Surprise, sneak and avoid notice


Rules Discussion


Using the avoid notice exploration activity allows character/s to roll stealth for initiative but without there being a surprise round sneaking up on an enemy can actually be a worse tactic in that characters can't really get a free action or round and are forced to roll stealth which for most characters isn't the better option.

Is there something in the rules I am missing as to why sneaking up on an enemy as a party successfully doesn't really do anything good for most of them and can even be a negative for some party members?

Would the sneak action through the stealth skill give a free attack?


I think the only benefit for rolling Stealth for initiative in an encounter is that you could possibly remain Unnoticed against enemies whose Perceptions you beat. Whether or not that’s tactically significant depends on your party’s abilities. With the Quiet Allies feat there’s a good chance you enter the encounter with the entire party Unnoticed. Unless your Champion is particularly clumsy or something.


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Sneaking up on the enemy has two advantages.

1. You can use stealth for initiative. For many characters, particularly dex based sneaky types. This will be better than their perception.

2. If your stealth check (which is also your initiative roll) beats somethings perception DC they don't notice you at the start of combat which means they are flat footed against you which is a nice little buff.

Avoid notice is literally just doing the sneak action from the stealth skill. And as you notices if you are bad at sneaking you are likely to perform poorly when attempting to sneak.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The GM is at liberty to go into encounter mode at any point he wishes. While the new rules don't provide formal rules for surprise situations, the GM should take into account the circumstances of exploration when transitioning to encounter.
For example, if the players are staging a surprise attack on a campsite of goblins, where the goblins have no stationed guards and are asleep, it makes no sense to start combat with an initiative roll unaltered if the players succeed at their stealth checks. How each GM handles it is up to them, but I'd enter encounter mode with initiative by dex or perception according to their best roll, but in the monsters' turns, I'd give them at least a two action penalty (reflex save for 2 actions, fail for 3 actions). Thus a goblin who saves can take an action to stand up and those who fail don't even get to do that.
It was always stupid the way older editions of D&D and PF basically eliminated players' ability to plan by giving hard-n-fast surprise round rules.


I like what you are getting at Bidmaron.

I'm trying to play RAW and only GM Fiat special situation like this but wanna make sure I'm not overlooking hardcoded rules before I improvise.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This is the biggest problem I’ve run into so far. Its almost impossible to ambush the PCs because they get so many chances to discover their attackers due to the new Perception based initiative.

I’m tempted to treat ambushers who successfully evade notice as a hazard and give them 1 action tied to a trigger—a held action in other words. Or in other other words, a surprise round.

I’m really hoping some clarification comes soon. It seems like a really odd oversight in the rules. Like Ograx, I like to run new games RAW at first before I start house ruling.


JamesMaster wrote:

This is the biggest problem I’ve run into so far. Its almost impossible to ambush the PCs because they get so many chances to discover their attackers due to the new Perception based initiative.

I’m tempted to treat ambushers who successfully evade notice as a hazard and give them 1 action tied to a trigger—a held action in other words. Or in other other words, a surprise round.

I’m really hoping some clarification comes soon. It seems like a really odd oversight in the rules. Like Ograx, I like to run new games RAW at first before I start house ruling.

By RAW if the sneaker beats the PCs perception DC (10+perception modifier) they start of hidden even if the PCs perception roll for initiative is higher. So you can have a situation where the PCs rolled high and know that someone/something is there but had their perception DC beaten and don't know exactly where.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Quote:
By RAW if the sneaker beats the PCs perception DC (10+perception modifier) they start of hidden even if the PCs perception roll for initiative is higher. So you can have a situation where the PCs rolled high and know that someone/something is there but had their perception DC beaten and don't know exactly where.

Thanks. That makes sense, but I just don’t like the mechanic because the PCs get so many chances to discover their attackers. Also, they’d be Unnoticed, right, not Hidden. If I understand the distinction correctly, Unnoticed is “something is in the trees,” while Hidden is “something is behind THAT tree.”

Even if the goblins beat the PCs’ Perception DC, as soon as we go into combat, all the PCs who beat the goblin’s initiative will get up to 3 chances to Seek. If any of those rolls succeed against the goblin’s Stealth DC, the PC yells the location of their ambushers to their allies and the goblins go from being Undetected to simply Hidden which allows them to be targeted.

I suppose a RAW fix would be to give the goblins a Circumstantial Bonus of +4 to their Stealth DC. Right?


