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How to run a surprise round?


Rules Questions


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How do you run a surprise round for those that get to act in it, particularly when they are the ones to initiate combat?

For example, a band of orcs wielding a variety of melee weapons are hiding amongst the trees along a road. When a caravan comes around, they ambush it, getting a surprise round and being the only ones aware (and able to act).

Do they move out of their cover and end their turn (as they only get one action) or do they move out of cover (initiating combat) and then get their single surprise round action (likely an attack)?

In short, does the action made to initiate combat, count against the action(s) you get in the surprise round?

Gaining surprise is supposed to be advantageous. Moving into melee with a surprised enemy, only to have them cut you down doesn't seem terribly advantageous.


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They could also Charge or fire ranged weapons as an ambush.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Brain in a Jar wrote:
They could also Charge or fire ranged weapons as an ambush.

Sure they could, but that wouldn't really help to answer the question, now would it?

Liberty's Edge

As soon as they moved out of cover and the caravan became aware of them, you'd have negated the "surprise". The best thing would be for them to do as BiaJ suggests and have them either fire arrows or charge from hiding. If they just move, then that was the surprise round and combat begins as normal.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Missing the point. I obviously need a better example.

A prince is dancing at a ball. An assassin has come to kill him and is hiding amidst the crowd. The GM rules that his drawing a poisoned dagger initiates combat. Doe the assassin get a standard action in the surprise round to attack with said dagger, or has he already used his action to draw it out?

Sczarni

In my game, my Orcs would either hold position until the Caravan closes to within "charge" range, or fire from cover.

Obviously waiting could result in them giving up the element of surprise (should the PC's pass a subsequent Perception check), but that's the risk they would take.


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Surprise rounds tend to be for just that, a surprise. So things like firing ranged weapons from the trees, casting spells, partial charges, or other hilarities like invisible touch attacks or oozes dropping from ceilings are all good ideas, movement for the sake of movement is a bad idea.
If your baddies have set themselves up for an ambush without ranged weapons or casting, there really is no way they could start inflicting damage on the PCs before they see them and engage.

Sczarni

Hmmm. I'd probably grant the Prince (and maybe the other attendees) a perception check to notice the dagger. If no one notices, I'd let the Assassin get a standard action I guess...

Liberty's Edge

Drawing the dagger wouldn't necessarily initiate combat. That's part of the problem. I would say that your GM is jumping the gun by declaring that the assassin drawing the dagger initiates combat, unless everyone just saw him do it. I would say that combat starts when the assassin (who hopefully used Sleight of Hand to conceal drawing that dagger) takes his standard action to try and stick it in the prince. A hostile action has initiated combat, and only the assassin was aware it was coming.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

And if the prince is a PC? If I as GM simply attack him out of the blue, he's liable to call foul.

Sczarni

SKR defined the start of the surprise round Here

To directly answer your question RD, I would say yes. The action to initiate combat counts against your surprise round actions.


http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2p3xs?How-many-sneak-attacks-for-an-invisible-r ogue#35

Here is a good example of a Surprise Round.

Edit: Damn ninja'ed.


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Just run it in the way that is most dramatically-appropriate. Ensure that the action the surprising group gets to take is meaningful to the encounter.

In the orc-ambush example, they get to make some sort of offensive action in the surprise round. In the assassination example, if the PC prince fails his Perception check, the assassin gets to make his attempt.

Surprise rounds are very wonky in the current rules. They require discretion to run well.

-Matt


yes i would argue that the aggressive action taken first by the only aware combatant is his/her surprise round action.

the bandit archetype has the ability to get a full round in the surprise round, i don't think that ability would exist if it were as easy to gain a full round in the surprise round.

by just saying you use stealth as your surprise round action, in order to actually initiate combat on the first full round of combat to get a full round of actions effectively on the surprise round doesn't seem within the spirit of the rules, or arguable RAW.

until both combatants are aware of being in combat, combat hasn't started yet, and once someone does something aggressive, that is the surprise round and that is their only action.

you can continue to use stealth forever before combat, but once you actually do something aggressive, that something is the surprise round and that's all you get

Dedicated Voter 2013

As I read it, surprise is drastically underpowered.

I believe the Orcs in RD's scenario would use up their action by simply making a move action.

The absurdity increases if orcs have lost the initiative roll. In that case, they walk towards their supposedly ambushed enemies who... get a full attack against them (assuming they can get close enough)? And do the Orcs know they lost initiative (and thus can choose not do something as stupid as that)? I've run a number of surprise rounds 'by the book' to terrible, 'ambushee' favoring results.

As it stands, it seems only Bandits (as in the Rogue archetype that can act normally on surprise rounds) should bother ambushing (or those using invisibility [or shapeshifting, or betraying someone, etc], as in the linked example).


Whale_Cancer wrote:

As I read it, surprise is drastically underpowered.

I believe the Orcs in RD's scenario would use up their action by simply making a move action.

The absurdity increases if orcs have lost the initiative roll. In that case, they walk towards their supposedly ambushed enemies who... get a full attack against them (assuming they can get close enough)? And do the Orcs know they lost initiative (and thus can choose not do something as stupid as that)? I've run a number of surprise rounds 'by the book' to terrible, 'ambushee' favoring results.

