July 6, 2016

[D&D RAW] Hiding, Invisibility & Other Sneaky Business, Part 3: Invisibility

This is the 3rd 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've finally set down the foundation rules of how Hiding rules and what are the benefits and additional conditions of being Unseen Attackers and Targets. That's not all a DM needs to know, because as a game built on exceptions, there are many areas that can work against the fundamentals.

I don't think I have discovered every exception that are in the game when it comes to hiding (individual magic items and spells are the biggest exceptions in the game), but I think I have managed to scratch the surface of the most common exceptions there are when it comes to hiding.

So for this post, I intend to address one common exception that a DM should be prepared for in answering on how to make a ruling.


By far one of the most common scenario that a DM is likely to encounter. An unprepared DM who hasn't worked out how Hiding works in their game is most likely going to make Invisibility overpowered (not to mention even more confusing) than it needs to be.

Perhaps it was intended from the beginning in the design, but in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Invisibility does not have it own set of rules, and works well in the framework formed by the Hiding and Unseen Attackers and Targets rules. This is because Invisibility and most of the spells that confer it are simply wrapped up in one condition: Invisible.

According to the condition in Appendix A of the Basic Rules (Page 105) and the Player's Handbook (Page 291):
  • 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.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage.
  • The creature's attack rolls have advantage.
Recalling back on the post for Hiding, you might remember that a character who is Invisible can Hide at any time, but it gives an additional link between being heavily obscured and hiding.

You may notice that in the Unseen Attackers and Targets rules that it mentions among the ways to be unseen is to be Invisible, but with the Invisible condition, you already enjoy the benefits of being unseen. This double effect of being Invisible and Unseen doesn't cause any clash as advantages and disadvantages do not multiply, but it would be helpful to be aware that being unseen and Invisible are not quite the same thing in a mechanical sense, but effectively similar.

Invisibility & Hiding

A common question that would arise with Invisibility in the context of Hiding, is that since you already gain the effective benefits of being unseen, why do you need to Hide? This is a valid question as asked here:

This is, again, where you can be unseen but still heard unless you are making that Dexterity (Stealth) check to conceal your noise and not reveal your location. You would still need a Hide action to make the Dexterity (Stealth) check, otherwise you would be discovered as your normally would as per those noted in the Hiding rules.

One main benefit of being Invisible, however, is you can always attempt this check at anywhere, as mentioned in the Hiding rules. 

If your Dexterity (Stealth) is successful, I would consider you to be Hidden, as in the Unseen Attackers and Targets rule, but are still subject to revealing your location if you make an attack (even with the Greater Invisibility spell). 

So as you can see, Invisibility is already covered in the rules for Hiding and Unseen Attackers and Targets, although it does require a little study ahead. You would be unable to see how Invisibility works together with these rules without a formative understanding, and hopefully this post has helped you to make better adjudications.

In my next post, I will tackle other exceptions to the rules of Hiding that will help to inform even further on how it works.

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

Last updated: 6/7/2016  


Nono said...

So, if I understand correctly, if an invisible creature fails its stealth check, its opponent is aware of its presence, but the creature still gets advantage on its attack roll and all related capabilities like sneak attack, right?

Questing GM said...

Yes, that would be how I would rule it and also don't forget that the monster can attack without guessing the location of the invisible target, but still have disadvantage on their attack roll.