The Alexandrian

Posts tagged ‘legends & labyrinths’

Untested D&D – Interrogation

November 26th, 2014

Jack Bauer from 24

Interrogation checks are made to resolve the controlled questioning of prisoners or suspects: People who have (or who you believe might have) a reason to withhold information from you.  Obtaining information through other forms of social interaction (questioning witnesses or chatting someone up at a social soiree, for example) is certainly possible, but may not be the right fit for these mechanics.

When interrogating a subject, the questioner can choose one of two approaches:

DIPLOMACY: These are “soft” methods of interrogation. Manipulation, seduction, a building of trust, a promise of quid pro quo.

INTIMIDATE: These are “hard” methods of interrogation. This doesn’t cover actual torture, but it does include aggressive techniques, threats of violence, and the like.

The appropriate interrogation skill is used to make a check against DC 10 + the subject’s HD + the subject’s Wisdom modifier. On a success, the interrogator gains one piece of information. Additional interrogation checks can be attempted, but each additional check applies a cumulative +2 modifier to the DC of the check.

After two failures, the interrogation will provide no more useful information. (The subject has broken down or their lawyer has shown up or they simple have no more useful information to share.)


Each interrogation technique can be escalated to the next level:

BRIBERY: Diplomacy-based interrogations can be enhanced with bribery. If a sufficiently large bribe is offered, the interrogator gains a +10 circumstance bonus to their interrogation checks for the rest of the interrogation. (Alternatively, you could use these advanced guidelines for determining the efficacy of a specific bribe.)

TORTURE: Intimidation-based interrogations can be escalated to actual torture. This involves inflicting actual physical damage and pain. (Or possibly inflicting the same on comrades or loved ones.) The target must make a Will save at DC 10 + the damage dealt by the torturer. If the subject fails the Will save, the interrogator gains a +10 circumstance bonus on their next interrogation check. (Of course, they can continue torturing the subject in order to gain the same bonus again.)

Both of these techniques, however, represent a gamble: Under the temptation of bribery or the desperation of torture subjects may invent information or say whatever they think the interrogator wants to hear. There’s a flat 25% chance of false information when giving a bribe. There’s a cumulative 10% chance of false information when using torture. (So after torturing a subject for the third time, there will be a 30% chance of false information.)


A couple of other skills can be useful in interrogations.

BLUFF: Subjects can attempt to provide false information with a Bluff check. If the check fails, however, the interrogator has seen through their lie and can immediately attempt another interrogation check with a +2 circumstance bonus to get the truth out of them. (All of the modifiers from their previous test still apply.)

SENSE MOTIVE: Sense Motive can, obviously, be used to opposed a subject’s Bluff checks. It might also be useful for determining what threats or promises would make for the most effective intimidation or bribery (offering a circumstance bonus in accordance with the guidelines for aiding another, but perhaps inflicting penalties if the check goes awry).

OTHER SKILLS: Other skills can also be used situationally to aid the interrogation check. For example, demonstrating a bit of legerdemain with Sleight of Hand might impress a social contact. Or a Knowledge check might produce information that would endear an expert. Use the guidelines for aiding another to resolve these checks.


An interrogation team can play good cop / bad cop by switching their interrogation technique (from Diplomacy to Intimidation or vice versa). If their first interrogation check after the swap is successful, they can negate a previous failure. (This will allow them to prolong the interrogation.)

It’s exceptionally difficult to play good cop to your own bad cop: Apply a -10 circumstance penalty to the first check of an individual interrogator after the switch in approach.


Kenneth Hite has a technique he uses in investigation games: When the characters have gained all the information they’re going to get from a scene, he holds up a sign that says “SCENE OVER” or “DONE”. The statement cues the players to let them know that there’s no reward to be gained by continuing to ransack the apartment, while using a sign is less intrusive on the natural flow of the scene (so if there’s something they still want to accomplish in this scene of a non-investigative nature, the scene can continue without the GM unduly harshing the vibe).

The core of this interrogation mechanic is designed to do something similar: It’s sending a clear and specific “we’re done here” message to the players, allowing you to perform a clean cut that keeps the pacing tight.

It also has the added benefit of answering for the GM, “How much information does this guy really know?” in situations where that isn’t immediately clear. (This is a question I frequently struggle with when some random mook gets interrogated.)

