July 11, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business

This is a compilation post of the entire Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business series. Feel free to navigate the post that you need to refer from here. Although the post are written and intended to be read in the order I have set here, I try to make sure that whichever parts that are referred to in another post are hyperlinked in each post.

Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business

Last updated: 11/7/2016  

July 10, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 7: Summary

This is the 7th part of a running series on Hiding in my new column for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. You can read the previous post here. I will post a complete index of all the posts of the series at the end of the series..

In all my previous posts, I have addressed every known aspect I could find about how Hiding works, according to the rules found in the Basic Rules and Player's Handbook, and from official sources such as the Sage Advice Compendiums and the tweets of the designers. However, the whole picture might still seem disjointed since I addressed each one of them in their own post.

That wouldn't be helpful unless a DM has the full picture and know how to handle it in a proper order. So for this final post on the Hiding series of [D&D RAW], I try to compile all that I've written into this post to make it easier for to look at the Hiding rules as a framework.

1. Circumstances for Hiding

Before a character or monster can hide, it must meet the following conditions:

  1. Can't be seen from a creature you are hiding from (e.g. becoming Invisible)
  2. The DM decides that are appropriate circumstances to hide (e.g. obscurity and cover)
Some exceptions to the conditions above are:
  1. Naturally Stealthy. A Lightfoot Halfling can hide by a creature at least one size larger than the character even if it can be seen.
  2. Mask of the Wild. A Wood Elf can hide in natural phenomena that makes him lightly obscured even if it can be seen.
  3. Skulker. A character with the Skulker feat can hide under areas that are Lightly Obscured and not seen by the creature it is hiding from.  

2. How to Hide

If the conditions above are met, the character or monster can make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. In combat, this requires an action (unless allowed by a class feature that makes it a Bonus Action) to make the Hide action.

This score should be kept and recorded whenever another creature is trying to look for the hiding character.

Until the hiding character is discovered or the character decides to stop hiding (e.g., approaching an enemy in combat in most cases), the Dexterity (Stealth) check is used as he score to contest against any Wisdom (Perception) checks, passive or not.

A character that has succeeded in hiding (i.e., beats the Passive Perception or Wisdom (Perception) of the creature), gains the benefits of becoming unseen as in the rules for Unseen Attackers and Targets, which are:

  • Attackers of an unseen/hiding character has Disadvantage to Attack Rolls.
  • Attackers that don't know the location of an unseen/hiding character must guess the location of the unseen/hiding character. A wrong guess results in an automatic miss.
  • Unseen/hiding characters have Advantage on their Attack Rolls on targets that can't see them (possibly activating any class features that requires an advantage on attack rolls).

3. Unseen vs Hidden

By default, if a character succeeds on hiding the first time, they are unheard as well, so they are hidden. To remain unheard, I would call for a separate Dexterity (Stealth) if they are moving, or taking an action that would cause noise. This could require the character to make a Hide action, but you may rule otherwise.  

If this new Dexterity (Stealth) check beats the Passive Perception or Wisdom (Perception) of the creature, the hiding character is still hidden, with the benefits of being unseen and no one knows of its location, at the end of whatever action they were doing before.

If this Dexterity (Stealth) check fails, then the hiding character still has the benefits of being unseen, but has revealed its location. This could result a creature to actively search for the hiding character, but make an attack (still with disadvantage for being unseen) at the hiding character without needing to guess the location of the character.

Characters with the Invisible condition already enjoy the benefits of being unseen from the condition (and not from Unseen Attackers and Targets rules), but will still reveal their location if they do not make use a Hide action to make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to hide their noise, i.e., not hidden.

Unless the character has a class feature or feat that states otherwise (e.g, Skulker), attacking from hidden will reveal the character's location, though you are still unseen.

4. Finding the Hiding and the Senses

If that creature is not searching for the hiding character, it should use its Passive Perception to see if it beats that Dexterity (Stealth) check. Otherwise, if the creature is actively searching for the hiding character, it should be allowed to make a Wisdom (Perception) check to beat that Dexterity (Stealth).

Darkvision may disrupt a character's attempt to hide if they are trying to hide in darkness because Darkvision would see them as lightly obscured, instead of Heavily Obscured (unless they have the Skulker feat).

A monster with Tremorsense would always know the location of a hiding character, even though they are hidden, but a character can still be unseen from the monster.

