On Guard (sage ability)
On Guard is an amateur-status sage ability in the study of Empowerment that grants extra awareness when acting as a sentinel, so that he or she is surprised only on a 1 in 6. This ability applies whenever the character actively announces their state of vigilance. It's not applicable when the character is casually moving about, distracted or focused on something other than anticipating threats.
In a group setting, a character has the option to declare themselves as "on guard" at any moment. When they do so, they dedicate their complete focus to monitoring their surroundings, remaining vigilant in case any potential dangers arise while the party is engaged in deliberations, planning or simply taking a break to rest, recover spells or have a meal. It's understood that the rest of the party is aware of this character's "on guard" status and respects their need for uninterrupted attention to ensure the group's safety.
Characters possessing this ability can maintain their "on guard" state for a maximum duration of 3 hours, with an additional 15 minutes added per level, and they can do so only once per day. After this specified time period, characters may continue their watch, but their susceptibility to surprise returns to normal.
Individuals cannot split the benefits of this ability throughout their watch; once they declare themselves as "on guard," they must maintain the heightened vigilance. Failing to do so causes the ability to lapse for the rest of that day, until either sunrise if the character was on guard during the day or sunset if the character was on guard at night. Typically, this necessitates a period of at least 12 hours before the ability can be used again.
The ability is typically found among character classes such as fighters, assassins, paladins and rangers; it's rare among other character classes. Some characters may have a guard as their progenitor, while others may acquire the ability through Jack-of-all-Trades.
In the game setting, hired guards invariably possess this ability. Nearly all are, therefore, only surprised on a 1. Players should be made aware of this, allowing them to prepare themselves when confronting guards.