The rogue stabs out with his dagger, wounding the dragon. Intent on avoiding the beast’s wrath, he declares that he’s hiding and rolls for Stealth. He can take the Hide action as a bonus action thanks to his Cunning Action feature. But… he’s just standing in the middle of the room.
Has this situation come up in your game? You’re not alone. A lot of people have been talking about hiding in combat lately, and we thought we’d help clarify the rules on it to help you to run the game more smoothly.
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What Is Hiding?
First of all, let’s establish what it’s not. Hiding is not a condition like charmed or incapacitated. It isn’t a universal truth; you don’t roll to become capital-H Hidden, you roll to small-H hide—specifically, from a particular creature or group of creatures. The mechanics of hiding are described on page 177 of the Player’s Handbook.
The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.
You can’t hide from a creature that can see you clearly.
The first sentence is integral here. The DM has every right to tell you that you can’t hide from a creature if there is no way to obscure its view of you. So the rogue wanting to hide in the middle of a wide open room would take some incredible ingenuity.
For new DMs who require guidance on what the acceptable circumstances for hiding might be, the same page directs you to the Vision and Light section on page 183, which details certain classifications of illumination and visual obstruction: lightly obscured, heavily obscured, bright light, dim light, and darkness. These tools can help guide you in making a determination about who can hide from whom, and what it would require. For example, in darkness a creature could hide from a target that doesn’t have darkvision, and a wood elf could attempt to hide in light rain or patchy fog.
So what do you get for being hidden? From page 194 and 195 of the Player’s Handbook:
When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. […] When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.
In addition to these benefits, while you are hidden from a spellcaster, you severely limit its options for attacking you, as most spells specify that they can only target a creature the spellcaster can see.
Because you can’t hide from a creature that can see you clearly, an individual attempting to hide from another creature in an area without environmental effects such as thick fog or darkness will almost certainly have to seek cover. Just how much cover is needed to hide depends on various factors, all left up to the DM’s discretion. To preserve the usefulness of the lightfoot halfling’s Naturally Stealthy feature, we recommend requiring regular creatures have at least three-quarters cover in order to hide.
Note that even if a target has total cover, it is not necessarily hidden. Hiding involves concealing all traces of your presence, including sound and light. You can’t hide behind a low wall if you’re carrying a torch, even if you go entirely prone to have total cover. Even an invisible creature does not automatically count as hidden, as it might give away its position by making noise or producing other “signs of its passage”.
As mentioned above, a successful Wisdom (Perception) check will reveal the presence of hidden creatures if the check’s total exceeds the result of the creature’s Dexterity (Stealth) check. This also means that if the total of the Dexterity (Stealth) check doesn’t exceed a creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score, you aren’t hidden from it. As well, if you hid by retreating behind total cover and the creature from which you were hiding moves to regain line of sight, your position will be revealed.
Additionally, the Hiding sidebar from page 177 in the Player’s Handbook details the following:
In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the DM might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack roll before you are seen.
This section is the second reason why a rogue can’t simply pop out of hiding and stab someone, especially if the creature was aware of their presence (even if they couldn’t see them before they emerged to attack). If the rogue wishes to approach stealthily, it would require taking the Hide action (possibly as a bonus action using Cunning Action), again contested by the target’s passive Wisdom (Perception). If the circumstances are right, it is possible to make a ranged attack from hiding, though it will reveal your position (unless you miss and have the Skulker feat).
Putting It All Together
Looking at the rules, both how they are written and their design intent, it becomes clear that most characters are simply not meant to be able to hide in the midst of a melee. There are, of course, a few circumstances which mark the exceptions to this rule, such as when you face an enemy without darkvision in an area of total darkness, or when a lightfoot halfling has a Medium-sized creature between it and the creature from which they are hiding. But these are special situations that require planning or luck; as a rule, you can’t just hide wherever you please and then attack with advantage. This is why rogues can also benefit from Sneak Attack when they have an ally within 5 feet of their target and don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll; they don’t need to be hidden in order to deal their bonus damage.
Do you have experience with hiding in combat? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
27 thoughts on “Things You Didn’t Know About D&D 5E: Hiding In Combat”
So if a rogue was in a fog cloud spell, and took the hide action, would the opponent need to locate the rogue first either through passive, or active perception in order to make an attack, or would it do nothing, since the fog cloud gives them disadvantage already? (as well as advantage, since the rogue can’t see them making the attack either)
Thanks for your question!