As it stands, it seems only Bandits (as in the Rogue archetype that can act normally on surprise rounds) should bother ambushing (or those using invisibility [or shapeshifting, or betraying someone, etc], as in the linked example).

That will happen when someone plays the npcs like idiots. The orcs in RD's example are fully capable of charging to gain an attack or unleasing ranged weapons as an attack. If someone uses their only action during a surprise round to move within attack range and eat a full attack for no reason they deserve to lose.

Dedicated Voter 2013

Brain in a Jar wrote:
Whale_Cancer wrote:

As I read it, surprise is drastically underpowered.

I believe the Orcs in RD's scenario would use up their action by simply making a move action.

The absurdity increases if orcs have lost the initiative roll. In that case, they walk towards their supposedly ambushed enemies who... get a full attack against them (assuming they can get close enough)? And do the Orcs know they lost initiative (and thus can choose not do something as stupid as that)? I've run a number of surprise rounds 'by the book' to terrible, 'ambushee' favoring results.

As it stands, it seems only Bandits (as in the Rogue archetype that can act normally on surprise rounds) should bother ambushing (or those using invisibility [or shapeshifting, or betraying someone, etc], as in the linked example).

That will happen when someone plays the npcs like idiots. The orcs in RD's example are fully capable of charging to gain an attack or unleasing ranged weapons as an attack. If someone uses their only action during a surprise round to move within attack range and eat a full attack for no reason they deserve to lose.

Yeah, charging from a place where they are stealthed.

Stealth...

"Against most creatures, finding cover or concealment allows you to use Stealth."

Charge...

"You must have a clear path toward the opponent, and nothing can hinder your movement (such as difficult terrain or obstacles). "

If someone doesn't know how stealth and charge works, I can see how they wouldn't see this as a problem (I am not sure what kind of terrain you are hiding behind that neither slows nor blocks movement).

The classic trope of bandits popping up from behind boulders and trees and attacking doesn't work (except with ranged weapons or with the bandit archetype). I don't think it is at all unreasonable to bemoan the fact that melee ambushes are rather difficult to pull off.

I see no reason to be dickish, Empty Jar.


Whale_Cancer wrote:
Brain in a Jar wrote:
Whale_Cancer wrote:

As I read it, surprise is drastically underpowered.

I believe the Orcs in RD's scenario would use up their action by simply making a move action.

The absurdity increases if orcs have lost the initiative roll. In that case, they walk towards their supposedly ambushed enemies who... get a full attack against them (assuming they can get close enough)? And do the Orcs know they lost initiative (and thus can choose not do something as stupid as that)? I've run a number of surprise rounds 'by the book' to terrible, 'ambushee' favoring results.

As it stands, it seems only Bandits (as in the Rogue archetype that can act normally on surprise rounds) should bother ambushing (or those using invisibility [or shapeshifting, or betraying someone, etc], as in the linked example).

That will happen when someone plays the npcs like idiots. The orcs in RD's example are fully capable of charging to gain an attack or unleasing ranged weapons as an attack. If someone uses their only action during a surprise round to move within attack range and eat a full attack for no reason they deserve to lose.

Yeah, charging from a place where they are stealthed.

Stealth...

"Against most creatures, finding cover or concealment allows you to use Stealth."

Charge...

"You must have a clear path toward the opponent, and nothing can hinder your movement (such as difficult terrain or obstacles). "

If someone doesn't know how stealth and charge works, I can see how they wouldn't see this as a problem (I am not sure what kind of terrain you are hiding behind that neither slows nor blocks movement).

The classic trope of bandits popping up from behind boulders and trees and attacking doesn't work (except with ranged weapons or with the bandit archetype). I don't think it is at all unreasonable to bemoan the fact that melee ambushes are rather difficult to pull off.

I see no reason to be dickish, Empty Jar.

First off, take it easy, i never insulted you or anyone else.

Secondly, it's quite easy to be hidden with Stealth and still be able to Charge. For example, orcs hiding in a mist or fog could easily charge out of hiding.

So if you must insult someone at least be correct about your assumption. I know i wouldn't like to be caught being foolish.

Dedicated Voter 2013

@brain: I said I had run surprise rounds by the book in which the NPCs failed horridly due to how the surprise rules work. You said that was possible if the NPCs are run 'as idiots'; thus, you are saying that I ran them as idiots and am thus myself a bit challenged (by obvious implication). You threw the first stone, as it were.

There are obviously some cases in which you can charge from concealment/stealth (in the dark w/ darkvision against normal sight characters, for instance; or while invisible). My complaint is that under normal conditions surprise is underpowered. Also, I'm on a phone so it is a pain to check, but isn't it the case that you can't charge through fog? (I could well be wrong on that)

Edit: yup, fog gives total concealment to anything not adjacent to you. Can't charge through that.


The way I run surprise rounds is totally arbitrary when the NPCs have surprise against the PCs. I pretty much completely adopt Rule Zero in surprise cases and I simply decide for myself what the NPCs could accomplish based on their tactical situation, perception checks by the party and the proximity of the opposing groups.

