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Stealthy Options

The rules here greatly expands infiltration, PC options, and covert operations. GMs are given guidance on how to run stealth sessions.

The supplement includes rules for:

  • Stealth tips: How best to run an engaging stealth encounter
  • Infiltration: A detailed procedure for completing heists or assassinations
  • Approaches: Six different approaches to stealth; one for each ability
  • PC options: A new archetype, stealth gear, sundries, poisons, and spells

Ideal Use

The rules here are intended for games that focus on guile and deception; parties that consist of thieves; military campaigns in which weapons are extremely potent; or for groups that feel bored of “basic” stealth.

The infiltration system creates a new mode of gameplay that mechanically enforces the best-practices for delving into dangerous dungeons or fortified enemy compounds.


Stealth is particularly difficult to adjudicate in rpgs. Likewise, it’s very hard to create rules and systems that are both fun and make sense in the context of the fiction. Stealth operates in a strange space of either being too nebulous (basically freeform) or too binary (you succeed or you don’t). In typical six-stat rpgs, stealth allows little room for tactical choice or options for fictional positioning. There are many questions that are difficult to answer in typical six-stat rpgs and as such rely heavily on GM interpretation. How can one describe their PC’s methods more concretely? How does stealth even work? What’s the difference between someone being alert vs. aware? In the context of Five Torches Deep, stealth is about avoiding danger, gaining information, and setting tempo for action. A PC concealed by stealth is able to observe the truth of the world from safety. They can choose when to act and where to go, or to avoid challenges completely if they wish. These obstacles and benefits are compounded by parties of adventurers carrying full packs of gear, armor, and supplies for survival. How can a party convincingly move through enemy territory without being detected? This book is designed to help clarify these issues, provide choices to the players, and allow everyone to contribute to a stealth scenario.

The specific subsystem discussed in this book is called an INFILTRATION, to separate it from a traditional stealth encounter.

Stealth Tips

The GM should be mindful of how stealth encounters (or sessions) differ from normal dungeon crawling. Some considerations:

Don’t Ignore the Group

If a single PC is the focus of a stealth encounter, consider occupying the attention of the rest of the party. If this was a movie, what is the B team doing while the A team is climbing into the enemy castle?

Patrols & Chokepoints

In general, sentries and detectors only go on patrol if they can’t sufficiently monitor the region they’re trying to protect. This is rare in most structures or urban settings (castles, towns, dungeons). Instead, most guards will monitor a fixed strategic chokepoint.

Be sure to provide paths that are difficult to monitor, access, or both (climbing a sheer cliff rather than taking the main road, etc). Remember, the goal of using stealth is to give more control and choice to the players.

Planning & Observation

As Five Torches Deep is an OSR game, the focus is on the shared emergent fiction, not the mechanics and rules. This means that if the PCs are able to carefully observe their obstacles, plan for them, and explain how they overcome them, it may not be necessary to roll a check to bypass detection.

Magical Senses

For every supernatural and magical sense, there is an equal and opposite form of deception. However, magic senses can immediately end an otherwise challenging encounter. GMs should use great caution when employing these forms of detection and give ample opportunity for PCs to learn of or circumvent them through the encounter.

Keep it Moving

Use as few areas or obstacles as possible to keep up the pace. Let the player exploit gaps in the enemy’s detection or structure: Space is expensive, guards are bored, defenses are built to the bare minimum to avoid failure. Player ingenuity should always be rewarded with skipping obstacles, giving choices, and providing information. But these rewards are only possible if there is ample opportunity to leverage these options.

Alarms & Patrols

The goal of sentries and guards isn’t to stand and die or to chase and apprehend the party of infiltrators; it’s to sound the alarm. Their sole purpose is to scream, hit gongs, blow horns, and make a racket so that the entire complex moves to intercept the intruders. This means retreat and escape at the onset of being caught is almost always better than trying to fight it out.


Stealth encounters (and INFILTRATIONS) are broken into segments called ZONES. Each zone describes an area or route the PC must surpass; usually with its own obstacles, guards, and ideal approach.

A ZONE isn’t necessarily a single room or a compact area; it can describe an entire phase of a stealth encounter and cover miles of travel. Each ZONE should have a unique flavor and a distinct obstacle. GMs should encourage PCs to circumvent specific ZONES through clever play. As such, the GM must make it so that (nearly) all ZONES can be passed without dice.