The opponent would have a few options at this point.
(1) They could attack the space the rogue was last in. If the rogue is still there, the attack has disadvantage. If the rogue isn’t there, the attack automatically fails.
(2) They could make a Wisdom (Perception) check to listen for the location of the rogue (because the area is heavily obscured, the opponent is considered blinded and automatically fails sight-based checks, so it has to try listening for sounds of the rogue’s passage). If the opponent defeats the rogue’s Dexterity (Stealth) check, they can deduce the rogue’s location and move to it.
I would not consider passive Perception in this instance. That’s a tool for the DM to use, not a player resource. If you want to have a minimum roll of 10 + applicable bonuses on your checks, you should make a rogue for Reliable Talent. Others may disagree with me on this, and that’s fine. They can deal with their rogue feeling cheated out of an 11th-level class feature.
Great summary and good discussion in the comments. I think I have my head around this now but just to summarise – to achieve the status of ‘hidden’ in combat you need to achieve two things:
1. You break the creature’s line of sight to you, either by taking cover (inc hiding behind med sized friends for Lightfoot Halfling); or by obscuring either it’s vision (blindness), obscuring the environment (fog cloud, darkness, smashing the only light) or becoming invisible.
2. You take the ‘Hide’ action (either as an action or as a BA for rogues etc). This is the sacrifice you make for executing a Stealth check to create the element of confusion in the target, necessary to gain that ‘Hidden’ advantage. You may subsequently use this to attack from hidden, move stealthily (2x movement cost) etc.
1. is a pre-requisite to 2. so you can’t Hide if the correct conditions don’t exist. If your Stealth Check fails in 2. then you’re still either in cover or lightly / heavily obscured according to the lighting rules but haven’t got the additional Hidden benefits.
Also bear in mind that this is per target so you may count as in cover or obscured to one creature but not another (due to position, darkvision etc). Similarly one creature’s Perception check succeed and another may fail against your Stealth.
Going back to potential abuse of this it now makes sense. You can’t just Hide on it’s own, you need the conditions plus the action. This is easier if you’re a lightfoot halfling rogue but this seems to be intentional RAW and the sacrifice of a BA to enable it is real as rogues often use a BA as a second bite at getting their Sneak Attack in.
This looks correct, but note that moving silently in combat does not require you to spend extra movement (ie you can move silently at your full speed as long as you have succeeded in your Hide action).
There is a rule for party travelling which refers to “moving stealthily” as an option when choosing slow pace travel, but this does not apply to combat rules!
Does an invisible creature after attacking and revealing its location whether it hits or misses. they remain invisible for whatever reason. without hiding or using disengage, they move out of the reach of the enemy they attacked.
OA says the word “see” yet every single other source for invisible Never mentions it. i believe they mean see in the perceive sense of the word not literal sight. otherwise you really could not play the classically blind monk or druid with out taking blindsight. i believe that is not RAI.
“line of sight” is a different situation. but for spells requiring you to “see” i generally allow other means of perception to work. some spells have a target of “sight” now thats where i say no. and some require “Line of sight” which again i allow perception but coverage and such wont allow you to magically make a curved line of attack spell. but if you somehow could then your ability to perceive them accurately may eliminate the disadvantage of attacking a target that is unseen.
Thanks very much for your question!
Remember that there’s a difference between being hidden and being invisible. An invisible creature usually hides to avoid making noise or leaving footprints. Such a creature reveals its location when it attacks, meaning that other creatures know where it is and can attack its space (most likely with disadvantage because the creature is still invisible). Further insight into the mechanic comes from the Skulker feat, which prevents your position from being revealed when you miss an attack against a creature from which you are hidden.
As for whether you can target an invisible creature with an effect that requires sight, the answer is generally no, but there are ways around this. You should read the spell’s description carefully to determine if it can only be used against “a creature you can see”; if it does, you will need to be able to see invisible creatures in order to target a foe that is invisible, such as through the see invisibility spell, or have an ability that allows you to perceive the exact location of a creature without vision, such as with blindsight. If it doesn’t specify that you need to see the target, then you can attack the creature even without being able to see it, but you’ll probably have disadvantage on the attack roll and, if you target the wrong space, the attack will automatically fail.
