I've already asked a few questions on this topic (e.g. How to handle weapons having been hidden with sleight of hand?) but this one is a bit different.

In one of my campaigns I have a player playing a multiclassed Hunter ranger/Thief rogue. They put their Expertise in the Sleight of Hand and Perception skills. They're wondering if they can use the Thief's Fast Hands class feature to draw a previously hidden weapon and gain the benefit of Sneak Attack.

The idea is that if the Investigation roll of the enemy were lower than the ranger/rogue's Sleight of Hand roll, the ranger/rogue could add Sneak Attack damage to their attack, even if they don't have advantage or otherwise qualify for Sneak Attack.

Would this houserule - allowing Sneak Attack damage on an attack made with a previously hidden weapon - cause any mechanical issues or balance issues?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking whether a houserule that allows Sneak Attack in that specific circumstance (which does not normally allow you to do Sneak Attack) is balanced? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 25 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes sorry ill edit to make it clearer. I am unsure how to make characters bold though XD \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 25 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Deceptecium, I edited your post. I don't think I changed your meaning at all, but please review it and make any changes (including rolling back) if you find it doesn't match what you really mean. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jan 25 at 22:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you and yes that is the point I am trying to get across ^.^´. I want to allow it for rule of cool but worried it might cause them to mechanically outshine other characters. \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 25 at 23:23

This is fine

What you are proposing is mechanically weaker than just giving the rogue advantage for attacking with a hidden weapon. The game encourages you to apply advantage whenever situational things favor one side of a roll more than the other, which could certainly apply to this situation. Ruling that a hidden weapon is enough to allow sneak attacks but not enough to apply advantage on the attack roll thus creates a new middle ground that is certainly not overpowered compared to your previously existing options.


Allowing Sneak Attack with a hidden weapon is probably balanced

What you are proposing is essentially a contested check, with the rogue's Sleight of Hand against the target's Investigation, that grants Sneak Attack upon success. This is actually quite similar to an existing class feature from another Rogueish Archetype: the Inquisitive's Insightful Fighting:

As a bonus action, you can make a Wisdom (Insight) check against a creature you can see that isn’t incapacitated, contested by the target’s Charisma (Deception) check. If you succeed, you can use your Sneak Attack against that target even if you don’t have advantage on the attack roll, but not if you have disadvantage on it. This benefit lasts for 1 minute or until you successfully use this feature against a different target.

You could create a similar ability for your rogue player modeled on this ability. The main differences are that Insightful Fighting requires a bonus action, uses different skills, and lasts for 1 minute. In your case, the 1-minute duration doesn't make sense. Once the hidden weapon is used in an attack, it is no longer hidden, so it only makes sense for the benefit to apply to the first attack. In return for this, you could allow the rogue to make an off-hand attack with the same bonus action they used for this ability, using the normal rules for two-weapon fighting. So, something like:

Concealed Weapon

As a bonus action, you use a free hand to draw a melee weapon from a hidden sheath and make a melee attack with it in one swift motion. Make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, contested by the target's Intelligence (Investigation) check. If you succeed, you can use your Sneak Attack for that attack even if you don’t have advantage on the attack roll, but not if you have disadvantage on it. If you are already holding one weapon when you use this ability, you must follow the rules for two-weapon fighting as normal.

Since this new ability is based on an existing 3rd-level Rogue feature and functions similarly to it, you can be fairly confident that it won't cause major balance issues. However, you are essentially adding a new class feature, so in return you should consider asking your player to sacrifice one of their existing 3rd-level class features (for the Thief archetype, that would mean trading away 2nd Story Work or Fast Hands). This trade-off is something you may need to tweak over time once you see how powerful the ability turns out to be in practice.

