Group Stealth

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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thirtythr33
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Group Stealth

Post by thirtythr33 » 13 Oct 2015, 04:37

I don't really know this forums policy concerning thread necromancy, so I'll continue the long dead thread here since I felt I had something to contribute if this wasn't already resolved.

I ran a thieves world game so I actually spent a pretty large amount of time trying to figure out how to crack solo and team Stealth, and I came up with a few things I hadn't ever seen represented in a roleplaying game before.

I'm a big fan of the Burning Wheel philosophy that you don't roll twice for the same action... But when I first tried implementing it, it meant the players always knew whether they were going to pull off a successful heist from the very first guard and I wasn't going to be able to catch the players with their hand in the cookie jar without making them reroll stealth. So instead, I just let them get past the first few guards no roll required. I waited until a critical time, which might even be on their way out, to make the single opposed stealth vs perception roll. This worked for a while for me but sometimes it felt like I was leading the players into a loaded trap before springing it.

Then I came up with the idea of a randomized opposed roll. For example, we have 4 players trying to sneak past 4 guards paroling throughout the castle. At the start of the sequence I would roll a 1d4 for the players and a 1d4 for the guards. Use different dice for different group sizes, obviously. Whoever got rolled up was the "team representative" and would make their opposed stealth vs perception against eachother when the time came; no modifiers, no helping, no group rolls. The camera effectively zooms in on these two individuals at the critical make or break moment.

In the case of infiltrating past 4 guards, the number I rolled was indicative of ordering. if I rolled a 3 it told me the representative player would be rolling against the 3rd guard, when they get there. Sometimes they would be opposed at the gate, sometimes not until they were deep in the lair. If they got busted, this tells me how many of the guards had been bypassed and how many they would still need to fight. I would mix it up and assign "assassination target" or "captain of the guard" to specific numbers too when they had different perception skills.

I preferred doing this over a true "team roll" because it told me who was the noisy character that botched it for everyone and it wasn't always the same person. It doesn't automatically result in mission failure either, it just says "player X got spotted by guard Y". They could still murder the guard quietly, talk their way out of it or whatever.

Mechanically, the players still don't want to bring the clumsy fighter, just in case he gets chosen to be their team representative, but it doesn't automatically blow it every time if he comes. It basically gives each team the "average" of the stealth of the party without having to do a whole bunch of math.

I never tried it with anything other than stealth vs perception, but thinking on it now I don't see why it couldn't also be applied to some other group rolls like chases, climbing or forced marches. It's basically applicable where you would be asking "what is the average skill of the group?" or "where is the weakest link?" as contrasted against the group pulling a boat example which is asking "what is the combined skill of the group?"

The simplest modification of your teamwork rules would be that for "cooperative" teams you nominate your representative and they get bonus dice equal to successes of the other members, and in "discordant" teams your representative is randomly determined or represented by the character with the LOWEST score, possibly allowing bonus dice from helping teammates.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Marras » 13 Oct 2015, 08:41

Sounds like something that could work, I can even envision how it is shown on TV :)

Still, I might go with yet another system based on a similar system to Bastard Points that I suggested on the assassination thread. I call them Heat Points in this case (yes, that's what they are going to be called in Infinity RPG).

Unlike Bastard Points Heat Points don't allow snipers etc. for those you would still need BPs. Heat Points would allow GM to summon a guard or servant that PCs weren't expecting, etc. that forces characters to act immediately. Even the appearance of a guard doesn't mean the job is botched but it gets more complicated.

Heat Points age generated by failed stealth, lock picking etc. rolls. Basically by anything that can cause unwanted attention. On the other hand players can bleed those points from GM by causing distractions and when guards go and check it out the HP pool gets lower (at least for a while).

Still, the main thing is that before Heat Points are spent, even stealth rolls are not rolled against observation but rather against more abstract Intrusion Value. For example getting across a courtyard unnoticed is ob3 (from IV of 3). All PCs make their rolls. The sneakiest rolls 6 successes, so he can distribute the excess successes to those who failed their rolls. Or however it best works in BoB rules.