Monsters with Blindsight behaves normally as though they have sight within their blindsight radius, regardless if the hiding character is obscured, but a character can be hidden from them through cover.


Here are the rules and sources that I referred throughout this series. If I find any new references, I will add them here. 
  1. Hiding (page 60 of Basic Rules, page 177 of Player's Handbook)
  2. Unseen Attackers and Targets (page 73 of Basic Rules, page 194-195 of Player's Handbook)
  3. Hide (page 72 of Basic Rules, page 192 of Player's Handbook)
  4. Stealth (page 60 of Basic Rules, page 177 of Player's Handbook)
  5. Invisible (page 105 of Basic Rules, page 291 of Player's Handbook)
  6. Vision and Light (Lightly Obscured & Heavily Obscured) (page 65 of Basic Rules, page of 183 of Player's Handbook)
  7. Naturally Stealthy (page 17 of Basic Rules, page 28 of Player's Handbook)
  8. Mask of the Wild (page 15 of Basic Rules, page 24 of Player's Handbook)
  9. Skulker (page 170 of Player's Handbook)
  10. Cover (page 74 of Basic Rules, page 196 of Player's Handbook)
  11. Blinded (page 105 of Basic Rules, page 290 of Player's Handbook)
  12. Darkvision (page 65 of Basic Rules, page 183-184 of Player's Handbook)
  13. Tremorsense (page 4 of Dungeon Master's Basic Rules, page 9 of Monster Manual)
  14. Blindsight (page 4 of Dungeon Master's Basic Rules, page 8 of Monster Manual)
  15. Sage Advice Compendium
  16. Sage Advice D&D 

And that's all I have and I hope you've enjoyed this series. Do remember that although I tried my best to find official sources and official answers about hiding, my own rulings that I made here are by no means official. In other words, always check with your DM on how the Hiding rules works in their game (or point them to this series, if they need some references to make up their mind).

For DMs, I would like to hear how do you rule hiding in your game or do you have your own discoveries to share.

Do let me know what you thought about this column, or if there are any rules you would like me to explore as a whole in future series of this column.

Lastly, if there are any questions or you would like to run through any sample scenarios using the framework I have discovered, feel free to post them in the comments and I will try to answer them.

For the complete overview of the series, I will post up another post with the complete series.

Last updated: 10/7/2016   

July 9, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 6: DM Considerations

This is the 6th part of a running series on Hiding in my new column for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. You can read the previous post here. I will post a complete index of all the posts of the series at the end of the series.

In the previous post of this series, I looked into some ways that a monster can detect a hiding character (and vice versa) and how their senses could work within the Hiding and Unseen Attackers and Targets rules.

For this post, I'm going to compile all that I've discovered about hiding and give a few notes on what should a DM think about when designing encounters or when handling scenarios when characters want to hide. To go further in this post, I would assume that you have read each prior posts to this one.

Why does a DM need to have these considerations? Well, for starters, the DM's role when it comes to hiding is imperative, as mentioned in the Hiding rules itself:

The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. Also, the question isn't whether a creature can see you when you're hiding. The question is whether it can see you clearly (Errata V1.1).
Read the emphasis as mine, but it highlights the importance of the DM when it comes to hiding. While most DMs could easily make their own rulings with a hand wave (they are the DM afterall), but hopefully what this series has helped you to think is that hiding can be a complex thing that needs some thought put into it.

So what does a DM need to consider when it comes to hiding? Here are some of my considerations.

Appropriate Hiding

The first thing that I think a DM should consider is whether there are any appropriate circumstances for any character to hide at any given location that the party finds themselves in. That might sound like a simply saying 'yes' or 'no' when a player assumes his character can make a Dexterity (Stealth) to hide, but I think there should be more to it than that when it comes to some of the rules.

If you remember your Hiding rules, the first main condition of whether a character can hide is if they are seen or not. One important thing to note also in the first condition is that the character cannot be seen by the creature he is hiding from, not everyone in the location. It is highly possible to allow a character to hide from someone who can't see the character, but could be seen by someone else.

Therefore, hiding is relative. When a player says they want their character to hide, it's best to ask the player who does the character want to hide from, and taking their perspective to determine if the creature can see the character or not.

Other than that, what else can give appropriate circumstances for hiding?


