…to use the surprise rules from AD&D.
They’re confusing and come with this odd mix of dice for different characters and different races to use under different circumstances, there are odd questions about how many segments (or rounds) you can surprise someone for, and the whole system is just confusing as all hell. When I started my personal OSR, my goal was to try hard to keep things as close to canon as possible – and yes, I do understand how laughable that sounds coming from the guy who added two extra statistics to the game…
But here’s my new, simpler, system for Surprise that I think actually keeps the flavor to a large degree. First, surprise generally only occurs in situations where someone or something is trying to achieve surprise – in other cases Initiative is merely rolled as normal. in the event that Surprise must be determined, character’s roll a d6, they add modifiers from the list below and total them. A difference of three or more (3+) means that surpise has been achieved in favor of the higher score while a tie means that surprise is mutual and nothing occurs for a round of combat. When surprise has been achieved the attacking characters gain the benefit of +4 To Hit, and the Defenders do not get the benefit of either shields or of Dexterity modifiers when calculating Armor Class.
No Metal Armor: +1
Wearing Chain & Plate or Plate Armor: -1
Wearing a Great Helm: -2
Moderate Intoxication: -1
Great Intoxication: -5
Faerie Folk: +1 (Ala Elves, Half-Elves, Gnomes)
Faerie Folk Only: +2 (Ditto)
Shadowfolk in Shadow: +2 (Ala Drow, etc)
Shadowfolk in Bright Light: -2
Successful Hide in Shadows: +2
Successful Move Silently: +2
Alertness Talent: +1
Fast-Draw Talent: +1
Sneak Attack: +4 (ala Backstab or Assassinate)
Barbarian in Familiar Terrain: +2
Warrior Monks: +1 per 3 Levels
Most of these are attempts to replicate the factors already at play for the existing rules (Ranger and Faerie Folk bonuses for example), while a couple are either methods to apply existing effects (the rules for Invisibility and Silenced movement). I did decide to create some rules for this method that incorporates already existing rules that were never addressed in original sytem (Move Silently and Hide in Shadows for thieves, or Backstab/Assassinate) while also giving some bonuses for “regular folks” trying to do similar things (with the intent that thieves would get the Hidden and Quiet bonus if they blew thier skill rolls).
The one really big difference is Warrior Monks (ala 1E Monks), in that insteasd of the goofy decreasing percentage to be surprised by level, this just gives a slowly increasing bonus to the roll. I like the idea that they are so finely trained that they actually have the chance to surpise people who were trying to surprise them in turn (rather than simply not be surprised) – I think it fits with the character concept pretty nicely.