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D&D 5E – Stealth and Hiding

sneaky

PCs being sneaky. Clarification of Stealth and Hiding Rules.

In the new 5th edition Player’s Handbook, the rules for Hiding/Sneaking are a bit unclear. In my attempt to make sense out of rules for hiding, I finally realized that the rules for stealth and for hiding are one in the same.

The rulebooks never give a precise definition of hiding. There is no “hidden condition”. After searching through the rulebooks, the best definition of “being hidden” that I could come up with is this: “Your opponent either doesn’t know that you are there, doesn’t pay any attention to you, or doesn’t know where exactly you are located”. Using this broad definition works well with all of the rules as presented. It also means that you could be hidden even if all your foe had to do is to look in your direction to see you. When he did, you would no longer be hidden. It also means that when you are successful at being stealthy, it has the same effect as being hidden.

The main rule in the Player’s Handbook for hiding is: “You can’t hide from a creature that can see you.” This sounds like it is saying that you must either be in a heavily obscured area or have total cover to even attempt to hide. I contend that this is not correct. It only means that whoever you are attempting to hide from is not looking in your direction (the DM has the final say on this).

“Being stealthy” is trying to remain undetected which is the same as trying to hide. Examples abound in the Player’s Handbook to support this idea. In the section on surprise, the terms “be stealthy” and “hiding” are used to mean the same thing. In the section on noticing threats “hidden threats” obviously includes “a stealthy creature following the group”. On the section on stealth – traveling at a slow pace, it says to refer to the rules on hiding when trying to “surprise or sneak by other creatures.” In the section on perception “hear monsters moving stealthily in the forest,” “orcs lying in ambush on a road,” and “thugs hiding in the shadows of an alley” are all examples of creatures that your Wisdom (Perception) check lets you detect. And in the section on stealth “Make 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.” Which are all examples of being hidden.

So when can I attempt to hide?

You can attempt to hide whenever the creature or creatures you are attempting to hide from can’t see you. You could be invisible. (Being hidden is different from the “Invisible” condition in that you can be invisible and still not be hidden if your opponent can tell where you are by hearing you or by some other means.) Or you could be on the opposite side of anything that provides total cover, or in a heavily obscured area (such as darkness if your foe doesn’t have darkvision), or your foe could be distracted (if the DM agrees). You can also attempt to hide if you are in a lightly obscured area if you have the Skulker feat.

With the wood elf’s “Mask of the Wild” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena. From the wording, I take it to mean that you can’t use this ability to attempt to hide in dim lighting (although your DM might allow it), but you can in the area of effect of an insect plague.

With the lightfoot halfling’s “Naturally Stealthy” ability you can attempt to hide even when you are obscured only by a creature that is at least one size larger than you. You would have to first move to a position that placed that creature between you and the creature you are hiding from.

The Rogue’s “Cunning Action” that allows him to take a hide action as a bonus action each round, does not release him from the need to meet at least one of the above requirements before attempting to hide.

How do I hide?

As a hide action in combat, or any time you attempt to hide, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check and write down that number. As long as you remain in hiding, if any creature has a chance to detect your presence, your check must beat their Passive Wisdom (Perception) score. I would rule that if you are hiding and cannot be seen and are silent the creatures would normally have no chance to detect you. If a creature is actively trying to locate you, compare your check to a Wisdom (Perception) check that the creature makes at that time. If you cannot be seen, or if you are in an area that is lightly obscured, they have disadvantage on the check.

What benefits do I receive from being hidden?

If you are hidden before the first round of combat you can surprise your opponents and get a free round to attack them before they can react. (You are no longer hidden after you attack.)

On all attacks against you, the attacker must first identify where he thinks you are located. The attack will automatically miss if you are not in that 5 foot area. If you are in that area, the attack is made with disadvantage on the attack roll. The DM should require a roll with disadvantage, even if you are not in the targeted area and simply tell the attacker that his attack missed.

If you are hidden you make attacks with advantage. However, you will no longer be hidden if the attack hits or misses.

When am I no longer hidden?

You can come out of hiding at any time of your choosing. You are no longer hidden if you attack someone even if the attack misses (exception: if you have the Skulker feat, attacking with a ranged weapon and missing doesn’t reveal your position).

If you move to a location where your opponent can see you, or if your opponent moves into a position where he can see you, or if the object or creature that was providing your total cover moves or is no longer providing cover for some reason, if you make a noise, or do anything that could give away your position, the creature you are hiding from can make another Wisdom (Perception) check to attempt to detect you.

If you move from a heavily obscured area to a lightly obscured area you can try to continue to hide but the creatures you are hiding from get a Wisdom (Perception) check to detect you.

Once you are no longer hidden your opponents will know where you are so they no longer have to guess where to attack. But if you can still not be seen (if you are invisible, for example), attack rolls against you have disadvantage, and your attack rolls still have advantage.

If I am hiding behind a tree, can I stand out and attack with my ranged weapon with advantage and then return to hiding on my round of combat?

It depends. If you are doing this during a fight, it is assumed that all the creatures in the fight are alert and aware their surroundings, so they get a Wisdom (Perception) check to spot you when you move out from behind total cover. If they succeed you are no longer hiding so you don’t get advantage to the attack. However, if the fight hasn’t started yet, you have a chance to surprise them as long as they aren’t looking in your direction. In that case you an attack with advantage, but you will no longer be hidden as soon as you attack. If you are a 2nd level or higher rogue you can use a bonus action to attempt to hide again. But remember, if they see you duck behind a tree, they have a good guess at where you are hiding. In that case, when you stuck your head out I would give them advantage on their perception check – or give them an automatic success, depending on the circumstances.

Be a good DM and have the players describe what their characters are doing. If it makes logical sense, go for it. Don’t let the players use the rules to turn “hide” into a magical condition.

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66 responses to “D&D 5E – Stealth and Hiding

  1. Pingback: D&D 5E – Quick Reference – Combat | Dungeon Master Assistance

  2. Tim DeCapio January 8, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I like what you have here on stealth and hiding. How to use stealth and hiding was something that I spent a lot of time on as well trying to figure out just how to work it in the game. I watched the u-tube video of the starter set playtest (the first combat ‘goblin arrows’ is a good example of using stealth and hide), and read the rules questions and answers on twitter. After all that, what I came up with is very close to what you have here. Still, I had not defined it in words (as you did), so I had a good feeling of what I would do in the game, but not the words to explain it. reading it in words really cemented the stealth and hiding rules in my mind. If I had a player who was struggling to understand them, I would point them here.

    You also made me think of something else: the surprise round. Usually I run it as, if you succeed on the stealth roll you get a free action. But in some cases I now plan to run it as if that first (free action) attack was from an unseen attacker. The difference is due to what the surprised saw.

