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D&D 5E Cloak of Elvenkind - Advantage to Stealth AND -5 to passive perception?

Wood elves in Cloaks dont suddenly get easier to detect when they become invisible.

If that makes as much sense to you, as it does to me, then you'll know my interpretation is the correct one.
 

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clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Such an interpretation makes the Mask of the Wild feature, Skulker feat and similar abilities totally redundant, so it's obviously the wrong interpretation.
@Iry I can see how you can take the wording and say that it naturally implies the converse - that you can hide whenever a creature cannot see you clearly - but the halfway house of allowing a creature to stay hidden when they move from a heavily to lightly obscured area seems untenable for two reasons
  1. How do you justify excluding the implication that any creature can try to hide when it can't be clearly seen. The least thing you should believe - if reading it as you do - is simply that creatures should be able to hide whenever they cannot clearly seen.
  2. But if you do read it that way, how do you justify their presence of skulker and mask of the wild in the game? Just designer mistakes?
@Flamestrike and I exclude designer mistake (at least in this regard) and don't pick-and-choose among implications. So we feel our reading is the more consistent.
 

@Iry I can see how you can take the wording and say that it naturally implies the converse - that you can hide whenever a creature cannot see you clearly - but the halfway house of allowing a creature to stay hidden when they move from a heavily to lightly obscured area seems untenable for two reasons
  1. How do you justify excluding the implication that any creature can try to hide when it can't be clearly seen. The least thing you should believe - if reading it as you do - is simply that creatures should be able to hide whenever they cannot clearly seen.
  2. But if you do read it that way, how do you justify their presence of skulker and mask of the wild in the game? Just designer mistakes?
@Flamestrike and I exclude designer mistake (at least in this regard) and don't pick-and-choose among implications. So we feel our reading is the more consistent.

See my example above for a discussion on this.

I have a distinct feeling that Iry is going to assert the Ninja can remain hidden on the way down the hallway.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
No, it is to be read as plain English.

Is the Perception check a check to SEE the creature, and the answer is 'No'. It's a Perception check to notice the location of the creature, using several different senses.
The check is always prospective: it is about what is going to happen. If I beat a stealthy creature's check, then I am going to see and/or hear it even though I cannot currently see or hear it.

Is the Perception check only in order to HEAR the creature (because it is behind total cover and cannot possibly be seen). If yes, the cloak doesn't hinder the check.

Is the Perception check only to SEE the creature (because it is lightly obscured but silent - for whatever reason). If yes, the cloak hinders the check (which in most cases would be hindered anyway).

Is the creature invisible and silent? If yes, Perception can't break its hiding. That's strictly better than applying disadvantage.
 

The check is always prospective: it is about what is going to happen. If I beat a stealthy creature's check, then I am going to see and/or hear it even though I cannot currently see or hear it.
No, that's not the case.

If you cant see or hear something, there is no check to be made. Your check doesn't determine the reality of the situation.
 

Is the Perception check only in order to HEAR the creature (because it is behind total cover and cannot possibly be seen). If yes, the cloak doesn't hinder the check.

Is the Perception check only to SEE the creature (because it is lightly obscured but silent - for whatever reason). If yes, the cloak hinders the check (which in most cases would be hindered anyway).

What if the check is for a hidden creature where only a little bit is possible to be seen (hiding in a thickish bush for example)?

Disadvantage?

If you say 'Yes' to that question (due to the cloak), then why is this creature harder to perceive than one that is utterly impossible to see (fully behind total cover)?
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
No, that's not the case.

If you cant see or hear something, there is no check to be made. Your check doesn't determine the reality of the situation.
To ensure then that I am clear, because I have a sense of doubt. When a creature is presently unseen and unheard, there is no check to be made?
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
What if the check is for a hidden creature where only a little bit is possible to be seen (hiding in a thickish bush for example)?

Disadvantage?

