Surprise Attack vs. Sneak / Hide 1st Round


Rules Discussion


Hello folks,
This thread tries to parce the true benefit of Surprise Attack as compared to any character choosing to use the Exploration Activity of Avoid Notice for when the game transitions to Encounter Mode.

My core question is: "Can other characters use Hide and Sneak in the 1st round of combat in an attempt to leverage the Flat-footed condition against their foes?"

Or: "Is the true benefit of Surprise Attack essentially two-fold: 1) That the Rogue doesn't have to make use of cover or concealment, and 2) That the Rogue don't have to spend an action to Hide or Sneak (as if that action is instead already a part of their initiative check)?"

Cheers.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
rainzax wrote:

Hello folks,

This thread tries to parce the true benefit of Surprise Attack as compared to any character choosing to use the Exploration Activity of Avoid Notice for when the game transitions to Encounter Mode.

My core question is: "Can other characters use Hide and Sneak in the 1st round of combat in an attempt to leverage the Flat-footed condition against their foes?"

Or: "Is the true benefit of Surprise Attack essentially two-fold: 1) That the Rogue doesn't have to make use of cover or concealment, and 2) That the Rogue don't have to spend an action to Hide or Sneak (as if that action is instead already a part of their initiative check)?"

Cheers.

Yes, yes, and yes. But needing to utilzie cover and concealment is a big deal. For some examples, let's consider a bow ranger, rogue, and monk using Avoid Notice while their Champion uses Search. Let's say they all roll high on initative. The champion is going to be beginning combat out in the open and seen by the enemy. The others will be unnoticed, and presumably behind cover or concealment of some kind.

Fog bank. You begin combat while under fog, and everyone is concealed from everyone else. The monk can potentially Sneak up to the target and deliver their melee attack, but they have to succeed at their stealth check to do so and only get flat-footed on the first strike. The ranger can probably fire off their first attack without an additional check because they beat the perception DCs, but then becomes onbserved. The rogue can fire off as many attacks as they want and still keep the enemy flat-footed at both melee and ranged, and doesn't need to roll any checks to Sneak. This also means she doesn't need to move at half speed, for example.

In the forest. Your champion and enemy are out in the open, but the stealth team begins behind some trees. They are unlikely to be adjacent to the enemy. That means the monk can Sneak up to them, but he will become observed from being out of cover when he ends his movement, so no flat-footed on the first attack. The situation hasn't changed for the ranger and rogue, assuming they have line of fire.

Everyone rolls bad on initiative. THe party acts before the enemy, but no one beat the enemy's Perception DC. No one is flat-footed to anyone else... Except the rogue, who treat the enemy(s) she beats as flat-footed to all her attacks.

So the big advantages are:

1) The rogue doesn't have to use cover or concealment, making a melee sneak attack feasible.
2) The rogue doesn't need to Hide or Sneak, saving her actions and a chance of failure.
3) The rogue can still potentially treat an enemy as flat-footed even if her initiave wasn't high enough to be unnoticed.
4) The rogue can treat the target as flat-footed to all of their attacks, not just the opening move.

That last advantage makes Surprise Attack REALLY good on an archer who wants to be rifling off as many attacks as possible, potentially allowing sneak attack on all attacks for a rogue or just increasing their flurry potential for a multiclassed ranger.

Shadow Lodge

rainzax wrote:
My core question is: "Can other characters use Hide and Sneak in the 1st round of combat in an attempt to leverage the Flat-footed condition against their foes?"
For melee at least, this is very difficult to do:
Sneak (Core Rulebook pg. 252) wrote:
At the end of your movement, the GM rolls your Stealth check in secret and compares the result to the Perception DC of each creature you were hidden from or undetected by at the start of your movement. If you have cover or greater cover from the creature throughout your Stride, you gain the +2 circumstance bonus from cover (or +4 from greater cover) to your Stealth check. Because you’re moving, the bonus increase from Taking Cover doesn’t apply. You don’t get to roll against a creature if, at the end of your movement, you neither are concealed from it nor have cover or greater cover against it. You automatically become observed by such a creature.

Basically, you'll normally need extremely helpful terrain, magical assistance, or very high level feats like Legendary Sneak, Very, Very Sneaky, or Spring from the Shadows to pull this off...

Honestly, Gang Up is pretty much the way to go for melee sneak attacks.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Taja the Barbarian wrote:
rainzax wrote:
My core question is: "Can other characters use Hide and Sneak in the 1st round of combat in an attempt to leverage the Flat-footed condition against their foes?"
For melee at least, this is very difficult to do:
Sneak (Core Rulebook pg. 252) wrote:
At the end of your movement, the GM rolls your Stealth check in secret and compares the result to the Perception DC of each creature you were hidden from or undetected by at the start of your movement. If you have cover or greater cover from the creature throughout your Stride, you gain the +2 circumstance bonus from cover (or +4 from greater cover) to your Stealth check. Because you’re moving, the bonus increase from Taking Cover doesn’t apply. You don’t get to roll against a creature if, at the end of your movement, you neither are concealed from it nor have cover or greater cover against it. You automatically become observed by such a creature.