For example, in my last session I had two invisible characters attack the PC party. After failing their perception checks (against a rather high DC I admit) The two invisible characters were able to make their attacks, which is what initiated combat. So one sneak attacked a PC the other cast a spell. I did the sneak attack and spell and then we all rolled initiative. Rounds progressed from there.

In another situation the party was investigating a cave within a dungeon. The NPCs were waiting in ambush. This time one of the PCs did succeed with a perception check. So in that case I had everyone roll their initiative, but gave the ambushing NPCs a surprise round before the party could act. In that case most of the NPCs fired crossbows, but one did charge the party.

I freely admit that I am more than willing to ignore rules that I think make no sense and that I will invoke Rule Zero any time I think my own sense of reasonableness conflicts with the RAW.

Liberty's Edge

For the assassin scenario...drawing a dagger doesn't initiate combat. The assassin should make a sleight of hand check opposed by perception checks. If no one notices him drawing the dagger, he still has "surprise" but no "surprise round" has started. The surprise round would start when he plunges the dagger into the Prince's back. The assassin took a single standard action; an attack. If, however, someone noticed the surreptitiously drawn dagger, they may well approach the character (still not necessarily in combat, depending on how the GM wants to run it) and ask, "Wazzup?" If it were me, if a PC noticed the assassin, I'd roll initiative and everyone who saw the weapon drawn gets an action in the surprise round. Everyone else is SOL until the first full round...

By RAW, the melee ambush with a surprise round only REALLY works if the attacker(s) is/are invisible OR they have darkvision vs. targets w/o. In the above orc ambush scenario, there's just no way, by RAW, they can spring from cover and charge in the surprise round. Maybe if you have them close enough to the path the ambushees are traveling that they can attack from concealment...but really no other way I can find by RAW.

To make melee ambushes effective, I've often invoked Rule Zero and allowed the ambushers to charge from cover. It isn't RAW, but I've never had a single player complain about it. It's all about having fun, right? And how much fun is beating back an ambush if the ambushers can't actually attack the ambushees first? Additionally, I have allowed PLAYERS to do the same thing when they wanted to set up an ambush.


Whale_Cancer wrote:
@brain: I said I had run surprise rounds by the book in which the NPCs failed horridly due to how the surprise rules work. You said that was possible if the NPCs are run 'as idiots'; thus, you are saying that I ran them as idiots and am thus myself a bit challenged (by obvious implication). You threw the first stone, as it were.

If you wish to infer that from my example that is of no fault of my own. I said running the orcs like idiots is a bad thing. Last time i checked orcs are a non-player character and not real by default.

I consider myself a smart man and yet i am still more than capable of running an NPC like an idiot, they are separate.

Whale_Cancer wrote:
There are obviously some cases in which you can charge from concealment/stealth (in the dark w/ darkvision against normal sight characters, for instance; or while invisible).

Certain types of cover can be used to become hidden and then charge from to engage the foe.

1. How about hiding behind a wall, when the targets reach just past the wall a few orcs charge out to meet them while others who can't charge fire ranged weapons.

Cover:
Cover and Stealth Checks

You can use cover to make a Stealth check. Without cover, you usually need concealment (see below) to make a Stealth check.

2. How about an ambush within a forest? I can use the trees to gain cover and hide. They also don't impede movement, so i can charge.

Tree Cover:
Trees The most important terrain element in a forest is the trees, obviously. A creature standing in the same square as a tree gains partial cover, which grants a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 bonus on Reflex saves. The presence of a tree doesn't otherwise affect a creature's fighting space, because it's assumed that the creature is using the tree to its advantage when it can. The trunk of a typical tree has AC 4, hardness 5, and 150 hp. A DC 15 Climb check is sufficient to climb a tree. Medium and dense forests have massive trees as well. These trees take up an entire square and provide cover to anyone behind them. They have AC 3, hardness 5, and 600 hp. Like their smaller counterparts, it takes a DC 15 Climb check to climb them.

3. How about hilly terrain? I could hide atop a small hilltop and then charge down the hill to attack and i could use trees if there are any.

Hills:
Stealth and Detection in Hills: In gentle hills, the maximum distance at which a Perception check for detecting the nearby presence of others can succeed is 2d10 × 10 feet. In rugged hills, this distance is 2d6 × 10 feet.

Hiding in hills terrain can be difficult if there isn't undergrowth around. A hilltop or ridge provides enough cover to hide from anyone below the hilltop or ridge.

4. You can use darkness to hide in the ambush. Dim light or darkness provides concealment, exception against darkvision.

5. Invisibility.

6. Obscuring Mist/Fog Cloud Spells
I can also easily use these to gain concealment and since they are being placed by the npc's planning the ambush i could even have the orcs hiding at the very edge of the fog/mist, thus they can hide but still see.

Fog Cloud:
A bank of fog billows out from the point you designate. The fog obscures all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. A creature within 5 feet has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker can't use sight to locate the target).

A moderate wind (11+ mph) disperses the fog in 4 rounds; a strong wind (21+ mph) disperses the fog in 1 round.

The spell does not function underwater.

Obscuring Mist:
A misty vapor arises around you. It is stationary. The vapor obscures all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. A creature 5 feet away has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker cannot use sight to locate the target).