One of the first ways a character cannot be seen is if they are obscured by the lighting of the location. An example of this can be found in the Vision and Light rules (Page 65 in the Basic Rules or Page 183 in the Player's Handbook), but this is derived from the Invisible condition (Appendix A of the Basic Rules and Player's Handbook).

From the Invisible condition:

  • An Invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of Hiding, the creature is Heavily Obscured. The creature's location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves. 
From the Vision and Light rules on Heavily Obscured:
A heavily obscured area - such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage - blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition. A heavily obscured area doesn't blind you, but you are effectively blinded when you try to see something obscured by it (Errata V1.1).
Which leads you to the Blinded condition (also in Appendix A of the Basic Rules and Player's Handbook):
  • Blinded creature can't see and automatically fails any Ability Checks that requires sight.

So you can see how these rules and conditions are interrelated and make for appropriate circumstances that lets you hide. So the available lighting of a location where the the party are can help inform whether there are any circumstances for hiding. You can find the different types of lighting that determine the obscurity of an area in the rest of the Vision and Light rules.

Do remember there are features (Mask of the Wild) and feats (Skulker) that doesn't require a character to be heavily obscured in order to hide.

One exception to this I would say is for monsters with Blindsight. They should not be affected by the obscurity of the hiding character, but a character can still hide from them behind another element...


You might think that obscurity is the only way a character needs to hide (since it has all the rule correlation that comes with it), but it's easy to forget that characters can hide simply just behind Cover (page . 

Although there are no official association that I can find in the Basic Rules and the Player's Handbook between cover and hiding, but if you remember in the previous post, you can see that cover comes into play when it comes to hiding from a monster with Blindsight.  

So this makes another consideration of a DM. If you are trying to encourage or allow hiding in a location, you should be aware of the cover that are available. The question that you will need to decide for yourself is in what degree of cover would you allow a character to make a hide.

Personally, I would only allow a character with Total Cover to try to hide, since they can't be targeted by an attack or spell, but anything less the cover confers bonus to AC and saving throws so that means they can be seen.  

Now that I have pointed out some of the notes that a DM should consider, hopefully it would help you to design better encounters or make better rulings on hiding in your game. Of course, the ones that I mentioned in this post are just those found in the rules, and as a DM you are open to other circumstances to allow a character to hide. If in doubt, remember that the guiding principle of deciding whether there is an appropriate circumstance can be simply asked with one question: "Can the character be seen?"

We're almost there. I think I have covered pretty much the bases when it comes to hiding and how it works out for players and DMs. For my last post of this series, I will be compiling all that I've mentioned in the series thus far into a summary to give you the whole picture for DMs and players about Hiding.

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 7: Summary

Last updated: 9/7/2016   

July 8, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 5: Finding the Hiding

This is the 5th part of a running series on Hiding in my new column for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. You can read the previous post here. I will post a complete index of all the posts of the series at the end of the series.

In the previous post of this series, I looked into the exceptions to the Hiding and Unseen Attackers and Targets rules afforded by racial traits, class features and feats. This I think would have most of the bases covered, so it's time to look on the flipside of the Hiding coin; to detect a person in hiding.

This is an equally important set of rules to understand. As DMs, we are more likely to be on the finding end of the stick rather than actually hiding our monsters, because a cautious player (or one playing a Rogue character) are sure to try to make use of Hiding as it benefits their character. So this post is intended more for DMs, but players can benefit in knowing how a DM could make a ruling to detect your character in hiding.

There are several ways to find a hiding character.

Wisdom (Perception)

The most common way to discover a character in hiding is to beat their Dexterity (Stealth) with your monster's Wisdom (Perception) check. While this sounds straightforward, the confusion could arise when deciding to use your monster's Passive Perception or roll a Wisdom (Perception) check.

Looking back at the Hiding rules, it specifically mentions two types of scenarios when you make a Wisdom (Perception) check.
  1. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check's total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively search for signs of your presence.
  2. When you hide, there's a chance someone will notice you even if they aren't searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature's Passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which equals 10 + the creature's Wisdom modifier, as well as any other bonuses or penalties.
For me, the main differentiation between these two scenarios is how actively the searcher is looking for the hiding character. So to put it simply, if the monster is not actively searching (or given good reason not to), they would use their Passive Perception.

