stealth vs perception checks

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stealth vs perception checks

Postby rschweik » Wed May 16, 2012 3:34 pm

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how distance affects determining whether someone is noticed while stealthing vs a perception check. Is distance determined by movement, or perception, or stealth ability, et cetera?

example: PC is on watch at night, and enemy is trying to sneak up on party. How close can an enemy get before PC on watch is able to receive a perception check to notice approaching enemy?

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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Lynata » Wed May 16, 2012 4:46 pm

Hmm, I think that the distance would depend on a lot of factors - so many that it's nigh-impossible to create a singular formula which incorporates them all.

Light conditions, environment, background noise, even the guard's level of vigilance/tiredness, all would have to be taken into consideration. So I think it'd be best to simply make an educated guess and have change distances / TN on a case-by-case basis.

Generally, I would recommend rough/abstracted conditions. An example: The party is camping on a forest clearing. Three of them are asleep, the fourth one is sitting awake and keeping watch. In this case, I would have him roll his first test (Perception Hearing) when the enemies are approaching the "border" between the woods and the clearing. If he succeeds, he will have heard someone/something moving nearby, but not yet seen anything.
Depending on the player's reaction, you might let him roll another Hearing or a Seeing test to make out the enemy's exact position and number now.

If the player failed his first test and the enemies opt for sneaking in closer instead of surprising the party in a loudly announced all-out charge (during which they'd all have a higher initiative than the PCs -and- may get a free round of movement against anyone who was still asleep), I would let the player test Perception Hearing again once the enemy has sneaked in close (say ~5 meters or so). This would be an easier test, and hopefully one he manages to pull off.
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Loswaith » Wed May 16, 2012 5:49 pm

I think the general premis is whatever distance you think is best. Its one of those factors thats more an art than a science (though Im sure there are gamers out there that could give you calculations for it).

Keep in mind though on reasonably clean (as in not much ground litter) terrain, there isnt allot to make much noise. Just as if there are interveening barriers, to bounce the sound around or giving some cover can assist it as well.

Often if NPCs/PCs are trying to be stealthy I will assume they are doing a reasonable job but use the stealth rolls as a rough indication of distance away from what they are hiding from (rather than a directly opposed check), when the observer would get a perception check (likely a static TN based on the factors Lynata mentioned). So in essence the worse check they do the further away they are from the intended target (assuming they are trying to sneak up on someone that is), when the target would start getting perception checks. Though again the actual distance that is mostly rough estimates.
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Etarnon » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:32 am

Best guess - go out in the woods on a quiet night and listen to someone sneak up on you in various terrain like weeds, sand, leaves, etc. He starts when he feels like it so you don't know to expect him...You call out when you hear him, then measure it.

Surprising what you can hear. It's not like the movies.

Even better, have the listener hide first, because your listener is not always gonna be right at the fire in the middle of camp as a honking big bowshot target.

Good stuff. We did this stuff in the military.
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Zapp » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:31 am

rschweik wrote:I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how distance affects determining whether someone is noticed while stealthing vs a perception check. Is distance determined by movement, or perception, or stealth ability, et cetera?

On the surface, the answer is that taking all these things quickly get complicated, and Dragon Age is a simple game.

But the secret is that YOU, the Games Master, get to decide whether a particular sneak mission is to be easy or hard. By demanding frequent rolls, chances are at least one of them will fail, thus ensuring a high challenge factor. By being lenient, you can instead ensure the story goes on by pesky guards not standing in the way of your heroes' glorious run...

The entire area of sneaking, hiding, seeing and listening essentially boils down to GM expertise. A good GM knows what his or her players expect and want out of the session and uses Tests as a tool to create good adventure at the table.

Since the GM can influence things so very much, it doesn't really make any sense to also juggle around loads of +1 and -1 modifiers. The end result still is - and should be - "it depends" :)
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Etarnon » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:13 am

Best guess, or import / borrow mechanics from games like Twilight:2000, most espionage games, or games involving commandos, / silent kill.

