Welcome to a special Series in which I discuss the house rules I have in place for Critical Hit, today we’re diving right into the most complicated one, stealth. I’ll warn you now, there’s some serious rules crunch ahead.
PROLOGUE: WHY MAKE CHANGES AT ALL?
As written, the current stealth rules for 4th edition are difficult to digest, since they’re written into four different conditions: If you are hidden, then you are invisible and silent, if you’re invisible you have total concealment, and if you have total concealment you are harder to attack. So, 10 minutes of searching and four bookmarks later you are more difficult to attack. But there is also this other aspect of guessing where your target is. I find this absolutely unacceptable because it introduces a weird pseudo-roleplay aspect into a situation that encourages the players not to roleplay. Thus , If you play on a grid, it creates a bunch of obnoxious situations where either pieces are removed from the battle mat, or you have to negotiate with people whether or not their characters would know that the guy is there (even though the players clearly do). These house rules attempt to A) clean up the weird multi-tiered rules and B) create a situation where, rather than having to pretend like you don’t see a miniature, the system actively discourages you from attacking hidden things.
Clearly these rules are still VERY complex, but that’s because they have to fit into 4th edition’s extant structure. Lastly I realize that there are a lot of Rogue powers (and a few from other classes) that won’t work with this system. I thought it would be better to change those on a power-by-power basis rather than try to accommodate them through weird rule loopholes. So here we go.
RODRIGO’S HOUSE RULES FOR STEALTH
When you try to hide from an enemy your goal is to become HIDDEN. HIDDEN is a rules term. In a way it’s a condition like DAZED or BLINDED (except it is a positive condition).
HIDDEN: A hidden character cannot be targeted by ranged or melee attacks, but can still be targeted by area or close attacks. Enemies grant combat advantage to a HIDDEN character. A character loses the HIDDEN condition after they attack or if they take an action that requires (or causes) loud noise or a lot of unusual movement (DM’s discretion).
HIDDEN scores (see below) are usually compared to AWARE scores. a character’s AWARE score is usually his or her passive perception, but a player can spend a minor action to make a perception check, That result becomes their new AWARE score for the rest of the scene or until they spend a minor action to roll again, or to reset it to their passive perception.
HOW DOES ONE BECOME HIDDEN?
The character attempting to hide makes a stealth check and records the result. The character is now HIDDEN with that check attached. (Referred to as HIDDEN 23, for example)
The roll can be made as a move action or as part of any action that allows movement. But there is a -5 penalty to the check if the movement was more than 2 squares.
The player may roll again (as a move action or as part of another action that allows movement) if they are dissatisfied with the result.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE IS HIDDEN?
Cannot be targeted by Melee or Ranged Attacks: Whenever a creature declares a melee or ranged attack against the HIDDEN character compare the character’s HIDDEN score (their stealth check from earlier) against the attacker’s AWARE score, adding any relevant modifiers (see below). If the check is greater, the attacker cannot target the character and may take a different action. If the check is lower, the attacker may ignore the HIDDEN condition and attack normally (and at no additional penalty).
This also means that, although HIDDEN characters still trigger opportunity attacks they cannot be targeted if the attacker’s AWARE score is lower than their check. (The attacker’s opportunity action is not used or expended in this case).
Enemies Grant Combat Advantage: Whenever a HIDDEN character declares an attack compare their HIDDEN score to the target’s AWARE score. If the target’s AWARE score is lower it grants combat advantage to the attacker, otherwise the target ignores the HIDDEN condition and the attack resolves normally.
HOW DOES ONE SPOT A HIDDEN CHARACTER?
All a character needs to do to be HIDDEN is to make a stealth check, however any time they interact with an enemy they must pit their HIDDEN score against their enemy’s AWARE score, and thus be potentially spotted. Additionally there are modifiers that affect the situation.
- The HIDDEN creature has cover or partial concealment: -2 to the spotter’s AWARE score.
- The HIDDEN creature has superior cover or total concealment: -5 to the spotter’s AWARE score.
- The HIDDEN creature has no cover and no concealment: +5 to the spotter’s AWARE score.
A bunch of gnolls have raided the party’s camp, it is a dark and spooky night, so only the area in a burst 3 around the campfire is bright light, everything else in the battlefield is lightly obscured (granting a partial concealment).
It becomes Darla’s turn (she is a human rogue)
She uses a standard action to attack a gnoll adjacent to her with a power that slides it out of the way. Then as a move action she moves two squares to the lightly obscured area and rolls a stealth check to become HIDDEN. She gets a 24. She writes down “HIDDEN 24”
On Gnoll 1’s turn his AWARE score (right now his passive perception) is 16 which means he cannot target Darla with a melee or ranged attack. The GM spends its minor action to roll perception and gets an 18, which is still not enough. Since he still will not be able to target Darla with its FEROCIOUS AXE attack the GM just has the Gnoll ignore her and try to eat her cleric.
On Darla’s turn she attacks Gnoll 1 with her crossbow, she compares her HIDDEN score (24) Vs. his AWARE score (18-2 for her concealment = 16) meaning he does not ignore her HIDDEN status and grants her combat advantage. Once the attack resolves, though, it removes her HIDDEN status. So as a move action she rolls her stealth again, this time getting only a 14 (which she writes down “HIDDEN 14”) which is well below the gnoll’s AWARE checks.
On Gnoll 1’s turn he charges Darla, he compares his AWARE score (18-2 for her concealment =16) to her HIDDEN score (14). His score is higher so he spots her and the attack goes off normally (although the attack roll still takes her concealment into account).
The party finds itself in the middle of a tallgrass prairie that grants partial concealment, to make matters worse they are surrounded by serpentine monsters.
On its turn Monster 1 attacks Phorlonox the wizard and then does an obnoxious shift-away move. The GM uses the movement to roll stealth to have the monster become HIDDEN and gets a 36. The GM writes down “Monster 1: HIDDEN 36”
On his turn Phorlonox casts a fireball (an area burst) on Monsters 1, 3 and 6, Phorlonox’s AWARE score is only 12 but that doesn’t matter because area and close attacks ignore the HIDDEN condition. The attack resolves normally.
Special freakin’ note: A character must still match its AWARE score vs. the enemy’s HIDDEN score to use Magic Missile against it.
Great work. I love these!
This is a very nice set of articles, and I hope to see more soon.
I think Stealth is particularly convoluted in 4E due to having errata from the original Player’s Handbook.
I think these house rules are pretty straight forward actually, especially compared with the official ones. Good work.
Will you be writing an article about your Skills Challenge house rules too? That is an obvious one, and I like your rules much better there as well.
Yes. I will be using this. Thank you for your wisdom, Mr. Rodrigo.
Maybe, the bonus to AWARE for target being in the open being +10 or +20? They are standing right in front of you.