Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Now THAT Was A Surprise...

I give and I give and I give...

Anyone wonder what's the point of breaking down a door? Or even picking a lock on a door?

I mean, if you're carving your way through a dungeon, leaving a trail of bodies behind you, are you really worried about subtlety? Why not put that spare hand axe/maul to good use and just hack the thing down.

The Moldvay Basic rules state dungeon doors MUST be forced to open. Or what? Or they don't open? Will my axe shatter if I try to hack down mouldering, rotting wood in some dingy dungeon?

[of course, the rules as written state a magic-user can't pick up a sword either...owch!..that's hot!]

Welp, time to add a new extrapolated from Moldvay Basic, page B23:

"A party will not surprise that monster if the attempt to open the door fails (even once!)."

From now on, a party that successfully opens a door on the first attempt will automatically achieve surprise.

How easy is that? Not only do I give PCs something to shoot for with that open doors roll (other than showing off how manly they are), I get to cut out an extra dice roll for myself.

Of course, some things still prevent critters on the other side from being surprised (like fighting a melee outside the door prior to the opening attempt), but that's only common sense. A roll of 1-2 on a six sided dice isn't any more or less "realistic;" it's simply a (fairly arbitrary) game mechanic.

A few extras:

- if a party successfully listens for critters, they are never surprised by monsters behind the door
- if the party fails to break the door the 1st attempt, monsters are never surprised...if the party also fails to listen, then the monsters will ALWAYS surprise the characters
- undead (except for ghouls), incorporeal creatures, and constructs are silent and make no noise to hear. However, they may or may not bother with trying to "surprise" a party based on their programming/orders or inclination.

Picking a locked door should accomplish a similar feat (achieving surprise)...the added benefit is there is still a door to close behind you if needed.
: )


  1. That... makes a lot of sense actually, and seems fair to everyone.

  2. I might have to give this a try (It might make Ruins and Ronin's Ogre class a little more loved as well.)

  3. Eh, those doors are important. Sometimes its nice to be able to lock them behind you, if something bigger and badder is chasing you. Or if you need to rest. Plus picking locks is quiet... combat dosen't necessairly make tons of noise if you can get it over fast enough.

    As for auto suprise if not listening.. I think if I was trying to bust a door open, I would just automatically assume there was hostiles behind it. Auto suprise perhaps not. Although, they are certainly able to be suprised from things coming up behind them while they're focused on the door.

  4. Nice article. The "stuck doors" mechanic reflect the fact that doors in damp places left with not much maintenance get a bit jammed. Hence the need for rolling, and the fact that monsters that live there don't need to roll as they know how to operate the doors already (or at least this is what's written in Philotomy's bible).

  5. I never thought of an open doors roll as much more than body checking the door do get it unwedged. The door is still intact after, just open. I wouldn't require a roll to break down a door with an axe or something, but that would actually break it, as opposed to, you know, opening it. Similarly, I rule that Open Locks isn't going to work, because the door isn't locked, just stuck.