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The Player's Handbook says the following about sniping:

Sniping: If you’ve already successfully hidden at least 10 feet from your target, you can make one ranged attack, then immediately hide again. You take a -20 penalty on your Hide check to conceal yourself after the shot. [...]

Action: Usually none. Normally, you make a Hide check as part of movement, so it doesn’t take a separate action. However, hiding immediately after a ranged attack (see Sniping, above) is a move action. (PH 76)

Questions

  • Does this specific rule (being able to take a move action to hide after making a ranged attack) take precedence over the general rule of hide requiring a creature be unobserved and possess either concealment or cover?
  • Does taking the move action after sniping also allow the sniper to actually move--that is, travel from one square into another--or does taking the move action only allow the sniper to hide again where he already is?
  • If the sniping creature doesn't take the move action to hide after sniping, is the sniping creature's position automatically revealed? (This is especially relevant with regards to Example 3, below.)

The Disconnect

If I'm reading this correctly--and I might not be, hence the question--an attacker who strikes from surprise while hidden is more likely to be discovered after and while he attacks if he attacks his foe from at least 10 ft. away with a ranged weapon than if he attacks his foe with a melee weapon.

Example 1
A wields a loaded crossbow and waits in an alley for B to walk by. A is unobserved and has concealment. B walks by. An opposed skill check is made (A's Hide skill versus B's Spot skill). A wins the opposed skill check. A's presence is unknown to B. A fires his crossbow during the surprise round at B.

A, however, can't take a move action to make a Hide skill check after that ranged attack. It's the surprise round, and he's used his standard action for attacking.

Example 2
A wields a short sword and waits in an alley for B to walk by. A is unobserved and has concealment. B walks by. An opposed skill check is made (A's Hide skill versus B's Spot skill). A wins the opposed skill check. A's presence is unknown to B. A, during the surprise round, makes a melee attack versus B .

The requirement to take a move action to hide again is absent during--let's call it--backstabbing. Instead, we go by this sentence: "It's practically impossible (-20 penalty) to hide while attacking, running, or charging" (PH 76). This means, unlike a sniper, A can make an opposed check (A's Hide skill with a -20 penalty versus B's Spot skill) during the surprise round to remain hidden.

Example 3
A wields a loaded crossbow and waits on on a cliff overlooking a valley for B to walk by. A is unobserved and has a low obstacle for cover. B, 360 ft. away, walks by. An opposed skill check is made (A's Hide skill versus B's Spot skill at -36 for distance). A wins the opposed skill check. A's presence is unknown to B. A, during the surprise, fires his crossbow round at B.

As it's the surprise round A can't--after taking his standard action to attack--then immediately take a move action to make a Hide skill. Does B know A's position automatically?

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As you have analyzed in detail, there is a disconnect.

Effectively, we have two ways to use the Hide skill. One is the way it is usually (sic) done - as part of another action. Another is Sniping, which has its own action requirement.

However, since the first option allows hiding as part of an attack (note: an unspecified, general, attack), it encompasses every instance in which we might want to use the Sniping option. Since the Sniping option has an additional action requirement, it is useless, eclipsed by the "usual" method of hiding.

To answer your specific question: Yes, should combatant A foolishly decide to use the Sniping option of the Hide skill, combatant B automatically sees them, as A does not have the actions required to hide.

I suggest resolving all situations involving sniping using the "usual" rule (the one you described in Example 2). The sniping rule is broken.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That was my sense, too, especially since the sniping rules didn't exist until Dungeons and Dragons, 3rd Edition was updated to D&D 3.5. It looks like someone took issue with it and tried to patch it... poorly. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 23 '14 at 16:35
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First, let's answer your questions.

  • Any specifics impacted on by the Sniping rule definitely take precedence. Note, however, that Sniping requires you to be successfully hidden - any normal rules that cause you to not be hidden, therefore, would not allow you to Snipe (such as being observed, not having cover or concealment).
  • No. There's lots of things that use a Move action, and not all of them involve Movement (such as drawing a weapon, or lighting a torch). As you can see below, it even points out specifically that Sniping is an exception to 'as part of a move action' normal rules for Hiding, and it uses the 'a move action' wording.

