Surprise round questions


Running the Game

Wayfinders

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In our first game we were trying to split up and sneak up on someone. In the new game there doesnt seem to be surprise attacks of any kind.

If someone is attacking from stealth and hasn't been detected do they have to roll initiative to roll the attack roll first? The section about people who were sleeping(page 332) suggested that yes, they would have to roll initiative in order to attack.

Is it confusing to others?


If players can start the encounter before leaving stealth, they could delay their actions to initiative 0 to simulate one. I need to re-read delay to check if it’s permanent or not.

I posted more about this in the skills section r.e. Stealth in general.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

As soon as someone calls out that they are making an attack, you call for an initiative check. Those who were sneaking and still undetected would roll a Stealth check for their turn in the initiative order, those who weren't (in this case it seems just the enemies), would roll Perception as normal.

Also, Delay seems to be a constant change in order, considering Ready specifically calls out that it doesn't change their place in order after the trigger goes off.

Scarab Sages

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I'm also surprised about the lack of surprise in the game rules.

Does the character who starts hostilities get off an action before initiative is rolled? Or not at all? That would be super weird.

I'm wondering whether the «Initiative after Reactions» rule can be used to simulate a surprise round. If everyone in ambush readies their action and has the enemy trigger it, they should be able to get that reaction off before initiative is rolled. Or does that specifically only go for foes and hazards...?


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

"Merisiel and Kyra have been captured and are negotiaing with the kobold king. Things aren't going well, so Merisiel decides she'll launch a surprise attack against the king. As soon as she says this is her plan, you call for initiative." - page 331 of playtest rulebook

Pretty cut and dry on when to call for initiative rolls in a situation with someone starting hostilities. Seems safe to say they don't get their action off first.

As far as the ambush with readied actions...a readied action is an action set with a trigger which, once the trigger is met, is a reaction. Initiative is rolled after reactions are performed so, seemingly yes, they get their attack off. Also, I'd assume whoever is ambushing your party is likely considered a foe. ;)

*shrugs* 5e doesn't have surprise rounds either.


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Surprising or ambushing unaware opponents could use some additional explanation and examples in the rules. It's not very clear.


It seems to me any hostile action leads to encounter mode immediately, from the examples for encounter mode on page 331, and the whole surprise round of pf1 is built into the new system from the fact that perception is the primary roll for initiative.

If you're ambushing the enemy, when the ambush starts initiative is rolled. Your stealth vs their perception for initiative. If the dice go your way, you effectively have a surprise round without having to do an extra step of perception and stealth checks to see who is surprised and who isn't.


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My understanding of surprise attacks works like this.

Situation - The Party waits to ambush a group of bandits, with the agreement that the rogue will make the opening attack. Once the bandits enter the designated spot, Roll for initiative.

Result A: The Rogue rolls highest and goes first. Combat proceeds.

Result B: A Bandit rolls highest. Because he rolled Perception for initiative, he spots any member of the party he acts before*. He uses his free action to alert his fellow Bandits before attacking. Combat proceeds.

Result C: The Barbarian rolls highest. The Barbarian was a little too eager to fight, and jumps out of the bushes to attack. Combat proceeds.

Result D: The Fighter rolls highest. The Fighter delays his turn until after the Rogue. Proceed to the result of the next highest initiative.
*If the next creature on the initiative is a Bandit, I would allow the Fighter to keep his Stealth, as his stealth is higher then that of the Bandits perception.

Does this make sense to everyone else?


If the enemies fail to Perceive/know of any PCs before going, then the enemies normally waste their turn(s). A PC could Delay for better timing, but that's not often useful. Better would be to Ready an action so you keep the same Initiative.
This resembles the "standard only" surprise round of PF1, though is quite difficult to coordinate. A party would have to build for this, and I don't know that one Readied action is worth it, but maybe for positioning.

And it can be useful for sneaky folk to start unseen via Stealth. Then all the early attacks focus on the clunky tanks.


