Inspired by discussion in the comments on this question.

Successfully hiding is normally the result of a 'contest' sometimes known as an 'opposed check'. The person attempting to hide makes a Dexterity (Stealth) roll contested by the Wisdom (Perception) of the person who may or may not be able to see them.

In the case of a tie between these two rolls:

the situation remains the same as it was before the contest. Thus, one contestant might win the contest by default.

How should this ruling be applied with regards to hiding? If, in the event of a tie, 'the situation remains the same as it was before the contest' does that always means the hider has failed to hide? Or can it sometimes mean the hider stays hidden?

Consider the following scenarios (assume hiding is possible and allowed by DM in each and that hider has rolled 15 on stealth):

  1. Hider is chased through a fairly dense forest, gets a little distance between them and their pursuer and attempts to hide. The chaser quickly approaches their hiding place, with a perception check of 15, tieing their stealth roll - result: they failed to hide successfully and are spotted.

  2. Hider is chased through a forest by multiple pursuers, one pretty observant but unfit, one moderately fit but a bit of a daydreamer. The hider, as in scenario 1, gains a little distance on their pursuer and attempts to hide. First on the scene is the Daydreamer, with a perception check of only 12 they blunder straight on, past the hider, deeper into the undergrowth - the hider has successfully hidden from them. Seconds later, the more Observant, but less fit, pursuer comes panting and puffing into view and with their perception check of 15 they tie the hider's stealth roll. What happens next?

    a. Does the hider remain hidden? We've already had an opposed check which has concluded that they have successfully hidden. So, if we resolve the tie by the situation 'remaining the same' then does that mean the hider remains hidden? That would mean that the pursuer's chances of finding their quarry had been actively harmed, rather than helped by their companion. Their chance of finding him is now 5% worse.

    b. Or, is the hider discovered? Can we argue that the first contested check is entirely unrelated to the second? The first situation has resolved that the hider is hidden with respect to the Daydreamer. But in the second check the hider (with the same stealth roll) is attempting to hide from someone different. With respect to the observant pursuer they have failed to successfully hide and so are spotted.

Finally, is the result of any of the above scenarios changed if the amount of time that elapses between actions (hiding v. percieving) is lengthened?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "hidden", exactly? There is no such term in the 5e mechanics (that's it, there is no "hidden" condition). Being aware of someone's presence is a narrative difference, not a mechanical one. Also, "Unseen Attackers and Targets" rule is supposed to be used in combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor I am intending the plain English meaning. Perhaps for context see my answer (part 4) and the resultant discussion on the linked question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:18

5 Answers 5


In the event of a tie, the default state is 'not hidden'

The default assumption of the game is that you can see each-other. You hide in an attempt to change that state, so if a perception check ties with somebody's hide check, that hide attempt has failed against that person. Even if you are invisible, your location is still known by default.

However, you seem to be ruling that a group of enemies will always be aware of the same enemies, as if they're some kind of hive mind. This isn't actually supported by the rules.

When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the GM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden–both unseen and unheard–when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

'Hidden' isn't some form of magical state that is on or off, it's simply the idea of being hidden from somebody. If I hide from you, and you fail to spot me, but your friend does, you do not become aware of my position right away. However, your friend can point out where I am hiding, at which point you would know my location and can attack with disadvantage, despite not being able to see me.

I assume your confusion stems from this line on hiding:

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.

You read this as "once you are discovered, your hide ends and nobody needs to compare their perception anymore". I read this as "once you are discovered by a creature, that creature doesn't need to contest with perception anymore until you hide from them again". That does not mean you could not still be hidden from other creatures.

So in your scenario:

  • Fit guy comes up to hider's location, doesn't spot him and keeps running.
  • Slow guy comes up to hider's location, spots him and stops to confront the hider.

At this point, fast guy does not know where the hider is hidden and depending on how much faster he is than slow guy, he might already be out of range when fast guy starts shouting that he's found the hider.

Some examples:

Positional hiding: Imagine a wall. I'm standing behind it, so I'm hidden from you. You walk around the wall and instantly spot me because I'm not hidden behind anything anymore, but unless you let your friend on the other side of the wall know where I am, they don't know where I am hidden.

