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The question: does Hide make you difficult to see, or difficult to locate?

Some additional questions to (hopefully) help lead to an answer:

A Rogue, attempts to Hide and makes a Dexterity (Stealth) check.

A Wizard, an enemy of the Rogue, fails to detect the Rogue with their Passive Perception.

The Wizard does not at any time attempt a Search action to locate the Rogue. So, other than Passive Perception and making a Wisdom (Perception) check:

  1. In any circumstance is it possible for the Wizard to see the Rogue?

  2. If the Wizard does manage to see the Rogue without beating the Stealth check, is the Rogue no longer Hidden?

  3. Is it possible for the Wizard to know the Rogue's location?

  4. If the Wizard does manage to know the Rogue's location, does that mean the Rogue is no longer Hidden?

For clarification: whether or not "Hidden" is the correct term is irrelevant to the question. The Rogue is Hiding with respect to the Wizard. Questions 2 & 3 ask if the Rogue will no longer be Hiding with respect to the Wizard should those scenarios occur.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There is a debate about whether Hide hides your presence entirely or just your location in this question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/157842/… \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given your linked question: Is this question specifically connected to whether its the player making the Hide roll or the DM making the roll in secret? \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Oct 17 '19 at 9:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega wow sorry about the title, I typed it on my phone and autocorrect destroyed it. Your question 'what check are you referring to': I am talking about one character that used Hide (Dexterity (Stealth) check) vs another that has not taken the Search (Wisdom (Perception) check) and has (by some circumstances) "seen" or "located" the Hider. \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ No. I will edit the post to clarify that the Hider has already successfully Hidden from the other character. Situations for 1 and 3 respectively are: 1. If the Hider peeks out of cover to shoot a bow, or if the Hider is in non-total concealment. 3. The Hider attacks 'revealing their location', (I don't know any other examples where someones location is explicitly revealed in combat) \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SamsyTheUnicorn I'm hoping the answer to this question will help lead to an answer there :) If we can't even agree what Hiding does then it's really hard to talk about any circumstance where someone is Hidden. \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 13:02
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I am going to go in an order to facilitate understanding and not strictly by sub-question number.

2. & 4. on "is no longer hidden": Hidden is not a condition

You are hiding until you are continuing to sneak around. It is not a mechanical condition, but an activity, something your character does. Getting spotted only necessitates that you roll another check:

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. (PHB 177)

I would personally assume that "are discovered" means that someone notices you and warns others of your presence. Otherwise your allies spotting you would necessitate a new check, which seems illogical.

You also might be hidden from one creature but not another. As we see above, your Stealth check is contested by passive perception. Thus it might be that you succeed against one creature, but not another. Also, you can try to hide from one creature while another one clearly sees you (eg. an ally). Again, hidden is not a condition, it is a relationship between two creatures.

1. Various things can make you not hidden from someone

You can't hide from a creature that can see you. (PHB 177)

The main thing here is that you need concealment to be hidden from someone. It can be lost in a variety of ways:

  • The rogue hid behind a crate and the wizard simply walks over to the other side of it so that the crate is not between them anymore.
  • The crate is destroyed (eg. by the wizard casting shatter), revealing the rogue that was behind it.
  • The rogue hid in darkness against the human wizard who then casts light.

Basically, if you are in a situation where you could not take the hide action to hide from someone, you cannot remain hidden from them.

Also

If you are hidden - both unseen and unheard - when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses. (PHB 195)

3. Hidden does not strictly mean unknown location

From the above quote we can see that a hidden creature is unseen and unheard. It is technically possible to be those while your location is known, eg. you are in an area of darkness and silence. In general, though, I would rule that if your location is revealed, you are "discovered" and will have to hide again.