I'm not saying use those mechanics, but see how they work at what ranges, what in those systems is easy, / simple / hard, and it might come down to ...

a table or chart...range va terrain, all mechanistic, or...

Night, guard is tired, it's raining, no attack expected - easy. Target number.

Day, lots of leaves, no wind, alert guards, expecting an attack...Beat his perception +2
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Zapp » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:05 am

That's a good point.

A game focusing specifically on stealth should indeed feature involved rules for stealth vs perception. However, Dragon Age is neither a game focusing on stealth nor an involved game whatsoever - it is a simple game targeted towards beginners.

Perhaps you could argue more detailed rules for stealth could be included in box set 3, but I doubt it. Fantasy games seldom encourage stealth.

In fact, I would argue that any game equipped with hit points - as most fantasy games are - is specifically geared towards not encouraging stealth. (It is the hit points that enable muscular barbarians to manly walk up to the Orc hordes to slay them in heroic melee; without them you would be much better off sniping the Orcs one by one while you remain unseen in the trees. Like in real life... :-)
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Koeran » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:57 am

The closest thing I can find is the attack roll modifiers table on page 21 of the Set1 GMs Guide. Maybe you could use that as a basis for whatever you do.
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby AusJeb » Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:10 pm

As others have pointed out, stealth and perception can be difficult to rule on at the table. There are many factors at play, such as lighting, cover, weather, ambient noises*, etc. In many cases, the easiest way to handle it is to compare stealth versus perception. The degree of success on a perception role can determine the distance when seen. If the stealth check is greater than the perception check, then what happens next will depend on whether the person in stealth wants to slip by or approach the person perceiving.

* One day at the beach, I saw a military transport helicopter fly by following the line of the surf. With the noise of the waves, I could see the helicopter long before I could hear it. There was only a narrow band, less than 50 meters or so on either side of me, where I could hear the helicopter.

Zapp wrote:However, Dragon Age is neither a game focusing on stealth nor an involved game whatsoever - it is a simple game targeted towards beginners.


This is an odd statement considering how prominently stealth features in the electronic game, even in light of DA's rules light design. When a stealthed character is used as a lead for the group, the electronic game actually offers a good model of how stealth can be used in a tabletop game.
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Re: stealth vs perception checks

Postby Zapp » Tue Oct 30, 2012 2:34 am

AusJeb wrote:This is an odd statement considering how prominently stealth features in the electronic game, even in light of DA's rules light design. When a stealthed character is used as a lead for the group, the electronic game actually offers a good model of how stealth can be used in a tabletop game.

Actually I'm sure you'll agree it isn't so odd once you consider how many variables a computer can track easily.

In fact, precisely those variables that we agree makes it complex and hard to include in a pnp rpg! :)

You can still feature stealth in your play sessions. You just have to wing the details. Which might sound dismissive but really isn't. Since much of what makes stealth so exciting in a video game is details that inevitably gets lost when you're sitting around a table (unless you draw a detailed map and are ready to sacrifice your whole evening just to resolve this one stealth run).

Yes, I'm saying that the way to handle stealth in a pnp game isn't necessarily to simulate every step, squeak and cough. Just rolling a few dice can work incredibly well.

(As for myself, I've added that an attack on an unawares foe deals double damage; which does wonders to encourage characters to start combat from surprise. But the topic of "how fantasy games with hit points actively discourage stealth" will have to wait for another thread...)

A game of believable, satisfying stealth would definitely not be a rules-light newbie-friendly game.

More in general, Pramas and Green Ronin specifically stated straight away DARPG wouldn't attempt to approximate the video game. Indeed, when it came out it faced significant flak complaining it didn't do this or included that from the computer series.

As for myself, I am glad they didn't. I find the actual game a blast to play, and even though I am an old hand at pnp rpgs, I'm definitely not sure including rules-heavy subsections (on stealth and otherwise) would be a good idea. Just look at SIFRP (Green Ronin's Game of Thrones game). It quickly turned me off with its huge bundle of rules. (If and when I want rules, I turn to d20...)
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