Recently I've faced with the following situation and was really surprised with the rules:

Let's consider the following situation: A party is located in a quite deep forest. They know that there is an enemy camp within 1 mile away also located in deep forest. One player says: "I'm trying to hide".

In PHB DnD 5e it is explicitly stated (PHB p.177)

When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding ...

So he makes a roll and let's assume the final result is 4. Because player can see the result, he can now decide what he is going to do based on this check. Obviously this check is low, and player says: "I stop hiding". It is allowed based on the cite above. After that he can try to hide again and re-roll.

In this case DM can notice that this is a meta game and it is not allowed, because character can't know the roll. In this case, even if this will prevent character from re-rolling directly, it can certainly change his initial plan. Or player can do the following:

Character can make an agreement with his party that he will go behind a tree, hide and then they will try to seek him. In this case it is explicitly mentioned in PHB p. 177 that

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. ... When you hide, there's a chance someone will notice you even if they aren't searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature's passive Wisdom (Perception) score

So even if character doesn't know the roll, he can find "how well he hides" with this "test". This "test" can be made using both passive and active checks. In this case he can definitely find "how good he hides". If somebody in his party could spot him, character is no longer hidden, because that rule above, if not, character is very likely hidden very well (especially if there was a wisdom guy in a party that was by accident unaware of this activity and the check was passive e. g. with fixed known high value). So if character was spotted he just reties to hide until he rolls high enough to hide from his party checks.

So at this moment our hero is hiding and has a really high roll. So he says that he is travelling towards enemies camp in hiding.

Here are rules from PHB p. 182

While traveling at a slow pace. the characters can move stealthily. As long as they're not in the open, they can try to surprise or sneak by other creatures they encounter. See the rules for hiding in chapter 7.

The "chapter 7" rule are the one I mentioned above.

Well, since our hero is hiding and he travels in slow pace, he comes to enemy camp and he is still hidden because he "was not yet discovered" (see cite 2 above).

After that hero says "I try to sneak by those creatures remaining hidden". So since they are not expecting him, they use passive check. Since player already rolled high and that roll value is used against perception checks there is no chance they can spot him, so he automatically (or with very high chance) succeed. In this way he can bypass any guards almost guaranteed.

The same trick can be made with whole party by searching each other and repeating until all are hidden and thus it can be made that surprise is be also guaranteed in first round.

For me it looks like it is 100% correct according to the rules from PHB and it also it looks like extremely broken mechanics. No other check value is known to player before he decides what is he going to do with this ability.

So, eventually: Is seem broken that player knows the check before he decides what to do with this check. He rolls hide stealth check and only after that he can decide if he, for example, sneaks or attacks.

Is there any fix for this rules published somewhere?

P. S. I think any check should be made at the moment the check is really needed and each moment it should be checked independently.

So in this case you don't roll when you trying to hide. You roll each time you can be spotted, also you roll on each action you perform, e. g. sneak by e. t. c. because all other checks are performed in the same way. Again even if you somehow block a party from doing that, player won't try to sneak by a group of goblins when he knows ahead that his roll value is low and already determined.

P. P. S. I've also checked several forums and videos and everywhere it is explicitly stated that you make check when you hide and you use this single value to compete perception checks and you remain hidden until you found or you stop hiding. Also everywhere it stated that you can move and sneak while hidden and use that roll value against perception checks. So I am really confused.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you dealing with a player trying to exploit this in actual play, or is this a theoretical question? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2020 at 23:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a situation from the game. The proposed hide and seek was, if cause, forbidden by DM and almost all players told that this is not how the game should work, but the player who proposed that started a discussion that this is how the rules work. And in some sense it really is. \$\endgroup\$
    – Summon
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Its not meta gaming for your character to know they did badly, they might not know the exact roll but they would know that they for example tripped and hit their armor or stepped some branches/leaves and made noise. That said you still wouldn't be able to stop yourself until you finish because that's what you rolled. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ The exact situation using the test isn’t that unrealistic, you try to hide, and if they find you, you know to do it differently, repeat. Eg, this time i hide behind the tree i will have both my hands spread outwards like branches, this time I will have them by my side etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – B-K
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 4:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ While "don't roll until you could be spotted" is fine - I would advice you not to roll for every action, because that basically makes Stealth impossible. If an expert scout is sneaking past bored guards (90% chance of success), but they have to make ten separate rolls, their odds go down to 34%. Fifteen rolls makes it 20%. \$\endgroup\$
    – Errorsatz
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 22:28

8 Answers 8


You're missing the most important part of the Hiding rules.

