I know that Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 is a pretty lousy stealth simulator--which is probably why I've not seen a lot of folks try to play characters that hide--, but I want to clarify the hiding rules as they're written because a player at my table soon might be running a character who hides a lot.

Is the summary below accurate?


This summary references the skill Hide (PH 76), concealment (PH 152-3) and cover (PH 150-2). This assumes the hiding place mentioned in the skill Hide is a location that grants concealment, cover, or both.

Step 1

Determine if the hider is being observed

If the hider is unobserved...

Before the hider can make a Hide skill check, the hider must get to a hiding place or by other means acquire either concealment, cover, or both. Then, when an observer later has line of sight to the hider, make an opposed skill check, the hider's Hide skill versus that observer's Spot skill. If the hider wins, the hider is hidden from that observer. If that observer wins, the hider is not hidden from that observer.

If the hider is observed...

The hider must first create a diversion to hide.

Step 2

If the hider must create a diversion in order to hide, the hider takes a standard action that doesn't provoke attacks of opportunity to create that diversion to hide.

Make an opposed skill check, the hider's Bluff skill versus each observer's Sense Motive skill. If...

  • the hider wins, the hider diverts the observer, and can move up to 1 ft. per rank the hider has in the Hide skill as part of the standard action.
  • the observer wins, the hider fails to divert the observer and can't attempt to hide from that observer. The hider can still move up to 1 ft. per rank the hider has in the Hide skill as part of the standard action.

If there is no hiding place within 1 ft. per rank the hider has in the Hide skill, the hider can't hide from any observers.

Step 3

If the hider reaches a hiding place, the hider can attempt to hide in the hiding place from diverted observers.

Make an opposed skill check, the hider's Hide skill at a -10 penalty versus each diverted observer's Spot skill. If...

  • the hider wins the hider is hidden versus that diverted observer.
  • the observer wins the hider is not hidden versus that diverted observer.

Why This Matters, and Why I Want Confirmation
By this reading of the skill, a hider with no Hide skill-related special abilities only ever uses his full bonus to the skill Hide when unobserved. Thus most of the time the hider's suffering a -10 penalty to Hide skill checks.

Further, the skill Bluff is vital for using the skill Hide as the game never quantifies any other method of momentarily distracting observers. Even the seemingly aptly named feat Chord of Distraction (CS 75), 1st-level Desert Wind martial maneuver distracting ember [boost] (ToB 52), 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell distract assailant [ench] (CAd 146), and 4th-level ranger alternative class feature distracting attack (PH2 55) don't create momentary distractions for the purposes of making Hide skill checks.

Finally, both rangers and monks have the skill Hide as a class skill, but neither has the skill Bluff as a class skill, making hiding a challenging tactic for monks throughout their careers and for rangers until level 17 when the need for Bluff skill checks to create a distraction is finally obviated by their hide in plain sight ability.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This... seems like an awfully broad question-as-answer. It seems that your question is for a full summary of stealth rules. The 5 questions below seem to be distinct questions that should be asked as such. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton I've summarized the rules in hopes of confirming their accuracy; the edit should clear that up. While splitting off the questions is possible, they stem from the summary, but I've removed the request for opinions on house rules. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then this question should be, in effect, "is this correct?" Once you have determined the validity, your three questions can be asked as separate questions that refer to this one. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton Fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ While writing the question, you just wrote the perfect guideline of hiding rules in DnD 3.5 which I was looking for. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 12:39

2 Answers 2


This is substantially correct as a summary of the numbers-based rules, yes.

The inference that Bluff is a vital skill isn't correct though. The Hide skill is used to avoid detection in the first place. It is possible, but very hard, to hide after you've been detected... but the game acknowledges that someone very clever and skilled could pull off a "vanishing act" like that after they've already been spotted, so it provides some rules for it. But using Hide after being detected is not the normal use of the skill.

A ranger stalking through the woods to scout out a forward position uses Hide to avoid being detected at all. A thief infiltrating a keep in the dead of night uses Hide to avoid being noticed by the guards on duty while they slip in and out. If they need to cause a distraction in order to hide again, it's because they've already failed at their primary use of the Hide skill somehow, and in such emergency situations "re-hiding" will not always be the optimal response. (Fleeing is probably much better suited to most situations.) Buying up the Bluff skill is far from necessary, as there are other ways deal with such a contingency. Investing significant advancement resources into becoming especially good at vanishing from plain sight while observed is only one way of dealing with it; a flavourful one, it's true, but an expensive and very specialised way of developing a character.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Strongly agree on the note that Bluff is not a key thing here; I've never actually seen anyone use that application of the Bluff skill. It's just too difficult, and combat is too pressing to take that much time out to re-hide, particularly with that risk of failure. Those who cared enough about in-combat stealth found a way to get Hide in Plain Sight one way or the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 16:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Incidentally: can the Bard use Bluff to distract an observer in order to allow the Monk to hide? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ It could well be argued that what you are describing is Move Silently, not hide... \$\endgroup\$
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WeckarE Moving Silently is of course a vital stealth skill as well, but it only works to not be heard and Hide is still necessary to not be seen while on the move. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that how it works? I felt 3.5 was rather ambiguous in that regard. I Always read it as Move Silently being sneaking, while Hide being stationary hiding (of oneself or camouflaging others). \$\endgroup\$
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 6:57

Your explanation appears to cover the mechanics correctly.

There are of course exceptions to what is needed in order to hide granted by abilities like a Rangers ability to hide in natural terrain and a Shadowdancers ability to hide in plain sight, but other than that, it seems correct.


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