    For example:
    goblins are hidden in the trees ahead of the players. The goblins pop out (the players are surprised but see the goblins as soon as they appear) and get a free attack.

    Example 2:
    A player sneaks up on a wizard working at a desk, the wizard is completely focused on some research and has no idea the player is behind him until he is stabbed in the back by a dagger (he never ‘saw’ the attacker even during the attack. The player not only gets a free round of action (the dagger attack), but I would also give that player advantage on the attack (for unseen attacker).

    It’s things like this that so much remind me of old D&D where the DM could make each situation a little different based on the situation.

    • Ronny January 8, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Exactly!
      Your examples are right on point. I am glad that I could be of help.

    • timinycricket March 11, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      I agree with your take on “surprised but seen” vs “suprised and unseen”. As further evidence to back you up, take a look at the Rogue Assassin archetype feature Assassinate.

      ASSASSINATE
      Starting at 3rd level, you are at your deadliest when you get the drop on your enemies. You have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn in the combat yet. In addition, any hit you score against a creature that is surprised is a critical hit.

      Particularly pay attention to the “You have advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn in the combat yet.” This is different from simply something like “you always have advantage against a surprised creature” in that you also get the advantage against enemies in the first round of combat even when it isn’t a surprise round but if they haven’t acted yet. The bit that we’re pulling out from this is that surprising someone doesn’t automatically give you advantage against that character. Having a free round to act before normal combat starts is the huge benefit you get from surprise. THEN there are other things which could benefit you… like ALSO being hidden from the target, giving you advantage from being unseen… or like the Assassinate feature mentioned above.

      If advantage during a surprise round was something more automatic, then you wouldn’t have a 3rd level bonus giving you that advantage for your attack. (even if Assassinate gives you more than JUST that.

      • Ronny March 12, 2016 at 7:41 am

        If you notice, the assassinate feature does not even require the opponent to be surprised. Even if you house rule that they must be surprised, this bonus doesn’t have to happen in the surprise round as long as your opponent hasn’t acted yet.
        This is a major benefit, but I must disagree that it sheds any light on the stealth and hiding rules.
        But I do agree with your basic ruling: if you surprise your opponent you can attack on the first round but your opponent cannot. If you are also hidden (your opponent doesn’t see you) you also get advantage on that attack. I would rule that if you jump out from hiding to attack, your opponent can see you so you get to attack first, but you don’t get advantage. If you are invisible or hiding around the corner as he walks by, you also get advantage. There will have to be a DM decision made each time based on the conditions.

  3. Aperyon February 19, 2015 at 8:37 am

    What if you are shootong an arrow from the darkness, are you treated like an invisible creature and stays invisible/hidden?

    • Ronny February 19, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      No, unless you have the Skulker feat, you are no longer hidden when you attack. But it is more complicated than that.
      Being invisible and being hidden are similar in many ways, but they are not the same.
      Your act of attacking reveals your position, so you are no longer hidden. However, because you cannot be seen, you still benefit from the “invisible” condition. As long as you remain in the darkness, and your opponents can’t see into that darkness, all of your attacks after this one are still made with advantage and attacks against you still have disadvantage. The only difference is that your attackers now know “approximately” where you are. When you are “hidden” they must guess where you are. Their attacks directed at you when you are hidden are made with disadvantage. But in addition to that, they have to tell the DM where they think you are located. If that is where you are, their attack might hit you. If that isn’t where you are it will miss, but they should still not know if that is where you are or not. Even though you are now invisible, until you successfully “hide” your opponents will be able to track your approximate location (perhaps your movement causes a glint off your armor, your footsteps make a sound, or something else gives away your position). Not doing any of those things that could give away your position is “hiding”.
      All of this will apply if you were invisible for any reason. So, you see, it is advantageous even for invisible creatures to hide.

  4. Austin February 26, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks a lot for this write-up! I’m relatively new to D&D, but I hope to be an “Old Dungeon Master” myself one day.

    Here’s a scenario that I’ve struggled with (apologies in advance if it isn’t clear): suppose a rogue PC is in combat, runs out of sight of an enemy (say, into a dark room with plenty of cover), and hides with his or her cunning action. If an enemy follows the rogue into that room on their turn, do they have to spend an action looking for the rogue (i.e. rolling a Perception check)? Or does the enemy roll the Perception check automatically and then attack as normal (if they beat the rogue’s Stealth roll) or with disadvantage (if they fail the Perception check but still have an idea of which square the rogue is on)?

    Basically, I’d love to know whether or not “searching” counts as an action when an enemy is actively looking for a hidden PC. I’d welcome any sage advice you have! 🙂

    • Ronny February 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      I would rule that the enemy, in the scenario you presented, would have to use the search action to attempt to locate the hiding rouge. A combat round only represents 6 seconds after all, and that is not an UN-reasonable amount of time to try and locate someone who is attempting to hide (unless he is REALLY bad at hiding). I think that this is probably why the designers listed search as a combat action.
      You put your finger on the correct answer, when you asked if “searching” counts as an action when an enemy is actively looking for a hidden PC. The key phrase here is “actively looking”. Any time someone is actively looking for someone, they must roll a Perception check. Only when the situation is such that they might notice someone trying to hide, but they are not actively searching, does the DM use their Passive Wisdom (Perception) to determine if they detect the hidden character.
      Other DMs might rule differently, but that is how I would handle it.

      • Austin February 27, 2015 at 1:13 pm

        Hey, Ronny!

        Thanks for your help. I think that makes total sense once you think about it in terms of “real time.” Your distinction between active and passive perception is also incredibly helpful. I feel a lot more equipped to deal with situations involving hiding and stealth now! Time to let my rogues, wood elves, and lightfoot halflings have some more fun!

      • Ronny February 27, 2015 at 6:20 pm

        Austin,
        Thai’s great. Go have some fun.

  5. crossems March 5, 2015 at 11:37 am

    There is one inherent flaw in this that we’ve encountered numerous times in our play groups. The Rogues LOVE to use their cunning action to walk behind a barrel, or a corner gaining total cover, then executing their Hide action. Then immediately popping up and declaring they have advantage on the attack for shooting while hidden.

    Imagine, your in a fight, and some elf moonwalks across the room in front of you, stops behind a barrel, ducks down and then suddenly pops up to attack you. Are you seriously going to think, “Oh, he’s behind a barrel…Where did he go? I guess he doesn’t want to fight anymore. At least he’s not going to attac….HEY…That HURT!”

    What we’ve done is this:

    You CANNOT gain surprise IF your opponent knows you’re ‘hiding’ behind something. You CAN duck behind something, and if you can move and stay in hiding, move to another location and ‘pop up’ from there. But you can’t just pop up from behind the same location and claim an advantaged attack.

