Intimidate in Pathfinder: How & When to Use Intimidation!

Samwise Gamgee is charging through the Tower of Cirith Ungol, killing every Orc he can to free Mr. Frodo. Samwise’s player knows he’s not really going to make it through this encounter, because of the attrition of Orcs the DM is prepared to throw at him.

So the player rolls Intimidation to get those Orcs running. We all know he rolls a Nat 20.

Intimidation is all about putting Fear into your Opponent. Rattling them with a War Cry, staring them down, or just in general threatening them with bodily harm until they do what you want them to do.

It’s one of those skills that some ignore, and others think has very little use. I am here to tell you that it is just as valuable as something like Perception or Insight!

After all, if your opponents go running, that means you don’t have to use those valuable limited-use items.

Mechanics of Intimidation

Both Pathfinder First Edition and Second Edition Intimidation work similarly, but the mechanics offer a subtle difference. Subtle enough that it’s worth noting the mechanics of both.

Pathfinder 1st Edition

Intimidate (Cha)

You can use this skill to frighten your opponents or to get them to act in a way that benefits you. This skill includes verbal threats and displays of prowess.

Common Uses

Coerce Opponent

Sometimes you need to cow someone into submission for more than just a few hours.

Action: Coercing a target into acting friendly for hours takes 1d4 × 10 minutes. Coercing a target into acting friendly for days requires you to successfully use coercion at least once per week for 1d6 weeks without failing any Intimidate checks against the target during that time.

Try Again: You can’t attempt long-term coercion against the same target again for 1 week.

Check: By spending more time threatening or harassing a target, you can attempt to force a creature to act friendly toward you for 1d6 hours + 1 hour for every 5 points by which you exceed the DC. If you succeed at such a check against the same target at least once per week for 1d6 weeks (without ever failing any Intimidate checks against the target during that time), the duration of the coercion increases to 2d8 days. Coercion is overt, not subtle, and in most cases using coercion against a creature is an evil act.

A coerced target acts as though friendly toward you even when you aren’t around, but the aid offered remains grudging at best. The target’s true attitude is hostile, and if the target believes it can take an action to hinder you that can’t be traced back to it, it’s likely to take such opportunities.

Creatures attempting to enlist its aid against you can often do so by convincing the target they are able to protect it from your wrath, using the normal Diplomacy rules.

Demoralize Opponent

You can use this skill to cause an opponent to become shaken for a number of rounds. This shaken condition doesn’t stack with other shaken conditions to make an affected creature frightened. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target’s Hit Dice + the target’s Wisdom modifier.

Success: If you are successful, the target is shaken for one round. This duration increases by 1 round for every 5 by which you beat the DC. You can only threaten an opponent this way if it is within 30 feet and can clearly see and hear you. Using demoralize on the same creature only extends the duration; it does not create a stronger fear condition.

Fail: The opponent is not shaken.

Action: Demoralizing an opponent is a standard action.

Retry: You can attempt to intimidate an opponent again, but each additional check increases the DC by +5. This increase resets after one hour has passed.

Influence Opponent’s Attitude

You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act friendly toward you for 1d6 × 10 minutes with a successful check. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target’s Hit Dice + the target’s Wisdom modifier.

Success: If successful, the opponent will:

  • …give you information you desire
  • …take actions that do not endanger it
  • …offer other limited assistance

After the intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may report you to local authorities.

Fail: If you fail this check by 5 or more, the target attempts to deceive you or otherwise hinder your activities.

Action: Using Intimidate to change an opponent’s attitude requires 1 minute of conversation.

Retry: You can attempt to intimidate an opponent again, but each additional check increases the DC by +5. This increase resets after one hour has passed.


  • Size: You gain a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks if you are larger than your target, and a –4 penalty on Intimidate checks if you are smaller than your target.
  • Feats: If you have the Persuasive feat, you gain a +2 bonus on Intimidate skill checks. If you have 10 or more ranks in Intimidate, the bonus increases to +4.
  • Race: A half-orc gets a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.

So from that block-o-text, we can see that Intimidate has a fair few uses. It can go from anywhere between pressuring a person over time, cowing your opponent into failing at a fight, or even just convincing them to do you a favor or else. 

Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Intimidation (Cha)

You bend others to your will using threats.

Changing Attitudes

Your influence on NPCs is measured with a set of attitudes that reflect how they view your character. These are only a brief summary of a creature’s disposition.

The GM will supply additional nuance based on the history and beliefs of the characters you’re interacting with, and their attitudes can change in accordance with the story. The attitudes are detailed on the Conditions page and are summarized here.

  • Helpful: Willing to help you and responds favorably to your requests.
  • Friendly: Has a good attitude toward you, but won’t necessarily stick their neck out to help you.
  • Indifferent: Doesn’t care about you either way. (Most NPCs start out indifferent.)
  • Unfriendly: Dislikes you and doesn’t want to help you.
  • Hostile: Actively works against you—and might attack you just because of their dislike.