Ok so somethings i have noticed while reading all of these posted so far.
1. so say your a human 5’11 180 lbs, your in a room that has obstacles which can provide cover, say a desk, some chairs, the curtains etc… a general office. the room is well lit. your a 3rd level rouge assassin. you crouch behind the desk using the Hide Action (dex+stealth check of 14 lets say). it is the perception skill that AUTOMATICALLY checks the Opposing value and that is only at the effective passive perception of the enemy based off speed.
now you’ve lain in wait hidden behind the desk for your enemy, with a crossbow bolt. you have an effective held action (player: I want to get my sneak attack with my assassins’ abilities against the merchant/noble/whatever obviously otherwise why would this character have these abilities?… so from the rouges point of view hidden behind a desk with no line of sight. (DM: what’s your active perception? PC: 13) DM request the player to also make a perception check to actively listen.
A person enters the room, they are not being stealthy so they make general noise however say they wear a coin purse and it’s heavy so it makes a lot of noise (dc 5), or wears hard sole boots (dc 0), or even say the rustle of a cloak (dc 15), or they reek of the sent of boiled cabbage stench (dc 5 per 5 feet away), each providing key pieces of information either confirming your target has entered but requiring differing DC’s to accomplish being informed of. bear in mind just as you now hear him, he can now hear and smell you too. this is where they would get that “something seems off scenario… only if DM of course determines its reasonable. say the enemy notices the window was left open (dc 10 or 5 if its windy and moving the curtains or has a strong odor from the outdoors) , or you smell of perfume from the bath houses you frequent or reek of sewage , what if you have a character flaw of being nervous are you quietly tapping your foot (dc 18), or is your weight causing a nail to creak with the smallest motions (dc 12).
so you as a player must stealth to avoid those detections to not give away some kind of presence. “knowledge of existence” is not “line of sight”. how can you defend properly against an attack if you do not know from which direction (not 5′ square location) an attack will come. on high, down low, a feint on high really coming from center. Think baseball practice cage.
ok so you’ve successfully remained hidded (non visibly) your enenmy did not have tremor sense, or other abilities affecting this situation. you hear the door close. (pc: I’d like to take advantage of my range and shoot them unawares now while i have the chance.)
SURPRISE: the PC is determined to have surprise. no other character has it so we do not need initiative for determining who goes first etc…
remember you can not see your opponent either where we left off so you either attack blindly or you need some type of visability. we can exit our “prone” position of hiding behind the desk peeking around the corner, above, or below, with another successful dex stealth check otherwise our position would be revealed to the enemy since line of sight has triggered. you take your shot with advantage and miss. how can this be… dice be condemned.
your position is revealed. now what. you can still move and you have cunning action yet. (pc: id like to move back prone behind the desk to hide. (make your check) now initiative for the first round. you win, going first, granting your assassinators primary effect of advantage since the enemy has not acted. which means you did not need to re-hide as your abilities allow you to get your sneak attack and a crit here also but only if you should hit this time. but lets say this is a much longer combat, where the enemy has a large health pool. you could keep dancing around this desk hiding and throwing dagger or shooting cross bolts until they die or your out of ammo.
2. now we go melee where you could from hidden (not just getting total cover) behind the desk, stealthily move 15′ behind the enemy unnoticed and attack, then disengage as your cunning action or risk opportunity attacks as you and finish movement behind the desk (to rehide). but then its the enemy’s turn, they come around the desk and line of sight allows them to see you, or you’ve hidden on the other side or under. perhaps you are so skilled at hiding that the chair only providing 50% cover allows you to successfully remain hidden forcing the enemy to move or make another action maybe they’re allowed to make an intuition check to get advantage on their perception check since they’re now familiar with how you fight. not that I am against raising or lowering dc difficulties over time or given situational modifiers to opposing checks. I tend to lean on awarding advantage or disadvantage more though.