Xelaaredn wrote:

"Merisiel and Kyra have been captured and are negotiaing with the kobold king. Things aren't going well, so Merisiel decides she'll launch a surprise attack against the king. As soon as she says this is her plan, you call for initiative." - page 331 of playtest rulebook

Pretty cut and dry on when to call for initiative rolls in a situation with someone starting hostilities. Seems safe to say they don't get their action off first.

As far as the ambush with readied actions...a readied action is an action set with a trigger which, once the trigger is met, is a reaction. Initiative is rolled after reactions are performed so, seemingly yes, they get their attack off. Also, I'd assume whoever is ambushing your party is likely considered a foe. ;)

*shrugs* 5e doesn't have surprise rounds either.

But in 5e you don't get to act in 1st round of combat if you are surprised


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Igor Horvat wrote:


But in 5e you don't get to act in 1st round of combat if you are surprised

True, however it's not one side goes before the other. Each enemy/player has the possibility of not being surprised. Aside from that, after their turn in combat (where they can't act) they are no longer surprised. Whereas in a true surprise round the opposite side doesn't even get added into the initiative order until the first side gets their turn.


Surprise rounds aren't as good as they used to be...no big deal to me. I like this version better.


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I ran into this problem. 3 kobolds are ambushing the party. The kobolds passed their stealth checks and the party walked into the kill zone. But a party member won initiative with no enemies in sight or reason to be alarmed. I didn't know what to do.

Since they rolled high with perception, I didn't want to penalize them by wasting their turn doing nothing and delay has downsides that are a penalty (no reactions).

In the end, since they rolled high perception, I decided that they sensed something was wrong, it was too quiet and told them there were unseen enemies nearby, letting them take their turn normally.

How can this be resolved better?


DM Livgin wrote:

I ran into this problem. 3 kobolds are ambushing the party. The kobolds passed their stealth checks and the party walked into the kill zone. But a party member won initiative with no enemies in sight or reason to be alarmed. I didn't know what to do.

Since they rolled high with perception, I didn't want to penalize them by wasting their turn doing nothing and delay has downsides that are a penalty (no reactions).

In the end, since they rolled high perception, I decided that they sensed something was wrong, it was too quiet and told them there were unseen enemies nearby, letting them take their turn normally.

How can this be resolved better?

If the party member rolled enough perception to go before the Kobolds that implies he beat their stealth check and thus noticed at least one Kobold, correct?

Now, how does htis work with passive perception DC? Is there a second round of stealth vs perception where the observer gets to roll?


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ChibiNyan wrote:
DM Livgin wrote:

I ran into this problem. 3 kobolds are ambushing the party. The kobolds passed their stealth checks and the party walked into the kill zone. But a party member won initiative with no enemies in sight or reason to be alarmed. I didn't know what to do.

Since they rolled high with perception, I didn't want to penalize them by wasting their turn doing nothing and delay has downsides that are a penalty (no reactions).

In the end, since they rolled high perception, I decided that they sensed something was wrong, it was too quiet and told them there were unseen enemies nearby, letting them take their turn normally.

How can this be resolved better?

If the party member rolled enough perception to go before the Kobolds that implies he beat their stealth check and thus noticed at least one Kobold, correct?

Now, how does htis work with passive perception DC? Is there a second round of stealth vs perception where the observer gets to roll?

  • This gives the player two chances to beat the stealth. One as the kobolds sneak up on the group and one as initiative is rolled.
  • Ok, don't roll the sneak into position stealth check. If they are ambushing just put them in an ambush position (cover or concealment) and roll for initiative using stealth versus perception.
  • What if one of the party members was sneaking and beat their stealth? They didn't see him and he spotted them easy?
  • This also strongly favors the ambusher who chooses the ambush position. Without distance penalties starting right beside the enemy is the same as starting 100 ft away. The legendary perception character will question how these amature sneaks got so close.
  • What if the enemy is trailing the group without intending to attack, he rolls stealth against a perception DC. And then rolls stealth versus rolled perception for initiative? Why is this different than setting up an ambush?
  • Should it be broken into two checks, the first check is a favorable ambush versus normal encounter. The second check is stealth versus perception for initiative? Does the high roller on initiative spot all the enemies and go first, doesn't feel right?


