Stalking

Copyright Randy Severance © 2004

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"Hey Ogg - look at that elf sneaking up on us!"

From the School of Hard Knocks (SOHK):

Stalking:

Stalking is the ability to move using silence, camouflage, and shadows to conceal your presence while moving; Hiding is the same ability used when not moving.

This skill involves moving from one location to another without being seen or heard. A character attempting to stalk should make two maneuver rolls, one for sound and one for sight. Should either fail, the thief has been spotted. In some situations, only one maneuver may be necessary (e.g. approaching a target from behind, while silenced, while invisible, etc.).

The difficulty or remaining unseen should be referenced under Hiding. The difficulty of remaining silent depends on how armored the thief is, and how noisy the ground is. This maneuver roll should be modified by double the Missile Attack Penalty of the armor worn.

Several questions are left unanswered by this brief description.

1. How often does the stalker have to roll? Certainly it is not intended that one successful stalking roll would allow the stalker to meander about for hours, or days, without fear of being spotted.

2. How close can the stalker get to his target? Certainly it is not intended that one successful stalking roll would allow the stalker to waltz up within inches of his target's face without fear of being spotted.

This article proposes some simple changes to the Stalking rules which address these issues. A side by side comparison of the SOHK "Original" system and a new "Proposed" system is made throughout this article

Frequency of Stalking Rolls

Original System

The School of Hard Knocks (SOHK) RMSS requires a roll be made for each of two senses Sight and Sound. Although SOHK only specifically mentions a roll for Sight and Sound, it can be inferred that other senses need to be rolled as long as they apply. Consider sneaking up on a pack of wolves that can catch your scent in the air, or sneaking up on a burrowing giant spider who can "feel" the ground vibrations from within his tunnels. With this inference in mind, SOHK supports making from 2 to 5 rolls, depending on the ability of the prey to sense the stalker.

Proposed System

This new system would have the Stalker make a stalking maneuver roll every time he moves more than a specific number of feet distance. This frequency of stalking rolls depends on the intensity of distractions that the terrain has in regards to the prey's ability to sense the stalker. If the terrain has many distractions (a crowded street, rain, noise) which distract or confuse the prey's observation and alertness, then the distance covered between rolls would be more. If the terrain is quiet and any disturbance would be easily noticed, then the distance covered between rolls would be less. Use the chart below to determine how many feet the stalker can move between stalking rolls.

Sensory Environment

Such As

Feet Stalked between rolls

Dead Quiet

Castle bedroom at night

5

Calm, Peaceful

Forest at night

10

Slight Distractions

Gentle wind, Farmyard animals

20

Moderate Distractions

Town at midday, Gentle rain

30

Large Distractions

Tavern at happy hour, Thunderstorm

40

Modifiers to the Stalking Rolls

Original System

The static maneuver roll modifiers for stalking as defined in RMSS and SOHK are as follows:

Stalking Skill (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Lighting Conditions (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Difficulty Level (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Character's Wounds (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Character's Exhaustion Points (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Combat Situation (RMSS Table T-4.4)

% of Activity Taken (melee only) (RMSS Table T-4.4)

Prior Roll Modifier (SOHK 2.1 Key to the Static Maneuver Tables)

Armor Penalty (SOHK Stalking)

Target's Alertness (SOHK Subterfuge Stealth Table SM-7.24)

Target's Observation (SOHK Subterfuge Stealth Table SM-7.24)

Target's Situational Awareness (SOHK Subterfuge Stealth Table SM-7.24)

In addition, the stalker can obtain other modifiers by casting spells, employing magic items or taking other extraordinary measures of care.

With the SOHK System of rolling once for each sense used by the prey (sight, sound, smell, etc.), the stalker would only get bonuses which are specific to that particular roll. For example, a wizard's Shades II spell would only modify the sight roll. Approaching from downwind would give a modifier for the smell roll (maybe the sound roll as well). Elven boots would modify the sound roll. This means that each of the rolls would only gain SOME of the beneficial modifiers the Rogue employs, making each individual roll more difficult to make. This use of bonuses is logical for this approach, but there is a better way.

This stalking process would then have the stalker perform all the stalking rolls at the same time. A roll for being detected by sight, sound, smell etc. would all be rolled right at the moment the stalker's journey or stealth begins.

Proposed System

In this Proposed System of stalking rolls, each roll represents the entire perception abilities of the target. Therefore, ALL bonus apply to each and every roll. This means that approaching from downwind with the Shades spell and Elven boots will give you all three bonuses for each Stalking Roll.

Additionally, remembering that the Proposed System has the rogue making a Stalking Roll each time he has moved a given distance, each roll is performed sequentially as the rogue progresses along on his mission. One roll after the other. This sequential rolling allows for one roll to produce a next roll modifier for the subsequent roll. This represents the rogue's ability to get into blind spots, plot a course of movement and gain advantageous positions as he moves along. As long as the rogue continues to roll successfully, this modifier will continue to be carried forward to the next roll.