    Normally, you make a Hide check as part of movement, so it doesn’t take a separate action. However, hiding immediately after a ranged attack (see Sniping, above) is a move action.

  • Not necessarily. It appears to have been intended in the ruleset that attacking automatically revealed your position, but as written in the Hide entry, it only gives a -20 to Hiding. Naturally, though, that -20 means that a lot of things are going to potentially spot you now.
There is no hard and fast method for dealing with changes in modifier on the results of continuous checks (like Hide and Spot, canonically). Some groups just shift the totals to account for circumstantial modifiers (which appears to be closest to RAW), others allow a new set of checks every time the modifier changes. So if you're hiding on a 36, and your opponent got a 24 to spot you, if you attack that lowers your Hide total to 16, which means they spot you with their previous 24. If they move 10' closer, their 24 becomes a 25, and so forth.

The listed examples.

Example 1

Yes, you're correct. In that scenario, A cannot Snipe. He doesn't have enough actions to both Attack and make the Move check Snipe requires. This is relatively moot, though, because as we've already covered, attacking doesn't automatically 'unhide' you. It just levies a -20 on your hide check, exactly the same as Sniping.

Example 2

You're correct, although the attackee knows which square he was attacked from, and could strike at the square blindly if he believes the attacker hasn't yet moved. Also, to my knowledge again there is no RAW basis for a new hide vs spot to be rolled vs the old check being used with different modifiers.

Example 3

This is more interesting. See, even though you are hidden, your projectile is not. Spotting small things at a distance can be quite ridiculously hard, but assuming the target spots it before it hits him (and the archer is not using the Volley Fire rules or some ability to 'ricochet' arrows), he now can draw a line and know that his enemy is somewhere along that line. If he manages to spot the projectile shortly after it's fired, he may even pinpoint the sniper's square.

Note also that you don't necessarily need to attack in the Surprise round. You can delay until the first 'real' round of combat. Unaware creatures will usually continue what they are doing even during 'combat rounds' if they have no reason to realize they are 'in combat', as it were.

So what's the point of Sniping?

If your group isn't using the houserule of 'roll every time a modifier changes', it's a semi-decent way to get another stealth roll, but some GMs might read that the next time you attack (with your -20 hide sniping roll), you take an additional -20 (for attacking), for a total of -40. Overall it seems to be there because someone assumed that attacking breaks stealth - a common assumption and one of the most common unknowing houserules in the game.

Houserules for this problem

I like this one.

Hiding in 3.5 D&D is Dumb

OK, we all know that it makes us feel kind of bad when the Rogue sneaks up on people and stabs them in the face without them ever seeing who did it. But you know what? People totally do that crap all the time. It's not even an uncommon occurrence, and there's really no cause to get excited about. The 3.5 rules for hiding, where you need cover or concealment to hide, are retarded. That makes Rogues run around with tower shields so that they can hide themselves and their equipment behind the cover of the tower shield (including the tower shield itself, which makes my brain hurt). Yes, you can totally hide when there are no intervening objects between you and the victim. It's called "sneaking up behind people" and in a game with no facing it's handled with a hide check opposed by spot.

If you attempt to hide in a combat setting, you are under a number of restrictions:

  • A character who has been attacked automatically can guess what square you are in. You may retain your invisibility, but that's just Full Concealment, and they could very plausibly hit you.
  • There is a -20 penalty to Hide for attempting to fight while hidden. The distance penalties on Spot are pretty amazing, but most people can't hide at a -20 penalty.
  • Once they see you, they see you. If an opponent successfully spots you even once (and they get to try every round while in combat), they just plain see you until you manage to get all the way out of their field of view (generally requiring you to leave the scene or make bluff checks or something).
  • Spot Bonuses can get quite large. A spotter who knows what he's looking for gets a +4 bonus, and a spotter who is extremely familiar with the target gets a +10 bonus – these bonuses are weirdly listed under the Disguise skill, but they still apply (so if someone says "There's a halfling Ninja over there!" every other Guard gets a +4 bonus).

