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Stealth in D&D
In the past, the separation of the thief skills Hide in Shadows and Move Silently has always annoyed me. Why should I have two different skills for sneaking up on someone? Must I roll both, in order to determine if my target first can see me, and second can hear me? I much preferred systems that rolled these skills into a single stealth mechanic.

However, if you look carefully, most descriptions of Hide in Shadows specifically mention that the thief must remain motionless to hide in such a way. I think this is the give-away of the real difference between these two skills. It's not auditory vs. visual, but rather moving vs. stationary.

Hide in Shadows, I believe, is meant to allow the thief to take up a hidden position, even though his target may eventually look directly at said position. It is the mechanic for the lay-in-wait ambush. The thief hides himself, waits for his target to come by, and then jumps out at him (or simply lets him pass before moving on to other business.)

Move Silently, on the other hand, is for when the target is already unaware of the thief, and the thief wishes to get closer to the target while still remaining undetected. This is the skill for your stalking horse manuevres. Or if you're already hidden in the shadows, and that pesky target refuses to come anywhere near you. The thief waits for the target's back to be turned, or distracts him by having a friendly fighter type engage him in combat, then sneaks up behind him and attacks.

These thoughts came to me after a recent session where the thief player twice tried the classic stalking horse maneuvre on an enemy that was already engaged with one of the other party members. In both cases I decided it would take a round for the thief to position himself advantageously such that he could jump out at the target on the following round. I'm not sure if I was gonig to require a Hide in Shadows roll, as in both cases the target was dead by the next round.

In future, I think I will rule such cases like this: The thief must make a Move Silently roll followed by an attack roll. If both succeed, he is allowed to use the backstab mechanic on his target. If the Move Silently fails, then the target notices the thief too late for the thief to course correct, and the attack is treated as a standard attack. In either case, the thief is now considered in melee combat with the target (presuming the target is still alive), and no more backstabbing can be attempted.
January 15th, 2010 - 08:00 am | Comments (2) | PERMALINK

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