Although hardy adventurers all, no character can cover or deny the momentary paralysis or the slack-jawed inability to immediately absorb the nature of a sudden change in situation and react in a timely fashion when Fate throws a completely unexpected curve-ball. Ambushes can rain sudden death down upon the PC’s heads when least expected, catching them completely off-guard, Surprising them into temporary confusion, indecision and inaction, just as the PC’s can use the same tactic to temporarily immobilize and sow confusion among their enemies, to deadly effect if desired.

Everyone is vulnerable to sudden changes in their circumstances, to being Surprised. The PC’s are no exception, nor are their foes when the PC’s take the time and care to arrange a Surprise for them.

Surprise provides the one wielding it with a powerful edge in resolving a conflict to his own advantage, just as it does in the Real World. Wearing armor robs one of the restorative power of sleep, so Surprising opponents around their home hearth while they are vulnerable turns creates an advantage most likely to yield a swift victory, whatever the goal – similarly getting the drop on them while they are asleep.

The conditions of Surprise can occur any time one party is unaware of a threat (generally due to the use of Stealth skills) when that threat is then revealed or launched at them by means of any sudden, dramatic or explosive force or timing. An exploding ball of Wizard’s fire suddenly appearing in the midst of a foe’s camp as they relax in their shirtsleeves before supper is certainly sufficient to create Surprise, as well as deadly mayhem, and just as much so a Blinding Flash or Thunderclap, or any magick of a similar sudden and explosive nature. A sudden Flock of flaming arrows or the beginning of a continuous Arrow Storm out of the sky would cause a similar stir, even though not quite so flashy (but almost). A handful of arrows striking suddenly from out of nowhere from the hands of those hidden all around is easily as effective, though perhaps not quite as deadly.

Surprise is not always assumed to have been achieved, however. When one party of beings plots to Surprise another, there is an organic element, and the need for a Contested roll between the Stealth skills of the aggressors and the Perception skills of the erstwhile victims. The more Savvy and in-tune the targets (the higher their Perception SL’s), the more difficult they are to get the drop on. This applies just as much to the predator in hiding waiting to spring down from above, or to snatch up the hindmost from the group as they make their way through the wilderness. The concept of “marching order” (the order in which the PC’s are walking, and how many abreast, when the path or road restricts them) has a definite impact and, when the environs are dark, who is holding the light and where in the marching order they are located.

This is not the case with set mechanical traps, as discussed in the passage “Dealing with Traps”. Because there is no organic element to potentially give anything away, Surprise is always assumed to have been achieved when mechanical traps are triggered. Even if the characters have recognized scattered clues to the fact of a trap’s presence doesn’t mean they have any idea of the manner in which the trap functions, where or how or in what manner it strikes or with how much force. Only upon having first identified a trap’s mechanism and determined its purpose might Surprise be mitigated when it gets tripped, and then likely only for the character who has located and identified the trap. Like getting hit from behind by a successfully Stealthy foe, there is no way for a character to anticipate where, how or how fast or hard the blow falls when there is no warning.

Where the Surprise hinges on some sort of ruse, however, as in the case of hidden foes lying in wait in the bushes to spring an ambush, or a prisoner who is secretly armed and using his Player skill to convince his captors of his meek compliance to lull them into a false sense of security before he strikes, the target must be determined to have fallen for the ruse by means of a Contested Player/CHM check vs. the captor’s Perception/AWA before he can be effectively Surprised.

The same is true of the plastered-over pit trap in the “Dealing with Traps” passage, except the roll is simple and not Contested. Where the trap relies on a Glamourie to catch the intrepid victims unawares, a Contested Perception/AWA check is allowed, normally (as explained in the rules on resisting Glamours) but, if failed, Surprise is guaranteed.

Establishing this condition usually depends on the target(s) of the ruse failing to make successful Savvy or Sentry Perception skill or AWA Contested Rolls vs. the Stealth or Player and/or Silver Tongue skills of those who would surprise them, or the skill of a craftsman responsible in the case of the pit trap example. Unable to pierce the illusion created for them, they cannot help but be taken in and fall for the trap.

It is also quite possible that by happenstance two parties may stumble upon one another completely by chance and the GM may determine that ALL on both sides are Surprised. In such an event, the degree of Surprise must be determined in order that the rate at which each recovers can be found, and the encountered pursued to whatever conclusion each side finds most beneficial. Perhaps BOTH sides end up beating a hasty retreat in order to regroup.

All practitioners of magick, regardless of trade are allowed to add their greatest Spirit Skill SL to their AV for making checks vs. Surprise. They are used to listening to the cues provided by their spiritual senses.


The DV for this check starts with the DV for the AWA check prior, according to the Stealth skill of the perpetrators, and to it is added the greatest CHM att. mod. and HRT att, mod. among those springing the Surprise, the number of creatures or beings swooping down/springing out at them, plus one per point by which the (modified) STA of the largest is greater than 20ANDminus one per point by which the STA of the smallest is below 20.For concealed traps, the craftsman’s AV at doing so with his craft provides the DV for the check.


