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Archive for February, 2012

When I reach a lull in gaming activity, and feel dry of the inspiration that fires my run, it helps to dwell on my favorite games, and geek on their awesomeness.  So I submit this question to you in the spirit of better game play and profound geek-itude.

Now I’ve run a fair share of games, and got it handed to me in more than a few.  So I’ve learned to nip rules fights in the bud to get on with the real thing.  That means knowing the rules; a real chore given the author.  When that author is none other than the great EGG, things become more interesting still..

My question is simple: how should surprise work in Dungeons and Dragons?  They probably worked out this question in later versions, but we’re talking Gygax here.  How did he understand it?  You see I’ve got this halfling that says he cannot be surprised; a one in seven chance on a six sided die equates to zero.  Something like that.  Well I’m glad the little guy feels safe (as does his crew), but I’m responsible for making the game exciting; no danger makes AD&D dull.  That can be challenging without at least the occasional “Gotcha!”

So I’m doing a little homework into what the ‘old man’ said.  Now the Player’s Handbook (pg 17) grants halflings a 66.33% chance to surprise an opponent, with strings attached.  The hobbit must be either alone, or at least 90′ feet from his armored, noisier comrades.   The chance decreases by half if the halfling tries opening a door to get a jump.  Again, this is to surprise an opponent.   Dexterous burglers (those lucky folks with an 18 DEX) also gain a +3 Reaction/Attack adjustment (Ibid pg 11).  And while I cannot speak to his Move Silently skills (I don’t have the DM’s Guide with me on this plane) you have to presume a further advantage.

But does all this add up to a one in seven chance to be surprised, much less to surprise the bad guys?  Now based simply on his halfling-ness I would concede the one in four chance to surprise opponents, strings attached.  But that Reaction adjustment would seem to apply to being jumped, not on surprising the opponent.  Should say an Elf (1 in 3 chance to surprise in the Monster Manual) roll a five and the halfling roll a one, the former would have the advantage – but only by so much.  The Reaction Adjustment of the halfling would cut down the four segments of surprise to one.  Now I cannot say right now whether that translates to the whole crew, or just the halfling.  I suspect the latter, although the highest surprise in a party does apply to the whole party.

So we’ve accounted for the one in four chance with strings attached, but what of that one in seven chance to be surprised?  I put this question to the geeks at Geektown Tavern for their cogitation.  A character with a one in seven chance would effectively negate any special surprise abilities belonging to other monsters.  In a rules set dominated by statistics, why would Gary allow an incalculable ability?

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