Hiding in darkness: You are a human, you lack darkvision. I'm a sneaky Drow and I know you can't see me, so I roll a stealth check to hide my sounds and I walk up to you, you are unable to see me so I am hidden. However, your friend standing next to you has darkvision and they can see me perfectly well, so I'm not hidden from them, even if my stealth check beats their perception check. They can point out my location to you, at which point you can attack with disadvantage in the location they indicate. (If they can somehow indicate a location you can discern in pure darkness, that is, for example "straight ahead of you")

Being invisible: I'm invisible, so I attempt to hide so you can no longer discern my location by sound. I succeed in beating your perception and I am now hidden, you have no idea where I am and you have to guess my location. Your friend beats my hide check, so he knows my location, but he still can't see me. I realize this, and I attempt a new hide check, now neither of you beat the check and I am hidden from both. Your friend, being a cunning wizard, casts a spell that allows him to see invisible creatures. I am still hidden from you, but your friend can now see me clear as day so I am no longer hidden for him.

In short, you can be hidden from one person and not from somebody else.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tiggerous They'd be hidden from fast guy who failed, but for the slow guy who ties he is no longer hidden. When you're hiding, you try to contest the default state of "you can see me". Somebody who ties means you don't change from "you can see me" to "you can't see me". It doesn't matter if it's a tie or you beat the roll by 10, the result is the same, you failed to hide from that specific creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik So, If someone had hours to prepare their hiding place, they'd still be contesting the default state of 'you can see me'? The perciever would never be contesting a defualt state of 'I can't see you'? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu That's a good seperate question. Of the top of my head, it doesn't state anywhere. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:18
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tiggerous Correct. A generous DM might rule that because they've made a lot of preparations, they can roll with advantage because they have a good hiding spot, but the default state of seeing people is that you can be seen. Look up some questions about invisibility for a similar situation, even though you are invisible and literally can not be seen, you still aren't hidden unless you use the hide action to stop making sound. The game, by default, assumes that people are aware of your location once you're nearby. \$\endgroup\$
    – Theik
    Mar 10, 2020 at 9:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Theik to be clear I think your answer as written is correct and answers the question as written, I just think that the subject as a whole is slightly more nuance then 'the default state is always not hidden' regardless of the history of attempting to hide up til that point. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 10, 2020 at 23:11

The "hider" wins the tie

In the linked question, you'll note that the accepted answer states that the default state is "not hidden" but most of the comments, while agreeing with most of the answer, argue that one point.

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.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While I can see your point of hidden becoming a default state, and have looked into it and found ways this can be logically supported. I don't like your answer because you used a lexical definition to back up what it means to be hidden when 5e clearly uses its own stipulative definition for being hidden. You are working on a weird equivocation where one meaning of the word backs up the other, but it is an equivocation none the less. By that lexical definition you are hidden simply by being invisible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 10, 2020 at 19:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Dezvul, I tried to be very careful in my wording, but I thought I made the distinction. The dictionary term is to show that a character has the opportunity to take the Hide action, not that they are automatically hidden. That is also why I said "to the degree of their Stealth check"; if they get a low score, then even a passing glance will still see them. Simply put, the character is in the state of "being hidden", regardless of how good or bad, prior to someone else trying to Perceive them. So in the case of a tie, they remain hidden until something changes (they move, more seekers, etc) \$\endgroup\$
    – MivaScott
    Mar 10, 2020 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ The distinction is there, but I still feel that using a lexical definition to back up a specific scenario of a stipulative definition is weird, and it doesn't feel right. You used the need to be 'hidden' in order to take the hide action to support that you are in the state of being 'hidden' before hiding. But doesn't the enemy normally know where you are until after you take the hide action regardless of visibility? This is what is changed by taking the hide action, and the rule for tied contests is that things remain as they were before the contest. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 10, 2020 at 20:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ It just seems like flawed logic to me, which is natural when a fallacy exists. The state of being hidden definitely has a duality of meanings in your answer; which is an equivocation fallacy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dezvul
    Mar 10, 2020 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dezvul I would argue that point ... I don't see a good basis for all members of group A seeing all members of group B - and vice versa under all conditions ... \$\endgroup\$
    – eagle275
    Mar 11, 2020 at 9:49

In your scenarios, the hider wins.

