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Ambushes and dice mods for initiative

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When I read through the CRB about vigilance vs. cool, it seems to make walking into an ambush as a straight dice roll for initiative between the cool and vigilance skills.  Wouldn't one expect the ambushers to have at least one boost die simply because they know to expect (or are already watching) the approaching target.  I can see additional boost dice for camouflage and what have you, but wouldn't the simple act of ambushing someone give you at least one boost die of advantage automatically?

 

On a somewhat related note to vigilance checks, how would you handle setting up explosive mines?  What method would be good to see if the character randomly steps on a mine or simply walks by it unknowingly?

 

 

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When I read through the CRB about vigilance vs. cool, it seems to make walking into an ambush as a straight dice roll for initiative between the cool and vigilance skills.  Wouldn't one expect the ambushers to have at least one boost die simply because they know to expect (or are already watching) the approaching target.

It's up to the GM of course, but it's a good argument.

 

Also remember though that just because you "win" initiative in an ambush doesn't mean much. If your opponent is hidden you don't suddenly know where he is (unless you want to spend a triumph or something), you just get a bad feeling about this. Then when you go first you can do something like roll a Perception check... but that's an action, so barring some cool talent you don't get to attack or anything.

 

 

On a somewhat related note to vigilance checks, how would you handle setting up explosive mines?  What method would be good to see if the character randomly steps on a mine or simply walks by it unknowingly?

Well for the PCs walking into an ambush Despairs are a great way to trigger mines.

 

Mechanics are used to make an "attack" with a mine. How exactly that works in combat isn't totally clear though....

Edited by Ghostofman

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I'd be okay with giving ambushers a boost die on their first attack, although I'm much more likely to impose setback dice on the ambushed party, couched in the idea that the ambushed are scrambling.  

 

In fact, I've often times given ambushers a free round to increase the excitement of the story.  Honestly, you might not know you're being ambushed until the first shots are fired....  

 

 

For mines, I'd likely do some sort of opposed check against the person that set them up, or just a hard vigilance check if it came about spontaneously.  I might throw some boost at them if the circumstances warrant.  If I'm really feeling dark-sidey, I'd have them all roll a Force die and whomever rolls the crappiest gets to make the check.  

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As I see it a few shots might go off before the actually rule-combat starts.

This is usually how I describe an ambush when my PCs are subject to one.

 

GM: you continue your walking in the forest, stumbling across old roots, overgrown stones and think bushes, the landscape has been like this for half an hour, but with this pace you should arrive at the settlement before dawn. Why don't you give me a combined perception check, skilled assistance from the ones with highest Perception + Cunning, adding boost from the other PCs. Difficultly is hard, with three setbacks, one from the lots of noises from the forest, one from the darkness crumbling in and another one from the fact that you guys have constantly been chatting with each other instead of keeping look out.

<checks fail with a threat>

GM: mhmm okey, as you continue your stride into the forest you start seeing reddish plasma beams shooting from all over the forest aiming towards you as you duck for quick cover, you can give me a vigilance roll for initiative, simple as allways, but still with three setback, lots of obstruction from the vegetation is one, surprise/ ambush is another and it's still a bit dark. The NPCs will get a boost die from your failed perception roll, that threat you generated that is, and another because they've taken cover in the vegitation, but they also get two setback ,one from the vegetation that your're in also applies to them and one from the darkness.

 

I usually describe what happens in the beginning of combat just the first second or two before making the initiative rolls, because the first shoots can miss and the narrative system allows this and usually have longer rounds then most rpgs.

This is when it's clear cut that the enemies will attack the PCs though.

Edited by Poseur

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Yeah there has been a lot of discussion about this. I originally was like wtf when I saw that you could ambush someone and end up rolling a worse dice pool for initiative. However, I've since come around after thinking about what the two skills represent. If you're ambushing someone but have a low cool, you might have trouble keeping it together enough to ambush him. Hiding isn't all there is to an ambush. There's timing. When you attack is just as important as how well hidden you are.

 

Think of it this way. Say you have two people who are having a discussion. Things get heated as one makes an off-color comment about the other's mother. The insulted guy goes for his gun. The guy doing the insulting rolls vigilance (unless he was trying to goad the other guy into a fight or whatever - GM's discretion but I'd generally say he wasn't expecting a fight if it's just a discussion). If the insulted guy who drew his gun rolls lower than the vigilance guy, it's because he gave away the fact that he was going for his gun. He couldn't keep cool and draw his gun without letting the vigilant guy know he was going for it.