If you say 'Yes' to that question (due to the cloak), then why is this creature harder to perceive than one that is utterly impossible to see (fully behind total cover)?
It comes down to what senses are being relied on
  • Relying on sight? Both the cloak and light cover impose disadvantage on Perception.
  • Relying on hearing? Neither the cloak nor light cover impose disadvantage on Perception.
  • Relying on both? Up to the DM - creatures that rely on a combination of senses to have their normal chance of Perception, will justifiably be hindered.
  • Impossible to see? No Perception check possible if relying only on sight - which doesn't affect creatures that can hear exceptionally well anyway, and should hinder creatures that habitually rely on a combination of senses.
  • Impossible to hear? No Perception check possible relying on hearing - so the cloak and light cover impose disadvantage on Perception.
  • Impossible to see or hear? No Perception check possible.
The issue you describe arises due to approximations in the game as simulation. RAW generally guides to disadvantage when a creature that habitually relies on a combination of sight and hearing can use only one of those senses. Because that is an added factor of difficulty. The problem arises if a DM is reluctant to impose disadvantage on such creatures when denied one of their senses. Similar arguments will apply to creatures that rely principally on one sense or other.
 

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
No dude, that requires an interpretation of [being unable to be seen clearly] = [light obscurement].

Such an interpretation makes the Mask of the Wild feature, Skulker feat and similar abilities totally redundant, so it's obviously the wrong interpretation.
There's no redundancy.

The wood elf and skulker have the priviledge of being able to say "I hide from the goblins" when the goblins are looking directly at them with only light obscurement. No other creature has that priviledge.

However, all creatures have the priviledge to stay where they are and not be seen when a character goes from fully covered from them to only light obscurement.

This isn't a combat thing. In combat, all creatures are highly alert. Much more than out of combat. But outside combat, creatures are usually more lax and won't take something in the shadows as deadly serious.
 

jgsugden

Legend
On the halfing and elf abilities, something to consider: There are two ways to consider them:

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and nobody else can hide when lightly obscured.

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and other creatures can hide when lightly obscured at the DM's discretion.

The second reading is RAW. How do we know this? The errata added the sentence as the first sentence under the HIDE description: The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.
Hiding (p. 177). The following sentence has been added to the beginning of this section: “The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.”

If you listen to the infamous Crawford interview, you'll learn that they wrote detailed hiding rules and then made the EXPLICIT and INTENTIONAL decision to gut them and replace them with DM judgment and interpretation. They overwrite that DM judgment and interpretation in certain places, such as the halfling and elven abilities people bring up, the skulker feat, etc... but in general, the exercise is up to the DM - so when those exceptions do not overrule the broad rules, it is up to the DM if a PC can hide in light obscurement.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
On the halfing and elf abilities, something to consider: There are two ways to consider them:

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and nobody else can hide when lightly obscured.

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and other creatures can hide when lightly obscured at the DM's discretion.

The second reading is RAW. How do we know this? The errata added the sentence as the first sentence under the HIDE description: The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.
This conversation started with a third option, something like:

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and other creatures can't hide when lightly obscured... but if hidden they can stay hidden.

Regardless what we think about naturally stealthy, skulker, and mask of the wild, that option is not suggested by the RAW. Right?
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Your logic seems sound, but could you provide an example of a situation where Bob’s cloak does impose disadvantage on Terry’s perception check? Cause I find it difficult to picture such a situation under this interpretation.
To my understanding, under that interpretation, the cloak is most valuable for long-range hiding, when the wearer is out of hearing range, and the DM rules the wearer can't be seen clearly despite not being in total cover or heavy obscurement. At that kind of range an invisible creature is automatically hidden, no check required, since they can't be seen or heard. A character wearing the cloak at a similar range isn't automatically hidden, but enjoys both advantage on their stealth check and imposes disadvantage on enemy perception.

This could potentially work at shorter ranges if there is enough background noise for the DM shorten the maximum hearing range.

Where this runs into difficulty is at tables where the DM either doesn't impose a range limit on hearing at all, or never rules that a character can't be seen clearly unless they are behind total cover or heavily obscured. At those tables, the second feature of the cloak really only helps with long-range hiding for Wood Elves and Skulkers.

There is one other benefit from the second feature of the cloak at some tables. If the DM rules that there is doubt over whether a non-hidden creature can be seen and calls for a perception check (e.g. noticing climbers on a mountain in LOS but at extreme range), the cloak would still provide disadvantage on that check. But not all tables allow for the possibility of non-hidden characters going unnoticed, and not all tables allow the DM to call for checks other than in response to action declarations.

Ultimately, the usefulness of the second feature of the cloak is entirely dependent on the particular DM, ranging from better than invisibility (at tables that don't limit the disadvantage to purely visual checks) to utterly worthless without being a Wood Elf or Skulker (at tables where the DM does limit the disadvantage to purely visual checks, doesn't impose a hearing distance limit, and always requires total cover/heavy obscurement to hide absent a special feature).