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JamesMaster wrote:
Quote:
By RAW if the sneaker beats the PCs perception DC (10+perception modifier) they start of hidden even if the PCs perception roll for initiative is higher. So you can have a situation where the PCs rolled high and know that someone/something is there but had their perception DC beaten and don't know exactly where.
Thanks. That makes sense, but I just don’t like the mechanic because the PCs get so many chances to discover their attackers. Also, they’d be Unnoticed, right, not Hidden. If I understand the distinction correctly, Unnoticed is “something is in the trees,” while Hidden is “something is behind THAT tree.”

Actually, what you're describing is Undetected. Unnoticed is "I have no reason to suspect anyone is nearby and am going about my day as normal."

I'd say that if a PC wins initiative but the goblins beat their Perception DC, treating the goblins as undetected might be the way to go, if only because the players will have a hard time not assuming there is a threat if you tell them to roll initiative and ask them what they want to do with 3 actions. So I'd probably tell the player "You have a feeling you're being watched. What do you do on your turn?" And roll from there.

Quote:
Even if the goblins beat the PCs’ Perception DC, as soon as we go into combat, all the PCs who beat the goblin’s initiative will get up to 3 chances to Seek. If any of those rolls succeed against the goblin’s Stealth DC, the PC yells the location of their ambushers to their allies and the goblins go from being Undetected to simply Hidden which allows them to be targeted.

I think you're miss-evaluating a few things, especially with how they compare to PF1. First off, remember that PCs previously got a Perception check to see if they got an action during the surprise round. If they won initiative they wouldn't even be flat-footed during the surprise round. Then combat proceeded as normal.

Now, a PC who wins initiative but doesn't start out knowing where his enemy's are has to spend an action to TRY and figure it out. And the Seek action has very specific areas you can search with it, so if the goblins are decent distance away up in a tree odds are pretty good they won't even search the right area. Even if they pick the right area and succeed on the check, they only spot the goblins in that area. If the goblins spread out for this ambush the others are still undetected.

Oh, and did I mention that unless they get a critical success, the goblins stay hidden, so even knowing their square still leaves them with 50% concealment chance if you try to target them?

On top of that, if you spot the goblins, Point Out is its own action and can only be used on one creature. And said creature remains hidden to your allies.

So yeah, your player gets 3 attempts to Seek the goblin... If they want to waste their entire turn for very questionable returns. I think a smart player is going to use their actions to instead take defensive action. Take Cover, Raise a Shield, cast Shield, enter a stance... Or even delay and wait for an enemy to reveal themselves, perhaps yelling "Who goes there?"as they do so they don't pincushion some random hunter in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ambushing seems very good indeed when you take all that into account.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Now I see. The limitations on the Seek action really balances things out and eliminates any need for a GM granted bonus. Also, using Perception for initiative had me turned around. It is a skill check, but its only use is to place you in order. You gain no other benefit from the check in other words like learning your attacker’s location.

So far, its the only rules area that seemed vague to me, but after running a few sims, it actually runs quite well.

Thanks for the help. I’m actually totally new to Pathfinder period, so this is all fresh terminology for me.


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JamesMaster wrote:

Now I see. The limitations on the Seek action really balances things out and eliminates any need for a GM granted bonus. Also, using Perception for initiative had me turned around. It is a skill check, but its only use is to place you in order. You gain no other benefit from the check in other words like learning your attacker’s location.

So far, its the only rules area that seemed vague to me, but after running a few sims, it actually runs quite well.

Thanks for the help. I’m actually totally new to Pathfinder period, so this is all fresh terminology for me.

No problem! Your post also makes more sense in that context. A lot of folks decry stuff in PF2 and say it was better in PF1 when it was actually about the same or worse in PF1. Not having played PF1, it makes sense that you'd have a different perspective on "surprise."

Also, to be fair, there is room for GM fiat and circumstance bonuses if you like. The Seek action mentions that the specific 30 foot cone or 15 foot burst may be applied by the GM when precision is necessary, but precision doesn't appear to be defined very precisely.

So you might decide to let the PC search everything within sight, but use the DC adjustment table on page 504 to tweak the goblins' stealth DC based on factors like distance or camouflage. These circumstance bonuses were spelled out explicitly in the PF1 rules-- perhaps too explicitly. A GM would need to count out a lot of squares to figure out who can hear a given noise, for example. The new rules are a little looser but easier to implement while keeping the game moving.

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