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Old 11-02-2023, 11:32 PM   #11
Rupert
 
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Originally Posted by Refplace View Post
Tracking to follow the backtrail.
Survival, Geography, and Area Knowledge I would not let help here as the first is really irrelevant and the latter two would be more used to find good areas of possible ambush in an area. However your area is limited to the trail.
Tactics is going to be the best choice to figure out the best of the possible options for setting the ambush. Then Camouflage and Stealth to hide.
Survival might be useful to help if they could use the terrain or nearby animals to help the ambush, including making some traps like deadfalls or pit traps.
Survival might help in avoiding a bad spot for an ambush. Examples would be a dry river bed if a storm is incoming, where animals might alert people of your presence, etc. I could see Survival as a safety in the first case and a complimentary to camouflage in the latter.
I would absolutely allow Area Knowledge or Naturalist (or Survival) act as complimentary skills to the Tactics check. Some parts of the trail will be better than others for an ambush, and while that's mostly tactics, knowing the area, or having a good eye for the ground helps.
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Old 11-03-2023, 12:52 AM   #12
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

I'll add to the chorus saying that Survival isn't particularly relevant, unless the GM decides otherwise.

Survival might be handy for noticing less than obvious problems with an otherwise good ambush site, like stinging nettles or nests of stinging ants. It might also be good for keeping the ambushers warm and dry (or whatever) as they lurk or for making sure that the party doesn't make stupid mistakes if they have to set up camp along the way.

It might also allow the group to do things like keep their fires from being obvious if they have to camp near the ambush site.

It's just barely relevant if the enemy is having to make Survival rolls of their own, since it might give insights about what the bad guys are doing or how they have to travel.

I'll second use of Naturalist as a potential "fieldcraft" skill. In particular, it lets you make little observations about the overall natural environment which can give useful insights.
At the very least, it allows you to notice animal behavior which might indicate otherwise undetected human activity, like warning cries or flight.

It's definitely complementary to Tracking skill. Tracking skill will tell you what animal made the tracks your following and when, but except for obvious tracks (e.g., lame horse, horse with distinctive shoes) Naturalist is the skill of determining why an animal behaved as it did.
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Old 11-03-2023, 06:30 AM   #13
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Originally Posted by Anders View Post
Or Area Knowledge.
The difference, I think, is that with AK you know because you've seen or heard about it. With Geography you can deduce where it is based on scientific principles.
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Old 11-03-2023, 06:53 AM   #14
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

Another No vote; the skills just cover separate things, and Survival is no more a valid (or an obvious) skill to gauge the tactical potential of an area than that it replaces Farming to gauge the agricultural potential of an area, or Prospecting to gauge the mineral extraction potential of an area. Is there any overriding reason why Tactics would not be the obvious skill to use?


Area Knowledge factoring in? No, not really. It might be useful in knowing that a particular area is good for an ambush, say, but not in knowing exactly why it is, or how to exploit it.
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Old 11-03-2023, 09:58 AM   #15
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

Thanks for the great advice, all! I accept that Survival isn't a help here.

What the group is trying to accomplish here is ambush the baddies without implicating the hobbits. The PCs have tangled with the baddies before, so there's history. The group's plan was to backtrack half a day (using tracking) along the baddies' trail, and then try to set up an ambush-with the hobbits using their superior Camouflage to cover the PCs.

I was originally thinking Survival would help in general to find good terrain. What I'll tell the group now is they need to march as far as they want, and then use Tactics to examine the area they arrive at for the best ambush site. I like the idea of Area Knowledge as a complementary skill-I'll remember that for the future...

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Old 11-04-2023, 12:00 AM   #16
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Originally Posted by RGTraynor View Post
Area Knowledge factoring in? No, not really.
AK on its own isn't useful for setting an ambush, but it's a huge complementary skill to Tactics skill where the two overlap. Guerilla movements depend on it.

Per the OP's follow-up. One use of Tactics skill is to use the hobbits as scouts and signalers. Only a few of them need to go with the PCs..

Use of Tactics skill in this case means effective deployment of friendly local non-combatants.

First, use Intelligence Analysis to interview hobbits who saw the bad guys attack and suss out their exact capabilities.

Second, arrange a meeting where the PCs ask the hobbits for local areas which fit stated criteria for an ambush (e.g., "A place where the road to X bends sharply." "A forest or sufficiently high wall by the roadside at the top of a hill which could provide concealment.") and take suggestions from the hobbit with the best Area Knowledge skill (with maybe a +1 or +2 bonus for members of the crowd). Tactics is the key here, with Leadership or Diplomacy to run a meeting where tensions might run high.