TLDR: unless you know your DM really well, always take Boots of Elvenkind over the Cloak of Elvenkind wherever you have a choice.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
To my understanding, under that interpretation, the cloak is most valuable for long-range hiding, when the wearer is out of hearing range, and the DM rules the wearer can't be seen clearly despite not being in total cover or heavy obscurement. At that kind of range an invisible creature is automatically hidden, no check required, since they can't be seen or heard. A character wearing the cloak at a similar range isn't automatically hidden, but enjoys both advantage on their stealth check and imposes disadvantage on enemy perception.

This could potentially work at shorter ranges if there is enough background noise for the DM shorten the maximum hearing range.

Where this runs into difficulty is at tables where the DM either doesn't impose a range limit on hearing at all, or never rules that a character can't be seen clearly unless they are behind total cover or heavily obscured. At those tables, the second feature of the cloak really only helps with long-range hiding for Wood Elves and Skulkers.

There is one other benefit from the second feature of the cloak at some tables. If the DM rules that there is doubt over whether a non-hidden creature can be seen and calls for a perception check (e.g. noticing climbers on a mountain in LOS but at extreme range), the cloak would still provide disadvantage on that check. But not all tables allow for the possibility of non-hidden characters going unnoticed, and not all tables allow the DM to call for checks other than in response to action declarations.

Ultimately, the usefulness of the second feature of the cloak is entirely dependent on the particular DM, ranging from better than invisibility (at tables that don't limit the disadvantage to purely visual checks) to utterly worthless without being a Wood Elf or Skulker (at tables where the DM does limit the disadvantage to purely visual checks, doesn't impose a hearing distance limit, and always requires total cover/heavy obscurement to hide absent a special feature).

TLDR: unless you know your DM really well, always take Boots of Elvenkind over the Cloak of Elvenkind wherever you have a choice.
That makes sense. Thank you!
 

Iry

Hero
Oh right - I think you are referring to this -

"You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly, and you give away your position if you make noise, such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase. An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet."

I've always understood that as literally and simply true. Only applying to becoming hidden in the first place, not staying hidden. I can see why you might take it the way you do.
Yep! You got it. Not that it's necessary, but it also passes the Rules check (do any rules conflict) and the RL check (does it support how things work in RL). I know the game designers decided to gut the hiding system and leave much of it up to interpretation, and I completely support people doing it whatever way works best at their own table. But I sincerely think this is the way they meant it to work before they scrapped things. You can see the hints of it all over the place, like a rotating puzzle where all the lines connect once you move the last piece.

ROTATE.jpg
 
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jgsugden

Legend
This conversation started with a third option, something like:

* These creatures get an ability to hide when lightly obscured (whenever they are under the specified conditions), and other creatures can't hide when lightly obscured... but if hidden they can stay hidden.

Regardless what we think about naturally stealthy, skulker, and mask of the wild, that option is not suggested by the RAW. Right?
The PHB errata says, "The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding." It does not say that they decide only when you can start hiding, when you can remain hidden or when you've left hiding - it says the DM decides. As such, they can make whatever decisions they feel are appropriate unless there is a specific contradiction. Well, they can decide to change that, too, but then it is not RAW.

Generally, whatever the DM does here, it is RAW ... although there are some specific rules that override the general rule, such as the skulker, halfling, elf, etc... abilities. As such, a DM can determine that a situation is inappropriate to hide in, but entering it while hidden is not enough to take you out of hiding.
 

Iry

Hero
No dude, that requires an interpretation of [being unable to be seen clearly] = [light obscurement].

Such an interpretation makes the Mask of the Wild feature, Skulker feat and similar abilities totally redundant, so it's obviously the wrong interpretation.

What being 'unable to be seen clearly enough' means is a person behind total cover peering around the cover and similar can Hide (and remain hidden). It doesnt mean a person can Hide (or remain hidden) in a dimly lit room with no cover to hide behind.

You cant move from behind a pillar, to behind another pillar 20' away in dim light under direct observation, and remain hidden as you move.
Yes, obscurement means you cannot be seen clearly.
No, Mask of the Wild, Lightfoots, and Skulkers can take the Hide action in light obscurement. Other people cannot.
A person cannot Hide in partial cover / light obscurement (exceptions not included), but they can remain hidden if they move from total cover / heavy obscurement into a place of partial cover / light obscurement. The condition for ending Hidden is being clearly seen.
You can if the other person fails their Perception check.
N decides to walk down the dimly lit hallway towards C, who is staring straight down that hallway.

