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Can a rogue use cover or concealment in order to Hide, and thereafter make sneak attacks against enemies he is hidden from?

For example:

  • A rogue sneak attacks an ogre in melee, then runs behind a wall and hides. Having successfully hidden, the rogue runs out the next round and attacks the ogre again. Can he make Sneak Attack?
  • The party is walking through the woods when one is hit by a rogue sniper, who remains hidden. The sniper deals sneak attack damage. The party is now aware of the sniper, but all fail their Spot checks and can't see him. Do the rogue's subsequent attacks deal sneak attack damage?

Edit: Rules-as-written, does hiding due to concealment, total concealment or cover explicitly allow you to make sneak attacks? Invisibility or a blinded opponent specifically do, but is there a rule somewhere that you lose Dexterity to AC against opponents who are merely hidden?

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Related: When precisely is stealth lost? –  Jason_c_o May 21 at 16:49

4 Answers 4

Coming Out From Behind The Wall

Maybe. Here's the thing. If the Rogue has to come into the open to do this, he's no longer hiding (you can't hide in the open). No spot check is needed to see the Rogue if he just walks out into clear sight of the Ogre, he's no longer hidden. As he's no longer hidden, he'll need some other condition to allow for a Sneak Attack (flanking for example).

This is one of the reasons why Hide In Plain Sight is so good. If you had that, the Rogue could attempt to remain hidden even out in the open and this would work. Shadowdancers for example can stay hidden if they're near a shadow. That would include the shadow of the wall or the Ogre itself, making it a LOT easier to attack while hidden.

Rules Compendium Changes

The Rules Compendium (page 92) adds some extra things to Hide, if you're using it. Those address coming out from hiding a bit differently. In this case the answer would be Yes, if you can make the new Hide check as detailed below.

Move between Cover: If you’re already hiding thanks to cover or concealment, and you have at least 5 ranks in Hide, you can make a Hide check (with a penalty) to try to move across an area that doesn’t offer cover or concealment without revealing yourself. For every 5 ranks in Hide you possess, you can move up to 5 feet between one hiding place and another. For every 5 feet of open space you must cross between hiding places, you take a –5 penalty on your Hide check. Movement speed penalizes the check as normal.

Sneak up from Hiding: You can sneak up on someone after emerging from a hiding place. For every 5 feet of open space between you and the target, you take a –5 penalty on your Hide check. If your Hide check succeeds, your target doesn’t notice you until you attack or perform some other attention-grabbing action. Such a target is treated as being flat-footed with respect to you.

Sniper

Yes. It's specifically mentioned in the Hide skill:

If you’ve already successfully hidden at least 10 feet from your target, you can make one ranged attack, then immediately hide again. You take a -20 penalty on your Hide check to conceal yourself after the shot.

Being aware of someone isn't enough to prevent Sneak Attack. If the spot checks fail against the new hide check, then the Rogue is hidden again and can continue to sneak attack.

Hiding and Sneak Attack

Yes, being hidden with Hide makes you effectively invisible, which normally allows Sneak Attack. Again from the Rules Compendium (p. 92):

If you’re successfully hidden with respect to another creature, that creature is flat-footed with respect to you. That creature treats you as if you were invisible (see page 76).

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Hide in Plain Sight allows you to make the check to hide while still in the open. You don't become 'visible' just because you leave your hiding spot if you don't have it; normal stealth does allow you to sneak up on people. –  Jason_c_o May 21 at 15:50
    
@Jason_c_o Interestingly, the core rules don't actually say that. There's no rule for how you sneak up on someone, and Hide essentially stops working as soon as you come into the open. The Rules Compendium does add stuff about that, which I'll edit in. –  Tridus May 21 at 16:46
    
+1: Pretty thorough. –  Jason_c_o May 21 at 16:55

Spring Sneak Attack

To trigger Sneak Attack by hiding, you must be hidden from the target as you attack. This is usually extremely difficult.

First of all, you cannot Hide while being observed. One would presume that an ogre you just attacked is now observing you. You therefore can’t just run to the nearest source of Concealment or Cover and Hide again.