A moderate wind (11+ mph), such as from a gust of wind spell, disperses the fog in 4 rounds. A strong wind (21+ mph) disperses the fog in 1 round. A fireball, flame strike, or similar spell burns away the fog in the explosive or fiery spell's area. A wall of fire burns away the fog in the area into which it deals damage.

This spell does not function underwater.

I think i have made my point. If you think i'm incorrect somewhere provide evidence with your accusation.

Whale_Cancer wrote:
My complaint is that under normal conditions surprise is underpowered. Also, I'm on a phone so it is a pain to check, but isn't it the case that you can't charge through fog? (I could well be wrong on that)

I guess your correct if by normal conditions you mean not using any shred of terrain, spell, cover, or any form of concealment to the benefit of the ambushing npc bandits.

Would the orcs in your scenario ambush during the daytime, while standing on the side of the road with no cover or concealment, and then even if they got a surprise round just use it to move within full-attack range and nothing else?

Whale_Cancer wrote:
Edit: yup, fog gives total concealment to anything not adjacent to you. Can't charge through that.

I didn't clarify enough. I was speaking of using the spells and staying within the edge of it. See my example above.


In both the case of the invisible rogue attacking a guard (from the other thread) and this thread, during the surprise round I think of the initiative rolls like this:

Defenders roll a high init, hurray for them, they are having a good day. Some subtle clue tipped them off, not enough to act in the surprise round but enough to respond to it very quickly.
Rogue (or ambushers) rolled a low init, sad for them, they are having a bad day. They are not at the top of their game, or something temporarily distracted them just when they went to make their attack. They still get their surprise, but their execution of it was clumsy or slow, leaving them vulnerable the following round.

As to RD's original question, and in relation to Whale Cancer's issue with it. In the typical ambush from the forest I'd work it like this. NPC's step out from behind trees, rocks, whatever, and yell surprise. Surprise round now starts, now they have a clear path to charge, or fire ranged attacks, whatever. Or they can run (not charge) to get closer, and if they rolled low init (are having a bad day), those are the breaks.

As others have stated the prince encounter similar. Surprise round starts on drawing the dagger only if someone noticed him do so. Otherwise the surprise round starts when he attacks with it, or possibly when someone notices him acting oddly as he moves towards the prince, or whatever makes sense given the context of the upcoming fight. e.g, prince surrounded by bodyguards? those guards should be asking why someone they don't know is trying to get into melee range of the prince. Prince at a dance? Probably no check to see the assassin moving in close, and certainly no check at all if the assassin has a 'dancing partner'.


Ravingdork wrote:

Missing the point. I obviously need a better example.

A prince is dancing at a ball. An assassin has come to kill him and is hiding amidst the crowd. The GM rules that his drawing a poisoned dagger initiates combat. Doe the assassin get a standard action in the surprise round to attack with said dagger, or has he already used his action to draw it out?

To answer your question. If I were DM I would roll a sleight of hand check with appropriate modifiers for the Assassin (+2 for dagger, +2 baggy clothes, +4 for crowded dance hall) vs. my PCs perception. If no one notices then the weapon comes out and no one is the wiser. Next round I would initiate the attack thus beginning the surprise round.


Okay, what about if one person is aware of multiple opponents but their teammate is aware of fewer?

Here is the scenario:

Stealth checks
Hybrid Wererat LV14 1 (+22): 33
Hybrid Wererat LV14 2 (+22): 28
Perception checks
Venda (+6): 17
Mayless (+1): 17
Selan (+8): 27
Lufia (+20): 33
Sir Alkin (+25): 31

As you can see, Lufia sees both wererats, so she obviously gets to act in the surprise around. What about Sir Alkin, though? He noticed one wererat, but not the other. Who gets to go in the surprise round in this case?

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

It is very difficult to get a melee attack on someone during the surprise round. This reflects reality pretty well, it's a lot easier to pop out of a bush and fire an arrow at someone then it is to run across 30 feet of open ground and get the jump on them.

My suggestion is to have to half orcs do something other than run across the clearing. Give them all heavy crossbows or throwing axes. Then the ambush victims have to use a move action to approach (or they can use missile weapons obviously).

I've seen someone suggest you delay your first action to the beginning round where combat begins so you get a full round action instead (forgoing the standard in the surprise round in exchange for better initiative. I'm not sure if this is technically legal though.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

DreamGoddessLindsey wrote:


As you can see, Lufia sees both wererats, so she obviously gets to act in the surprise around. What about Sir Alkin, though? He noticed one wererat, but not the other. Who gets to go in the surprise round in this case?

There is no surprise round, Sir Alkin just doesn't know where the extra wererat is.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

For clarity:

Combat chapter wrote:
2. Determine which characters are aware of their opponents. These characters can act during a surprise round. If all the characters are aware of their opponents, proceed with normal rounds. See the surprise section for more information

If the orcs start moving to approach the caravan, the party is 'aware' of them. They are in plain sight.

Similarly, if the assassin is visible with a dagger, they are aware of him, Improved Initiative and a high Dexterity are an assassins friend. Move up adjacent to the target, then draw (a concealed weapon) as a standard. Combat begins.... hopefully your initiative lets you act first. Either that or get one of the magic items that lets you draw concealed weapons as a free or swift action.