Next, the leader of the operation needs to figure out how to deploy his signalers and scouts and how they can communicate. Do they lay subtle traps along the road (e.g., making a muddy patch of dirt road even muddier or using Traps and Naturalist to make a deadfall seem like random bad luck.)? That's also a Tactics roll, possibly with Leadership to get hobbits to follow potentially difficult or dangerous orders.

Finally, the PC take just enough hobbits to help them camouflage and conceal themselves at the ambush site. Cue scene of locals making themselves invisible at will and loudly criticizing the PCs attempts.

Dispersed hobbits who "just happen" to be near the road the baddies are likely to travel are easier to dismiss (or have a better chance of escaping notice if they have to remain hidden) than the PCs or a large group of hobbits.

For the hobbits Area Knowledge, Naturalist, Mimicry (Animal Calls), Observation, Tracking and Traps might be useful in addition to the usual Camouflage and Stealth. Add Hiking or Running if they have to cover a lot of ground fast.

Depending on how much time and effort you want to put into the adventure, you could come up with stats for half a dozen willing volunteers with a mix of potentially useful skills and let the players figure out how to best use them.

Last edited by Pursuivant; 11-04-2023 at 12:03 AM.
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Old 11-04-2023, 06:20 AM   #17
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Originally Posted by Pursuivant View Post
Survival might be handy for noticing less than obvious problems with an otherwise good ambush site, like stinging nettles or nests of stinging ants. It might also be good for keeping the ambushers warm and dry (or whatever) as they lurk or for making sure that the party doesn't make stupid mistakes if they have to set up camp along the way.
There are a few other potential uses. Survival is noted as being useful for recognizing and avoiding hazards, which means you might be able to use it to find exploitable hazards ("This hill is primed for a rockslide," "This area just off the path will swarm with fire ants if disturbed," etc). It can also be used for making and setting traps - they're intended for wild game, so won't be quite as effective against people, but should still be useful (and while your Survival won't be as good for hiding them from human senses, your allies' Camouflage will have you set there). DF16 notes that Survival can be used to estimate the amount of time needed to get from point A to point B, given the terrain, which might help them time their ambush if they have enough information ("The bandit camp is located here, they'll be leaving at that time, which means they'll likely arrive at the ambush point around this time"). In fact, checking that book has rules for using Survival (and other skills) to use natural hazards against your foes, so would be worth a look for your party.
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Old 11-04-2023, 06:23 AM   #18
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Originally Posted by RGTraynor View Post
Area Knowledge factoring in? No, not really. It might be useful in knowing that a particular area is good for an ambush, say, but not in knowing exactly why it is, or how to exploit it.
Hence why I'd allow it as a complimentary skill only. AK lets you know what's along the path the bad guys seem to be taking, so you can choose the best spot on the path, rather than having to pick the best you've seen 'so far' and potentially miss out on the perfect spot that's just up ahead. Naturalist would be similar - it lets you look at the land and be able to tell that there's some nice terrain coming up that you could use, so that helps your Tactics roll (assuming the AK/Naturalist user didn't mess up their roll and give bad advice, of course).
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Old 11-04-2023, 02:16 PM   #19
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Default Re: Survival skill FINDs terrain for Ambush; Tactics skill to best utilize it?

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Hence why I'd allow it as a complementary skill only. AK lets you know what's along the path the bad guys seem to be taking, so you can choose the best spot on the path, rather than having to pick the best you've seen 'so far' and potentially miss out on the perfect spot that's just up ahead.
Yeah, this works for me; but I wouldn't let the group go too far with it...
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Originally Posted by Varyon View Post
Survival is noted as being useful for recognizing and avoiding hazards, which means you might be able to use it to find exploitable hazards ("This hill is primed for a rockslide," "This area just off the path will swarm with fire ants if disturbed," etc)...DF16 notes that Survival can be used to estimate the amount of time needed to get from point A to point B, given the terrain, which might help them time their ambush if they have enough information ("The bandit camp is located here, they'll be leaving at that time, which means they'll likely arrive at the ambush point around this time"). In fact, checking that book has rules for using Survival (and other skills) to use natural hazards against your foes, so would be worth a look for your party.
Now this is why I thought of Survival in the first place! As a "prep" skill for a final Tactics roll.
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