[RPG] At which moment does the ‘Surprised’ state disappear


I am trying to figure out if the surprised state ends on a creature after the first attack of a surprise round, or if the surprised state (which I would then see almost as an unofficial condition) ends only after the first round of combat.

In the second case, I would believe that a character (having the rogue's Assassinate ability) attacking a surprised creature AND having multiple attacks would score a critical hit on all hits.

Example: Does a Monk 5/Rogue 3 surprising a creature get automatic critical hits on all hits if he does 2 attacks (with extra attack) and additional unarmed strike(s)?

Or does the critical hit only affect the first hit? However, that would surprise me as the rules mention any hit is a critical hit.

Best Answer

It's neither the first attack nor the first round. As far as RAW is concerned, if you're surprised, you're surprised at least until the end of your first turn. From the Player's Basic Rules, page 69:

The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn’t notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter.

If you’re surprised, you can’t move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can’t take a reaction until that turn ends. A member of a group can be surprised even if the other members aren’t.

The primary effects of being surprised last until the end of your first turn. It's not explicitly stated whether surprise ends when its effects end, but assuming the opposite would allow surprise to last for an arbitrary amount of time. If the duration of surprise isn't linked to the duration of the effects of surprise, we don't actually have any way to determine when surprise is supposed to end. So if the DM decides that you were surprised, you're surprised until the end of your first turn. Any attacks the Assassin lands on you before that will be critical hits.

For example: Alex the Assassin surprises Bob the Barbarian and Fred the Fighter. They roll initiative. Alex gets a 15, Bob gets a 20, and Fred gets a 10.

  • Initiative count 20: Bob's turn. Bob can't do anything, but at the end of his turn he is no longer surprised.

  • Initiative count 15: Alex's turn. Alex could attack Bob, but the attacks wouldn't be critical hits, because Bob is no longer surprised. Alex could attack Fred, and those attacks would be critical hits, because Fred is surprised.

  • Initiative count 10: Fred's turn. Fred can't do anything, but at the end of his turn he is no longer surprised.

  • Initiative count 20: Bob's turn. Combat proceeds as usual.