Agreed. I asked Mark Seifter the same in another thread about the "second chance" thing, but this one is more appropiate for an answer.


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I really like the skill for initiative mechanic and hope to find a way to make it consistent. For my games I will keep the roll to hide and initiative roll separate to see how it goes. The rare time the above happens I'll use the 'hunch something is out there' option. It is a common enough trope in media...

Scarab Sages

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My players rolled for Stealth and Perception whenever they went scouting ahead. I also noticed the second-chance thing. I ended up using the player’s triggering roll as their initiative to avoid rerolling.


I wouldn't use the perception as initiative roll to automatically find a hidden enemy. That is what the Seek Action is for.
To me, his high perception just means he quickly realises something is off, so now in encounter mode he can take the relevant Action.
This is Kind of in line with how the Exploration Tactic Searching means your initial perception roll does not find the trap, it only enables you to go into Encounter mode because "something is off"

page 330
Searching
A successful Perception check while searching lets a
character notice the presence or absence of something
unusual in the area, but it doesn’t provide a comprehensive
catalog of everything there. Instead, it provides a jumping-
off point for closer inspection or an encounter. For instance,
if an area has both a DC 30 secret door and a DC 25
trap, and a character got a result of 28, you would tell
the searching player that her character noticed something
unusual in the area and give a clue about the presence of
the trap, but the party needs to examine the area more to
learn more about the trap and would need to try searching
again to have another chance to find the secret door.


This has been patched in the Errata.

Now when you are sneaking and you strike the enemy is flat footed to you (+2 attack).

Also remember you don't roll twice for stealth and initiative, you only roll once. If you declare you sneak up to an enemy you just roll stealth AND THAT IS ALSO YOUR INITIATIVE ROLL. You don't even need to roll Stealth twice like somebody suggested above, it's just one roll.

If you beat the perception DC of the NPC then you go first and the NPC is flat footed to you, if you fail he noticed you and can decide to attack you instead.

Scarab Sages

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Ghilteras wrote:


If you beat the perception DC of the NPC then you go first and the NPC is flat footed to you, if you fail he noticed you and can decide to attack you instead.

So would you use the enemy’s Perception DC as their initiative, rather than letting them roll? That sounds like a house rule.


No I did not say that NPC does not roll initiative.

1) By RAW passive perception exists in the playtest, it's called Perception DC. You should only roll Perception if they actively seek.

2) For initiative if the Sneak beats the Perception DC you should be allowed to attack and get flat footed bonus under Errata. The NPC then rolls Initiative with Perception to determine who goes first, but the PC does not re-roll. He/She uses the Stealth roll already made, why roll again? If the NPC beats the previous Stealth roll then he goes first, otherwise the PC goes, but the NPC is not flat footed, unless the PC is a Rogue.

Where would be the house rule in that?

Scarab Sages

The new Stealth rules do not give you an attack before initiative is rolled. They just prevent Stealth from instantly expiring when you leave cover.

There still seems to be no way to gain a surprise round other than through reactions (e.g., instead of attacking the unaware goblin, ready an action to attack them when next they blink...). Feels like cheating the system, though...

This means your PC might successfully Sneak close to an enemy (vs their DC), but still turn out to act second when the enemy gets to roll Perception to ini.


Pathfinder Class Deck Subscriber

I plan on running my game like this:

-Monster rolls Stealth check when in line of sight of a player and within ~30ft. If failed, players notice it and initiative is called. Otherwise:
-Player gets X distance away from enemy, however close the monster specifies the player needs to be to attack (10ft for the slime).
-Initiative is called since the slime is ready to be hostile.
-If a player wins initiative, they'll be told they sense something is off, Monster would be considered Unseen. They can (and almost have to) use Seek. I suppose they could attack the Darkness as well.

