I am enjoying the stealth rules I created and I've had plenty of time to play with them ~ but I have to admit that they're tricky to use. I thought I'd write a post about that.
The rules stipulate a minimum distance that the combatant can successfully approach an enemy without being seen, modified by such things as vegetation, the amount the combatant is wearing/carrying, the level of the combatant and the combatant's appearance due to camouflage. The closer the distance between combatant and target, the more silent and hidden it is assumed the combatant is.
The tricky part is in describing this to the player, specifically due to troubles that arise in terms of the player's awareness of the enemy and how they may choose to describe their movement.
Let's take the easiest situation: the player can see the enemy at a set distance away; we'll say the enemy is 14 hexes away, with 5 feet per hex, or 70 feet. The stealth rule then designates (we roll) how many hexes will separate the player character from the enemy before the character's movement is discovered.
What's needed at this point is a "commitment to approach," which is hard to obtain. The characters says they are approaching the enemy. Because of the rule, we don't need to figure out if the character uses the bushes or moves along a low wall or just crawls up on belly. Time is not a factor in the rule (though we could stipulate one hex per round, or perhaps one hex per three rounds). In movie terms, it's the scene where the character very, very slowly moves up on the enemy in order to kill them, pausing each time the enemy moves
Players don't want to commit, however. They want to describe their movement one hex at a time, but of course until reaching the critical hex, the character isn't discovered. So I have to ask the question, "Do you approach the enemy until you are discovered?"
That's a really hard question to answer. It sounds ominous and uncomfortable and players don't want to answer it; which usually means they want to back off and not approach the enemy at all. Which is fair enough. Sneaking up on someone is freaky and ought to be seen as a very hazardous option.
Now let's take a more difficult situation to run. The players can hear the enemy but can't see them. They're nearby, in the bushes, and the players want to attack them. However, now I can't tell the players how close the enemy are. They can't see distance; hearing is not seeing and the distance can't be judged. In such situations, I find it hard to explain to the players that yes, if they move up on the enemy, they'll have to risk being seen ~ while having no idea how many hexes the enemy will be away. Again, I need that commitment to approach, until the enemy is engaged.
Prior to the stealth rule, I did not have a problem with this. The players, by not relating stealth to distance, would happily blunder into the enemy and a fight would ensue. They're in the bushes? No problem, we rush through the bushes and attack them.
But by introducing this distance scheme into the mix, players have become very, very cautious. Basically, I've given them a measurement that they think they ought to be able to control; but of course they can't, since a 3d6 roll can be pretty scattered, particularly when I'm making that roll in secret so they can't be sure what their result is (at least, until they're at -10 on the dice because they've reached name level as an assassin or thief). By nailing down the specifics of the approach, I've given the players a reason to think twice; and thinking twice, they tend to err on the side of caution. That is, they decide not to approach at all.
It is an interesting psychological problem and I have found it difficult to work with. I'm going to be working on another rule about heightened senses [page description in progress], which will establish a minimum approach distance for anyone with the sage ability, regardless of the enemy's stealth, as well as providing some information on how distant an enemy is by virtue of hearing them. Heightened senses basically takes the place of "hear noise," while adding a few other juicy benefits.