NPC Stealth

Hello all. I am a recent adopter of BitD, which is really a work of art.
I have been GMing on roll20, and have had some hard time to find a way to convey npc stealth.
In other systems I could ask for passive perceptions and perception rolls, but here I feel I have to end up using fortune rolls to see if the characters would notice a spy following them.

I sometimes give some tips, but I feel that that tends to be too heavy handed since they immediatelly try to hunt / study / atune to notice what ticked them off.

How do you, in the community, handle it?

The thing is, in this game you just don’t have to do this.

If a NPC is stealthy, PCs don’t detect it. You don’t have to tick them off or convey anything. Or you can say, when you want, that it is detected, if this makes the story progress. You give “tips” when you feel it’s OK for the PCs to act. If you don’t feel it’s appropriate, don’t give the tips. If the NPC is a Master at Stealth, it could jump on the PC without any warning. NOW the PCs are aware they were followed… but they have to resist or take level 3 harm or whatever.

Second solution: you “tick them off or convey” that a NPC is lurking in the background, but as a complication or a worse position, as a consequence of any roll.
In order to respect the fiction, the position should not always have been decided by the fact that there is a NPC (but it could be) . This complication is added to another consequence that reflects the position.

Example: a CONSORT is Risky because the target is not especially a friend and there is a risk they get angry by your dishonest proposition and hits you in the bo**ocks. On a 4/5, OK, you have convinced the target that you’re not that bad, but you realize someone has been spying your conversation… Maybe not the best example but you get the meaning.


All good recommendations, but on top of that, there’s also the option to just say:

“A skilled NPC is stalking you. If you’d like to be aware of this in character, resist with insight.”


Oh wow, that’s an awesome solution.

Yep, good answers.

Also see page 167, “NPC Threat Levels.”
And the Survey example on page 178 (the Desperate flashback to detect an ambush).

If the opponent isn’t a master, you can just tell the PCs what they know or suspect.

“You catch a glimpse of a shadow moving on a nearby roof. Someone is tailing you.”
“You’re about to open the door when you hear a slight scuffing sound in the hall… like someone preparing to pounce…”

If the opponent is somewhat skilled, you can ask who among the PCs is Surveying for trouble, then use their roll to guide how much you say (a gather info roll).


Thank you for your answers!

All very good insights. My group is going through growing pains of shifting into such a different approach to role playing, where I do not have all the answers, and this reaction to stealth is one of the points that most frustrated me, since they would drop everything if I gave a description that might be that someone is following them and kind of “skill dogpilled” the problem.

Your answers helped me realize that I should only use this when it furthers the story, since they can always flashback to having noticed it. Will ask the other question on a separate thread, to give visibility to it.

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If you want to really crank up the paranoia, you can just say “Would you like to resist with Insight?”

“Resist what?”

“You won’t know unless you resist.”

I would only use this approach for meaningful threats. The information gleaned should be worth the Stress.

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One thing I like to do is make it non-free to respond to the threat. In this case:

“You catch a glimpse of a shadow moving on a nearby roof. Someone is tailing you.”

Since there’s apparently no reason not to respond, there are several ways to turn this into an interesting choice:

  1. Just let them respond, and since they may not make a perfect 6 roll, use the consequences to create additional problems that just wouldn’t be there if they had ignored the shadow. Be very clear when creating these problems so they know that responding to these events may have unwanted or unforeseen consequences.

  2. Create the problem upfront: “guys, before you decide to do anything, be aware that if you don’t go straight to your destination, I’ll create a clock, the world goes on and you may miss your opportunity if you don’t focus on your objective. Is it really that bad that someone is tailing you? Maybe you even want to let them follow and confront them later?”.

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