 

Similarly, imagine a more traditional ambush. Sneaky bastards up on a hill waiting for some guys to walk by with credit chips jingling (or whatever credit chips do) in their pockets. Ambushers roll cool, ambushees roll vigilance. If some or all of the ambushers go after the ambushees, it's because they gave away their ambush. They fired too soon and missed (narratively - not a mechanical combat check), sneezed at the wrong moment, thought they saw a spider and jumped, or whatever. It represents that the character couldn't keep his cool when it mattered and the vigilant person saw it, heard it, or whatever. There are a ton of things that matter in the moment as a fight is about to break out beyond how good your camouflage is.

 

A person with low presence and/or cool skill ranks might be considered jumpy, on edge, impatient, quick to anger, etc. He has trouble staying cool under pressure. He can't sit still when it matters. Vigilant people take notice of the small tells he gives away when he's about to start something.

 

Also keep in mind that it's not always necessarily the case that all of one group of PCs or NPCs will roll the same skill. The initiators roll cool - other people that don't know the fight is coming default to vigilance. So if you're having a peaceful conversation when the Jedi senses that this dude your party is talking to is actually a dark-sider and therefore attacks him seemingly without provocation, the Jedi rolls cool and everyone else, PCs and NPCs, roll vigilance.

 

So, even though it often seems counterintuitive that the ambusher would actually end up essentially being ambushed, I think it makes sense when you think about it. Now, I'm all for giving boosts when it's appropriate. If your hiding spot was particularly good (high number of successes or advantages or whatever on a stealth check), you may get boost(s) on the subsequent cool check for initiative. If you made a deception check during an otherwise peaceful discussion to get the other guy to turn around while you draw your weapon, that would probably get a boost or two. Think creatively though; I wouldn't just give a boost to all ambushers just because their cool skill sucks. 

Edited by Alatar1313

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Regarding the mines: it's usually vigilance vs stealth to see if they notice them. Stealth is explicitly used to hide objects. Vigilance is explicitly used to counter stealth if the PCs don't suspect anything. If they PCs are actively searching for traps, use Perception instead.

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First of all, you have to keep in mind that just because one of the ambushees beat the ambushers at initiative doesn't mean he gets to shoot first; the ambush hasn't technically been sprung until the ambushers start shooting, and if the ambushees failed the check to notice the ambush they don't really know that anyone's lying in wait for them and certainly shouldn't be allowed to shoot at someone they can't see.

 

I had this exact situation in my game last night, where one of my players - a bounty hunter - had successfully snuck up on his droid target. They rolled for initiative, and the droid (who had no idea the bounty hunter was there) won. I ruled it that he had a "bad feeling about this" but hadn't actually seen anyone, so he drew his weapon with one manoeuvre and converted his action into a second manoeuvre, which he used on his Side Step talent. Then, on his turn, the bounty hunter fired. Combat progressed normally from there.

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1. "Surprise rounds" make sense in a game with 6-second rounds. This is not such a game, and doesn't pretend to be. Narrate according to the initiative rolls, setting the cinematic scene, and push ahead with the combat.

2. Not all combat checks must happen inside structured (turn-based) play. Just because you're attacking someone doesn't necessarily mean that rolling for initiative is warranted. Sometimes that excellent Stealth check, outside of structured play, deserves a silent kill...or at least the chance to perform a takedown via the combat skill of your choice.

3. There are examples in this game of initiative checks being hand waved in specific circumstances (see both the beginner games). Depending on how well the heroes do in setting up a scene, they could be rewarded with automatic, favorable initiative slots.

4. What others have said about botching an ambush is totally 100% legitimate. You roll poorly on initiative, perhaps...

a) Your ambush was discovered by some careful sentries: "As you move into position for the ambush, your foot finds a loose patch of sod and causes a sizable amount of dirt and debris to roll down the steep embankment between your and your targets. As you freeze, hoping against the inevitable, you hear some shouts from down below. You have been discovered!"

b) Your targets were waiting for you: "While you set up for a kill shot, a blaster bolt ricochets off the duracrete above your head. It's a counter-ambush!"

c) You botched the ambush on the unsuspecting targets: "You rush out of cover, catching your enemies completely by surprise. But in your excitement, your opening volleys of fire go wide of their intended targets, and your enemies are able to seek cover and return fire without having suffered any serious initial casualties."

