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In D&D 5e, the description of hiding (PHB p177) says an invisible creature needs to stay quiet and otherwise avoid leaving signs of its passing, while the "invisible" condition (p291) says the creature's location can be determined by any noise it makes. This seems straightforward: even a blinded creature can pinpoint the location of anything on the battlefield that isn't tiptoeing/holding its breath.

However, the Ranger's "Feral Senses" ability (p92) grants awareness of the locations of invisible creatures within 30 feet, provided the creatures aren't hiding and that the Ranger can both hear and see. I realize the ability also removes the disadvantage to attack rolls against invisible creatures, but the wording and limitations seem to imply that awareness of the location of an invisible, unhidden creature isn't a given.

I realize the hidden vs invisible question has come up before, but I'm hoping someone can explain what changes for a Ranger when she hits 18th level. Is there a scenario where a creature who can see and hear would not be aware of the location of unhidden, invisible creatures within 30 feet? Or is this just the equivalent of giving a fighter the ability to add half of their proficiency bonus to attacks with simple weapons for which they don't already have proficiency?

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Stealth and hidden are currently very much in the court of the DM. To some degree this ability takes some of the shakiness out of the current rules and gives you a measure of certainty.

Right now, at least to me, the stealth, invisible and hidden rules indicate the following:

  • If you are invisible but not hidden, your position is known, and you can be attacked with certainty, though at disadvantage.
  • If you are invisible and hidden, your position is not known and attacks against you must be made by guessing your location.

However, depending on the creature, and the DM's digestion, he could rule that an invisible creature's position is not known if they are being particularly quiet. To me (and in my games), this act of being quiet is the stealth check, but since making that stealth check costs an action, not all DMs may agree. A DM who disagrees and simply allows a character to "be quiet" with no stealth role or action is one for whom this ability was written (in part).

What the Ranger's power does is twofold. First it removes the disadvantage from the first case. Second it removes the ambiguity of the DM discretion. I would argue that the first thing it does is the primary element of this ability, removing disadvantage is pretty darn huge. However, the second one should not be overlooked. By putting Stealth and hidden firmly in the hands of the DM, 5e has opened itself up to this kind of interpretation. Giving a player a high level ability to negate this is an important element of that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your second paragraph is very important - DM indigestion often leads to irritability and unkind rulings. \$\endgroup\$ – Dacromir Feb 17 '18 at 23:51

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