Just got this back from Damon Stone (quick!)
Hi - this question is regarding clarification on Stealth and/or the phrase "may not". See http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_foros_discusion.asp?efid=18&efcid=4&efidt=638668 for lengthier discussion: in short, I'm looking for an authoritative clarification on (a) whether the core rules for Stealth which read "may not defend" should read "cannot defend" or "cannot be declared to defend", and/or (2) whether occurrences of the phrase "may not" in rules and on cards have the equivalent absolute force of the phrase "cannot". What's prompting the question is whether Greatjon Umber (either) can defend by using his Challenges action after being declared a Stealth target. There's no confusion about whether he can or not depending on how Stealth is interpreted, my question is about that interpretation: "cannot defend" or "cannot be declared to defend" (or, "may not" == "cannot"). Thanks!!
"Stealthing a character means that character cannot defend. I understand the distinction you are trying to make about "may not" and "cannot," but they are functionally the same in this game. This is not true in all of our games but it is in regards to A Game of Thrones."
Thanks Damon et al! (And considering there is in fact a distinction even in other FFG games let alone anything else I as a veteran of CCGs but newish to AGoT am feeling just fine about asking for clarification on the ambiguity.)
I think some of the confusion in the discussion here may have come from the fact that there were effectively 2 different lines of reasoning going on here:
1. Is "may not defend" functionally the same as "cannot defend." It is, everyone said, an extremely fine hair to split, but it would NOT have been out-of-character for games such as this (FFG's and others) to make that distinction. Historically, the distinction has never been made in this specific game, and now we have Damon's verification of that. "May not" and "cannot" are effectively the same in AGoT.
2. The other question that was, perhaps inadvertently, being asked is whether "may not defend" and "may not be declared as a defender" are functionally the same. This question may have manifested itself as "if 'may not' and 'cannot' are different, would it be appropriate to kind of default the interpretation of 'may not defend' to 'may not be declared as a defender'?", but that's the equivalency that swornabsent seemed to be trying to draw, absent the clarification from Damon. Since there are a fair number of card effects that can get a character into a challenge beyond the standard "declare" mechanic, and in all of those situations, FFG has been pretty clear that "defend" and "declared as a defender" are different, it was probably hard for someone with Bomb's experience to fathom that FFG would ever not say "be declared" when that's what they meant.
So even acknowledging the possibility that "may not" and "cannot" might have meant different, the consistent difference the game has drawn between "defend" and "declared as a defender" made it kind of hard to believe that that might have been the difference.
And, as they say, it looks like the the discussion snowballed from there.
There is a fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness.'
- Dave Berry
But don't forget Greatjon can become a defender before Stealth targets are declared. The first player actions sequence in a challenge is between declaring attackers and declaring stealth.