Comparison

During the course of the stalker's mission, this Proposed System (requiring a roll based on the distance traveled) will likely require rolling a greater number of the stalking maneuvers. Perhaps the Rogue will need to roll 2 to 10 times as he closes on his foe, or sneaks through the castle, compared to the 2 - 3 rolls required by the SOHK. However, since all modifiers apply to all the multiple rolls, obtaining a success roll in each case is more likely. Mathematically it works out to similar chances.

Example

Devron the Rogue is trying to sneak across an open courtyard at dusk without being seen by the two maidens strolling in the garden. He is wearing Boots of Elven Kind and has cast a Shades II spell on himself. The courtyard is 100 feet across. The women are in a conversation and there are other noises classifying the situation as "Slight Background Distractions". Devron needs to make a static maneuver roll every time he moves 20 feet.

In the Original System, Devron would need to make two stalking rolls. One for Sound and one for Sight:

Static Maneuver Roll 2: Sight

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 59 (Roll needed 52+)

Static Maneuver Roll 1: Sound

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Elven boots of silence + 10

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 49 (Roll needed 62+)

In the Proposed System, Devron would need to make five stalking rolls. One for each 20 feet moved:

Static Maneuver Roll 1: 20 feet

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Elven boots of silence + 10

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 69 (Roll needed 42+)

Static Maneuver Roll 2: 40 feet

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

Elven boots of silence + 10

Prior Spell Success + 20

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 89 (Roll needed 22+)

Static Maneuver Roll 3: 60 feet

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

Elven boots of silence + 10

Prior Spell Success + 20

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 89 (Roll needed 22+)

Static Maneuver Roll 4: 80 feet

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

Elven boots of silence + 10

Prior Spell Success + 20

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 89 (Roll needed 22+)

Static Maneuver Roll 5: 100 feet

Subterfuge Stealth: Stalking + 55

Difficulty Hard - 10

Maiden 1 Alertness - 3

Maiden 2 Alertness - 3

Dark Advantageous:Heavy Shadows + 10

Shades II Spell + 10

Elven boots of silence + 10

Prior Spell Success + 20

------------------------------------

Total Modifiers + 89 (Roll needed 22+)

The Original System requires Devron to roll a 52+ (48%) and then a 62+ (38%). The likelihood of successfully making both rolls is 18.24%

The Proposed System requires Devron to roll a 42+ (58%), 22+ (78%), 22+ (78%), 22+ (78%) and 22+ (78%). The likelihood of successfully making all five rolls is 21.4%

As shown here, the overall chances are similar.

If a stalking failure occurs in the Original System, the GM would have to make an arbitrary decision as to how far across the courtyard Devron got before he was spotted. In the Proposed System, each roll is made sequentially and if Devron fails any of his rolls, his location at the time of being spotted is known.

Difficulty of Stalking Rolls

In the above example, a difficulty of "Hard" was assigned. The difficulty level did not change throughout the process because Devron maintained the same distance between himself and the maidens for the entire stalking move. Below is a discussion of how the difficulty is determined and changed.

There are two factors in determining the difficulty of the stalking roll. The amount of cover the stalker finds in the given terrain, and how close the stalker is to the target.

Terrain Cover

If the terrain has substantial cover which provides hiding places for the stalker and which reduces the prey's line-of-sight, then the starting difficulty level is less. Open terrain with little or no cover would start with a harder difficulty level. Use the chart below to determine the hardest difficulty level of stalking the target. This is the difficulty that is to be applied on the last and final approach as the stalker approaches the prey.

For example, if you consider the maidens' garden to be a 40% terrain cover, and if Devron was trying to sneak up closer to the maidens rather than crossing the garden, his final stalking roll as he got right behind the maidens would be made as a Very Hard (-25) difficulty.

Terrain Cover

such as

Hardest Difficulty

0%

Tundra, Desert, Empty Room

Absurd (-100)

10%

Open Field, Ballroom

Sheer Folly (-75)

25%

Broken Ground, Furnished Room

Extremely Hard (-50)

40%

Light Forest, Village

Very Hard (-25)

55%

Medium Forest, Town

Hard (-10)

70%

Dense Forest, City

Medium (0)

85%

Jungle, Crowded Marketplace

Light (10)

95%

Crowded Marketplace in a Jungle!

Easy (20)

Distance from Stalker to Target

Since it is easier to stalk a target from a greater distance then from close up, we reflect this by reducing the difficulty level by one degree for each unit of stalking distance between the target and stalker (the unit of stalking distance was previously determined based on the sensory environment of the terrain).

Devron's maiden stalking was previously determined to be "Slight Background Distractions" in regards to the Sensory Environment. This meant that Devron had to roll each time he travelled 20 feet. Given that his final (closest) stalking roll would be made as Very Hard, we back up the process by 20 feet each time and drop the difficulty level by one each time. We keep doing this until we reach Devron's starting location where the difficulty becomes Easy.

Devrons movement from 20 to 0 feet away from the maidens is Very Hard.

Devrons movement from 40 to 19 feet away from the maidens is Hard.

