I just had a thought concerning a Half-Fae Warlock I'm building: if the Half-Fae template grants him butterfly wings for flight, and butterflies aren't exactly known for having audible flying sounds. Which got me thinking: Depending on whether or not flight warranted Move Silently checks, combining Walk Unseen (invisibility at will) with Entropic Warding (24 hour Entropic Shield and Pass Without Trace) could make him an unparalleled stealth player.

Which begs the question: Does flight usually warrant Move Silently checks? On one hand my Warlock's butterfly wings might not make that much noise, but on the other hand, he might still need to avoid bumping into things or upsetting nearby objects with gusts from his wings. Which is it, then?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's not the butterflies wings that make them move "silently" - it's that they have so little mass, there's very little energy required to move them, which creates very little waste energy (aka sound). If the butterfly was as big as a Half-Fae, it would make a lot of noise. \$\endgroup\$ – corsiKa Sep 4 '13 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @corsiKa Tho do note that as written, size is not considered in Move Silently (only Hide). Therefore, a butterfly, a giant butterfly, and the tarrasque strolling through the meadow are all have identical modifiers to their Move Silently. \$\endgroup\$ – dlras2 Sep 4 '13 at 20:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dlras2 I absolutely agree. I was speaking from a roleplaying point of view, not a rollplaying point of view =) \$\endgroup\$ – corsiKa Sep 4 '13 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Of course, stealth while using winged flight is not adequately represented by just one roll. For example, rules state that a sufficiently large winged creature hovering sufficiently low practically cannot be stealthy regardless of other considerations (bonuses etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – Eugene Ryabtsev Sep 5 '13 at 14:21

There is no rule that says that flying allows you to move silently. The entry for Move Silently simply says that you move, it doesn't say how. You're dealing with noise issues such as the rustle of clothing and the creaking of equipment, as well as your own ability to step silently and not breathe loudly.

That said, some of the terrain modifiers wouldn't apply. I wouldn't for example apply the -2 penalty for moving through dense rubble if you're flying (or even levitating) over it. I would apply the penalty for moving through thick brush if you're trying to fly through it, but not over it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that distance penalties make it easy for a flying character to remain hidden simply by flying high up. Every 10 feet distance from your opponent increases his Listen DCs by +1 and imposes a -1 penalty to his Spot checks. At 200 feet above ground you effectively have +20 to Hide and Move Silently. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Dovahkiin Sep 4 '13 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanDrain: But this should apply to the flying character as well for spotting things on the ground. May or may not be a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Zan Lynx Sep 5 '13 at 2:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that unless you have concealment or cover, you cannot Hide, which means even though Spot takes similar distance penalties as Listen, you don't even need to make a Spot check to see something flying in the middle of the sky unless he's got cloud cover or something. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 12 '13 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ He mentioned Walk Unseen though which means he will be invisible, so shouldn't that eliminate Spot as a consideration for this particular circumstance? \$\endgroup\$ – Dyndrilliac Jan 22 '14 at 20:23

Flight does indeed require Move Silently checks. (If, of course, you're trying to not make noise.)
This is backed up in the rules by the entry for Giant Owl, which states:

When in flight, giant owls gain a +8 bonus on Move Silently checks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Although all answers are sensible, +1 for the quote-supported answer. \$\endgroup\$ – kravaros Sep 4 '13 at 17:56

No, it does not. Neither the butterfly wings nor being able to fly by other means grant perfectly silent flight. No rule says so. Flying may look like a silent activity in some situations (a falcon gliding) but it is not so in general. In particular, it is usually not silent when you are carrying a lot of metal gear on you. ;-)

In narrative terms, as you mention, you can think of the sound produced by the wings, possible bumps against above-ground obstacles or the equipment itself, wind currents produced by the wings, etc, to justify failed Moved Silently rolls.

Note: If your ears were non-human (for example, much smaller), you would definitely hear the noise produced by butterflies. ;-)

  • \$\begingroup\$ ... and by the scabbard of your sword, hitting against the chainmail, as one decelerates, as Tridus points out. \$\endgroup\$ – Vorac Sep 12 '13 at 11:30

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