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I'll lay out the scenario as plain as possible. I am running a session tomorrow that I have planned for my 4 players. This encounter has them finding a vault of gold. There are 2 entrances to this vault. They are being secretly followed by a villian and his henchmen who want the gold for themselves.

The plan is this- once inside the villian will go around one way and have his henchmen sneak around the other way using stealth. The villian is going to reveal himself to the players and have a back and forth talk with them for a little bit making them an offer in the end. "Leave now with nothing and I will spare you". Should the players refuse as I expect they will, he will give a nod and the henchmen who are now in position will fire their pistols at the party as combat begins.

Now here is my question. Assuming the players fail to notice the henchmen would they be surprised? On one hand they failed perception checks to notice the danger that attacked them, but on the other hand the villian themselves is a danger that they were aware of. I would think that if my players tried this on an enemy they would expect that the enemy was surprised and that they would be awarded for their clever plan, so why not the reverse be true?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’ve closed this as a duplicate because I believe it has been asked before. If I’m understanding your situation correctly, it’s essentially the same scenario described in the linked question, and the answers there should address your question here. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24 at 6:14

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