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5E Stealth Revamp

Dausuul

Legend
The last flare-up of the long-running debate over Stealth got me to thinking about what it would take to rework the Stealth rules in 5E. I spent a while noodling over it and came up with what follows. Rather to my surprise, I ended up with something that slots quite neatly into the existing 5E ruleset.

The goal was to create a system that would, in 90% of cases, resolve to "Roll Stealth versus passive Perception," and handle the oddball 10% with a few simple rules and a healthy dose of DM discretion. What do you think? Are there important stealth scenarios that aren't addressed? Would this work at your table?

2/16: Updated per suggestions below.

STEALTH
You can use Dexterity (Stealth) to avoid being heard or seen by your foes. To do so, you must be hidden to any creature that might see you, and quiet to any creature that might hear you.

Hidden: You can become hidden by using the Hide action, which means taking shelter behind something that provides partial concealment; a bush, a crowd of people, etc. You are then hidden to any creature whose sight of you is impeded. You stop being hidden if you attack, cast a spell with a somatic component, or do anything else that draws attention. You also stop being hidden if you lose your concealment.

If an obstacle provides total concealment, you can't be seen at all and do not need to be hidden. However, this usually means you can't see your enemies either! In most cases, peeking out to watch enemies (or attack them) means you only have partial concealment and must be hidden.

You can also be hidden to a creature if it's distracted. Normally, creatures expecting danger pay attention all around them. If a creature's attention is focused elsewhere, or you are in an unusual place (such as on the ceiling), the DM may rule that the creature is distracted from you. You are hidden to that creature as long as it remains distracted.

Quiet: Once on your turn, you can become quiet (no action required). If you move more than half speed, attack, cast a spell with a verbal component, or do anything else that makes significant noise, you stop being quiet.

Stealth and Perception: The first time a creature might see or hear you, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check against the creature’s passive Perception. A creature’s passive Perception equals 10 plus its Wisdom (Perception) modifier. If you fail, you cease to be hidden or quiet to that creature. If you succeed, the creature doesn’t see or hear you; however, it may detect you by other means, such as smell.

A creature relies on both sight and hearing to detect stealthy foes. If the creature must rely on a single sense to detect you (it’s deaf, you’re invisible, etc.), it has disadvantage (-5) on its passive Perception.

The DM may require you to re-roll Stealth if the situation changes or a long time has passed. Otherwise, you keep the same result until you stop being stealthy. Use it against any creature that might see or hear you.

Stealth in Combat: You can use Stealth in combat, subject to the above rules. However, bear in mind that concealment, partial or total, is only useful as long as you keep it between you and your enemy. You can Hide behind a pillar, but an enemy need only walk around the pillar to see you plain as day.

Searching: A creature can use its action to look for stealthy foes. It makes an Intelligence (Investigation) check. If the result equals or exceeds your Stealth result, you are no longer hidden or quiet to that creature.

OTHER RULES CHANGES
Mask of the Wild (Wood Elf Trait): In natural surroundings, you can treat any type of light obscurement (fog, dim light, etc.) as concealment allowing you to Hide. If you’re hidden this way, the obscurement penalty to vision doesn’t apply to detecting you.

Skulker (Feat, first ability): You can treat any type of light obscurement (fog, dim light, etc.) as concealment allowing you to Hide. If you’re hidden this way, the obscurement penalty to vision doesn’t apply to detecting you.

Skulker (Feat, second ability): When you’re hidden or quiet, if you make a ranged attack and miss, you don’t stop being hidden or quiet.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
First thought: you need to factor in smell somehow, as it's significant more often than you might expect.

Second thought: not one mention of Invisibility, Blur, various illusions or any other spell effect that might conceal or help conceal one's presence...big omission.

Third thought: needs a mention of environment making stealth easier or harder at DM's discretion (leave tracks in snow/mud/water, high wind or pouring rain muffles sounds, tricky echoes, etc. etc.) just so everyone knows it's a factor.

