Dungeons & Dragons Online

Qustion Regarding Ambushing and the Surprise Mechanic.

Content of the article: "Qustion Regarding Ambushing and the Surprise Mechanic."

So, the rules regarding Surprise seem simple at first:

"The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter."

However, I'm unsure how to handle a simple road side ambush.


The party is walking along a forest path, unknowing of the small group of kobolds hiding ahead.

The surprise rule seems to indicate that is only possible to notice the kobolds immediatly before combat. They attack, we compare the stealth checks the ambushers used to hide vs passive perception of the ambushees and determine surprise from there.

But this feels wrong to me. Surely they should have the option to notice the kobolds before combat, so that they could, for instance, attempt to back away from the fight and avoid it entirely. But if I make the passive perception vs stealth check while they still have time to talk to eachother and plan, then I'm basically circumventing the idea that surprise is an individual effect vs group (because if they have time, of course the player who sees the ambushing enemies will warn their allies).

How do you guys handle this?

As a side note, I've read comments on this subreddit that suggest only using passive perception when the players aren't actively searching for things, and to have them roll the dice when they are. However, one of my players has the observant feat which means his passive perception (and investigation) are statistically much more likely to pass stealth checks than his active perception, and it seems strange to penalize him for being proactive.

Read:  Frost Punk Fog (Campaign Overview)

Currently, I think I'm just going to allow him (and any other players) to make passive checks so long as his character isn't pressed for time, which I'll probably just handwave as about ten minutes to spend searching / investigating. The handbook suggests passive rolls can be used for situations where you could theoretically make multiple attempts, so I believe I'm doing this as per RAW, but I almost never see or hear of other DMs doing this. In fact, I don't ever think I've seen a passive ability check used for anything but perception vs stealth.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Source: reddit.com

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