Day 23 of #RPGaDay2019: Surprise!


Welcome to the 23rd day of RPGaDay for 2019. Today’s word prompt is SURPRISE.

Let’s take a look at surprise in the 5th Edition of D&D.

This is an often misunderstood and misinterpreted rule. Some think of it as a special round or a condition. It is neither. It is more akin to an ‘environment’ or ‘a state of being’.

Under Combat in Chapter 9 of the Players Handbook you’ll find:

The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter.

If you’re surprised, you can’t move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can’t take a reaction until that turn ends. A member of a group can be surprised even if the other members aren’t.

Pretty cut and dried. Really easy to figure, but (surprise!) I fumble over this almost every single time. For whatever reason, this rule doesn’t stick in my head.


No, you don’t get advantage if you surprise someone. And no, unlike early editions, surprise doesn’t last for a  length of time determined by a dice roll. Being surprised is simply being surprised. It’s a moment. It freezes you into inaction for a turn, then you’re back into the swing of things (no pun intended).

I really need to remember this for next week’s session…

— Bob Freeman



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