The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.

The players can propose hiding in a particular way but the DM has discretion to say whether it will work.

So here's how to adjudicate this. If you have someone else helping you hide by standing some distance away and telling you if they can see you, then you are making your Stealth check with assistance, and can apply the "Working Together" rule:

The character who's leading the effort--or the one with the highest ability modifier--can make an ability check with advantage, reflecting the help provided by the other characters.

Why can't they do this hide-and-seek trick, though? Because if it were that easy, everyone would do it. If there's no additional cost to it*, it's safe to assume that it's the normal level of effort implied by an ability check. They can make the check with advantage because they're working as a team, but at some point they're going to think they're safely hidden, and then they have to sit tight and see if it works.

However, the biggest problem with this scenario is that they're playing hide-and-seek and then traveling. So they're spending time finding their perfect hiding spots and then that's supposed to somehow help them stay hidden when they walk ten miles? That doesn't make any sense. It doesn't matter where they were hiding before they left.

The travel pace rules say that when traveling stealthily, you can try to surprise or sneak past any other creatures you encounter--not that you can automatically succeed at it. So at the time they encounter other creatures on the way, they can roll their Stealth checks to see how well hidden they are at the time they come into contact.

*Just because someone's going to say it: No, "time" is not a meaningful cost, unless spending the time actually puts you in danger. If the DM is not at least rolling for wandering monsters or ticking a clock, you're probably not in danger.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer. It really make senseabout the hiding spots. And I reread the rules you mentioned and indeed didn't find anything that requires or allows for charater to to be hidden in stealth travel. Actually couldn't find that stealth travel requires any roll at all. And all rolls are made when players, as you mentioned, try to surprise when they already met the encounter. I also found the rule you mentioned about normal level and additional cost, and it correlates with the rule that Carcosa mentioned. And it also has so many applications in so many scenarious! Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Summon
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a note, I personally would not consider some random Joe ducking in and out of various hiding spots and switching costumes for hours on end, potentially even in view of someone they may want to hide from, to be circumstances appropriate for hiding. Circumstances appropriate for in-universe popcorn, however... ;P \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 10:45

Don't allow Stealth checks until there is a chance of failure

This is the solution that is mentioned in your post-script.

If a player is just trying to stealth in an empty field with no enemies nearby, then they just automatically succeed, because they are hiding from nothing.

If a player is attempting to "conceal themselves from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard" (PHB p.177's examples), or anything similar, then have them roll the Stealth check only when failure will result in detection (or some other consequence), such as when they move within potential earshot of a group of guards.

If you would like a RAW justification, recall that we only call for ability checks when there is a chance of failure (PHB 174). In a situation when players have the luxury of hiding and re-hiding, there is no chance of failure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is Rule #2 on this wonderful article on skill systems. 5 Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Skill System \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, the rule about rolls without failure chance is quite easy to overlook, but this can be applied in so many scenarios! I search a bit and also found another mention of this rule in DMG 237: "Only call for a roll if there is a meaningful consequence for failure", which states not only about a chance of failure, but explicitely tells about lack of consequences of failure. I can accept only one answer, but since Mark Wells's answer covers also stealth travel mechanics, I believe it would be fair to accept his answer. Thank you very much! \$\endgroup\$
    – Summon
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 23:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ It sounds like, from the scenario being described, they are trying to hide from each other, which they are then trying to use to hide from future encounters - so 'you automatically succeed' might not work here. A better counter-action would be that they can successfully hide from each other, but it doesn't do anything versus anybody else - since they eventually have to move from their hiding spot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zibbobz
    Commented May 4, 2020 at 14:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ ... the same with requiring a chance of success. Rolling for mundane actions and having a 1/20 chance of critical failure (you walk down the street and you have 5% chance of falling at every single step) is just as ridiculous as succeeding, on a roll of 20, at impossible tasks, like stealing the pants worn by an awake and conscious person without him realizing it. \$\endgroup\$
    – vsz
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a caveat though. Sometimes you should allow for useless rolls. Otherwise the players always know something's up, when you require a roll. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 5, 2020 at 9:54

Basically, Ask Them To Stop

"Seriously, guys, you're hacking the rules, not playing the game. It's not very much fun for me, so can you please stop?"