Lanefan
 

I think this is going in the right direction, and I particularly like the hidden vs. quiet distinction and the fact that Quiet doesn't require a separate action, but halves your speed.

But I wouldn't use this as written because it still has the same flaw as the PHB stealth rules: "taking the Hide action" is left totally abstract, so you'll still have the usual disbelief from people who can't believe that "taking the Hide action" when you're behind the door to an outhouse somehow allows you to use your Stealth skill to exit the outhouse without being seen or heard, and you'll still have the usual questions about what happens if you Hide inside the outhouse and someone looks inside--do they somehow fail to see you just because you "took the Hide action" and "rolled 40 on [my] Stealth check"? Why​ do they fail to see you?

I think fixing this requires more concreteness on the Hide action, and finer rules granularity for how it works. Imagine if there were several canonical examples of how Hide could work: (1) move up to half speed (quietly) to another obscured location, thus causing anyone who can't observe the path between both locations to believe you're still in the original Hide location (i.e. Hide as a half-Dash with Stealth affordance built in); (2) Hide behind a tapestry (Hide as an item interaction + Stealth affordance--requires you to have enough movement to reach the tapestry and still have a Hide action), or hide in low vegetation (also requires you to have enough movement, and also requires dropping prone), causing anyone who approaches to be unable to see you even if they can see the space they're in, but you are automatically discovered if they look behind the tapestry or in the plants where you are; (3) Hide in a crowd of fifty people (consumes your movement), which doesn't make people unable to see you but makes it difficult to notice you specifically (perhaps Charisma (Stealth) vs. Wisdom (Perception)) as long as you don't leave the crowd; (4) Hide by clinging to the ceiling in the dark like Batman, which functions like option #1 except that there must be a ceiling, and the DM may ask for an Athletics check to climb up there as part of your Hide action.

From this perspective, rolling a high Stealth check means you give people no reason to look at you in your (overhead/underfoot/behind something) hiding place. You've very quiet and almost motionless or you move only when no one is looking at you, but just because you don't supply a reason for them to look at you doesn't mean something else might not cause them to do so. (For example, someone else hiding next to you, who has a low Stealth check and so twitches or sneezes.)

I'm not 100% happy with any of these suggestions but I hope that illustrates the idea: instead of saying "I hide", we want the player to say what he's doing to hide ("I hide under the table") to make it easier to adjudicate consequences. Hiding under the table lets you use Stealth to hide, yes, but it also makes you prone, and lets anyone who searches under the table discover you automatically. Hiding is no longer a superpower--there's a physical mechanism required each and every time you hide, and each method of hiding comes with its own built-in failure modes no matter how absurdly high your Stealth skill is.

I think unless you fix that issue, you haven't really revamped Stealth yet.
 
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jasper

Rotten DM
....they somehow fail to see you just because you "took the Hide action" and "rolled 40 on [my] Stealth check"? Why​ do they fail to see you?
.....
hemlock. " nat 40.Ha ha you can see me Eric Flint. He never think to look into pit. "
dm, "hm . the spiders bite for 1 pt of damage. Make a con save."
Hemlock, "nat 1 son of ...."
Dm, "splash! Eric flint heard you fall into the bottom. Until you have 3 baths you have disadvantage to hide and cha checks!"
Lanflan, "hey that 2 more than hemlock takes in a week normally!"
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I think the very first step that has to be taken in order to start making Hiding rules work is to change the way people are looking at Dexterity (Stealth) checks. People continually look at those checks as a pass/fail proposition against other people's Passive Perception, which is the exact opposite way it should be looked at in order to avoid conceptual questions like Invisibility. Because by looking at it that way-- you roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check against a "target number" of someone's Passive Perception-- you then have retextualize it after the fact when your Dexterity (Stealth) check number becomes the "target number" for someone else who makes an Active Perception check.