    This has changed the game for us. Some rogues don’t like it, but at least now everyone knows how to hide behind something granting them total cover and then popping out from behind that cover to shoot.

    Now they just need to learn how to hold their actions for when the enemies do it to them.

    • Ronny March 6, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I like your house rule a lot! I will be using it in my games and recommending it to others.
      That is why this game has a Dungeon Master. You should never let the players abuse a rule in situations where it doesn’t make logical sense.
      Than you for sharing.

      • Anonymous June 7, 2015 at 8:04 am

        Since you have taken that ability away from rogues, what ability did you give them back in order to maintain their game balance? Or are you just okay with other classes being more powerful?

      • Ronny June 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm

        Not at all. I am not taking away the rogue’s Cunning Action at all. He can sill use it to to take the Dash, Disengage, or Hide action. I am only clarifying what can be accomplished with the Hide action.
        Anyone can use the Hide action in a combat round, but a 2nd level rogue can do it as a bonus action. The real question is this: Can a rogue (or anyone else) use the Hide action during combat to attempt to hide behind something, say a barrel,and on the following round step out from behind the barrel and attack with advantage? My rule is that you cannot.
        The reasoning behind that rule is this; You can only remain hidden if you are in a place where you cannot be seen or might not be noticed. Even with the most liberal interpretation of this rule, this would not include any space next to the barrel, or any place else where you were obviously seen on the previous round or any time earlier in combat. So even if you successfully hide behind the barrel, when you step out to attack you are no longer hidden and do not get advantage on the attack.
        You only get advantage from attacking while hidden if your opponent can not, or does not, see you. He cannot see you if you attack from what in real life you would consider a hidden position, such as from behind a curtain or dense foliage or from a distance if you are in the dark and he is in the light.
        He does not see you if you can sneak up on him from behind. This cannot be done during combat because it is assumed that all participants are aware of their surroundings and are watching out for enemies in all directions. He also doesn’t see you if you are in a lightly obscured area and you make a successful hide attempt against his Wisdom (Perception) check.
        I can picture a combat in which all of the combatants are using melee weapons and the rogue is staying back, at some distance away from the heat of battle. I might allow him to attempt to sneak around to the far side to attack the bad guys from behind. On a successful hide attempt, I would allow him one attack with advantage. But I would not then allow him to then jump behind a tree and jump back out from behind that same tree the following round to attack again with advantage.
        As a DM, you can try to imagine what it would be like in real life and use your common sense. Just try to be consistent.
        (Remember the Hide action is only an attempt to hide, you are not automatically hidden.)

    • Greg January 1, 2017 at 9:53 am

      I like this rule a lot. I would even go as far as say that if you “pop up” from cover to attack, assuming you are not in a lightly or heavily obscured area, you do not gain advantage due to being unseen. There is no behind you while in combat because combatants are assumed to be aware of signs of danger all around, so even if someone ducked behind cover and moved to another location behind cover, once they come out to attack, I would consider them seen.

      • Ronny January 1, 2017 at 11:47 am

        That sounds reasonable.
        5th edition has made the DM’s job harder in many ways. I believe that the DM should access each situation on its merits and try to be consistent. At the same time you need to be fast and fair.
        One DM may let rogues attack with advantage every round when they have an opportunity to hide and the next DM may make it so difficult that they only get advantage on the first round if they successfully sneak up on the bad guys before combat starts. In my opinion, the trick is to not penalize the player for investing in his character’s ability to hide, and still not make it function like an invisibility spell.

    • Anonymous February 19, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      “Un-hiding” is a contested check of hide roll vs. passive perception to decide whether hide remains once a creature leaves cover, following a hide action. What I would say is that, while foes are alert during combat, they’re also ENGAGED IN COMBAT, which tends to draw attention away from something like a rogue skulking behind a barrel. If a hidden creature “pops out” from behind a barrel, and the foe is engaged in combat with a different creature when “popping out” occurs, it uses its passive perception against the potentially un-hiding creature to notice it. As DM, if you think it’s a case where the initial hide was unconvincing (as in the case of using the same barrel to hide behind twice) or the creature perceiving the hide was actively looking for a hidden creature, then you could have the creature make an active perception check (maybe with advantage) for the “popping out” creature, or simply impose disadvantage for hiding in poorly chosen locations.

      If you’re the DM, you shouldn’t be flatly removing courses of action from PCs when the rules permit them. You should be looking more at advantaging/disadvantaging good and poor decisions within those rules. So if your rogue wants to hide, you should always let them try where the rules permit; just be sure they understand that not all hide actions are equally effective.

  6. Karykzen May 7, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    The situation is a dungeon craw with creatures (Orc’s/Goblin’s) whom have darkvision. With the exception of the Halfling Rogue and Human Cleric, the rest of the party has darkvision as well. The cleric holds the light source and the Rogue stays on the fringe of the dim light.
    I understand that you can’t hide when in the vision of the creatures however they see (low light, darkvision, etc.). The overall question is one you are hidden, can you move through open space and remain hidden?

    Eample #1) Once you are able to hide, can you move with stealth through the battle zone and remain hidden? Example: The party enters a room and encounter orcs. The Halfling rogue hides behind a medium size party member. Can the rogue then move (probably trying to flank) to the Orcs and stay hidden and get their sneak attack if the Orc’s fail their perception check, or is the Rogue instantly visible once he move out from behind the Medium size party member?

    Example #2) Similar to question #1. If a rogue is hidden, does moving though dim or full light make him visible? Same would be if he is hidden and moving through the darkness toward monsters with Darkvision?

    • Ronny May 8, 2015 at 8:28 am

      In all cases you are asking about it is the DM’s call, but use your common sense. To remain hidden you must continue to hide. If you move into the light, or do anything else that will allow your opponents to see you, especially during combat when it is assumes everyone is actively looking around for threats from all sides, you are no longer hidden.
      Moving with stealth in itself is not enough, however you must consider the circumstance. For instance if there are plenty of things to hide behind (lots of barrels and crates, lots of bushes, etc.) I would allow the Orcs a Wisdom (Perception) check to detect you if you specifically state that you are attempting to use them to stay hidden. You can never hide and then just walk around where you can be seen and remain hidden during combat. Now if combat hasn’t started it may be different. I would allow you one round to move through an area where you could be seen if the Orcs are distracted in some way.
      Example #1) If the Halfling hid behind the other party member before the battle started I would allow the Orcs a perception check. On failure they don’t notice you this round unless you attack. If they saw you move behind the other character, they will be watching for you so you will no longer be hidden when you step out from behind.
      Example #2) If the monsters have dark vision, he is no longer hidden if he moved to where they can see him. If they don’t he is no longer hidden if he moves into the light where they can see him, but he can move through dim light and stay hidden if the monsters fail their perception check. This will be their passive perception check unless they have some reason to be watching for him.

