Of Monsters and Men
Alertness measures the character’s passive awareness. When characters are surprised, roll Alertness to determine who has the drop on whom. In active, physical conflicts, Alertness
determines initiative: whoever has the highest Alertness score (without rolling) goes first, then play proceeds around the table either clockwise or anticlockwise. Alternately,
play can proceed in order of Alertness, highest to lowest. Characters with high Alertness include bodyguards, outdoorsmen, and criminals who don’t get caught.
Alertness has similarities to Empathy and Investigation: in social situations and conflicts, use Empathy to determine initiative instead of Awareness; if the character’s actively looking for something, use Investigation. There’s often a fine line between looking for a clue and just happening to spot one. If it’s something relatively obvious that nobody bothered to look for, like a bloodstain on the floor, an Alertness check can bring
it to the players’ attention. If it’s something they need to proceed anyway, let them find it automatically, and use Alertness checks to reveal additional information.
If you set difficulties low, characters will always see something: the trick is to ensure your outcomes are tiered, so that you have more information to give to the
player who does well but still have something for one who doesn’t. When multiple characters perform Alertness checks, provide information to the person who did best
first, then to each person in order, telling them what they don’t see. This gives the players a clear picture, while pinpointing the limits of their characters’ knowledge.
A good rule of thumb is to provide an additional detail for every one or two shifts generated. If everyone can easily spot the bloodstain, then those who get two shifts
notice that it’s unusually dark, those who get four notice a smaller stain near the door, and so on. But be careful: there’s only so much detail an Alertness check like this
should reveal without stepping on Investigation’s toes. Calling for an Alertness check can have a sideeffect of making players paranoid about what they’re missing unless they get a stellar result. Consequently, general calls for Alertness rolls should be used sparingly,
and only when there’s actually something to tell the players, regardless of whether they rolled well enough to discover it.
Whenever ambushed (see page 110), a character may make
one final Alertness check against his attacker’s Stealth to see
if he’s surprised. On a failure his defence is Mediocre (+0)
for the first exchange.
To simulate a confusing situation, where it’s difficult to see
clearly because of smoke, mirrors or too much activity, the
Story Teller may restrict all actions by Alertness