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View Full Version : [3.5] Ambush Sense for BBN (in lieu of Trap Sense)



Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-13, 05:59 PM
I've always pictured the Barbarian as a kind of outside, far away from sophisticated gadgetry type of character and in this sense am a bit bothered where the trap sense is supposed to come from. (or why the bonus to reflex should be limited to traps)

Just about any group has a rouge with them
plus the BBN has most HP plus damage reduction after Lvl7
so should be able to just take the damage if (s)he's abused as a trap canary.

Something more useful for the party would be an ability that allows the BBN to be highly suspicious/aware if there are a bunch of enemies round the corner (up the gorge, etc.) trying hard to make no noise.



Ambush Sense

At 3rd level, a Barbarian choses a terrain from the following list he has travelled through for at last 1 month.

desert, forest, hill, marsh, mountains, plains, dungeon or village

Every 3rd level thereafter the Barbarian gets to chose an additional terrain he has travelled through for at last 1 month.


The Barbarian gains the ability to sense if an ambush has been set while travelling through his chosen terrains and receives a Survival check when the ambush is sprung.

The DC varies depending on how well laid the ambush is:

pre-arranged ambush:
DC = 20+ the Survival skill level of the member in the ambushing party with the highest score in this Skill.
Requires 2 minutes preparation per foe in the ambushing party, equaling a Take 20 to hide/arrange the position of each member.

hasty ambush:
DC = 20 + the Hide skill level the foe with the lowest ranks in the ambushing party.

Circumstance Bonus/Penalty to the DC:
Ambushers are invisible +5
Barbarian is moving at a hustle +2
Barbarian is running +5

If the Barbarian passes this check, he is not surprised by the attack and can act in the surprise round.

If the DC is beat by 5 or more (or on a natural 20) and the Barbarian has the highest initiative, he gets to shout a warning which makes the members of the party in hearing range aware of the attack.


Order of taking actions:
No matter who has the highest initiative

the barbarian gets to act no earlier than the first ambusher.
the party gets to act last in a surprise round they are technically not surprised in.

Faleldir
2010-01-13, 07:02 PM
Is there any particular reason why you're using a cross-class skill rather than a fixed bonus to initiative?

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-13, 07:24 PM
Is there any particular reason why you're using a cross-class skill rather than a fixed bonus to initiative?
I hadn't checked for class or cross-class skill actually :smallredface:
Sense Motive appeared to be the most obvious check to use but Survival would fit the bill too I guess:


Check: You can keep yourself and others safe and fed in the wild.

a fixed bonus to initiative doesn't let you warn the other characters and is no help in the surprise round.
the ini things where added as more of an afterthought, not the main feature.

Faleldir
2010-01-13, 07:39 PM
You're right, I forgot about the surprise round. Survival works much better.

hiryuu
2010-01-13, 08:09 PM
Isn't this what having Spot and Listen is for? You could just throw the Spot skill as a class skill at them, honestly, and cover this just as well, since ambushers will always be using Hide and Move Silently to, you know, ambush.

Also, Barbarians already have this sort of thing in the form of Uncanny Dodge; really, Trap Sense is just an extra bone. Really, after about a week in a dungeon, anyone from the wilderness who still doesn't jump when he hears a click shouldn't have survived in the wilderness to begin with.

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-13, 08:43 PM
Isn't this what having Spot and Listen is for? You could just throw the Spot skill as a class skill at them, honestly, and cover this just as well, since ambushers will always be using Hide and Move Silently to, you know, ambush.
Spot and Listen are nice, but someone waiting to get ya is not necessarily moving or visible at all,
but just THERE, very much so.

In a way I'm thinking of this as a very limited version of blind sense.

This could help as a shortcut to save rolling 10+ opposing Hide/Spot & Move Silently/Listen checks for the entire ambush and PC squads.

but as I said in the OP: the DC might be too low




Also, Barbarians already have this sort of thing in the form of Uncanny Dodge
Uncanny Dodge just saves the Dex bonus to AC or prevents flanking, see my above comment to why no flat bonus to Initiative.



really, Trap Sense is just an extra bone.
my point exactely: it's what the Rouge is for to prevent needing

DracoDei
2010-01-13, 09:54 PM
1.)Eh, traps can include the type of stuff Ewoks use, just as much as they can scything blades in a corridor.