Time & Measures

This document uses the term MEASURE to indicate a nebulous amount of time that the GM deems fit. The longer a stealth encounter goes on, the more likely the hidden PCs will be detected or captured. MEASURES should have a distinct fictional element that the PC and player can detect (shift rotations, time of day, burning out of torches, etc). As these MEASURES go on, anything that the PC has done will cause suspicion. Tracks, bodies, broken locks, open doors that should be closed, and similar indications of an intruder will increase scrutiny. This can and should impact the difficulty to continue a successful infiltration without detection.

Partial Detection

Guards or other detectors can heighten their scrutiny and awareness if they are suspicious of a potential intruder, but might not go into full alarm or lockdown. The GM should use this level of partial detection frequently so as to heighten the suspense and drama of the stealth encounter. Typically the first failure (or even middling success) can be used to flag this elevated level of scrutiny.


It’s tempting to make everything in a stealth encounter use dice and mechanics, but stealth should refrain from over-rolling even more than in “normal” OSR play. The PCs shouldn’t be able to roll again until the circumstances significantly change; they can’t just keep spamming the dice hoping for a natural 20. A single roll doesn’t necessarily mean that they just completed a few seconds of activity; instead it encompasses minutes or even hours of tasks the PC attempted. Each roll should be weighty and demand immediate consequences.

As always, the GM should favor following the fictional positioning established in-game: What is the PC doing, how is the environment affecting these actions, what are the guards or other detectors doing to respond, and so on. Is their description enough? Their skillset? Their tools or spells? If all else fails, then roll.


Characters are able to enter an advanced form of stealth called INFILTRATION. This system provides more choice and complexity for sneaking into areas or evading NPCs.

Infiltration vs. Stealth

The stealth encounter rules in Five Torches Deep are simple, functioning like any other check. Infiltration gives complexity to stealth like the combat rules do to a fight.

Use stealth checks when the party wants to breeze by a bit of scouting or sneakiness. Use the infiltration rules when your group wants a large part of a session (if not its entirety) to focus on a covert operation.

Light & Infiltration

The rules in FTD Core cover different amounts of light and illumination. Light can be used to inform specific rolls, detection, and approaches but should not apply disadvantage or advantage as normal. In other words, ignore the light rules outside the means of detection and the PC approach.

Gear & Infiltration

Party load and gear factor into their ability to infiltrate. Armor, weapons, and gear shouldn’t always make it harder (blend in to a crowd of mercenaries, etc). Further, the PCs can spend time to streamline their gear to optimally align with their approach.

Check Modifiers

An infiltration check is still a stealth check, but with different ability score modifiers based on the approach the PC takes. If a PC would normally be proficient for this type of action in FTD Core, they gain their proficiency modifier to infiltration. Load applies in the same way, placing disadvantage to infiltration checks if encumbered (GM fiat).

Non-Infiltration Checks

Handle checks as normal if a PC attempts an action that requires a check during infiltration (disarming a trap, picking a lock, memorizing a password, casting a spell). Each check should have fitting ramifications per the context and fiction. Failure should always result in wasting a measure or leg in addition to the natural consequences.

Infiltration Attacks

An infiltrating PC can freely incapacitate or kill an unaware detector (if it’s possible at all to target them). Doing so reduces the RATING equal to that detector’s HD (e.g. a 4 HD guard reduces the infiltration’s rating from 10 to 6). This reduction can cause a rating to go to 0 or below, in which the PC is caught. See pg 7 for infiltration RATING. If the PC wishes to risk it, they can attack the target as normal (with advantage typically) and deal damage. If the detector is brought to 0 HP in a single round the rating doesn’t go down at all; if not, the PC is caught.

Infiltration Process

1. Goal: A player declares their goal, which triggers an infiltration

2. DETAILS: The GM determines:

a. LEGS: The number of areas, paths, or zones to infiltrate (1 to 5)

b. DETECTION DICE: The general level of awareness and detection (d4 to d12)

3. Describe: The GM describes the area, route, sentries, and visible obstacles

4. APPROACH: The PC picks one of the six approaches and describes how it fits

5. CHECK: Roll 1d20 + approach mod. The result is the infiltration’s RATING

a. NATURAL 1: Automatic failure

b. NATURAL 20: Skips next leg

6. RESOLVE: The GM rolls detection dice from step 2b, but may alter it given the PC’s approach or the nature of the check a. Detection dice results reduce the rating. A PC is caught at 0 or below b. A PC that gets through all legs with at least 1 rating achieves their goal.

