Ambush Issue - Readying vs Surprise Round

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I will supply some short background on what occured. The Assassin in the party stealthed ahead and saw that the next room was guarded by Hobgoblins that appeared ready to ambush the PC's when the entered. He returned to the party and reported this.

The PC's decided to bluff the Hobgoblins using goblinoid into believing that the PC's were escaping and after some high rolls and great dialogue, the Hobgoblins came charging up the corridor and around the bend. 

Now the problem I had was the Avenger wished to ready an action before the first Hobgoblin turned the corner, using a pull action to bring him 4 squares forward into the trap. I ruled that the PC's would get a surprise round, but you can not ready an action outside of combat or during a surprise round.

The Ranger acted on Iniative 29, shot the hobgoblin minion and the Avenger got quite disgruntled about not getting their surprise action.

Was I right in doing this?
This is correct according to RAW. Its a little harder to say what DMs should or should not allow in specific situations. The way the surprise round rule is written seems kind of awkward in some respects.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
or during a surprise round.

Why not during a surprise round?  This almost sounds like you ruled that a character who is not surprised cannot take the Ready action when his turn in the initiative comes up (to be triggered at some point after he takes the Ready action).

I agree that you can't take a Ready action outside of combat.  However, I'm curious why combat hadn't already started when the PC and Hobgoblins started chasing each other?  Or are you saying there were no PCs in view, and the Hobgoblins all came charging around the corner after the PCs made a bunch of noise pretending they were running away?  And if the latter, why didn't the Avenger get to act in the suprise round?

Fitz, I think it went something like:
  • Hobgoblins round the corner: combat begins with a surprise round

  • Ranger beats Avenger in initiative and acts first in the surprise round

  • Avenger gets crusty

Returned from hiatus; getting up to speed on 5e rules lawyering.

Makes sense.  Everything ruled correctly, Avenger needs to get over it. 

Tich has it right
Ageed. Tell the Avenger that his "readied action" is what gives him a suprised round.
Tell him that setting an ambush is actually the same as making an out-of-combat ready action, just that its even better than a ready action becasue he doesn't have to specify a trigger. So what he wants to do is already what the rules assume he is doing, just better.

Tell him that all the players were effectively "readying" even if they didn't say so and when everyone readied for the same trigger (the hobgoblins to come through the door) it's only natural to let Initiative rule who attacks first... and this the Ranger won.


In my experience, players like the Avenger who gets grumpy in these kind of situations are because they think they get cheated out of clever thinking. So explaining them that they didn't get cheated, everyone else just got the same bonus (a suprise round because of "redying") might settle him. ...then encourage him to take Improved Initiative, Alertness or Quickdraw to get ahead of the ranger if he likes to "be first".
or just encourage him to kill the ranger..... Um' forget I said that.

The official point of this GM and the world that he represents is that all party members regardless of character quirks, traits, proplems have the right to live. At no time does this world or the worlds constiuates encourage other palyers to kill there fellow adventurers off. Even when it makes most since for character story line and background.

Even when it makes most since for character story line and background.

Does "he took my kill" really constitude a good character story line or background-reason to PVP? ;)
But yea D&D assumes Players vs. monsters, more so for 4e than any previous edition. But I think thats another discussion.

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