The Surprise Roll is a Valuable Element of the Old School Essentials Encounter

The surprise roll is a key component of the Old School Essentials or b/x-based old school D&D encounter. Don’t sleep on its role of mitigating the danger of some of those situations that might otherwise devolve to player gotchas!

Show Notes:

Responding to Grumpy Dice’s comment:

A conundrum for me is whether a party in a dungeon using light should have a chance to surprise monsters. I thought the Moldvay Basic text had a statement about this, but I couldn’t find it just now. Practically, it seems unlikely that a party with light could surprise monsters if there are no existing lights in the dungeon. Doors do give the opportunity for a party with light to achieve surprise provided it is broken open on the first attempt or a lock is picked.

Continuing the conversation with Grumpy Dice:

@HexedPress Thanks! I must have seen it addressed in OSE rather than in Moldvay Basic. In the OSE Classic Fantasy Rules Tome: “Characters or monsters that carry a light in a dark environment are usually unable to surprise opponents, because the light give their presence away.” (p.124)

More from Grumpy Dice:

Your mention of hooded lanterns in the previous short started me off on some scenario brainstorming…

How to penalize human PCs in darkness comes up. OSE says, “A blind character is unable to attack.” I would say a human PC in complete darkness is blind. It seems like there should be movement penalties also, but I don’t see it in the rules.

That can lead to an interesting scenario where the PCs shutter their lantern with the intent to surprise some orcs they hear far off down a dungeon corridor. They feel their way down the corridor but end up being the ones surprised. RAW, the PCs wouldn’t be any easier to hit by the orcs during the surprise round in darkness. However, if the PC with the shuttered lantern goes down and they spend another round in darkness… .