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I'm running an arena-style fight between a lot of PCs. It's now getting to the point that there are few enough PCs that they are beginning to take levels to counter one another.

One of the players is a Rogue. At lvl 11, the die roll for ability checks rounds up to 10 when they are proficient - for a rogue with a dexterity of 20 and expertise in Stealth, the minimum Stealth check is 23. Two levels later at 13, it rises to 25, and eventually to 27 at lvl 17.

The first situation is difficult enough for opposing characters, but by lvl 17, only Perception-proficient characters who have good Wisdom even have a chance of spotting the Rogue.

I know some of the casters have their own advantages in class features (Hold Person is pretty lethal), but those all require a save at least. The rogue can shoot from hiding every turn and re-hide, dealing several dozen damage and being near-impossibe to find.

Besides staying in open areas without places to hide, what could any other PCs do to have a chance at winning?

Both numerical and strategic considerations are appreciated. No UA or homebrew is allowed as a source, for obvious reasons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does "an arena-style fight" suppose there is nowhere to hide, doesn't it? \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Oct 2 '18 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Heavily related on hiding after you are revealed \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Oct 2 '18 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, it's a large arena. Something like 15 miles diameter with small biomes in it. \$\endgroup\$ – Bartimaeus Oct 2 '18 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ "clamped to a minimum of 10" would be more technically-accurate phrasing than "rounds up to 10". It's not a rounding function because it doesn't affect higher values. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Oct 3 '18 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes Wouldn't "rounding up" imply that it only affects values below 10? \$\endgroup\$ – walen Oct 5 '18 at 8:32
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There are several options, some more devastating than others.

I'll list my three favorite ones here:

Chase the Rogue

As Guildsbounty mentioned, a hidden Rogue isn't invisible: it just means their enemies have lost track of where they are. But their enemies still know where they were. You can run behind the last object you saw the Rogue go behind. Unless the rogue is moving particularly quickly, the Rogue is likely now visible. However, you should note that even while visible, the rogue may still be hidden. However, they at least will no longer be "unseen", which means they will not gain advantage on an attack roll made against their pursuer (which is crucial: more on that later).

Ready Actions

A rogue will give away their possition when they attack. So you can ready an action to injure the rogue when you locate him or her. This tactic is somewhat flawed for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you'll usually need to be attacked before you take your held action, which could mean you'll take considerable damage. For another thing, if you're a martial class you'll lose access to your Extra Attacks, and if you're a spellcaster you'll need to maintain concentration on your readied spell (particularly problematic if you're going to be attacked before you cast the spell). But still, it will permit you to do some damage to the rogue whenever it pops it attacks you. This leads me to a third and crucial tactic.

Give the Rogue Disadvantage on their attack

There are several ways to do this: you could become invisible yourself (or simply obscure your location through a spell like Darkness or Fog Cloud), or restrain the rogue somehow (like through the Entangle spell) or simply go prone if the rogue is using ranged attacks (and can't walk up to you safely). Whatever method you chose, you need to ensure that the rogue doesn't have advantage when attacking you.

Note that the rules on advantage and disadvantage state:

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage. (PHB, p. 173)

Since advantage and disadvantage cancel (no matter how many times each is applied), that means that if you somehow do something which imposes disadvantage on the rogue's attacks, the rogue cannot then gain advantage (no matter what other sources of advantage they have). The rogue will be attacking you without advantage, and (since this is PvP, presumably) without another enemy of yours within 5' of you. That means that you've removed one of their most essential features: their Sneak Attack. Without it, a rogue's damage output plummets. They're essentially a martial class with a single attack per round, and lower hit points.

A spellcaster who simply goes prone and readies a fireball (or more likely "shatter" to circumvent the Uncanny Dodge) every turn will quickly see the rogue's tactic fail spectacularly. A martial character may have a more difficult time, but they will likely find themselves dealing as much damage as the rogue every round if they ready actions while prone (again, make sure the rogue can't reach you), while sporting higher hit points.