3. the in escapable fireball… the character may normally have a straight check, or one with advantage but the circumstances change that making it a disadvantage check now. yet somehow the impossible you succeed… well how? the fireball hurtles towards the rouge whom deftly avoids the bead yet the explosion occurs right below their feet. with a flourish the rouge leaps into the air spinning as cloak and hands appear and vanish, a vial is broken and the explosion hits, the intense flash of heat melts soft metals, and ignite small fires around the walls, steam rises from the rouge like an aura leaving them unaffected by the flames. lightning? they drop a nail. acid? leaps off the walls jumping round and round as the room fills. etc…
players are not their characters, they do not know, nor do DM’s, exactly how a person with these special abilities or super human training and traits are capable of doing things in the world. we can’t explain everything in the real world either. Fanciful plausibility is the key I feel.
Ill edit if possible and please point out errors if found.
great work BTW Archmage.
if a wizard taking his action to become invisible in battle, can he walk a way in stealth by throwing the stealth check or should he wait for the next turn to do the hide action ?
Thank you for your question. There is certainly something to be said about the clarity, or lack thereof, in the stealth rules in Fifth Edition. I will endeavour to provide a clear adjudication based on my reading of the rules, but you may read them and arrive at a somewhat different conclusion.
The Stealth section under Dexterity in chapter 7, “Using Ability Scores”, as well as the Hiding sidebar on the same page, provide the strongest guidance on the mechanics of stealth in combat. Additionally, in chapter 8, “Adventuring”, there is an indication that travelling at a slow pace allows one to use stealth. Finally, in appendix A, it states that invisible creatures are treated as heavily obscured.
With the sources identified, I’ll get to answering your question directly:
Action Economy: Going Invisible and Hiding. Regarding hiding and casting a spell on the same turn, this is not generally possible. The Hide action is just that—an action—and therefore can’t be done on the same turn as going invisible (the Cast a Spell action). Exceptions to this abound, as there are various ways to do either of these things as bonus actions. For instance, if you were multiclassed as a rogue and had the Cunning Action feature, you can use the Hide action as a bonus action. Likewise, if you are multiclassed as a sorcerer with the Quicken Spell metamagic feature, you can Cast a Spell as a bonus action. A third option could be if you were a multiclassed fighter and used the Action Surge feature to gain another action. A single-classed wizard, however, could not cast the invisibility spell and then hide on the same turn.
Invisible Movement. Invisibility does not grant you complete immunity from detection, whether magical (eg. the see invisibility spell) or simply by following footprints and the sounds of footsteps and noisy equipment. To move quietly while invisible requires deliberate care. Your DM may ask you to roll a Dexterity (Stealth) check, which becomes the DC for the Wisdom (Perception) check that a creature would make as part of the Search action on its turn to locate you. I am inclined to reserve the right as DM to impose situational restrictions on this, such as requiring the invisible creature to move only at half speed when there is insufficient ambient noise to muffle the sounds of their movement, or when they are knowingly attempting to sneak past one or more creatures possessing keen hearing. However, the general clamour of a pitched battle would render these restrictions moot.
Hopefully this answers your question!
So I have been discussing hiding in combat with some other DMs and players and my personal take is in the word hide. A thing is hidden when you don’t know it is there. For instance, if I put some treasure in a cabinet while you are looking, you cannot say that it is a hidden treasure since you clearly know where it is. But if you walk into a room and there is some treasure in a cabinet that you did not know about, then that is when you would say “that you found a hidden treasure”.
So with that in mind, I rule that when a creature walks behind a corner in the middle of combat and “hides” only to shoot from there or behind any other isolated obstacle that creature does not get advantage from doing it. Because everyone able to see it knows that that creature is there. Stealth checks do not make a creature invisible, they make a creature discreet, silent. And even if a creature is to walk silently towards cover but to do so does it in plain sight, it will be noticed, maybe not heard, but definitively seen.
The major problem is that you can clearly read in the rulebook (player’s handbook) that to take the hide action you must be out of the line of sight. So, many pretend that it is possible to walk behind a curtain in a corner of a room full of enemy creatures and then take the hide action, roll the dexterity (stealth) check, and then expect that the enemies won’t stab them through the curtain to dead. And even in that case, they will reclaim that the creatures at least have to do it with disadvantage because they are hidden and thus are unseen targets. When the enemies should have advantage since the hiding creature is effectively blinded from their attacks.
The easy way to avoid conflict in that situation as a DM is to just make the enemies follow the hidden creature and thus uncovering them. Even in that situation, some people will argue that if rolled successfully a dexterity (stealth) roll against the active wisdom (perception) of the creature then the hidden creature will remain hidden. Although most people would concede that if on sight, they lose the status of hidden.