Hide in Plain Sight does eliminate this problem, since it allows use of Hide while being observed.

Furthermore, even if you were hidden, in most cases, you lose Concealment when you “run out the next round,” and therefore stop Hiding, and thus (barring flanking or the ogre being flat-footed or whatever), you would not get Sneak Attack.

Camouflage, and some forms of Hide in Plain Sight (usually the Supernatural versions), fix this problem as well, since you no longer need Concealment or Cover to Hide.

Sniping

Yes, you can make one ranged attack from Cover or Concealment and then immediately Hide again at a −20 penalty as a move action.

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He could go behind the wall and hide even while being observed. The Hide rule specifically has that example: "You can run around a corner or behind cover so that you’re out of sight and then hide, but the others then know at least where you went. " –  Tridus Aug 30 '13 at 16:11
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@Tridus That’s because the wall is giving Total Cover, and at that point you don’t even need to Hide. It also breaks observation. –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 16:11
    
The question is about running behind a wall, so it applies. He can hide back there if he wants to. Soon as he comes out he's not hiding anymore. –  Tridus Aug 30 '13 at 16:12
    
@Tridus Question title refers to Concealment, not Total Concealment. That’s what I’m responding to. –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 16:34

If Using Only the Core Rules

The Rules Compendium explores this in greater detail, including exactly what being hidden means and the advantages it grants. However, if trying to work exclusively from the SRD, this is what happens.


Barring special abilities, if a rogue is unobserved and possesses concealment or cover, he can make Hide skill checks. However, even if undetected, this does not make the rogue invisible or make his foes blind. While it seems like making an attack while hidden should deny foes their Dexterity bonuses (if any) to the Armor Classes), this isn't the case because

Hiding Doesn't Change the Rules for Sneak Attacks

Barring further special abilities, there are only 2 situations during which the extra damage from sneak attack is inflicted:

  1. when the target would be denied its Dexterity bonus (if any) to Armor Class; and
  2. when the rogue flanks the target.

Although a creature loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class when it gains the condition blinded (among other effects) and a creature denies his opponents their Dexterity bonuses to Armor Classes versus his attacks when the creature's invisible (among other effects), neither of these conditions are created by being undetected via making successful Hide skill checks.

Questions & Answers

  • Question: A rogue sneak attacks an ogre in melee, then runs behind a wall and hides. Having successfully hidden, the rogue runs out the next round and attacks the ogre again. Can he make Sneak Attack?

    Answer: First, that beginning clause should read, "A rogue makes a successful melee attack versus an ogre, and the rogue inflicts sneak attack damage with his attack," and the final sentence should read, "Does the rogue inflict his sneak attack damage?" I know that sounds like I'm being pedantic--and I sort of am--, but sneak attacks aren't actually in themselves a thing--sneak attack damage is a kind of extra damage a creature inflicts when he or his target is in a specific situation listed above. Then the rest of the question can be addressed.

    When the rogue returns next round the rogue will be eligible to inflict his sneak attack damage if either the ogre is denied its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class or the rogue is in a position in which he's flanking the ogre.

  • Q: The party is walking through the woods when one is hit by a rogue sniper, who remains hidden. The sniper deals sneak attack damage. The party is now aware of the sniper, but all fail their Spot checks and can't see him. Do the rogue's subsequent attacks deal sneak attack damage?

    A: The hidden rogue inflicted sneak attack damage at first not because he was hidden but, instead, because there was a surprise round during which the party was unaware of the rogue. The rogue acted in the surprise round, and the party didn't; thus the party was denied their Dexterity bonuses to their Armor Classes, and that enabled the rogue to inflict his sneak attack damage. Once the party takes their turns during the normal round, they're no longer flat-footed and that condition will no longer deny them their Dexterity bonuses to their Armor Classes.

    Therefore the rogue's subsequent attacks won't inflict sneak attack damage unless either the rogue acts in the first round of combat before the party (and because of this the party is flat-footed thence denied their Dexterity bonuses to their Armor classes), the party or the rogue takes actions that do deny the rogue's target the target's Dexterity bonus to Armor Class, or the rogue flanks his target.