Collectively, that’s why the difficulty cranks up after each question: I want the mechanic to terminate the interrogation for me.

You might also want to check out my Advanced Rules for Diplomacy. And my thoughts on Social Skills and PCs might also be of interest.

Legends & Labyrinths - Justin AlexanderSince my last update, I’ve received about a dozen additional refund e-mails and all of those refunds have now been processed. The only people who should be currently waiting for a refund are those who requested a refund by check. (I’m going to be processing all of those refunds in one big batch.)

This update is primarily just a third and final call: If you are a backer who has not received a refund, it’s because you either haven’t sent me an e-mail or I haven’t received it. If it’s the former, please contact me ASAP at If it’s the latter, please leave a comment here and we’ll figure it out (since there seems to be something wrong with our e-mail connection).

Many of you may be thinking to yourself: “I don’t freakin’ care. I wasn’t a backer for Legends & Labyrinths.” Good news! Even if you weren’t a backer, you can download a copy of the Black Book Beta which contains a totally playable version of the rules along with a lot of cool new tools for simplifying your 3.5 or PF game.

Legends & Labyrinths - Justin AlexanderAs of right now, I have issued refunds to all of the backers who have sent me an e-mail confirming their Paypal address.

If you are a backer who has not received a refund, it’s because you either haven’t sent me an e-mail or I haven’t received it. If it’s the former, please contact me ASAP at If it’s the latter, please leave a comment here and we’ll figure it out (since there seems to be something wrong with our e-mail connection).

(There are three refunds currently pending through Paypal, but everyone associated with those should have received an explanatory e-mail from me and know who they are.)

This has taken a little bit longer than I had hoped. I’m afraid my health issues have been prodigiously slowing down my productivity: I talked about the MRSA infection I had on my face a week and a half ago. Unfortunately, just as I was starting to feel better I ended up having a massive allergic reaction to the third set of antibiotics they put me on. I was briefly hospitalized when my doctor became concerned that all of the skin on my body might blister and fall off. (Holy shit!) That turned out to be not the case, but I did spend a good chunk of the last week having 90% of my body covered in a painful rash and looking as if I had Maori facial tattoos designed by Jackson Pollock.

All things considered, I don’t recommend it.

In any case, after three full weeks of being ill I seem to finally be on the mend. (But I am vigorously pounding divots into my wooden desk as I say that.) I’m afraid fresh content may be a little thinner on the ground here at the Alexandrian during the month of August than I had hoped, but we’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I’m hoping to put the finishing touches on both The Art of Pacing and the Film Banging series.

This is what my chin looks like at the moment:

MRSA on My Chin

That’s an MRSA staph infection, complete with swollen lymph nodes. “MRSA” means that it’s resistant to common antibiotics, so I’m on my third set of medications for it and it’s gradually getting better. 2013 has truly been a suck-filled year for me.

Although that’s been slowing me down quite a bit this week, the one thing I did manage to get done was processing a couple large chunks of L&L refunds. Looks like we’re about 50% of the way through that process now. At the moment, we’re waiting for another cycle of cash to clear Paypal and I’ll be able to push on with the next batch. If you’re a backer who has sent me an e-mail and has not yet received your refund, it’ll be on its way as soon as Paypal gets out of the way. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Legends & Labyrinths - Justin Alexander

The Struggle - Alex Drummond

The Struggle – Alex Drummond

As with last week’s piece, this art is drawn directly from the gaming table. In fact, the scene depicted here is taken from me Ptolus campaign. You can read the matching journal entry here:

In the Shadow of the Spire – Prelude 1B: The Lost Vaults

The depictions of Tee and Agnarr, however, are slightly anachronistic. (The scene takes place shortly after they met in the wilderness, but Agnarr wouldn’t have his flaming sword and Tee wouldn’t have her dragon pistol until after they returned to Ptolus.) This is because these characters were appearing in multiple illustrations and I decided to both (a) simplify the art order and (b) potentially create a greater continuity in the book’s interior art by supplying the artist with only a single description. (Plus, this piece is much cooler with the red flames and the cocked pistol.)

This particular piece would have replaced Thor and his hammer on pg. 71 of the Black Book Beta.



Recent Posts

Recent Comments