... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I promised in the initiative post to talk more about surprise. In that post, I made the initiative roll do double-duty as a surprise roll: low roll goes first, but the number is also used for a save to avoid surprise. The target number for the save is a roll under Wisdom/3 or Dexterity/3*.

* I might need a name for this adjusted attribute. "Raw Attribute" works for the unadjusted score in the 3-18 range. I could just say "Adjusted Attribute", but that might be confused with bonuses or penalties added to the attribute. Plus, I really would like to find a shorter word.

Why Wisdom or Dexterity? I interpret Wisdom to be an awareness of wrongness, in almost any sense of the word. So, it's danger sense, common sense, and moral sense, all rolled into one. And Dexterity is of course reactio time. You pick the better of the two, since even if characters are so thick that they miss clues to a possible ambush, they still might be sharp enough to adjust quickly to the new situation. Rolling high over Wis/3 or Dex/3 means the character is surprised.

Average raw Wisdom or Dexterity is in the 9 to 12 range, which makes the Attribute/3 score either 3 or 4. There's a good chance that at least one of the two scores will adjust to a 4, so the typical adventurer will be surprised on a 5 or 6 on a d6 roll. This is equivalent to the original surprise chance of 1 or 2 in 6. Characters with sharp senses might get a +1 on their surprise target, only being surprised on a 6. Other factors that might give a +1 bonus:

  • familiar with the area
  • multi-headed/eyes in back of head
  • ground cover is noisy (lots of dried leaves or twigs, for example)
  • low, bright light behind other group produces long shadows
Although only one die is rolled for the entire party, the die result might be modified for an individual. The party might roll a 4, but a confused character would add +1 to that result, leaving the character surprised while the rest of the party reacts. Other factors that might give a +1 modifier to the die result:

  • busy with another task
  • dulled senses
  • sleepy/fatigued
Some precautions or abilities may give a bonus to surprising others, such as wearing soft footwear with felt soles; this adds +1 to the other side's roll. Likewise, singing loudly or being covered with manure might add +1 to the other side's target number, making it more difficult to surprise them. And certain situations will eliminate surprise or make it automatic for one side: unless someone is aware that there are invisible creatures in the area and devotes all their attention to watching for signs of an invisible creature, they will be surprised, while on the other hand a person with a medallion of ESP can never be surprised by a thinking creature.

I'll have to cover how surprise relates to thievery in another post.

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