For every attempt to hide something there is an equal and opposite attempt to spot it. Whether it is a General trying to hide their army from enemy spies, the con-artist hiding their intentions from their victim or the assassin hiding themselves from the Shogun's watchful guards, the principle is the same. One side is actively trying to hide something, the other is actively trying to spot it. This is deceit and in game terms it is one person's action trying to beat another person's resistance action.

Who Is Acting? Who Is Resisting?

For an action to be successful it must beat the resistance. But is the con-artist the one acting, trying to beat the victim's natural suspicion, or is the victim trying to beat the con-artist's ability to lie? As role playing is about the players and their actions it is always the characters who take the active role and who must beat the other side's resistance. If the character is the con-artist they must beat the victim's resistance, but if the character is the victim they must beat the con-artist's resistance. Should two characters be competing against each other, the Game Leader must pick one to be the active party and one to set the resistance before the dice are rolled.

Deceit In Combat

Most attempts at deceit or at spotting deceit are made during narrative play allowing both sides to use their full range of potential and advantages. Should players or monsters be trying to deceive each other during combat rounds they must spend potential as per any other combat action.

Bonuses of Deceit

Situation bonuses apply to acts of deceit just as they do to any other actions, though special consideration must be given to the scope and range. The baseline for any action is targeting one person within arm's reach and actions attempting to target more will garner situation bonuses. To decide on situation bonuses the Game Leader needs to understand who is acting and what is the focus of the action.

When a character is carefully sneaking up on a guard, the focus of the character's action is themselves and not the guard. They are making sure they don't step on a branch, leave the protection of cover or make other mistakes. The action therefore does not gain any situation bonuses for range or the number of people being targeted because the range is zero and the target is the character themselves. For the character on watch trying to spot the enemy sneaking up, the situation is the same. The guard is maintaining awareness of their surroundings, an action targeted at themselves. The size of the area the guard is watching and the range to the approaching enemy are not relevant. In a deception, both deceiver and watcher are taking actions which are focused on themselves.

Occasionally range and scope will matter when the focus of the action is on one or more individuals. For the character carefully watching the card-sharp in order to catch them cheating, the distance between the watcher and target matters. Similarly if the character is watching three different suspects in a crowd for suspicious behaviour, there would be a situation bonus to the resistance because watching three people is harder than watching one.

Circumstances & Deceit

With most actions it is assumed environmental factors such as light levels or bad weather apply to both sides equally and can therefore be ignored. However in acts of deceit these same environmental factors make deceit easier and hamper the ability to spot it. Game Leader should award situation bonuses of 1d6+0 to 6d6+0 based on the environmental conditions.

Additional situation bonuses should be awarded if the guard on watch has a particularly good or bad vantage point or if the area the character is sneaking through is noticeably rich in or devoid of undergrowth and cover. Familiarity with an area may also add situation bonuses. The experienced watchman who knows the area well is more likely to notice something out of place.

Deceiving Time

Acts of deceit can take years or be over in a second. Within the game's time scales, acts involving sleight of hand take an action, bluffing takes a round and most other acts, such as sneaking past a guard, take a scene. It is not possible to gain situation bonuses by extending or speeding up acts of deceit because both deceiver and watcher are equally affected. The character who takes an entire day slowly crawling past a guard to gain situation bonuses is also giving the guard a whole day to spot them, granting the guard situation bonuses as well.

Acting While Deceiving

When the card-sharp slips an ace from their boot and into their hand the focus of the action is the deceit of the other players. But the commando silently slitting the guard's throat has their focus on two things - dealing life damage and deceit. Normal actions cannot have a split focus but acting while deceiving is possible and incurs a 2d6+0 situation bonus to the resistance. If the action fails (doesn't beat the resistance) the character's deceit is automatically revealed.

Movement & Deceit

Trying to remain hidden when moving is difficult unless the character chooses to mosey. Any attempt to run incurs a 2d6+0 situation bonus to the resistance for splitting the action's focus. Note, this is a run action and does not mean the character actually runs, they could be crawling along the floor or climbing a cliff, but a run covers any action where players roll the dice to determine how far they move. Moseys cover a maximum movement resistance of three and some terrain (e.g. cliffs) may have higher resistances, forcing a character to run and deal with the associated situation bonuses. Characters cannot make a 5' step while splitting their focus between an action and deceit.

For narrative actions where the character is taking their time and the terrain is relatively easy, there is no bonus to the resistance. The character is assumed to be crawling along the ground, using cover and other straightforward but time-consuming techniques. If the terrain has a movement resistance of four or more (e.g. a steep slope) or the character is under a time constraint, a 2d6+0 situation bonus is added to the resistance.

