There comes a time in every game where asking nicely just isn’t going to get the job done. You don’t want to pull steel in public, or throw a punch you can’t take back, but sometimes a little intimidation can go a long way. If you want to put a quip in the chamber before you roll that die, here are twelve examples you might want to remember.
1. “Gold or Steel, Friend. Choose Carefully.”
This line has a lot of variations, and it tends to come out in situations where someone is trying to extort our hero. Whether it’s a contact saying the information you want is more expensive than he told you, or a merchant trying to hike the price at the last second, you’re making it clear they can accept the price they quoted, or the only payment they get will be at the end of a blade. A variation for games with firearms replaces steel with lead.
2. “Do You Know Who I Am?”
This one is all about the tone it’s delivered in. If you’re dressed in finery, and are completely calm and collected, you can deliver the line as if you are warning a commoner not to get in your way. If you’re a rougher sort, the kind with a notable scar on your face or a growl in your voice, you can add the additional implication of you don’t want to know who I am. While there might need to be a follow-up, where you inform the off-put, but not-yet-scared target that you’re Lord Rhinehardt Faust, or Bloody John the Bonesetter, the opening is important for setting the tone.
3. “One More Word, And I’ll Introduce You to Your God Personally”
The gods are a big part of most games, but even the most pious worshipers prefer to keep the gods in one realm, and themselves on another. If you noticed that the subject of your ire is wearing some kind of holy symbol, or is offering some kind of prayer, then incorporate that into your threat to make it a little extra personal. If you happen to have knowledge of the faith in question, feel free to spice it up with specific references. Something like, “Your shining god and all his heavenly cohorts won’t be enough to stay my hand.”
4. “Don’t Raise Your Hand To Me, If You Want To Keep It”
People do a lot with their hands, and calling that out as part of an intimidate check can work quite well. If they’re reaching for a weapon, putting a hand on your chest to stop you, or drawing back for a blow, remind them they can’t undo whatever it is they’re thinking, and that if they survive they’re going to have to learn how to write left-handed.
5. “You’ll Step Up Like A Man, But You’ll Crawl Away Like A Dog”
A variation of, “you’ll come in on your feet, but go out on your back,” tone is also important with this threat. Delivered confidently, it’s a brag, and that confidence can be off-putting to someone who’s heard about you, or seen you in action. Delivered in a lower tone, it’s a warning and a promise. If the target pushes this, you’re going to cripple them.
6. “Bark or Bite, Cur, Which is it Going to Be?”
This line is most appropriate when someone is making threats to you, and you want to reverse the flow like social judo. It is the equivalent of, “put up, or shut up,” and it’s sort of like a game of chicken. You want to push the envelope, and make the other person swerve away. If they don’t, though, then it’s going to come to blows.
7. “Bullets Are Cheap. What’s Your Life Worth?”
This is one for the ranged weapon specialists. Whether you’re pointing a pistol, a longbow, or a crossbow at the target, you’re making it clear that unless they can justify their value, you’re about to punch them full of holes. This one is best used when attempting to get information out of a reluctant prisoner, or when you want to stop a fight before it starts by showing that you’re faster on the draw, and you have a bead on a vital organ.
8. “I Have Gazed Into The Heart of The Abyss. You’re Nothing More Than a Spring Shadow.”
There is nothing more intimidating than finding out the person you’re messing with picks her teeth with demons before her morning coffee. Whether it’s a former soldier recounting his postings in a brutal, well-known war, or an exorcist who specializes in the destruction of devils, sometimes reciting a list of who you’ve faced down, and who you’ve defeated, can make your enemies think twice about trying to come after you.
9. “You Might Be Able To Stop Me, But You Know Who My Friends Are.”
Sometimes you just aren’t the most intimidating member of your party. That doesn’t mean you can’t get everyone else in on the action, too, however. If you’re the slick-talking faceman who wants to resolve things diplomatically, then you could explain to these guards, or these mob enforcers, that you aren’t a threat. However, you’re very good friends with Kronar Skull-Cleaver, and The Devil’s Daughter, a witch who deals in infernal powers, has a special fondness for you. They’d be most upset if something happened to you.
10. “You Get One Free Shot.”
There’s nothing quite as unsettling as someone willing to stand there, and let you take a swing at them. Whether you’re in a pistol duel, or on the verge of a tavern brawl, giving your enemy the first shot sends a loud, clear message that they’re nothing to be afraid of.
11. “Would You Like To Discuss It Outside?”
This one works best in urban environments, but even taverns in rural areas likely prefer serious bouts to happen outdoors. What you’re doing is putting the ball in the other character’s court, and making the decision to escalate your quarrel on them. The idea of changing a venue, whether it’s stepping into a ring, or out into the street, represents a point of no return when it comes to issuing a challenge. Being more than willing to throw down the gauntlet, or at least appearing to, means your opponent may think twice about picking it up.
12. “There Are Worse Things in Life Than Shame. The Sting Fades. Death is Forever.”
When delivered in a calm voice, and with a concern for the other person, you make it very clear that anything that happens next is on their heads. This works best when dealing with someone who’s cocky, or whom you’ve embarrassed, and who you now want to scare away from challenging you to a fight. Ending with a reminder makes it clear that death isn’t something you hand out lightly, but if that’s what someone asks for, then it’s what you’ll give them.
For more great gaming insights, check out Neal F. Litherland’s blog Improved Initiative!
Featured Illustration by Ethan Myerson (Holy Avenging Vorpal Pen of Drawing +5)