This way players can see the raising threat of being discovered maybe even making them act even more cautiously thus adding to roleplaying. The GM doesn't have to design the whole job too well, only a very rough sketch of the place suffices with even exact location and number of guards is only color. Obviously when HP generated guards gets to the scene it's all about bluffing, hiding or using that trusty blade.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Agamemnon » 13 Oct 2015, 17:46

I wasn't sure I wanted to say anything just yet, but since Marras basically hit the nail on the head:

We already have a mechanic in-game called "group checks." When everyone involved is doing the same thing (say, climbing a wall together or everyone is trying to sneak past the guards), everyone makes their roll separately against the obstacle or opposed roll. Individuals can then share their successes among other people provided they can give a good explanation as to how they did so in-character.

If we're all sneaking past a guard, and my character was the dedicated stealth guy, I could give away my extra successes to help shore up other people's rolls - narrating it as me giving you instructions, telling you to follow my lead, etc etc. Maybe even that neat moment where you were about to step on a tripwire and I grab you at the last second.

That said, you can also opt out, for good or ill. If my stealth expert is a ruthless bastard, and you are about to get caught, I can opt out and simply let you get caught and be the distraction for my successful sneaking away.

In the complete reverse, I could also opt out after I've given my successes away. Say we were all cooperatively climbing a cliff-face and I roll well enough to succeed, but someone in the party rolls absolutely crap. I can give them any or all of my successes if I want. In the fiction, I see that person slipping, drop down.. Their harness is frayed, I snap my cables to them, yadda yadda. I give them enough successes to make it - but then I opt out. The group still collectively succeeds at the challenge - getting over the wall - but when you make it to the top, someone realizes "wait. where's Agamemnon?"

The same mechanic could be applied to a reaction roll to avoid being hit by a speeding car (stampeding animal, whatever) - allowing me a way within the game mechanics to pull off the classic "I push you out of the way and get hit myself" thing.

So with the same mechanical setup, you can either save the day, become a martyr, or be a complete asshole.

Also - I'm fine with thread necromancy.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Marras » 14 Oct 2015, 02:51

Agamemnon wrote: So with the same mechanical setup, you can either save the day, become a martyr, or be a complete asshole.
Nice! It never occurred to me that you could use all your successes to help others and thus sacrifice yourself. Sounds cool!
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Stempest » 14 Oct 2015, 08:18

I can't believe I have never heard of this kind of mechanic before, but it sounds great. I may have to steal this for all the games I run... *yoink*
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by higgins » 14 Oct 2015, 09:29

That's an outstanding mechanic, thirtythr33! I love it! :)

But as Agamemnon said, we have already mechanics in place that drive our choice-and-sacrifice based theme, so, I don't think we'll find use for it in 'Bastards. However, should we ever design anything OSR-flavored, that would surely be a prime candidate for group mechanics! Provided you don't mind, of course.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by thirtythr33 » 14 Oct 2015, 11:40

Thanks for the kind words higgins. Feel free to use or adapt this idea in any way you wish.

I really love that the mechanics of the dice donating directly makes implications to the fiction without the need of rules to make differentiation.

Is the idea to use this group roll once and let the result ride until the situation greatly change or is it to make multiple group rolls (say, once at each of the 4 patrolling guards) and have any failures lead to introduced complications instead of insta-defeat? Judging by Agamemnon's examples of rock climbers and speeding cars, it seems like the former.