Re-CHECK: The PC can choose to repeat step 5 at the start of each leg (GM fiat). A result less than the current rating means the PC is caught; a result higher or equal to the current rating sets it to the new result rolled.

1. Goal

The PC sets the goal, which has a specific object, task, or piece of information tied to its completion. Goals generally resolve at a set location (the vault, the king’s bedroom, etc) and can be achieved by many methods.

2.a. Legs

The GM roughly maps out the amount of scenes, rooms, paths, or measures needed to accomplish the goal. Getting out undetected may effectively double this. An infiltration of more than 5 legs is nearly impossible, and might be better separated.

2.b. Detection Dice

The GM determines a polyhedral die size (between d4 and d12) for the infiltration; the bigger the die, the more alert. Each leg or measure, the die size steps up (d6 to d8, etc) to show that the detectors are more aware.

Detection dice usually start at d6, but vary as the GM deems in the context of the scene, detectors, or PC approach. The GM does not need to reveal the dice used, but should describe how the detectors become alert.

3. Describe

Treat this as any other scene: Describe the world and events, inform the PC of notable circumstances, and allow the world to react.

4. Approach

The PC picks an approach (rush, sneak, hold, position, avoid, or blend) based on the way that they’re infiltrating. Some infiltrations have a “better” choice than others. The GM can overrule the approach based on the fiction and the PC’s given description.

5. Check

Once the elements from steps 1-4 are sorted out, the PC makes a check (1d20 + approach mod). Some groups may prefer to keep their PC’s modifier as a single number as in Five Torches Deep core. The result of this roll is the infiltration’s RATING, which sets the tone and tempo for the rest of the scene. The player knows this RATING, and the GM can give in-fiction context clues to the PC how “well” they are infiltrating (describing the PC, sensory elements, and how NPCs or detectors are acting are good clues). A natural 1 on this check results in being caught in this leg, as the GM sees fit. A natural 20 skips this leg altogether, reducing the chance of detection. A natural 20 still adds the approach mod to the RATING.

6. Resolve

The GM rolls detection dice at the end of each leg (or measure). Detection dice explode (if the die result is the max value, roll again and add the total together). Detection dice can only explode once each. The results of these detection dice (always at least 1 per roll) reduces the rating by an equal amount (e.g. 10 rating – 4 detection roll result = 6 new rating). This new rating continues to inform the fiction. While the description changes, the GM shouldn’t tell the PC the actual number for the new rating. Hitting 0 rating (or below) at any point demands that the PC is detected or caught (the PC can escape, see pg 9). Maintaining 1 or more rating through the infiltration means the PC achieved their goal.


At the start of each leg or measure, the PC can choose to roll a new infiltration check. The approach they’re using might vary, and the general circumstances might preclude some options or approaches. The GM has to approve the proposed re-check and context. The result of this new check has immediate impact on the story and infiltration. If the result is less than the current rating (which has already been reduced from the original rating due to detection dice) the PC is caught. Being caught triggers either an escape (pg 9), combat, or narrative scene.

Rolling equal to or higher than the current rating sets the rating to the new result for this infiltration. In this way the PC can extend their proverbial clock before being caught. There’s a natural gamble in this method, as the PC doesn’t know what the current rating is, only that it’s ticking down. In general, the GM should require some kind of fictional justification for the PC rolling again. Simply “trying to do it better” isn’t enough, and it’s valid for the GM to demand the player give additional context or approach to what’s changing that allows them to continue to avoid detection.

There are six infiltration APPROACHES (rush, sneak, hold, position, avoid, blend). Each corresponds with one ability, and requires fictional justification in order to work.

Rush (Str)

Swiftly cover distance to minimize the amount you’re noticed. Needs physical obstacles, rooftops, hallways, and similar to go undetected. RUSH adds +STR mod.