  7. Jordan Bakke June 5, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    1. I am still unclear on what it means for a creature to “see” me. This is how I intuitively interpret the statement “the creature sees me” and it is how I want to play, because it is the most rewarding way to play:

    (
    It perceives and registers light that reflects off of me, which means:
    (
    It is conscious.
    AND
    It is not blinded.
    AND
    Part of my body is within its field of view. (i.e. it is looking in my direction.)
    AND
    There is a line of sight from it to part of my body. (Which is false if there is a wall or a big enough solid object between its eyes and my entire body. A non-solid object does not block the creature’s line of sight. Foliage and fog are examples, but not the only examples, of things that are not solid objects.)
    AND
    Enough light reflects off my body into its eyes for it to perceive. (Which is false if I am in complete darkness and the creature does not have darkvision or truesight.)
    AND
    Its brain registers the light entering its eyes as a creature. (Which is false if I did a stealth check that beat its active or passive perception. I realize that is an imprecise statement, and that is because I have not yet worked out the details of what exactly stealth checks and the “hide” action do. But the basic idea is that I am lightly obscured from the creature, I am successfully camouflaged from it, and it has not figured out (within a few degrees) where to look for me. It can figure out exactly where to look for me, for example, if it makes a successful active perception check or if I make too much noise.)
    )
    )
    OR
    (
    It has blindsight.
    AND
    I am within its blindsight radius.
    )

    “Can it see me?” is answered at the exact point in time that I attack. (This closes at least one loophole: if I am in bright light and in front of an enemy, but completely behind a barrel, then it cannot see me. However, to attack, I must poke at least my weapon and the hand holding it out from behind the barrel. At that point in time, the enemy can see at least part of me, and therefore, I do not have advantage.)

    Is this equivalent to what you are saying?

    2. Say it is night and I am looking from a distance at a creature that is at a campfire. Or I am in a dark cave and I am looking from a distance at a creature that is standing in the doorway of a lit room. There are two different ways to describe this scenario, either with physical vocabulary or with game vocabulary. These different descriptions lead to contradictory conclusions.

    a. Not enough light reflects off of my body into its eyes for it to perceive. Therefore, it does not see me. Therefore, I have advantage if I shoot it. Enough light reflects off of its body into my eyes for me to perceive. Therefore, I see it. Therefore, I do not have disadvantage for lack of vision.

    b. I am in complete darkness. Therefore, I am in a heavily obscured area. Therefore, it does not see me. Therefore, I have advantage if I shoot it. However, being in a heavily obscured area effectively makes me blind. Therefore, I have disadvantage for lack of vision. My advantage and my disadvantage cancel each other out.

    Which conclusion would you draw? I would rather play according to (a) because it makes more intuitive sense and it is more rewarding. Honestly, *if* the rule truly does state that I am blind if I stand in complete darkness, regardless of the light that enters my eyes, *then* I think that is a loophole due to oversight. It is a consequence of using the rather limiting term “obscured” to refer to two completely different things. I am “obscured” if something prevents light from following a straight path to me or from me (e.g. if I am standing in fog.) I am also “obscured” to a creature if not enough light reflects off my body into its eyes for it to perceive (i.e. if I am standing in darkness). The “obscured” abstraction is useful for determining if a creature sees me, but not useful for determining if I see something.

    • Ronny June 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Jordan,
      1) Yes, I agree with your rather wordy explanation. Basically, if it seems logical that the creature could see you it can. If you are not sure, let the DM be the judge. If the DM isn’t sure (and it is important) then he can set a DC and you can roll for it.
      2) I agree with your logic. I pick option “a”.
      Like you, I see a problem with the rules as written. The Player’s Handbook says “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.” Well, as you point out, if you are in a heavily obscured area that is the result of darkness alone – you can still see someone that is at a distance away and that is standing in bright or even dim light. Common sense should always prevail.
      This is how I would handle it – Darkness is different than other types of heavily obscured areas. Anyone in darkness will suffer from the blinded condition only in regard to other creatures or objects that are also in darkness.
      So, a torch provides bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light for an additional 20 feet. In a dark dungeon there would be darkness beyond 40 feet. A creature that is more than 40 feet away from the torch is in a heavily obscured (dark) area. No one can see them. But they can see the creatures that are in the light. They only have the blinded condition in relation to any creature or thing that is also in the dark. As long as the creature remains in the darkness, it has the invisible condition in relation to the creatures that are in the light. Attack rolls against the creature in the dark have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls against creatures in the light have advantage.
      But none of this applies to creatures with darkvision or trusight.

    • Greg March 22, 2017 at 7:53 am

      A heavily obscured area does not blind the one in it. Though common sense would dictate that there is a certain distance, depending on the type of heavy obscurement, that you can be back in it before it blinds you as well. Errata cleared up heavy obscurement “A heavily obscured area does not blind you, but you are effectively blinded when you try to see something obscured by it.” If you’re on the outskirts of a forest providing heavy obscurity and you attack someone on a cleared out road, you’ll have advantage to attack rolls and the one on the road will suffer from the blinded condition.

      • Ronny March 22, 2017 at 8:20 am

        You are right in all except your last point. The one on the road does not suffer the blinded condition. They are “effectively blinded” in that they cannot see their attackers that are in the heavily obscured area. But they can see and do not automatically fail ability checks that require sight. You are correct though in your major point. They do have disadvantage in attacking what they can’t see.

  8. Anonymous June 18, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition allows for surprise once at the start of a combat encounter. The steps to combat are:

    1. Determine surprise
    2. Establish position
    3. Determine initiative
    4. Take turns
    5. Repeat step 4 until combat ends

    Since only step 4 repeats, surprise does not occur even if combatants leave and re-enter the encounter.

    Game rules become too cumbersome if they account for all possibilities. This is a nice way to allow for surprise in some circumstances while limiting its effect. If you don’t follow the steps to combat and allow surprise at other times in a combat encounter, the system will become broken.

    • Ronny June 18, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      I agree that you can only get surprise on the first round, but you still attack with advantage anytime your opponent doesn’t see you.

      • Anonymous June 19, 2015 at 5:05 am

        Right, and your opponents attack with advantage if you don’t see them. If reinforcements arrive on either side after combat is started or if either side hides, they can only gain the advantage of a hidden attacker and would never gain surprise. Also, if either side has someone hidden and they do not attack in the initial combat round, they only gain advantage and not surprise.

      • Ronny June 19, 2015 at 8:23 am

        Exactly! Surprising your opponent doesn’t give you any benefits, it only imposes penalties on the one that is surprised.
        The rule is “If you’re surprised, you can’t move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can’t take a reaction until that turn ends.” That is the sum total of what it means to be surprised. It is up to the DM as to whether the circumstances are such that the attacker also gets to attack with advantage. (My most recent post continues the discussion on hiding in combat.)