No class is designed to be completely independent: we all rely on the support of our fellow party members in ways we may not even realize. A rogue, without companions to distract enemies or give them sneak attack opportunities, may find themselves acutely aware of how much their class is not designed to fight a canny enemy alone.


NOTE: Sneak attack does not require the Rogue to have an ally within 5' of their target, but rather an enemy of the target to be within 5' of it. So in a massive PvP arena, it's possible the rogue could still target a person who is imposing disadvantage on attack rolls, and still gain sneak attack. Particulars of the battle (how far away you can get from other characters, for example) will make this more or less effective.

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Two options, but first, something to understand...

Acquiring Stealth in combat means your opponent lost track of where you are right now, it does not mean that your previous location was erased from their mind. Nor does Stealth make you invisible.

Physically Go Looking For Them

Remember that Stealth stops working if it makes sense that it stopped working. If a Rogue is hiding behind a pillar and you walk around the side of the pillar to where you have practically run into the Rogue (obviously, they no longer have Cover or Concealment from you)...their Stealth fails because, as mentioned, they are not invisible...and there is no conceivable way they can continue hiding with nothing to hide behind.

So, a smart character will do like the guards do in Stealth games...go to the last place you saw that character, then check hiding places near where you last saw them. If at any point the seeker has a clear line-of-sight on the hider, they have found them.

In this case, it becomes a game of Cat and Mouse with the Rogue, where they have to Hide, then maneuver to somewhere they are likely to stay hidden even when the person they just shot comes looking for them.

Area of Effect abilities

If you know where you last saw that Rogue, there's no reason you couldn't just fill that corner of the room with a Fireball. A reasonably intelligent individual could look at the last place they saw the Rogue, make a ballpark guess about where they could be based on how fast you know they can move and where they could go and still be concealed from you, then just blow that entire area up.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Aside: If you're going to AoE, pick spells that don't do Dex Saves if you can....Rogues are really good at evading damage from those. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Oct 2 '18 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, if several PCs team up, and one of them yells out to the others "He's over there!" and point to the Rogue's exact location, it would make sense that Stealth stops working. \$\endgroup\$ – Acccumulation Oct 3 '18 at 20:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the second point. My first thought was "I fireball in your general direction!" \$\endgroup\$ – chrylis -on strike- Oct 4 '18 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty I think this answer would be better if you included that caveat about Rogues being good at Dex saves on AoE spells in the answer (given the question is specifically about dealing with a Rogue) \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Oct 5 '18 at 9:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Acccumulation Unfortunately not, another player can tell you the location so you don't have to guess, but it won't help you detect the rogue. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 21 at 2:47
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The ever handy "readied action"

Any player can ready an attack for when the rogue reveals himself, thus getting to act before the rogue is able to re-hide. Ranged attacks work best for this, of course, unless the PC is also the victim of the attack in which the rogue reveals himself.

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There a few options.

Ready an action

The non-rogue combatant can Ready an action and have the trigger be when their opponent emerges from hiding. The Rogue will need to break cover to make an attack, thus triggering the Readied action. For a Fighter that might mean picking up a bow and returning fire. For a Wizard, they might try Hold Person to prevent the Rogue from returning to Hiding. Any class should have at least a few choices.

Affect the terrain

The effectiveness of this option will depend on your arenas, but if there's only a few places to hide, it may be possible to destroy them. If the Rogue is repeatedly hiding in bushes, a nice Fireball (or other Fire spell, or some Alchemist's Fire for the non-casters) may limit or eliminate the Rogue's hiding places as the plant life bursts into flame. A non-caster might be able to smash the pillars or crates that the Rogue's been hiding behind. Remember that you can't Hide without something to Hide behind.

Find some cover

The converse of the previous option. If your arena is loaded with hiding places, there may be some where the non-Rogue combatant has Total Cover from the Rogue's hiding spot. This would force the Rogue to come out of hiding in order to get a line of sight on the other combatant.