Basically, you'll normally need extremely helpful terrain, magical assistance, or very high level feats like Legendary Sneak, Very, Very Sneaky, or Spring from the Shadows to pull this off...

This is all spot on.

Quote:
Honestly, Gang Up is pretty much the way to go for melee sneak attacks.

Gang Up isn't super relevant here-- anyone with Gang Up also has Surprise Attack, so as far as the first rond of combat goes the rogue already treats enemies they beat in initiative as flat-footed. It is still a good feat for subsequent rounds or folks that beat you in initiative, but that's not really what the thread is about.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Yes, yes, and yes. But needing to utilzie cover and concealment is a big deal. For some examples, let's consider a bow ranger, rogue, and monk using Avoid Notice while their Champion uses Search. Let's say they all roll high on initative. The champion is going to be beginning combat out in the open and seen by the enemy. The others will be unnoticed, and presumably behind cover or concealment of some kind.

Just commenting on the scenario- I once wrote up a 1e paladin character where this was their default approach to a fight.

When you consider it, it is the only moral choice with random encounters. How are you sure those trolls aren't friendly? They might just be minding their own business (and that business might not be hunting humans). You have to politely talk to them and find out first rather than going in guns ablazing. Running out with a group of armed people wielding weapons will just make them feel threatened and fight back.

...of course, this relies heavily on the fact that 1e paladins were the ones least likely to die from trying this. High saves, heavy armor, and very easy self healing.

But it wasn't just being lawful stupid. The ranger, rogue, and monk are still waiting in the bushes, readying actions to "kill whatever looks at mr. goody two shoes funny". He was serving as the distraction, I swear!


Captain Morgan wrote:


So the big advantages are:

1) The rogue doesn't have to use cover or concealment, making a melee sneak attack feasible.
2) The rogue doesn't need to Hide or Sneak, saving her actions and a chance of failure.
3) The rogue can still potentially treat an enemy as flat-footed even if her initiave wasn't high enough to be unnoticed.
4) The rogue can treat the target as flat-footed to all of their attacks, not just the opening move.

That last advantage makes Surprise Attack REALLY good on an archer who wants to be rifling off as many attacks as possible, potentially allowing sneak attack on all attacks for a rogue or just increasing their flurry potential for a multiclassed ranger.

Hello everyone,

just started to play PF2 and find the spelling of some rules, talents, etc. quite tricky, so I hope, you can help me out with this one, cause I just cannot read out the "big advantages", you wrote in the concerning passives (sneak attack and surprise attack).
1-4) From which source(s) do you get your conclusions?
As far as I can understand, if the rogue is "Unnoticed" by enemies as long as he used Stealth beforehand, they just do not know, the rogue is there and so cannot defend themselves against him. So they are flat footed against him and his first attack will do the extra damage from sneak attack. IF the rogue acts before them in the first round of combat, the enemies are also flat footed for the rest of the round of combat. (This reminds me of the surprise round of PF1, but it seems to me, just the rogue can do this in PF2 due to surprise attack.) So, if the rogue was walking up to one enemy in the first round, he would get two more actions, while the enemies are flat footed. I can imagine, that it is also possible, that the GM says, if the rogue starts the combat, after he had sneaked up to one enemy, he could even have three actions, since his first attack-action starts the combat and initiative is rolled afterwards. But other than that, I cannot understand a way statement "4)" ist even possible.
Since it makes a huge difference to rogue players if the enemies are always flat fooded or not, I hope, you can clarify why the four statements are correct and my assumption is not.

Thanks and greetz,

Wu


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Cheng Wu wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:


So the big advantages are:

1) The rogue doesn't have to use cover or concealment, making a melee sneak attack feasible.
2) The rogue doesn't need to Hide or Sneak, saving her actions and a chance of failure.
3) The rogue can still potentially treat an enemy as flat-footed even if her initiave wasn't high enough to be unnoticed.
4) The rogue can treat the target as flat-footed to all of their attacks, not just the opening move.

That last advantage makes Surprise Attack REALLY good on an archer who wants to be rifling off as many attacks as possible, potentially allowing sneak attack on all attacks for a rogue or just increasing their flurry potential for a multiclassed ranger.