Knowing the location of a hidden creature allows you to target them without having to guess their location (see PHB 194-5).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I understand your argument, and I think what you are saying is very important in understanding how Hide works. In fact I asked earlier if a creature knows it is Hidden, to which your response would be perfect. However for this question I'm not sure how it answers the question. Your answer for 1 is fine. Your answer for 2,3,4 is about 50% of the way there but I feel like I'm connecting the dots myself. Are you saying that 2/3/4 don't affect a characters ability to act as if Unseen and Unheard (with respect to the other creature)? \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 12:44
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The "Hide" action vs. the "Hiding" rule

The "Hide" action is simply the method in which you utilise the "Hiding" rule, both of these are related to the "Unseen Attackers and Targets" rule.
In a previous question you posted, I left an answer which explains these rules more in depth, and to quote a section from there:

"When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules for hiding. If you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the "Unseen Attackers and Targets" section later in this section."
As you can see, the "Hide" action is simply the method in which you enter hiding, all the rules for the "Hide" action are described in the "Hiding" rule, rather than the "Hide" action itself, the benefits gained from "Hiding" are the benefits gained from successful use of the "Hide" action, which are yet to be explained...

Your Questions

To answer your package of 4 questions:

  1. If you are considered as hiding per the "Hiding" rule and "Hide" action, you can't be seen unless someone attempts a Wisdom (Perception) check, or their passive Perception exceeds your earlier Stealth check. However, you can also be seen if your DM decides you make an action that considers you to be no longer hiding, like running from one place to another through the visual detection area of vision of a creature.
  2. Yes, this is what I refer to when I say the DM decides if you are no longer hiding. In some situations if you move during your turn to attack an enemy from a hiding place the DM might rule in your favour that it's a surprise, but if you move into a visible space and end your turn, most DMs would consider you to no longer be hidden.
  3. Yes, if you hide behind a single tree with nothing around it, it's pretty clear you're behind that tree. While there isn't much on this from what I can find in the Basic Rules document, there is a sort of Common Sense clause surrounding situations like this.
  4. Yes, again, if the DM decides you are no longer hiding due to the fact you are seen, you are no longer hiding.

Ultimately, with the "Hiding" rule and "Hide" action, it's much like any other part of D&D 5e, the DM has final decision. If you're sitting on a bench in clear light with a creature staring right at you, there's no rule, without being sneaky about it, that would make you hidden from sight.

If you still have confusion surrounding these stealthier of rules, I'd recommend checking out this answer or approach one of the many D&D Discord servers or subreddits to receive one-on-one help as you appear to have more questions as more is explained. Some tutoring on the rule can help with that.

As further edits have come out and comments against what I believe to be helpful answers have emerged, I feel I have to address the following comment:

"I know you, NautArch, SamsyTheUnicorn, Szega, and others have been doing a great job, but I'm very picky and I'm not quite seeing some dots connect - and unfortunately to me they are important dots like "does Hide make you unseen" and "does knowing someones location negate their Hide" :/"

So, "does hide make you unseen", read the "Hide" action and "Hiding" rule: "You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly", therefore to hide you must be unseen or at least not visible enough the rules would have you stated as unseen, which is decided on by the DM.

Further, "does knowing someones location negate their Hide", "Hide" is not a condition, whether or not you are hidden or more accurately, subject to the "Hiding" rule, is up to the DM. Typically, if you know where someone is, you can use that knowledge for an attack, but whether or not you see someone is subject to various other rules I have already mentioned; particularly in regards to the "Hiding" rule for being unseen, it's up to the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 17 '19 at 14:17
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First I feel I need to point out that you can know where something is located without necessarily seeing it.

If I saw my friend walk into a small closet, then I know they are in the closet. Even if they are behind the door and not directly visible.

To your specific questions. Given that the rogue has successfully made a Stealth check and beaten the wizard's passive perception (for the sake of argument, even if the wizard had been actively looking, they could still fail: it makes no difference):

1) No, the wizard cannot see the rogue. That was the point of the Stealth check. If the rogue moves or does something else though, the DM could decide that another Stealth check is required which must beat the wizard's (probably passive) Perception check to avoid revealing their presence.

2) Since the wizard cannot, by definition, see the hidden rogue due to failure of their Perception check, then this question becomes irrelevant.

3) The wizard could know the rogue's location if, for example, an ally does make a successful Perception check (or has a very high passive Perception) and says "Hey, wizard! Look out for that guy lurking behind the pot plant!".

