I make a sneak attack against a lone target, with a spell or bow, killing the target in one hit.

How difficult is it for the target's allies in the next room to notice?

The Perception DC to hear the sound of battle is -10 but I'm only making a single attack.

What would the Perception DC to notice this be?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is being downvoted as it smacks a bit of trying to get around a restriction that is put up for good reason to curb abuse. But from a narrative perspective, this seems to be a reasonable and very practical question for a situation that can easily come up in play. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1 at 19:14

2 Answers 2


It depends

First and foremost, GM's are always the arbiters of what a DC is set at. They are specifically responsible for establishing the DC for any check. They are furthermore expected to take into account any factors they deem necessary... such as if the "sound of battle" modifier guideline applies to a situation. In some cases, they may make poor calls (and sometimes it's even worth asking them to reconsider) but ultimately the best thing is to move on in the direction the narrative unfolds.

However, what I have done with some success, is allow players to make a stealth check with a penalty based on the target (are they wearing heavy armor? did they roll well on initiative and only failed to act because of a Surprise round?, etc.), weapon used (spells, bows, and daggers have very different narratives), and any other factors. That becomes nearby scouts' DC for Perception in line with "Notice a creature using Stealth". The penalty represents the fact that attacking another person/creature, even the most deadly single attack, makes more noise than slinking around. As a generalization, a -10 Penalty (barring any appropriate bonuses from the player) was typical and well received.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to enhance this way of handling 'out of combat' stealth kills is to allow the players to take some other checks to reduce the 'penalty' based on how they can describe the kill. For example a takedown on a heavily armored enemy might make a lot of noise as the body falls, unless the player can succeed on a strength check to support the body and lower it carefully or pull it back out of sight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kayndarr
    Sep 2 at 6:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, it can depend on how much narration you want to put into it. The GM's style and pace and such could play a big factor in what a stealth kill looks like. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Sep 3 at 5:06

Your DM decides if this does not count as battle

The rules for Initiative state that

At the start of a battle, each combatant makes an initiative check.

Initiative is the first step in the combat sequence, the terms combat and battle are thus being used interchangably. From a perspective of games mechanics, when you make a single single attack you therefore are in battle, even if it is a sneak attack, and this will have the -10 DC for hearing the sound of battle.

Can you maybe use stealth on your attack to get around that? The rules for it state that

It’s impossible to use Stealth while attacking, running, or charging.

which makes it pretty clear that the game treats even a single attack as something that cannot be pulled off stealthily (with some exceptions for sniping, but that carries a -20 pentalty, not what you are looking for here).1

Now, narratively one can imagine that a normal battle with weapons clanging against metal armor, barbarians roaring and so on will be a lot louder than slitting someones throat from behind. It would be up to your DM to be generous and set a higher DC or grant you some circumstantial bonus for that. By default, favourable conditions grant a +2 bonus, bringing you to -8.

On top of that base DC, all kinds of other DC modifiers as listed in the description of Perception apply -- how large is the room and how far away are the allies next door? (+1/10 feet), is the door closed? (+5), are they distracted because they are playing cards? (+5), and so on. Your DM will have to set the final DC based on the overall circumstances.

1My interpretation why this is the case is that otherwise a high stealth character can sneak around and assassinate everyone with no risk of exposure, making this tactic unbalanced, for both sides of the DM screen. Assassination is a well known trope, but if it becomes so easy it cannot fail, it is no fun. I have experienced this with an optimized, high-stealth character in our group, which warped the entire game and put a lot of pressure on the DM to find mitigating tactics.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ this answer implies that a sneaky warrior killing a sentry without alerting other enemies, a classic trope of a dozen genres of fiction, should be disallowed or so heavily penalized it might as well be disallowed. is that your intent \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    Sep 1 at 23:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @user2754 my understanding of the intent of the rules is to prevent NPCs pulling this kind of trick against PCs - players get understandably annoyed if they all die one after another with no chance for rolls just because the party member on watch failed their perception check against the sneaky assassin. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1 at 23:56
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @user2754 I don't think the intent is to disallow it, but to make it reasonably difficult so that it does not become an unbalanced strategy that carries little to no risk. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2 at 5:12

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .