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Situation

I'm hidden behind a pillar. The enemy is within 30 ft range. I have Misty Step prepared (or the Fey Step from the Eladrin race) and I want to Sneak Attack (or try to surprise the enemy).

Question

Is there enough time between the bonus action and action for the enemy to notice the rogue?

Does this differ between out-of-combat situations that start with surprise or already in-combat situations? Keep these in mind when answering:

  • Ignore any other ways to enable Sneak Attack. (Like having an ally nearby.)
  • Assume the rogue is alone and the enemy doesn't see any other threats in the surprise scenario.
  • Assume the verbal cast is silent enough.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note, there is no such thing as a "surprise round" in D&D 5E. In the first round of combat, some characters can be surprised while others are not. It has no bearing on the initiative order or round structure, only what each character can do during their turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Mar 9, 2018 at 15:18

4 Answers 4

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Tl;dr - Without variant rules, you may or may not be noticed. It depends on your DM ruling the situation in your favor. If you use some variant rules though, you probably won't be noticed.


There is enough time for the target to notice you between actions, and in combat they probably will.

First of all, let's review the relevant rules on page 177 of the PHB on hiding:

You can't hide from a creature that can see you, and if you make noise (such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase), you give away your position... In combat, most creature 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 Dungeon master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack before you are seen.

Based on those rules, you will need to remain unseen and unheard for this to even have a chance at working. Let's assume that you have already tried to hide in cover before trying this out.

Misty Step has a verbal component.

The first issue is that Misty Step has a verbal component. So you need to make sure that the creature can't hear you casting it to remain hidden. But, I'm going to assume you can take care of that issue, as there are many ways around it (sorcerer metamagic for example).

In combat, enemies typically have 360 degree awareness

The main problem for you is that 5e doesn't have default facing rules. As described in the quote: enemies in combat stay alert for signs of danger all over. If you teleport into plain view during combat, it's well within the DMs purview, and arguably true to the rules, that the creature will see you since the creature is looking all over for signs of danger. Especially if you are making any kind of noise.

Out of combat you have a bit more of a shot at this working

As the rules note, creature are only alert for signs of danger all around during combat. Additionally, the DM might allow you to stay hidden if you approach a creature who is distracted by something. So, if you teleport behind a distracted creature outside of combat, the DM could rule quite reasonably that you begin combat by attacking from hiding because your target is distracted.

If you do remain unnoticed before combat starts, you will likely surprise your enemy

The DM determines who is surprised. As noted on page 189 of the PHB:

The DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding withe the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter.

So, if you teleport behind a creature, and your DM ruled that you didn't immediately reveal yourself, and your target didn't notice you, and you make your attack, you would surprise that creature. Keep in mind though that surprise is only determined at the start of each encounter. So, if you teleport into a fight in progress, you cannot surprise anybody anymore.

There are some optional facing rules that make this rely less on DM fiat

The default rules give the DM room to rule that a creature can be distracted enough to not see you in combat, but it is not a guarantee. It depends on what the DM thinks of the situation. However, page 252 of the DMG provides rules for proper creature facing. If you are using these rules, there is a cone of space behind most creatures (their backside) that they can't see in. So, if you teleport into that space, you are unseen at that point. In this case, it's pretty clear that you will have advantage on your attack and might surprise creatures at the start of combat if the DM rules that your target doesn't notice you.

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Misty Step has a verbal spell component. Being hidden involves being unheard and unseen. Making noise as you cast a spell would mean the caster is no longer hidden when the spell takes effect.

That said, a Sorcerer Rogue with the Subtle Spell Metamagic doesn't make noise (or move) when casting a spell, and should be allowed to do what you propose. Sorcery Points are a limited resource, so there aren't any dire balance implications.

Side Note: There is no such thing as a "surprise round". In the first round of combat, some characters can be surprised while others are not. It has no bearing on the initiative order or round structure, only what each character can do during their turn.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I originally had Fey Step (Eladrin feature) in mind as it doesn't have any verbal components. Added an assumption that casting is silent just in case. \$\endgroup\$
    – FenrirG
    Mar 13, 2018 at 15:09
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I would say that this should work how you want it to. Drawing a bow and nocking an arrow and stepping out to shoot also requires movement and noise, yet if you start as being hidden behind the pillar, you can, by the rules, "attack from hidden", get your advantage, and sneak attack with your bow.

This would be similar. Bonus actions are extremely quick; I would rule suddenly appearing from a hidden location as being an "attack from hidden", even if combat is already ongoing.

If no combat has begun yet, you're in good shape -- the target may be surprised and you just pop in, and give him a good skewering, then he misses his first action to surprise, and you get to act again.

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If you are hidden, you remain hidden unless “you come out of hiding and approach”

Misty Step brings you out of hiding, however, you do not then “approach” so you are still hidden, attack with advantage and get sneak attack if you hit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was told teleporting into 5 feet of the enemy like that is both coming out of hiding and approaching. \$\endgroup\$
    – FenrirG
    Mar 13, 2018 at 10:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ You got a tough call \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Mar 13, 2018 at 12:14

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