Suprise! Ambushes, Notice, and Danger Sense

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Theorel
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Suprise! Ambushes, Notice, and Danger Sense

#1 Postby Theorel » Wed Feb 04, 2015 9:11 am

I'd like to hear from people about their experience with surprising PCs. Whether through a waiting ambush, or having someone sneak up on them. How do you run this situation, and how does it change when someone has Danger Sense? Specifically I'm interested in how people handle the "surprise round"

(Maybe this post is too long and discouraging responses. So: TL;DR version:
Do you let your PCs make Notice rolls to avoid the surprise-part of an ambush? If so, how do you handle the RAW of PCs making Notice rolls to act during a surprise round? Do you just do two Notice rolls (3 for a Danger Sense PC)?

Or do you handle ambushes through GM fiat, offering Notice rolls only to act during the surprise round (only Danger Sense can avoid, i.e. act simultaneous with ambushers)?

Or do you do something else entirely (or similarly, am I wrong on RAW)?
)
----
Longer initial version

Now, there are 2 distinct situations here: 1. A waiting ambush, 2. Enemies moving into attack. Before looking into the rules, I would have said these are essentially the same thing. Both require a stealth roll of some sort from the ambushers, and allow a Notice roll for the PCs. After reading the rules again, I'm not so sure. If you would run them differently, help me understand the reasoning.

Okay, so here's how I would have run this before getting myself all confused:
1. Ambushers make a stealth roll of some sort.
2. Targets make a Notice roll to oppose it.
3a. If all targets fail, surprise round.
3b. If any targets succeed, they have opportunity to act (they might try to subtly tip everyone off that an ambush is waiting/coming or they might just react to the ambush). If they react, or their subtle tip is insufficiently subtle, surprise round.
4. Surprise Round consists of anyone who can act making an opposed agility roll, and acting accordingly.
5. Begin regular combat.

Now after reading over the rules, the surprise round actually consists of a Notice roll, with anyone passing getting dealt initiative, while the ambushers act as if on hold. Additionally, Danger Sense gives another Notice roll, and has the Danger-Sensing character acting on hold with the ambushers. This does not insert nicely (IMO) into Step 4 above. "make notice, oh you failed, surprise enemy actions! notice again" Or in the case of danger sense: "Notice, you failed, Notice again, failed again, well try again". It also seems to cheapen Danger Sense to: you get an extra notice roll when being ambushed...(though I suppose I'm ignoring the benefits outside of an ambush, and maybe that's enough to bring it up to edge-worthy)

So, since that seems like too many notice rolls in my "typical ambush scenario" outlined above. After reading the rules, it seems like it would run as follows:
1. Ambushers attack! (they're on hold)
2. Danger Sense character rolls Notice -2, to also be on hold.
3. Everyone makes a Notice roll to get an initiative card (including Danger Senser if he failed).
4. Proceed with combat round, usually involving ambushers attacking first.
5. Begin regular combat.

Now, that strikes me as undesirable, because I'm just stating that the ambush happens and not offering opportunity for noticing it ahead of time. Maybe if they're opening a door into a closed room, or have some definite inability to detect what's about to happen, I'd go with that scenario. But for a typical "someone's hiding waiting for you" ambush, it feels wrong.
Also, this certainly doesn't work for sneaking up on someone (given the stealth v. notice checks for the last steps for instance).

So, I'm probably missing something, or over-thinking something. Maybe just stuck in the way I've always done thing, and not wanting to accept the rules. Regardless, I'm just not sure how to run these situations any more, and would appreciate guidance from others who have successfully handled ambush-scenarios...especially with Danger Sense involved.
Last edited by Theorel on Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:46 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Suprise! Ambushes, Notice, and Danger Sense

#2 Postby UmbraLux » Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:32 pm

Theorel wrote:I'd like to hear from people about their experience with surprising PCs. Whether through a waiting ambush, or having someone sneak up on them. How do you run this situation, and how does it change when someone has Danger Sense?

I tend to request notice rolls ahead of when I need them. Somewhat like this:
A. Request Notice rolls
B. Exploring continues until they run into the ambush (or something else)
1. Roll for Danger Sense & Stealth
2. Deal appropriate initiative cards
3. Combat ensues

It gives players (though not characters) a nebulous meta-game warning of potential hidden stuff ahead but also ramps up tension. I keep the warning nebulous by using the same technique for secret doors and other hidden items/entities. It helps prevent the old (and tired) D&D dungeon delvers' checking every five foot section of wall just because the GM asked for a detect secret thing roll.

