D&D 5th Edition [GUIDE] Stealth, Hiding and You!
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    [GUIDE] Stealth, Hiding and You!

    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    And in some cases it has a knife...

    This mini guide is meant to be a go to place for people who wish to better understand stealth and hiding but also covers such things as Surprise, Light and Darkness within 5th edition. Before we start I will list the relevant rule sections and pages:

    Chapter 7 Ability Scores (pages 175 Passive Checks + Group Checks, 177 Stealth + Hiding, 178 Perception),
    Chapter 8 under Stealth, Noticing Threats, Encountering Creatures and Surprising Foes, Vision and Light + various senses on pages 182-185.
    Chapter 9 Hide on page 192, Unseen attackers and targets on pages 194-195, Opportunity Attacks page 195.
    Appendix A Conditions on page 291 for Invisibility.

    Pages 8-9 for the various senses.


    June 10 2015 - PHB errata document: http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/ph_errata

    -The June 10 2015 errata has changed the way the sight restriction for hiding works as a whole. It explicitely states that the question when it comes to sight is no longer "can an observer see me?" but instead "can an observer see me clearly?". This is a nice boon for hiding in general since it means that many new situations will allow a creature to roll to try to hide. What constitutes being "clearly seen" is left up to the DM to determine, however it is logical to expect anything that makes you uncleartly seen to work. Light obscurement, heavy obscurement, half cover, 3/4 cover would all fall into this conclusion since they all make you unclearly seen. But ETV is going to be the best recommendation this guide can make.

    Part 1 Hiding:

    When you want to hide, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. This check is against the Passive Perception (determined by each creature's Wisdom score, more on this below) of creatures around you. Several factors revolve around becoming and remaining hidden. Clear sight and noise being the most common.

    What does hiding get me in general?:

    -Advantage on attack rolls against creatures you are hiding from.
    -If you manage to beat a creature's Passive Perception score, you are considered hidden - both unseen and unheard - from it.
    -Creature's who can't see you have disadvantage on attack rolls against you. This is true weither the attacker is guessing the target's location or if it the attacker is targeting a creature it can hear but not see (an invisible one for example). If the hiding creature is not in the location that is targeted by the attack, the attack automatically misses.

    -There are many more benefits possible depending on your class, race, etc... Monsters also have many unique abilities and features that player characters cannot access easily if at all.

    What does being invisible get me in general?:

    -An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense (see below). 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, and the creature's attack rolls have advantage.

    What is the difference?:

    -An invisible creature does not lose its benefits after making an attack unless whatever grants you the invisibility specifies that you do.
    -If you are hidden and invisible and a creature beats your Dexterity (Stealth) check, you do not lose invisibility unless whatever grants you the invisibility specifies that you do.

    Restrictions when trying to become hidden or remain hidden:

    -You can't hide from a creature who can clearly see you. If you have Total Cover (such as standing behind a wall which covers you completely) or are Heavily Obscured (such as standing in complete darkness) from a creature, it cannot see you as you are completely concealed. The June 10 errata has changed the limits for sight to specifically say it's about being clearly seen and no longer simply "seen". Another way is invisibility which causes you to be unseen(see below).
    -In combat, it is assumed by the edition that most creatures are alert (this is DM fiat). So if you move out of hiding (from behind a rock, tree, corner, or whatever was stopping a creature from clearly seeing you) and approach someone you don't necessarily remain hidden. If your DM determines that the creature is distracted, you may be able to remain hidden and gain advantage on an attack before you are clearly seen.
    -If your Dexterity (Stealth) check doesn't beat a creature's passive perception, you are not hidden from it. This can be important if creatures enter the area where you are hiding as your stealth check is immediately compared to their passive perception.
    -If you make noise (such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase), you give away your position and lose hidden.
    -if you attack while hidden, you lose hidden and give away your location when the attack hits or misses.
    -If your Dexterity (Stealth) check is beaten by a creature's active perception check (using the Search action as detailed below), you are no longer hidden from it.