In my mind, this is simple.

the situation remains the same as it was before the contest.

Well, the situation before the contest is that the pursuing creature is unaware of the exact location of the pursued. So that doesn't change; the hider wins.

If the pursued creature is attempting to hide in the forest while the pursuing creature is aware of its exact location, the current situation is that the pursued creature's position is known. Again, on a tie the situation remains unchanged.


Guess I'll take the effort to come up with an answer.

The result of a tie in a contest depends on the state of how things were before the contest is considered.

The rules for contests states:

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.

I would think stealth contests work this way: if a character were to hide while a creature is aware of where they are, then the perceiving creature is already contesting it; a draw would result in the creature still knowing the whereabouts of the hiding creature.

However, if a character attempts to hide outside of a creature's range of perception, then the creature is unable to contest the check at the time of the character's hiding. As such, when the contest happens the creature is already unaware of his presence, and when the contest results in a tie that situation remains unchanged, the creature would still not know of the character's whereabouts.

That said there has been a lot of debate on a character's range of perception. Generally it is accepted that if a character is invisible but not hidden, it is known where they are. Let me introduce a few ideas before suggesting that this might not be completely true, but it is up to the DM to decide how this plays out.

First: Perception, at the very least, relies on sight and hearing.

Second: As per the errata'd reading of hiding.

You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly.

Most DMs rule in most cases that you can't hide from a creature that can see you. In my personal opinion being allowed to hide in dim light would be broken on the rogues side of things. Line of sight is the biggest balance to hiding, and if this didn't always work hiding would be almost unparalleled in strength in too many situations. That aside lets get back to the second point; your visual perception may not be able to apply in a contest against a creature in the act of attempting to hide. For your visual perception to apply, the creature is likely already hidden.

Third: WotC markets a DM screen which has helpful information for guiding a DMs decision-making processes. Included in the information the screen provides is the audible distance of a sound depending on how loud the sound was. "trying to be quiet" has an audible distance averaging 35 ft. The act of hiding could place the character's sound level at "trying to be quiet" whereas anything that hasn't taken a hide action could be considered as normal noise. As such a DM might rule that you automatically become hidden when attempting to hide while not seen and further than 35 ft away. Keep in mind that line of sight is still king when it comes to combating hiding; once hidden if they come to where they can see you, you are no longer hidden from them (assuming they are aware of your existence and trying not to lose you. Additionally, if they come within 35 ft of you, then their passive perception kicks in even if they don't see you. Under this circumstance the contest kicks in and they might perceive you; the state of things before the contest in this case, is that the enemy was unaware of your position, as such a draw would mean they are still unaware of your position. I would personally consider that the range of audible sound increases if a creature has advantage on checks that rely on sound.

With those points, by enthymeme you should already be able to conclude that a creatures position might not always be known as long as it is not hidden. This is somewhat important for deciding what happens in a draw; to reiterate a part of my conclusion: if the character attempts to hide outside of a creatures perception range then the creature cannot make a contest at the time of the character's hiding. in the end the mechanics for stealth really do fall into the hands of the DM.

I'd also like to address your specific scenarios. The situation depends on how the DM rules stealth; if they were aware of your position and the DM requires the stealth check to lose them, then a draw results in you not losing them. If you are running, your pursuers lost track of you but are on your tail, and you ask the DM if you could try to hide and roll a stealth check. The pursuers were unaware of your position when they make the contest. Overall though, you don't treat hidden as a special condition, you consider it separately against every creature.

Finally I'd like to address something that you may have overlooked. If the enemies you are trying to hide from have dogs on your tail, I would personally rule that hiding would be highly ineffective against a creature that has your scent and can track you by such means. Also the locate creature spell could be cast by 7th level mages. If the enemy has any such mages on their their side then hiding will likely be ineffective unless you can keep moving; if you are moving the enemy can probably achieve line of sight, which is all they need to spot you.


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.

"The situation" refers to whatever was directly before the contest

If, directly before the contest, the hider could not be seen by the searcher, then they remain unseen. You do not need to worry about what happened earlier that turn, last turn, last round, or 10 minutes ago.


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