But that is not the major conflictive point, usually hiding in combat entails a creature that has a ranged weapon and creatures engaged in melee combat. In most of the encounters, one side over numbers the other so these situations are very common. On these situations, the ranged creature will hide and then shoot the other creatures from their hiding spot getting advantage every time. A similar situation is the one where the ranged creature has several turns before any other creature with its movement reach them and uncover them from their hiding spot. That means that what they are going to do, especially creatures that can hide as a bonus action (such as a +2 lvl rogue) is to shoot, get behind cover, hide and repeat. And here is where the real problem starts. They can do that, but the thing is that they are not really hidden, at least not after the first attack when, hits or misses, they reveal their position. Because everyone, and especially the target of their attacks knows where they are. And something is not hidden if you know where it is.
The advantage that a hidden (unseen and unheard) creature gets is supposed to be due to the incapacity of the defendant to anticipate the attack as opposed to any other normal attack. But if the target is aware that you are going to pop out from behind that piece of cover to shoot then the advantage should be unexistent, even if you are hidden. Because if not, which is the difference with anyone else using the cover? That that creature is quietly behind that cover instead of making the usual putting the arrow on the string noises? Again I just want to stress out that stealth is about being discreet, not invisible.
So the root of the problem lies that when ruling a DM can be literal about the hide action, since the hiding creature is in a situation where it is not seen or the DM can understand the phrasing it as you cannot be seen/noticed when hiding. Which in my personal opinion is more logical and as a DM is how I rule, for players, foes and NPCs. That does not mean that hiding becomes disabled at all, it means that hiding is overall used to ambush enemies and that players need to come with creative ways to hide in combat instead by doing it in plain sight. One of the easiest ways is to move after hiding without being discovered so your attack cannot be predicted or to use some teamwork with your team through spells or creating distractions. Also, as a DM you can be generous in how aware is a creature towards a players movement, by limiting their field of view or letting the player know that the creature is focused enough in other stuff for them to hide. It is on the first line of the rules that the DMs have to expose whether or not it is possible to hide in the circumstances.
Advantage on the attack can be obtained in many ways and it is not the only requirement to trigger the sneak attack feature. The assassin archetype of rogue benefits the most of getting that advantage but imo it is designed to deal a big great damage hit in the proper circumstances, not for inflicting absurd amounts of critical damage every turn.
Additionally, since I do not want to completely forgo the hiding in combat what I rule (as a homebrew rule) is that when a creature attacks another hiding spot and the target is aware of the attacker position then the attacker must successfully roll a second dexterity (stealth check). That roll is the capacity to perfectly time the attack so it cannot be predicted. So, in the end, it only adds an additional role to a circumstance in which is harder to successfully deliver.
So hiding behind a curtain in front of your foes may not work anymore if I DM but you can certainly wait in the shadows patiently for that chance of hunting your prey.
I might politely suggest that your entire argument is based off an in improper definition of hidden.
The definition of hidden is “to put out of sight, no longer visible” even if you know where something is, if it is not in your line of sight, it is hidden to you. I think you may be conflating the definition of hidden with lost? Lost is defined as “no longer visible” but also “no longer known”. Just because hidden and lost items can both be not visible it does not mean that all hidden objects are lost. It is a logical fallacy to assume all hidden objects are lost.
I enjoyed your example of the curtain however, I think that if a creature knows you are behind a curtain you are still hidden. You would remain hidden until the creature pulls back the curtain or walks until you are in his line of sight.
How would you handle actively looking for hidden characters/enemies? Example: I have an ambush flanking players on both sides of a road. Goblins using classic shoot, scoot, and hide tactics. Assuming their stealth roles beat the players passive perception, do the players need to burn their actions making a perception check to try and spot them? Do only the players who succeed spot the goblins, or are they able to call out their locations to the rest of the party?
Passive Perception is designed to measure general awareness. A party travelling down a road where encountering goblins is not uncommon is understood to be keeping a general lookout. This is why they have penalties on passive Perception checks when travelling at a face pace which requires more of their attention.
If the party is aware of the presence of the goblins before combat begins, then they aren’t surprised. If the goblins are hidden and take the party unawares, the party should be considered surprised at the start of combat.