    Ways to see/detect hiding or invisible creatures automatically:

    -Blindsight allows a creature to perceive its surroundings without relying on sight, within a specific radius. This allows a creature to see invisible creatures or creatures who are hiding. Examples of creatures with this sense would be creatures without eyes, creatures who use echolocation (bats) or have heightened senses (true dragons).
    -Darkvision allows a creature to see in the dark within specific radius. If a creature is using darkness to hide, it will not be able to hide from a creature with darkvision. This is a very common sense, especially on creatures who typically live underground.
    -Tremorsense allows creatures to detect and pinpoint the origin of vibrations within a specific radius, provided that the creature and the source of the vibrations are in contact with the same ground or substance. Unless the creature hiding is flying or incorporeal, hiding creatures are detected by this sense.
    -Truesight is the ultimate sense. It allows creatures up to a specific range, see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceive the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic. Furthermore, the creature can see into the Ethereal Plane within the same range.
    -If a creature is using Complete Darkess to hide and a light source illuminates the square the hidden creature is in, it will automatically lose hidden since it can now be seen clearly.
    -If a creature is using Total Cover to hide (such as standing behind a wall) and an observer places itself in a way that the hidden creature no longer has total cover, the hidden creature will automaticaly lose hidden since it can now be clearly seen.

    Part 2 How Passive Perception works:

    Passive perception is already on monster stat blocks. However to determine the passive perception of a character, you simply use the following formulae:

    10+Wisdom Modifier. So if you have a 14 Wisdom on a 1st level character, your Passive Perception score is 12 (10 base + 2 from Wisdom). If you have proficiency in Perception, you gain your proficiency bonus. Your score then becomes 14 (10 base +2 from Wisdom + 2 Proficiency).

    If you have a negative Wisdom Modifier, you simply deduct your score. So with 9 Wisdom, you have a -1 modifier. If we use the same character as above, your Passive Perception is now 11 (10 - 1 from Wisdom + 2 Proficiency).

    When you roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check you compare it to the Passive Perception of creatures around you. So if you roll 15 Stealth and a creature has 14 Passive Perception, as long as you meet the criteria to become hidden (see Part 1) you are now hidden from that creature.

    Finding hidden creatures the hard way:

    You can use your action to make a Wisdom (Perception) check via the Search Action to try to find a hidden creature or creatures. The result of the check is compared to the Dexterity (Stealth) check of the hidden creature(s). If you tie or beat the Stealth check, that creature or creatures are no longer hidden, though you may not be able to see them in the case of an invisible creature for instance.

    Part 3 The things that help to hide

    -Invisibility stops creatures who don't have Blindsight, Tremorsense and True Sight from clearly seeing you. Which means you can make a check to hide whenever you want as long as you are invisible. However the PHB states that signs of an invisible creature's passage may still be noticed and you still have to remain quiet. (see above for what it gets you)
    -Having proficiency in Stealth means that you get to add your proficiency bonus, this can be as high as your Dexterity score for example and so is very useful to have.
    -The Lightfoot Halfling's Naturally Stealthy feature allows you to attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you (Medium and above).
    -Wood Elf's Mask of the Wild feature allows you to attempt to hide even when you are lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.
    -The Skulker feat gives you many benefits which revolve around stealth. You can try to hide when lightly obscured from the creature from which you are hiding. When you are hidden from a creature and miss it with a Ranged Weapon Attack, making the attack doesn't reveal your position. Dim light doesn't impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sight. However it should be noted that the Errata released on June 10 2015 has changed the way stealth works. The question is no longer "can I be seen?" but "can I be seen clearly?" which could mean that this feat is now redundant for hiding. Light obscurement is by definition something that makes you unclear for sight outside of things like creatures with Darkvision (which turns light obscurement into bright light). This is unclear at the time of this update so one should expect table variation.
    -More on this section soon

    Work in progress
    Last edited by Noctem; Monday, 23rd November, 2015 at 04:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Part 4 Light and Darkness:

    This section of the mini guide will cover game elements related to light and darkness with regards to hiding specifically. Let's start with this rule:

    "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."

    EDIT: This rule has been errata'ed. You are no longer considered to be suffering from the blinded condition and instead are now simply "effectively blinded" while looking INTO heavy obscurement. This resolves the problem listed here since you can now see beyond the heavy obscurement such as in the image below. Bob the rogue who is standing in the heavy obscurement (the black areas) isn't automatically seen by an observer. But at the same time that observer is not prevented from seeing beyond the heavy obscurement in order to see the rest of the hallway. Kudos to Coolossus2123 for pointing out the errata.

