Multiple Stealthy Characters

Talk about any rules that don't directly fall under personal combat
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higgins
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Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by higgins » 12 May 2014, 06:38

Marras in [url=http://www.grandheresyforums.com/viewtopic.php?p=329#p329]another thread[/url] wrote:Usually stealth scenes are pretty solitary scenes. You actually play solo at these times and while it is great for the player it sucks for the rest of the party. Obviously that is not a problem with video games :)

In modern (or futuristic) RPGs we have used stealth as a group like when we infiltrated a Russian helicopter base in Twilight:2000 game. It was great but of course someone is bound to botch a roll at some point and then it's time improvise and hope you reach your objective(s) before having to retreat. I have also enjoyed reading these infiltration scenes in books (both in fiction and in spec ops missions that have been written).
You've touched upon one of my major role-playing pet peeves -- stealth scenes involving multiple characters.

Let's say we have three characters trying sneak in somewhere. Two roll awesome and one just... has no skill, rolls bad, etc. That character should be somewhat able to follow the lead of the two others but... That's not how games work. More likely than not, the whole party will be detected.

Basically I'm imagining the tribal camo stealth scene from Conan the Barbarian, but where Valeria just happens to rolls bad while infiltrating and... we skip that all creepy cannibalistic cult exposition, going straight to combat. Which would suck. And even if it didn't mean instant failure, the whole scene would drag on about her crappy stealth... which isn't how fiction works.

Another example is The Fellowship of the Ring movie, where Merry and Pippin keep constantly breaking stealth. They make the fire that attracts the Nazguls, they throw the rocks into the lake and disturb the Watcher in the Water and then cause that whole Moria battle with the skeleton, chain and a bucket.

Now, while one could argue that these actions were the narrative effects of their crappy rolls or non-existent skill... I don't really buy that. Instead, it feels to me more like they had the Stereotyped flaw and the Narrator simply Tempted them into playing up their food-oriented, playful and curious nature.

To prove that, all hobbits are actually pretty good when actual stealth is sorely needed, a'la them all hiding under that tree root as the Nazgul sniffs the fresh forest breeze above them. (Narrator: "C'mon, you're a Stereotyped hobbit. It's totally appropriate to rip a fart right now." Pippin: "No way! Keep your damn points." Merry: "Yeah, screw you... This is serious.")

As such, I think with multiple characters on the line... failure and detection should be more about Flaws and less about dice rolls.

Thoughts?
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Marras
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 12 May 2014, 07:07

To me failed stealth rolls mean that character managed to snap that dry twig, scare a local animal or things like that. Making fires and throwing stones are part of the character flaws and maybe lack of skill. Latter things are lack of fieldcraft, things like that are just going to be done. Characters with skill and presence of mind might still fail, of course but it is just bad luck or stumbling to a boobytrap.

In my own game system I have this help system, where better characters can contribute part of their skill to help their less skilled friend so the less than stealthy character can still come along and contribute. This is just a purely mechanical thing but this should also involve roleplaying and planning. Maybe one of the stealthier characters recons the route first and when the route is clear he gives the signal and less sneaky character can follow with easier task roll (if it is even necessary). In any case better skilled characters guide less skilled characters.

Similar approach can be applied to climbing, too where one character climbs ahead and connects the rope to make climbing for less skilled easier.

Of course in a game where thief like approach is commonplace some basic stealth is probably quite common skill.

But yes, stealth scenes are brutal. It can easily lead to failure if all of the team is not good at sneaking. But system like above can make steal scenes involving multiple characters possible. It also creates interesting situations where (using D&D terminology here) thieves have to make extra effort to guide fighters and others through hostile territory when usually fighters tend to shine and help thieves in combat scenes.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by hector » 12 May 2014, 14:59

This is why a failed stealth roll shouldn't automatically screw things up for everyone. Personally, I'd probably treat stealth rolls as moving quietly rather than staying out of sight. I mean, if there's something opaque between you and them, then they can't see you. If there's nothing between you and them, they might, depending on lighting and suchlike. Stealth rolls might also come into play for judging whether it's dark enough to remain relatively unseen.