My biggest question is how far away to call initiative and/or roll Stealth checks. As soon as Initiative is called, its very difficult not to metagame that a monster is near. But I believe the rules expect the players to play as if nothing is wrong, and I intend on running Monsters as if they didn't know the players were there. I think the players need to roll stealth each time they try to move though, so it gets hard to get close to them without alerting the monsters.


If you use the perception and stealth rolls that are made to detect as your initiative rolls (the concept of which supported) then you do have a situation where a character stealthing goes 1st but has no indication it's been detected.

Why? Because if the character using perception rolls higher than they realize something (even if not exactly what) is attempting to sneak up on them and can take action. If they don't beat the stealth roll, then the other creature successfully sneak close to the creature and gets to act before they do in combat.

It makes sense to me.


Yeah, we were also confused by how the old surprise round situations would work in thks edition.

Rolling stealth vs. Perception cor the initiativs makes some sense, but dont actually work well for some situations (what if both sides are trying to sneak upon each other? Who rolls stealth and who rolls perception?

Silver Crusade

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Ral' Yareth wrote:

Yeah, we were also confused by how the old surprise round situations would work in thks edition.

Rolling stealth vs. Perception cor the initiativs makes some sense, but dont actually work well for some situations (what if both sides are trying to sneak upon each other? Who rolls stealth and who rolls perception?

If both sides are trying to sneak, how do they know where to sneak to?

You can have both sides roll stealth against the other's perception DC. The side that failed has been found. (In the case that both sides have been found roll perception for Initiative normally.)

Scarab Sages

Once a party is found, do you roll Stealth/Perception again, or use the previous rolls? In the latter case, if you previously only rolled Stealth against a Perception DC, do you allow the DC party to roll while you use the existing roll for the other party?

Silver Crusade

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I'm going to OOC my solution,I think I know what you are getting at: The rules for When to roll What for Initiative aren't very clear.
I think that this is good, as it gives the GM the freedom to adjucate based on the situation.
I think that this is bad, as it doesn't lead to a consistent gameplay, across different tables.

My Solution: It depends on the actions of the party still being hidden. If they attack from a distance, I'd use their Stealth roll and the Perception DC as Ini-Values.
If they still try to sneak closer, to get into melee striking distance, I'd use their Stealth roll and let the found party roll Perception to find out if the hidden party gets the drop on them.
It's not perfect, but this makes the most sense to me.
I can totally see some other GM's ruling differently, with the lack of defined rules provided.


Franz Lunzer wrote:
If both sides are trying to sneak, how do they know where to sneak to?

Take two scouting parties from rival armies. They're both in the same woods, where some objective sits. They also both expect opposition. They are both being stealthy and looking for others who are stealthy. How do you resolve initiative?

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
thePDV wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:
If both sides are trying to sneak, how do they know where to sneak to?
Take two scouting parties from rival armies. They're both in the same woods, where some objective sits. They also both expect opposition. They are both being stealthy and looking for others who are stealthy. How do you resolve initiative?

They both roll stealth, best sneaker gets the drop on the other sneakers, sneakiest sneakers win.

Soldier A: "The enemy ninjas will never see us coming we're so well hidden in these hedges."
Sarge: "We definitely have the drop on them. These hedges will definitely give us the drop on them."
Hedge: *Sneak Attacks soldier A*
Sarge: "What was that?"
Hedge: "Nothing."
Sarge: "As I was saying, those ninjas will never find us behind these hedges!"


thePDV wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:
If both sides are trying to sneak, how do they know where to sneak to?
Take two scouting parties from rival armies. They're both in the same woods, where some objective sits. They also both expect opposition. They are both being stealthy and looking for others who are stealthy. How do you resolve initiative?

It depends on how many research points they have...

spoiler part 4:
the PC party may lose up to an hour on their precast buffs.

I think I would like some sort of more clear surprise mechanic, maybe 5e style, maybe not.

I think a popular example last time this came up was 1 action.
I think I'd prefer either 2 actions, or the ambushers being Slow 1. So they can still fireball or sudden charge or what have you

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Elleth wrote:

I think I would like some sort of more clear surprise mechanic, maybe 5e style, maybe not.