Reasonable people will desist.

I would handle your various scenarios as follows, if needed, but I'd start with the direct approach of asking my players not to focus on what they think are loopholes:

1) One character hiding, with no support

You know what the solution is, here, because you pointed it out yourself: There is no reason the player or the character should know the results of the stealth roll, and every valid reason they should not. Make the roll yourself and keep it secret.

Problem Solved.

2) One character hiding, with support

This is your case where the hiding character has help and criticism from the other party members. This strikes me as something on the borderline of reasonable, and also something that probably won't come into play that often-- how often will a subset of the players have reason to hide somewhere, starting from a position where their fellows are there to help them, and everyone has the leisure to do it?

However, I would simply treat this as "working together" from the rules on page 175 of the PHB, which boil down to: If the hiding player has quality assistance, he can make a roll with advantage. Meaning, you can make a roll with advantage for them.

I also tend to govern "helping" attempts with a moderately heavy hand, because this tends to breed its own hacking game where everyone tries to assist everyone else with everything and you might as well just make advantage the default roll. I would reserve the right to send monsters which track by other senses than sight and sound, which would render typical "help" inactive... but only if the players were abusing the system.

(And aside from the rules, searching for something whose appearance you already know and whose position you know approximately is really not going to be that much assistance.)

3) Sneaking After Hiding

I'm not 100% sure I understand this one, but I will edit if it turns out I do not. I think the complain here is premised on the player thinking they have some guarantee of a good roll, based on the two previous scenarios.

But they don't. They don't know their roll, and the hacking game of "search until we can't find him," should be collapsed into, at best, a roll with advantage, which they also do not know the result of.

So I think the chain of logic has already been severed, and this is no longer an issue.

4) Group Self-Searching

No, no, no. You're stealthing or you're searching, but not both at the same time.

A Note On The Interpretation Of Rolls

I think I've done a good enough demolition job on this tactic that what I wrote above is sufficient. That said, I don't think 5e's stealth and hiding rules are particularly well-designed-- they're also going to be an awkward fit at best, since the PHB is trying to use the same rules and mechanics for lengthy overland travel situations as they are for fast-paced combat situations.

For overland or lengthy sequences involving stealth, I would strongly urge the following interpretations:

  1. A good or a bad stealth roll does not imply some sort of constant level of proficiency across an entire (say) three hours of trying to move stealthily. If someone rolls a three, that does not mean they are marching through the forest with their sword banging on their shield every three steps. Rather, it means that exactly at the appropriate moment(s) of dramatic necessity, that's how well or poorly the character is performing.

  2. As this answer points out, it is up to the GM to determine when circumstances are appropriate. I take this to mean that the GM decides when a given stealth roll loses effect, which is going to be highly dependent on the situation. If the character is trying to sneak past three separate, well-defined checkpoints, that may well require three stealth checks no matter how well the first roll came out. Think loosely in terms of scenes or encounters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Everything you mentioned in answer makes great sense. All players (except the one who proposed) agreed instantly that this is not how the game works. The one who proposed wanted to know why it is not working and the discussion started. If players are random, as in this game, the fastest, easiest and most friendly way to stop discussion and make each player satisfied is to show the exact rules in the book. Your answer is great, but I accept Mark Wells's because it also covers the rule of hide + stealth travel impossibility. Thank you very much for your such detailed answer! \$\endgroup\$
    – Summon
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ "No, no, no. You're stealthing or you're searching, but not both at the same time." This makes scouting impossible. I disagree: you can definitely search while you're being stealthy. The rules even support it in combat, because you make a single Stealth check that you use until you are detected: this allows you to move about and take other actions that don't draw attention to yourself. Strictly speaking you can also take actions that do draw attention to yourself, but they reveal your location. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 1, 2020 at 0:59

Follow the basic game pattern

As described in the introduction of the Players Handbook under "Playing the Game", there are three steps that form a loop:

  1. The DM describes the environment.
  2. The players describe what they want to do.
  3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions.

The key is that they players describe what they want to do, and the DM describes the results, calling for a dice roll when appropriate.

For example, your player wants to approach an enemy camp without being detected.

  • Player: "I approach the camp stealthily keeping to the trees until I see some goblins."
  • DM: "Roll stealth to see if you are noticed."
  • Player rolls a 4.
  • DM: "As you approach, the goblin scout notices you and starts running back to his camp to raise the alarm."