To make it as easy to understand as possible, we need to get rid of the idea of a "pass/fail" state for Dexterity (Stealth) checks. Instead... the way we need to conceptualize it is that ANYBODY can try and Hide. To do so, you follow any necessary rules the game has in place to illustrate you covering yourself from visual, aural, footprints, odor, and air/environmental movement. Once you have completely those conditions per the rules, you have hidden yourself from notice and you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see how well you have accomplished it.

THAT's what the check is-- creating a "target number" for other people to notice you. That's it. You never "fail" at Stealthing. You aren't "Hidden" versus "Not Hidden". Sure, a piss-poor Dexterity (Stealth) check might mean you did a horrible job at trying to hide, but you didn't "fail". And why is this conceptualization important? Because the process isn't binary. Because all other creatures out there have varying Passive Perceptions, your check might have you higher than some, but lower than others. There is no "pass/fail" because there is always that middle ground between the two.

So let's stop explaining these Dexterity (Stealth) checks as something you "succeed" at or "fail" at. Characters aren't "Hidden" or "Not Hidden". Instead, let's explain the check for what is actually is-- it tells us how well we are hidden. If the DM lets you roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check, it's because you are hiding. And the number you roll tells you HOW WELL you have done it.

Once you do that... a lot of problems people have with trying to conceptualize the rules fall away-- especially with something like Invisibility. People always ask "How can I not be hidden if I'm invisible? That makes NO SENSE!". And that's true from a narrative standpoint-- if we are still thinking in the binary "pass/fail" of being Hidden, if people can't see you, why aren't you hidden from everyone? Why is a Dexterity (Stealth) check necessary? You're invisible to everyone godammit! There *is no* "fail" here!

But once we take away the idea of the "pass/fail" of hiding... it becomes easier to understand. "You're invisible? Good! You're hiding from everyone! Now the question is, how well have you hidden yourself from everyone else's other senses? Smell, hearing, touch etc.? Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see what it would take for others to possibly notice you even while invisible." And then once that check is made, we have the "target number" for everyone else to try and find that invisible person.

Now of course some players will still complain about this because they feel like Invisibility should be a catch-all for being completely unperceivable. Which... fine... if that's how they want to play it then NO AMOUNT of rejiggering of the stealth rules will satisfy them-- you'd actually have to change the rules of Invisibility in order to reach the point that some players might want (since Invisibility only blocks visual perception and thus is basically equivalent to someone standing behind a wall-- they both can't be seen but that's it.)

Beyond that though... just reconceptualizing the whole process as something where someone decides they want to hide, they put themselves into a position to do so which follows whatever requirements the game sets up, and then they roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see how well they did... makes things just easier to understand. After that... other creatures use their Passive Perception or make an Active Perception Search check to see if they notice the person hiding. If they get over the hiding person's Dexterity (Stealth) check, then they do. And the hiding character does not get the bonuses that come for being hidden.

TL;DR: A Dexterity (Stealth) check doesn't tell us whether are "Hidden" or "Not Hidden"... if the DM has us making a check then it means we *are* hidden, and the number rolled tells everyone else how well we did it.
 
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nswanson27

First Post
I would just explicitly state the rules about popping out of cover and attacking with advantage. Like "rogues can use their bonus action to test stealth vs. target PP to cause their next attack to roll with advantage, provided they are currently and remain unseen by their target until the start of the attack", or something. Don't introduce contextually vague words like "hidden" or anything into the equation. Just make it a dead simple and predictable mechanic, no RAW/realism debates.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Now all that being said... we also have another big hurdle to get past, which is that the game covers three different "senses" differently in terms of what creatures have to do to in order to be considered hidden enough that the DM lets them make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. And the "game rules" written up for these three "senses" range from more complex to completely non-existent. Which is kinda clunky and makes things even more difficult to wrap your head around.

The three "senses" the game uses are VISUAL, AURAL, and EVERYTHING ELSE. And there a lot of rules the game has put in place (both narratively and mechanically) for all three, some more taxing than others.

