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Ambush, Join Battle and Initiative

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  • Ambush, Join Battle and Initiative

    ....Ok, what?

    An ambush is defined as an attack against a target completely unaware of the attacker’s presence—generally only possible during the first round of a fight, against a target with a lower Initiative value than the attacker.
    Ahem.
    Does this mean that ambush is only possible if Join Battle rolls have been made in advance - i.e, the people who are about to get "ambushed" have been shouted "en garde!" at and given a moment to reach for their swords?
    Or does this mean that Ambush can only attempted by someone who in advance has a bigger Wits+Awareness+3 pool?
    Or does it mean that - as Reddit suggests (sigh) - Ambush is rolled first, then even if it succeeds the ambushed people get to roll Join Battle and if they succeed the Ambush is nullified into a Surprise Attack?

    Because all three of those things seem really, er, dumb to me.

    If I understood correctly, after much re-reading and headdesking, is that the comma between "...first round of a fight, against a target..." is a typo and whoever put it there was just saying that if an Ambush is attempted during a combat then the Initiative thing is a factor, because the Ambusher would have to be acting first in order to attempt it.
    This still makes about 80% less sense than literally anything else, because the first thing that a visible attacker (Join Battle was rolled = everybody involved 100% know they're in a fight situation) would have to do is re-establish stealth.

    So... What actually happens if you attempt an Ambush and succeed on the opposed Stealth vs Awareness roll? Do you have to roll Join Battle before you attempt the Ambush (again, senseless since the whole point is to attack without people getting a chance to know that they're being attacked and draw swords)?

    Also, how would Initiative work in this instance?

    Suppose Join Battle isn't rolled (=AKA the sensible thing) - if I make a Withering attack from stealth, do I still get Initiative that then gets added to my upcoming Join Battle roll?

    ....How does... Literally anything work?

  • #2
    The official rules are kinda counter-intuitive but they go something like this :

    -Before any attack, you must roll join battle. There is never a situation in which someone attacks but does not have initiative.

    -If someone rolls join battle, EVERYONE rolls join battle. There is never a situation in which someone is attacked but does not have initiative.

    -Rolling join battle makes you aware that you are in a combat situation. In the case of an ambush, you know something is coming for you, you're just not sure what yet. Yes, that is very weird, assume everyone has a movie-like sixth sense or something.

    -An ambush is possible ONLY on targets who have never had a turn during the battle. The moment someone gets their first turn, any ambush against them becomes an unexpected attack instead. So for instance if you win Join Battle but then start Stalking Wolf Attitude or begin aiming an arrow, you lose the ambush, even though the enemy still hasn't seen you or beaten your initiative. Charms that produce ambushes outside of normal situations are the only exception to this.

    From a mechanical standpoint doing ambushes like this prevents mechanics abuse, and this reading is pretty much the only way White Veil Style Charms make any sense, so I understand why it's like this. but yeah, everyone who gets ambushed becomes magically aware that they are in some sort of danger the moment the ambusher begins their attack.
    Last edited by Epitome; 05-24-2019, 04:54 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Serpent Axis View Post
      Does this mean that ambush is only possible if Join Battle rolls have been made in advance - i.e, the people who are about to get "ambushed" have been shouted "en garde!" at and given a moment to reach for their swords?
      They only get to shout "en garde!" and draw their swords if they beat your join battle roll. Even then you have still surprised them and get bonuses for it. They just got to react faster than you anticipated. Which is exactly what a good join battle roll(default of wits+awareness) should be able to result in.

      The unfortunate thing about this is people creating your stealth/backstabbing character don't necessarily realise the importance of wits and awareness for their join battle roll until they get into combat. You could fluff this as they had to anticipate the opportune moment to attack hence the focus on awareness. The game "fixes" this for solars by providing an entry level charm that lets join battle be dexterity stealth.

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      • #4
        I'd do it a bit differently, but mostly the same.

        I consider initiative being rolled only from the moment someone really starts the (literal) aggression.

        Thus someone could stack a bit of initiative by going Stalking Wolf Attitude to follow his prey in the shadowy streets of the town and still benefit Ambush when he jumps on someone, rolling initiative at this moment and adding what he stacked from SWA on top of that.

        I guess it makes assassins kinda stronger using the rules like this, but I feel it's smoother for everyone involved.