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  10. Ben Jackson January 26, 2016 at 5:28 am

    Thanks for this great article all these points make sense. Theres one thing that i’m unclear on. In the players handbook it mentions that there are 2 types of cover one can hide in, “Light obscurement area”, and “Heavy obscurement area”. In doing so it mentions that any attempt at finding someone with sight perception in a “lightly obscured area” is made at disadvantage. In a “heavily obscured area” the blinded condition applies, and therefore automatic failure of sight perception rolls.

    From reading this very helpful article & the rulebook, It seems that there are broadly 2 types of circumstances in which hiding can occur.

    1. With Cover blocking or partially blocking view (light obscurement, and heavy obscurement)
    2. With Distraction ( the example of the wizard with back turned writing at desk is a good one)

    My confusion comes from reading through the Starter Set and Goblin arrows, where an example of hiding occurs. The Goblins are hiding, in order to hide they need to follow the rules above, from reading the text in Goblin arrows there is a chance of finding them, so one presumes that are in a “lightly obscured area, which entails a disadvantage to perception checks that rely on sight. However there is no mention in the text of disadvantage to perception checks to find the Goblins, and from following the helpful official D&D run through on youtube of the starter set, they don’t seem to apply disadvantage to perception checks either. Am I missing something, or misinterpreting the rules? Is my interpretation of disadvantage to perception checks in a lightly obscured area incorrect?

    On a separate note as a newbie to D&D5e, I found no mention in the book that in general, characters can’t hide in a “lightly obscured area” without one of the special abilities. It wasn’t until reading the feats description of Skulker, Mask of the Wild, & Naturally Stealthy that I put two & two together, and realised you needed a special ability or feat to hide in lightly obscured area. Very confusing for a newbie, particularly as “lightly obscured area” is a very broad term, and covers many variations of cover.

    • Greg July 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

      I play that Skulker is used to hide in a lightly obscured area when being observed, such as in combat. According to Sage Advice, Wood Elves can hide in plain sight using Mask of the Wild. I play that Skulker works in the same manner. Players should be able to hide in lightly obscured areas when not being observed. If they couldn’t, what would the hide skill be for? You automatically succeed when attempting to hide in heavily obscured areas as they block vision entirely when something is trying to see you in that area.

      • Ronny July 20, 2016 at 3:34 pm

        I think you got it exactly right Greg.
        By the way, do you realize you double posted this comment? As a reply here and also as a comment below? (I posted this reply to both.)

  11. Ben Jackson January 26, 2016 at 5:44 am

    One last point on hiding in a lightly obscured area, with passive perception!

    If I’m correct in thinking “disadvantage” is applied to perception checks in a lightly obscured area, shouldn’t this be applied when the goblins attempt to hide as a bonus action too? In other words should the characters have their passive perception reduced by minus 5 , as stated in the players handbook for disadvantage to passive perception?

    Or is the fact that they are attempting to hide in view of the characters enough to remove the disadvantage for passive wisdom perception, & perhaps even give the characters advantage?

    • Ben Jackson January 26, 2016 at 5:49 am

      Certainly i’d expect the characters passive perception to be at disadvantage ( minus 5) initially in the encounter, if the goblins are hidden in a lightly obscured area.

      • Ronny January 26, 2016 at 8:56 am

        Hi Ben,
        This is an excellent question.
        I understand your confusion, but you are unnecessarily complicating things. However, this is a game and game has rules, so here are my thoughts.
        First, light and heavy obscurement have to do with environmental conditions, such as fog, low light, heavy brush or darkness. In this particular encounter there is no indication that ether of these conditions apply. I think your confusion comes from assuming that you must have one of these condition in order to hide. In this case the goblins are simply behind rocks or trees. If you can move into a position where you cannot be seen when someone comes along, you are hiding from them. The DM has to make decisions all of the time, use common sense. If the goblins did not attack, for example, and stayed behind the rocks until after the party passed – the party would never know that they were there. If they didn’t attack, but one of them carefully peeked around the side of a tree to watch them pass, I would make a passive check with disadvantage to see if he was noticed. In the case where they attack, run the encounter as described in the adventure. The players don’t have disadvantage to their checks because the goblins are not in an obscured area. As soon as they step out from cover to attack they are no longer hiding. Because they were hiding and the players couldn’t see them until they stepped out (or stood up, or whatever) is why they MIGHT surprise the PCs.
        As you noted, you can attempt to hide with cover blocking or partially blocking view, but that isn’t limited to obscured areas (as defined in the rules). You simply must be where the one you are hiding from can’t see you. If you are in a building or dungeon and run into another room and close the door behind you, or just run around the corner, if you have a round to act and something to hide behind ( a barrel for instance) you can attempt to hide – even if the area is in bright light.
        You may needed a special ability or feat to hide in lightly obscured area. But that assumes that there is someone there that you are trying to hid from that could observe you attempting to hide. Think about it in real world terms – anyone can attempt to hide at anytime. Sometimes they will fail in the attempt – like if the one they are hiding from is watching them. Some feats or special abilities can let you take advantage of poor viability to make it easier for you to hide while someone is trying to watch you.
        It is up to the DM to keep things real. Regardless of what the rules say, if someone is hiding behind a rock and you jump up on the rock and look on all sides of the rock, you will see them.
        [All of the above assumes that everyone has normal site, no one is using magical detection, and no one is invisible or blinded.]

  12. Ben Jackson January 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Ronny,
    Thank you very much indeed. You were spot on in realising where I had gone wrong with my interpretation. I wondered why it seemed overly complicated! Now it makes sense, and fits in with the rest of the thinking on advantage and disadvantage in a more elegant way. Funny how you can get thrown by a little thing like that.
    So the rules on lightly obscured area and heavy obscurement area, are an extra environmental factor, to be considered in addition to the required circumstances for hiding (being out of view, not seen clearly etc). Makes perfect sense.

    As you said I was making the mistake of thinking that hiding could only occur in a lightly obscured area or a heavily obscured area – whereas in actual fact that is merely a modifier to the precondition of hiding (not being seen clearly)- Phew!

    It been a long time since I’ve picked up any kind of RPG rulebook.

    My mind is now at peace, thank you for your clarity, now I know D&D 🙂

    • Ronny January 26, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      I am glad I was able to help.
      Fortunately no one has to be an expert on the rules to play this game and have fun. Just remember, this is not chess. If you are the DM, just let your players have their PCs do anything they want them to do. Most of the time, that is all you need to do. If you think that the PC might not be able to do whatever it is, either rule that they can’t do that (you can’t shoot an arrow and hit the moon), or decide how hard it would be, assign a DC and let them try. Keep a copy of Guinness World Records handy. If what they want to attempt would exceed the world record, it would be extremely hard, but the PCs are heroes, so it might be possible.

