My friends and I started a Dragon Age Roleplay and in the situation "A rogue approaches a creature from behind," we must test the creature's sight against the rogue's dexterity. An argument arose that the creature doesn't receive a penalty for facing the other direction. The GM said that it's not written in the rules, while I think that it's only natural for a penalty in the opposing check.

Can someone help me with that argument? Does the creature get a penalty, or not?


Judging by the QuickStart rules available on Green Ronin's site, you are both correct. This example is explicitly mentioned as an Opposed Test:

The counterparts in an opposed test sometimes use different abilities. For example, a character attempting to sneak past a guard rolls his Dexterity (Stealth) against the guard’s Perception (Hearing).

If one character has a particular advantage over his opponent that’s not already reflected by his ability or focus, those circumstances may give him a bonus or penalty to his roll. Such modifiers are usually no worse than –3 or better than +3.

So sneaking on a guard is a simple opposed roll, and there's no mention of "sneaking from behind" as a specific modifier. The question then becomes, based on the second paragraph, what constitutes "a particular advantage not already reflected by his ability".

Since sneaking from behind is the standard way of sneaking, after all, it can be assumed that sneak skill takes this into account, and this doesn't constitute a "particular advantage" - it's already reflected in the ability.

What seems to be bothering you is the disconnect between what the rules specify and what feels right, or natural. The basis for this discrepancy is that actions in most role-playing games aren't granular. An attack, for instance, isn't just a swing of a sword, but several seconds of maneuvering to get to that one strike. Similarly, a person standing around is considered, in most situations, to be aware - looking around occasionally, maybe turning. This is why sneaking from behind isn't automatically a special circumstance - the guard's Perception skill automatically includes checking around and turning. It's a slightly more abstract, compound action, not just "does he hear me".

The solution, if you feel like you want that bonus, is to create that "particular advantage". If you create a distraction, for instance, that keeps the guard's attention fixed in the other direction, you should be able to get a bonus from it.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ As lisardggY explains, the rules for sneaking assume no facing, and everybody effectively has 360 degree vision all the time (being aware, looking around). \$\endgroup\$ – Marc Dingena May 13 '14 at 13:01

The core rulebook first abstractly states that circumstances should be illustrated with bonuses or penalties during a opposed test.

Core Rulebook at chapter 9, page 213 regarding Opposed Tests :

Generally speaking, you should grant bonuses or impose penalties of 1-3 to reflect the circumstances of the test

Factors you may consider for bonuses and/or penalties to ability tests include equipment available, weather conditions, time constraints, distractions, assistance from others, lighting conditions, and good roleplaying where appropriate

Those rules, as you can read a little further in the book would also apply on attack rolls, moreover those special circumstances are a bit described.

From the Core Rulebook at chapter 9, page 216 regarding Attack Rolls & Circumstance :

You can also assign bonuses and penalties to the attack roll to reflect the circumstances of the encounter, just as you do in opposed tests. In general these bonuses and penalties should range from 1 to 3. They can take into account anything that would affect the attacker’s ability to hit the target, such as lighting, terrain, tactics, and concealment.

Sneak attack ability already reflects the fact that your avatar deals extra sneak damages on a target he is not already engaged with. If a bonus would be applied it should respond to a particular/unuasual situation, as brought by the player for example.

In the end bonus is always up to the GM, but rules as written should incitate your GM to give a +1 to +3 bonus to reward good or successful tactical approach.

On that same page, there are some examples on the Attack roll modifiers table with bonuses and maluses that apply and in which situations :

+3 : Defender is unaware of the attack.

Given a target unaware of the player, facing the other way. From the above rules, I would allow a player to :

  • Sneak on the unaware target maybe with a -1 to -3 penalty (depending on game factors)
  • Do a sneak attack with a +3 bonus upon successful Dexterity (Sneak) test against target's Perception (Hearing)
  • Apply sneak attack damages upon successful attack roll

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