        Also I wouldn't phrase everyone becomes magically aware the moment of an attack, to me it's more like the initiative represents your gut and readiness for danger, and how much you can take the flow of the fight when it jumps on you.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Chausse View Post
          Also I wouldn't phrase everyone becomes magically aware the moment of an attack, to me it's more like the initiative represents your gut and readiness for danger, and how much you can take the flow of the fight when it jumps on you.
          In some cases it is magical awareness. For instance, if an Archery Supernal starts aiming at an enemy from extreme range, how do you explain that the enemy suddenly knows they're in danger as a direct result of the archer merely drawing their bow? If you want to make it even more egregious assume that the attacker uses Charms/Evocation to conceal herself from all senses, and make the enemy a blind and deaf mortal for good measure, they will still know they are in danger.
          Last edited by Epitome; 05-24-2019, 06:03 AM.

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          • #6
            I think it's how it's written in the books because it supposes dramatic situations of ambushes : Guards protecting the Prince during his travel in the woods to his father or something like that. The case of the literal Human-God ultimate master of archery ambushing my deaf and blind granpa isn't what's supposed to be simulated with these rules.

            I mean I won't argue til the end with you on this point, but I think it's a case where you have to think about the rules. You can use charms an excellencies even when you are not conscious about something happening to you, because it's a game where you play some hero specialised in hearing ninjas, so when ninjas come your way it'd be non-immersive to say "You can't hear them because you only activate your ninjas detectors senses when you know they are here", so the game suggests to use rules that helps simulated that. If an archer has the time to aim before his first shot, and succesfully win the stealth vs awareness detection, i'd rather have let him start the fight with aim ready and profit from ambush, rather than be disruptive and say "ok all roll join battle the fight started because cosmic awareness says so". Conversely, if he failed the stealth to have time for his aim, the fight would start sooner because then his opponents would react at this information and disrupt the pace of the supposed ambush.

            Obviously my explanation is not what's directly written on the book, so I can't literally back it with strict rules, but I believe they make more sense in the context of the game for most scenarios.

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            • #7
              That's a fair point about the battle engine assuming that ambushes are dramatic in nature, and I totally agree with you that this is one case where it's worth bending the rules when it makes sense.

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              • #8
                I guess we won't be arguing about this til the end of time then !

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                • #9
                  I mean, it has been said before, but becoming aware of an assailant by "sensing their killing intent" or something is perfectly in-genre for Exalted.

                  Edit: for less genre-savvy folks https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.p.../KillingIntent
                  Last edited by BadassOverlord; 05-24-2019, 07:53 AM.


                  Are you in the market for some Martial Arts? Perhaps some custom Artifacts for your campaign?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Serpent Axis View Post
                    Does this mean that ambush is only possible if Join Battle rolls have been made in advance - i.e, the people who are about to get "ambushed" have been shouted "en garde!" at and given a moment to reach for their swords?
                    Person, Join Battle is rolled in the event that you get poisoned for the sake of giving you an Initiative pool for the poison to start eating through.

                    It is largely an out-of-character abstraction to represent a person's general sensitivity and combat readiness, an underlying tension that might spring to life in the moment that an attack comes and a fight starts. As well as something where what is strictly realistic is fudged a little bit for the sake of creating a mechanical consistency.

                    It isn't a representation of everybody having full and open awareness that they're in a fight.

                    Your whole screed seems to dance around the question of how a genuine and legitimately dangerous ambush ought to work if nobody has an Initiative pool to roll for damage.


                    I have approximate knowledge of many things.
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                    • #11
                      The way I read it is that if you succeed at an ambush then you automatically have the highest initiative in the first round, since those enemies are unaware and thus can't roll it. Because that is intuitive. If that is incorrect, then I frankly don't care, because then I will never use the actual rule since my intuition is far better. But yeah, I see now I have played it wrong. In the event a charm makes my ruling no longer possible (like mentioned above), then I will improvise.

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                      • #12
                        Indeed, as Isator stated the ability to kill anyone who isn’t a trivial opponent in an ambush requires you yourself to roll join battle. It’s a system abstraction for the purposes of the narrative, like how somebody in initiative crash is totally harmless, as in unable to inflict wounds on people, until they fight their way back out of it. It doesn’t make sense it doesn’t make sense physically why you can’t lose two clashes in a row and then immediately cut your enemy’s head off.