The player cannot roll until the DM asks, so do not ask for one until they have declared their intentions. Also as other answers have pointed out, it helps to only ask for rolls when failure and success have consequences.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting (I think) that DMG p.237 agrees completely with everything you say here: it's a solved problem and it's already in the best guidance WotC had for GMs. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented May 5, 2020 at 19:46

I hesitated to post this as an answer, but I feel compelled since other answers have not explicitly touched on it and it seems like the first obstacle encountered while attempting something like this:

You can't typically Hide and move at the same time

Implicit in the concept and action of Hiding is that you are more or less stationary. So this notion would fall apart:

So he says that he is travelling towards enemies camp in hiding.

The Hide action requires someone to actively search for you or for you to break out of cover and/or expose yourself in order for you to be seen/head. As soon as your player starts moving from his Hiding spot toward the enemy camp, he is no longer Hiding, because he has left his Hiding spot.

Even if you Hide behind cover and can then move around behind that cover without being seen (say, a low wall where you Hid successfully at one end and want to crawl to the other), you should still need to make an additional roll (perhaps with advantage, depending on the DM) for moving quietly while behind the wall after you Hid (because Hiding means you are both unseen and unheard). If you are in plate mail, for example, you're gonna have a hard time with someone not hearing you clanking your way along behind that low wall.

You can't always Hide, either... if you are in an open street with no carts, crates, people, etc. and guards are approaching, you are out of luck; they will see you unless you run away. So you can't expect to be Hidden when moving from Hiding place to Hiding place. Likewise if you are in woods where there is not constant, thick (and tall) brush to Hide behind without a clear line of sight to the camp, then you are 'in plain sight' when moving between cover and cannot be considered Hiding during those times, which then necessitates a new Hide roll each time you reach cover behind which you might Hide.

Sneaking up on enemies is similar... it's just not Hiding

Moving stealthily is still possible... you still make a Dexterity check with a d20, add your Dexterity modifier (and your Stealth modifier if proficient), but you are not necessarily "Hidden" like you are with the Hide action; you are simply hoping your stealth roll is high enough to best any perception checks (or passive perception scores) of the people you're trying to avoid arousing.

(Regarding the Hide & Seek game, I have never heard of anyone playing it in such a way that allows for the hider to move around and/or change hiding spots; to do so would be unfair for the seeker--it would exponentially increase the difficulty (and length) of the game.)


Your characters are taking 20

This is roughly a rule that was a part of past editions of the game. From d20srd (edition 3.5)

Taking 20

When you have plenty of time (generally 2 minutes for a skill that can normally be checked in 1 round, one full-round action, or one standard action), you are faced with no threats or distractions, and the skill being attempted carries no penalties for failure, you can take 20. In other words, eventually you will get a 20 on 1d20 if you roll enough times. Instead of rolling 1d20 for the skill check, just calculate your result as if you had rolled a 20.

Taking 20 means you are trying until you get it right, and it assumes that you fail many times before succeeding. Taking 20 takes twenty times as long as making a single check would take.

Since taking 20 assumes that the character will fail many times before succeeding, if you did attempt to take 20 on a skill that carries penalties for failure, your character would automatically incur those penalties before he or she could complete the task. Common “take 20” skills include Escape Artist, Open Lock, and Search.

Obviously the rules of 3rd edition don't apply here, but it helps to know that "I just keep trying until I nail it" has been a part of the game for a long time.

I would say that if a character needs to, say, lay in wait to eavesdrop on an enemy camp, letting them retry over and over before the enemy arrives is fair and realistic. If they have time to spare them getting a bad roll, crouching down behind a sapling, and waiting there for 4 hours is not fun, doesn't reward the characters for preparing for the encounter intelligently, and is narratively bizarre.

However, this is not your situation. Your players are claiming that they can hide so well that, once hidden, they can travel overland for a whole day while effectively invisible. Obviously that doesn't make sense

I've also checked several forums and videos and everywhere it is explicitly stated that you make check when you hide and you use this single value to compete perception checks and you remain hidden until you found or you stop hiding. Also everywhere it stated that you can move and sneak while hidden and use that roll value against perception checks.