On the other hand, if the monster is on alert, they should be entitled to make an active Wisdom (Perception) ability check to find the hiding character. I would rule that a monster can be alerted if a hiding character fails their Dexterity (Stealth) check to be unheard or hidden, but it does not mean that the monster can discover a hiding character immediately. It is only switching from Passive Perception to making active Wisdom (Perception) check, to beat the Dexterity (Stealth) rolled by the hiding character. 

I would also note that the Dexterity (Stealth) score of the hiding character is not changed until they are discovered, or choose to come out of hiding, and hide again. 


On Page 65 of the Basic Rules or Page 183-184 in the Player's Handbook,
Many creatures in the worlds of D&D, especially those that dwell underground, have darkvision. Within a specified range, a creature with darkvision can see in darkness as if the darkness were dim light, so areas of darkness are only lightly obscured as far as the creature is concerned. However, the creature can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
This sense does not have a terribly wide implication on finding hiding characters more than preventing them from hiding in the first place. Since the first condition to be able to hide is to not be seen, a character that would normally be able to hide because they are heavily obscured by darkness, would not be able to in the eyes of someone with Darkvision, since it sees darkness as lightly obscured.

That being said, however, a character with the Skulker feat should still be able to make the Dexterity (Stealth) to hide in the darkness from a monster with Darkvision because it only requires the character to be lightly obscured.


Another sense that can discover a hiding character is through Tremorsense. The rules for it can be found in Page 4 of the Dungeon Master's Basic Rules or Page 9 of the Monster Manual.
A monster with tremorsense can detect and pinpoint the origin of vibrations within a specific radius, provided that the monster and the source of the vibrations are in contact with the same ground or substance. Tremorsense can't be used to detect flying or incorporeal creatures. Many burrowing creatures, such as Ankhegs and Umber Hulks, have this special sense.
From the description of this sense, it does sound to me like it would be the ultimate bane for all hiding characters, but Chris Perkins rule this differently.


Out of all the senses, I was unable to find any solid rules on it and there were few official sources that discussed this sense in relation to hiding. So this makes it an open territory for DMs to adjudicate between extremes. 

A more balanced approach that I might suggest is that while a character can still hide as usual from a monster with Tremorsense to become unseen (and gain its benefits), it can never be unheard or hidden. So a monster with Tremorsense always knows the location of a hiding character, but still needs to make the needed Wisdom (Perception) check to discover the hiding character, or have Disadvantage on its Attack Rolls as it normally would for unseen characters.


I kept this sense for last because it can be a little complicated, compared to the ones previously mentioned. First off, the rules for Blindsight can be found on Page 4 of the Dungeon Master's Basic Rules and Page 8 of the Monster Manual
A monster with blindsight can perceive its surroundings without relying on sight, within a specific radius.
Creatures without eyes, such as Grimlocks and Gray Oozes, typically have this special sense, as do creatures with echolocation or heightened senses, such as Bats and true Dragons. 
If a monster is naturally blind, it has a parenthetical note to this effect, indicating that the radius of its blindsight defines the maximum range of its perception.
Due to the reliance of sight as a condition for a character to hide, a character typically should be able to hide as though the monster is blind. But Mike Mearls still considers a monster with Blindsight to be able to 'see' a character within its radius.

This is also supported by Jeremy Crawford who gives the impression that a monster with Blindsight can perceive normally as long as the creature is within its radius and without cover.

Unlike Tremorsense though, if a hiding character is within its radius and is behind a cover, it still can become hidden, as Jeremy Crawford also supports this with these rulings:

So this helps to narrow down the limitations of Blindsight. For all intents and purposes, a monster with Blindsight behaves normally as a monster with sight, as long as the hiding character is within its radius. However, I would say that monsters with Blindsight should not be affected by obscurity when it comes to decide if the monster 'sees' the character trying to hide.

However, there is another element that can allow a character to hide from a monster with Blindsight, but I will talk about in the next post.

I hope this post would be helpful for DMs to figure out what do they have in their arsenal to discover hiding characters. But as you can see, there is not a lot of official rulings when it comes to these senses, so you may want to take your own time to study them before making your own rulings.

Speaking of making your own rulings, I'm about to bring all that I've learned together and put down a list of things a DM should consider about using the Hiding rules in their games. So see you in the next post!

