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Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Running Exploration

Surprise Attacks

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 21
Page 499 of the Core Rulebook covers the mechanics of how surprise attacks occur while PCs rest. Such surprise attacks should be used sparingly, even in dangerous areas. The fact that PCs are in a group scares away most animals and setting a watch can deter even more attackers. Surprise attacks are most likely if the PCs did something in advance that would lead to the ambush. For instance, they might be ambushed by bandits if they were flaunting their wealth or showing off expensive items earlier in the session, or they might be counterattacked by enemies if they attack the enemies first, only to retreat to rest. If the PCs set up camp hastily and decide not to set a watch, they might be in trouble if they’re attacked. This should happen only in cases of extreme sloppiness, since if you take advantage of minor lapses, you might end up with a group that repeatedly spends an inordinate amount of time describing all their camping preparation to keep it from happening again. It’s usually better to ask the PCs if they’re setting up watches, rather than assume that their silence on the issue means they aren’t.