DreamGoddessLindsey wrote:

Okay, what about if one person is aware of multiple opponents but their teammate is aware of fewer?

Here is the scenario:

Stealth checks
Hybrid Wererat LV14 1 (+22): 33
Hybrid Wererat LV14 2 (+22): 28
Perception checks
Venda (+6): 17
Mayless (+1): 17
Selan (+8): 27
Lufia (+20): 33
Sir Alkin (+25): 31

As you can see, Lufia sees both wererats, so she obviously gets to act in the surprise around. What about Sir Alkin, though? He noticed one wererat, but not the other. Who gets to go in the surprise round in this case?

All four (Lufia, Alkin + wererats) get to go in the surprise round.

Quote:
In initiative order (highest to lowest), combatants who started the battle aware of their opponents each take a standard or move action during the surprise round.

Since four combatants meet the condition "started the battle aware of their opponents" (don't read too much into the plural or there's no surprise round for 1v1), all four get to go in initiative order.


Ravingdork wrote:

Missing the point. I obviously need a better example.

A prince is dancing at a ball. An assassin has come to kill him and is hiding amidst the crowd. The GM rules that his drawing a poisoned dagger initiates combat. Doe the assassin get a standard action in the surprise round to attack with said dagger, or has he already used his action to draw it out?

Combat is initiated. Everyone that can see the assassin gets a perception check vs. the assassins Sleight of Hand check to notice the knife. Initiative is then rolled, and PCs and NPCs get to act in initiative order. Everyone gets another Perception check to see the knife, until someone does or the assassin stabs the target.

The trick is not allowing the PCs to react until the knife is seen.

Lantern Lodge

As someone who is actually trained for real combat I prefer to skip this loads of idiocy found in the rules (obviously written by people who had no clue how combat works)

First, if you know or expect possible combat in the 6-10 seconds, then you are in combat.

If someone in combat moves to attack someone not in combat with them, they get a surprise round.

AkA, the assassin knows he is going to strike thus he is already in combat, the prince fails his spot check thus has no clue, the assassin takes action to draw the prince into combat by attacking him, that attack is his surprise round action. The orcs, if they jump out and run towards the caravan, then the guards of the caravan see them coming and expect combat before the orcs reach them.

The surprise round really just represents the action taken that draws others into combat with you.

This also mostly solves that idiot rule about being flatfooted during the first round of combat. If you are expecting a fight, you can be surprised but not automatically caught flat footed (because you were expecting combat, but just didn't know where from, thus it isn't the first round of combat for you), which can truthfully only occur whhen you don't see the actual atk coming. If you see a guy rush you from 10' away, you will react, period, even if you didn't expect him to atk, that 1/4 of a sec allows even less trained people a chance to flinch out of the way, flinching and such falls under the dex modifier to AC, hence if you would flinch from an atk, you aren't FF. An atk must be unseen to hit FF.

This doesn't exactly follow the rules RAW, but it meshes much better with actual experience with the start of combat.

Edit: Personally, I believe the root of most of these discussions is that someone doesn't understand what would actually be plausable, particularly with other's expectations of what would happen. Either that someone is the game designer, who writes bad rules that players find problems with, or a player who expects something unplausable that the othe players find absurd.

Editted 3rd para for clarity.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:

How do you run a surprise round for those that get to act in it, particularly when they are the ones to initiate combat?

For example, a band of orcs wielding a variety of melee weapons are hiding amongst the trees along a road. When a caravan comes around, they ambush it, getting a surprise round and being the only ones aware (and able to act).

Do they move out of their cover and end their turn (as they only get one action) or do they move out of cover (initiating combat) and then get their single surprise round action (likely an attack)?

In short, does the action made to initiate combat, count against the action(s) you get in the surprise round?

Gaining surprise is supposed to be advantageous. Moving into melee with a surprised enemy, only to have them cut you down doesn't seem terribly advantageous.

I would rule that the surprise round begins at the point that the orcs are observed; up until then, I would not run in "move your speed on your turn" mode. It is very likely that the orcs would not be observed until *after* they had stepped out of the trees giving them a clear charge line, unless they were particularly clutzy/party was particularly cautious or observant. I use a bit of standing orders + rule 0 to arrange the combatants as I see fit depending on the rolls.

So - whether or not the ambushers get a melee attack on the surprise round would depend on how good the stealth + cover vs. perception played out, and how close the edge of the trees was to the caravan. As others have said, smart foes will be able to weigh up the chances of success and plan tactics (including bringing bows if appropriate!) accordingly. Clumsy & heavy armour = you'd better be pretty darn close & well-hidden if you want an effective *ambush* (beyond the "overwhelming force in good tactical scenario" sort of trap).

Sounds reasonable enough to me.

(A bit non rules forum-y, on the were question a bit downthread from the OP, I tend to run a houserule where participants unobserved by their target get to make their first attack (only) Dex-denied (not flatfooted if the target has acted in combat though). I find it works ok and adds a bit of spice & effectiveness to the "bandits hidden in the bushes while the frontman shakes down the mark" type scenarios.)

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

It is very likely that the orcs would not be observed until *after* they had stepped out of the trees giving them a clear charge line
–––––––––––––
Yeah, this is true. Ambushers choose ambush locations based on favorable conditions... if they are melee friendly guys, they are likely to pick spots where they can charge.