2.)I always considered that class feature as being something to let the barbarian get away with charging down corridors like the frothing mouthed berserker they are sometimes supposed to be. since a pit you can't jump out of takes you out of the immediate action, even if you can laugh off the 3d6 damage because that doesn't even come to as much as your Con bonuses, let alone your d12's.


That having been said, I could see this working... just make sure it doesn't let the party AVOID combat...

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-13, 11:16 PM
1.)Eh, traps can include the type of stuff Ewoks use, just as much as they can scything blades in a corridor.
yeah, I'm aware there is a fluid transution between a purely mechanical device (definitely a trap) and a crossbow firing squad holding their breath (definitely not a trap but an ambush IMO).



2.)I always considered that class feature as being something to let the barbarian get away with charging down corridors like the frothing mouthed berserker they are sometimes supposed to be.
ah, I was assuming that the traps would be cleared by the folks runing away from the frothing mouthed berserker.
plus it doesn't answer why the barbarian should get away with running down a corridor, or even if they should get away with it. (IMO: no)


just make sure it doesn't let the party AVOID combat...
so what numbers might be good to adjust the DC?
how much % succsess would frustrate the ambusher (this works against the PC's as well ), how much would be frustrating for the barbarian?

how about adding the encounter level to the DC to keep it fairly constant?


when has yelling "It's A Trap" ever helped to avoid combat?

jiriku
2010-01-13, 11:27 PM
Parties may have rouge with them, and it certainly makes them look attractive, but a rogue is most helpful for finding and disarming traps.

Opportunities for Improvement:

I don't see how this ability is significantly different from using opposed Spot and Listen checks to locate hidden ambushers, or relying on Uncanny Dodge to avoid being flat-footed. You suggest that ambushers might not be visible or audible...but if players have no means of detecting their ambushers through sight or sound, then the reverse is usually true as well, so how are the ambushers detecting the party in order to spring their ambush? Now, I suppose you could argue for something like wraiths hidden in the ground using lifesense or a phase spider lurking in the ethereal plane, but that's a pretty unusual situation.

Your problem is not that the DC is too low, it's that the DC is static. A low-level barbarian will almost always fail the check. A high-level barbarian will succeed without rolling.

Initiative penalties for failing the roll would be inappropriate. A class feature that helps you avoid ambush should never make you more vulnerable to ambushes than someone who lacks the class feature. Anyhow, there's already a built-in penalty for failing the roll (you don't detect the ambush).

You write about ambushes as if an ambush is a trap set in a particular 5-foot square. I never build ambushes like that. How would this ability function if the DM plans an ambush that doesn't trigger "when a PC enters square D7"?

Likewise, the practical execution of the ability needs clarification. Suppose an 18th level barbarian is leading a group through the wilderness, and rolls a 20 on his Survival check. 30 feet in front of an ambush site, he has a hunch that he's about to get ambushed. How does that work? The ambush hasn't happened yet, since the barbarian is out in front and 30 feet away from the danger point. How do you, as the DM, communicate this to the barbarian's player? If you tell him "you're about to be ambushed", then he knows that if he walks forward 30 feet, he'll trigger an ambush. Naturally, the player would want to do something like warn his allies and do something to avoid the ambush. However, he hasn't rolled high enough to be entitled to tell his allies about his hunch...it's an illogical situation.

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-14, 12:43 AM
thanks for that lengthy reply jiriku


Parties may have rouge with them, and it certainly makes them look attractive, but a rogue is most helpful for finding and disarming traps.and the reason for trap sense is, I presume, that sometimes it doesn't quite work.
why the barbarian? what/how does the barbarians know about them that they can avoid them just as good?