Not all members of the party have to be surprised. It’s up to the DM to determine how this plays out. For instance, if the goblins are concealed in thick foliage and the DM determines that they can only be spotted by a character within 30 feet, but the goblins are poised to strike as soon as the party comes within 30 feet, then the DM may choose to have both of those things happen at once. Characters with a high enough passive Perception spot the goblins as they rise up to loose their arrows. Initiative is rolled, the characters who didn’t see the goblins are considered surprised, and the unsurprised characters can hopefully shout out a warning. The warning won’t negate the surprise effect on characters who haven’t taken a turn, but it will help those who didn’t spot the goblins to ready their weapons to fight rather than blithely continue on.
You said, “As mentioned above, a successful Wisdom (Perception) check will reveal the presence of hidden creatures if the check’s total exceeds the result of the creature’s Dexterity (Stealth) check.”
The PHB says, “When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check…that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.”
A contest is not the same as an ability check made against a DC. A contest would require that the perception check BEAT the Stealth check. If the Perception check equals the Stealth check, then the status quo is maintained. And the status quo is that the player is hidden/undiscovered.
Am I wrong?
I’m not sure where your confusion is; that is precisely what I wrote.
Ha. I was tired.
A rogue is at the bottom of a 100′ deep, 10’x10′ solid stone pit, and he triggers a fireball trap by stepping on a pressure plate. He beats the Dex save DC and has Evasion, taking zero damage as blazing flames fill every inch of space in which the rogue could possibly exist.
I was a fellow party member with a rogue who really didn’t like how the DM tended to treat variations on hypothetical scenarios like the above, as well as hiding in combat, pretty realistically. The DM would use sound judgment and say, “Nah, sorry, there’s nothing to hide behind.” He was also hesitant to allow nat 20’s to auto-succeed impossible things. It led to some heated interactions at some critical points of the game, which I’m sure could’ve gone better, but we were young and weren’t very good at all that back then, and I wasn’t much help to the DM even though I agreed with him.
I for one appreciate some logical realism in my games, but now in my own campaigns, I’ve leaned more on the side of stacking DC’s appropriately, and letting the players know why before they roll. Rogue says, “I want to hide,” and I say, “Aight, so it’s a DC 15, plus 5 for each time you’ve already sneak attacked this encounter because they’re watching out for you, plus this monster has advantage on his perception roll because he can smell you, plus you have disadvantage because there’s nothing to hide behind.
Also, it’s not RAW, but you can do what I like to do and try playing with readied Reactions a bit. An attack of opportunity is essentially an always-readied Attack Reaction, yes? Well you could easily bend the Leadership ability of a Hobgoblin captain to allow him to order his troops to ready a Reaction for when one of them sees the Rogue, to shout out and expose his position. Every time the rogue attempts to hide, each hobgoblin gets to roll Perception, and if one spots him, he can’t sneak attack any of them. I’m just pulling this out of my butt here, but it’s a line of thinking that, if established with your players, should give them some interesting hurdles and strategy options in combat.
So let’s say you have an elf rogue with the Skulker feat. Assuming that rogue is hidden, could they take a sneak attack shot with an arrow, then use their Cunning Action bonus action to hide again, and move while hidden to another location (where they could presumably take another sneak attack shot on the next round)?
Provided that they are in dim light, darkness, or otherwise lightly obscured of course.
Thank you for your question.
This would work if you were a wood elf in the fog, foliage, or other natural source of camouflage. Non-wood elves can’t hide just by taking the Hide action while being lightly obscured in this way, they have to find some feasible method to actually hide themselves, like ducking behind an impenetrable hedge, leaping behind the lee of a hill, or some other meaningful effort.
There are a few additional considerations to keep in mind when it comes to this:
(1) Rangers have a 10th-level ability to spend 1 minute (10 rounds) making camouflage to let them hide whilst standing still admist a natural setting. Unless you want to further rob that class of usefulness by taking away one of the few things that make it special, you’ll want to ensure your players are a little more rigorous when it comes to hiding “in plain sight” (that is, not wholly concealed behind a wall or other obstacle).
(2) The character’s Stealth check covers not just whether they’re seen, but also rather they’re heard, smelled, or whatever other sense may be employed by the creature(s) the character is hiding from.
