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This question could be simplified with "How does moving silently away from enemy on same turn after casting Invisibility work", but I'll present the full scenario in case it makes a difference:

A PC, who does not have special bonus actions, is under Greater Invisibility spell (or other equal effect) which allows actions without breaking invisiblity. At the start of their turn in combat, they are 10 ft (one empty 5 feet square between them on the grid) away from an enemy. They then move 5ft, uses their entire attack action to do a melee attack on the enemy (who does not go down). Then they tell the DM "I want to move back 5 feet, then use rest of my movement silently move away, so the enemy doesn't know where I actually go."

What should DM respond, by the rules?

The PC can't use hide action, or any action for that matter, because they already used their action to attack. Movement rules don't have anything special about silent movement as far as I could find. But it also seems quite unreasonable and suspension-of-disbelief breaking to say "sorry, but you are utterly unable to move silently at this moment".

The reason the PC wants their location to not be known is to prevent the enemy from approaching to melee range and hitting them, in this case. The reason could also be the enemy using a spell like Moonbeam, or PC wanting the enemy to waste a blind ranged attack at PC's (who could be in full cover now, even) last known location.

It's of course easy to make a custom ruling here, involving some combination of PC Stealth, enemy Perception, and reduced movement rate, but I'm interested in what the rules say, including any language which supports handling this as part of a custom/improvised action, even though the PC doesn't have an action to spare.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would Greater Invisibility cover the blood on their sword after stabbing a dude? \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Mar 15 at 7:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 As long as the blood is being carried, yes. Same as with any picked up stuff. It takes magic like Faery fire to get through this feature. If they swish their sword to spray blood droplets around, those would become visible. The spell text is IMO quite clear about this. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Mar 15 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ "If they swish their sword to spray blood droplets around, those would become visible." Well, that would explain how they aren't hidden while moving around then, if drops of blood are getting flung off of the sword from hurried movement are becoming visible. \$\endgroup\$ – nick012000 Mar 15 at 7:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick012000 ...unless they used a club and didn't draw blood. Or did a spell attack instead. Or shoved the enemy. Or actually missed. Or... In other words, no, that's not a good fluff explanation, because it opens up the door to circumventing it with different action. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Mar 15 at 7:46
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In 5e, your 6 second combat round isn't "do all of A then do B".

When you move and attack, you are doing it all at once; you are attacking as you approach, ducking and weaving, and attacking as you retreat.

30 feet isn't very far; a human can easily cross that distance in 3 seconds.

What they did was move at a full run 5 feet forward, duck and weave and attack for 3 seconds, deke out 5 feet (again at a full run) while still attacking. At best they have 2 seconds of time to go from a full sprint to some kind of silent movement, well enough that an enemy doesn't have an idea where they are?

Extremely difficult, even when invisible.

Greater Invisibility offers automatic advantage on all attacks and disadvantage on all attacks by an enemy. This covers "I can only hear you, I can't see you" advantage already. If the player wants to upgrade this to "you have no clue where to shoot", they need to spend the action resource to take the hide action.

Moving quietly, breathing quietly, and moving unpredictably are covered by the cost of using an action (for most PCs). Your speed is limited to 30' per round, as half of your focus is on not being noticed.

For those with special training (like a Rogue), they can do this while also attacking. They can step in, invisible, stab someone, bonus action hide, then move away to an unknown location. Enemies now have to both guess where the Rogue is, and even if they do still have disadvantage on attacks.

Combatants are already expected to be putting their best effort into dodging, avoiding being spotted, etc, given that they are otherwise occupied by their main action. "I move at half speed to be more defensive", "I move at half speed to move quieter" is covered in 5e rules by expending your action to do that.

Now, maybe you feel that PCs aren't competent enough as is.

If you feel that PCs don't have enough capability to do things on their turn, hand out a 2nd action to every PC. Then that PC can deke in and attack, then spend an action to hide as they retreat. That will also require some work to fix up the game balance, but at least it won't make a powerful spell (Greater Invisibility) even stronger.

Invisibility in 5e is limited by design and by experience. It makes fulfilling the requirements of hiding easy, but it intentionally does not remove the action cost to do it.

The dual advantages and disadvantages of invisibility makes it a strong spell as it stands.

If this bothers you, and you think being completely invisible should be better than 5e makes it, then rather than making invisibility effects 2x or more stronger, make add narrative shimmers to invisibility effects; when you move, while invisible, difficult-to-spot shimmers occur. PCs who don't spend an action hiding can be tracked by such shimmers, and even ones that are hiding have to win a stealth vs passive perception check to not be spotted.

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The DM should respond "Sorry, you spent your action attacking, you don't have one left to spend hiding."

You've cited the relevant rules already. If the PC wants to conceal their location after the attack, they will need to take the Hide action to do so, even if they are invisible. So they cannot do this. (They'll still benefit from invisibility imposing disadvantage on counterattacks, at least.)

You would need to be able to perform both actions, Attack and then Hide, before the enemy gets a turn in order to make this work. Some builds can do this, such as a Fighter with Action Surge, anyone benefiting from a Haste spell (haste action spent on the attack, regular action to hide), a Rogue with Cunning Action to Hide as a bonus action, etc.