  13. Eddie March 19, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Plenty of good thought here, and relevant to the group I DM; thanks for posting. Here is a recap of where we landed in my game, including a few house rules.

    Hiding
    Hiding is a function of the Dexterity (Stealth) skill. You cannot hide from creatures that can see you and you cannot hide in the open or in plain sight. You are hidden until a relevant condition changes – e.g. you attack or cast a spell, you move into different terrain or the light condition changes, you move faster than a slow pace, the object you’re hiding behind is moved.

    Combat
    When you attack a creature you are hidden from, you have advantage on the attack; when you attack, you give away your position. Creatures who attack you while you are hidden have disadvantage on their attack rolls.

    Spell casting
    When you cast a spell with verbal or somatic components (I’m looking at you, Arcane Trickster), you give away your position.

    Movement
    You can hide when you move no faster than a slow pace (20’).

    Search checks
    Alert creatures can make a Search roll to spot hidden creatures in lieu of a combat action. Non-alert creatures rely on their passive Perception skill to spot hidden creatures. When you are also lightly obscured (e.g. dim light, patchy fog, moderate foliage), creatures have disadvantage on search rolls to spot you.

    Assisting on perception checks
    When you detect a hidden creature, you can use your action to help allies with their perception rolls to spot the hidden creature. Similarly, when you use a directed attack to damage a hidden creature, other creatures have advantage on their perception rolls to spot the creature.

    Accidental discovery
    If you are hiding and a creature who does not see you moves into your space, then you are revealed to that creature.

    Lightfoot Halfling
    Lightfoot Halflings can hide when they are obscured by a creature at least one size larger than they are.

    Skulker feat
    With the Skulker feat, dim light is identical to full darkness for purposes of hiding.

    References
    Hiding, Stealth: PH, pp. 177, 182
    Perception: PH, pp. 178, 182
    Search: PH, p. 193
    Vision and Light: PH, p. 183
    Surprise: PH, p. 189
    Unseen Attackers: PH, pp. 194-95
    Lightfoot Halfling: PH, p. 28
    Skulker feat: PH, p. 170

    • Ronny March 20, 2016 at 9:54 am

      I like your rules.

      I would use them as you wrote them with these changes:
      Hiding – When one of your listed relevant conditions changes you can make another hide attempt (if it is still possible to hide.)
      Combat – Creatures who attack you while you are hidden not only have disadvantage on their attacks, but must also indicate which space they “think” you are in.
      Spell casting – I would also say that you give away your position with any “attack” spell.
      Assisting on perception checks – I would allow you to help allies with their perception rolls to spot the hidden creature, but would not require you to use an action to do this. In other words, if your allies can see you, you can simply say something like “he is over there!” and point without having to use an action. Or, if you fire at him and say that, it is the same as pointing but, of course, uses an action.
      Accidental discovery – Perfect as written. I think I will use this.

      I didn’t verify the reference pages, but everything else is very good.
      Thanks for sharing.

      I would also add this house rule:
      Detecting
      If you do a search check, you use your Passive Perception number if it is higher than your check results. It doesn’t make sense that you would have a lower chance of finding someone if you are actively looking for him than if you were simply walking past.

      • Eddie March 20, 2016 at 6:44 pm

        To continue the refinements:

        Hiding: Assuming the new conditions would allow you to hide, you can make a new hide attempt on your action.

        Spell casting: I can see the case for what you proposed. I based my rule on the way invisibility works: you become visible when you attack or when you cast a spell – i.e. any spell, offensive or otherwise. One could argue that invisibility works that way because it is illusion magic, and hiding is a different thing; I reasoned, however, that hiding should generally not be more efficacious than invisibility.

        Assisting on perception checks: I applied the rule for Helping an ally (PH, p. 192), which is always a full action in combat. I could be persuaded, though, that shouting out the location of a hidden enemy is a Flourish (PH, p. 190, “Other Activity on Your Turn”); I’m inclined to take that matter on a case-by-case basis. Certainly hitting a hidden foe with a direct attack would aid an ally in perceiving him.

        Accidental discovery: This situation can come up for a skulker hidden in dim light.

        Reference pages: Part of the work of puzzling through the hiding rules is having to reference numerous entries in several locations in different game books. Consolidating a list of the many reference points is handy; I rewarded one of my players with Inspiration for helping with the tedious task and finding relevant details I’d overlooked.

        Detecting: I thought about this too, and I like your solution.

  14. Hatshof April 3, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Gran trabajo .. Gracias

  15. Robert Pascuttini April 26, 2016 at 12:16 am

    Hey Ronny.
    So, in the rules it says that during combat, if a character approaches and attacks an enemy then he is no longer hidden. All fine and good, but is that 2 seperate conditions or a single condition?
    If a ranged attacker does not appraoch but attacks does the ranged attacker get advantage?

    • Ronny April 26, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Hi Robert,
      This is open to interpretation but the way I see it is this:
      1) You can approach and attempt to remain hidden (conditions permitting, ie. things to hide behind) but if you approach and attack you will no longer be hidden AFTER the attack. So you will get advantage on the first attack. Possibly on all attacks if you get multiple attacks but that will be a DM call. I will allow advantage on all of them this round only. Because you are no longer hidden after the attack, your opponents will no longer have disadvantage in attacking you. So if you are hidden and attack you get advantage on the attack but if after you attack you move away your opponent gets his opportunity attack without disadvantage because you are no longer hidden.
      2) For range attacks – You remain hidden until after you attack (attack made with advantage). In most cases, the act of attacking will reveal your position, so you will no longer be hidden. However, I would rule that if you are still in a position where you can remain hidden, for example if you were firing an arrow from a position in total darkness, I would allow another hide attempt as a bonus action [This is a house rule. Officially an attempt to hide again will require an action.].
      So – for your question – “does the ranged attacker get advantage?” – yes. And so does the melee attacker – but AFTER his attack he is no longer hidden, so for the rest of this round he will not have advantage on his attacks and his opponents will no longer have disadvantage on attacks they make against him. [As usual he DM will need to take specific conditions into consideration and may sometimes rule differently as logic may dictate.]
      Make sense?

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  17. Anonymous June 2, 2016 at 12:23 am

    This is just stunningly spectacular and clear. 5e is ridiculously vague with their stealth rules, and I’ve been trying to put together something like this for myself. This is exactly what I was trying to make, and you did it perfectly.

