Surprise! (1e)

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that I have a house-rule for Surprise in my game given that rules for Surprise in pretty much every edition of D&D before 3rd are considered kludgy and screwed-up – and for all I know 3rd and 4th are just as bad, I just haven’t played those systems so I have no clue.

Mine is an infinitely more simple system that tries very hard to keep the flavor of the original system. In short, roll 1d6 (I have my players do this individually, monsters I tend to roll in groups) – if you roll (three or more (3+) over your opponent you get a round of surprise. This is then further modified by a number of things:

  • Dexterity Reaction Modifier: -3 (for low Dex) to +3 (for high Dex)
  • Distracted: -4
  • Asleep: -8
  • Keen Senses: +1 or +2
  • Encumbrance:
    • Normal Gear (35#- and Low Bulk): No Penalty
    • Heavy Gear (70#- or Fairly Bulky):  -2
    • Very Heavy Gear (105#- or Bulky): -4
    • Encumbered (105#+ or Very Bulky): -8
  • Armour:
    • No Armour: +1
    • Wearing Chain & Plate or Plate Armor: -2
    • Wearing a Great Helm: -4
  • Intoxication:
    • Moderate Intoxication: -1
    • Great Intoxication: -5

There are also a handful of other bonuses based on class or race. Here is a representative sample:

  • Goblins: +1
  • Rangers: +1
  • Barbarians: +1 (+2 in Familiar Terrain)
  • Warrior Monks: +1 per 3 Levels
  • Rogues: +1 per 4 Levels (Bounty Hunters get an additional +1)
  • Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves when not in metal armour and only in the company of other Gnomes, Half-Elves, and Elves that are similarly clad, or are 90′ distant from the rest of party: +2

Now, Scouts and Barbarians still have their “Back Protection” as per the normal rules (and I give that to Warrior-Monks as well) so while they may or may not always Surprise opponents they have an additional chance to avoid being Backstabbed or Assassinated. I also tend to give hunting predators and skittish prey a bonus to their surprise rolls equal to their Hit Dice. In general, I allow Backstabs and Assassinations when there is surprise – and this lets Rogues be somewhat more combat effective (though not overly so). This system seems to work pretty well, and it replaces all of the oddly mismatched dice of the different character classes and gets rid of the utterly contradictory rules in the Player’s Handbood and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Enjoy!

D.

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Categories: Game Design, House Rules | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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