You might be tempted, in the name of verisimilitude, to house rule a way for them to do so anyway. Do not do this. Allowing someone who doesn't have such an ability to act as if they do, even if only partly so, makes said ability less rare and thus less special to those who made the choices to take them - and if those are other players in the party, is likely to infuriate them.

If you or anyone is worried about verisimilitude, you can point to those examples as your evidence:

"Sure, it's possible for someone to pivot straight from attacking in melee to walking like a cat within a second, if they have the training and the aptitude. But that sounds more like your buddy Stabfellow than it does you, Fightgar. You're going to be too off-balance from the melee to pull it off."

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    \$\begingroup\$ About stepping on toes of other classes' stealth abilities, I would say picking Greater Invisibility has a big opportunity cost, and using concentration for it is also a big cost. Making it no safer (there's the attack advantage of course) for ranged combat, than just dropping prone between attacks seems quite wrong, too. IOW I don't buy that balance part of your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Mar 14 at 21:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ You wouldn't be mad if I took the benefits of greater invisibility and gave them to another PC on top of everything they already have, just because it 'didn't make sense to me that they shouldn't have it'? I'm not sure I buy that. \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil Mar 14 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get what you mean, but a sensible ruling wouldn't be the same, but might impose double movement cost for silent movement. Anyway, going off-topic, so let's not continue here. \$\endgroup\$ – WakiNadiVellir Mar 14 at 22:21
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They cannot hide after attacking on their turn.

The rules in the PHB are clear that you need to take the Hide action if you want the enemy to not know where you are, even while invisible.

However, if a player would like to attack every other turn and remain hidden while invisible, they can do so using the following procedure:

  1. Hide on the first turn.
  2. Next turn, ready your action to do an attack on some condition, such as after the enemy attacks someone else.
  3. The enemy attacks someone, you then get to attack using your reaction.
  4. It's now your turn again, Hide.
  5. Repeat!

Doing this procedure will let the player remain hidden at all times when the enemy is free to attack. But, it does mean that they can only attack every other turn.

If they are a rogue they can use their bonus action to hide instead, which is much more effective!

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There is the possibility for a DM ruling in some situations

The Hide action is the only option formally available to creatures for concealing their location in combat. It states:

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.

An invisible creature already has the benefits of an Unseen Attacker/Target but the description of stealth and hiding further state:

Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies...

The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check.

An invisible creature can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, and it does have to stay quiet.

While the description of invisible states:

An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature's location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.

Collectively these rule make clear several things:

  • A character can use an action to hide in combat
  • Hiding involves concealing yourself from enemies
  • Hiding requires a Dexterity (Stealth) check

What the rules do not require, however, is that the only time a DM can call for a Dexterity (Stealth) check to conceal one's presence is if a character takes the Hide action.

When a character attempts something not explicitly allowed or disallowed by the rules it is up to the DM to determine whether it succeeds.

For example if Darby the Barbarian attempts to fly by crafting a set of makeshift wings the DM can determine "No you don't fly, you just fall on the ground" or they could rule "give me an Intelligence (Carpenter's Tools) check to see if the wings work" or they could rule "You have made these wings successfully so many times before that you can do so with little effort." The ruling depends on the situation and is up to the DM.

In the example you gave it would be best for the DM to disallow hiding

"I want to move back 5 feet, then use rest of my movement silently move away, so the enemy doesn't know where I actually go."

The Invisible condition and the rules for hiding both clearly state that an invisible creature is still detectable unless it succeeds in hiding. The Hide action offers a clear, regular option to every player for attempting to hide. Allowing a player to attempt to hide by using movement would undermine the very purpose of the Hide Action. It would also undermine features that allow hiding through other means.

There are situations where hiding without an action might be appropriate

For example you are invisible in a Silenced area on solid, clean cobblestone, in a perfume factory, next to a pig farm. In such a situation it would be entirely reasonable for the DM to allow you to attempt hiding without an action or else to just grant you the benefits automatically.

This is an extreme example but there are also lesser examples worth considering:

  • You are hiding from a person who, while not deaf, has been established as hard of hearing. They have no particular skill in detecting by scent.

  • Someone has cast Minor illusion to create the sound of loud footsteps nearby.

  • You are flying via magic and took care to remove any items from your person that might make sound, leaving your pack behind, and holding your only weapon. The area is moderately windy

  • You are 120 ft away from any enemy, move very little, and the area is reasonably noisy

All of these situations include factors that are beyond what is regularly available in combat. Precisely which situations allow for a character to hide will be determined by the DM.

With regards to your character
While you shouldn't grant the character the ability to hide for free in a fairly regular situation you can allow them the opportunity to create extraordinary situations that allow them to hide without an action. These should be appropriately costly preparations to justify the benefit of hiding. Examples include:

  1. Taking time to set up noisy distractions ie. Minor Illusion, a teammate using the help action
  2. giving up an attack against the enemy (to make an attack that would help hiding)
  3. leaving all of their gear, except for their weapon, behind and wearing muffled clothing (no armor).
  4. Sacrifice movement (alongside other costs)

For me, if the character set up the first and third option it seems balanced to allow hiding without an action.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This reads like a selection of ideas - have you used any of these and can talk about the pros and cons of doing it this way at the table? Please don't just suggest ideas without discussing them - this is what shows us you are an expert and fulfills subjective citation. There is nothing wrong, and it is very much required, for us to show our expertise, not just state it or suggest ideas without it. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 15 at 15:36

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