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Monday, March 26, 2018

Thief Skills As Surprise -- Stealth, Part 2

In the first part of Thief Skills As Surprise, I forgot to mention an option to scale difficulties when attempting to move silently or hide in shadows. Instead of adding a level-based bonus, change the surprise chance based on opponent’s level.

When hiding from a monster, compare the thief’s level to the level or hit dice of the monster and consult this table:

Thief vs. Monster Surprise Roll
Thief 4+ levels higher 3+ on 1d6
Thief +/-3 levels 4+ on 1d6
Thief 4-6 levels lower 5+ on 1d6
Thief 7-8 level lower 6+ on 1d6
Thief 9+ levels lower fail to surprise

The last two rows are optional, but make it easier to adapt monsters that are harder to surprise.

  • If a monster lists a lowered surprise chance (“Surprise only on 1 in 6”,) shift the chance down one row on the table.
  • If a monster can’t be surprised normally, but you believe high-level thieves should still get a chance, shift the chance down two rows.

If you feel especially generous, thieves 9+ levels higher than the opponent will automatically succeed.

When using this table, the only modifier to the row is for cover or noise-reduction measures. Even this can be done away with, though: shift up one row for partial cover or any padding/muffling, or up two rows for total cover. I actually prefer this approach to using a level-based bonus.

Note on Surprising Machines: If a thief is trying to hide from a device or anything else that does not have a level or hit dice rating, use the dungeon level as the rating. So, a sound-activated trap on the 5th level can be bypassed a third of the time by even a beginning thief, two-thirds of the time by a 9th-level thief.


  1. Seems mechanically correct.

    But. Do you want to complicate something so easy to use and remember? I’m an old man and my memory isn’t what it used to be... I think... so simple is better even if it’s not simulationist.

    1. I agree with making things easy to remember, but... it's a table. How hard is it to remember "use this table, shift up a row if there's some kind of advantage, shift down a row if there's a disadvantage"?

      That's one of the main reasons I thought about using a table. Keeping things simple.