Do the players know the obstacle number before they decide how to redistribute successes? If they do, this is always going to result in either 1) everyone succeeding or 2) 1 person martyring themselves. I can't imagine any scenarios where multiple people fail or anyone chooses to opt out selfishly unless the obstacle is secret. Speaking purely tactically and assuming there is always an in-fictions way to describe what you want to do of course. Introducing a "degrees of failure" mechanic would also disincentivize people casually martyring themselves too...
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Agamemnon » 14 Oct 2015, 15:40

thirtythr33 wrote:Thanks for the kind words higgins. Feel free to use or adapt this idea in any way you wish.
It is actually a pretty neat way to handle it. Like Higgins said, it might be a good one to steal for my OSR games. I got caught up in responding to Marras for the mechanic itself, and didn't get around to responding to how to actually run the scene.


thirtythr33 wrote:I really love that the mechanics of the dice donating directly makes implications to the fiction without the need of rules to make differentiation.

Is the idea to use this group roll once and let the result ride until the situation greatly change or is it to make multiple group rolls (say, once at each of the 4 patrolling guards) and have any failures lead to introduced complications instead of insta-defeat? Judging by Agamemnon's examples of rock climbers and speeding cars, it seems like the former.
'Bastards operates under the assumption that dice are never rolled unless something is on the line. One of the first rules you're introduced to in the book is the idea that success always gives some kind of benefit, and that failure always introduces some kind of complication. The story never hits a wall at "you failed, now what?" One way or another, once you've picked up the dice, circumstances are going to change.

We're big fans of Let it Ride, and use it quite a bit in our setup. How you decided to employ it depends on what the GM has in mind and how detailed you want to play out the scene. A single roll could handle an entire heist, or you can break things down to objectives: get up to and past the wall, get into the building, avoid the internal guards, whatever.

The one big tool we do have handy are "Opposed Rolls Over Time," which basically means that the players can make their roll once, and their results become the Ob that anyone else would test against. If the players make their roll against the chump guards outside and succeed with 4 total successes, any future guards who have to check against it will just make an ob4 test. The player's results stand, but it avoids the problem where the players getting past a recruit outside renders them invisible to the elite guards inside.

In practice, I'd roll for the first time they encounter a guard, and then not bother again until they encountered guards who had a better chance to spot them - either because the guards themselves have a bigger die pool, or some kind of advantage that the previous group didn't, the players are doing something that makes them more likely to get caught, etc.

If circumstances completely change, then the players need to re-roll their stealth as well.
thirtythr33 wrote:Do the players know the obstacle number before they decide how to redistribute successes? If they do, this is always going to result in either 1) everyone succeeding or 2) 1 person martyring themselves. I can't imagine any scenarios where multiple people fail or anyone chooses to opt out selfishly unless the obstacle is secret. Speaking purely tactically and assuming there is always an in-fictions way to describe what you want to do of course. Introducing a "degrees of failure" mechanic would also disincentivize people casually martyring themselves too...
Players always know the ob before they start moving successes around, so they aren't doing it blind. On the other hand, we do have escalating degrees of failure built in. The options then become "everyone suffers a light consequence and fails in what they were doing" vs "part of the group succeeds, and someone suffers some nasty consequences." So the question of sacrifice would depend on how important the goal is vs what you're willing to do to get it. Incidentally, that's also the theme of the whole game. The selfish angle comes in when the situation applies in reverse. What happens when the group has rolled relatively poorly, but the goal is way more important to you than anyone else, or just too important to let fail? The game is all about following your SAs.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Marras » 15 Oct 2015, 01:31

Thanks for the examples and further explanations! I can really see how this could work in play. I can even see how the character who keeps on going and leaves others behind is suddenly alone in the dark and gets a nasty surprise :twisted:
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by EinBein » 18 Oct 2015, 04:58

Neat thing. I used this method in a slightly different way in our Shadowrun sessions: instead of trading successes directly, the characters with an excess in successes were allowed to transfer their successes to extra dice for the less lucky characters.

This made it a bit less powerful and harder to decide how many dice were to be given to one character or the other.

In another variant, the mechanic could only grant re-rolls instead of extra dice. So the total amount is cupped by the absolute capability of the character the others try to help (a character with a total of three dice and one success in the initial test can only be given two re-rolls instead of five extra dice; this limit could be increased by available equipment modifiers like a rope granting extra dice and thus also extra re-rolls in the case of failures up to the modified total of initially used dice).