Sneak (Dex)

Typical skulking, sticking to shadows, being quiet, etc. The easiest to justify (cover or concealment). SNEAK adds +DEX mod.

Hold (Con)

Holding breath underwater, cramming into a cupboard, hanging over a door frame. Remain absolutely still and silent in a very difficult position. HOLD adds +CON mod.

Position (Int)

Using tactics, architecture, and pathways to maximize the amount of time you’re alone. Best in urban environments and takes time. POSITION adds +INT mod.

Avoid (Wis)

Anticipating what others can detect and avoiding it. Using insight, intuition, and perception. AVOID adds +WIS mod.

Blend (Cha)

Acting like you belong, blending in with a crowd, appearing inconspicuous or typical. BLEND adds +CHA mod.

Infiltration Approaches

Rush Descriptions

Sprint across when their back’s turned

Leap over the alley between two roofs

Run, jump, and swiftly climb up the tower

Outrun the guard coming to investigate

Run while balancing on a tightrope

Kick off pillars/walls to run “on the air”

Sneak Descriptions

Crouch, creep, and minimize your posture

Move so slowly it’s almost imperceptible

Slither like a snake, crawling on hands

Stick to the shadows, dodging torches

Delicately place each silent step

Only move when they do, masking sound

Hold Descriptions

Hanging upside down in the rafters

Submerging into sewage, holding breath

Cramming into an incredibly small space

Change your body shape and hold still

Remaining utterly motionless for hours

Halting breathing for minutes to be silent

Position Descriptions

Using defilade to always block your path

Reasoning the most likely place for guards

Timing movements with the environment

Moving through homes/alternate paths

Striking at the most opportune time

Creating and leveraging a distraction

Avoid Descriptions

Following the guard’s patrol route

Avoiding the most visible, scrutinized spot

Estimating the focus, aptitude of guards

Following your innate “gut feeling”

Remaining aware of sentries’ locations

Timing based on enemy movements

Blend Descriptions

Donning the enemy’s uniform or look

Pretending to be here on official business

Bluffing your way past any guards

Looking like an innocent bystander

Utilizing crowds or large distractions

Forging documents, seals, or regalia

Getting Caught

When a rating drops to 0 or below, the PCs involved are CAUGHT. Being caught doesn’t mean that the PCs “lose” or are without options; instead it means that the covert, stealthy choice is unavailable. The most common options after getting caught are to surrender, escape, negotiate, or fight.


The PCs give up, and are escorted away. The NPCs are in control and the infiltration ends.


An escape can be easily emulated by using the RETREAT rules in Five Torches Deep (STR or DEX checks in order to outrun pursuers). However the GM might prefer to run an escape essentially as a reverse infiltration, with a rating and an amount of pursuit dice.

The infiltration approaches are instead replaced by whatever checks and modifiers the GM deems contextually relevant.


A combination of freeform dialogue and the occasional CHA check if necessary. This is only possible if the party possesses some leverage (a hostage, treasure, intel, etc).


Regular combat rules (or from DUELS). Generally the longer the fight, the more reinforcements arrive.

Split & Group

The default rules for INFILTRATION assume a single PC. However, in many cases the entire party will want to infiltrate enemy territory. There are two main ways to achieve this: SPLIT and GROUP infiltration.

Split Infiltration

The INFILTRATION is split between each PC individually, with the entire process being handled one player at a time. The PCs can bunch into smaller groups (one per LEG) or split up across multiple parallel Legs. This is ideal for nonlinear Infiltrations that allow the PCs’ efforts to be done simultaneously.

Certain goals and missions lend themselves well to this type of multi-pronged effort (especially complex heists that require many simultaneous events to be effective).

Group Infiltration

A single PC is the infiltration’s LEAD, and the party moves as a unit. The rules function exactly as normal, except for each extra individual in the INFILTRATION reduces the infiltration check modifier by 1 (e.g. the LEAD’s 3 comrades reduces their SNEAK mod from the LEAD’s +4 to +1 [4 – 3 = 1]).

However, if other non-lead PCs are able to “help” the infiltration in a way that is more beneficial than not, then this penalty can be removed (e.g., they don enemy guard uniforms and help the lead PC blend in). This has to be justified in the fiction for each PC.