I think a popular example last time this came up was 1 action.
I think I'd prefer either 2 actions, or the ambushers being Slow 1. So they can still fireball or sudden charge or what have you

The unchained action economy provided two-actions in a surprise round which seemed reasonable to me.


thePDV wrote:
Franz Lunzer wrote:
If both sides are trying to sneak, how do they know where to sneak to?
Take two scouting parties from rival armies. They're both in the same woods, where some objective sits. They also both expect opposition. They are both being stealthy and looking for others who are stealthy. How do you resolve initiative?

One side will fail their stealth checks and they will act later on.

Or both parties will succeed and they will just pass by each other.

Not that uncommon in wars that small opposing units passed each other by 20 or 30m without having a clue.


Playtest document, p 317 wrote:

Sneaking

You attempt a Stealth check to avoid notice while moving at half your travel Speed, unless you have an ability to move at full Speed while Sneaking. If you’re Sneaking at an encounter’s start, you usually roll a Stealth check instead of a Perception check as part of your initiative roll, both to determine initiative order and to see if the enemies notice you.

My reading of this is that anyone who goes before a sneaking creature in the initiative order also sees (well, senses) the creature. Quite simple and elegant.

Playtest document, p 158 wrote:
If you’re unseen by a creature and it’s impossible for that creature to see you (such as when you’re invisible, the observer is blinded, or you’re in darkness and the creature can’t see in darkness), you automatically treat the result of your d20 roll as a 20 against that creature on your checks to Sneak.

This rule is good for ambushes; if you are unseen because of total cover (such as being around a corner or in a prepared ambush position) when the initiative is rolled, and you use Stealth for initiative, you automatically roll 20 on the initiative check. You are not quite guaranteed to go first, but almost. You are also likely to have to spend your first actions moving out of cover, standing up from prone, or otherwise paying for the privilege of being unseen.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I quite like this solution...

Starfox wrote:
Playtest document, p 158 wrote:
If you’re unseen by a creature and it’s impossible for that creature to see you (such as when you’re invisible, the observer is blinded, or you’re in darkness and the creature can’t see in darkness), you automatically treat the result of your d20 roll as a 20 against that creature on your checks to Sneak.

This rule is good for ambushes; if you are unseen because of total cover (such as being around a corner or in a prepared ambush position) when the initiative is rolled, and you use Stealth for initiative, you automatically roll 20 on the initiative check. You are not quite guaranteed to go first, but almost. You are also likely to have to spend your first actions moving out of cover, standing up from prone, or otherwise paying for the privilege of being unseen.

... though it doesn't quite "feel" right to me that *all* the ambushing party act as one on the same initiative (assuming they're the same creature type with the same +Stealth). You'd have thought, unless very well coordinated/trained, there'd be some separation between the "first off" and the "last to react" in the ambushing party, with the ambushed folks having a chance to act in between if they reacted well.

Any ideas how to simulate this? [I guess a flat bonus of some sort to the ambushing party would do it, but SFAIK this has no support at all in the RAW.]

Liberty's Edge

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I'm hoping to add to this conversation as similar questions came up as I was running my game.

At first I rolled initiative Sneak/Hide is not vs Perception Roll but that's clearly not justified with RAW sinse the sneak/hide should be against Perception DC.

Here's now how I think the ruling and relative tactics should work with regards to initiative.

Sneak vs Perception DC, if the creature's sneak is higher than PC, PCs should immediately fall below creature in initiative (the creature is unsensed and unseen, no reason to react), unless the PC was using the searching tactic. Perception roll off for initiative will just decide which PC acts first after the ambush/hidden creature acts.

Searching, If the PC was using the searching tactic, their initiative roll is also a free "seek" action (If sensed by Perception DC and search roll is higher than sneak: creature becomes Seen; If unsensed by perception DC and search roll is higher than sneak: creature becomes sensed) This would address a mechanical benefit searching has for initiative, but I'm obviously ignoring the "30 feet cone" range for seek action.

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