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D&D 5E Surprise and Sneak Attack

FreeTheSlaves

Adventurer
... In my opinion the case of a single assasin attacking a single completely unaware target from hiding is definitely a situation where following the initiative and surprise rules can give a very counter-intuitive result, and my solution is simple; don't roll initiative. The assassin goes first and gets to make his attack. If the target is still alive after that, combat proceeeds normally.
But why not follow RAW?

Assassin says I'll snipe Duke Dunderhead from my inn window. Okay, you have surprise, roll initiative, you win proceed / you lose proceed.

Maybe just roll NPC initiative in secret?
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Which must be at least +3 unless there is some circumstance which denies the Sneak Attack bonus. The sneak attack does weapon damage plus at least 2d6 (level 3). The crit doubles the weapon damage dice and the sneak attack dice, so you must roll at least 3 extra dice.
Are you sure about that? I'm not home, so I can't check, but my recollection is that crits only double weapon damage dice, not sneak attack.
 

FreeTheSlaves

Adventurer
Dice are doubled in a critical, static bonuses aren't.

Seems to me the crux of the issue here is the desire for the Assassin to use their Assassinate on all surprise rounds.

% chance of stealth x % chance of winning initiative x % chance of actually hitting = too small a chance of having fun?

[Edit] Expertise, then Reliable Talent take care of the % chance of stealth. A Dex 16 Assassin 11 with Expertise in Stealth would roll minimum stealth 21. That's automatic surprise v a lot. Stealth gives a good % chance of hitting, so, that's not the problem.

Ah, initiative.

The Rogue-Assassin has no feature that boosts initiative checks unlike the Champion or Barbarian. Dex 20 gives a nice +5, but the spread of the D20 and lots of monsters making the check means you won't always beat them all. In fact even with good Dex you're winning only 60-70% of the time.

So it then comes down to whether the Assassinate damage pay-off equals the relative rarity of pulling it off. Sounds like some players think not.
 
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robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
@Maxperson is correct. An attack roll is explicitly not an ability check. For example Bard's JOAT ability does not give a bonus to attacks with non-proficient weapons. It does give a bonus to initiative rolls, which explicitly are ability checks. Guidance cantrip does not affect attack rolls.

Well knock me down with a feather: The Ability Check | Dungeons & Dragons

Are attack rolls and saving throws basically specialized ability checks? They aren’t. It’s easy to mistake the three rolls as three faces of the same thing, because they each involve rolling a d20, adding any modifiers, and comparing the total to a Difficulty Class, and they’re all subject to advantage and disadvantage. In short, they share the same procedure for determining success or failure.


Apologies @Maxperson :) But I still think the attack roll is a special ability check within the combat action economy which is why things like JOAT are limited to that. But I can't really sustain my position in the face of the official edict WotC. But I will stick to my guns about adjudicating actions outside of combat. And an assassin with no outside pressure will make their shot. :)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Well knock me down with a feather: The Ability Check | Dungeons & Dragons

Are attack rolls and saving throws basically specialized ability checks? They aren’t. It’s easy to mistake the three rolls as three faces of the same thing, because they each involve rolling a d20, adding any modifiers, and comparing the total to a Difficulty Class, and they’re all subject to advantage and disadvantage. In short, they share the same procedure for determining success or failure.

Honestly, it's hard to see why there's a distinction if they follow the same procedure. I suppose they want to avoid unintended consequences of making them the same and then finding that certain abilities/powers/spells/magic effects that affect one (either attack rolls/saves/or ability checks) breaks the other.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Honestly, it's hard to see why there's a distinction if they follow the same procedure. I suppose they want to avoid unintended consequences of making them the same and then finding that certain abilities/powers/spells/magic effects that affect one (either attack rolls/saves/or ability checks) breaks the other.
I'm just grateful they didn't pile on with a "social interaction" roll that involves a d20 + modifiers but isn't an ability check... :p
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Well knock me down with a feather: The Ability Check | Dungeons & Dragons

Are attack rolls and saving throws basically specialized ability checks? They aren’t. It’s easy to mistake the three rolls as three faces of the same thing, because they each involve rolling a d20, adding any modifiers, and comparing the total to a Difficulty Class, and they’re all subject to advantage and disadvantage. In short, they share the same procedure for determining success or failure.


Apologies @Maxperson :) But I still think the attack roll is a special ability check within the combat action economy which is why things like JOAT are limited to that. But I can't really sustain my position in the face of the official edict WotC. But I will stick to my guns about adjudicating actions outside of combat. And an assassin with no outside pressure will make their shot. :)
I suspect they started with "ability check is everything".

But there is a price difference.

Ability checks are cheaper to get a bonus on than Attacks, which are cheaper to get a bonus on than Saving Throws, generally.

Generally, the consequences of a saving throw failure are greater than being hit, which is greater than failing an ability check.

There is a 2nd level hour-long concentration spell that upcasts to +1 target per level that gives advantage on all ability checks (on one stat). Doing the same for attacks or saving throws would be much, much better.
 
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Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
That's exactly how surprise works. If you are aware of the threat, you are not surprised.