For the visual sense, the game talks about having to become unseen and the game actually supplies mechanical "game rules" which explain how a character can do that. The character mechanically needs to get out of Line of Sight from the person who might perceive them, either by going behind solid blocking terrain or by going into terrain or environment that makes them Heavily Obscured from the perceiver (and in three cases-- the halfling behind a large creature, the wood elf in natural terrain, and the Skulker in dim light-- only needing to be Lightly Obscured.) And of course Invisibility as a mechanic is considered to be Heavily Obscuring terrain automatically. If a character does that, then visually they have completed the mechanical baseline necessary to be allowed to roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check.

For the hearing sense... the game talks about "being quiet" and "not making a lot of noise" but unfortunately doesn't include any mechanical game rules on how to accomplish that. The rules are purely narrative. "Don't shout!" "Don't stomp around!" "Don't belch or sneeze or cry!" etc. etc. But there is nothing mechanical there and thus it's really just up to the DM to make a ruling themselves as to whether the character accomplished it. Now [MENTION=58197]Dausuul[/MENTION] did make some good ideas for possible mechanical rules in his OP... only move half-speed or less, no spellcasting that requires a verbal component and so forth. Which I think does help. But in either case, if a character "remains quiet" (however the rules want to decide on it), then aurally they have completed the baseline necessary to be allowed to roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check.

Then finally there is the third "sense", which is "everything else" a character could do that might be perceived. Did they leave any tracks towards their hiding spot? Are they changing air currents? Do they give off an odor to be smelled? Etc. etc. etc. And how does the game consolidate all of these things together? By pretty much ignoring them. They are handwaved away the exact moment the DM asks for a Dexterity (Stealth) check. The characters are not expected to narrate or even mention they are covering their tracks, or hiding "downwind", or not bumping into tree branches. These are all just assumed to be happening by the character when they say they want to try and hide, and the DM assumes they in fact are once they ask for a Dexterity (Stealth) check. So the game assumes these things are being done, and then "proves it" by having a Dexterity (Stealth) check rolled. Even though not a single thing was said by the players or the DM.

Which means the game requires all three of these "senses" to be blocked in order to hide... but has three separate levels of mechanical and/or narrative complexity to accomplish it. And I think that really screws things up for people. Why are leaving tracks handwaved but getting out of line of sight is not? Why are we told that narratively we have to "be quiet", but we don't have to narratively position ourselves "downwind" of the perceiver?

I mean, the game could just as easily made it as simple as a player says "I want to hide"... the DM says "Okay, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check" with no absolutely requirements of sight, sound, smell, or touch... and then he rolls Perception checks against that Stealth check to figure out who might see that hidden person. Basically handwave ALL the mechanical and narrative requirements need to hide. The game just assumes the person got behind a big object downwind, erased their tracks, didn't move and kept quiet. But I don't know how satisfying THAT would have been for players either.
 

Your Hidden state has the same problem as current 5e. It states that you are "hidden to any creature whose sight of you is impeded" which some will interpret as being completely out of sight. As someone who has hidden successfully from others many times in my life, you can hide from someone and have parts of your body in view, including your head so you can observe them. I agree that there needs to be some sort of concealment/cover method in place to hide behind, however I would argue that unless you are performing some overt action that stealth can occur with parts of the stealthing character in view.
 

D

dco

Guest
In all games I've played it is skill check vs skill check, I don't see the problem.
 

STEALTH
You can use Dexterity (Stealth) to avoid being heard or seen by your foes. To do so, you must be hidden to any creature that might see you, and quiet to any creature that might hear you.

Hidden: You can use the Hide action to shelter behind something that impedes vision (a bush, a crowd of people, etc.). You are then hidden to any creature whose sight of you is impeded. You stop being hidden if you attack, cast a spell with a somatic component, or do anything else that draws attention.