Is it your position that N can remain hidden from C as he walks down that hallway under direct observation, without the Skulker feat, or similar special ability?
N begins to Hide in the darkness. This is acceptable because N has Total Cover / Heavy Obscurement
N begins moving towards C and enters Light Obscurement. This triggers a Perception (Wisdom) check.
DM interpretation time (you may rule differently) "He's staring right down the hallway, so... you have disadvantage and he has advantage for reasons (you decide why)."
N passes the check? N is still hidden!

Could the DM step in and rule that hiding is impossible because N is standing right in front of C? Yes, absolutely.
Otherwise, it's up to the DM to decide why C failed to notice N sneaking up on him.
 
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Iry

Hero
@Iry I can see how you can take the wording and say that it naturally implies the converse - that you can hide whenever a creature cannot see you clearly - but the halfway house of allowing a creature to stay hidden when they move from a heavily to lightly obscured area seems untenable for two reasons
  1. How do you justify excluding the implication that any creature can try to hide when it can't be clearly seen. The least thing you should believe - if reading it as you do - is simply that creatures should be able to hide whenever they cannot clearly seen.
  2. But if you do read it that way, how do you justify their presence of skulker and mask of the wild in the game? Just designer mistakes?
By default, you need to be in Total Cover / Heavy Obscurement to Hide. Things like Mark of the Wild, Lightfoot, and Skulker allow the character to Hide in Light Obscurement (which they otherwise could not). So those abilities have merit.

A DM can always rule that you CAN Hide in Partial Cover / Light Obscurement if they think the situation warrants it. That's his perogative.
Similarly, a DM can always rule that you CANNOT Hide in Total Cover / Heavy Obscurement if they think the situation warrants it (this rarely happens, but DMs gonna DM)

Like the C vs N situation @Flamestrike used above, there is a point where I (as the DM) might absolutely end the Hide on N if she's standing right in front of C. But what if she's standing right behind C? I would probably give C disadvantage because he's staring intently down the hallway. DM interpretation does play a big role in the final result.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Yep! You got it. Not that it's necessary, but it also passes the Rules check (do any rules conflict) and the RL check (does it support how things work in RL). I know the game designers decided to gut the hiding system and leave much of it up to interpretation, and I completely support people doing it whatever way works best at their own table. But I sincerely think this is the way they meant it to work before they scrapped things. And it doesn't contradict anything.
Wasn’t the scrapped, more detailed stealth system in one of the early playtest packets? If so, that could clear up how they were thinking of making it work at first. I’ll check my old playtest folder when I get home.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Your logic seems sound, but could you provide an example of a situation where Bob’s cloak does impose disadvantage on Terry’s perception check? Cause I find it difficult to picture such a situation under this interpretation.
Bob is a lightfoot halfling behind a medium creature or is a 10th-level or higher ranger using the Hide in Plain Sight feature, and is more than 10 to 60 feet away from Terry (or at a distance that the DM decides is too far for Terry to hear the quiet noises Bob makes when trying to hide) or near a waterfall or some other continuous source of loud noise that drowns out any noise coming from Bob..
 

Iry

Hero
Wasn’t the scrapped, more detailed stealth system in one of the early playtest packets? If so, that could clear up how they were thinking of making it work at first. I’ll check my old playtest folder when I get home.
The playtest packets (which are kindly archived here) actually contradict themselves. I've researched each one, and the contradiction stays consistent from Packet 1 to Packet 10.
  • "A creature can attempt a Dexterity (Stealth) check to sneak around, moving quietly and using cover and heavily obscured areas to avoid detection. [...] If a creature might see you, you need to keep behind cover or stay in heavily obscured areas to remain hidden."
  • "You can't simply stand in the middle of an empty, lit room and hope to avoid notice. Something must conceal you, perhaps a large object, a piece of terrain, or an immobile creature of an appropriate size, such as a slumbering dragon. Regardless of what obscures you, the thing must cover at least half your body for you to hide."
In the first passage, it outright states that you need to keep behind cover (not specified which) or stay in heavily obscured areas (VERY specific) to remain hidden. In the second passage, it outright states the thing must cover at least half your body for you to hide (VERY specific).
 

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