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Here is the scenario: I am the GM, and one of my players is a Sharpshooter Rogue. He likes to hide as a bonus action to gain advantage on his rolls, which effectively nullifies the -5 attack bonus on Sharpshooter, and thus gives him an extra 17(10+2d6) damage every round. So at 4th level he's doing ~25 damage a round, which seems awfully high.

What I'd like to do in future encounters is send in some monsters to root out this Rogue and prevent him from staying hidden (obviously not all the time, but enough to keep this player on his toes and give the tank and melee fighter something to do).

What I noticed in our last session was that for the most part, this Rogue is just Hiding behind cover, so like a rock or a tree. So, to me, if I send in a goblin to check the tree the Rogue just hid behind, then that goblin should be able to clearly see the Rogue just by walking around the tree. But the Rogue already beat the goblin's passive Perception to hide in the first place(back when he couldn't be seen so it made sense), and the rules I've seen imply that the goblin has to spend its action to Search for the 'hiding' Rogue.

Does this mean that the Rogue is essentially invisible until he decides to attack? And that he can Sneak Attack this goblin that's staring right at him (or stab him normally if by some miracle the goblin succeeds on a Perception test)? Or am I looking at this all wrong?

And yeah, I know there are plenty of tangentially related Stealth questions, but this seems like a weird edge case that I haven't seen addressed yet.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The same situation, but with melee attacks — rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/91366 \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jun 17 '18 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Enemy spellcaster turns boulder into Stone Golem. Oh, look - squishy rogue!" \$\endgroup\$ – Chronocidal Jun 18 '18 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you do do something like that though, remember to telegraph it - a battlefield with lots of boulders, the caster changes one near it to a Golem first, then wanders around the area and changes nearby boulders when the previous Golem dies. This gives the rogue a chance to skip from behind one boulder to another - and you could give advantage when the caster hasn't noticed the rogue move to another boulder to encourage this. Of course, the boss can't be properly finished off until all the boulders have been smashed or Golemed-and-killed, meaning there's no cover left for the rogue... \$\endgroup\$ – Chronocidal Jun 18 '18 at 9:40
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See? Yes. Notice? Maybe.

The rules on Hiding and stealth give a lot of leeway to a DM, so you are absolutely within your rights to declare that once a creature is looking directly at you, you cease to be hidden from it. But keep in mind a couple of important distinctions:

1. Hiding is different than being unseen

Any creature that is in a heavily obscured area, or invisible, or fighting a blinded enemy is "unseen". But a creature that is hiding is not only unseen, but also unheard, and generally unperceived. They might keep very still, or stand close to similarly colored parts of their surrounding, or compact their body so their silhouette no longer seems humanoid. In short, they are doing more than being out of line of sight.

As evidence of this distinction, consider the following on page 177 of the PHB:

An invisible creature can’t be seen, so it can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, however, and it still has to stay quiet.

To put it another way (and to quote a 2016 Errata in the PHB):

the question isn’t whether a creature can see you when you’re hiding. The question is whether it can see you clearly.

2. You can't Hide from a creature that sees you, but maybe you could remain hidden

The rules are clear that

You can’t hide from a creature that can see you clearly, (PHB, p. 177)

but note that this only rules out becoming hidden: it doesn't necessarily rule out remaining hidden. So as a DM, it will totally be up to you whether or not the Goblin will notice the already hidden rogue when they gain line of sight.

Keep in mind that combat is a chaotic and distracting place. As an example of what that level of chaos can do to perception, note how difficult it is to count how many passes the players in white make in this linked video.

Note, though, that once the hidden rogue attacks anything, they won't be able to hide (from the goblin) again, unless they've moved to some new location that the goblin can't see. The rules are clear that while you could remain hidden while visible, you can't hide.

3. Advantage/Disadvantage (on attacks) is not from being hidden, it is from being unseen

All the points above are meant to indicate that a creature could remain hidden while they are seen: that is, an enemy might not notice them, or might not know where they are. But that does not necessarily mean they will gain advantage on an attack roll against such an enemy.

Any place that the rules suggest a hidden creature will gain advantage on an attack, they justify this as a result of the hidden creature being unseen. Such as:

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. (PHB, p. 177, bold added)

And:

When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules in chapter 7 for hiding. If you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the “Unseen Attackers and Targets” section later in this chapter. (PHB, p. 192, bold added)

So the only real benefit a hidden character could get against an enemy that can see it is that the enemy might not notice them. This could cause an enemy to be surprised (first round of combat only) or to be unable to intentionally attack the hidden creature (because they don't know it's there). But a creature hidden in plain sight would not get advantage on attack rolls against a creature that could see them, regardless of whether or not they remain "hidden".

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    \$\begingroup\$ (Ironically, in a post about noticing things) I worry that the video I link to in point #2 might be easy to miss. And it's quite important to the point I'm trying to make, so I'm pointing it out in a comment as well. The goal is to count how many times people dressed in white pass the basketball. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jun 17 '18 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. So in my example, the goblin might not immediately notice the Rogue, until the Rogue made a motion to attack. Which keeps the goblin from attacking on its turn, but also denies the Rogue the chance for a sneak attack. I think that's a fair compromise, and at least gives me enough knowledge and flexibility to adjudicate at the table. \$\endgroup\$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 17 '18 at 22:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rules states you cannot hide if you are seen clearly. it does not make a difference from remaining hidden or becoming hidden.. you just cannot make hide check, so you are autmatically seen by someone looking at you, whether you have been hiding for 5 minutes or just trying to hide right this turn. \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly May 17 at 2:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly I disagree: there's a difference between "hide" and "remain hidden." Your point would be totally right if you needed to make a hide check every turn to remain hidden, but that's not the case. You only make them when you first hide. You then remain hidden until you stop being hidden (either by your actions or by those of others). \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme May 17 at 3:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant rules in PHB, p. 177: "When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence." Note "a Dexterity (Stealth) check" and "that check" are singular. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme May 17 at 3:10
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You can't hide if you can be seen.

PHB 177:

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.

No matter how good the Rogue is at hiding, if he can be seen, he loses the advantage from hiding. Therefore, if a goblin goes around the tree and sees the rogue, the rogue is no longer hidden from that goblin.

Also, attacking from hiding is something that's fully up to the DM, so you can adjudicate this however you'd like:

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.

This is phrased as "you can do it if you want," but you can also understand this as "you don't have to do it if you don't want to".

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    \$\begingroup\$ A ranger wearing a ghillie suit lying down in the undergrowth can be seen, it's just really hard to. Does this mean they can't continue hiding as soon as an enemy could technically notice them, even if it is extremely unlikely? \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Jun 17 '18 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri The sidebar on PHB 177 gives some rules for using passive perception, but I'd say that that's the kind of edge case that we have DMs for. If I were DMing that situation, I'd consider the specific conditions under which that was happening. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Jun 17 '18 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri I feel like the Ranger's level 10 Hide in Plain Sight ability is supposed to reflect the ranger's unique ability to do that well. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jun 17 '18 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CTWind I agree, but I think their "unique ability to do that well" is demonstrated by the +10 they receive to their stealth check. If Icyfire has the correct answer, it implies that not only is the Ranger the only class that can "do that well", they are the only class that can attempt to do this at all (and have the possibility of success). \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jun 17 '18 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the errata quoted in @Gandalfmeansme 's answer apply to the PHB quote in this answer? Not a D&D player so it's unclear to me what precisely "hiding" means in the 5e context, though it seems sensible enough that a treant could be considered "hidden" when mistaken for a tree, even if an enemy's looking right at it. \$\endgroup\$ – Nat Jun 18 '18 at 1:04
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You can't hide if foes know where you are

If the rogue is only ducking behind a tree or a rock then he can't hide. The enemies know where he is. "He's over there, behind that rock."

As soon as he peeks out to take a bowshot then he is visible and thus get no advantage.

Now, if the rogue ducked behind the rock and then stealthily moved to behind another rock without anyone seeing him then he is actually hidden and can attack with advantage. He's over there, behind that rock. Arrgghh! He's not! He's behind that other rock and he just shot me from behind!"

Remember that, "The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding." (PHB chapter 7). Not the player.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Since "the DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding," your answer is totally a valid decision you could make as a DM. But I don't think it's really supported by rules or designer statements. For example, a Lightfoot Halfling can hide behind a medium humanoid (PHB, p. 28, "Naturally Stealthy"). Sage advice has stated (page 2-3) that such an attempt takes requires a Stealth check, but can be attempted. If "you can't hide if foes know where you are," I feel like this would be impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jun 18 '18 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme: you are correct in the case of the Lightfoot halfling, but Sages also states that this is an exception to the normal hiding rule. \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Jul 26 at 1:30
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Page 177 of the 5e PHB provides a box on "Hiding" which several other answers have quoted.

Per the "Hiding" rules, the rogue is no longer hidden if...

  1. He is discovered by a creature's successful Perception check (passive or active).

NOTE: Per p. 193 of the PHB under "Search", the creature can take a Search action by devoting their attention to finding something. The DM decides whether to make the creature perform a Perception/Investigation check or not. However, since this is not a something but a someone, as a DM I would still allow for the Search action but stick with the Perception check per the "Hiding" box on page 177.

  1. He stops hiding.
  2. The creature can CLEARLY see him.
  3. He makes noise (i.e. shoots the gun which makes a very loud noise)

Of course, there's always the consideration of how obscured an area is, per p. 183 in the PHB. Lightly obscured = disadvantage on a Perception check; heavily obscured = blocks vision entirely, effectively suffering from the blinded condition. NOTE: Heavily obscured, depending on the situation, can also keep the rogue from seeing the creature, causing them to accidentally come upon each other.

Hope that helps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ NOTE: If you do not spend an action (or bonus action for some classes and monsters) EACH TURN, you effectively stop hiding. And each turn you want to spend an action or bonus action to hide, you must comply to all hiding requirements. \$\endgroup\$ – KilrathiSly Jul 26 at 1:28

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