Prompted Awareness

As the characters move from place to place players are not expected to regularly stop and insist on checking for ambushes and traps "just in case." This would make for a very dull game and instead the Game Leader should prompt the players to take actions when the characters are in danger from an act of deceit. This is a narrative action allowing the characters to deploy all their potential and awareness-related advantages in an attempt to overcome the resistance of the deceit and spot the danger.

When players are prompted to make an awareness action, all they know is that there is some form of deceit nearby. Players may try to anticipate what the danger is by using specific advantages or stating they are looking in a particular direction in the hope that it increases the chances of spotting the threat. Game Leaders should generally ignore this and not award situation bonuses. Awareness is a continuous activity with a prompted awareness action being a single instance of an ongoing process involving all the characters' senses and a consideration of all sources of danger. In deciding the consequences of the players' successes and failures in awareness the Game Leader can consider the players' choice of advantages and role playing. They drive the decision of how far away the threat is when noticed or how ready the characters are to tackle the danger.

Being Spotted (Or Not)

What happens when the party catches a card-sharp red-handed or successfully picks a pocket is straightforward: the party confronts the cheat or goes off with their ill-gotten gains. When characters fail to spot the deceit but the players know (or at least suspect) something it brings the skill of role playing to the fore. The group as a whole should not be afraid to discuss what characters will know or feel when they are deceived. Separating the players' knowledge from the characters' knowledge is the art of role playing and groups should always seek to be improve their skills.

In some cases the action's degree of success may give guidance as to how the players should act. The conman who easily resists the character's attempt to spot the deceit will be seen as absolutely trustworthy but if the conman only scores one or two more, the characters will be willing to do a deal but have grounds to be cautious.

Ambushes and other surprise attacks are acts of deceit that lead directly into combat. When characters fail to spot the danger or fail to sneak up on an enemy there are two main decisions to be made by the group: how far apart the two sides are when combat starts and how ready for combat they are.

Failing to spot a foe means the enemy may choose when to reveal themselves. The smart enemy will do this at the most effective range for their weapons. If the enemy is noticed a decision must be made about when they were seen, and the action's degree of success can be used as a guide. If the character only just beats the enemy's dice roll the enemy will be much closer than if the awareness action was massively successful. The actual distance will be relative to the situation but a failure should always have consequences. A failed attempt to sneak up on an enemy should not leave the character in an optimal position for their weapons.

The awareness of an enemy's presence has a direct impact on readiness at the start of combat. The first the victim knows of a successful deceit is when they are attacked, and they start combat with less potential in their bank. If the deceit fails, the consequences depend on the intended victim. The character sneaking up will not know they have been spotted and the original victim may be able to surprise the character with a sudden counter-attack.

Deceit In Combat

In combat the general principle is that everyone has full awareness of where everyone else is on the battlefield and of what they are doing. Characters and creatures are also assumed to be constantly communicating with their allies so everyone is equally aware of the situation. Minor acts of deceit such as picking a pocket are initiative actions which require potential, gain situation bonuses and prompt resistance actions.

Being Hidden

The exception to the general principle of universal awareness is when a character or creatures is hidden. A character must have a narrative reason for being hidden. It may happen by chance due to a closed door or heavy undergrowth but it may be a deliberate act by the character using skill, magic or technology. Characters who start the combat hidden from view remain so until they:

  • Take any action (except moseying) without the 2d6+0 situation bonus to the resistance for acting while deceiving.
  • Fail any initiative or opportunity actions including assisting others with an Aid Other keyword.
  • Lose their narrative reason for being hidden (e.g. the door is opened or the light turned on).
  • Choose to reveal themselves.
  • Someone makes a successful awareness action.

Characters failing resistance actions do not reveal themselves.

Characters do not have the benefit of prompted awareness actions in combat. Instead, the onus is on the hidden foe to stay unnoticed (i.e. the 2d6+0 situation bonus on all action while hidden). A character who wishes to proactively look for hidden danger must take an initiative action and spend potential. This forces a resistance action from anyone who is hidden, requiring the expenditure of potential and the use of suitable advantages. Situation bonuses may be awarded as appropriate.

Anyone who is already visible (not hidden) on the battlefield may attempt to become hidden. This requires a narrative reason, characters cannot simply disappear without having a magic ring or suitable shadows to hide in. It also requires an initiative or opportunity action from the character which prompts a resistance action from everyone on the battlefield who is hostile. This 'attack' must beat all the resistance actions or the attempt to become hidden fails.  

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open/mechanics/core/stealth.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/06 12:30 by tregenza
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