The way RD described it, I got the impression charging wouldn't be possible (due to terrain, etc).


The rules state that "you can also take free actions during your surprise round".
I read that as saying "on top of the move or standard", so even if your cover is a big rock that hinders a charge, you could just take a 5ft step out of cover and charge anyway...


Cyberwolf2xs wrote:

The rules state that "you can also take free actions during your surprise round".

I read that as saying "on top of the move or standard", so even if your cover is a big rock that hinders a charge, you could just take a 5ft step out of cover and charge anyway...

This does not work:

Quote:
you can't take a 5-foot step in the same round that you move any distance

Otherwise you would never need the Withdraw action... just 5-foot step and double move, or 5-foot step, move, then attack.


Cyberwolf2xs wrote:

The rules state that "you can also take free actions during your surprise round".

I read that as saying "on top of the move or standard", so even if your cover is a big rock that hinders a charge, you could just take a 5ft step out of cover and charge anyway...

But a 5ft step uses your move action so you can't charge until the next round. I feel surprise rounds need to be rework to be just that a surprise round, the group that get surprise get no action those that are doing the surprise get a full round action.


Ravingdork wrote:

How do you run a surprise round for those that get to act in it, particularly when they are the ones to initiate combat?

They would get their move action.

At which point both sides of the combat are certainly aware of each other and there is no further surprise.

-James

Lantern Lodge

KainPen wrote:
Cyberwolf2xs wrote:

The rules state that "you can also take free actions during your surprise round".

I read that as saying "on top of the move or standard", so even if your cover is a big rock that hinders a charge, you could just take a 5ft step out of cover and charge anyway...
But a 5ft step uses your move action so you can't charge until the next round. I feel surprise rounds need to be rework to be just that a surprise round, the group that get surprise get no action those that are doing the surprise get a full round action.

That doesn't work, even slow people will react in far less then 6 seconds, so giving a full round to the surprisers is OP.

Surprise isn't underpowered now, it's just some people are either not creative enough to get any real use out of surprise, or they just want more then is reasonable.

Basically surprise covers the action that alerts the defenders to the fact that combat has started. Which is certainly less then a full round.

If people can't figure out that running for multiple seconds gives your opponent time to prepare, then that is their problem, not the rules. They need to learn that using surprise requires actual surprise, as in, no warning.


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How I do it :

Combat is initiated when someone makes an attack. This can be a ranged attack, or a charge (using the single move charge rules).

If it's an ambush, the Ambusher's get a +10 initiative for the first round only.

So, in the example of the orcs ambushing, the fight starts when one of them stands up and fires an arrow. Anyone charging does so, and other ranged attackers attack. Anyone who makes their perception roll can make an initiative check. if someone does go faster than the attackers, they can't go until the initiative round after the attackers go.

For the assassin, the fight starts when the assassin attacks. The drawing of the dagger is a free action (any real assassin has quick draw). Again, the assassin get's a +10 initiative the first round. Then he attacks, and if the target survives, and made a perception check, then he can go after the assassin attacks.

Star Voter 2013

I hate that the knowledge of other minds can somehow affect people during a surprise round. I am referencing the line "At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed. " Consider the assassin example above with a slight tweak.

Scene 1- Assassin and Prince are next to each other with nowhere for the prince to move when combat starts, Prince noticed the dagger come out so there is no surprise round and the Prince also beat the assassin on initiative. The assassin does not get a chance to sneak attack since the Prince is not flat-footed on the assassin's turn.

Scene 2- Everything is rolled exactly the same for the prince and assassin, but this time the Prince has a friend standing somewhere in the room that will participate in combat. The friend missed the check to see the assassin's dagger and since some parties are unaware, a surprise round occurs. The prince does whatever with his half turn (not a regular turn ending flat footedness), then the assassin stabs the flat footed prince for sneak attack damage. Nothing changed between the assassin and the prince, but because the way surprise rounds are written and the ability of other minds to alter interactions they currently have nothing to do with, this oddity occurs.

This contributed to a pretty big dilemma for us the first time we saw it. If I were to write it, people initiating combat would not be flat footed, and the condition would end for someone the first time they act, even if it is in a surprise round.

For the charge in questions before, as it stands now, you can still get them flat footed if at least one person in the party doesn't spot you, you run in on surprise round, and then attack on your regular round in higher initiative order.

Lantern Lodge

That is why I distinguish combat on an individual basis, in your example above about the assassin, prince, and prince's buddy, for example,

The assassin is able to get next to the prince before drawing attention, since he is expecting combat, he is considered in combat, the prince doesn't suspect anything and so is not in combat, the assassin gets the surprise round, the prince gets no action in the surprise round since he is unaware of impending combat, the assassin draws dagger as a free action and attacks, this attack is what draws the prince into combat, along with anyone who witnessed this attack, the prince is sneak attacked because he didn't see it coming, then once the attack is completed, the prince is now (most likely) aware of the assassin and combat continues in regular order.