"The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter"

As you can see from the bolded sections, awareness or lack thereof is the key to surprise.
I’m pretty sure @Flamestrike was saying that there’s no such thing as a surprise round in 5E.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Because it can give the strange result that the target is seemingly responding to an attack that hasn't yet happened that he has no way of knowing about.
When I was a teen I was taking a shortcut behind some apartment buildings near where I lived. I was lost in thought and didn't notice my friend. He noticed me, though. He decided it would be funny to hide behind a wall and jump out at me. Well, he did and before he could say anything and before it registered with me who he even was, I punched him in the face.

He jumped out in surprise and I won initiative, getting off a reaction.

Just because you declared the attack and lost initiative, doesn't mean you didn't move your body at all in prep for the attack and give away your existence and position.

P.S. my friend never tried jumping out at me ever again. :p
 

The player not the character rolls initiative. Rolling initiative means that the player is not surprised but that does not mean that his character isn't. Also, rolling high initiative is not rolling high on a perception check to perceive a threat.
 


That said, if I thought the outcome of this wasn't uncertain, then, yup, better grab a new character sheet. The fundamental play loop of the game remains unchanged: it is the GM's authority to decide if player actions declarations succeed, fail, or are uncertain.

He's a 5th level Fighter with 50 odd hit points (who only dies at 0 HP when 50 or more damage remains, or he fails 3 death saves).

The assassin needs to:

1) Hit the Fighter (with advantage most likely) against the Fighters AC. Likely but not certain.
2) Deal enough damage to kill the fighter against those HP, or at least reduce the Fighter to 0 HP in order to finish the job off once he's at 0 HP. Not certain.

The outcome of a hostile action against a PC (or anyone for that matter) is almost never 'certain'. Unless we're dealing with an NPC that can 'auto hit' somehow and 'auto kill' with the amount of damage he deals against the PCs HP, it's not certain. Not even close to certain.
 

The argument being that if they are able to Hide during combat then they can surprise their target. This is just not how I see the design intent of this rule.

That's because that's not the design intent of this rule. Crawford states as much expressly in the video I posted above.
 

In my opinion the case of a single assasin attacking a single completely unaware target from hiding is definitely a situation where following the initiative and surprise rules can give a very counter-intuitive result,

Only if you narrate it that way.

Try narrating it differently, and you get a very intuitive result.
 

Dice are doubled in a critical, static bonuses aren't.

Seems to me the crux of the issue here is the desire for the Assassin to use their Assassinate on all surprise rounds.

% chance of stealth x % chance of winning initiative x % chance of actually hitting = too small a chance of having fun?

[Edit] Expertise, then Reliable Talent take care of the % chance of stealth. A Dex 16 Assassin 11 with Expertise in Stealth would roll minimum stealth 21. That's automatic surprise v a lot. Stealth gives a good % chance of hitting, so, that's not the problem.

Ah, initiative.

The Rogue-Assassin has no feature that boosts initiative checks unlike the Champion or Barbarian. Dex 20 gives a nice +5, but the spread of the D20 and lots of monsters making the check means you won't always beat them all. In fact even with good Dex you're winning only 60-70% of the time.

So it then comes down to whether the Assassinate damage pay-off equals the relative rarity of pulling it off. Sounds like some players think not.
There is the Alert feat, which gives a +5 to initiative rolls, but that pushes +5 dex to level 10 with point-buy, so it's a half-answer.

The formula you gave is basically the issue with the Assassin: there's too many random failure points for what should be a signature ability.
 

There is the Alert feat, which gives a +5 to initiative rolls, but that pushes +5 dex to level 10 with point-buy, so it's a half-answer.

The formula you gave is basically the issue with the Assassin: there's too many random failure points for what should be a signature ability.

Compare to what the Thief gets at 3rd level.

I mean the Assassin is already getting advantage on the 1st round of every combat against creatures that havent acted yet. Thats pretty awesome on its own.

An autocritting ability? I mean that's gnarly as heck man. It should be hard to pull off.

Personally I just give my assasins 3+ levels of Gloomstalker ranger. +Wis to Initiative, invisibility in Darkness, great spells (pass without trace, hunters mark), darkvision, and extra movement AND attack in the 1st round of combat, that deals extra damage (all likely with advantage and autocritting thanks to Assassin).

Add in Alert, and your Assassin is a killing machine who never goes last.
 


Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The player not the character rolls initiative. Rolling initiative means that the player is not surprised but that does not mean that his character isn't. Also, rolling high initiative is not rolling high on a perception check to perceive a threat.
Except that you are specifically rolling to see if the character, not the player, is surprised.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
You can always narrate away rules nonsense, but I prefer not to. It's the wrong way to use narration IMO.
It's not rules nonsense, it's literally using the application of the rules as narrative.

Hit points also describes luck, waking up in the nick of time before an assassin fatally wounds you is lucky, which is drained, represented by your loss in HP.

A critical hit is a direct attack, though. You do get hit, but it wasn't enough to seriously injure you, if it did, you'd be unconscious with 0 hp, because that's what dropping to 0hp means.

You're surprised, so you were unable to do anything else, focusing your full efforts avoiding the deadly strike. If you rolled initiative before the rogue, you were able to move fast enough to have a split-second advanced reaction. If you have the means to use it (shield/parry), then you probably will. If you don't, you aren't disciplined enough in the right spells or martial training in order to take advantage of this split-second. You do use it to keep the rogue from critting you, though.
 

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