If a person fails a stealth roll to move quietly, then they make an audible sound. That doesn't mean they're instantly screwed; just that they're someone might, depending on the circumstances, come to investigate. As for a botch, well, I've never been a huge fan of botches in general. 99.99% of the time, a trained professional will not bugger things up near as badly as a botch would imply.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 13 May 2014, 07:33

I have only rarely used or even seen so exact map that shows everything in the area. There are bound to be small details (like shadows) that are not shown to players that can be used by characters to hide. That's why I would include hiding in stealth.

As for botch, I didn't actually mean a fumble, just a failure. Sorry about that, English is not my native language. But yes, actual fumbles might be much rarer in real life but those things create memorable strokes of bad luck or luck (in case of critical success). On the other hand the situations where normal PCs operate in are often very stressful causing just the stupidest things to happen even for professionals.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by higgins » 14 May 2014, 05:18

Marras wrote:In my own game system I have this help system, where better characters can contribute part of their skill to help their less skilled friend so the less than stealthy character can still come along and contribute.
Oh, absolutely. It'd be like the opening scene of Alatriste where they're infiltrating the enemey camp through cold water and Diego sticks his scarf into the Count's mouth to keep his teeth from chattering.
hector wrote:This is why a failed stealth roll shouldn't automatically screw things up for everyone.
I'm so glad to find community support for this concept. We'll be definitely exploring this avenue. :)
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 14 May 2014, 06:31

higgins wrote:
Marras wrote:In my own game system I have this help system, where better characters can contribute part of their skill to help their less skilled friend so the less than stealthy character can still come along and contribute.
Oh, absolutely. It'd be like the opening scene of Alatriste where they're infiltrating the enemey camp through cold water and Diego sticks his scarf into the Count's mouth to keep his teeth from chattering.
Exactly :)
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 01 Sep 2014, 07:48

I thought this a bit more.

While the common way to handle stealth for multiple characters where everyone makes the check and even one failure usually spells doom is exciting it is often also quite frustrating.

Maybe this could be handled by still everyone making the roll and then counting the successes and failures (depending on how the basic dice rolling mechanic handles this). This way for a party of 5 one failed roll is unlikely to spoil the stealth scene as you might say that others helped the character to outcome his failure even if the total outcome was not as good as it could have been. Perhaps one way could be to divide the successes rolled equally between all party members (provided they actually move together and use some sort of plan).
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by hector » 01 Sep 2014, 10:44

That actually does make sense - in part, it can also represent the more experienced sneaky people helping the less experienced to avoid obvious blunders.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Mozusuke » 01 Sep 2014, 15:12

This is probably heresy, but here goes. What about a 'dice loaning' mechanism? A character with 8 dice lends one of them to a character with only 2, meaning they now have 7 and 3 for this specific roll. This represents helping at the expense of being able to focus a little less on one's own performance. But it still leaves us with clarity on who made the noise! Rules could limit how many dice can be loaned.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 01 Sep 2014, 16:51

Without really knowing principles behind game design I like the idea of dice loaning. It really visualises who is helping who and how well everyone is doing.

Still, it doesn't help in situations where one failed roll messes everything up for everyone else.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by higgins » 02 Sep 2014, 00:48

I like the concept of distributing dice or successes, but... the idea of creating a unique sub-system JUST for dealing with the specific circumstance of "group stealth tests" clearly won't fly if we want to keep a level of consistency.

So, let's take another tack on this.

Specifically, I mean the fact that there were no Spot checks in early D&D.

Now, I'm not suggesting we'd kick perception roll or stealth out of 'Bastards completely, but... what if we applied the "group test" concept more broadly? Like... taking the following assumption:

"If multiple players at the table are rolling the same Skill individually, simultaneously and for the same reason, you're doing it wrong."

