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Chapter 8: Tactical Rules / How Combat Works


Source Starfinder Core Rulebook pg. 239
When a combat starts, if a character is not aware of her opponents, she is surprised. The GM determines whether each character is aware by calling for Perception checks or other relevant checks. Surprised combatants take penalties until they have acted in combat.

If some but not all of the combatants are aware of their opponents when combat breaks out, a surprise round takes place before normal combat rounds begin. In order of the characters’ initiative results (highest to lowest; see Initiative on page 238), combatants who started the battle aware of their opponents can each take either a standard or move action during the surprise round. Characters can also take swift actions during the surprise round.

If no characters or all characters are aware of their opponents, no surprise round occurs, and combat proceeds as normal.

Surprised Combatants: During combat, combatants who are surprised at the start of battle have the flat-footed condition (see page 276). As a result, they take a –2 penalty to their Armor Class. Once a character has become aware and acted, she is no longer flat-footed due to being surprised.

Who Is Surprised?

A surprise round occurs if some but not all characters involved in a combat are unaware of opponents about to attack. Sometimes all the combatants on a side are aware of their opponents, sometimes none are, and sometimes only a few are. Sometimes several combatants on each side are aware while the rest are surprised. When you can sneak up and catch your enemies by surprise, you enjoy a powerful advantage. It’s one way stealthy characters can even the odds when facing foes with superior combat abilities.