Quiet: Once on your turn, you can become quiet (no action required). If you move more than half speed, attack, cast a spell with a verbal component, or do anything else that makes significant noise, you stop being quiet.
So, we replace the "Stealth" skill with two separate skils...we could call them "Move Silently" and "Hide in Shadows".

That's so crazy it just might work.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Lots of good thoughts. Thanks, all!

I'm not 100% happy with any of these suggestions but I hope that illustrates the idea: instead of saying "I hide", we want the player to say what he's doing to hide ("I hide under the table") to make it easier to adjudicate consequences. Hiding under the table lets you use Stealth to hide, yes, but it also makes you prone, and lets anyone who searches under the table discover you automatically. Hiding is no longer a superpower--there's a physical mechanism required each and every time you hide, and each method of hiding comes with its own built-in failure modes no matter how absurdly high your Stealth skill is.
I absolutely agree that the Hide action needs to be a defined, specific thing. I thought I had made it so with this sentence: "You can use the Hide action to shelter behind something that impedes vision (a bush, a crowd of people, etc.)." However, re-reading it, I see that could be read as "There is a general-purpose Hide action and this is one specific use of it." I'll rewrite my OP to make that clearer: The Hide action means hiding behind some sort of cover, nothing more, nothing less. Specifically, it means taking cover behind a partial obstruction, such that it is possible an enemy might spot you.

Regarding the Batman scenario, I think that is better covered by expanding the distraction rules rather than trying to add multiple modes to Hide. I'll put that in too.

Your Hidden state has the same problem as current 5e. It states that you are "hidden to any creature whose sight of you is impeded" which some will interpret as being completely out of sight. As someone who has hidden successfully from others many times in my life, you can hide from someone and have parts of your body in view, including your head so you can observe them. I agree that there needs to be some sort of concealment/cover method in place to hide behind, however I would argue that unless you are performing some overt action that stealth can occur with parts of the stealthing character in view.
Again, this is the intent of the rules; I'll tweak them to clarify. If you're behind cover that completely blocks a creature's vision, then by definition it can't see you and you don't have to hide. Hiding is only relevant if you might be seen.

TL;DR: A Dexterity (Stealth) check doesn't tell us whether are "Hidden" or "Not Hidden"... if the DM has us making a check then it means we *are* hidden, and the number rolled tells everyone else how well we did it.
This is more or less the goal. You'll note that becoming hidden does not involve a Stealth check. You only roll when a creature might see or hear you. If you blow the roll, you stop being hidden to that creature (but might remain hidden to other, less perceptive creatures).

Which means the game requires all three of these "senses" to be blocked in order to hide... but has three separate levels of mechanical and/or narrative complexity to accomplish it. And I think that really screws things up for people. Why are leaving tracks handwaved but getting out of line of sight is not? Why are we told that narratively we have to "be quiet", but we don't have to narratively position ourselves "downwind" of the perceiver?
The danger here is rules creep: Trying to create a system with precise rules for every possible scenario. That way lies madness (or 3E). I decided that the Stealth rules should be limited to sight and hearing, which are the things a Dex-based skill would reasonably affect. Thus:

"If you succeed, the creature doesn’t see or hear you."

Notice that this is the limit of what Stealth can do for you (I'll update the text to call that out explicitly). If you're being pursued by a creature with the nose of a bloodhound, or you just got done fighting an otyugh, no amount of sneakiness will prevent your enemy from smelling you. Likewise, you can't Stealth your way past an alarm spell. You must come up with other means to evade those.

Covering your tracks is in a gray area. I would be inclined to roll normal track-covering into the Hide action; however, if you're walking across a black floor covered in flour--or a clean floor when you just got done fighting an otyugh--you may need to go to lengths not covered by Stealth. That's the sort of thing I feel should be left to the DM's judgement.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
So, we replace the "Stealth" skill with two separate skils...we could call them "Move Silently" and "Hide in Shadows".

