Before an encounter begins, a check for surprise may be necessary. Given the
right conditions, it is possible for either side in an encounter to surprise the
other. In essence, the encounter is just as random for the monsters as it is
for the player characters.
As noted in the Player's Handbook, surprise is not always assured nor is the check always necessary. Light,
excessive noise, and other types of prior warning can cancel the need for the
check. Surprise isn't usually possible when no form of concealment is possible (as
in the case of two ships at sea), though darkness, storms, fog, and the like do
act as concealment.
In some cases, one side may be able to surprise the other without the other
group having the same opportunity. This is particularly true when the player
characters are using lanterns or torches and the monsters are not. Seeing the
light, the monsters can try to sneak closer and get the jump on the player
When making a surprise roll, there are many factors that can increase or
decrease the chance of surprise. Some of these are very exotic or very particular to
a situation, but others can be anticipated. The more common modifiers are
listed on Table 57 . By comparing other situations to these modifiers, the DM has a guideline
for making appropriate adjustments.
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