1. a type of encounter I had particularly in mind is a door with someone lurking behind it: the lurker is not moving(no sound) and hidden(no vis)
but as soon as a player steps through he's detected by the ambusher
same thing with a tunnel that comes out under a balcony **
PC is surprised = no action in the first round

2. addressed by suggesting to ad the encounter level to the DC
I'm open for suggestions of other means to keep the DC constant

3. good point, what do you think about the bonus? too over the top?

4. I used the term "location" not 5' square for a reason.
Since this is home brew or house ruling I was trusting that a DM incorporating it wouldn't also go through the trouble of creating ambushes to explicitly circumvent it. (DM meta gaming) That would be rather, you know, stupid. but see point 5 too ***.

5. if the DC for the hunch is met but not the higher to tell, this could be communicated as "you feel the urge to be more careful here"
or maybe "you might want to have a closer look at that clearing"
** "strange echo coming from that opening"
followed by the ealier mentioned listen and spot checks
these comments can also be thrown in for suspense at random (cry wolf too often... hehehe)

if he can't find something specific with longer checks and moves forward to trigger the ambush (*** or just triggers it by looking too damn suspicious) the barbarian gets to act in the surprise round.
"dammit I knew it" situation

jiriku
2010-01-14, 01:03 AM
Barbarians and rogues get trap sense, I think, because rogues often try to disarm traps, and if they fail, the trap sometimes goes off and hits them, and if there's no rogue or if the rogue can't disarm a trap, the (stereotypical) next-best solution is to have the strongest, toughest character in the party trigger the trap on purpose and hope to survive it. And also, Conan was always ducking and dodging traps in his stories.

The simple benefit of not being surprised is probably quite enough for succeeding. That's actually a really nice perk that is even more useful in higher-level play than low-level play (unlike most barbarian class abilities that become less individually relevant at higher levels).

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-14, 02:11 AM
The simple benefit of not being surprised is probably quite enough for succeeding. That's actually a really nice perk that is even more useful in higher-level play than low-level play (unlike most barbarian class abilities that become less individually relevant at higher levels).
so this in mind the aim for the DC would be around a natural 20 at 3rd level (5-10% success) and keeping it rather constant (30% success at the high levels?)
maybe also lifting it further up for the "sure enough to tell" DC so that it is near natural 20 if maxed out on survival?


re: Listen & Spot

those are quite specific abilities
i.e.:
I can see his arse sticking out from behind that tree and I heard him fart too
(and the Druids familiar can probably smell it)

Ambush Sense is supposed to be unspecific, a matter of instinct.

The Ranger being the crack in following and hunting;
the Barbarian the suspicious bastard that picks it up when the pray is just a decoy.


removed the Ini bonus/penalty in the OP
added suggestion for removing the flat DC

jiriku
2010-01-14, 11:28 AM
Well, let's consider. Assume a generic 3rd level barbarian who expects to benefit from this feat has a 12 Wisdom and 6 ranks in Survival. He'll roll at +7 on the die, and a DC 20 check is about 40% likely for him, but the DC 25 check is only 15% likely. Those are difficult, but reasonable numbers, and an ambushing group of several lower-level monsters improves his odds. He can also pick up a synergy bonus from Knowledge (nature) outdoors). I like those numbers.

Fast-forward to level 10, and say this barbarian now has a magic item granting him +5 to Survival, and 13 ranks, for +19 on the check. He auto-passes the DC 20 check, and succeeds on the DC 25 check 75% of the time. That's really too easy.

Check at levle 20, assuming the barbarian now has 23 skill ranks, a magic item granting a +10 bonus and has increased his Wisdom to 14. He rolls at +35 on the die and autopasses everything. His party can never be ambushed. That's probably not what you want.


Let's consider your proposed alternative of 23+EL, against a single level-appropriate encounter. The 3rd-level barbarian faces DC 26/31, and his odds are 10%/0%. The 10th-level barbarian faces DC 33/38; his odds are 35%/10%. The 20th level barbarian faces better odds at DC 43/48; his odds are 65%/40%, still pretty difficult.