That's so crazy it just might work.
There is wisdom in the old editions. :) If Stealth is specifically defined as "making yourself hard to see or hear," rather than an all-purpose anti-detection skill, it becomes way easier to write rules for it. I actually thought about just going back to Hide and Move Silently, 3E-style, but I do prefer having a single skill and a single roll.
 

corwyn77

Explorer
So, we replace the "Stealth" skill with two separate skils...we could call them "Move Silently" and "Hide in Shadows".

That's so crazy it just might work.
Heck no. If my rogue needs two skills to hide, you better make damn sure my opponents need both vision and hearing skills to find me.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Let's also acknowledge the issue here that there are in fact four different things that we are expecting characters to do that right now all are falling under the umbrella of 'Stealth'. But the question to be asked is whether or not that is how we want the rules to be? One skill to rule them all, and what mechanically should we be getting out of it? Or should these become different skills? Because all four are accomplished by a character via different methods... *and* require the blocking or confusion of the different senses of the people who want to find them.

The four things are:

Hiding (without moving) from people purely to avoid being seen/noticed/attacked.

Hiding during combat in order to gain Advantage on a subsequent attack.

Moving silently out in the open to move across the landscape or dungeon and not be heard or noticed.

Shadowing/following someone at a distance without them noticing you.

These are all different because they use different mechanics, and they give different results. For example... to hide from someone to avoid being seen you need to choose cover (either LOS blocking or Heavily Obscuring) and if the person looking for you comes around the object or terrain that is blocking or obscuring you, they automatically see you. However... if you are trying to shadow someone, narratively-speaking you aren't behind cover the entire time. You oftentimes are out in the open but are making yourself unnoticed or unremarkable. You can't use the same rules for "hiding" in these two cases because they expect two different things-- one requires the character to always remain behind blocking terrain, the other falls into that nebulous term the Errata put out there of "not being seen clearly".

And of course obviously if you and your group is trying to walk silently through a dungeon to avoid notice... that again uses a different skillset "narratively" and different mechanical game rules. Now it's not about avoiding sightlines (because there's no one in the area to see you) but instead it's entirely about sound and how far sound travels and how much noise you make as you walk. And currently there are little to no rules governing this (other than the one rule about Medium and Heavy Armor giving you Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.)

Then finally of course there is Hiding In Combat-- which is a whole different beast. Because this is purely a mechanical expression done specifically for the purpose of gaining a mechanical bonus during combat. The story of what's happening in the world isn't important-- no one at the table cares narratively how or why you are ducking behind stuff and then popping out a few moments later to fire a ranged attack-- what's important to everyone is that you are gaining a mechanical Advantage on your attack. That's the only reason why Hiding In Combat is a thing. If you didn't get a bonus to your attack roll for doing it, nobody would. And thus, the question to be asked for this part is whether this strictly mechanical set of rules to gain a strictly mechanical bonus should or need to have much more concrete mechanical rules? Moreso than the other three?

The other three methods are all about the narrative-- "We're trying to avoid an encounter by not being noticed." Whereas Hiding In Combat obviously *is* the encounter and thus has no narrative. It's purely "I want Advantage on my next attack!" Thus... should Hiding In Combat be it's own thing separate from the other three? It's own ruleset? It's own skill? And if so... then we need to ask whether any of the other three are different enough from the rest of the group that they too should have it's own skill or it's own ruleset for adjudication (and how complex or simple should that be mechanically?)

It's this kind of dichotomy that inspired the creation of both "Hide In Shadows" and "Move Silently" in the first place. Because they realized that if you're trying to navigate a dungeon without being noticed, you're not Hiding, you're Moving Silently. But likewise, if you are ducking behind a wall to avoid being seen by the beholder flying by, you aren't Moving Silently (because you ain't moving at all) but are Hiding instead. But then of course there's the fourth option, which is trying to follow someone and tail them, and that turns out you really aren't doing either Hiding or Moving Silently-- you're instead trying to avoid notice by blending into the crowd or the background of the scene. And that should almost be represented by a Charisma check moreso than any Dexterity one.

