10 January 2019

Stealth, Light, and Surprise

My light and surprise rules are mostly adapted from Gus L at Dungeon of Signs.


  • A PC can behave as a scout to increase the party's chance of surprising whomever they might encounter or fleeing before the encounter begins.
  • Darkness is scary.
Read about Boons and Banes if you're not familiar.


  • Stealth = 5 + Dexterity Mod.
  • In a group, use the Stealth of the least stealthy character.
  • Check Stealth to move silently, hide, or pickpocket.


In light, PCs may not surprise monsters or NPCs except in special circumstances, such as when ambushing or when stealthily moving through a jungle.


  • Monsters and NPCs can be surprised with a 2-in-6 chance.
  • All rolls, including defense rolls, gain two Banes.
  • In the dark, Hired Hands must make a Morale check every turn.


  • The final 10' of any light source is dim.
  • Some light sources provide only dim light. (Example: covered lantern, candle)
  • Monsters and NPCs can be surprised with a 2-in-6 chance if all members of the party are in dim light (monsters may also surprise PCs with the same chance.)
  • All rolls, including defense rolls, gain one Bane.
  • Henchmen and Hired Hands suffer a Bane to all Morale checks when in dim light, unless they are skilled in Stealth (5 or better) and are used to operating in such conditions.
  • A stealthy character (Stealth 6 or better) suffers no Banes from dimness and gains a Boon to stealthy actions.

Light ConditionPenalties
Darkness2 Banes
Dimness1 Bane (unless stealthy)


A party that has surprise will act 1st on round 1 without need for an Initiative check and gain a Boon to all rolls for round 1.

If there is a chance that either party is surprised, roll 1D6.

1PCs Surprise in Dimness or Darkness or when opening a door
2PCs Surprise in Dimness or Darkness or when opening a door
5Enemies Surprise
6Enemies Surprise

Make sure your players understand how a stealthy character in dim light can scout ahead to prevent surprise.
Often, instead of attacking on a surprise round, foes should change the battlefield (throw nets, spring traps, set a fire, hide and snipe, send one of their party to bring reinforcements), or deprive the party of a resource (smash backpacks, extinguish torches.)

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