    As you can see in this image, darkness and light share the hallway. To the observer, looking into darkness means the equivalent of being effectively blinded. Looking into the light however causes no issue and the intervening darkness does not in fact completely block line of sight to whatever is further in the background of the image, which is what the rule text above used to imply before the errata. It's a good thing that they have released the errata to resolve this problem.

    Part 5: Surprise

    Surprise has changed in 5e when compared to previous editions. It now functions as a condition that can affect characters or monsters at the start of an encounter during the first round until they have completed their first turn. There is no longer such a thing as a surprise round before the first round of the encounter for example like in 4e.

    A surprised character or monster cannot take any actions until the end of their first turn at which point they may take a reaction if they have an ability to use one or are granted one via an Opportunity Attack for example. Some abilities, namely an Assassin archtype rogue, can gain benefits against surprised foes. Though not being able to act is quite a powerful penalty by default. Everything else happens as normal. Here is the breakdown for how and where surprise fits within the set up of an encounter:

    1. Determine Surprise. The DM determines whether anyone involved in the combat encounter is surprise.
    2. Establish positions. The DM decides where all the characters and monsters are located. Given the adventurers' marching order or their stated positions in the room or other location, the DM figures out where the adversaries are - how far away and in what direction.
    3. Roll initiative. Everyone involved in the combat encounter rolls initiative, determining the order of combatants' turns.

    It's important to note that a surprised character is no longer surprised after their first turn and that everyone rolls initiative as normal. So if Bob the Bandit is surprised but rolls well enough to go first in the initiative order, Charles the Assassin rogue won't get to benefit from his archtype features against surprised enemies since after Bob finishes his turn, he's no longer surprised.

    The PHB (page 189) gives us two detailed scenarios and specific rules for how encounters which have hidden and non-hidden creatures works. Let's look at the first two:

    "A band of adventurers sneaks up on a bandit camp, springing from the trees to attack them."
    In this scenario, the band of adventurers is using stealth to become hidden and sneak up on their targets in order to surprise them.

    "A gelatinous cube glides down a dungeon passage, unnoticed by the adventurers until the cube engulfs one of them."
    In this scenario, the cube is not noticed by the adventurers until it attacks one of them, causing surprise. Note that stealth is not used, the cube simply needed to be "unnoticed" by the adventurers.

    On the same page you can find the way that the DM is supposed to decide which character or monster might be surprised and why the second example is worded as it is:

    "Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter."

    Essentially it all revolves around "noticing a threat". This is up to DM interpretation of course as he/she will decide what that means for the NPC's and depending on the situation, a PC. The rules do say however that usually noticing a threat uses the passive perception of a creature. Also note that the rules state that "a member of a group can be surprised even if the other members aren't". This covers situations where some creatures might notice a threat but others don't.

    The rules found on page 189 also specifically explain how stealth, or the lack of it, is handled when it comes to surprise. This also brings us to the two other scenarios:

    "If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other."
    This explains that at the start of an encounter when determining surprise, if no one is trying to use stealth in order to hide, all participants of the encounter notice each other.

    "Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side"
    This is the other side of the coin. This just actually re-iterates the rules for stealth found earlier in both the PHB and this guide, but it's still important to show the two sides of this coin.

    As you can see, Surprise actually revolves around "noticing threats". Achieving this can be done in many different ways and aren't limited to stealth and hiding. Here are a few examples:

    "The rogue hiding in the dark room is not detected by the human guards passive perception. As he springs to attack, his opponent is surprised since he did not notice the threat."

    "The rogue acts like an old man, using his skill at deception against the insight of the guard, to approach his target without appearing like a threat. The guard doesn't notice the danger until the rogue stabs him in the back."

    "The king is having a feast at his castle and has invited the adventurers who have helped him rid his lands of the monsters which plagued it. While everyone is having a good time, the kings advisor suddenly stabs him to the surprise of everyone present."

    "The thug moves amongst the busy crowd of the market, blending in with all the others who seek to purchase the many shiny things. The thug however has his eyes set on a bigger prize. He siddles up to his target and stabs him in the belly while the victim's eyes go wide with surprise."

    These, along with the 4 scenarios in the rules themselves should help to understand the core principle of this game element. It doesn't matter how it happens, failing to notice a threat is paramount to being surprised in 5e.