This is why the whole Stealth thing is so convoluted, and I really think is why WotC threw up their hands and said "Here's Dexterity (Stealth) to use and some minor basics for avoiding being seen or heard, but really people-- do whatever you want that works for you." Because with all four of these different things being so different narratively, requiring such different skillsets, and such different skills on the part of the perceiver to notice the characters... trying to create rules that both mechanically *and* narratively make sense AND are simple to adjudicate at the table... is pretty much impossible.

I mean, we could have mechanical rules for all these types of Stealth that also take into account all of the narrative aspects of the hiders and the seekers and what they are doing and trying to accomplish... but I think we'd end up with a set of rules that would be like the equivalent of Grappling in 3E. Narratively and mechanically cohesive, but WAY MORE TROUBLE than they are worth.
 
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Bawylie

A very OK person
I think the very first step that has to be taken in order to start making Hiding rules work is to change the way people are looking at Dexterity (Stealth) checks. People continually look at those checks as a pass/fail proposition against other people's Passive Perception, which is the exact opposite way it should be looked at in order to avoid conceptual questions like Invisibility. Because by looking at it that way-- you roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check against a "target number" of someone's Passive Perception-- you then have retextualize it after the fact when your Dexterity (Stealth) check number becomes the "target number" for someone else who makes an Active Perception check.

To make it as easy to understand as possible, we need to get rid of the idea of a "pass/fail" state for Dexterity (Stealth) checks. Instead... the way we need to conceptualize it is that ANYBODY can try and Hide. To do so, you follow any necessary rules the game has in place to illustrate you covering yourself from visual, aural, footprints, odor, and air/environmental movement. Once you have completely those conditions per the rules, you have hidden yourself from notice and you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see how well you have accomplished it.

THAT's what the check is-- creating a "target number" for other people to notice you. That's it. You never "fail" at Stealthing. You aren't "Hidden" versus "Not Hidden". Sure, a piss-poor Dexterity (Stealth) check might mean you did a horrible job at trying to hide, but you didn't "fail". And why is this conceptualization important? Because the process isn't binary. Because all other creatures out there have varying Passive Perceptions, your check might have you higher than some, but lower than others. There is no "pass/fail" because there is always that middle ground between the two.

So let's stop explaining these Dexterity (Stealth) checks as something you "succeed" at or "fail" at. Characters aren't "Hidden" or "Not Hidden". Instead, let's explain the check for what is actually is-- it tells us how well we are hidden. If the DM lets you roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check, it's because you are hiding. And the number you roll tells you HOW WELL you have done it.

Once you do that... a lot of problems people have with trying to conceptualize the rules fall away-- especially with something like Invisibility. People always ask "How can I not be hidden if I'm invisible? That makes NO SENSE!". And that's true from a narrative standpoint-- if we are still thinking in the binary "pass/fail" of being Hidden, if people can't see you, why aren't you hidden from everyone? Why is a Dexterity (Stealth) check necessary? You're invisible to everyone godammit! There *is no* "fail" here!

But once we take away the idea of the "pass/fail" of hiding... it becomes easier to understand. "You're invisible? Good! You're hiding from everyone! Now the question is, how well have you hidden yourself from everyone else's other senses? Smell, hearing, touch etc.? Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see what it would take for others to possibly notice you even while invisible." And then once that check is made, we have the "target number" for everyone else to try and find that invisible person.

Now of course some players will still complain about this because they feel like Invisibility should be a catch-all for being completely unperceivable. Which... fine... if that's how they want to play it then NO AMOUNT of rejiggering of the stealth rules will satisfy them-- you'd actually have to change the rules of Invisibility in order to reach the point that some players might want (since Invisibility only blocks visual perception and thus is basically equivalent to someone standing behind a wall-- they both can't be seen but that's it.)