Unlike Sitri's example however, the prince doesn't get to make a spot check in time because the assassin has quick draw, if the assassin didn't have quick draw, he would use an action to draw the dagger, and the prince would get a spot check, if the spot check was successful, then that draw dagger action would count as the surprise since it drew the prince into combat (he is now aware of impending combat), but if the prince didn't notice, then the assassin gets to make an attack as the surprise round action instead. The buddy being nearby would have no bearing unless he saw something and tried to intervene in the middle of this.

Basically, someone expecting combat gets to make surprise round actions until the non-combatant notices and realizes that combat is commencing. Obviously at the end of every "surprise" round, everyone nearby gets to make a perception and if successful start in combat as regular rounds the next round, if they fail, the next round is a surprise round again.

If two people are in full combat with someone unknowing nearby (such as a deaf/blind man), I.E. a caster casts Burning hands and it catches the area with the blind man in it, the blind man is being drawn into combat so this counts as the casters one action, the fighter who goes after the caster, gets only one action since it has now become a surprise round, if someone else in combat had gon before the caster they wouldn't get to go until the start of the next round. The next round starts like normal, except the blind man is FF until he acts this round. It basically resets the round order to incorporate the new combatant, so instead of waiting 6 seconds for the start of the new round, it jumps to the new round early because the new guy is joining combat.


@Sitri
I believe your group is misinterpreting the flat-footed condition and surprise attack rules.

This comes from the Combat Rules under the Initiative section: "Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed." It refers specifically to a Combat Round.

This comes from the Combat Rules under the Surprise section: "Unaware Combatants: Combatants who are unaware at the start of battle don't get to act in the surprise round. Unaware combatants are flat-footed because they have not acted yet, so they lose any Dexterity bonus to AC." It refers specifically to a Surprise Round.

My argument is that there is a distinction between a Surprise Round that has combat in it and a Combat Round that has combat in it.

Lantern Lodge

Treesmasha Toothpickmaker wrote:

...

This comes from the Combat Rules under the Initiative section: "Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed." It refers specifically to a Combat Round.

....

I have a problem with this line simply because, if you know combat is coming, you aren't flatfooted, if you see someone rushing towards you in a threating manner, possibly with weapons drawn, you are not flatfooted.

Yet according to the rules you are, for some reason unable to have a dex bonus to AC in a situation where you would react, unless you are some peasent so completely unused to combat that you literally freeze, stunned from shock that it is actually happening, which would only occur to those unused to combat or find the concept that combat might find them completely absurd,

AKA modern day people are the only ones that fit that description, certainly not Golarion people, PCs, guards real or fake, soldiers, peasents in medival times or anyone in any gygaxian universe, etc


@DLH,

I think you are at the quandary of reality meets mechanics. What you describe is reality, but what is in the rules is only a mechanic for playing it out. Mechanics are never as good as reality.

Lantern Lodge

True, but if you can improve the rules to come closer to reality/plausablity, then we should do so, at least for those players such as myself who get bothered by what experience tells us should happen and what the rules arbitrarily decide won't happen for no particular reason beyond being designed by people without any actual experience.

------

I gave the example as how I would run it, which is including my experience. I did leave in the base of rules as much as possible though, like the bit about the blind man being FF until the start of his action the following round,

Personally I would break from rules on that and say if you are aware of combat at the start of a round, then are not FF because you haven't acted (FF would have to come from certain attks meeting the criteria, primarily, being completely unsuspecting of the particular atk, or completely clueless as to where it's coming from)


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When it is possible that combatants are unaware of each other perception rolls are made to determine who sees who.
In this case the orcs should be given automatic success unless the players are traveling with some extreme tactic.

1)The players fail perception and the orcs are granted stealth until they make any action that would justify a new perception check vs stealth.

2)The orcs can use their surprise round when ever they like.
They can attempt to stealth into a position where they can accomplish their goals,
or if for what ever reason they cant seem to get the ability to close into melee
you can use these special initiative actions to give them better options in the first round on combat.

Most of these posts are correct in that any time they move out of cover or concealment,
they are not going to be able to use stealth under normal circumstances.

technically this wasted their surprise round since the players are aware of the threat. (automatic success on perception check)

THUS:
The orcs should move to the edge of the cover/concealment.
Then when the players are in optimal range, they attack.
If they rolled good for initiative they charge in getting 2 rounds on the players flatfooted AC
If they rolled bad, they reset to the top initiative position and get 1 round on flatfooted AC.

Star Voter 2013

DarkLightHitomi wrote:

That is why I distinguish combat on an individual basis, in your example above about the assassin, prince, and prince's buddy, for example,

The assassin is able to get next to the prince before drawing attention, since he is expecting combat, he is considered in combat, the prince doesn't suspect anything and so is not in combat, the assassin gets the surprise round, the prince gets no action in the surprise round since he is unaware of impending combat, the assassin draws dagger as a free action and attacks, this attack is what draws the prince into combat, along with anyone who witnessed this attack, the prince is sneak attacked because he didn't see it coming, then once the attack is completed, the prince is now (most likely) aware of the assassin and combat continues in regular order.

Unlike Sitri's example however, the prince doesn't get to make a spot check in time because the assassin has quick draw, if the assassin didn't have quick draw, he would use an action to draw the dagger, and the prince would get a spot check, if the spot check was successful, then that draw dagger action would count as the surprise since it drew the prince into combat (he is now aware of impending combat), but if the prince didn't notice, then the assassin gets to make an attack as the surprise round action instead. The buddy being nearby would have no bearing unless he saw something and tried to intervene in the middle of this.

