Well, I just got done DMing the weekly D&D game. I’ve been running the new Pathdfinder series (an excellent offering by Paizo Publishing) and so far I’ve greatly enjoyed the adventures. Tonight my players had to take on the entire Thistletop goblin tribe, which could have been hairy. Instead they got smart and used stealth and tactics instead.
Several battles that could have been horrendously hard were instead fairly easily, as they were able to get surprise on those pesky goblins, even slaughtering several of them while they slept. So instead of a bunch of knock-down, drag-out fights, there were several “we kill them in their sleep” moments, which suited me just fine. Even taking on the chief and his commandos wasn’t too bad, as they went in two entrances and got the drop on them. A fine evening to be sure.
Which brings up a valuable point; stealth should matter in a game. If your players come up with a clever plan or use sneaky tactics, it should mostly be rewarded (provided it’s genre appropriate). In this case, it would have been easy to have all the goblins rally at the first sign of battle, but they were clever and fought so quickly that it was worth rewarding the players for their clever tactics. I think that some GMs can get in trouble when they realize something that should have been hard is going to be easy when the players get creative.
Which is a shame, really. If players get clever, they should be rewarded, and if that reward is easy and almost one-sided battles, all the better. It leaves more time for interaction and less time rolling lots of little polyhedral dice (and we all know how much we enjoy doing that). Given my experiences tonight, I think that I’ll keep a closer eye on what sort of advantages stealth and surprise can bring a character. I know that when I keep working on my own game system, I’ll sure keep it in mind.