Attacking from Stealth and Skulking Stances
Posted February 8, 2024
Prior to this revision, an attack you made while stealthed was considered a risky action, meaning you may be entitled to a check to remain hidden when you attack (or the enemy can check against you to reveal you). Moreover, the Swift tactic made it such that attacks with the tactic are not considered risky, meaning opponents were not entitled to a check to detect you.
Playtesting has revealed that PCs attacking without risk from stealth via Swift or even making risky attacks from stealth (where the PC has a high enough scores to reliably avoid detection) leads to video game-like narrative results. That is, we end up with situations where the PCs continue to attack from stealth with impunity, while NPCs stand around oblivious because the mechanics shortchange them, akin the dreaded "cardboard box" conundrum from Metal Gear Solid (to borrow a reference from our resident designer Courtney). While the core rules caution about the law of the fiction and afford the GM fiat to deal with these situations, we believe the onus shouldn't be on the GM to deal with mechanics that impose as much non-diegetic weight as these!
To combat this scenario, any attack you make from stealth now immediately negates your stealth score, and you become detected. The Swift tactic, instead of removing the risk from attacks you make that have the tactic, now makes it possible to check to maintain your stealth status for the first attack against an opponent only. This means that a Swift weapon, due to its speed and finesse, gives you a chance to preserve your skulking when you attack, but subsequent attacks with the weapon reveal you, in accordance with what would be expected from opponents who are actively being beset upon.
On Skulking Stances
Finally, there are a handful of active stances that confer near invisibility when acting stealthily: particularly Move Silently and Hide in Shadows. The design intent of these stances is for PCs to skulk—as in old school thieves, who sneak nearly supernaturally through extremely risky spaces. In order to preserve that intent, stances like these have been revised to include the below bolded reservation:
Years of skulking in darkness have turned you into a master of shadows. When using this stance, you are effectively invisible if you are least three-quarters obscured by darkness. Most checks to detect you automatically fail, unless the observer knows you are hidden and is using a different sense to detect you, per the rules of invisibility. If the GM requires a check to remain hidden, you may re-roll it if you fail. You cannot maintain this stance while engaged in combat.
Effectively, PCs using this stance can set up a surprise attack by skulking in the shadows, but once the attack is made, the jig is up and you're detected: you'll either need to retreat so you can re-establish a stealth score, or continue the combat in the open. The reservation helps to mitigate the "cardboard box" conundrum and preserve the integrity of the fiction.