I think this is a little too difficult across the board, and has a gamist approach that is a little too divorced from the skills and abilities of the ambushers. Maybe you could use a lower DC, say 15 (with +5 or even +10 for warning the whole party, because rendering the entire party immune to surprise is very powerful), and increase the DC by the Survival modifier of the ambusher with the best Survival skill, applying penalties for the number of ambushers with zero ranks in Survival instead of with fewer hit dice than the barbarian (alternately, remove the penalty system and just use the average Survival bonus of the ambushing group), and make the entire ability usable only in natural settings. This means that city slickers who know nothing about woodcraft can't properly ambush a barbarian while he's in his environment, but groups led by a crafty, woods-wise opponent can. Further, the barbarian is out of his element when he enters civilization, his finely tuned senses overwhelmed by the unfamiliar rhythms of civilization, and he loses his defensive benefit.

This would make the ability more powerful (with a proper investment, he'll easily thwart ambushes in natural settings laid by enemies who lack the survival skill), while still being not universally useful (a canny huntsman can ambush him), and further, it's situational (no good in a city or worked dungeon). It also creates additional value for the Survival skill, even for non-barbarians, and Survival is a nifty skill that unfortunately gets little use in many games.

For simplicity's sake, you might also dispense with the five-feet-per-three-levels thing and simply state that the ambush occurs, but at the lower DC the barbarian acts in the surprise round, and at the higher DC there is no surprise round (thus the entire party is effectively immune to surprise).

Agi Hammerthief
2010-01-14, 08:10 PM
the flat DC is definetely not what I want

I agree on removing the distance thing for simplicity.
It smells a bit too much of avoiding combat, which should be kept to normal every day paranoia of the players.

On the downside this leaves the barbarian with dead levels every third which is not a good thing.

Limiting the terrain with a lowered DC for the hunch gives an angle to compensate there, by giving the choice of a new terrain every third level:

desert, forest, hill, marsh, mountains, plains, dungeon or village**

and the barabrian must have travelled in the terrain for at least 1 month to be allowed to chose it.
If the party only ever goes from city through villages on the plains to dungeon and back till 18th level and then gets ambushed in the mountains: tough luck

** I understand your argument about the overwhelming of the finely tuned senses in a city, but wold argue a quiet village setting is a terrain where the ability is usable.
A depopulated city would probbably qualify as an (above-ground) dungeon.


I like the idea of adding the survival level of the oposing party.
I think putting the DC at 20+ X with X the average of the survival check of the ambushers should do it:

I don't want to drop the starting DC to 15 as Survival is only a class skill for Rangers, Barbarians and Druids and your numbers look good to me for being jumped by an equally survival wise single or a party consisting entirely of a mix of those. see below for the numbers.


Warning the party: if the DC is beat by 5 or more (or a natural 20) and the Barbarian wins the initiative.

This is not quite 5% at third level (still better than 0%)
and less than the 40% at 20th level, which I think is a bit too easy.


using your numbers for 3rd level; 10th level; 20th Level

equally survival wise opponent(s) beating the DC by 5 (or natural 20) for a warning; with x the unknown for losing initiative:

DC 20+X => 10%/5-x%; 35%/10-x%; 65%/40-x%
DC 18+X => 20%/5-x%; 45%/20-x%; 75%/50-x%
DC 15+X => 35%/10-x%; 60%/35-x%; 90%/65-x%

equally survival wise opponent(s) beating the DC by 10 (or natural 20) for a warning; with x the unknown for losing initiative:

DC 20+X => 10%/5-x%; 35%/5-x%; 65%/15-x%
DC 18+X => 20%/5-x%; 45%/5-x%; 75%/25-x%
DC 15+X => 35%/5-x%; 60%/10-x%; 90%/40-x%

DC15 will have him near 100% at level 10 if jumped by people where survival is a cross class, even if they all maxed it out. Same for DC18 at level 20. That is a bit over the top.


changing to DC20+X with "beating DC by 5 and winn initiative" for warning the party
I'll adjust the speed increase for the DC too, starting with walking speed.


