The Stealth Scale
This optional subsystem clocks in at 7 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 4 pages of content. The screen-version optimized for tablets instead clocks in at 12 pages, laid out in landscape format, and sports the same content.
All right, so what is the Stealth Scale? If you’re like me and adore infiltration scenarios, you’ll have noted that Stealth can become pretty rolling-intense; The Stealth Scale proposes the following: Each character being stealthy tracks the position of the foes on the Stealth Scale – all of them, at once, with one token.
When using the Stealth Scale, it is assumed that creatures use two dominant senses to track creatures: Sight and hearing. These are the Basic Senses.
Keen Senses include darkvision, greensight, mistsight, low-light vision and see in darkness as well as spells like see invisibility.
Advanced Senses include blindsight, blindsense, lifesense, tremorsense, scent, thoughtsense and x-ray vision.
If a creature has LESS senses (due to being blind or deaf, for example) and is the highest CR creature in a group of opponents, that decreases the maximum that group can rise on the Stealth Scale by one stage. This is a potentially ridiculous downside for pretty much every group led by a blind or deaf being, even if that group actually is retained to make up for this shortcoming.
The Stealth Scale knows a total of 5 different states, which are summarized on a handy cheat-sheet that accompanies the pdf as a 1-page bonus file:
Full awareness of a creature is called “Watching You”; then comes “Aware of you”, which means you can’t take the creature by surprise if they are “aware of you” –on the cheat sheet, we have a nasty glitch here: Instead of stating “aware of you”, the text reads “watching you”, which can be pretty confusing; while we’re at the subject of glitches – the header “Altert[sic!] for you” should probably spell “Alert.” Creatures that are alert know either where you are or that you might attack them. The next step if “Alert for Danger”, which is nomenclature-wise, perhaps a bit unwise – why use “alert” for two different steps? Why not use, for example, “cautious”? This is the default of watchmen and you may take foes by surprise and it’s easier to be stealthy. Finally, off guard creatures cannot effectively defend themselves and make it much easier to be stealthy. – This is pretty much what can be found on the cheat-sheet, which makes it of dubious value – the lack of rules-details makes it a summary of the basic concepts, not a handy reference.
But let’s return to the proper pdf: With the Stealth Scale, other creatures are situated at a distinct point between Awareness and Stealth, which constitute, like on a scale, opposite sides of the same value. Increasing one decreases the other.
If enemies are watching you, the DC to use Stealth increases by 10. Additionally, you can’t make precision-based attacks against them. Yes, this was released after Occult Adventures. Yes, mesmerists are crying here. This needs to be rephrased.
If creatures are aware of you, you can’t make precision-based attacks against them. Same issue applies. Alert for you lets you make sneak attacks against them; creatures alert for danger and the DC to use stealth decreases by 5. (Why isn’t that value on the cheat-sheet??) Here, things get weird: Creatures that are off guard are flat-footed against you and Stealth DC decreases by 10. Up to this point, I assumed that there’d be some sort of substitute for flat-footed or further definition within the context of the scale, but RAW, watching you, aware of you and alert for you thus directly contradict the mechanics of flat-footed and the interaction with e.g. sneak attack in e.g. emerging combats, making that aspect rather messy.
Now, a plus is that the basic mechanics of the Stealth Scale do not require (a lot of) checks per se: Making a Stealth check in the system takes one minute of hiding to improve the position on the Stealth Scale. Making an attack that does not kill or incapacitate the target increases Awareness by two. Moving more than ½ base speed increases Awareness by one. Speaking can increase Awareness by 1+; interacting with an object within a creature’s senses increases Awareness by 1 as well. Going invisible, entering an area of silence and ducking into cover can be used to increase Stealth, provided no senses can bypass the measures.
The check to improve Stealth is made by a character against DC 15 + the CR of the strongest creature + the number of creatures in the group, +5 per advanced sense in the group. Success indicates moving up one step on the scale, failing by 5 or more results in the scale moving towards Awareness.
Group Stealth is handled by designating a Point Man – this character makes the Stealth check on behalf of the group. All other characters are designated as operatives and increase the DC of Stealth checks made by the point man by 2. Actions by all characters may increase Awareness, but only the Point Man may increase Stealth. Operatives need to stay within the Point Man’s senses or leave the group – which is a bit weird, considering the trope of whistling and similar signs. Sounds good, right? Know what’s missing? Diversions via e.g. Bluff. Groups led by a Point man (disguised, for example) that otherwise remain hidden.
Editing and formatting are okay, though not perfect; I noticed some hiccups that influence rules and the nomenclature choice of two steps with “alert” below “aware” is also a bit weird as well. Layout adheres to the two-column standard with a few subdued colors. The pdf has no interior artwork, but comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Michael McCarthy’s Stealth Scale is a cool concept per se; as someone who adores complex infiltrations, this should be right up my alley. Alas, it has some issues that make it harder to grasp than it should be; while I understand that, by design, this needs to be a simplification of sorts, it honestly feels actually less convenient to use: You have to calculate the DCs based on creature CR (which adds metagaming aspects); the additional sense-aspect can become really potent and the default increases for invisibility etc. can be cheesed. I can see this turn into a really cool system, but I can rate only what’s here…and that requires some work. The cheat-sheet is nigh useless as presented and, puzzlingly, we don’t get an actual…you know, scale to track how the PCs are doing. That is made easily enough, but from rules-hiccups to other components, this feels unrefined and lacking. I can’t go higher than 2 stars on it.
You can get this pdf for the low price of 2 bucks here on OBS!