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As mentioned, players aren't required to lose common sense when dealing with stealthed attackers the way NPCs often do in video games... A player may not be able to see the stealthed rogue, but as mentioned, they get to know where the rogue has been, and also could be, and possibly even must be. I can watch someone dash behind a rock and reasonably assume that they're still hiding behind it one round later if I didn't seem them come out the other side. Even if I'm wrong and they didn't stay behind it, I'm still entitled to put a lightning bolt or grenade there.

Stealthed characters can still be attacked, albeit with disadvantage, but a martial character with enough bonus to hit tries, could they win out in the end?

Rogues are the last class that traps would be effective against, but who knows, maybe magic/runes all over? Caltrops could help?

Perhaps they could also position themselves such that it only leaves one viable hiding spot that gives the rogue line of sight, then simply declare to put a ranged/AOE attack of their own in that spot after a predetermined delay.

Eliminate possible line of effect with cover/blizzard/tower shield

Eliminate possible line of sight with fog/darkness/inviz/etc.

As mentioned, AOEs are great, especially with entangling effects.

Maybe the player can even modify the arena itself by destroying hiding spots. Or the use of impromptu walls could force the rogue into spaces.

Flood the arena, if even only ankle deep, to impose massive disadvantage for sneaking around.

As mentioned, held actions might work, especially with mirror images or some such help.

I don't know if any detect spells might be feasible, but if you detect, say, a fair bit of magic coming off of the rogue's gear, it's a safe bet you found him.

Don't forget that even smell can be used to find hiding spots.

Perhaps the NPC manager of the arena even decides to intercede, especially if this is supposed to be a spectated event and fans get bored/irritated with not being able to see any action. If so, the arena itself could be altered, or starting conditions, gear, or whatever.

Ultimately though, perhaps the rogue is simply the best suited for your arena fights? After all, someone has to be the winner, right?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! I'm guessing that you are more familiar with 3.5 than 5e given your username and some things in your post. Note: in 5e there is no terms "line of effect" or "line of sight" and tower shields and held actions don't exist either. We appreciate you trying to answer and I think most of your advice carries over, but please note that we require answers to be deeply knowledgeable about the systems they are answering systems they are answering, so please do not try to answer 5e questions with only 3.5 knowledge. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 3 '18 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about who gives what advice to whom has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 4 '18 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ My understanding of 5e is that it is meant to emphasize DMing over rule-booking; much like how things were back in 1st edition. Your common-sense solutions are appreciated. \$\endgroup\$ – Brandon Kohn Oct 4 '18 at 15:12
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Broadly there are a number of good options for dealing with a Hidden Rogue:

  • Go searching for the Rogue
  • Be a spellcaster and use AoE to damage
  • Be a spellcaster and use spells to control the battlefield
  • Make yourself hard to hit

Go searching for the Rogue

Even during a PvP arena there can be temporary alliances. If the various participants agree that dealing with the hidden Sneak Attacking Rogue is an important objective, they can put aside their fighting to collectively gang up on the Rogue and take them out. A single Rogue will not fare well against the concerted effort of multiple other PCs hunting them in an arena.

This also has the advantage that the search party are temporarily not enemies while they are searching for the Rogue (and thus the Rogue doesn't get that trigger for Sneak Attack from them).

Be a spellcaster and use AoE to damage

The basic principle here is to use the AoE to wear the Rogue down by attrition. As has been mentioned Dex based AoE spells won't do much good, as Rogues will either be taking half damage, or no damage from Dex based saves. The rogue isn't necessarily incentivised to come out from damaging AoE spells...instead they are incentivised to continue their current strategy, but just to move far away from their attacking point after they attack.

Be a spellcaster and use spells to control the battlefield

The aim of these sorts of spells are to incentivise the Rogue to change their strategy by controlling the battlefield. These spells won't necessarily damage the Rogue, but may make their strategy of hiding then attacking impossible. For example, the Rogue is in one corner of the arena where there is lots of rubble to hide behind.

