I have perused the Core rulebook to figure out how to handle an ambush. What I found seems very underpowered, and I am not sure if I have missed something or this is intentional and all there is to it.
From what I found the advantages (successfully hiding) ambushers enjoy are:
- They can roll Stealth for initiative.
- The ambusher is unnoticed before they act, which confers the flat-footed condition to the targets (-2 AC). This ends with the first action they take, ie. works for only one Strike per attacker.
- The targets might not be prepared, eg. not have buffs active or weapons drawn. The value of this will vary wildly.
- While not explicitly stated, I would assume that any targets with a higher initiative than the ambushers will be skipped in the first round due to there being nothing to fight from their perspective. If the ambushers roll together this will mean that they win initiative, if not, the results are less powerful.
And that is about it. There is no mention of a surprise round or similar mechanic, nor of another, more severe condition that would apply to a surprised creature. All in all, you get some bonuses to initiative, inflict -2 AC once and might get bonuses keyed to the flat-footed condition, plus the targets will likely have to waste 1 action to draw their weapons.
This means that hitting a guard standing stock still and unaware of your existence is mostly the same as hitting him while he is actively fighting against you and a buddy 2-on-1. Only that the ambush is weaker as it ends after one Strike, while flanking does not.
To me this seems rather weak, especially compared to other systems. Have I overlooked any rules or any consequences of these rules that would make ambushing stronger?