Basically, someone expecting combat gets to make surprise round actions until the non-combatant notices and realizes that combat is commencing. Obviously at the end of every "surprise" round, everyone nearby gets to make a perception and if successful start in combat as regular rounds the next round, if they fail, the next round is a surprise round again.

If two people are in full combat with someone unknowing nearby (such as a deaf/blind man), I.E. a caster casts Burning hands and it catches the area with the blind man in it, the blind man is being drawn into combat so this counts as...

I think you are getting closer to how I would like to run it too. Our problem arose in PFS where you are not supposed to deviate from the rules. I do still have a problem with your successive surprise rounds if you keep the line "If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round happens before regular rounds begin. " in play. In this case, two people could run down a winding corridor forever with no one getting a chance to attack as long as one potential combatant somewhere didn't see it start.

Star Voter 2013

Treesmasha Toothpickmaker wrote:

@Sitri

I believe your group is misinterpreting the flat-footed condition and surprise attack rules.

This comes from the Combat Rules under the Initiative section: "Flat-Footed: At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed." It refers specifically to a Combat Round.

This comes from the Combat Rules under the Surprise section: "Unaware Combatants: Combatants who are unaware at the start of battle don't get to act in the surprise round. Unaware combatants are flat-footed because they have not acted yet, so they lose any Dexterity bonus to AC." It refers specifically to a Surprise Round.

My argument is that there is a distinction between a Surprise Round that has combat in it and a Combat Round that has combat in it.

This came up in PFS where neither GMs or players are supposed to deviate from RAW, where I think you are extrapolating RAI. I was trying to make it make sense but my player took a pretty hard stance on what the text said.

The surprise round line you quote does say that unaware people are flat footed from not acting, but in truth no one will have acted in a normal round yet so it is a meaningless line if you read it RAW. This sounds like it implies that flat footed ends on that surprise action, but it doesn't directly say that. Also if surprise round awareness and/or action does end flat footed, the character would still, by RAW, go back into flat footed for the start of the first round because the surprise round is clearly defined as not a regular round and these two lines seem to go out of their way to say surprise round actions won't save you at the start of combat.

"At the start of a battle, before you have had a chance to act (specifically, before your first regular turn in the initiative order), you are flat-footed."
"If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents, a surprise round happens before regular rounds begin."

Lantern Lodge

When determining combatants, I would only count those to be affected by the action about to be taken, thus if an anaware combatant is in the next room, don't count for the purpose of determining a surprise round.

Also, regular combat should start when all combatants know of each other, thus, if the two sides have to get closer before attacking, then combat already started and no one is left FF, because you technically skipped the first combat round. I.E. your party and some orcs came onto a clearing at the same time, both sides know of each but must get closer before taking any actions, so set up your map for when they are close enough to engage in combat, skipping those two or three rounds of moving, which still do however count for having been in combat, thus the first turn actually played, isn't the first combat round, and no one is FF.

Alternately, in an arena, the combatents are ready and aware for the start of the match, they are already in combat because they know of each other, and are just waiting on the bell, neither are caught FF. However if a minotaur suddenly rushed in just before the bell, he would count as joining a combat already in progress even though the gladiators didn't start yet. The minotaur had obviously been hiding the fact he was going to strike, but the two gladiators were ready for combat and since the minotaur charged, the gladiators had time to react, thus retaining their dex to AC.

-------
Now, let's consider instead, the halfling goes after a dwarf and elf on the road and he wants to start by casting a burning hands from above (he is hidden in a tree hanging above the road)

If one or both of the travelers noticed the halfling, then no surprise round, so let's assume they failed their spots checks. (If one noticed but not the other, they would communicate this to the other in general)

The halfling gets a surprise round, and uses it to cast burning hands, then everyone rolls initiative.

If the dwarf geos first, the halfling is FF, (could be explained away the halfling not expecting the dwarf to respond so quickly), then the halfling goes and elf is still FF (because he is still getting his bearings from the sudden shock of what happened)

If there was someone nearby, who didn't know combat was about start, but was not affected by any of the surprise round actions, then they are not considered for the surprise round, instead they are given perception checks and if they decide to be a part of the fight, then they would count as people joining a combat already in progress.

Now let's just say that the dwarf saw the halfling but acted like he didn't including not informing the elf. The halfling and dwarf roll initiative, and each take one action, the dwarf going second since he most likely is going to wait for halfling to act, (in this case the dwarfs movement with the elf down the road doesn't count as taking action until either the halfling or the dwarf decide to initiate the actual combat.)

So when the halfling let's loose his spell, the dwarf is FF because the dwarf didn't know when the halfling was going to strike or how. The elf just didn't suspect anything at all and is both FF and not acting during the surprise round. Now the elf rolls initiative, if he wins he is just responding very quicky to the sudden outburst. The halfling goes next and then the dwarf, neither counts as FF since they had already taken an actual and intentional turn in combat according to their initiative.

If the elf did something in the surprise round as an immediate action or similar as a response to the attack it wouldn't count to make him not FF, because it wasn't his initiative turn.

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