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#3 Postby Theorel » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:32 pm

So, I guess my question is: what do you do with those Notice rolls? Or similarly, how do you determine appropriate initiative cards?

If you're comparing against Stealth, is that for an opportunity to act in the surprise round, or something else?

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Re: Suprise! Ambushes, Notice, and Danger Sense

#4 Postby Nordicnomad » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:31 pm

UmbraLux wrote:
Theorel wrote:I'd like to hear from people about their experience with surprising PCs. Whether through a waiting ambush, or having someone sneak up on them. How do you run this situation, and how does it change when someone has Danger Sense?

I tend to request notice rolls ahead of when I need them. Somewhat like this:
A. Request Notice rolls
B. Exploring continues until they run into the ambush (or something else)
1. Roll for Danger Sense & Stealth
2. Deal appropriate initiative cards
3. Combat ensues

It gives players (though not characters) a nebulous meta-game warning of potential hidden stuff ahead but also ramps up tension. I keep the warning nebulous by using the same technique for secret doors and other hidden items/entities. It helps prevent the old (and tired) D&D dungeon delvers' checking every five foot section of wall just because the GM asked for a detect secret thing roll.


I like this strategy, thanks for sharing!
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#5 Postby UmbraLux » Sun Feb 08, 2015 2:41 pm

Theorel wrote:So, I guess my question is: what do you do with those Notice rolls? Or similarly, how do you determine appropriate initiative cards?

If you're comparing against Stealth, is that for an opportunity to act in the surprise round, or something else?
It depends on the situation. When the ambush takes a few seconds from initiation to strike (a bird diving from the sky, horsemen charging down a hill, etc) anyone aware enough to see it can usually warn the others in time for them to act. In this case everyone gets initiative in the first round. In cases with little or no warning (sniper fire, walking into a melee ambush, etc) only those who beat the stealth roll act and get initiative in the first round. In other words, I try to go with what makes sense in the situation at hand.

Nordicnomad wrote:I like this strategy, thanks for sharing!
You're welcome. I'm pretty sure I 'stole' this from someone else years ago though - can't claim originality. :wink:

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#6 Postby Theorel » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:56 am

UmbraLux wrote:It depends on the situation. When the ambush takes a few seconds from initiation to strike (a bird diving from the sky, horsemen charging down a hill, etc) anyone aware enough to see it can usually warn the others in time for them to act. In this case everyone gets initiative in the first round. In cases with little or no warning (sniper fire, walking into a melee ambush, etc) only those who beat the stealth roll act and get initiative in the first round. In other words, I try to go with what makes sense in the situation at hand.


So, in both cases do ambushers go first? Or do you deal them initiative as well? In other words, is your notice simply to act during ambush, or do you offer the ability to avoid the ambush (i.e. act alongside the ambushers)?

I think that's a brief version of the issue I was having. I was trying to give notice v. stealth to avoid the ambush completely. But then the rules use Notice to act during an ambush. And that's where it started feeling clunky (Notice to avoid, you failed to avoid, now Notice to act).

So, do other GMs let players avoid ambushes at all, or do they just happen by GM fiat? If you do let players avoid ambushes, how do you handle failure to avoid the ambush, or success?

(I'll also note that I'm taking default to be SW:Ex RAW, which may have changed with Deluxe...The RAW is (as far as I can tell):
Ambush happens, ambushers act as on hold, ambushees roll Notice (vs. TN 4) to get an initiative card)

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#7 Postby Zadmar » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:25 am

Here's how I would run it.

A gang of nefarious outlaws have set up an ambush alongside a road through the forest. They're hiding in the undergrowth, which the GM decides will provide them with medium cover (+2), when suddenly the PCs come into sight around a bend in the road.

The outlaws make a group Stealth roll with a +2 bonus for cover. If they roll 4+ and the PCs aren't expecting an ambush (i.e., they are "inactive guards") then the outlaws have succeeded in avoiding detection. If they fail, the PCs hear or see something in the trees up ahead, and immediately go on alert (becoming "active guards"). They're not sure what it is, perhaps it's just an animal, but they are now moving more warily.

The PCs continue walking for another 30 seconds (i.e., move 5 times) before another roll is required. If the PCs are now active guards, they can attempt to oppose the Stealth roll with a Notice roll, otherwise the outlaws simply need to roll 4+ again.