The struggle for me is deep in combat. Initiative has been rolled, the rogue has made his first sneak attack. This same halfling rogue now uses a bonus action to hide, succeeds, shoots with advantage again. And repeats the same process round after round using the medium-sized creature in front of them to hide. I struggle seeing this as “realistic”. Maybe I’m too old school, but once the opponent knows you’re there, I don’t think you should be able to hide anymore, unless circumstances and combat changed.
You’re the DM, per the rules of hiding, you decide if conditions are right for hiding. Just because the rogue can do it as a bonus action doesn’t mean they can do it in an open room while the enemy is watching them.
Hiding isn’t just a die roll, it’s an activity, and if there’s nothing to hide behind, no plausible way to obstruct the enemy’s view of you, or some other way to realistically (it’s fine to say it!) hide, then you can let the player try, but it won’t work. Feel free to look down at the battle map with all its open space and ask, “What are you hiding behind?”
Remember that this can also work in favour of the player, though. They may not be experts in stealth, but their characters are, and they may have abilities that allow this. For example, lightfoot halflings are able to use larger creatures as cover. A halfling rogue, being someone who practices using misdirection to their advantage in combat, would possibly flit about a 5-foot square (a pretty big area for a 3’ character) and let their larger ally occupy the person’s attention. Likewise, a wood elf can become hidden in mist or other natural phenomenon. They recede into it like a ghost and strike out at helpless foes.
In short, players sometimes deserve the benefit of the doubt, but you’re well within your rights to declare that an attempt to hide has failed when there was no possible way it ever could have succeeded. Shouting out, “I’m hiding!” doesn’t make it so.
I can think of a few solutions to this problem. 1) Have an enemy take the ready action, aim, & shoot at the little bugger when he pops out again. 2) Area of Effect attack or spell. 3) Use the Shove action with advantage on the medium creature since the halfling is now a fulcrum. 4) Since the halfling revealed their position with their first attack, the Passive Perception of the opposition is gets a +5 bonus (the equivalent of advantage). 5) Give the opposition the alert feat (I hate that feat).
A good combat related example is when a rogue is attacking an enemy from a doorway. Dispatching the foe and taking a hide action back in the doorway. Leaving the guy in front none the wiser, but very well aware of danger.
I’d like to take a more realistic example of a rogue hiding and see how you resolve it.
A rogue is being followed down a street with dim light. He turns down an ally and slips into a deep doorway to hide. The enemy comes around the corner tries to locate the rogue.
Is this a valid attempt to hide?
Thanks for the question!
If this is happening outside of initiative order, I would resolve this with a Dexterity (Stealth) check opposed by a Wisdom (Perception) check to determine if the pursuer was able to get to see the rogue dip into the doorway. Due to the dim light, the pursuer would have disadvantage on their Wisdom (Perception) check unless they had darkvision or some other means to see in darkness. If the Dexterity (Stealth) check is higher, the rogue would have managed to get into the deep doorway and would be hidden. If it is not obvious that this would be where they have hidden (for example, if the alley is short enough that the rogue could possibly have exited the other end, or if there are other doorways or sources of cover the rogue might have ducked into), then I would allow the rogue to benefit from being an unseen attacker if they attack before their position is discovered. If this is the only doorway in an empty, dead-end alley, then there’s no reason the pursuer would not recognize where they went and would be ready for them to reappear.
If this is in initiative order, it would be easier to resolve. Either the pursuer ends their turn positioned to watch the rogue slip into the doorway, or they don’t. If it’s a deep doorway and the rogue can enter it unseen (that is, one that would allow the rogue to have total cover), I wouldn’t ask for a Dexterity (Stealth) check unless they specifically said they wanted to duck into it but keep an eye on the mouth of the alley, which would require that they hover at the threshold. If the pursuer is able to watch the rogue enter the doorway, the rogue might be hidden, but their position is known and they will not gain the benefits of being an unseen attacker if they lean out to loose a crossbow bolt or something.
So in short, it is a valid attempt to hide if the rogue isn’t being observed. How that action translates into benefits in a confrontation is dependent on too many factors to give a yes/no answer.
Hope this helps!
– the Archmage
I’d also consider the pursuer – if the rogue was seen entering the alley, it’s not rocket science that the pursuer would be cautious. They might shoot a crossbow bolt of their own into the square containing the deep doorway, guessing that the rogue might be hiding there. So they’d attack with disadvantage into at least half cover depending on the angle.