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Does casting True Seeing pierce through a Ranger's Hide in Plain Sight? What about a Shadowdancer's Hide in Plain Sight?

According to the True Seeing description:

True seeing does not help the viewer see through mundane disguises, spot creatures who are simply hiding

A Ranger is 'simply hiding' because his Hide in Plain Sight is an extraordinary feat, not bound by magic in any way shape or form. However, the Shadowdancer's Hide in Plain Sight is Supernatural and is magical in nature. The description of the Shadowdancer's Hide in Plain Sight feat is interesting because all it allows her to do is make a hide check while under observation and within 10 feet of a shadow. Even if "normal or magical" darkness was pierced, she'd still be in the shadow and she'd still be hiding. But is she 'simply hiding'?

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2 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

A Shadowdancer isn't simply hiding: she's using a Supernatural ability to not be seen while not having anything to hide behind – she's not actually in the shadow, she remains in plain sight but unseen. True Seeing will work on her.

A Ranger is simply hiding. His Extraordinary ability allows him to disappear into natural terrain while being observed, but it's a mundane hiding-in-the-grass he's doing. True Seeing won't work on him.

In a fictional sense, this should be sufficient. The Shadowdancer is using magic to conceal herself, while the ranger is using mundane skill. True Seeing penetrates magic to see things as they actually are and will show that the Shadowdancer is actually standing in plain sight in a shadow that has been magically moved/altered/detached.

Rules-wise, a bit more work is probably necessary. The description of True Seeing doesn't list anything that seems to cover this case, and an easy answer is simply that if it doesn't say it covers it, then it doesn't apply. However, this is a simple proof that it applies to the Shadowdancer:

  • True Seeing "confer[s] on the subject the ability to see all things as they actually are."
  • The two lists of things True Seeing are divided into magical and non-magical effects. The magical list is things it works on, the non-magical is things it doesn't work on.
  • "Supernatural abilities are magical"
  • True Seeing allows the subject to "sees the true form of polymorphed, changed, or transmuted things"
  • There is no way to interpret a Shadowdancer's Hide In Plain Sight without it being a magical change.
  • From all of the above, True Seeing should see a Shadowdancer using HIPS.
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I don't think you're interpreting the word 'change' there correctly. It's mentioned in the same breath as polymorphed and transmuted, which makes me think it means changed as in Disguise Self which "Changes your appearance" or Secret Page which "Changes one page to hide its real content". The Shadowdancer's HiPS doesn't cause a change like that. It doesn't make the Shadowdancer invisible or have a different appearance, it just lets them make a hide check. –  DuckTapeal May 25 '13 at 16:42
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@DuckTapeal That's OK. I'm glad you bring up the word "interpretation": your interpretation is as good as mine since it doesn't actually say either way. There's nothing in the spell description that indicates to me that I should interpret those two lists as exhaustive, so I'm not. This way is more consistent to my thinking: all magical effects that defeat normal seeing are defeated by True Seeing. –  SevenSidedDie May 25 '13 at 16:54
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True Seeing is a powerful spell, but it does have a set number of effects it can pierce:

The subject sees through normal and magical darkness, notices secret doors hidden by magic, sees the exact locations of creatures or objects under blur or displacement effects, sees invisible creatures or objects normally, sees through illusions, and sees the true form of polymorphed, changed, or transmuted things.

It goes on to specifically exclude hidden opponents. The phrase "simply hiding" is used, but "simply hiding" is not a game term. I see no reason to take it to mean "hiding non-magically" (certainly, I don't think it's necessarily simpler to do things non-magically in D&D). You could argue for a number of nonsensical interpretations, but the interpretation I would take here is the one that "simply hiding" means "hiding without using the effects the spell specifically penetrates". Working from that...

  • True Seeing definitely does not pierce the Ranger's HiPS. The Ranger is hiding, so TS doesn't help. TS further can't interfere with the conditions the Ranger requires to use the HiPS ability, "While in any sort of natural terrain".
  • True Seeing might pierce the Shadowdancer's HiPS. If it pierces the Shadowdancer's HiPS it isn't because the Shadowdancer's HiPS is Supernatural (TS has no general interaction with Supernatural abilities), but because TS penetrates all forms of darkness, which the Shadowdancer requires. But, if we decide that the Shadowdancer's HiPS works regardless of whether the one the Shadowdancer is hiding from actually sees the shadows, it is a different game. Since the Shadowdancer can hide without actually being in a shadow, I think this reading is more reasonable.

So. By my best reading, True Seeing does not pierce Ranger or Shadowdancer HiPS.

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Might want to mention that interpretation 2 would allow darkvision to work on a shadowdancer. –  starwed May 24 '13 at 13:12
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@Starwed Not strictly true. The ability to see in darkness doesn't get rid of that darkness; the Shadowdancer is the one who cares about the presence or absence of shadows, not the observer. –  Lord_Gareth May 24 '13 at 15:15
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