I've just bought a starter set, and I'm struggling a little to understand the concept of hiding.

Do I roll 1d20 + Dexterity (Stealth) when I first want to hide, and note down the number - then, for each turn that a creature is actively looking, roll a Wisdom (Perception) check for it and compare this against the written value?

What about passive Perception? If a creature isn't actively looking, do I instead compare its "Wisdom (Perception) modifier + 10" to the written value?

And a slightly more general question - the rulebook isn't clear on what happens when a "check" results in a draw. Who "wins" here? In the example of hiding, who does a draw count in favour of?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Andrew, and welcome to RPG.stackexchange! The question about draws in opposed checks is of rather general application and I think it would be useful as a separate question --- would you mind asking it as a question of its own? \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. As kviiri suggested, if you have multiple separate questions, you should ask them separately - that way, each question can get the attention it deserves. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree with splitting up this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Mar 6, 2020 at 9:49

3 Answers 3


Hiding works pretty much like you think it does

Most of the relevant rules are freely available online, here.

1. Do I roll a d20 + DEX (stealth) when I first want to hide, and note down the number?

That's basically it. Generally the check will be requested by the DM when the player informs them that they wish to hide, rather than rolled pre-emptively by the player.

Remember, no one can hide in plain sight - a DM might not let you attempt to take the hide action if there isn't anywhere for you to conceivably hide. A mean DM might let you take the action but tell you it automaticially fails, if you try to hide somewhere inappropriate.

However long you remain hidden, normally you won't need to reroll a new stealth check, unless something changes.

2. Then, for each turn that a creature is actively looking, do they roll a WIS (perception) for it and compare this against the written value?

Right again, Wisdom (perception) is the normal way to detect the presence of something hidden.

That said, a creature wouldn't usually be 'actively looking' for multiple turns. Certainly a lot of DMs wouldn't allow that. If a failed check can be easily rerolled on the next turn then it has no consequence. Many DMs would tell the PC that 'it looks like maybe there was no one there after all' if they fail to find someone. Carrying on actively looking under those circumstances could be considered a bit meta-gamey.

I might occasionally allow a PC to reroll a failed perception check, but only if they had a good in-character reason to believe they'd missed something the first time. I certainly wouldn't let them roll every round. Whether you do is up to you - bear in mind this guidance from the DMG:

Sometimes a character fails an ability check and wants to try again. In some cases, a character is free to do so; the only real cost is the time it takes.[...] In other cases, failing an ability check makes it impossible to make the same check to do the same thing again.

If a PC wants to make a particular check with extreme care, taking more time in game to make sure they haven't missed something, then we could use passive checks which 'can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly'. However, that won't help them much as their passive perception should probably already be treated as the floor to their active perception rolls. That being the case, I would let them take 10 minutes and reroll instead.

3. If a creature isn't actively looking, do I instead compare its "WIS (perception) score + 10" to the written value?

Three in a row! That's the right way to calculate passive perception. Sometimes people notice things that they aren't actively looking for - just like real life.

4. What happens when a "check" results in a draw. Who "wins" here?

When two characters make competing ability checks this is what's called a Contest or an opposed check.

If the contest results in a tie, the situation remains the same as it was before the contest. Thus, one contestant might win the contest by default.

What does it mean when it says that 'the situation remains the same'? Luckily there's a couple of handy examples...

If two characters tie in a contest to snatch a ring off the floor, neither character grabs it. In a contest between a monster trying to open a door and an adventurer trying to keep the door closed, a tie means that the door remains shut.

So, in a contest where one creature is trying to hide and the other is trying to see them - nothing changes - the creature remains visible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note regarding your last sentence, if the creature has already successfully hidden, a tied result when someone is searching for them results in the situation staying the same (they remain hidden)! \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Mar 6, 2020 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aslum I know what you're saying, but I think that's DM's call. Has someone actually hidden until someone has failed to find them? Or have they just attempted to hide? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? ...I think I need a lie down. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    Mar 6, 2020 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Consider: Assassin hides in banquet hall during night. In the morning kitchen staff starts setting up for lunch (hide roll easily beats all of their passives). Just before lunch vizier sends a guard to check the room before the king comes in for lunch. Guard's perception matches hide roll... I'd posit that the Assassin was hidden at that point, so nothing changes. \$\endgroup\$
    – aslum
    Mar 6, 2020 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @aslum As I said, I can see what you're saying. I think there is probably enough ambiguity here for a separate question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    Mar 6, 2020 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ But the answer will likely be "ask your DM". Whether or not hiding is possible or when it's time to reroll will be up to them entirely. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Mar 6, 2020 at 16:02

While I agree with most all of accepted answer, I have an alternate take of what happens during a tie.

The "hider" wins the tie

Per the rules of hiding:

You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly, and you give away your position if you make noise, such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase. An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet.

If the pursuer can see you, you can't hide. Therefore, before a hide attempt can even be made, the pursued must be obscured in some way, or "hidden". Looking at the WM dictionary definition:

  1. : being out of sight or not readily apparent : concealed
  2. : obscure, unexplained, undisclosed

So if the pursued "is not seen clearly", which makes them "not readily apparent", and if they choose to take the Hide action, they are hidden (at least to the degree of their Stealth check). This becomes the default state.

If the pursuer gets to a place that would allow them to once again clearly see their prey, then they can make a Perception check. But the pursued is already in the state of Hidden so a tie means that they stay that way.

Now, with all that said, it is still up to the DM to say whether or not a person can hide in the first place, to give advantage to the search party, etc.

But in the end, something must be hidden in order for someone to search for it. If you already know where it is, then there is no search.


A refresher on Hiding

The description of how hiding works tends to trip people up, so let me break it down for you.

  1. A creature declares they are going to try and hide, they describe how they hide.
  2. The DM decides if that is a legitimate way to hide. If the DM says ok, then you are Hiding - you are unseen, continue with the steps.
  3. Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Your DM will take note of this number.
  4. The DM makes a passive Wisdom (Perception) check for each creature (usually each enemy creature) to see if they notice you, this is contested by your Stealth check from step 3. If the creature wins the check, then they notice. If they lose, they don't notice you. If it's a draw, the situation remains the same. Since you were unseen, you remain unseen.
  5. On subsequent turns, a creature can make a Wisdom (Perception) check to search for you, this check is contested by your Stealth check from step 3. If the creature wins the check, then they spot you. If they lose, they don't spot you. If it's a draw, the situation remains the same. Since you were unseen, you remain unseen.

The important things to note here are:

  • As soon as the DM oks you, you are hiding. Even if someone notices you, your PC is still huddled in a ball on the ground or behind a box or whatever.
  • The passive Wisdom (Perception) check in step 4 is for the searcher to spot the hider. The searcher cannot see the hider, so drawing means you still can't see the hider.
  • The Wisdom (Perception) check in step 5 is for the searcher to spot the hider. At this point the searcher cannot see the hider, so drawing the check means you still can't see the hider.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hiding and attempting to hide are not the same thing. It means nothing unless it is opposed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Mar 20, 2020 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TigerGuy I'm not sure what you are referring to here. The opposed checks are for other creatures to notice/search for the hiding creature. There is no opposed check required to attempt to hide, so long as "The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding." and "You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly" \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2020 at 1:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ That there is no "hiding" if there is no one to oppose. If a Rogue hides in the forest and no one is there to see it, he's just standing behind a tree quietly. Someone has to show up for him to be hiding. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Mar 20, 2020 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TigerGuy I don't see anything in the rules that indicates that you cannot hide unless there is someone observing you. Could you point me to where the rules say that? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2020 at 1:45

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