In this section, the new player is introduced to the finer aspects of an encounter: Surprise, Initiative, Pursuit and Evasion, and the Combat Sequence. And all in just one page.
Surprise - What it means to be surprised or to surprise monsters is explained, with examples referencing back to the starter adventure. As we know, both sides roll a d6, with surprise happening on a 1 or 2. If you're surprised, you get to do nothing while the other side may talk, attack, run away, etc. If the other guys are surprised, you can do the same. And if both sides are surprised, both sides stand gawking for a few seconds before anyone does anything.
There are two points of interest in this section.
1. Confirmation of the idea that the surprise roll can cover as a 'stealth' roll for the party.
There is more to an encounter than just walking into a room and seeing a monster. For example, you might have sneaked up on the creature - or it might have sneaked up on you! (p. 58)This idea is further supported later in many monster entries, where creatures with natural camouflage or sneakiness are given greater chances to surprise. Anyway, yes, according to the rules, Fighters, Clerics, Magic-Users and demi-humans CAN sneak up on someone. They've got a 1 in 3 chance to do it, too.
2. Did Frank intend for surprise to work like it does in AD&D? He's admitted many times on Dragonsfoot that he has always preferred AD&D as a rule-set. The fourth paragraph of the first column begins in this way:
In group adventures, you roll to see who is surprised, and by how much. (p. 58, emphasis added)By the rest of the rules, surprise never lasts longer than one round. Yet this appears to imply that it could last longer (as it can in AD&D). Perhaps Frank intended to do it the AD&D way, then changed his mind (or Gary decided it was too complex for the simpler version?) but this sentence didn't get fixed.
Initiative - Who goes first? Both sides roll a d6 and the higher number wins, simultaneous action on ties! Simple, right?
Again, while the rules explicitly state that you can do anything you want on your initiative, including talking to the monsters (and that monsters will usually either talk or fight), it also implies that by rolling for initiative you are entering combat. At least that's the impression I got from the rules as a kid. And I got into D&D before I was heavy into video games, so the "monsters just attack" trope of NES games wasn't yet clouding my judgment.
Reading it now, I see how it says to roll initiative at the beginning of an encounter to see who gets to do something first, separate from the combat sequence. In my experience, players usually get to do what they want first when encountering monsters. Initiative on first contact is a good way to shake things up, and could keep players on their toes as a monster or group of them get to decide to talk, attack, run away or wait.
Pursuit and Evasion - If one side runs and the other decides to follow, use these rules. The faster side gets away if they know where they are going. If you're running away and the other side is faster (or knows where it is going and you don't), then it's suggested to drop some food or treasure that the monsters might stop to pick up. This gives a 50% chance of evading the pursuer. Nice and simple.
|One of my favorite pictures in the book.|
Roll for initiative
Winning side acts
- Morale Check (monsters/NPCs only)
- Missile Fire
- Melee Combat
DM adjudicates any special cases (retreats, spell effects, etc.) as necessary
Rinse and Repeat as needed
In actual play I've tried to keep to this order before, but often it's easiest just to go around the table and have everyone say what they will do in any order.