But you can do it. Hiding in combat is hard, but it's a thing that powerful characters may be able to do against some opponents. Some of the D&D authors have an outdated idea that Rogues should be forced to "hide in shadows" or something. But this is D&D, and most enemies have Darkvision. There are no shadows. Attempting to force Rogues to hide only in areas that they could plausibly hide in if a suspicious person was looking right at them and knew what they were looking for is incredibly cruel. In any kind of stressful situation that isn't an accurate picture of what is going on.

- (C) Frank Trollman.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Another thing for DMs to keep in mind when assigning circumstance modifiers, is that hide doesn't necessarily mean that the character is not noticed at all, merely dismissed as being unimportant to pay attention to. "Hiding" in the middle of a battle mostly means "not drawing attention". As a real-life example, I have a friend who is so good at being inconspicuous that he has had people who know him walk up to him and ask him if he's seen himself. And the times he's said "no" they've walked away to look elsewhere. The hide skill encompasses this kind of thing as well as ducking behind rocks. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Aug 26 '14 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing new in this house rule except waiving the requirement of cover or concealment and a misapplication of disguise modifiers. If you assume you had to be hidden to begin with (which sort of sounds like it with 3rd bullet ), it is RAW if you add the modifiers for Sneak Up From Hiding and drop the Disguise modifiers to recognize a disguise. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jul 7 '15 at 18:58
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The purpose of the rule

You should always ask why a rule exists before discussing how the rule should work. This "hiding again requires a move action" rule assumes that you have both a standard action and a move action, so it is assuming that you are sniping during a normal combat round, and its purpose is to forbid you from moving "extra" when you are trying to duck back into your concealment before you are spotted.

As written, how the ranged-alleyway-scenario plays out

  1. When combat begins is, as far as I know, not an official part of the rules, with the general approach being "combat begins when someone realizes that combat should begin." Therefore, the combat officially begins 6 seconds before the targets cross the alley, when you become aware that someone is coming. This is the surprise round; you get one standard action to prepare. You do not need to make a Hide check as you're totally concealed.
  2. During the next round, the targets move into range, and thereby stop being flat-footed. They yield their standard actions because they don't yet know they are in combat. You are depending that your GM forbids metagaming at this point. The targets roll for initiative order and then move in that order, then comes the Hide-vs-Spot checks as they move.
  3. If you are still hidden, then on this turn, you have readied your ranged-attack action to occur when the last opponent has moved into range. This means that your initiative for the rest of the combat will be second-to-last.
  4. You use your standard action to execute a ranged attack. Per the Hide rules, you immediately consume your move action to hide. Per the readied-action rules, you can take a five-foot step as part of the action in whatever direction you choose, so you might choose to shoot and then step behind more cover, and immediately after the action you can make another Hide check to remain hidden. You may not have to: the five-foot step could bring you to a place of total concealment again, for example if you make the ranged attack from a cross-street and then step into the cross-street. Ideally you would step into a place which is totally concealed no matter how your opponents move, as they will get move actions before you get any further actions.
  5. The GM stops blocking metagaming for the following round: the other people are not flat-footed and presumably can figure out that you are somewhere in that alley, even though they may not know where.

Better house rules

We can better preserve the spirit of the rules if we simply state that the hide action is a free action (rather than a move action) during a surprise round which starts with your arrow. You get your five-foot-step and additional-shot, but then we regenerate initiative for the actual combat. The only differences here are, (a) some people will still get an action before you do in the following combat rounds, but it is not necessarily everyone except for the slowest opponent; (b) you make your attack on flat-footed opponents who get no DEX bonus.

We can also preserve the spirit of the rules by changing the flat-footed rule to state that anyone who is not aware that combat has begun remains flat-footed until they become aware of that fact.

Finally, we can promote the surprise round to a full round, so that the only distinctive things about it are that everyone rolls a separate initiative and not everyone can act during it. Alternatively, we could allow both a standard and move action during the surprise round (but still forbid full-round actions like spellcasting and full attacks).

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    \$\begingroup\$ When combat begins kind of is official. Each terrain includes an entry for Stealth and Detection except, of course, the actually really important ones: cities and dungeons. I do like the idea of more initiative more often and have posited playing like that myself in this answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 10 '15 at 16:52
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'Staying hidden while attacking' and 'hiding immediately after a ranged attack' (sniping) are different actions which are not mutually exclusive

It's practically impossible (-20 penalty) to hide while attacking... (PHB 76)

But you are allowed to try. The Hide skill does not forbid attempting this for a ranged attack, so you may attempt this not-an-action such that you are not revealed to the defender or anyone else.