Wall of Fire or Wall of Light can block off the area the character is in, negating their current strategy and forcing them to move or be ineffective for a significant period of time.

Another option is a spell like Sickening Radiance. It creates a 30ft Radius Sphere of light, which spreads around corners. The duration is 10 minutes and each round a creature is in the sphere they need to make a Con save or take damage and a level of Exhaustion (they also can't be invisible while the light is around). That happens 6 times and they are dead. This sort of spell changes the calculation the Rogue needs to make about staying put (60ft diameter sphere is a significant area of most arenas).

Finally you can use spells that incapacitate an entire area (like Hypnotic Pattern) can be particularly effective to take the Rogue out of action for a while.

Storm Sphere is also a good option here as it makes it's area rough terrain, and allows you to attack things at range.

Make yourself hard to hit

Casting Greater Invisibility on yourself allows you to still be effective in combat, while negating the Rogue's Sneak Attack strategy (as they will have disadvantage on all their attacks).

Similarly making the Rogue blind (Hunger of Hadar or Darkness) will do the same thing. A Warlock with the ability to see through Magical Darkness (Eyes of the Dark I believe) could cover themselves in a shroud of darkness by making an object they are holding the source of the darkness. Everyone else has disadvantage to hit them, while also not giving them disadvantage to attack anyone else.

Failing that falling prone will have the same effect.

Combining the different options

You can of course combine some of these possibilities. For example, falling Prone, readying Blindness for when the Rogue pops out of their hiding space.

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What is the Hide action?

Hiding is when a character tries to be stealthy. They take an action or bonus action to take the Hide action. To do this you need a valid hiding spot where they cannot be clearly visible. Usually this means being behind a solid object, in a shadowy area, or behind mist or fog.

Varying situations have varying effectiveness for hiding. For example heavy fog makes you effectively blinded, making it hard to detect a hiding enemy. Light fog gives you disadvantage when trying to see a hiding enemy. If the rogue has total cover, then it is not possible to see them either. The best you can hope for in this situation is to be able to hear them.

Once they have a hiding place, they make a Stealth check and cannot be seen unless you beat that Stealth check with either Passive Perception or a Perception check.

If they make noise while hiding, then you can infer their location from the noise. If they attack, then you can infer their location from observing the attack.

While hiding they gain advantage on attacks, and attacks made against them first have to guess their current location, and even if they do the attack is made with disadvantage.

Hiding isn't a condition. You can't "remove hiding". You have to detect them with Perception. Even if your ally detects a hiding rogue, the best they can do is tell you their location. Even when everyone has detected the rogue, they continue hiding. Whether or not someone can see the hiding rogue is up to them.

Countering a hiding enemy

Prevent them from hiding

The simplest way to counter a hiding enemy is to prevent them from hiding. If they hide behind a box, destroy it. If they are hiding in the shadows, light a torch. If they are hiding in fog, I hope you have a way to remove fog!

Making hiding harder

If you can't destroy the box, walk around it to reduce their cover from total to 3/4, or from 3/4 to half, or half to none. If your torch doesn't illuminate them move closer so they are at least in dim light. If you can't get rid of the fog, there's not a lot you can do to make things harder.

Applying practically any condition will make it difficult if not impossible for a rogue to hide.

Get better at seeing things

5e has 4 kinds of sight:

  • Normal sight: just like a normal human
  • Blindsight: see in a radius, cannot be obstructed by anything
  • Darkvision: see in the dark
  • Truesight: like darkvision, but it works on magical darkness, you can see through illusions, invisiblity, shapechanging, and transmuted forms.

If you acquire one of these then your definition of "clearly visible" changes. If you have Darkvision then someone can't hide in the shadows. If you have Blindsight then someone can't hide behind a box.