Beyond that though... just reconceptualizing the whole process as something where someone decides they want to hide, they put themselves into a position to do so which follows whatever requirements the game sets up, and then they roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check to see how well they did... makes things just easier to understand. After that... other creatures use their Passive Perception or make an Active Perception Search check to see if they notice the person hiding. If they get over the hiding person's Dexterity (Stealth) check, then they do. And the hiding character does not get the bonuses that come for being hidden.

TL;DR: A Dexterity (Stealth) check doesn't tell us whether are "Hidden" or "Not Hidden"... if the DM has us making a check then it means we *are* hidden, and the number rolled tells everyone else how well we did it.
I think this is a good start.

I also think the line-of-sight/visual aspect is really hampering good guidelines on stealth. Probably bc D&D's DNA is tabletop wargaming and LoS has remained as a legacy concept (that still has a number of very good uses).

But stealth is just more complicated than seen/unseen. I dont even think it's enough to change it to detected/undetected.

So you've got your sneaky guy and his objective is to get past someone else (maybe a guard) without the guard noticing. Maybe that guard is a dog, and maybe "noticing" involves more than simply not being seen.

And I'm asking myself whether or not the guard's state of attention plays any part in this. A guard on the watch for intrusion has some situational advantages over a guard that's just sort of stationed in an area or like guarding a door. So long as you don't try to get in his door, he's not very likely to care much who passes by.

Likewise, passing by an area by making yourself inconspicuous (perhaps disguised?) is also a way to reduce the amount of critical or negative attention on you.

Anyway, I just think the level of awareness ought to be a major factor in determining stealth. You could well be in "plain sight" but if the target's attention is drawn elsewhere or if you are "beneath the radar" so to speak, that should be a valid sneaky sneak.


-Brad
 

Kalshane

First Post
I personally don't have any issues with the Stealth rules. They work the same as any other skill in the game does.

1) Ask what the PC is trying to do. (Sneak past a guard? Hide in a nearby alleyway to keep an eye on a bad guys' house? Get the drop on a group of goblins?)
2) Determine if it is possible and, if so, are there any negative consequences to failure. If the answer to any of this is "No", the attempt automatically fails or succeeds, depending.
3) If possible with consequences for failure, set the DC (in this case determined by the Passive Perception of any observers, possibly modified with Advantage/Disadvantage depending on circumstances) and allow the PC to roll.
4) Narrate the results of the roll.

The Stealth rules intentionally give the DM a lot of leeway because 5E tries not to have a hundred different modifiers for every possible circumstance. Granted, this results in a lot of table variation (and thus player frustration) but as long as the DM is upfront with how he wants to run Stealth and is consistent, it shouldn't be a huge issue.

I'm personally very forgiving with Stealth. I see it as not only knowing how to be unseen/unheard, but also knowing how to time your movements to take advantage of your opponent's distractions/search patterns. So a rogue wants to dash across a well-lit hallway opening that a guard is watching from the other end? Sure, roll Stealth with Disadvantage. If you succeed, you manage to time your dash for when the guard sneezes or cracks a big old yawn or decides to take his helmet off to scratch his head or whatever other momentary lapse in attention that is going to naturally occur when a person is forced to stand in one spot for a long period of time.

I'm the same with hiding in combat. If you succeed, it's not that your opponent doesn't know you're out there, it's that he momentarily lost track of you in the fray while there's a raging barbarian swinging a great axe at his head or a wizard flinging glowing blasts of energy at him. I'm even good with a rogue breaking cover after a successful Stealth check to run and melee somebody while still maintaining "stealth" against that person (mostly because I don't want to do anything to discourage a rogue from actually wanting to engage in melee rather than always safely plinking away with a bow/crossbow) until they make their first attack. The rogue just times his sprint for when the baddie is ducking that axe swing or dodging the bolt of energy and not looking in the rogue's direction.
 

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