The "winning the initiative" in the surprise round needs more thought or work on the wording but I'll leave that for later.

Drolyt
2010-01-31, 09:30 PM
Hmm, your IM made it sound like a feat, this is an alternate class feature... How's this?
Barbarian Variant Ability: Ambush Sense
Your superhuman senses allow you to react to an ambush before you know there is one.
Class Abilities:
Trap Sense: You do not gain this class ability.
Ambush Sense (Ex): At 3rd level, a barbarian gains the ability to sense if an ambush has been set for her and her party. Right before an ambush occurs the barbarian makes a Survival check with a bonus equal to her Barbarian level divided by 3 against a DC of 10 + the Encounter Level of the party that set the ambush. If she succeeds the barbarian knows of the ambush before it happens and the barbarian and her party are allowed to act for one round, during which they may only take a single standard action or move action. The party's turns are considered to take effect simultaneously rather than in succession, which limits their ability to coordinate their actions (for example, a wizard cannot cast a spell with a range of touch on a party member more than 5 feet away, even if they move towards him). After the party is finished the ambushers get their surprise round. The following modifiers may affect the survival check:
{table=head]Circumstance|Bonus/Penalty
Ambushers are not hidden|+2
Ambushers are well hidden|-2
Ambushers are invisible or otherwise cannot be seen/heard|-5
Ambushers are completely motionless| -2
Barbarian is not moving|+2
Barbarian is moving at a hustle|-2
Barbarian is running|-5
Ambush would be impossible to notice with normal means|-10
[/table]
Afterword: That should at least give you some ideas. It allows you to act, but only a little to set up a better situation, you couldn't for example get very far away, attack the opponents (unless they were somehow right next to you when this ability was activated), or teleport away (since they must all be touching each other, and since they all take their action at the same time the party cannot do that before the wizard casts the spell).

Roderick_BR
2010-02-01, 09:14 AM
Maybe just add the trapsense bonus apply to Spot/Listen to detect hidden attackers? It is a sort of "trap" too. And that's the sorta thing I imagine a barbarian and a rogue could specialize in avoiding too.

jiriku
2010-02-01, 12:06 PM
On the downside this leaves the barbarian with dead levels every third which is not a good thing.


Those are already dead levels. The incremental improvement to trap sense is just fluff that hides the dead level from unwary players. Really, the barbarian has 11 dead levels, or 13 if you discount the rage bonus enhancements, because incremental improvements to existing features, such as "your damage reduction improves by one point" are not new class features.

DracoDei
2010-02-01, 04:30 PM
That is not how I have ever heard anyone else define "dead level"... in that case you could argue the sorcerer has 11 dead levels (since they don't get access to a new level of spell slots on those levels)...

Drolyt
2010-02-01, 05:01 PM
That is not how I have ever heard anyone else define "dead level"... in that case you could argue the sorcerer has 11 dead levels (since they don't get access to a new level of spell slots on those levels)...

No no no. There is not a single level where a sorcerer doesn't learn a new spell. A new spell known is just as more powerful than any given Barbarian class ability. Now if all the sorcerer gained was caster level, then yes that would be a dead level. This is the main reason wizards are overpowered. They can gain new class abilities without even leveling.

Stycotl
2010-02-02, 03:05 AM
cool idea.

mechanics still seem a little rough to me, and i am not sure that there is a good, quick fix to smooth it out. but it certainly is usable now.

in my opinion, you need a smoother, simpler mechanic, but one that does not hinge on ECL of the ambushing party.

sensing an ambush by first level rangers and rogues would arguably be harder to sense than an ambush by two iron golems (obviously it is situationally dependent, but on average...), so ECL does not strike me as the desirable method to determine DC, though that was where my mind initially went as well.

i do like the idea of using opposing survival checks, though that could get messy, and there is a lot of room to argue why it shouldn't be opposed by a skill check. but for simplicity's sake, i like it.

in the marine corps, we have two kinds of ambushes: an ambush, and a hasty ambush. ambushes are thought up well in advance, while hasty ambushes are arranged right as the target is coming into view around a bend in the road.

so, i'd say it should work something like:

prearranged ambush: opposed by foe with the highest survival ranks in the ambushing party (as that individual would have time to set up the clumsier party members in good spots and tell them how to hide and hold still)

hasty ambush: opposed by the foe with the lowest survival ranks in the ambushing party (as that clumsy foe would be the weakest link in the ambush, and the one likely to alert the quarry).

alternatively, you could have it opposed with a hide check, and i like this even more when the hide and move silently skills are houseruled into one "stealth" check; i like this method more than an opposed survival check if using the houserule.

