In response to Wizards of the Coast publishing Dungeons & Dragons 4E in 2008, Paizo Publishing has released their own updated version of D&D 3E a year later, naming it Pathfinder (this was made possible by the Wizards' earlier decision to publish 3E under the Open Gaming License). While 3E and, subsequently, Pathfinder bear strong similarity to 5E in regards to its persuasion mechanics, there are also differences that warrant a separate examination. Although Paizo has released Pathfinder 2E in 2019, we will reference the original core rule book in the following.
Free resources: System Reference Document.
Pathfinder uses the same core mechanic as D&D 5E, sans the advantage/disadvantage option (which was first introduced in 5E). However, whereas 5E uses the same gameplay procedure, regardless whether the Charisma roll is modified by the Deception, Intimidation, or Persuasion skill bonus, Pathfinder features separate gameplay procedures for each corresponding skill:
- Bluff (p. 90; equivalent to Deception): When the agent lies to the patient to gain their cooperation, the agent player makes an "opposed roll" against the patient's Sense Motive skill, meaning that both roll d20s and add their character's skill and ability modifiers (the patient player may also add a number of situational modifiers at the GM's discretion). If the agent's total Bluff roll is equal or higher than the patient's total Sense Motive roll, the patient believes the agent's lie. The skill also has combat applications, like feinting, but these fall outside the scope of this survey.
- Diplomacy (pp. 93-94, equivalent to Persuasion) governs three distinct procedures:
- Improve Attitude: When the agent attempts to improve an NPC patient's "attitude" towards them, their player makes a Diplomacy check whose DC depends on the patient's starting attitude and Charisma score. NPC attitude is a five-step scale, ranging from "Hostile" (base DC 25), through "Unfriendly" (20), "Indifferent" (15), and "Friendly" (10), to "Helpful" (0), and improves by one step if the check is successful (by two if its result exceeds the DC by 5 or more) or worsens by one step if its result is lower than the DC by 5 or more. It then cannot be re-attempted for 24 in-fiction hours.
- Make a Request: When the agent makes a request of the NPC patient, their player makes a Diplomacy check whose DC depends on the patient's current attitude, Charisma score, and a number of situational modifiers at the GM's discretion. If the patient's attitude is at least "Indifferent", they comply if the check is successful; otherwise, they refuse and cannot be persuaded otherwise with additional checks. "Helpful" patients comply with almost all requests without the need for a roll.
- Gather Information: When the agent looks for information on a topic or a person by canvassing the general public, their player makes a Diplomacy roll whose DC depends on the obscurity of the information they seek, which is discovered on a successful check. This takes 1 to 4 in-fiction hours and may be reattempted as often as the player wants.
- Intimidate (p. 99, equivalent to Intimidation): When the agent attempts to coerce an NPC patient into obedience, the agent player makes an Intimidate check whose DC depends on the patient's character level and Wisdom score. On a successful check, the patient's attitude shifts to "Friendly" for 10 to 60 in-game minutes and they automatically comply with any request that does not further endanger them; afterwards, their attitude reverts to "Unfriendly". If the check fails by 5 or more, the patient attempts to deceive the agent or to otherwise interfere with their objectives.
- Sense Motive (p. 104, equivalent to Insight): When the agent attempts to reconnoiter a social situation, their agent makes a Sense Motive check against DC 20. If successful, the GM tells them e.g. whether their vis-à-vis is an impostor or whether they get a hunch that they are trustworthy. The check may not be reattempted in the current social situation, although each Bluff attempt warrants its own Sense Motive check.
We observe that, like in D&D, persuasion mechanics in Pathfinder are geared towards the "PC agent, NPC patient" configuration, with some lip service paid to "NPC agent, PC patient", and no provisions offered for "PC agent, PC patient".