So, we would skip over two guys cooperating to staunch bleeding with the "individual" clause, but once the result of individual rolls would stand on their own, we would resolve the scene completely differently. Not yet sure how, but what would such an approach really affect?

Stealth would be one thing, for sure. Ambush detection would be another. Rummaging a room. Characters climbing, swimming, long-distance running...

Don't really know if the idea has any merit or not, but I'm throwing the general concept around here for feedback. Feel free to add to it or shoot the whole thing down.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 02 Sep 2014, 03:07

higgins wrote:I like the concept of distributing dice or successes, but... the idea of creating a unique sub-system JUST for dealing with the specific circumstance of "group stealth tests" clearly won't fly if we want to keep a level of consistency.
True, it is not wise to make this rule just for a group stealth but as something that can be used in other mechanically similar situations as well. Another common example that comes to mind is climbing. While one failing his climbing roll might be a disaster for just that character instead of all of them in a situation like that others can still help eachother.
Now, I'm not suggesting we'd kick perception roll or stealth out of 'Bastards completely, but... what if we applied the "group test" concept more broadly? Like... taking the following assumption:

"If multiple players at the table are rolling the same Skill individually, simultaneously and for the same reason, you're doing it wrong."

So, we would skip over two guys cooperating to staunch bleeding with the "individual" clause, but once the result of individual rolls would stand on their own, we would resolve the scene completely differently. Not yet sure how, but what would such an approach really affect?

Stealth would be one thing, for sure. Ambush detection would be another. Rummaging a room. Characters climbing, swimming, long-distance running...

Don't really know if the idea has any merit or not, but I'm throwing the general concept around here for feedback. Feel free to add to it or shoot the whole thing down.
The idea has some merit as often less dice rolling means a faster game. Still, most players seem to like to roll dice as it sort of feels like being more in charge of your own fate instead of just going with what the other player rolled.

I see 3 different cases in your examples (using traditional systems).

1) Group stealth is a situation where each and everyone have to succeed for the group to succeed.

2) Group first aid and ambush detection for example are situations where you only need one character to succeed for the group to succeed.

3) Swimming and endurance running are good examples of situations where every character is for himself. Each failure fails that character but does not directly affect others.

I mentioned these cases as they change the probabilities of the group success. Case 1 is the worst as everyone has to succeed. Case 2 is easiest as even one success out of every participant means success for everyone. Case 3 is a mixed bag and really depends on the situation.

Even if you go with only one roll for the party, I might suggest to divide the dice rolling between all players (as this is possible with dice pool system) to keep everyone feel like really contributing to task.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by higgins » 02 Sep 2014, 03:54

Marras wrote:2) Group first aid and ambush detection for example are situations where you only need one character to succeed for the group to succeed.
The first aid really falls under teamwork rules. What this means is that everyone gets a roll, and the one with most successes can re-roll all the other successes as extra dice to boost his own success rating. So, despite all the characters failing individually, their combined efforts might still succeed. Keeping an eye open for an ambush could also fall under these rules, if each character is observing their assigned sector (forward left, etc).

This won't probably change your thinking on the matter, but I'm just pointing it out.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by Marras » 02 Sep 2014, 05:22

I can see why restriction on teamwork for ambush detection should work like this. Actually I really like a mechanic for encouraging the use of real world tactics, in this case assigning zones for each member of a team.

Now that you put it this way I can see that case 2 can be further divided to two separate cases.

If I understood how teamwork rules work, I like at least the idea.
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Re: Multiple Stealthy Characters

Post by higgins » 02 Sep 2014, 06:04

Marras wrote:If I understood how teamwork rules work, I like at least the idea.
Well, an example can't hurt.

Let's say three characters are trying to push a heavily laden boat from the beach to open water as they are chased by a band of angry mercenaries. The narrator decides that the task will require 4 successes, but the characters roll 3, 2 and 2, effectively making it a failure... however, having made the effort not individually, but as a team, the guy with 3 successes can roll (2+2) four additional dice. Those four roll up as 3 additional successes and with a total net of 6, the boat is easily pushed to the sea.
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