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I'm finding myself confused by the surprise rules on page 196 of the Players' Guide.

[make rolls] If you win, your target is surprised for one Phase.

Which phase? The first phase of combat? Or is there some way to determine when an ambush takes place within a round of combat?

Example: [...] the guard is surprised for 1 Phase. If Rodriguez saved an Action to take advantage of his surprise, the guard will most likely die a quick death.

Saved an action from when? Held actions disappear after each round of combat, so if it's the first phase of combat there's no way to have a held action. If it's part way through the round, how do you figure out when? Can it occur when the ambusher hasn't had any actions yet? Does it take an action to initiate the ambush?

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bear in mind that in an ambush, combat hasn't started until the ambush is triggered - ie when the attackers jump out from behind the trees, or where-ever. So the phase that the surprised target forfeits is always the first phase. Its the phase of combat where the attackers are jumping out on the victims, and the victims are standing there with a stupid look on their faces, saying "what's happening?"

It seems to me that the example is just plain wrong. You can't surprise someone half-way through combat, it just doesn't make sense.

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I disagree. If you make the enemy think you are an ally and betray them, and they fail and insight check, they are surprised (but that is the first following phase).

So do surprise rounds stack? Example- there's an ambush AND supposed allies betray the enemy... are there 2 surprise rounds? If not then I guess there would have to be if they take place in different rounds.

Ambush surprise round enemy takes turn supposed allies betray second surprise round

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Yeah, that's one way to end up with surprise part-way through the combat. But the more common "jump out of the shadows" kind of surprise is what my party is more likely to engage in, and that seems to be the most confusing case in 7th Sea. – AceCalhoon Dec 14 '10 at 21:54
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Per the Compendium, page 5 (aka the official errata):

  • You are surprised for one entire round, not one phase.

This cleans up most issues with surprise. Surprised characters do not roll initiative during the first round. Surprising characters do.

The example text about saving held actions is still pretty inexplicable, though.

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I took Phase as a typo (which the Compendium reveals it was) and as it requires an action to initiate the Ambush, I felt that perhaps there are those 'out there' who might choose to initiate an ambush as their last action in a turn rather than having one or more phases in which to act unopposed by the surprised guard. – Runeslinger Apr 18 '11 at 9:59
@Runeslinger Hmm... I had not interpreted the text as requiring an in combat action. That's an interesting take on it, but how does it work out exactly? Particularly when NPCs are ambushing players? – AceCalhoon Apr 18 '11 at 13:14
My take is that if the players are walking through a dark alley, and the villains leap out behind them to attack from behind, that is an action. Surprise is determined, and if successful the villain's attack is then resolved with the characters being surprised. Any remaining actions the villains possess that round, may then be resolved, again with the characters still reeling in surprise. – Runeslinger Apr 18 '11 at 15:01
@Runeslinger How would you handle the case where the villains rolled poorly on initiative (say, 8s and 9s) and the players succeed on the ambush check? Does combat begin on the villains' first action? Does the villain roll for their action preemptively? Are they still obligated to take that action if they fail? – AceCalhoon Apr 18 '11 at 15:25
@AceCalhoon If the attempt to surprise fails, then I would conduct the engagement normally: The villains attempt to attack unseen, but the characters notice, and so are able to prepare themselves as they would in a less underhanded encounter. – Runeslinger Apr 18 '11 at 22:19

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