                        It’s not really completely out of the realm of what’s physically probable anyway. High wits represents lightning fast reflexes, and great awareness represents finely honed senses, of somebody beats your join battle you still get your unexpected attack, but they at least manage to hear the blade cutting through the air and react fast enough to kind-of dodge. The -2 penalty is pretty heavy, representing that they only started to twist out of the way a second too late.

                        There might also be a balance concern here too. Ambushes are really, really fucking good.

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                        • #13
                          -Rolling join battle makes you aware that you are in a combat situation. In the case of an ambush, you know something is coming for you, you're just not sure what yet. Yes, that is very weird, assume everyone has a movie-like sixth sense or something.
                          I think, by default, that's not true. It's Unexpected Attacks where you're aware something is happening. The point of an Ambush is you're not aware.


                          Okay, so the key thing I think is to remember that Join Battle is a Wits+Awareness roll (+3).

                          So, if the defender has a really bad Wits+Awareness roll, you'll get an ambush (well, if you attack straight away).
                          If their Wits+Awareness is pretty good, they'll realise something is wrong, even if they can't see you.

                          When you think about that, it makes more sense.


                          For example:
                          1) Sneaky Ninja sneaks into King Earth's house. She rolls really well for his stealth, and Earth King doesn't notice him. She sneaks up a wall and then her player says "I throw my shuriken at King Earth's head!"
                          Everyone rolls Wits+Awareness, and adds 3 successes. As Earth King favours Awareness and has an Awareness excellency, he beats Sneaky Ninja.
                          Earth King hears a small noise and spins around. He hasn't actually seen Sneaky Ninja, but he heard something, so he's suspicious. Something's weird. It's his go, so maybe he'll use his action to look for Sneaky Ninja, or take a Total Defence action, or draw a sword, or hide behind some cover, or spend 2i to delay his action, or something. We'll assume he fails to find Sneaky Ninja.
                          Then it's Sneaky Ninja's go (like, a couple of seconds later). She throws her shuriken at Earth King, and Earth King gets -2 Defence because, while he knew something was going on, he still wasn't quite ready for a shuriken thrown at his head. That's called an Unexpected Attack.

                          2) Sneaky Ninja sneaks into King Earth's house. She rolls really well for his stealth, and Earth King doesn't notice him. She sneaks up a wall and then her player says "I throw my shuriken at King Earth's head!"
                          Everyone rolls Wits+Awareness, and adds 3 successes. Earth King rolled badly for his Awareness roll, so doesn't notice anything at all. He continues reading his book.
                          Sneaky Ninja throws her shuriken, and Earth King gets absolutely no defence. That's called an Ambush.

                          I think this works fine, except for the slightly odd thing that Earth King's Wits+Awareness+3 success rolls are opposed by Sneaky Ninja's Wits+Awareness+3 successes (unless you use Blinding Battle Feint, of course!). I guess this could represent the importance of awareness for stealth (don't step on any twigs, or bother any birds).


                          The weird things are stuff like Aim actions, Stalking Wolf, etc. I'd probably let an ambusher aim before Join Battle gets rolled, as otherwise aiming and ambushing is impossible, but I think they'd have to make repeated stealth rolls. And that's fine.
                          Stalking Wolf is a bit more awkward though.

                          So I think it works much better than it initially seems when you read it (I too thought wtf), but it's not perfect. Like a lot of Exalted's weird rules. It's also written rather confusingly; I got the hang of how it's actually supposed to work mostly by asking the Devs from clarification, tbh.
                          Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 05-24-2019, 09:58 AM.


                          My characters:
                          Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                          Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng
                          Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

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                          • #14
                            Honestly, rolling Wits+Awareness +3 successes against a stealthy ambusher makes way more sense to me than rolling Wits+Awareness+3 successes when you get poisoned. That's stupid. And also generally makes the majority of poisons pretty useless outside combat against Exalts. The chance of even doing 1 point of real damage is fairly unlikely.
                            Last edited by The Wizard of Oz; 05-24-2019, 09:57 AM.


                            My characters:
                            Dr Soma Vaidya, viper-totem Lunar and kung-fu doctor
                            Brother Alazar, Zenith occultist and last survivor of the Black Monastery of Leng
                            Shadow of Kings, Twilight barbarian scholar, master of lost First Age crafting techniques. Has a lot of clones. Picture by Jen.

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                            • #15
                              Don’t poisons just do lethal damage outside of combat?

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