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Making a Dex roll while surprised

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Ordinarily, a Dex roll is made when attempting a feat of agility. I'm curious if you assign any penalties or not to characters when they have to make a Dex roll due to a surprise situation.

 

Example: your character is walking along a stone bridge when a piece under you suddenly falls out.

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Seems reasonable.

 

Although in some situations you may not allow it at all.  For example - I wouldn't allow a character to make a Dive for Cover (DEX roll) roll against an attack they didn't see coming.

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Is the bridge falling apart a prelude to some type of attack? 

 

Would you consider a Base Dex roll of 9- as a reasonable solution to your bridge encounter? This way your giving them a chance as if they had a Dex 0 for the surprise aspect.

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I think that rather than assign "penalties", I'd restructure the problem. 

The stone under the character's feet is moving out of the way.  The question at hand is "can the character stabilize themselves before their footing totally vanishes and they fall".  That sounds a lot to me like "can the character act before the environment", which is a DEX vs DEX roll. 

I'd assign some roll to the loose stone based on circumstances (did the PCs suspect the bridge might be faulty, do they know anything about bridges/stonework, are they being slow and careful, so on and so forth) and have the fall guy try to win the roll-off to not start falling. 

 

More generally though, I think I'd probably move the focus over to rolls to preempt the problem instead of negate the problem.  Background Skill roll to recognize the bridge as unsafe, character behavior to secure themselves against faulty bridges, PER roll to notice cracks, and if none of those succeed, "Suddenly, the stone on the left side of the bridge gives way beneath $PCNAME's feet!  $PRONOUN barely manages to grab the edge, but the bridge is shaking as more and more stones begin to fall free!  What do you do!?". 

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Gnome, your scenario appears to be one where the character has a chance to see that the bridge is unsafe and that they can tell it's unsafe. I was specific that it was a surprise. I didn't go into specifics because I wanted a quick reply.

 

Hugh, I've had lots of adventures where characters stand in areas they expected to fall apart, fall, etc, etc. It keeps players on their feet and makes for exciting adventures. :)  Thus, yes, they were, in fact, standing on areas they were expecting to drop away.

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In general I wouldn't apply penalties to the DEX roll, as that is what I think a DEX roll should be for, reacting quickly to a dangerous situation.

The only times I would impose a penalty to the roll is if they were other factors in play, for example they were doing something else while walking the bridge (like looking at a map or involved in a deep or heated conversation) or other penalties like over encumbered, carrying someone, injured, etc... 

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Personally, I am a bit with Gnome on this even if it was a totally unexpected event.

 

Here's how I would handle a rope and plank bridge crossing over a chasm which suddenly gives way.

 

1) The players get half way across the bridge.  I roll 2d6 to determine what segment it occurs on.

2) Players are allowed to make normal Danger Sense rolls or PER rolls at -3.

2a) Those who make the roll can attempt to do something about it.  Since they made their roll, they can abort to do something about it like grab for one of the ropes or leap to the other side (dive for cover).  Grabbing for the rope is a standard grab against a standard average game DCV.  A dive for cover has penalties based on how far they have to leap.  If they fail, they fall like everyone else.

2b) Those who fail their roll roll at the end of their segment.  Since this is mostly likely a Heroic level adventure, the bridge height is probably at least 30m (15") to 60m (30").  Depending on what is below them, they can try some other actions.

3) If there are any obstructions in the way, they can try and acrobatics on the obstructions as an action.  They will take a -2 + -1/5" velocity to their acrobatics roll.  If they make their roll with the penalty, they will take damage for how far they have fallen and stop their ascent.  If fail they roll but would normally make their roll, they reduce their velocity by 5" (but are still falling), taking damage based on how far they have fallen.  If they completely fail the roll, they continue on their descent using up an action to do this.

4) A player who stopped their descent can try to grab a hold of someone that is falling.  They take any penalties they took to their own rolls and along with the penalty to grab the faller.  If this is the second grab maneuver they make in this segment, they also take an additional -2.