    If the DM rules--after a sufficient amount of time has passed--that combat ends, the rogue sniper can attack again, possibly getting another surprise round in which he'll inflict his sneak attack damage versus vulnerable foes who are unaware of his presence.

  • Q: Does hiding explicitly allow you to make sneak attacks?

    A: No.

  • Q: Is there a rule somewhere that targets lose their Dexterity bonuses to Armor Classes versus hidden attackers?

    A: No, but the DM may rule that a creature struck by a hidden attacker "can’t react to a blow, [so it] can’t use [its] Dexterity bonus to AC" (PH 136).

"Being Hidden Doesn't Meet the Conditions for Sneak Attack? What Good Is Hiding Then?"

Hiding is good for avoiding detection. More specifically, hiding is good for ending combat so that, later, the hider can create a surprise round.

  1. If not in combat, unobserved, and possessing cover or concealment, a rogue waits for a potential observer to get into a position where the potential observer can notice the rogue. Then make an opposed skill check (the rogue's Hide skill versus the observer's Spot skill check).

    • If the rogue wins, the rogue's hidden. The observer is unaware of his presence.
      • If the rogue wins and attacks the observer, there's a surprise round in which only those who aware of the rogue (like the rogue himself) are allowed to act.
    • If the observer wins, the rogue's position's revealed.
      • If the observer wins and says he's going to attack the rogue, initiative is rolled, and there's no surprise round--unless other observers are unaware of the rogue.
  2. If in combat, unobserved, and possessing cover or concealment, a rogue waits for a potential observer to get into a position where the potential observer can notice the rogue. Then make an opposed skill check (the rogue's Hide skill versus the observer's Spot skill check).

    • If the rogue wins, the rogue's hidden. The observer is unaware of his presence.
      • If the rogue wins and attacks the observer, there's no surprise round as combat's already in progress.
    • If the observer wins, the rogue's position's revealed.
      • If the observer wins and says he's going to attack the rogue, he makes his attack, but the rogue gains the benefits of whatever concealment or cover the rogue possesses.

A hiding creature waits until the DM says combat ends then attacks from his hiding place, possibly creating a surprise round. Then he hides again and repeats the process.

The short of it is that hiding is a lousy way to inflict sneak attack damage. Can I interest you in a ring of blinking?

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Pretty sure that there are rulebooks that state that characters treat things they can't see due to hide as if they were invisible. –  KRyan May 21 at 15:18
    
@KRyan Where? I want to be wrong. –  Hey I Can Chan May 21 at 15:19
    
I think it's one of those things where some random place, ability, or whatever refers to it as if it was always the case. Like, "This ability allows you to hide. Since you are hidden, your target treats you as invisible and you may sneak attack him." or something. Which is, obviously, problematic. Plus I don't remember where. But I could swear I've seen it. I'll try to do some digging for it this weekend. –  KRyan May 21 at 15:22
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"If you’re successfully hidden with respect to another creature, that creature is flat-footed with respect to you. That creature treats you as if you were invisible (see page 76)." - Rules Compendium p. 92. –  Tridus May 21 at 16:39
    
"If you can’t react to a blow, you can’t use your Dexterity bonus to AC." -- This is the rule that allows hidden opponents to sneak attack. Yeah, you can choose to read the rules in such a way that it doesn't apply, but you'd have to be kind of bloody-minded to do so. (Especially given later clarifications!) –  starwed May 21 at 17:08

Let me rephrase my answer, (sorry i missed the 3.5)

1) If the stipulations of Sneak attack are present: The Ogre is flanked, If he is flat-Footed (losing his DEX mod), ect... then you would not have to run away each time.

2) Rogues using a Projectile weapon (bow or crossbow) can only use Sneak attack if the attack is made within 30 feet. Which would limit your snipers abilities, but if spot check failed, every attack would have sneak attack.

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But the question was about 3.5e, not 4e. Does the question and answer address 3.5e? –  KRyan Aug 30 '13 at 16:00

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