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   


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this series, it is a very useful summary.

I still have an issue with the use of passive perception. I know it is a deliberate design decision, or at least the sage advice web site implies it is, but having a character doing better half of the time by just standing there than by actively searching feels wrong. I'm still not sure how to handle this in my game; I am considering setting the minimum perception die roll to 10+modifiers (that is, you can't do worse than passive perception), or maybe 8+modifiers to account for a searching character being so busy looking elsewhee that they will just occasionally miss something they would otherwise have caught.

What is your take on this?

Questing GM said...

Thanks for the question!

If a character's Dexterity (Stealth) to hide beats the Passive Perception of someone else, I'm fine with letting that character do whatever he wants until he comes out of hiding on his own.

However, actions that would cause noise that is not made without a Hide action (I'm still debating with myself on whether it should take up an action or not), would be a separate Dexterity (Stealth) against the Passive Perception of the creature the character is hiding from. If this second Dexterity (Stealth) check fails against the Passive Perception, then I would say that that creature has been alerted and would begin actively searching for the hiding character with rolled Wisdom (Perception) checks vs the Dexterity (Stealth) score the character used for hiding.

I may explore in future whether a DM should rule that a rolled Wisdom (Perception) check can never be lower than its Passive Perception, is a fair call or not (it seems logical to a DM but a player may disagree). But for now, I don't think it would be a right approach by RAW.

Instead, I would suggest to use Advantage or Disadvantage on their Wisdom (Perception) checks, (+/-5 when passive), so I think if the searcher has means to gain those from the situation, I think it would drastically reduce the chances of a hiding character to stay hidden.