Sniping: If you’ve already successfully hidden at least 10 feet from your target, you can make one ranged attack, then immediately hide again. (PHB 76)

Nothing in this paragraph mandates that such a ranged attack reveals your position.

My reading posits that you may attempt to remain hidden when making your ranged attack, using a move action as per the sniping rules to attempt to hide again if you were spotted.

Answers

  • Yes, sniping allows you to attempt to hide even if you have been observed. It does not waive the need for concealment or cover in and of itself: it merely requires that you are already hidden, which means there must be conditions that allowed you to hide.

  • No. The attempt to hide is a move action, that must occur immediately after the attack. If you have some source of additional actions, you may only move after this hiding attempt.

  • Yes, if the sniping creature failed to remain hidden while attacking. The ramifications of question is somewhat less potent if this answer's reading is accepted; the sniper has still had an opposed roll to remain hidden.

Examples

Example 1

A wins a surprise round by virtue of having successfully hidden. They use this advantage to make an attack against B, while attempting to remain hidden with a -20 penalty. If they are next to act (by winning initiative), I would allow them to start that turn with a move action to hide as allowed by sniping, assuming they failed to remain hidden in the surprise round.

A can also choose to not make any attention-grabbing action in the surprise round. I would let B have another chance at spotting A in this case, but otherwise A then has a full round to act. I do not believe the rules permit sequential surprise rounds if one side is still unaware.

Example 2

If A fails to remain hidden while making a melee attack, there can be no recourse. If A is next to act, they may withdraw into the shadows of the alleyway and attempt to hide again if they wish, but cannot hide 'in-place' like a sniper.

Example 3

A attempts to remain hidden when he fires his crossbow at B and, given the modifiers, will likely succeed. They have no need to invoke the sniping rules. (I will concede that this reading makes sniping a potential misnomer - having to hide again after failing to remain concealed would be shameful for any self-respecting sniper!) Like the alleyway, a move action can still immediately follow this by winning initiative.

Oddities

My reading, particularly when applied to the examples presented above, allows a move action on your next turn - providing that that is your next action - can be used to hide with sniping. This would create a strange case where you don't win initiative, your opponent locates and attacks you, only for you to disappear after their attack thanks to sniping.

Personally, I would take a lead from charge's allowance for surprise rounds. I'd house-rule that in the surprise round you may hide after a range attack, providing you were hidden before you made the attack, as a free action. This would replace the closer-to-RAW suggestion in my responses to your examples, above.

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That phrase in the begining of Hide skill description may very well by "while attacking" mean "while sniping". "While attacking" might've appear earlyer, authors just as well might've think that now (when sniping rule was added) it is obvious what that part means so why bother and change it if it still is technically correct? You may hide while attacking, just not while attacking in any manner. And penalties do match.
I'm strongly inclined to say that you shouldn't be able to hide while attacking in normal manner, and hiding with -20 penalty while charging is there for a charger to remain unnoticed until the blow lands contrary to until he starts charging. I think, hiding should always be a part of a movement or a move action if you travel no distance. Sniping just effectively prevents you from being observed (and pinpointed) for some arbitrary small amount of time, allowing you to try to hide yourself with a move action even if in case of regular attack you would be noticed immidiately after the attack and will have no chance to hide even if you have an ability to travel some distance or have a move action left after the attack is made.

Note, it is my speculation, and while rules may be interpreted this way, they may as well be interpreted another way and still correspond with RAW.


As for your examples, situations (1 and 3) you've described realy provide strange outcomes, effectively punishing A for being clever. Solutions @mike32 provides are most reasonable in my point of wiew, and first of them came to my mind before I even red his answer (so at least two people rule this way).

Still a houserules territory.

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Does this specific rule (being able to take a move action to hide after making a ranged attack) take precedence over the general rule of hide requiring a creature be unobserved and possess either concealment or cover?

No. There's nothing in the Sniping text that indicates you can hide without otherwise fulfilling requirements necessary to hide.

