From the PHB, Appendix A on Conditions:


  • An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature's location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature's attack rolls have advantage.

One of my players was sneaking around while invisible. Unfortunately, his Stealth roll failed to beat an NPC's Passive Perception, so he was detected. What does 'detected' actually mean?

I ruled at the time that the NPC could tell someone was there but not exactly where (because she heard the noise made by someone moving), but RAW, did she know exactly where he was?


3 Answers 3


Ok, crazy thing about the difference between hidden and invisible...there isn't much of one.

The big difference between the two is the ability to be attacked directly. If you are hidden, your enemy doesn't know your location, and thus cannot target you directly. They have to guess (DM should use some kind of randomization here), and may or may not actually be targeting you (See "Unseen attackers and targets" p194 of PHB).

In contrast if you are only invisible, then your enemy knows where you are and can attack you directly at disadvantage. The biggest benefit of Invisible is that it provides you with the conditions to hide continuously instead of having to find cover all the time.

The other thing this is important for is that an invisible, but detected creature isn't going to get a surprise round. An invisible but hidden creature will.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This was bugging me to no end... glad to see that my confusion was somewhat warranted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 5:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing worth adding (although the OP already knows it, it is key). Being invisible means you continually qualify for the conditions to become hidden. Its one Stealth check away to upgrade and gain protection from being targeted, even after you have been "detected". So an initial fail could/should mean you can be targeted directly, but it is relatively quick to recover (shame about giving away the alarm though!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 10:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater you edit the answer and add this or wax eagle should. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 13:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ This contradicts the Ranger's Feral Senses ability. It gives Rangers the ability to sense Invisible, but unhidden enemies, which you seem to think is something all characters can do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Strill
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 8:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Strill This is a fine question/answer in its own right, since other classes don't have the Ranger's Feral Sense. I recommend your referencing this question and asking a question on this specific case. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 19:54

There are two types of senses in 5e: vision, and everything else.

Vision covers normal sight, and includes: Blindsight, Darkvision, and Truesight. Other senses include: hearing, and tremorsense

If you can detect something with any sense, then you know its location at the very least. If you can hear something, then you can tell what it sounds like. If you can see something you can tell what it looks like. Fairly straightforward.

There are a few benefits unique to sight. For example the Unseen Attackers and Targets section applies only to vision (or lack thereof):

When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.


When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden--both unseen and unheard--when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

If you can't see or hear a target, then you will have to guess its location.

An invisible creature cannot be seen

Being invisible means you cannot be seen, but you can be heard:

An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature's location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.

  • An invisible creature cannot be seen
  • But it can be heard so its location is known
  • It attacks with advantage
  • Attacks against it have disadvantage

A hidden creature cannot be seen, and cannot be heard (so long as it doesn't make noise!)

The rules for Hiding state:

When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check's total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.

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.

  • A hiding creature cannot be seen
  • It cannot be heard (unless it makes noise) so its location is unknown
  • It attacks with advantage, and when it does the location it attacks from is revealed
  • Attacks against it have disadvantage, and you have to guess the creature's location

Hiding is better than being invisible

A hiding creature's location is unknown. This makes it harder to fight against. If you want to attack the creature, you need to guess its location. If you guess wrong, the attack automatically misses.

If a hiding character's stealth check is beaten by someone, then hiding has no benefits against that person. In your situation, that means that the invisible player's location will be known, their footsteps can be heard or other evidence can be detected.


That is correct. And in the case of Feral Senses, it simply forces even a creature that is invisible to find cover or is instantly detected by a ranger or other creature with Feral Senses.

In this situation I suggest an invisible creature still hides to avoid a rangers detection until the ranger can detect and then tell the others. A GM had a similar case with my Ranger where I was able to take the help action to help my group with their perception checks. The ones who succeeded in detecting participated in a surprise round with the creature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. :-) This site has some particular methods that are explained in the tour and in the help center section. Please take the tour. Insofar as your answer to the question goes, I would recommend that you first address the original question, and then (since the previous answer does not cover it) spell out how Feral Sense works in this case. (Citations and page numbers from the PHB will be helpful when included in the answer). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2016 at 19:56

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