When the PCs come within 12 yards (6" in tabletop terms) of the ambush point, the outlaws have to make another Stealth roll, and at this distance the PCs always receive an opposed Notice roll.

The outlaws can initiate an attack whenever they wish. They could wait until the PCs are close enough for melee combat (although that means they're more likely to be spotted). They could shoot with bows when the PCs come within short range. They could even shoot at long range the moment the PCs come into sight.

If the outlaws initiate combat before they've been spotted, I would use the Surprise rules. The outlaws all begin on Hold, and the PCs must make Notice rolls - if successful they draw a card, otherwise they can't act on the first round of combat.

If one of the PCs has Danger Sense, that character can make a Notice roll at -2. If successful, they also begin the first round on Hold, like the outlaws. If they fail, they can still make the standard Notice roll along with the rest of the PCs to see if they are dealt a card.

If the PC with Danger Sense succeeds his Notice roll at -2, then he can attempt to interrupt the outlaws with an opposed Agility roll. If successful, he acts before they can launch their attack, and I would allow him to shout a warning as a free action.

As far as the effect of the warning is concerned, I would personally rule that the element of surprise had been lost, and the outlaws would have to draw cards like everyone else. If you feel that's too generous, you might instead give the other PCs a +2 bonus to their Notice roll. If you want something in between, you might rule that the outlaws have to draw cards, but can draw an additional card and keep the highest. However Danger Sense is a fairly niche Edge unless the GM makes extensive use of ambushes, so if a player has invested in it I'd like to make them feel that it paid itself off.
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#8 Postby Wibbs » Mon Feb 09, 2015 9:26 am

I think that it depends on the circumstances, and as a GM I try to include a mix of the two types.

There are some where given sufficient luck/skill/planning then ambushes can be avoided altogether. These tend to require forethought by me in order to set them up so that the PCs can be given sufficient chance to be forewarned. In these circumstances, it is entirely possible for them to avoid the ambush and even the fight altogether if things go the right way, and their approach in doing this could involve Notice rolls in addition to all sorts of other things depending on the exact setup. Note however, that should they fail, then they could possibly still get the opportunities present by the second type....

where the first opportunity PCs get is the attack itself. In these circumstances, ambushers always start on hold, with those being ambushed who pass their Notice rolls getting dealt in as normal. Typically, with these I would not allow those who pass their rolls to warn those who do not, as everything is happening too quickly (there are always exceptions depending on circumstances though). It is these type where Danger Sense also comes into its own.

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#9 Postby UmbraLux » Mon Feb 09, 2015 6:28 pm

Theorel wrote:So, in both cases do ambushers go first? Or do you deal them initiative as well? In other words, is your notice simply to act during ambush, or do you offer the ability to avoid the ambush (i.e. act alongside the ambushers)?
The ambushers get initiative cards as well. Notice is to see it...avoiding it is another issue. :) There are occasional exceptions - I've had PCs spot signs of preparation or travel some distance away from the prepared ambush site. That usually only comes into play if the groups either took the same path there or the ambush preparations involved construction beyond a makeshift blind.

So, do other GMs let players avoid ambushes at all, or do they just happen by GM fiat? If you do let players avoid ambushes, how do you handle failure to avoid the ambush, or success?
Avoiding an ambush altogether usually has more to do with not being at the ambush site than with rolls. My group tends to try and 'clean up loose ends' as well...they're far more likely to try and turn an ambush than avoid one. :wink:

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#10 Postby Theorel » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:45 pm

UmbraLux wrote:
Theorel wrote:So, in both cases do ambushers go first? Or do you deal them initiative as well? In other words, is your notice simply to act during ambush, or do you offer the ability to avoid the ambush (i.e. act alongside the ambushers)?
The ambushers get initiative cards as well. Notice is to see it...avoiding it is another issue. :) There are occasional exceptions - I've had PCs spot signs of preparation or travel some distance away from the prepared ambush site. That usually only comes into play if the groups either took the same path there or the ambush preparations involved construction beyond a makeshift blind.

So, do other GMs let players avoid ambushes at all, or do they just happen by GM fiat? If you do let players avoid ambushes, how do you handle failure to avoid the ambush, or success?
Avoiding an ambush altogether usually has more to do with not being at the ambush site than with rolls. My group tends to try and 'clean up loose ends' as well...they're far more likely to try and turn an ambush than avoid one. :wink:


Sorry, by avoiding I meant avoiding the surprise round, not avoiding the combat. Poor word-choice on my part.
Certainly avoiding the combat altogether would be a special circumstance.


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