Does taking the move action after sniping also allow the sniper to actually move--that is, travel from one square into another--or does taking the move action only allow the sniper to hide again where he already is?

Not according to the Hide skill;

hiding immediately after a ranged attack (see Sniping, above) is a move action.

There's nothing specifically called out that allows you to combine the move action to hide after a ranged attack with moving any actual distance (like drawing a weapon or readying a shield). However, I specifically have a house rule that does just this.

If the sniping creature doesn't take the move action to hide after sniping, is the sniping creature's position automatically revealed? (This is especially relevant with regards to Example 3, below.)

If the sniper was successfully hidden from the target before the attack, the target must also use a move action to gain another Spot check.

Trying to spot something you failed to see previously is a move action.

So, yes, if the target uses a move action to Spot, but the sniper either is unwilling or unable to make a Hide check, then the sniper is no longer hiding. However, if the target does not take a move action, then no Spot is rolled and thus the sniper remains hidden.

Your presumption that

an attacker who strikes from surprise while hidden is more likely to be discovered after and while he attacks if he attacks his foe from at least 10 ft. away with a ranged weapon than if he attacks his foe with a melee weapon.

Hinges on two mistakes.

The requirement to take a move action is absent

This is not correct. The move action requirement is always there, according to the Hide skill, as it is normally a “part of movement, so it doesn’t take a separate action”. It just reads a bit odd as it starts with “None”.

The second mistake comes from the move action required by Spot.

In each of your 3 examples, "A's presence is unknown to B" and A attacks B during the surprise round. Since B is surprised, B doesn't have any actions, including the move action needed to Spot the previously hidden A.

Let’s assume for argument’s sake that

Every time you have a chance to spot something in a reactive manner you can make a Spot check without using an action.

Takes precedence over

Trying to spot something you failed to see previously is a move action.

And that the action from Hide

Usually none. Normally, you make a Hide check as part of movement, so it doesn’t take a separate action.

Was meant to be like the action from Move Silently

None. A Move Silently check is included in your movement or other activity, so it is part of another action.

Except for the sniping case,

However, hiding immediately after a ranged attack (see Sniping, above) is a move action.

Then in example 1, A is concealed but not hidden and in example 3, A is in the open, so in both cases, B can now see A. In example 3, A could take a free action after the shot to drop prone, thus gaining total cover; making the need for a Hide check unnecessary to remain hidden, but that’s really beside the point.

Since in the melee case, the factor that changes the Hide modifier is the attack, and arguably Hide is intended to be a part of another action, in this case the attack, the new Hide check doesn’t require an action. In the ranged case, let’s speculate the move action requirement was intended because they were envisioning actual movement, like moving away from cover and moving back. In example 1, A doesn’t need to move anywhere, because she has concealment. In example 3, A doesn’t need to move anywhere because she has cover. Then hiding after a ranged attack wouldn’t require a move action if it didn’t involve actual movement. This would be the most reasonable interpretation. It would also make sniping much more viable before acquiring Shot on the Run.

If a move action is required after a ranged attack to remain hiding, then this would never be viable where actual movement was involved, even with Shot on the Run, as you wouldn’t have any move actions available to return if you made any actual movement to step out from hiding.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the rule Trying to spot something you failed to see previously is a move action is overridden when the creature makes another Hide skill check. That is, otherwise, for example, if a D&D creature fails its Spot skill check to notice its keys even only once, the creature must forevermore for the remainder of its existence take a move action to try to Spot its keys! (A creature must take the move action to make a Spot check if it fails against a foe that's hiding and that remains hiding while another's seeking, however.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 23 '17 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's not what the rule says, but it's a reasonable inference. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jun 23 '17 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're gonna stick to your guns about the rules supporting the lost keys analogy? That's bold, man. Seriously, respect. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 23 '17 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan you would make a Search check to find keys. Spot is for creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Oct 20 '18 at 21:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh. I don't have a lot of notes on the Spot skill, but Expedition to the Demonweb Pits, for instance, has several instances the Spot skill being used to notice stuff rather than only creatures, seeming to make the same distinction as the skill Search: "The Spot skill lets you notice something, such as a hiding rogue. The Search skill lets a character discern some small detail or irregularity through active effort" (PH 81). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 21 '18 at 3:00

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