At the beginning of an encounter, what happens if both sides are being stealthy?

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    \$\begingroup\$ How can it be the beginning of the battle if both sides are being stealthy? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you clarify how an encounter has actually started in this situation? That both sides are being stealthy sounds like it ought to make this impossible, ie if both sides are maintaining stealth, neither would become aware of the other's existence and no encounter would occur. The way the encounter starts in this kind of situation would be informative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ this Q is related. I suggest that this question is a dupe of this question \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @FesshawGalnodel, how did the encounter "start" if both sides are being stealthy? \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 16:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AnneAunyme @dopplegreener @godskook Step 1 of Combat Step by Step in 5e is 1.Determine surprise. The DM determines whether anyone involved in the combat encounter is surprised. Seems like you are confusing start of hostilities with start of an encounter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wyrmwood
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


The same thing that would otherwise. Both sides roll to remain unseen / notice the other group (using your flavor of passive checks / hidden rolls / whatever). Unless one of the sides actually wants confrontation, they can even pass each other like ships in the night.

Side note: you might consider giving Disadvantage to hide from someone you cannot see.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand your reasoning on the side note but that would set precedent that any rogue/ranger or other scout stealthing forward outside of combat as they oft do, would have disadvantage in a dungeon or something. Therefore I would discourage that myself. And in the example both sides would have disadvantage in this case because neither side saw the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ More to the point, how do you have a stealthing player roll disadvantage on his stealth roll for a character he cannot see without telling him there is a character he cannot see? \$\endgroup\$
    – Doremar
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth They wont always have DA. If the opposition is not stealthy, the rogue would see them as soon as it becomes relevant. And yes, both sides have DA to stealth there, why would that be a problem? \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 0:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Doremar "You can't see anyone in the corridors, roll it with Disadvantage." It still might be empty. He didn't get any new information he wouldn't have otherwise. Either someone is hiding well, or there is noone there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 0:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega The logic is flawed. The idea of using stealth is to keep from being detected, that would include moving quietly as well as choosing paths that would include cover and concealment, these are things that someone proficient in stealth would know. Imposing disadvantage on all rolls versus those you don't see/hear means that you hamstring scouts entirely. The rules allow for those that are observing you to totally negate your efforts anyway so this smells like a double whammy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 1:01

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