Based on your comments, here is an alternate simpler version of the ability that doesn't grant the extra bonus attack or have any special interactions with two-weapon fighting:

Concealed Weapon (alternative version)

As a bonus action, you use a free hand to stealthily draw a melee weapon from a hidden sheath. The first time you attack with this weapon within the next minute, make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, contested by the target's Intelligence (Investigation) check. If you succeed, you can use your Sneak Attack for that attack even if you don’t have advantage on the attack roll, but not if you have disadvantage on it.

The typical usage of this ability would be to draw the weapon as a bonus action and then attack as normal with your action, possibly gaining Sneak Attack.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you this is perfect!! I'm just gonna tweak it a bit because they don't use two weapon fighting they do one handed and use bonus action for cunning action or fast hands. I think for the solution im gonna make it part of sleight of hand in general. Using sleight of hand you can use your action to draw a previously hidden weapon. Contested skill challenge on a success your first attack with the weapon has advantage. This interaction can be used by fast hand thief feature (This way any class can hide a weapon and utilize it. This is limited by the number of weapons hidden before combat) \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 25 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Deceptecium I've added an alternate version that doesn't assume two-weapon fighting. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan Thompson Jan 26 at 0:00

Yes, this could cause balance issues

Mechanically, the interaction you describe could give the enemy the Surprised condition, but that's where things start to get hairy.

The problem

One of the conditions for Sneak Attack to apply is if you have advantage on the attack roll. Since Surprised doesn't grant you advantage, you're faced with houseruling Surprised to say that it does grant advantage, that's a potentially dangerous precedent to set. If your whole party later ambushes someone, the enemy losing a round of combat AND the party having advantage on that first round has the potential to be very strong.

Currently, I'm not aware of a rule that allows for what you're attempting. This is getting into the realm of video game-style sneak combat, where you sneak up behind an enemy and "stealth kill" them by breaking their neck or similar. The danger you face here is if the players start to get away with stuff like this, they're going to want to try to do it all the time. D&D isn't designed to handle things like this through regular gameplay, so it becomes tough to bend the system to fit.

The other option you face is granting Sneak Attack in extra scenarios beyond those int eh rules, and this could again set a dangerous precedent that could effectively end up granting the PC a constant damage bonus.

The solution: Use a Skill Challenge

What you could instead use is an adapted version of a 4th-Edition mechanic called a Skill Challenge. This essentially boils down to the PC having to make a series of rapid-fire skill checks and getting a certain number of successes before a certain number of failures. You're already using multiple skills here, so this could translate nicely. This allows the following:

  1. allows for the PC to use their skills in a meaningful way while still allowing for failure
  2. doesn't potentially break the mechanics of existing 5E rules
  3. makes it challenging enough to pull off that the PC likely won't be able to spam this trick.

It also lends itself nicely to cinematic descriptions of what happens - spectacular success or failure is still spectacular, after all.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @ G.Moylan. The 4e skill challenge sounds great and I will test it out for determining the Suprised Condition. What I am wondering is if adding an additional prerequisite for sneak or onto the sleight of hand hiding A weapon rule. That if attacking a creature with a weapon that they are unaware of (investigation vs. Sleight of hand) would grant sneak attack/ or advantage. Its not in the rules I'm just curious if adding a benefit to a character keeping a dagger hidden with sleight of hand would be unbalanced to have a mechanical reward other than it not getting taken away by guards etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 25 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Deceptecium I meant more along the lines of using the Skill Challenge to grant the outright kill, which is what I assumed you were going for. As far as advantage, it's a powerful thing to just hand out, even though 5E does this liberally. What I would do is use the skill challenge and have the PC roll skill checks for Sleight of Hand, Deception, and/or maybe Stealth,and if they succeed and can describe how the skills helped them, you could give them whatever bonuses you wanted \$\endgroup\$ – G. Moylan Jan 25 at 23:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oooh ok yeah I'm not going for Insta kill feature just have a player who wants to know if the theatrical dirty fighting they are doing could do more than let them sneak a weapon into a weapon free zone \$\endgroup\$ – Deceptecium Jan 25 at 23:33

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