Get your head into the narrative approach and out of the simulationist, and you will discover untold possibilities.

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I'll just say for the record that I don't really like the idea of taking away people's actions just because they rolled well on initiative. It works fine when delaying is a thing but it's not in this game. Rolling well on vigilance against an ambusher's cool means the ambusher failed to get the drop on them at the crucial moment. Saying that the PCs don't get to fire on the ambushers and that someone has to waste their action sitting around doing nothing is counter to the initiative design.

 

I've had GMs do this to me in the past, but my response is always then "Why are we rolling initiative?" I have bad feelings about all sorts of things all the time, but I don't draw my weapon and run to cover. Initiative should only be rolled once there are actually targets for both sides to shoot at. Otherwise you're just penalizing someone for rolling well.

 

If, as a GM, you're insistent on running it this way, I recommend you suggest to your players that one of them take their action to make an active perception check against the lowest Stealth among the ambushers to spot them. Then, that PC can point the target out to the rest of the group.

Edited by Alatar1313

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I'll just say for the record that I don't really like the idea of taking away people's actions just because they rolled well on initiative. It works fine when delaying is a thing but it's not in this game. Rolling well on vigilance against an ambusher's cool means the ambusher failed to get the drop on them at the crucial moment. Saying that the PCs don't get to fire on the ambushers and that someone has to waste their action sitting around doing nothing is counter to the initiative design.

 

I've had GMs do this to me in the past, but my response is always then "Why are we rolling initiative?" I have bad feelings about all sorts of things all the time, but I don't draw my weapon and run to cover. Initiative should only be rolled once there are actually targets for both sides to shoot at. Otherwise you're just penalizing someone for rolling well.

 

If, as a GM, you're insistent on running it this way, I recommend you suggest to your players that one of them take their action to make an active perception check against the lowest Stealth among the ambushers to spot them. Then, that PC can point the target out to the rest of the group.

And by doing this you're completely negating the fact that someone succeeded on their Stealth check. A perfectly staged ambush, everyone remained hidden, but because one of the people walking into the ambush lucked out on his Initiative roll, it's all wasted and he gets to shoot at the (completely hidden) ambushers first. Does that make it better?

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I'll just say for the record that I don't really like the idea of taking away people's actions just because they rolled well on initiative. It works fine when delaying is a thing but it's not in this game. Rolling well on vigilance against an ambusher's cool means the ambusher failed to get the drop on them at the crucial moment. Saying that the PCs don't get to fire on the ambushers and that someone has to waste their action sitting around doing nothing is counter to the initiative design.

 

I've had GMs do this to me in the past, but my response is always then "Why are we rolling initiative?" I have bad feelings about all sorts of things all the time, but I don't draw my weapon and run to cover. Initiative should only be rolled once there are actually targets for both sides to shoot at. Otherwise you're just penalizing someone for rolling well.

 

If, as a GM, you're insistent on running it this way, I recommend you suggest to your players that one of them take their action to make an active perception check against the lowest Stealth among the ambushers to spot them. Then, that PC can point the target out to the rest of the group.

And by doing this you're completely negating the fact that someone succeeded on their Stealth check. A perfectly staged ambush, everyone remained hidden, but because one of the people walking into the ambush lucked out on his Initiative roll, it's all wasted and he gets to shoot at the (completely hidden) ambushers first. Does that make it better?

Different strokes for different folks, but I would have had split the difference and have the "awesome stealth check" (the worst of the hidden attackers) put setback dice maybe difficulty upgrades on the opposing teams vigilance checks. Generally middle ground solutions are fairer than the extremes. Just my 0.02 credits.

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I'll just say for the record that I don't really like the idea of taking away people's actions just because they rolled well on initiative. It works fine when delaying is a thing but it's not in this game. Rolling well on vigilance against an ambusher's cool means the ambusher failed to get the drop on them at the crucial moment. Saying that the PCs don't get to fire on the ambushers and that someone has to waste their action sitting around doing nothing is counter to the initiative design.

 

I've had GMs do this to me in the past, but my response is always then "Why are we rolling initiative?" I have bad feelings about all sorts of things all the time, but I don't draw my weapon and run to cover. Initiative should only be rolled once there are actually targets for both sides to shoot at. Otherwise you're just penalizing someone for rolling well.