Hello everyone,

just started to play PF2 and find the spelling of some rules, talents, etc. quite tricky, so I hope, you can help me out with this one, cause I just cannot read out the "big advantages", you wrote in the concerning passives (sneak attack and surprise attack).
1-4) From which source(s) do you get your conclusions?
As far as I can understand, if the rogue is "Unnoticed" by enemies as long as he used Stealth beforehand, they just do not know, the rogue is there and so cannot defend themselves against him. So they are flat footed against him and his first attack will do the extra damage from sneak attack. IF the rogue acts before them in the first round of combat, the enemies are also flat footed for the rest of the round of combat. (This reminds me of the surprise round of PF1, but it seems to me, just the rogue can do this in PF2 due to surprise attack.) So, if the rogue was walking up to one enemy in the first round, he would get two more actions, while the enemies are flat footed. I can imagine, that it is also possible, that the GM says, if the rogue starts the combat, after he had sneaked up to one enemy, he could even have three actions, since his first attack-action starts the combat and initiative is rolled afterwards. But other than that, I cannot understand a...

in the absence of high level feats, you need to end your Action (not turn) behind cover/concealment or else you are automatically observed. (See Stealth Action)

Due to that, it's highly unlikely to actually end up in stealth directly next to an enemy (uless the whole area that both enemy and rogue are offers concealment, like underbrush, fogs, etc)

Even taking the Avoid Notice activity pressumes that you are in a suitable terrain that you can hop from conver/concealment to cover/concealment in between each stealth action. Places like Forests, mountains full of big boulders, fog banks, and etc (i mean, you can try, but if you are in a place without suitable cover, that just means you are automatically observed no matter what you roll)

Now, there are some work arounds for that, like playing a Halfing and basically stealthing behind your teamates as they move forward.

Now, let's parce the different abilities and their efefcts:

A non-rogue and a rogue use Avoid Notice. Encoutner begins. Initiative is rolled (stealth for the characters, perception for the enemies). You use this Stealth roll vs the Perception DC to see if you are hidden or not. You also use the same roll to see who goes first.

Remember, there are no opposed rolls in PF2. So, this initiative roll has several potential outcomes:

1)You roll badly and don't beat their DC. They roll worse than you:
You play First but you are noticed.
Rogue has Surpise feature that still allows all of his attacks to be vs flat-footed. For non-rogues enemies have no penalty vs your attacks.

2)You roll good and beat their DC. They roll worse than you.
You play first, are unoticed.
Rogue has Surpise feature so all of his Actions are vs flat-footed.
Others are Unoticed, so as long as they only do (succesful) Sneak and/or Hide actions they remain as such. If they do anything else than Sneak/Hide, they become observed. If they can somehow attack without first breaking Stealth (usually by being ranged and using your first Action as an attack) the enemy is flat-footed vs that attack and that attack only.

3)You roll good. They roll even better.
Both the rogue and non-rogue are unoticed
Since surpise feature only works vs those you go before from, they both only benefit from the base effects of Unoticed described above.

4)You roll badly. They rolled good.
Enemy goes before you and you are noticed by them.
No effect for either rogue or non-rogue.


Keep in mind Surprise Attack doesn’t apply only to the first attack - if you hide and sneak attack to target a flat footed opponent, that’s two actions for one sneak attack - you couldn’t attack again for another sneak attack. If you start hidden, you could attack, hide and attack again max two sneak attacks.

With surprise attack, you could fire off three sneak attacks without moving. Also, you get those sneak attacks even if your stealth doesn’t beat their perception DC (in cases where you both roll low initiative)


Thanks so far. I guess, I got it right then.
Just to be sure: If the rogues turn is before his targets one in the FIRST round of combat, the target is flat fooded for the whole round. If not, then suprise attack won´t work (and just if he rolled stealth/deception for initiative).
If the rogue manages to be hidden, not matter what round, for the first action, his target is flat footed due to the "hidden" status, which fizzles because of / after his first attack of his turn, although he can try to get hidden afterwards again.
So, there is no more "surprise round" like in PF1, where the whole party can make one turn for each member, before the initiative kicks in, but the rogue still manages to get enemies the "flat footed" status for his own attacks with his suprise attack in the first combat round as long as his initiative is higher?


correct


Thank you all! I appreciate the help very much.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Cheng Wu wrote:

Thanks so far. I guess, I got it right then.

Just to be sure: If the rogues turn is before his targets one in the FIRST round of combat, the target is flat fooded for the whole round. If not, then suprise attack won´t work (and just if he rolled stealth/deception for initiative).
If the rogue manages to be hidden, not matter what round, for the first action, his target is flat footed due to the "hidden" status, which fizzles because of / after his first attack of his turn, although he can try to get hidden afterwards again.
So, there is no more "surprise round" like in PF1, where the whole party can make one turn for each member, before the initiative kicks in, but the rogue still manages to get enemies the "flat footed" status for his own attacks with his suprise attack in the first combat round as long as his initiative is higher?

And just to reemphasize, the rogue is going to have a really hard time staying hidden for a flat footed melee strike unless the enemy is adjacent to the cover or concealment.

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