No one can ever change the attitude of a player character with these skills. You can roleplay interactions with player characters, and even use Diplomacy results if the player wants a mechanical sense of how convincing or charming a character is, but players make the ultimate decisions about how their characters respond.

Intimidation Untrained Actions


Auditory Concentrate Emotion Exploration Linguistic Mental

With threats either veiled or overt, you attempt to bully a creature into doing what you want. You must spend at least 1 minute of conversation with a creature you can see and that can either see or sense you.

At the end of the conversation, attempt an Intimidation check against the target’s Will DC, modified by any circumstances the GM determines. The attitudes referenced in the effects below are summarized in the Changing Attitudes sidebar and described in full in the Conditions page.

Critical Success: The target gives you the information you seek or agrees to follow your directives so long as they aren’t likely to harm the target in any way. The target continues to comply for an amount of time determined by the GM but not exceeding 1 day, at which point the target becomes unfriendly (if they weren’t already unfriendly or hostile). However, the target is too scared of you to retaliate—at least in the short term.

Success: As critical success, but once the target becomes unfriendly, they might decide to act against you—for example, by reporting you to the authorities or assisting your enemies.

Failure: The target doesn’t do what you say, and if they were not already unfriendly or hostile, they become unfriendly.

Critical Failure: The target refuses to comply, becomes hostile if they weren’t already, and can’t be Coerced by you for at least 1 week.


Auditory Concentrate Emotion Fear Mental

With a sudden shout, a well-timed taunt, or a cutting putdown, you can shake an enemy’s resolve. Choose a creature within 30 feet of you who you’re aware of. Attempt an Intimidation check against that target’s Will DC.

If the target does not understand the language you are speaking, or you’re not speaking a language, you take a –4 circumstance penalty to the check. Regardless of your result, the target is temporarily immune to your attempts to Demoralize it for 10 minutes.

Critical Success: The target becomes frightened 2.

Success: The target becomes frightened 1.

Pathfinder 2nd edition works very very similar, but with much of the random bits and bobs cleaned up. The coercion is more codified into conditions rather than just given general attitudes.

This might make it easier for DMs to actually keep records and further narrow down just what the skill can do, rather than just giving general ideas.

It should be noted that these rules should only really be used against NPCs. There is nothing worse than taking away player agency, and using skills like Diplomacy and Intimidation against PCs are really the worst way to get them railroaded.

This qualifies for both editions of Pathfinder. The best way to influence the Player Characters is to actually influence them, not depend on the dice rolls.

How to Use Intimidation

So you’ve decided to make a character based around Intimidation? Good on you! This is going to be fun! However, just how do you go about Maximizing your Intimidation ability?

Let’s take a look at some Options here for character builds. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but more options that really stand out.


There are really 3 top races for maximizing Intimidation in 1e.

  • Humans: Extra Skill Points to keep Intimidation maxed, as well as extra feat slots. A Prime choice.
  • Half-orcs: A flat bonus to Intimidation just straight off the bat, makes this almost a no-brainer.
  • Half-elves: Our Third choice gives us the option for a Skill Focus (Intimidation) at creation.  


Barbarian: Barbarians have a great deal of personal powers based off leaving their opponent’s shaken or giving them options to demoralize an opponent. While not the overall best option, it is very much a powerful start with the potential for combos.

Bard: A pretty decent option, but it requires one to really build into it. Dirge of Doom lets you start demoralizing opponents as an Area of Effect, and can get Feats to benefit it as you level up.

Fighter: FEATS, FEATS, AND MORE FEATS!  Fighters can just get so many Feats that ping off the Intimidate Skill.

Rogue: Like Barbarian, Rogue has some abilities that can offer them the ability to cause Shaken or Frightened conditions while doing what they already do. Depending on the Archetype, they can really build into it using the Thug or the Rake.


Boar Style + Boar Ferocity: Starting out with some stuff that would work well with an Unarmed Fighter. Doing extra damage and a free shot at demoralizing an opponent.

Cornugon Smash: For our Melee Fighters. Like Boar Ferocity above, but for Power Attack Fighters.

Dazzling Display: Not as amazing as Cornugon Smash, as it takes a full-round action to use. However, it is an AoE up to 30 feet around you, which is it’s redeeming feature.

Enforcer: Hands Down one of the best feat options. Free Action to Demoralize just because you deal damage. Even better if you hit a critical. The one downside is that it has to be non-lethal damage.

Frightening Ambush: Jump out of the Bushes and Bellow that War Cry as a Free Action!

Hurtful: Successfully demoralizing your opponent gives you the option to hit them again. Great option to combine with any of the above feats.

Intimidating Prowess: Add strength bonus as well as your charisma to your Demoralize checks. Awesome for strength based characters.

Shatter Defenses: Adding more onto that Hurtful Combo, this makes your opponent hurt even more as they are still flat-footed for any follow up attacks.

Violent Display:  The follow up for Dazzling Display, this is the best option for people who really want to lean into that feat.