The Infiltrator

The Infiltrator is a PC archetype specializing in covertly moving through dangerous or guarded territory. Any PC with stealth proficiency can become an infiltrator at level 3. PCs without stealth proficiency can become infiltrators with meaningful in-game training and commitment.

At level 3 and 7, the infiltrator can pick one of the below archetype features. The PC can take an infiltrator feature instead of a class feature at levels 5 and 9 (GM discretion).

  • Keen: The GM must honestly share the current infiltration rating
  • Sure-footed: Advantage to RUSH
  • Soft step: Advantage to SNEAK
  • Iron lungs: Advantage to HOLD
  • Tactician: Advantage to POSITION
  • Insightful: Advantage to AVOID
  • Innocuous: Advantage to BLEND
  • Cold: Delay the first detection die upgrade by one leg or measure
  • Elusive: You have a chance to escape or better-position yourself at 0 rating
  • Lethal: Incapacitating a detector reduces the rating only by half their HD
  • Deft: Crit on 19-20 for one approach of your choice (can take multiple times)

Stealth Gear

Gear that can be equipped by characters to aid their intrusion into enemy territory.

Charlatan’s Garb


Flexible kit to blend in anywhere


Gain advantage to BLEND if you:

Spend 1 minute (or make a CHA check) to configure the garb into a relevant disguise, uniform, or outfit that helps blend in. LOOK A multilayered, flexible set of wraps, fabrics, and ornaments that can make a rough facsimile of just about any outfit. Any close scrutiny reveals that the garb looks bulky and conspicuous.

Burglar’s Harness


A better way to stow equipment


Increase max load by +DEX mod (minimum 1). Serves as a pack.


A series of straps, pouches, belts, and other equipment loops that help to tightly stow your gear.

Assassin’s Camouflage


Outer robes that conceal you


Gain advantage to SNEAK when in the dark, but disadv to BLEND. Can’t be worn with heavy armor, shields, or most 2h weapons.


Dark gray, splotchy, full robes with loose strips and bunches of fabric to break up your outline.

Temporary Ledge


Magically sticky stepping stone


Affix to any surface or corner. One time use. It functions like a powerful magnet but only to the surface it touches. Used as a “seat” to aid with HOLD.


A square tile about 6” to a side and 1” thick. It’s an unassuming gray, porous stone like concrete, but has simple arcane carvings along the perimeter.

Scout’s Spider


Magic spider that shares sight


Must be attuned. While active and concentrating, the user can see the spider’s perspective, and control where it moves. It is still a simple bug to crush if caught.


A chunky, pale, jumping spider with a thick furry body and stout limbs. Bright pink eyes and a dull mottled coat make it distinct.

Vizier’s Armor


Concealable heavy armor


Heavy armor (AC 15) that appears like robes or clothes. Maintains the characteristics of finely crafted heavy armor.


Compressed layers of rare silk and resin are sewn into the fabrics of these robes, making it formidably difficult to penetrate. Designed for paranoid monarchs and assassins, it is expensive and exceptionally rare.

Stealth Sundries

Smoke Bomb: Emits thick smoke when broken. 10 minutes or wind.

Noise Maker: A wind-up clockwork device that claps, chimes, rings, or whistles for 1d6 minutes.

Wedge: Malleable wedge that hardens under impact; blocks doors.

Wet Fire: Small rod that creates sparks when saturated in water.

Lock Buster: A vial filled with reagents that create a minor explosion when combined; one use.

Forgery Kit: Collection of parchment, inks, seals, waxes, and paints to create a forged document.

Twin Compass: Two coin-sized compasses that always point at each other. Max 1 mile range.

Wise Rope: A 100’ length of rope that ties, unties, coils, and snares on command (hand signals).

Various Poisons

Bubbling Madness: Ingested. Needs three doses. Cloudy purple, smells of dust. WIS to resist, or -1 WIS/day.

Rapid Aging: Magic sigil, pressed on skin. Tingles and numbs, leaving a gangrenous mark. CON to resist, or age 1 year per day.

Loose Veins: Injected or laced weapon. Can’t be resisted, but cured by coagulating Glacier Thistle. Wounds bleed profusely, and will cause death in 1d6 hours.

Castle Clearer: Inhaled. CON to resist. Carry it without sign for 2d6 days; can be passed like a cold. Final CON to resist death.

