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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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.


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!

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