EDIT: just reminded me about my usmc-based teamwork benefits; there is an ambush benefit in there:
http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=78734

Agi Hammerthief
2010-02-03, 08:19 PM
I don't want this to derail this into a discussion what constitutes "Dead Levels" so if you feel the need for a debate please open a new thread and just post a link here.


I'm with Stycotl on not basing it on ECL for the reasons given above.


@ Drolyt:
allowing the group to act before the attackers is too powerful IMO
I'm already way over the power of the Trap Sense with eliminating the surprise.

I'll add some of the circumstance boni together with the Prearranged/Hasty wording.




Maybe just add the trap-sense bonus apply to Spot/Listen to detect hidden attackers? It is a sort of "trap" too. And that's the sorta thing I imagine a barbarian and a rogue could specialize in avoiding too.I like that, even if it flushes this whole exercise down the drain.

lightningcat
2010-02-03, 10:07 PM
Its an interesting idea, but a lot more complected then my own modification. Different takes on the same problem.


Danger Sense: The bonuses listed under trap sense ability apply to the barbarianís AC and Reflex saves in every situation, including combat. (he still loses Dodge bonuses when appropriate). You lose the benefits of this class feature when in medium or heavy armor.

Agi Hammerthief
2010-02-03, 10:15 PM
Its an interesting idea, but a lot more complected then my own modification. Different takes on the same problem.that's a pretty generous modification,
turning a "sometimes" bonus into a more or less "all the time" benefit

Drolyt
2010-02-03, 10:20 PM
that's a pretty generous modification,
turning a "sometimes" bonus into a permanent benefit

True, but it's not that powerful. It basically makes the Barbarian's saves Good instead of poor and makes up for his limited armor selection somewhat. It also limits him to light armor, and I'm fairly certain that normally he can have medium without loosing class abilities. I should look that up actually, I think you can have medium...

Agi Hammerthief
2010-02-03, 10:50 PM
True, but it's not that powerful. It basically makes the Barbarian's saves Good instead of poor and makes up for his limited armor selection somewhat. It also limits him to light armor, and I'm fairly certain that normally he can have medium without loosing class abilities. I should look that up actually, I think you can have medium...
so a good save (increasing faster than good acually) plus a net benefit to AC of +5 at level 18 (difference between Chainshirt and Chainmail)
is not that powerful?

is that a DM or a player speaking?

Drolyt
2010-02-03, 10:59 PM
so a good save (increasing faster than good acually) plus a net benefit to AC of +5 at level 18 (difference between Chainshirt and Chainmail)
is not that powerful?

is that a DM or a player speaking?

I've both DM'd and played. Hmm, well the save isn't that powerful, reflex is the least useful save. Let's see, with a +5 Chainshirt, a Ring of Protection +5, an Amulet of Natural Armor +5, or the equivalents, and max dex, that's what 39? Add in a shield for 46. Alright that's pretty darn good. Make it a Mithral breastplate to make it even better. Maybe the bonus should be added to your dex bonus, so it would top out?

Agi Hammerthief
2010-02-03, 11:14 PM
Maybe the bonus should be added to your dex bonus, so it would top out?
plus this would give motivation to drop the armor altogether

Drolyt
2010-02-03, 11:15 PM
plus this would give motivation to drop the armor altogether

I do think barbarian's make more sense without armor, or leather at the most. I mean where do all these barbarian's learn to make mail? Even if they only buy it from other people, why should they be proficient with it?