Pass without Trace says:

A veil of shadows and silence radiates from you, masking you and your companions from detection. For the duration, each creature you choose within 30 feet of you (including you) has a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks (...) A creature that receives this bonus leaves behind no tracks or other traces of its passage.

We have a situation where we are riding invisible while under Pass without Trace though the desert. We think that we would not leave traces or kick up dust doing so, as we receive the bonus, whether we use it to sneak or not. Riding at full speed, we would be discoverable by sound, as we are not moving stealthily, but would leave no visible traces.

Our DM maintains that by rules as written, you only "have" the bonus when you are employing stealth, and therefore will leave traces and visible clues to movement, unless you use Dexterity (Stealth) to sneak.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did the caster of the spell choose your mounts as creatures to be affected by the spell as well, or just the party? Are you completely sure that while you were riding at full speed, invisible, none of you ever moved more than 30 feet from the caster of the spell, who no one could see? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The caster of Pass without Trace chose the mounts and his team mate. He was then made invisible by another caster, who stayed back. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 23:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also our DM rules that so long as you are not actively hiding, everyobody by default knows where you are if you are invisible, even at long distance, from other clues, \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 23:25

3 Answers 3


The spell grants the targets the bonus, it doesn't go away when you aren't using stealth

Pass without trace says:

For the duration, each creature you choose within 30 feet of you (including you) has a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks and can't be tracked except by magical means.

The creatures who are the target of the spell "have" the bonus, even if they aren't using it actively, just as you "have" a bonus equal to your Strength modifier to Athletics checks even when you aren't grappling a creature.

The spell also states that your party cannot be tracked except by magical means. Presumably, visible traces are a component of being tracked non magically, which is something that is impossible under the effects of this spell.

Your party received the effects of this spell and therefore gained the bonus, and leaving no tracks is one component of its effect.


I would expect the spell to make you trackless all the time.

You kind of elided the most important phrase:

For the duration, each creature... has a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks and can't be tracked except by magical means. A creature that receives this bonus leaves behind no tracks or other traces of its passage.

The spell grants two different benefits: You get a bonus to stealth checks, and you can't be tracked. It doesn't say "and you can't be tracked while moving stealthily"; it says you can't be tracked without magic, period. The following sentence then explains how "can't be tracked except by magical means" manifests in the game world: You leave no tracks or traces.

I would expect the spell to work how you intended -- even riding at full speed, the sand doesn't show your prints.

Now, that said, keep in mind that the DM really does get to make rulings, even when they contradict the book. If you feel this one was a simple error and want to argue your case, you should feel free to discuss it, but be prepared for the DM to say "No, it works how I ruled" and you'll need to accept that.

It's possible the DM has an ulterior motive -- possibly the story the DM has in mind requires you to be followed across the desert, and becoming untraceable is just not going to work for the story they're telling. It's an awkward, ham-handed way to handle that, but it's a possible reason for the ruling.


If it were me, I would say that under the effects of this spell combined with invisibility there would have to be some environmental condition for anyone to even notice something strange, such as snow, tall grass or standing water. In that case, your character would create a "hole" in the environment. If you are using this spell and are invisible, it is rather strongly implied that you are intending to be stealthy, therefore, in order for that "hole" to be noticed by others, your stealth check would need to be defeated. Even then, that would only make the strange feature noticeable, not necessarily be obvious that there is a invisible character there.

In addition, if it were something like snow, as you moved, the snow would magically refill itself leaving no trace of your passage and nothing for anyone to track. Every time your character moved, a new stealth check would be needed to notice the new location. After a few failed stealth checks, a highly intelligent NPC might make a check to understand what is happening. The reason I say it is possible to notice your character at all, even in those specific environmental conditions, is because it does not say leaving no trace of your presence, it says no trace of your passage. In the condition of riding fast across a desert, the hoof prints of where your horse currently is pressing into the sand would be so small and disappear so quickly as the horse moved, that it would effectively be impossible for anyone to even notice them.

In the end though, your GM must make the ruling and you must abide by it. As was mentioned, there may be some story reason for this, however it would benefit the groups morale for the GM to find some other way to introduce their narrative point, such as someone in the tavern overhearing your plan, or they used magic to track you, which is an obvious way around it.

That said, if my group went to all that trouble and had that much forethought to defeat detection and tracking, I would abandon my plot device and come up with something new. They earned that victory. In addition I would find some way of letting my players find out about what they managed to avoid by being inventive. Ingenuity should be rewarded.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you David, and Welcome to StackExchange. Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask in the comments (use @Name to ping someone) for guidance. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 28, 2022 at 6:17

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