Gryphon Whisker: Ingested. Can’t be resisted. Roll d% + 1 per day after ingestion. Any result of 95+ is instant painful death. Cured by rare kidney-vine leeches.

Leper’s Touch: Ingested or laced weapon. Can’t be resisted; only magic cures it. Rot over months.

Infiltration Twists
Roll Result
1 Something unrelated triggers alarm
2 A crowd of bystanders wanders in
3 Catastrophe (fire, storm, collapse)
4 Animals are loose, running amok
5 Clouds darken the skies, wind howls
6 Competing infiltrator(s) cross paths
7 Unscheduled arrival of an enemy
8 Third-party information was false
9 Construction or similar in the way
10 Third-party faction directly attacks
11 Incompetent leader makes bad call
12 Magical anomalies change the area
13 Aberrant vermin swarm the area
14 Magical darkness permeates the area
15 An enemy betrays them, helps the PCs
16 Opportunity for a secondary objective
17 See guards setting up an obstacle
18 There’s a huge, beneficial distraction
19 An obstacle (lock, security) is gone
20 Detector is absent or incapacitated


Use the below to randomly determine twists or inspiration for an INFILTRATION. The GM can roll on this table at any time.


Roll on the below table for random bits of architectural detail, inspiration, or a type of material useful for an INFILTRATION.

Roll Result
1 Soft alleyway full of drying mud, hay
2 Slick, smooth, glistening cobblestone
3 Ancient slabs, grass in the cracks
4 Creaking, warped, wooden planks
5 Crunchy gravel pressed into the mud
6 Dense curtain of ivy clinging to a wall
7 Detailed bas-relief freshly chiseled
8 Porous, crenellated wall full of holes
9 Roughly hewn, natural blocks of rock
10 Haphazard bricks loose and jutting
11 Loamy, damp, dark wooden shingles
12 Sheer and sharp slate at a steep angle
13 Interlocking, curved clay tile roof
14 Evergreen planks spackled in plaster
15 Broad causeways connected rooftops
16 Chaotic, organic paths, alleys, streets
17 Laundry lines, pigeon coops, gardens
18 Stinking sewage trench, buzzing flies
19 Fenced stable or slaughterhouse
20 Gently flowing canals full of ducks

Stealth Spells

These spells can be treated as Arcane or Divine as fits in your setting. Usually these spells are found in scrolls or wands.


Subtle Noise: Create a simple, distracting noise in 30’. Natural sounds like a drip, scrape, clatter, etc.

Snuff: Extinguish one small flame or natural light (like a torch) within 60’ and line of sight.

Rope Work: Telekinetically control any rope within 15’. Moves slowly like a cautious snake.

First Level

Throw Voice: Create a complex sound, like a voice, to anywhere in 60’. Active action. Concentration.

Trick of the Light: Create a basic illusion (a shadow, a glint of a blade) in 30’. Active. Concentration.

Magic Mask: Change your face, as long as it is still. Mask fails under scrutiny. Active. Concentration.

Second Level

Dark Orb: Create magic darkness up to 15’ radius. Can target an item or person. Lasts 1 hour per level.

Mute Sound: Create magic silence up to 15’ radius. Can target an item or person. Lasts 1 hour per level.

Find Item: Sense direction of the closest item sought (door, gold, key, scroll). Active. Concentration.

Third Level

Flash Bomb: Enemies roll to resist flash and bang in 30’. Failure: Deaf and blind for 1 round. Active.

Mirror Skins: You and 9 others blend in like chameleons. Stealth “result” as if 18. Half speed. 10 mins.

Shade Hop: You can teleport between distinct, body-sized shadows in sight. Quick. 1 min per level.

Fourth Level

Know the Way: You know the physical layout and location of every object in 1000’. Active. Concentration.

Danger Sight: You can see threats through walls, smoke, or darkness in 1000’. Active. Concentration.

As if Smoke: You become like smoke and can pass through thin slits, keyholes, etc. Active. 10 mins.

Fifth Level

New Door: Create 5’ diameter by 10’ deep doorway or tunnel through most materials. Movement.

Decoy: Transform into any object (cup to dresser). Keep senses, can’t move. End with Quick.

Kiss of Death: 1d10 mins to cast. The next person you kiss (even days later) dies in 3d6 days.