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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thief Skills As Surprise: Stealth

Beginning a long time ago, I decided to treat all (or almost all) thief abilities as being based on surprise. Here's an elaboration on that for two skills: hide in shadows and move silently.

If an ordinary adventurer wants to hide, they must make that decision before a surprise roll is made. For example, if they know that a guard will be walking down a corridor at some point, they can hide around a corner. There must be some kind of cover. There's no "hide skill", but the cover used may give +1 (partial cover) or +2 (full cover) to the surprise roll. Similarly, if an adventurer takes steps to reduce noise, they can move quietly, getting +1 to surprise, or +2 for extreme measures. These modifiers do not stack.

(I use "surprise on 5+ on 1d6", which makes adding bonuses directly to the roll easy. If using the more standard "surprise on 1-2 on 1d6" mechanic, add the bonus to the target, making it "surprise on 1-3" or "surprise on 1-4".)

Cleverness may matter. If it seems reasonable that the adventurer may leave subtle clues to their presence, even when not visible or trying to be quiet, the adventurer only gets the bonus if either their Int or Wis is higher than the target's Int or Wis.

Speed may matter. If there's a chance that the adventurer could notice the opponent first, they can dart for cover if their Move is higher than the opponent's Int or Wis, whichever is better. This only works if the adventurer is not surprised, of course.

A thief does not need cover, only shadow, nor do thieves need special equipment to reduce noise, other than avoiding metal armor. The thief adds half their level (round up) to surprise when hiding in shadows or moving silently, plus any bonus for cover or sound dampening, if they chose to do so. If the thief decides to hide in shadows on the spur of the moment, they only need to dart for shadow, not for full cover, and they can do so if either their Dex or their level is higher than the opponent's Int or Wis.


  1. That’s just how I do it. I don’t use the thief class so there’s no hide in shadows or completely silent category. 1-2 for surprise. -1 for metal armor. +1 or -1 for dex. +1 or 2 situationally.

  2. The way I've done it, the Thief gets extra chances to do what other characters already do. Everyone gets a surprise roll. Thieves, using HS and MS get an extra chance at surprise. Everybody gets to open a door. The thief, using OL, gets an extra chance to do it silently.

    So, am I to understand that rather than an extra chance to surprise, you are merely granting more opportunities to surprise and a bonus to that roll?

    1. Extra opportunities, especially in situations where surprise would normally not be possible... plus a higher quality effect. Hide in shadows is a higher order ability than merely hiding.

    2. I think you misunderstand me. I don't mean "extra opportunities" in action when it comes to certain thief skill, I mean extra mechanical opportunities. Thus, a thief gets two rolls instead of one for surprise; however, I think we are of the same mind when it comes to surprise and HS/MS. In your model, however, there is no need to separate the mechanics from the action...

    3. Sorry, I interpreted "extra chances" as meaning extra rolls. I definitely do not use extra rolls for the same action.