Devrons movement from 60 to 39 feet away from the maidens is Medium.

Example 1

Devron the Rogue is trying to unlock a chest in the bedroom of his victim, when he is suddenly interrupted by the door opening. The master of the house enters, but Devron manages a quick hiding maneuver and ends up under the bed. The master of the house settles down in bed with a good book. Now Devron must stalk his way out of the room, and due to previous commitments, he cannot wait until the master of the house falls asleep.

Dead Quiet Castle Room (Roll every 5 feet)

Furnished Room ("Extremely Hard" as the closest difficulty)

Distance from Stalker to Target

Difficulty

0 - 5 feet

Extremely Hard (-50)

6 - 10 feet

Very Hard (-25)

11 - 15 feet

Hard (-10)

16 - 20 feet

Medium (0)

21 - 25 feet

Light (10)

26 - 30 feet

Easy (20)

Devron will first have to make an Extremely Hard roll with no Prior Success Modifier in order to get out from under the bed without being spotted. If he succeeds with this first roll, he will then be 6 feet away from the master of the house. His second roll will be made at a Very Hard difficulty level and will have the benefit of the Prior Roll Success Modifier. Devron continues to advance 5 feet at a time, with the difficulty level becoming less each time, until he is able to crawl out the door.

Example 2

Now Devron wants to sneak up on two Hill Giants and untie a friend who is being held captive. The giants are camping in an open field of rolling hills. His friend is tied up and sitting ten feet away from the giants -- so Devron does not have to get any closer than 10 feet from the giants.

Peaceful Open Field (Roll every 10 feet)

Open Field ("Sheer Folly" as the closest difficulty)

Distance from Stalker to Target

Difficulty

61 - 70 feet

Easy (20)

51 - 60 feet

Light (10)

41 - 50 feet

Medium (0)

31 - 40 feet

Hard (-10)

21 - 30 feet

Very Hard (-25)

11 - 20 feet

Extremely Hard (-50)

0 - 10 feet

Sheer Folly (-75)

Devron must start his stalking rolls when he gets within 60 feet of the giant because that is where the easiest difficulty level begins. Devron must first make a Light Difficulty roll, to get 50 feet from the giants. Then a Medium roll with his Prior Roll Success modifier added is needed in order to get within 40 feet. Then a Hard roll with his Prior Roll Success modifier added is needed in order to get within 30 feet. This pattern continues until Devron is close enough to untie his friend at 10 feet away, or until the giants spots him.

Levels of Success

So far the analysis has been based on the chances of achieving a Success from the roll with a score of 111 or greater. However, two lesser rolls need to be addressed here as well.

A roll of 91 to 110 is a "Near Success", which isn't all that bad. In the case of a Near Success, the giant's hear something but are unaware of the true source of the sound ("Hey Ogg! Did you hear that?"). Maybe one giant would be sent out away from the camp to investigate. Devron then makes a quick hiding roll and if successful - the giant wanders back to camp and reports that he found nothing. A Near Success followed by a failed hiding roll would be bad news for Devron.

A roll of 76 to 90 is a Partial Success which would alert the giants but they would not know where Devron exactly was ("Hey Ogg! Grab your spear - there is something out there!").

A roll of 5 to 75 is a Failure and would have the giants spotting Devron. ("Hey Ogg - look at that elf sneaking up on us!").

Summary

Use these steps to enhance your Stalking Rolls:

1. Determine the Feet Between Stalking Rolls from the table below based on the amount of environmental distractions (let's call this value "feet/roll"):

Sensory Environment

Such As

Feet Stalked between rolls

Dead Quiet

Castle bedroom at night

5

Calm, Peaceful

Forest at night

10

Slight Distractions

Gentle wind, Farmyard animals

20

Moderate Distractions

Town at midday, Gentle rain

30

Large Distractions

Tavern at happy hour, Thunderstorm

40

2. Determine the hardest Difficulty Level from the table below based on the amount of terrain cover (let's call this value "H-Level"):

Terrain Cover

such as

Difficulty

0%

Tundra, Desert, Empty Room

Absurd (-100)

10%

Open Field, Ballroom

Sheer Folly (-75)

25%

Broken Ground, Furnished Room

Extremely Hard (-50)

40%

Light Forest, Village

Very Hard (-25)

55%

Medium Forest, Town

Hard (-10)

70%

Dense Forest, City

Medium (0)

85%

Jungle, Crowded Marketplace

Light (10)

95%

Crowded Marketplace in a Jungle!

Easy (20)

3. Determine the distance between stalker and target at which the Stalking Rolls are not needed. Do this by counting the number of difficulty levels between "Easy" and "H-Level" and then multiplying that number by the "feet/roll"

4. Each time the Stalker moves "feet/roll" distance, make another stalking roll using the difficulty level based on the stalker's proximity to the target. If the stalker is within "feet/roll" of the target, the difficulty level is "H-Level". If the stalker is within 2 * "feet/roll" of the target, the difficulty level is "H-Level" - 1.