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Surprise (mod for EE)

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Version 3

My thanks go to @kjeron for the forward cones and a heap of other information in the last few years. @K4thos gave a helpful tip about preventing jumps after conversations.

1. Summary
2. Compatibility
3. Surprising and being surprised
4. Ambushes
5. Detect Noise
6. Money for me

1. Summary

This mod introduces a hybrid of two mechanics from the AD&D Player's Handbook - surprise and ambush. Most creatures and characters may now be surprised if they suddenly run into an enemy, and neutrals may be surprised too. This may happen after a sharp turn in a hallway, in the shadow of a cave pillar, emerging in a room with a throng waiting on the doorstep or just falling out of invisibility on the tips of somebody's shoes. Party characters can put themselves in a waiting mode where they can surprise but not be surprised - ambush. In addition, rogues (thieves and bards) get the ability to detect noise, which sometimes lets them discern creatures beyond obstacles and helps to set up an ambush.

2. Compatibility

Only the Enhanced Edition. For technical reasons it would be impossible to save the game in classic installations.

3. Surprising and being surprised

Surprise, when it happens, stuns a creature for a round. On occasion both parties in the encounter may be surprised. Group surprises are also possible. This is the approximate radius within which surprise may happen, if creatures suddenly come face to face in that range:


If a creature approaches from farther away, there will be no surprise for either in the encounter. Surprise is also impossible so long as a creature is in sight of someone - for that observer. For example, assuming that this dog has come in from a little distance and the surprise factor has been negated, it will not be able to surprise Charname, Xan, Imoen or Garrick so long as each one of them sees the dog. It would have to run into a place out of sight to make surprise against that character a possibility again - or disappear in plain view. Thieves and wizards can negate the visibility control by vanishing with stealth or magic so that they can creep in again. In this example, though, the dog is actually a green-circled ally, so Charname, Imoen and Xan need not worry about it. Creatures on the same side do not surprise each other.

Who can surprise who:

Red circles surprise green circles and are surprised by green circles.
Blue circles do not surprise anyone but are surprised by both green and red circles.

This means that between the party and enemies surprise only happens in the context of combat, but neutrals can be surprised in peace if you get the jump on them.


This Flaming Fist mercenary is startled to find Charname nursing on the wine taps in the duchal palace. This prostration would give Charname a round to get away, but the second mercenary is also here, far enough to have a calm look, and in a moment he will turn around and assail him with inconvenience.

Some creatures are never surprised: undead, golems and other constructs, slimes, elementals and insects. Animals are difficult to surprise also. All of them can still surprise others. Non-combatants like the commoner on the previous screenshot are left out of this mechanic completely, along with cows, chickens, horses and so on. A creature can be surprised once every three turns (180 seconds). Here are a few more situations of surprise, sometimes mutual.

This is a mass surprise in the hallways under the Firewine Bridge. Here everyone but the kobold on the far right is surprised at butting into each other. A situation like this is not likely to happen naturally - here I teleported the party right into hostiles. Normally only the front runners or stragglers can wander into enemies without seeing them from some distance away.


Group surprise can happen for real, though, when entering a small space densely packed:


Here Imoen, Montaton and one of the hobgoblins had a case of the nerves. Surprise is not just a fluke, however. It can be used intentionally:


Here Montaron has surprised one of the guards (lit up) and running away from the others. He is in their line of sight in this bare corridor, but if he turns into the adjacent room where the rest of the party is waiting, there are a couple of places he can stand and try to surprise them when they barge in. In order not to be surprised themselves, however, and to signify that they know what is coming, he and the others should make use of the Ambush special ability, which all PC have.

4. Ambushes


In Ambush characters are safe from surprise, but the reactive position they chose makes them somewhat slow. They get +3 to weapon speed and casting times. Ambush lasts until they move from the spot, but the slowness persists for the next round.

This mod also patches the priest spell Command. When used on allies now, it is not "Die!" but "Attend!", "Speak!", "Wake!" or "Move!" as appropriate. This makes the ally snap out of the surprised stupor, relieves confusion and panic for the moment, lifts silence from him, 50% of the time unconsciousness and 20% of the time hold and paralysis. Greater Command is not changed.

5. Detect Noise

This non-combat ability of thieves and bards extends an 120 degrees-wide listening cone that can bring out creatures beyond walls and other obstacles. All characters of these classes have this ability, and if for some reason one does not, like after dual-classing into a thief, have another rogue use it, and the first PC will learn automatically. The size of the cone increases every 3 levels. Face the direction in which to listen and click on the button. At first the cone's area is larger than a fireball, ultimately it expands to about 4 times that size. Within the cone the basic chance that a creature will be revealed (sometimes also showing a little of the terrain in the fog of war) begins at 50% and improves to 80%. If a thief does not find someone by listening, it may mean there is no one there or that the thief has gotten a bad roll. Non-corporeal, ethereal and phasing creatures are always pointless to listen for. Detect Noise can be used any time, but it only gives new information to the character once every turn. If there is more than one rogue in the party, they can try to triangulate and help each other out. Thieves able to wear helmets must take them off to listen.

The screenshot below is only to help picture the situation. In version 3 creatures are no longer shown beyond walls, only referenced in the bottom window.

In this example Montaron has discovered one of the guardians of the Dukes' amontillado, but there are more either outside in the large hall, farther away or he just did not hear them. Spacious places like this are inconvenient for listening, especially with patrols walking up and down the floor. It is better when there are side galleries, abutting corridors and walls against which to lean. For every creature found by listening the rogue receives 8 experience points, if the creature is not under anyone's direct stare (once per creature only).


Finally, I want to say that "Surprise" would probably work well with my older stuff - "Initiative" here.

6. Money for me

Modding that goes beyond making kit no. 126 is not easy. If you think this module deserves a few dollars into my hat, right-click on the first surprised guy and press A+B+B+A+Up or write me a private message.


Edited by temnix
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For everyone's information, it is not necessary to start a new game to use this mod. The party will receive the abilities on first loading, and all creatures and companions will be patched too, except NPC the party has already met but they are out of it at the moment. Even then you can teach rogues among them to Detect Noise if you invite them back in the party and have someone else use the ability. But they will not be able to surprise others. Surprise is applied to the current party roster and NPC and creatures not yet encountered.

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In version 3 Detect Noise has been changed. It doesn't reveal creatures beyond walls any longer, only gives a screen message if someone has been heard. However, the probability of detecting has been improved a great deal, and the listening cones are even larger. If you want to see what goes on beyond obstacles, use my new mod - Ultravision. 

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