I can't find any rules-as-written source for this. Hiding and sneaking are separate actions, and the GM can impose pretty arbitrary restrictions on hiding - you need something to hide behind, for example. Just ask the players what they're hiding behind, and use that to determine how freely they can move before they need to make another hide check.

But even if a rule did allow this, I would encourage you to not follow that rule off a cliff. You can retry hiding until you get it right - sneaking not so much

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 interesting feature from 3.5 that can be helpful in many situations and simplify things for a DM (if they want to use this option) - sometimes, e.g. if players aid each other and get advantage on a Strength check and they fail, then as a DM I tend to rule that that is it. They can't wait and re-try. But, if they use ingenuity or magic in some way, I might allow a second roll. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 17:27

The rules allow it, but it might be hard to pull off and tedious for all concerned

When I play hide and seek, even though I'm playing with friends, there is real chance of failure, so it is legitimate for a character's allies to test how well he is hiding by looking for him.

But it's not that simple: the allies know what they're looking for, which makes their job easier. I liken this to Jeremy Crawford's ruling that, if you hide in the same place as where you just attacked from hiding, your Stealth check suffers disadvantage. I'd switch it round and give the seekers advantage on their Perception check, but either way the outcome is roughly similar. So when you're hiding from your allies in this orchestrated way, your Stealth check suffers disadvantage, or their Perception check gains advantage.

Furthermore, when your allies are searching for you, they are doing it actively, so they benefit from both passive Perception and an active check with advantage as set out above. Your enemies, by contrast, will usually only use their passive Perception.

All of this means that your allies have a really good chance of finding you: usually a better chance than your enemies, and so your attempts to hide are being measured against a much higher standard than necessary. If you try this ruse, you might never achieve anything because you spend so long trying to hide from people who keep finding you. And spending time should have consequences, such as wandering monsters and ticking clocks.


Before the party is a castle. 3 heroes want to break in. The first decides to climb the wall. They roll a 1, and fall on their ass. They get up, roll a 5, and get a few feet up the wall before falling. Undeterred, they keep trying, rolling, and rolling until they get 20 after 20 and finally they make it up the wall.

The second hero flexes his str 20 muscles and pulls a pickaxe out of their pack. The DM shakes their head, but the hero is determined. They roll and roll and roll. Hacking and hacking away at the stone, shifting boulders out of the way. After many days and many many rolls, the hero breaks through.

Our final hero puts on a black leather outfit, and a hooded cloak. They wait until the door is open, and the guards are distracted. They dart through the entrance, and slowly make their way through the gate, through the courtyard, to the keep. All the whole, dodging out of sight, hiding behind crates, and waiting for torch-wielding guards to pass.

In the absence of consequences, repeating attempts is the best course of action

Unless you tell the player "you fell and take damage" or "your pick has been blunted by your efforts" there is no reason for a player to stop trying. It's the same with stealth. If you rolled low, then you did a bad job of being stealthy. Any sane person would retry.

What you need to do is make it difficult or undesirable to retry checks. This can take the form of limited time, consequences for failure, or changing situations.

  • You rolled a 2 on your stealth check, which means you stepped on a dry branch and it crunched loudly and unsteathily. The guards are now suspicious, actually, they are looking over towards you!
  • Guards are coming your way right now. In 20 seconds they will be upon you. You have enough time to try to hide 3 times, or you could use your 20 seconds to do something else.
  • You managed to hide, but now a guard is bringing a torch over. Without the penalty for dim light, will you stay hidden?

You can also add barriers that can't be beaten with stealth alone. A locked door with a single guard holding a torch is not a challenge that stealth alone can beat, but it is very common when trying to break into a building.

Every time you can be spotted there is a check

You said "So in this case you don't roll when you trying to hide. You roll each time you can be spotted" however, that's actually basically how it works. Whenever someone could spot you, they make a perception check. If they are actively searching, it's a normal perception check, if not, it's a passive perception check.

Forcing players to roll each time would drastically reduce their chance of success.

Stealth checks last

You said " I've also checked several forums and videos and everywhere it is explicitly stated that you make check when you hide and you use this single value to compete perception checks and you remain hidden until you found or you stop hiding." that's what the rules say, you quoted it yourself.

You go on to say "Also everywhere it stated that you can move and sneak while hidden and use that roll value against perception checks." - that's also correct, there isn't any penalty for moving or taking actions while hiding (apart from making noise or attacking, both of which reveal your position).


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