But of course, this is extra rules and extra tests in the end. Could be a lever of some sort.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Agamemnon » 18 Oct 2015, 14:43

EinBein wrote:Neat thing. I used this method in a slightly different way in our Shadowrun sessions: instead of trading successes directly, the characters with an excess in successes were allowed to transfer their successes to extra dice for the less lucky characters.

This made it a bit less powerful and harder to decide how many dice were to be given to one character or the other.

In another variant, the mechanic could only grant re-rolls instead of extra dice. So the total amount is cupped by the absolute capability of the character the others try to help (a character with a total of three dice and one success in the initial test can only be given two re-rolls instead of five extra dice; this limit could be increased by available equipment modifiers like a rope granting extra dice and thus also extra re-rolls in the case of failures up to the modified total of initially used dice).

But of course, this is extra rules and extra tests in the end. Could be a lever of some sort.
Funny story. Our original helping mechanic worked in a similar sort of way. Everyone would roll their dice together. Then you'd figure out who rolled highest. Then the other people could take their successes and hand them to that person to roll again, adding any new successes to the total.

It sounds simple enough in theory, but what we realized is that in practice, each person at the table was rolling between 4 and 10 dice+SAs. At the extreme end, if you've got a four-person group you could wind up in a situation where everyone was rolling 8-15 dice once (statistically getting 4-8 successes) then everyone else was passing off dice, resulting in a secondary roll of an additional 12-24 dice. You could easily create a situation where for a single test, you are rolling 80+ dice on a single test to yield 20 successes.

This seemed both like an excessive amount of rolling and threatened to break our difficulty scale, so we backed away from it to a degree.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by nemedeus » 24 Feb 2016, 10:56

Possibly relevant, spotted (again) on r/RPGdesign: link

In particular, this post:
ashlykos wrote:Black Seven has two statuses: Exposed, whether you're in cover, and Noticed, whether enemies know you're there. Positioning Actions can grant a status, failed rolls can remove it, and some things that require two actions let you do it in one if you Expose yourself.

Project: Dark is card-based where your current hand size is the target number NPCs need to detect you. Each turn you can play multiple cards for your action, but you only draw back one at the end of the turn. The number of cards in the action is the amount of Suspicion it generates, which makes NPCs start looking for you.
Going by what Agamemnon said in the Elemental Magic thread, Stealth may well be a candidate to be interpretated as a Proficiency with stealthy Maneuvers. The biggest hurdle i'm seeing off the top of my head is the Opposing Side's rules options -- how could "Anti-Stealth" Maneuvers even look like??
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by thirtythr33 » 25 Feb 2016, 01:16

A couple of ideas would be, Look Around, Stop and Listen, Look for Clues, Investigate, Call for Help, but they all feel contrived and gameified.

I'm not convinced any "anti stealth" maneuvers would be required. Being "stealth attacked" might very well have a static defense just as a magic system or archery system might. The tactics of the attack is going to come from the environment and context. Lighting, Cover, Positioning and Alertness of Target are going to change what Maneuver the attacker would have to use.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by Agamemnon » 25 Feb 2016, 03:47

This is an interesting line of discussion. If someone wanted to come up with a series of stealth maneuvers and a way to treat them like we treat melee, I'd be interested to see it. As it is though, we actually have a pretty decent setup with the way Full Contest runs - which is something like an extended skill check mechanic.
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Re: Group Stealth

Post by nemedeus » 25 Feb 2016, 06:57

If you remember, i had talked about utilizing card game mechanics in Roleplaying Games before. I hadn't heard of Project: Dark before encontering it in that Reddit Subject, and naturally, the whole idea appeals to me.

Damn, i have like, so many ideas for my own Fencing Card Game/RPG concept... if only i could sit down and create the cards already. I lack discipline. :c
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