Smite ability only being useful against evil. There are many situational things in Pathfinder and your time to shine will come up.

One of the benefits of social skills over many other skills is there is no limit to their use. Although some things can’t be retried, unlike Smite, Rage, and Bardic Music, there is no limit to the number of uses of your social abilities. You can demoralize every combat if you like, multiple times if need be.

Do you enjoy suave, frightening, or devious characters? How have you used your social skills outside of social situations? Have you built a character specifically around any of the social skills for use in combat?

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