Its not a question of whether I prefer one or the other, I just want that codified consistently.
Effectively should a rogue get to make a bow attack from stealth in that scenario, but the dagger rogue cannot? (its not a question of preference, I just want to know if the intention is to let snipping from hiding be effective but diving out of the shadows to stab someone is not....or is it intended that both could get the stealth shot).
Depends on the situation. Does the attacker have a chance to remain unseen and depends on many possibilities, a few of which I listed.
So just looking up the rules of stealth, I see the following, which is all needed to have a full picture of how stealth works in the game. I guess I underestimated when I said 4
1) The basic skill definition.
StealthMake a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.
2) The actual hiding definition
The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check's total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.
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.
In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the DM might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack roll before you are seen.
Passive Perception. 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. If the creature has advantage, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5. For example, if a 1st-level character (with a proficiency bonus of +2) has a Wisdom of 15 (a +2 modifier) and proficiency in Perception, he or she has a passive Wisdom (Perception) of 14.
What Can You See? One of the main factors in determining whether you can find a hidden creature or object is how well you can see in an area, which might be lightly or heavily obscured, as explained in chapter 8.
3) The definitions of obscurement
The most fundamental tasks of adventuring--noticing danger, finding hidden objects, hitting an enemy in combat, and targeting a spell, to name just a few--rely heavily on a character's ability to see. Darkness and other effects that obscure vision can prove a significant hindrance.
A given area might be lightly or heavily obscured. In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
A heavily obscured area--such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage--blocks vision entirely. A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area.
The presence or absence of light in an environment creates three categories of illumination: bright light, dim light, and darkness.
Bright light lets most creatures see normally. Even gloomy days provide bright light, as do torches, lanterns, fires, and other sources of illumination within a specific radius.
Dim light, also called shadows, creates a lightly obscured area. An area of dim light is usually a boundary between a source of bright light, such as a torch, and surrounding darkness. The soft light of twilight and dawn also counts as dim light. A particularly brilliant full moon might bathe the land in dim light.
Darkness creates a heavily obscured area. Characters face darkness outdoors at night (even most moonlit nights), within the confines of an unlit dungeon or a subterranean vault, or in an area of magical darkness.
4) Invisibility and stealth
- 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, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.
5) Notes about perception and searching (which conflicts a bit with passive perception)
PerceptionYour Wisdom (Perception) check lets you spot, hear, or otherwise detect the presence of something. It measures your general awareness of your surroundings and the keenness of your senses. For example, you might try to hear a conversation through a closed door, eavesdrop under an open window, or hear monsters moving stealthily in the forest. Or you might try to spot things that are obscured or easy to miss, whether they are orcs lying in ambush on a road, thugs hiding in the shadows of an alley, or candlelight under a closed secret door.
6) Search Combat Action
SearchWhen you take the Search action, you devote your attention to finding something. Depending on the nature of your search, the DM might have you make a Wisdom (Perception) check or an Intelligence (Investigation) check.
The book would probably triple in size if you didn't reference other pieces every time some rule is mentioned. I can't imagine how confusing it would be if you had to look at the stealth rules to find how cover works. Yes, you do have to have a basic grasp of the rules in order to play the game.
Ah but see that's where the ambiguity lies. Passive PErception is used by default of course, but there is nothing in the rules that says I can't be actively searching (in fact quite the opposite, there is a search action for this very purpose). So is an alert guard just using the search action continuously. Or is that considered too tiring? Is guard duty supposed to be passive perception?
I don't know! the rules don't say. Now again I don't expect the rules to cover every scenario under the sun, there are lots of nuance to stealth. But sneaking past the guard is stealth 101, it comes up all the times. so it would be nice to know if this scenario is meant to be passive perception, and active perception roll....both, etc.
Passive perception is literally the average of all those active perception checks. Is that alert guard paying attention to the hall? Of course. Over the course of several minutes or hours those active checks are going to average out to be ... wait for it ... their passive perception. You use active perception when something unusual happens, some even that changes the norm. I don't think it's a difficult concept.