    Work in progress.

  3. #3
    Part 6 Example Scenarios related to this guide:

    The double blind: In this scenario you have two warriors attacking each other while being effectively blinded. This could be because they are both affected by the blinded condition via spell effect, being in complete darkness without a special sense, etc.. I'm placing this example here because of the conundrum this scenario creates when it comes to attacking. Fighter 1 has advantage against Fighter 2 because Fighter cannot see Fighter 1. Fighter 1 however has disadvantage as well because HE cannot see Fighter 2. And vice versa. So the bottom line from a mechanical sense is that both fighters aren't affected at all by advantage/disadvantage since they cancel each other. This is important to note because many people find it completely illogical. The point is that because the fighters effectively have the same penalties and avantages, they are fighting on the same level.

    As example cases of the double blind, here are two situations posted on the forum by turri:

    Case 1:
    Creature A is in a heavily obscured area, Creature B is in a heavily obscured area.

    A is "blinded" if he targets B, and so is B.

    If A attacks B, he rolls 1 dice(Both of them are "blinded", so advantage and disadvantage ends in a normal roll)

    A can roll stealth and become "hidden" from B, as long as A stay's in the area, and B has no darkvision

    Case 2:
    Creature A is in a heavily obscured area, Creature B is in non obscured Area.

    IF A attacks B, he has advantage, because B is "blinded" when defending from A

    IF B attacks A, he has disadvantage, because B is "blinded" when attacking A

    A can roll stealth and become "hidden" from B, as long as A stay's in the area, and B has no darkvision

    Halfling Hiding: Because of the racial ability of the Halfling race, it is possible for them to hide behind allies so long as the ally is between them and another creature. Because of this, it is completely legal and in fact intended for them to be able to hide behind an ally, attack which causes them to lose the hidden condition and then simply hide once again behind the same ally. As long as the requirement, that the ally be between the halfling and other creatures, is true they can always re-hide should they lose hidden. The recent errata to hiding has further clarified that halfling's can hide behind an ally without any problem but at the same time has made this racial trait potentially obsolete since you might be able to hide behind an ally by default. It all depends on what the DM considers being "unclearly seen". Ask your DM!

    Wood Elf Hiding: Just like the halfling, a Wood Elf is capable of attacking from hiding and then hide once again without having to move so long as the Wood Elf is within the required environment as detailed in the feature itself. The recent errata to hiding and vision has made the wood elf trait possibly obsolete depending on what you consider being "unclearly seen". Ask your DM!
    Work in progress.

  4. #4
    Feedback, etc.. is welcome.

  5. #5
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  8. #8
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noctem View Post
    Feedback, etc.. is welcome.
    I would like you to cover the various considerations for the archetypal Rogue case:

    I'm hiding and am hidden behind cover. Combat is ongoing. At my turn I jump out, run 20 feet up to the goblin and stab him.

    Do I benefit from hidden?

    In general, are there ANY good reason to focus on melee for a Rogue?

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by CapnZapp View Post
    I would like you to cover the various considerations for the archetypal Rogue case:

    I'm hiding and am hidden behind cover. Combat is ongoing. At my turn I jump out, run 20 feet up to the goblin and stab him.

    Do I benefit from hidden?

    In general, are there ANY good reason to focus on melee for a Rogue?

    Thanks for the reply. Your question is basically covered by the distracted rules which allows a DM to decide if a creature is distracted enough to allow someone to stay hidden even after leaving their hiding spot. So in your scenario, normally leaving your hiding spot (the cover) by jumping out would make you lose hidden immediately. However a DM could decide that due to any number of factors the goblin doesn't notice you until after you've jumped out of cover, ran over 20 feet and attacked him. But this is totally within DM fiat territory so 100% ETV. Some DM's will point to the section in the PHB where it says that creatures in combat are aware of their surroundings and so it doesn't work. Others will point to the fact that the goblin is in melee combat with the fighter so the rogue jumping out of his hiding spot goes unnoticed because it's distracted. So imo, the best thing to do would be to discuss this kind of scenario with the DM ahead of time and should a situation in game come up, ask the DM if the target is distracted enough for it to work.

  10. #10
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    But... Why would you want to hide if your attacks don't get some kind of bonus?

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