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I am a new GM and new to D&D. Currently, I am running the Lost Mines of Phandelver (LMoP) D&D 5e starter campaign. My group have just finished the Cragmaw Hideout section, but as we ran it we came across some situations that I was not sure how to handle.

Specifically, at a certain point the party encountered three goblins in a cave with a waterfall (area 7 "Twin pools cave" within Cragmaw Hideout). In the description of the area the book suggests that, when they spot the party, one of the goblins moves to next room (area 8 "Klarg's Cave") to warn his allies that there are intruders.

The party killed the two remaining goblins in area 7 and then moved into area 8. My questions have to do with the characters transition from one room to the other:

  1. Is it reasonable that the warned enemies (who are hiding behind stalagmites and crates) attack the group immediately when the group enters the room (like taking the Ready action from the previous round with the condition "I attack any enemy appears at the entrance of the room")?

  2. Is it better to start a new round every time the party enters to a new room/cave, even though a PC may have enough speed to cross a certain distance in the previous cave, and then enter the new one (in the same round)? If this is reasonable the PCs would have the chance (given that their initiative is greater than that of enemies) to use their Wisdom (Perception) as an action (assuming that the Dexterity (Stealth) check score of enemies is above players passive perception) and avoid being surprised.

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Go with Option One

Is it reasonable that the warned enemies (who are hiding behind stalagmites and crates) attack the group immediately when the group enters the room (like taking the Ready action from the previous round with the condition "I attack any enemy appears at the entrance of the room")?

Yes, it's very reasonable. It is entirely possible for a single combat encounter to roll from one room to the other. The forewarned goblins should absolutely ready actions to shoot whomever comes from the previous chamber.

Surprise is not appropriate.

The examples from surprise hinge on one fact - one group is not ready for combat, while the other is:

A band of adventurers sneaks up on a bandit camp, springing from the trees to attack them. A gelatinous cube glides down a dungeon passage, unnoticed by the adventurers until the cube engulfs one of them. In these situations, one side of the battle gains surprise over the other.

In your example case, both groups are ready for battle and expecting combat. The player characters saw the goblin leave to warn the next room, so they're on guard. The goblins were warned, so sneaking up on them isn't going to help. Neither can surprise the other just by walking around a corner.

That said, it is very difficult, exhausting even, to be constantly on guard. People, even adventurers, need to take a breather every now and then. If the player characters wanted to stop, cast a few spells, drink potions, etc, then surprise might become appropriate.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm deleting my answer as your answer revealed something that I didn't quite understand about the original scenario, that being that the party has immediately moved into room 8, rather than taking a resting/exploring after clearing room 7. However, I disagree that suprise only hinges on the fact of parties being ready for combat; the rule states further along that "If neither side TRIES to be stealthy" (emphasis mine). This tells me that the only thing that determines surprise is one side attempting to surprise the other, even if it is a futile attempt due to other circumstances. \$\endgroup\$ – BobbitWormJoe Mar 1 at 9:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for your effort to answer to my questions. Overall your post is very helpful and informative. Could you please clarify two more things 1) Regarding the Surprise. I agree that the PCs are aware of the fact that the enemies are awaiting for them in the next room and that they are going to be attacked. So the "attack" would not be a surprise to them. On the other hand, the location that the attack would come from is unknown to them. If they fail to spot where the enemies are hidden, is not the location that the arrows or javelins would come from a surprise to them? \$\endgroup\$ – Diomides Mar 2 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ 2) Passive perception. Let's say that the enemies are allowed to roll for a hide maneuver with a disadvantage and then try to surprise the PCs . They roll just 5 (Total Hide score 5). Does this mean that the very moment a PC with passive perception 10+ enters the room is instantly aware of the enemies and thus any surprise attacked is cancelled? \$\endgroup\$ – Diomides Mar 2 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Diomides Not knowing exactly where the attack originates is why being Hidden grants advantage. By contrast, Surprise is being caught with your pants down. In your second example, yes... a character who rolls a 5 on a Dexterity (Stealth) check is not going to be Hidden from anybody, and can't possibly Surprise them. Now, there are certain situations in which everybody can see each other and surprise is still possible - in those situations, it may be better to substitute Deception for Stealth and Passive Insight for Passive Perception. Effectively, it becomes who has the better poker face. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Mar 3 at 1:50

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