 

If, as a GM, you're insistent on running it this way, I recommend you suggest to your players that one of them take their action to make an active perception check against the lowest Stealth among the ambushers to spot them. Then, that PC can point the target out to the rest of the group.

And by doing this you're completely negating the fact that someone succeeded on their Stealth check. A perfectly staged ambush, everyone remained hidden, but because one of the people walking into the ambush lucked out on his Initiative roll, it's all wasted and he gets to shoot at the (completely hidden) ambushers first. Does that make it better?

 

 

No, he doesn't get to shoot first. He made a Perception check, which is an action. Unless he's got some special  talent that allows him to attack as as maneuver he can only take at most 2 more maneuvers before his turn is done.

 

Even if the next Init slot is a player, it still isn't a sure thing. So now he knows where ONE enemy is, he can spend a maneuver to pull a weapon, shoot, and burn two strain to do one more maneuver. If the ambush is just one dude and he kills him? Congrats! You're amazing. If it's not one dude then when dude number 2 goes, he's concealed, can aim and fire, plus might have additional bonuses from advantage or triumphs from their initial stealth check to hide.

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Let's look at the two ambushes from Return of the Jedi. First, Leia on the log with Wicket. Wicket smells something, Leia draws her blaster, looking, but failing to perceive the hiding scout trooper. She won initiative, but because she failed to see the Scout trooper, the scout trooper still shot first in that encounter. Of course, she also failed to see the other Scout... But the scouts failed to see Wicket, who used his initiative to hide.

Second ambush: Han. Wins initiative, Sneaks up behind a scout trooper, fails by stepping on a twig. Since his stealth roll failed, the scout trooper is able to use his initiative slot to quickly backhand Solo in the face,

Normally initiative rolls happen without difficulty dice. However, in ambush situations, I would easily see adding difficulty and/or setback die to the initiative roll depending on how successful or how skilful the ambushers are at hiding.

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I'll just say for the record that I don't really like the idea of taking away people's actions just because they rolled well on initiative. It works fine when delaying is a thing but it's not in this game. Rolling well on vigilance against an ambusher's cool means the ambusher failed to get the drop on them at the crucial moment. Saying that the PCs don't get to fire on the ambushers and that someone has to waste their action sitting around doing nothing is counter to the initiative design.

 

I've had GMs do this to me in the past, but my response is always then "Why are we rolling initiative?" I have bad feelings about all sorts of things all the time, but I don't draw my weapon and run to cover. Initiative should only be rolled once there are actually targets for both sides to shoot at. Otherwise you're just penalizing someone for rolling well.

 

If, as a GM, you're insistent on running it this way, I recommend you suggest to your players that one of them take their action to make an active perception check against the lowest Stealth among the ambushers to spot them. Then, that PC can point the target out to the rest of the group.

And by doing this you're completely negating the fact that someone succeeded on their Stealth check. A perfectly staged ambush, everyone remained hidden, but because one of the people walking into the ambush lucked out on his Initiative roll, it's all wasted and he gets to shoot at the (completely hidden) ambushers first. Does that make it better?

 

 

The good stealth check isn't wasted. The people with good, unnoticed stealth checks should get boosts to the initiative roll and/or the ambushees should get setbacks. I'd even go so far as to say that you might even take the number of uncancelled successes on the opposed stealth vs perception/vigilance and apply that number directly to boosts on the initiative roll. Also, those ambushers who do go before the ambushees' action(s) get boost(s) on the attack roll for being an unseen assailant. 

 

At the very least, I'd let them spend an action to do an opposed perception vs stealth to notice the ambushers and an incidental to point them out to their allies. If appropriate, I'd probably give that perception check a setback or two representing the time spent setting up perfect hiding spots and/or the ambushers' familiarity with the terrain.