You can also just increase your perception score. You can do this by increasing your Wisdom score, taking a class that lets you apply your proficiency bonus to perception, taking a feat to grant you bonuses to wisdom/perception.

There are also items that grant you senses, increase your skill checks, increase your wisdom, or your proficiency bonus.

You can also acquire a familiar or ally who is talented at perception.

Take actions to counter them

You can take the Search action to look for them. They won't know if you have spotted them or not, this may force them to hide again, wasting a (bonus) action, or be in a risky situation. By taking Rogue 3 the player can select the Inquisitive archetype, allowing them to Search as a bonus action.

You can also walk close to them, walk around the box they are hiding behind.

If you have a summon or familiar, then they may be able to communicate the hiding enemy's location to you if they can see them. This won't help you see the enemy, but if you know their location then you won't have to guess.

Herd them into a corner. There probably isn't infinite hiding places, the rogue will want to stay where they have advantageous terrain. Don't let them.

Place traps. A string and a bell can tell you exactly where they are. If you can restrict the rogue to an area (rig the door of a building to jam shut) then they have a huge problem.

Ready an action to counter them. When they attack or make noise their location becomes known, you can now easily fire off a spell or move towards them without concern. You can also ready an action when they try to hide. One simple counter method is to ready an action to search for the rogue if they try to hide. Sometimes it will fail, but sometimes you will immediately counter them and you can spend your whole next turn doing whatever you want.

Walk just around the corner, then ready an action to attack as soon as the rogue is in range. The curious rogue will be forced to come in to range only to be slugged in the face. You could grapple, or use a control spell instead.

Remove their advantages

A hiding rogue gains advantage. This can be removed easily by giving them disadvantage. If you drop prone attacks against you from more than 5ft away have disadvantage. You can also move in to cover, into fog, into shadows, etc, just the way the rogue does.

You can also gain total cover yourself, preventing any attack. Just stand behind a box or a tree yourself.

Don't fight them in a dense forest. Disengage, run, escape. Fight them in an open plain where they can't hide.

Ignore their advantages

You can still attack them and target them with spells, you just have to guess their location and you have disadvantage. There is plenty you can do against a hidden target without ever doing anything to counter their ability to hide.

Fire AoE attacks, accept that sometimes you will miss and fire targeted attacks. The most frustrating thing for a rogue is to see all their handwork gone to waste because the enemy simply doesn't care.

Dictate the fight

A rogue is at its best when they can fight in an environment with tons of hiding places, a situation where they have advantage to hiding and you have disadvantage to perception.

However, other classes can have their strengths too. A twisting maze of sharp corners is a rogue's nightmare, but a barbarian will excel at chasing down and pummeling the rogue. An open field will give a ranger the clear line of sight and distance they need to eliminate a rogue before they can do anything.

Think about the class you are playing, and what your ideal engagement looks like. Only fight the rogue if the conditions are right. Otherwise, disengage, escape, run. Fight another day.

You can also put the rogue on the back foot, even in their ideal terrain. Be the aggressor and force them to react to you. Once a fighter has a grapple on the rogue, or a wizard lands a control spell, the rogue will be scrambling to react. Keep on the offensive and force the rogue to spend their actions reacting to you instead of playing cat and mouse like they would love.

Ultimately, hiding isn't that strong

Every class has counters, and even someone without a class can use ready, search, and has the autonomy to move around. Remember that the rogue has to plan a lot, engineer the situation a lot, and do a lot, to remain effective. The rogue is probably using their move, bonus action, and action. They are doing everything they can to function. They can be easily countered by dozens of strategies.

Don't let the rogue win by fighting smart, when you are fighting dumb.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A note about rogue mechanics: Rogues have 1 attack. If a Warrior misses, they still have a few more attacks. If a rogue misses, they have done essentially nothing all turn. They rely heavily on advantage to make this happen. Removing advantage is amazing against a rogue. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Nov 21 at 4:05

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