  18. Greg July 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I play that Skulker is used to hide in a lightly obscured area when being observed, such as in combat. According to Sage Advice, Wood Elves can hide in plain sight using Mask of the Wild. I play that Skulker works in the same manner. Players should be able to hide in lightly obscured areas when not being observed. If they couldn’t, what would the hide skill be for? You automatically succeed when attempting to hide in heavily obscured areas as they block vision entirely when something is trying to see you in that area.

    • Ronny July 20, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      I think you got it exactly right Greg.
      By the way, do you realize you double posted this comment? As a reply here and also as a comment below? (I posted this reply to both.)

  19. Acrasial scaevity October 2, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    You are no longer hidden if you move to a location where your opponent can see you, or if your opponent moves into a position where he can see you, or if the object or creature that was providing your total cover moves or is no longer providing cover for some reason.

    This is not correct. It is not correct in 5th edition, and it was not correct in 3.0 or 3.5

    You can fail to see something right in front of you. It happens every, single, day, to all of us. If any of the above happens, the opponent gets to roll a perception (aka spot) check. Nothing more. You remain hidden until spotted.

    Had this argument for ages with a good DM. For, years.One night I won.

    He had a can of coke. Bright red, white and silver, brightly lit room. He set it down, we rolled some dice. He freaked out because it he couldn’t find his coke. Moved manuals, DM screen &l. Whole time, coke was sitting right in front of him. Not Obscured. No farther away than your laptop keyboard. He knew he had it (seen where it had gone), but kept failing his spot (perception) check.

    • Ronny October 2, 2016 at 10:16 pm

      You know what? I believe you are right. I should have said that if any of those things happen the creatures you are hiding from get a Wisdom (Perception) check to detect you.
      Thank you for point this out to me. I will edit the original post to make that change.

    • Anonymous October 2, 2016 at 10:25 pm

      In the PHB errata you will find:The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. Also, the question isn’t whether a creature can see you when you’re hiding. The question is whether it can see you clearly. This works well enough for me.

      Of course I acknowledge that ‘see you clearly’ is much more than clear lines of sight. It takes into account how distracted you are both mentally and the visual environment itself (I see your coke can as being an example of this – distracted mind from the game and a lot of visual ‘junk’ for the mind to pick the coke can out of).

      All that said, if an alert fighter steps around the tree that is hiding the rouge, I am ** not ** going to give the rouge a stealth roll. The fighter is going to see him. However, if a drunk guard is guarding a brightly lit empty hallway and is tired, bored and is deep in thought about how his wife is sure to find out about his mistress then I would give the rouge a stealth roll. This same situation with an alert guard and he will be spotted as soon as the guard has line of sight – no stealth roll allowed.

      This works fine for me because I don’t think it’s all handled by a stealth roll vs a perception roll. A lot of times yes, but there are times when a stealth roll just will not work. Call me crazy, but that is what a GM is for. Best of all, as far as I can tell, I am following the RAW so there should be no surprise to anyone (see if your GM can miss finding a coke can with a clear head on an empty table!).

  20. Greg December 20, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Ronny, I have been using this guide in my campaign and I have appreciated having this to reference. One item I would add is that just because you give away your location does not mean that you can be seen. I give an active perception roll once a hidden creature’s location has been revealed. If the active perception roll is successful, then the creature can be seen.

    • Ronny December 20, 2016 at 6:09 pm

      Greg, That sounds like a reasonable house rule.
      In my games, I don’t make that fine a distinction between giving away your location and being seen. If they know where you are they can usually see you. Either way, you are no longer hidden. I see what you are getting at though. Even if they know where you are, so you are no longer hidden, it is possible that they still can’t see you so they would have disadvantage when attacking you.
      I don’t think that needs a separate rule. I will just handle it at the table whenever it comes up. Like if the thief is hiding in the dark but makes a noise which gives away his position. But even then they wouldn’t need a separate role then to see him. Either he can be seen or he can’t be seen.
      Again, I don’t think your ruling will break the game. It just makes it a lot harder to detect hidden creatures and slows the game a little.

      • Greg January 21, 2017 at 10:47 am

        That’s exactly right, they would have disadvantage when attacking you, but more importantly, you would still have advantage on attack rolls from being unseen, though you are not considered hidden any longer. This is important for rogues in that they can continue to take advantage of Sneak Attack. I find that this actually speeds the game up because, just because you gave away your location, and remain unseen, you don’t have to move to another location and make another stealth check to hide.

      • Ronny January 22, 2017 at 8:50 am

        You get it.
        This discussion always boils down to the fine points of the rules, but at the table it is pretty easy if you just remember a couple of things.

        1) Your opponents can’t see you if you’re are hidden and you can’t be hidden if they can see you clearly.

        2) If your opponent can’t see you, you can attack with advantage.

        3) If your opponent can’t see you, they won’t usually try to attack you. If they do, they have to guess where you are and they attack with disadvantage.

        4) The DM always has the final call on whether or not you can be seen.

    • Greg February 18, 2017 at 2:26 pm

      I should have included that I would require the search action when allowing the active perception check. However, I do prefer to err on the side of the one hiding.

      • Ronny February 19, 2017 at 3:20 pm

        I am afraid that I am not very consistent in that regard. Sometimes I require a search action and sometimes I don’t.
        I don’t normally require a separate search action during combat and I just let then make a perception check for free if there is something they might notice. That is mostly to help speed up combat. However, if your opponent ran into another room and tried to hide, I would require a search action when you entered.
        One thing I like about this version of the game is that it is rules light. But that makes it harder, in some ways, on the DM. If you take a second to visualize exactly what happening you can usually just rule whichever way that makes the most sense. You can make the payers help by asking them to describe exactly how they are trying to hide or how they are searching. Conversely, you will need to be able to tell them exactly what they notice. I keep returning to the idea that hiding isn’t magic. You don’t just disappear when you hide and then appear when someone makes a good perception check. If that was the case it would be a lot easier to DM.
        It is the same with traps. It shouldn’t be just “you find a trap” but you need to know (more or less) how the trap works and what exactly what they see that makes them think it might be a trap.That way you don’t actually tell them it is a trap, just that the floor or wall or whatever looks somewhat suspicious and tell them what is suspicious about it. Then let them investigate if they want to to determine what it is.

  21. Greg January 1, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Ronny,
    What are your thoughts on surprise as far as advantage on attack rolls. I personally think that if an enemy is surprised, the attacker should have advantage regardless if the enemy can actually see the attacker. For example, a rogue makes his stealth check and attacks using his melee weapon by running straight up to the enemy. Obviously, he’ll be seen, but I would contest that the enemy can’t react to the attack and therefore the rogue would also have advantage. The PBH says that in a surprise round that those surprised can’t even take a reaction, so to me this would effectively be the same as being hidden.