 

There's a lot of middle ground between forcing people to waste their actions when they don't see anyone around and saying that the initiative system completely negates a good stealth check. Note that, additionally, a good stealth check means the ambushers don't even need to spring the ambush right then. They could just let the potential ambushees walk right past. Vigilance vs Cool with whatever modifiers based on how good the stealth check was (i.e., Initiative) represents the final moment when the ambushers start doing something other than sitting there waiting for the potential ambushees to wander by. Otherwise, why would there be an initiative roll at all when it's completely up to the ambushers as to whether they start doing something or just stay hidden? What prompts the initiative roll? Should players and NPCs all roll initiative every time someone wants to stealth by someone else, just because there could possibly be an ambush? Is initiative only rolled when someone using stealth says they want to ambush the other guys? If so, after the ambushees take their actions and the ambusher is still hidden, does he give up his option to just continue stealthing because he said he wanted to ambush them and roll initiative? Or, can he just walk by in stealth and leave them? In which case, why did you roll initiative?

 

Of course, when it comes down to it, run the game however you and your players want it run. This is the way I do it because this is the way that my players like it. We feel this makes the most sense for the reasons listed. Over many different game systems, we got tired of the idea of "Roll initiative. You don't see anyone. Okay, you all delay until it goes." or "Roll initiative. You don't see anyone. Your action comes and there is no delaying...so waste your turn looking around for something you didn't notice but for some reason rolled initiative for instead of doing whatever it was you were doing before." If your group feels differently, do whatever seems right. 

Edited by Alatar1313

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I've been making the Vigilance vs Stealth check the initiative roll for the ambushed, while the ambushers roll straight cool. 

 

If you want to give ambushes more impact, then gaining no successes on the Vigilance vs Stealth check means no action the first round.

Hi Doc

I liked this idea at first glance, but was wondering how you work out the Stealth difficulty if it's the players who are springing the ambush against NPCs...

Sorry if this seems like a stupid question!

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I've been making the Vigilance vs Stealth check the initiative roll for the ambushed, while the ambushers roll straight cool. 

 

If you want to give ambushes more impact, then gaining no successes on the Vigilance vs Stealth check means no action the first round.

 

Elegant. I like it. I've just been adding setbacks based on the result of the opposed Stealth check but I like that way better.

 

I probably wouldn't include the optional rule that stops people from getting an action on the first round, but I like the vigilance vs stealth. Also, I would probably make it against the worst of the ambushers' stealth skill though; otherwise you end up with all ambushers going before all ambushees essentially by default. Plus, it sort of makes sense that the worst of the bunch is the one that might give away the ambush.

Edited by Alatar1313

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I've been making the Vigilance vs Stealth check the initiative roll for the ambushed, while the ambushers roll straight cool. 

 

If you want to give ambushes more impact, then gaining no successes on the Vigilance vs Stealth check means no action the first round.

 

Elegant. I like it. I've just been adding setbacks based on the result of the opposed Stealth check but I like that way better.

 

I probably wouldn't include the optional rule that stops people from getting an action on the first round, but I like the vigilance vs stealth. Also, I would probably make it against the worst of the ambushers' stealth skill though; otherwise you end up with all ambushers going before all ambushees essentially by default. Plus, it sort of makes sense that the worst of the bunch is the one that might give away the ambush.

 

 

"Worst of the ambushers' stealth" is a great solution! I'll be using this in future games - thanks, folks!

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I've been making the Vigilance vs Stealth check the initiative roll for the ambushed, while the ambushers roll straight cool. 

 

If you want to give ambushes more impact, then gaining no successes on the Vigilance vs Stealth check means no action the first round.

Hi Doc

I liked this idea at first glance, but was wondering how you work out the Stealth difficulty if it's the players who are springing the ambush against NPCs...

Sorry if this seems like a stupid question!

 

 

Just don't have the players roll Stealth when they spring the ambush. It is worked into the enemies' Vigilance rolls.

 

You could do lowest Stealth rating (though you may run into odd situations where you have to decide if PPP is worse than PR). You could also allow it the Stealth pool to be formed as if it were an Assisted Check only with negative dice. I could see either being used, based on the situation. 

 

If you would rather a scenario where the players roll Stealth, then do a single Assisted Check (or roll the lowest skill) from them, and the successes from that roll are removed from the enemies' Vigilance rolls for initiative – making the check Competitive rather than Opposed.

Edited by Doc, the Weasel

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If you want to give a strategic advantage to the ambushers, you could always give them a boost die to initiative for any advantage on their stealth check. Other than that, this seems to be the definition of Vigilance versus Cool.

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I've always done Vigilance vs Stealth to see if the ambushers are noticed and used threat to give setback to the ambushees initiative. If the ambushee wins the check they see the ambusher even though they still might have cover, etc and roll standard initiative.

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