4) Given 3, the rogue is no longer hidden (which, as @Szega has pointed out, is not a "condition" as far as the rules ago, but just a general state of being). The wizard may still not be able to see the rogue immediately - who may still have cover behind the tree/wall/bed/whatever - but they know exactly where they are and would probably easily be able to move into a position to look behind the tree/wall/bed/whatever in order to shoot them with a nice fire bolt.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My only concern with this is the final bit (and why I was kinda asking about the scene.) If the wizard isn't actively looking because they don't know to look. Then someone could hide by the bed and be successful. The wizard could walk to a position where they 'could' see them, but the failed passive has them not notice. Hidden in plain sight, if you will. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 17 '19 at 13:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: I agree the Stealth rules are kinda vague and you have to interpret them appropriately. As a DM I would either assume the rogue managed to slip beneath the bed as the wizard walked around (if they rolled well on their Stealth) or maybe make them roll another Stealth check to see if they manage to slip under the bed without notice. Unless the wizard was warned by someone who DID see the rogue of course, as per my answer! \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Oct 17 '19 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, I think it's definitely possible for someone who isn't very attentive to just walk past someone hiding in plain sight. I have seen this happen plenty of times in real life, people don't notice most of what they see. My qualms are that in 3. usually once one person detects them, everyone knows (although I play it the same as your description when I dm), but with any other way of knowing location then it's good. ... \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ And in 4. you say the Rogue is no longer hidden with respect to the Wizard. But why? The wizard can't see the rogue and "No, the wizard cannot see the rogue. That was the point of the Stealth check." So, A. where does it say that Hiding makes you Unseen? and B. where does it say knowing the location is equivalent to succeeding the Wisdom (Perception) check? \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know you, NautArch, SamsyTheUnicorn, Szega, and others have been doing a great job, but I'm very picky and I'm not quite seeing some dots connect - and unfortunately to me they are important dots like "does Hide make you unseen" and "does knowing someones location negate their Hide" :/ \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 14:14
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Looking at this issue differently

I think there is potentially a fundamental issue hiding (sorry) behind the scenes here. A lot of 5e doesn't have specific rules for every situation, and that is really the intent to give DMs a basic structure but to let me them run their tables as they see fit.

A lot of the theoretical scenarios you're asking about fall directly into this. The stack is a great place to get some clarification on specific scenarios, but keeping them general so that the specifics aren't known to help guide an answer is going to lead to the problem that you're having: that there isn't specific RAW direction for how to address each and every possible scenario.

It's why the stack does much better when there is a real situation that needs help. We can drill down with the asker to figure out the nuance that may be important. When things are purely theoretical, it gets very difficult to answer because of what may be key missing information.

I'd recommend that rather than trying to come up with a rule for case, you look at the general rules regarding Hiding and then try to apply them in a fun, fair, and engaging way at your table. If the players (or the DM) doesn't like how something went, it can be changed - and that's okay!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have changed my answer to include some more details, you can take it as "is there any potential scenarios that would fit this?". But the fundamental question is still "Does Hiding make it hard for people to see you, or locate you?" I think this is fundamental enough that if there is no resolution then the entirety of Hide is GM fiat. While you are right that the GM will decide, I want to know if the GM decides because I don't know the rules, or if the GM decides because the rules don't exist :) \$\endgroup\$ – pwi Oct 17 '19 at 13:18
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Without reading the linked question, here is my understanding:

Hiding uses your Stealth skill, that means a Stealth check is required to find you. If your enemies or friends have passive stealth too low, they will not know where you are, at least not implicitly, unless you give them a sign that you are there.

If any party member or NPC has sufficient passive perception, they may already know your position, and that is completely DM fiat

Never assume that because you are hiding that you are hidden

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    \$\begingroup\$ Finding someone is a Perception check. Also, passive perception is not DM fiat. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 17 '19 at 9:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ A perception check is only made if a DM applies passive perception (DM fiat) or if a player is asking if they can hear/see/smell/taste/etc something \$\endgroup\$ – David Wilkins Oct 17 '19 at 9:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Applying passive perception is not fiat, it is RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 17 '19 at 9:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidWilkins like Szega says, Passive Perception is not a DM Fiat/Variant/Houserule, and this is supported in the "Hiding" rule: dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/using-ability-scores#Hiding However, not using the rule is itself a Houserule. \$\endgroup\$ – SamsyTheUnicorn Oct 17 '19 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Passive Perception is used to identify what the DM should tell the player without the player having to ask. That's what makes it Passive. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Oct 17 '19 at 13:49

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