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Last session, my bard polymorphed a fellow party member into a T-Rex to fight another T-Rex. As concentration had to be kept, I made my bard take the hide action, which succeeded. My bard had no condition on them except that they were hidden in this stony environment (it wasn't difficult terrain). This being done, my bard had to move to heal a downed character.

The DM ruled that my bard, to maintain their hidden status, had to move at half the usual speed. I couldn't find any rule stating this movement restriction. Is there any RAW basis for this?

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A hidden character may move at full speed in combat.

The idea of “slower speed stealth” comes from the rules for “Travel Pace”:

A fast pace makes characters less perceptive, while a slow pace makes it possible to sneak around and to search an area more carefully

[…]

Stealth

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.

However, we see in the Sage Advice Compendium:

Does travel pace apply to movement in combat, or just when traveling?

The travel pace rule doesn’t apply in combat.

So the travel rules that mention moving slower during stealth do not apply, and since there is no rule for combat about stealth hindering movement speed, your movement speed is not hindered while stealthing during combat.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for adding the SAC link, I was going to get to it when I didn’t have to try to navigate DDB links on my phone. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is possible that in theater of the mind combat without an exact map, the DM is using the half speed as an abstraction to represent needing to take a less direct path that avoids the enemy's line of sight. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson Perhaps, but if that is the case, that needs to be communicated by the DM and if used as a rule, agreed upon by the table. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson I didn't write it down, but we had a map. I showed the path taken and counted the number of squares my character moved. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlivierGrégoire: Would that path have taken your bard in full view of anyone they were hiding from? Unlike World of Warcraft rogues, you can't just activate stealth mode and run around unseen on an open field. The reasonableness fully depends on who might have been looking, and whether there was foliage or other cover you could be moving between along the path you wanted to take. Or as Willem's answer points out, sound is also a concern. (This answer is correct, but maybe not the full picture. Staying hidden while moving doesn't necessarily happen for free, it's just not the travel rules.) \$\endgroup\$ May 8 at 5:31
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RAW explicitly empowers the DM regarding hiding

The rules for hiding explicitly mention that the DM decides when hiding is appropriate, and that you may give yourself away if you make noise. (This empowerment is on top of the general authority the DM is given on rules, as it is explicitly called out in the Hiding rules.)

Hiding (PHB 177)

The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for 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. (Emphasis mine.)

It is very reasonable for the DM to have decided that the "stony environment" you were in would cause you to unintentionally make noise if you were to have moved at your full speed.

Ideally, if that were the case, the DM would explicitly say that was the reason for the half speed movement. If they didn't, I would suggest asking them for the reasoning behind that to clarify future expectations. (They may also have been confused regarding the travel pace rules, or older editions, which other answers discuss.)

That said, no, there is no rule that requires half speed, or causes any other negative effect on a character that is hiding.

I added this answer in large part because I felt an existing answer at the time implied that the DM was wrong to make the ruling they did, and wanted future visitors to this question to understand the leeway the DM has in deciding what is appropriate for a hiding character.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Willem-Renzma, For what its worth, we played it with half speed just earlier this week (and only upon trying to look up the reference I realized, this is gone in 5e). I also agree with your assessment here, +1 \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 13:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. You make a very good point. In the question, it seems like the DM made a ruling, the player disagreed/didn't understand and wants to understand the RAW. We weren't there, seems a reasonable ruling to me, the kind we make in our games all the time. "DM: It's stony, there aren't many places to hide, you can get over to Helga to heal them, but if you want to stay hidden, you'll have to move at half speed, while you duck behind what little cover there is and wait for moments when the T-Rex' head is turned." The problem seems more, as you point out, getting the player and DM on the same page. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    May 6 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlivierGrégoire What intention/implication/interpretation do you feel my answer is making? The rules as written say the DM makes the decision on what is appropriate. That is vague and non-specific, but I don't see how that is RAI. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlivierGrégoire The DM doesn't just decide when you can take the hide action, they also decide when you are no longer hiding, based on the criteria described for sight and sound. If the DM decided that moving at a normal walking pace (i.e. using your movement normally) would make too much noise to remain hidden, then they could say that the only way to maintain the "hidden" state is to move at half speed or less. The classic example would be needing to tip-toe carefully across broken glass or creaky wooden floorboards in order to move quietly. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlivierGrégoire: Maybe it comes down to how the DM communicated this. They should explain why you can only move at half speed while staying hidden. e.g. "you could go faster but you think the rocks will make noise; do you want to risk it?" (Then maybe roll stealth at disadvantage if there's any chance of still being hidden.) If they just tell you that half speed is required and imply that's just how it always is, that would be an arbitrary house-rule. If they think the travel rules apply or something, then you can talk to them about it. (Ideally after game.) \$\endgroup\$ May 8 at 5:38
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Stealthy movement may be slower, but not in combat

It is likely that your DM remembers older editions, where stealthy movement cost double the move. This is not generally the case in 5e.

There is no explicit rule stating you can only move half speed when using stealth for moving in combat.

Outside of combat, there is some indication that movement using stealth is slower, for example in the travel speed table on p. 182 PHB, being able to use stealth reduces your movement speed by 33% compared to normal travel, and by 40% compared to fast travel.

The Rogue (Thief) also has a Supreme Sneak ability starting at level 9, that allows them to have Advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks, if they move no more than half speed. This may provide an incentive for them to move only half speed in combat situations, but that is their option.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlivierGrégoire I’ve downvoted this answer because it is incorrect. See my answer for details, the travel pace rules have nothing to do with combat. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure the travel speed penalty is meant to reflect a slower speed of walking. Rather, I think the intent is that stealthy travel involves staying off the beaten path, taking a less direct route, and occasionally stopping and hiding when someone else moves past. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 11:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ It is also my understanding that this answser isn't incorrect. This answer is not fundamentally different from Thomas Markov's answer, but is less direct and the title is kind of misleading in the way that I'm asking for combat movement and that the title generalizes to all stealthy movements. I've added the combat tag to make sure this is clarified. I suggest appending "but not in combat" to the title to make it clear. Also your link to earlier editions is enlightening as my DM is DMing for 20+ years indeed. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 12:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think you need to keep making stealth checks every time you move, nor do you need to keep taking the hide action to remain hidden. AFAIK you make one stealth check when you take the hide action and that check remains until you are no longer hiding. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 12:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jack if multiple previous versions of a product contain a rule or command and someone uses that rule or command in a newer version that does not contain it, basic logic indicates they are familiar with the previous version. I'm afraid that if you remove any sort of induction from answers you will not be left with... answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    May 6 at 15:21

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