    • Ronny January 1, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      First – Surprise is not, and should not be the same as being hidden. Surprise only comes into play on the first round of combat. There is no “surprise round”. Initiative is rolled and combat starts. Anyone that was surprised takes no action on this first round. None of the combatants can be surprised after that.
      Second – To answer your question; I do not think that you should give the attacker advantage solely based on the fact that he surprised his opponent. The fact that his opponent can’t attack until round 2 is enough of an “advantage”.
      Third – If, in addition to surprising your opponent, you were also hidden from him then yes, I would allow advantage in that situation. In your example, I would allow the rogue advantage. Not because he surprised his opponent, but because he was hidden from him when he attacked. I think that you should allow someone who is hidden to come out from hiding and attack with advantage with a ranged weapon or run up to the opponent and attack with advantage with a melee weapon. So, some surprise situations will allow advantage and some will not. The only issue is if the rogue again attempts to hide after that first attack.

  22. Jonathan N January 23, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks for the post – stealth is really annoying and interpretation has been bugging me. Just have a few questions on how you interpret these scenarios –

    1. Attacking a hidden enemy – I get that in game, you would have to guess where an enemy is before attacking a location when they are hidden. But “metagame-wise”, your players will know where you are hiding behind and see where you move after. Do you just remove the piece for board? I am not sure how you are handling that rule that you describe above.

    2. Attacking while you are hidden – are you making the defending creature roll a perception check every time an attack is made while hidden? And if that check fails, then are you allowing a roll for advantage.

    3. Searching – how are you handling the searching action which consumes one action in combat?

    • Ronny January 23, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      1. This exact situation happened in a game I was running Saturday. The player said that she was going to shoot the monster with an arrow. I told her that because her player couldn’t see the target, she would attack at a disadvantage. Further, because the PC had to guess where the monster was, and that she (the player) did know where it was [we were playing on a battlemat so she could see where the figure was] that if the attack resulted in a hit, she would then have to roll to see if her PC guessed where it was. The PC knew approximately where it was (another PC that could see it was pointing at it) so she would have to roll a 6 on 1d6 or it would miss. She decided to do something else instead.
      Generally speaking, if the PC saw where the monster went and has a good guess what 5-foot square it is in, I would just let then roll to hit (at a disadvantage). If they only know a general direction, I would only give them a 1 in 8, or 1 in 10 chance to guess correctly. Of course, if you know beforehand that this situation might occur, you could draw a small map behind the DM screen and use that to keep track of where the monsters are. In that case, I would let the player actually point to the square where they thought the monster was in before attacking. That would be a lot of fun. I would put a marker in that square.
      The player rolls.
      “You miss.”
      “Did I pick the square he was in?”
      “You don’t know.”

      2. No. I make you roll a stealth check when you say you are hiding, and you write that down. Your opponent rolls his perception check when you move into a position where he might have a chance to see you. If he doesn’t notice you then, I may allow him another check if the situation changes, but you continue to use the same roll you made when you first attempted to hide. If he sees you, you are no longer hidden. Of course, if you are still hidden, after you attack (with advantage) you are no longer hidden.

      3. Searching doesn’t come up often in combat. You don’t need to use a search action to notice a hidden creature. You notice a hidden creature during the hiding creature’s turn when he moves into a position where he might be seen.
      Of course, if you aren’t directly involved in combat, you could use the search action to search a fallen creature for a key, search through a chest to see if it contains a healing potion, or search for a secret door. I handle it pretty much the same way as I do the “use an object” action.

      • Jonathan N January 23, 2017 at 11:36 pm

        1. I do like how you interpret this rule and it makes a lot of “real world” sense. How does it work in practice though? Doesn’t this give too much of an advantage to hidden enemies? Take this for example – an invisible enemy has disadvantage to attack. If an invisible enemy hides, you don’t know where he is and must guess where he is. So for a regular hidden goblin, it seems the same rules apply – seems like a huge advantage for the hidden enemy. (I guess you can fight fire with fire – go into a hidden jungle warfare)

        I think I might just give disadvantage (and potential increase in AC for the enemy for cover) on the attack since it is much easier to track (especially if I am running ten goblins who use nimble escape).

        2. Following up, do you make only the characters who are paying attention make Perception checks or the whole party? My interpretation is that by making the characters roll perception check – it means they are actively looking for the hiding enemy. The ones who fail do not see the enemy and are hidden from them. The ones who pass can see the enemy and is not hidden from them. Additionally, I also am assuming this check is part of the entire hiding action sequence and doesn’t use up a characters reaction?

        3. Makes sense – but kind makes the search action a pretty useless action then in combat. Why search now when I can wait till combat is over. I thought by having a separate paragraph in the ‘Actions in Combat’ section of the PHB, it would mean something more.

        God – I love the openness of the game but I wish there was just a little more hand holding for this. Hiding and stealth is not definitely not clear by any means.

        Thanks!

      • Ronny January 24, 2017 at 8:42 am

        1. Agreed. A hidden enemy does have a big advantage. A hidden invisible creature and a hidden goblin would be equally hard to hit. You can’t see either one of them. Neither one of them is hidden after they attack, and, depending on why he is invisible, the invisible creature may become viable after his attack. They would both have to spend an action to attempt to hide again (or a bonus action if they are a 2nd level rogue) but remember they can only succeed in that attempt if they are in a position where they can’t be seen clearly. It would be perfectly reasonable to rule that the goblin in the brush can’t succeed in his hiding attempt because he can be seen, even though the brush does grant him half cover.

        2. Yes, the perception check is part of the whole hiding process and doesn’t require an action. What I do is have characters that are actively watching for danger make a perception check. If the creatures that are hiding do not intend to attack right away, I will roll the PCs check for them behind the DM screen, the same way as I do for secret doors that they pass. That way they, if they fail, the players don’t know if there was something there or not. I also roll in secret from time to time when there is nothing there, just to keep them on their toes. I use passive perception checks for the other PCs.

        3. The search action is almost never used in combat. I feel that it was included in the list of combat actions simply to allow for those infrequent situations when it would be needed. Example: In the midst of combat between the PCs and several opponents, one PC kills a wizard that you know has an item that the party needs to defeat the other creatures. He might take the search action on his next turn to find that item while the other PCs continue fighting.

        With so few rules, it does make the DM’s job harder. The better you can visualize what exactly is happening the easier it will be to keep it “real” for the players. I find that as long as your rulings make logical sense based on the situation, the players will go along with it.
        I recommend that you not try to memorize rules for every situation that may come up, but get a feel for the intent of the rules and if a situation comes up you hadn’t prepared for (and they do come up all of the time) if you can’t come up with the rule in a couple of seconds, just “wing it”. Keep the pace of the game up and if you aren’t sure you made the right ruling, some time before the next game you can research it and tell the group the next time they meet that you aren’t going to change what happened last time, but from now on you will be dong it this other way. The longer you do it, the better you will get at it.

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