5) Finally, if there is something to break their fall somewhat at the bottom, they can try to an Acrobatics or Dex roll -3 to target that rather than straight damage.  The softer target would reduce the impact velocity by 5" and make the hit reduced penetrating.

 

So why the elaborate mess of rolls?  I am of the belief that one of the most aggravating things to happen to a player is something happening which they have no choice and no option but to take damage.  This gives the player a number of decisions to make based on how good their Speed, Dex roll,  OCV, and/or Acrobatics roll is.  

 

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On 4/9/2020 at 4:16 PM, Tech said:

Ordinarily, a Dex roll is made when attempting a feat of agility. I'm curious if you assign any penalties or not to characters when they have to make a Dex roll due to a surprise situation.

 

Any characteristic roll should get bonuses or penalties based on its difficulty. However, it is unfair (as a GM) to surprise the characters with a roll made at an arbitrary penalty.

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3 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

 

Any characteristic roll should get bonuses or penalties based on its difficulty. However, it is unfair (as a GM) to surprise the characters with a roll made at an arbitrary penalty.

 

By arbitary, I'm assuming you mean a roll penalty with no reason for it, to which I agree. However, it is not unfair as GM to make a character make a roll at a penalty based on the circumstances and situation. I'm quite fair in my GM'ing: I have characters make rolls with a bonus or a minus, as the game situation comes up. I deem a normal characteristic roll without + or - to be ordinary situations, modified by creative responses by the player(s). As the books show, easier situations should give a bonus, harder situations a negative to the roll, and I use that as my guide. An arbitrary negative roll with no reason behind it is indeed unfair but this is not the case.

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I find part of the challenge is defining "ordinary circumstances".  PCs get an Everyman skill which is PS 11-, representing their job or a hobby.  Since people can typically perform their jobs, 11- must be good enough to pretty much auto-succeed in ordinary circumstances.  Or do you expect most people fail at basic on the job tasks 3 times in 8 (11- fails 37.5% of the time) and do even worse at anything slightly out of the box?

 

We get an 8- Area Knowledge.  I think most of us can navigate around the town or city in which we live pretty effectively, so it seems like even an 8- must be good enough for ordinary circumstances.

 

Looking at page 58 of 6e vol 1, a -3 is the starting point for "extremely difficult", which caps out at -5, the breakpoint for "sheer folly" (ie why even try?).  "Routine" is +5 to +3.  "Easy" is +1 to +3.  I think we tend to assume a baseline roll for something pretty routine and assign penalties from there, which is effectively starting every task with a -5.  I'd say leaping from the bridge when the stones start unexpectedly shifting under your feet is not "routine" or "easy", but would be a pretty standard task for which a roll is required, so no penalty.  Trying to make that roll while carrying the unconscious princess over your shoulder and fighting off an angry Wyvern darting out of the shadows, without losing your DCV?  OK, that's probably at the higher end of Difficult.

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First thing to do in a potential surprise situation is to check for surprise.  This would be done with a perception roll.  Depending on the nature of the surprise there may be a bonus or penalty.  Characters that make the roll are able to act in the segment it occurs.  If this happens out of combat it would be the beginning of a combat and be considered happening in 12.  Characters who make their perception roll can try and warn others of the danger which might allow for those characters to make another perception roll.  Characters with Danger sense get that in addition to their perception roll with no penalty, and if they make it they are not surprised.  In the given example since the character are expecting it to

 

How the characters avoid the danger is going to depend on the nature of the situation.  In the example given above I would consider it an area of affect attack and use the rules for dive for cover.  Depending on the character there may be other things that they could do.  For example a flying character could simply activate their flight when the floor collapses. 

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On 4/9/2020 at 4:16 PM, Tech said:

Ordinarily, a Dex roll is made when attempting a feat of agility. I'm curious if you assign any penalties or not to characters when they have to make a Dex roll due to a surprise situation.

 

Example: your character is walking along a stone bridge when a piece under you suddenly falls out.

Because I’m a fairly generous GM I would probably give a straight DEX roll and maybe PER roll as complementary. Each two under gives +1 to DEX roll. Maybe a failed PER might then give a -1 to DEX tops.

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