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 6: DM Considerations

Last updated: 8/7/2016  

July 7, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 4: Exceptions

This is the 4th part of a running series on Hiding in my new column for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. You can read the previous post here. I will post a complete index of all the posts of the series at the end of the series.

In the previous post of this series, I addressed how Invisibility works within the framework of the Hiding and Unseen Attackers and Targets rules.

Invisibility, however, is by far not the only exception to the rules. There are many ways that a character could bypass some limitations of the Hiding rules, in one way or another. This could be done through a racial trait, a class feature, or spells and magic items. While I didn't scour for every exception there is, especially for spells and magic items, but I have managed to scout out a few exceptions made through races, classes and feats.

These aren't necessarily difficult to adjudicate once you've got the basics down, but this post is intended to help DMs have some ideas on how they could possibly make their own rulings.

Naturally Stealthy

Let's start with something easy. This racial trait for Lightfoot Halflings can be found in Page 17 of the Basic Rules and Page 28 of the Player's Handbook, which reads:
Naturally Stealthy. You can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you. 
This just adds a new condition of when a Lightfoot Halfling can hide, which can be behind a creature of Medium size or larger, if the halfling's size remains at Small. This is supported by Mike Mearls.

While it may sound that Mike Mearls is trying to say that all prior conditions in addition to having a creature one size larger must be met (e.g, cannot be seen by the creature you are hiding from), this has been clarified in the Sage Advie Compendium. This trait is an exception to the rule that you cannot be seen first in order to hide, so you are allowed to hide behind a larger creature even when seen.

From the Sage Advice Compendium (Page 2-3 under Racial Traits):
Normally, you can’t hide from someone if you’re in full view. A lightfoot halfling, though, can try to vanish behind a creature that is at least one size larger...

Mask of the Wild

Now onto something a little more challenging. This Wood Elf trait is on Page 15 of the Basic Rules and Page 24 of the Player's Handbook, which says:
Mask of the Wild. You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.
Similar to the Lightfoot Halfling's Naturally Stealthy, it gives another condition as to when the Wood Elf can try to hide, as also clarified in the Sage Advice Compendium that this can happen even when the Wood Elf is seen.

From the Sage Advice Compendium (Page 3 under Racial Traits):
...a wood elf can try to hide simply by being in heavy rain, mist, falling snow, foliage, or similar natural phenomena. It’s as if nature itself cloaks a wood elf from prying eyes—even eyes staring right at the elf!

The confusion for this racial trait comes when it comes to reading 'lightly obscured' and the mentioned examples, which includes other 'natural phenomena'. Many have asked does it mean that the condition is only 'lightly obscured' or the source of the obscurity must come from a 'natural' source such as fog or foliage.

If you remember your Vision and Light rules (Page 65 of the Basic Rules and Page 183 of the Player's Handbook) , an obscurity isn't always caused by the brightness of a light source in the surroundings, but can be from other factors as well.

Based on this answer from Jeremy Crawford and the Sage Advice excerpt above, it seems to be the latter.

Is that important to distinguish? Yes, because this brings us to the next exception...


Unlike the racial traits above, Skulker is a feat that cannot be found in the Basic Rules, so I cannot put the complete text here. You will find it at Page 170 of the Player's Handbook.

Firstly, the feat lets you hide when you are lightly obscured without mentioning any specific examples (unlike Naturally Stealthy or Mask of the Wild), which could mean that as long as you are lightly obscured by anything, you can attempt to hide. However, this feat hasn't been clarified in the Sage Advice Compendium that it bypasses other conditions for hiding, so it would be safe to say that it needs to meet those conditions as well, in addition to being lightly obscured.  

Although the Skulker feat is still technically better than either of the Lightfoot Halfling's and Wood Elf's racial traits, but remember that it cost a feat to do so. So I would say it has been balanced.

The Skulker feat not only gives new conditions to hide, but it also clearly makes an exception to the Unseen Attackers and Targets rule, when it comes to revealing their location after an attack. 

These are some of the obvious features that have exceptions to the Hiding rules, and I'm sure there are many others that I have missed. So feel free to bring them up so that I can study them within the framework.

In my next post, I will go into the other side of hiding; how to spot when someone is hiding from you.

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 5: Finding the Hiding.

Last updated: 7/7/2016