When a Surprise is triggered, the GM should already be marking tactical time, counting that act as the COMPLETION of the action for the CS.

  • IF the aggressor(s) is allowed more than one action in the first CS, springing the Surprise counts as the conclusion of the first action(s) for the CS.


Should a PC express reservations or suspicions about the situation and its true nature as he moves into it, but indicates a “wait and see” approach, a willingness to go forward come-what-may, the GM should allow a (trade SL) bonus to his side of the Contested roll, and for any other PC’s that actively and verbally state their agreement with that character.Despite their wariness, they cannot know what is in store for them even if they figure out an ambush of some kind awaits – not who, not what, not how many or how armed and armored.


Surprise can create a mixed bag of temporary restrictions depending on the results of the dice for each member of the party being Surprised. Different characters may be Surprised to different degrees, or not really Surprised at all.

  • IF the target succeeds in winning the Contested roll and the aggressor fails his roll (or simple roll succeeds vs. a mechanical trap) OR both sides fail regardless of comparative degree, conflict is joined as if both parties just met normally on the field, as if no attempt were ever made at Surprise.
  • IF both make their rolls, but the target(s) makes his Surprise roll by a greater margin than the aggressors(s), he is NOT Surprised to any appreciable extent, and is free to respond without penalty as desired in the CS immediately following that in which the Surprise was launched or revealed, according to his Initiative roll and his resulting place on the GM’s Initiative Roster, normally.

In this case, the aggressor(s) springing the Surprise only gets that first CS’s action against the target(s). Because the target(s) is not overwhelmed by the Surprise he may defend normally, but may not initiate actions of his own until he receives the Initiative to do so in the following CS, normally.

  • IF both parties succeed in the Contested Roll, but the aggressors make their roll by a wider margin, the target is only temporarily Surprised, effectively Stunned and unable to initiate any constructive, original actions of his own, only able to defend and move in a defensive manner, as previously described, BUT only for one CS following that in which the Surprise was launched.

At the beginning of the second CS immediately following that in which the Surprise was launched or revealed, the target is allowed to act again normally, according to his Initiative roll and his resulting place on the GM’s Initiative Roster.

When the (Contested) Perception/AWA Roll is failed or beaten, the manner in which it is missed defines the degree to which they target(s) is Surprised.

  • IF the aggressors succeed in winning the Contested roll and the target fails his roll (or simple roll fails vs. a mechanical trap), the target is considered overwhelmed, to the point where he is effectively Stunned and unable to initiate any constructive, original actions of his own, only able to defend and move in a defensive manner, especially to back away directly opposite of the direction from which he is threatened and seek escape from the known enemies and threats with which he is confronted so suddenly.


Add the amount by which the aggressor’s roll succeeded to the amount by which the target’s roll was failed Divide by 10 (round to the nearest whole number, minimum 1).The result is the number of CS’s for which this target suffers this state, following the CS in which the aggressors launched the actions resulting in Surprise.For example, if the aggressor beat his target number by 10 and the target missed his by 5, the total of 15, divided by 10 = 1.5, which rounds up to 2 CS’s in duration in Stun.


The character’s ability to defend himself or to successfully perform any maneuver in his own defense or in pursuing what retreat he can muster, his AV’s to Dodge, Block, Parry or make any other sort of defensive maneuver, and the DV that AV provides his enemies for their Contested Rolls to hit him are penalize by the original sum of the differences in the rolls, i.e., 15 in the example above for the 2 CS’s indicated.

The character’s AV for any Perception/AWA checks required for the character to recognize any new danger approaching, especially from the Sides or the Rear Flanks, suffers the same penalty, i.e., 15 in the example previous. Should a threat approach a character that is Surprised to this degree from the Rear Flanks, a warning must be provided for him to be allowed a check to turn and recognize any threat(s) approaching from the Rear, but still ultimately requiring a Perception/AWA check under the same penalty.

  • IF the check is successful, the character that is so overwhelmed must turn in such a manner that he can keep both threats in his field of vision (effectively from within the arc of one Side to the other in his Fields of Approach).

After the CS’s of Stun have passed, each target so Surprised is allowed a HRT check to recover vs. [(DV against which the Surprise check was originally failed) ÷ 2] to recover fully and join the fray or retreat in earnest or, failing again, to be able to again make constructive original actions, but with the same Stunned penalties.

The Stunned state resulting from failing the HRT check lasts for [(DV against which the Surprise check was originally failed) ÷ 10] in CS’s, with the penalty to all action AV’s due to being Stunned waning by one (1) point every CS. After this time has passed, each Surprised character so affected recovers fully, able to rejoin the fray or retreat in earnest.

Against those who are truly bound by Surprise, the opposing party who is inclined to do so may make whatever actions against them they desire, taking the best advantage possible of the penalties under which the target(s) is laboring under while they last.