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Page 177 "Hiding" says:

You can't hide from a creature that can see you.

Page 192 "Hide" says:

When you take the Hide action, you make a Dexterity (Stealth) check in an attempt to hide, following the rules in chapter 7 for hiding. lf you succeed, you gain certain benefits, as described in the "Unseen Attackers and Targets" section later in this chapter.

Page 195 "Unseen Attackers and Targets" says:

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

One of these sections must be false. If page 192 is true, and you gain certain benefits from succeeding on the hide action, then page 195 is false, because the only benefit listed is given to players who are unseen, not players who are hidden.

If page 195 is true, and you gain advantage for being unseen, then page 192 is false, because being unseen is a prerequisite for hiding, and succeeding or failing the Hide action stealth check would be irrelevant to whether you gain advantage.

Is there any way to determine which of these are intended?

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The new errata changes*

"You can't hide from a creature that can see you."

to

Using Ability Scores
Hiding (p. 177).
The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. Also, the question isn’t whether a creature can see you when you’re hiding. The question is whether it can see you clearly.

Which effectively changes the line on 177 to

"You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly."

With the errata there are no contradictions.

Lets go through this step by step.

On page 177, you can attempt to hide if nobody can see you clearly. Which means you can be seen, before you attempt to hide.

On page 192, it then says that when you hide, you gain the benefits of being unseen. (As listed in the section titled: Unseen Attackers and Targets) That means that when hidden, those who have a lower passive perception check than your stealth roll, can't see you. (Or those who try to search for you and fail) There are no benefits to being hidden other than becoming Unseen. Being Unseen, provides a few benefits.

On page 195, it then lists the benefit of being unseen by those who were unable to detect you, and that is that you can now attack them with advantage.

There are no contradictions.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @Strill Not to mention it can't target you directly. That's another pretty hefty benefit. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Aug 20 '15 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a benefit, but it's independent of whether you use the Hide action or succeed on the stealth check. The benefits are supposed to be specifically for using the Hide action. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Aug 20 '15 at 11:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, although it implies a lot of ways to bypass the need for the Hide action. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Aug 20 '15 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Strill The benefits listed there are for unseen attackers, and being hidden makes you unseen.If you happen to be hidden from a creature already because of the circumstances then you must have succeeded on your Dexterity(Stealth) check. Taking the Hide Action is still important because it allows you to enter this state after having been spotted. \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Aug 21 '15 at 11:11
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You are missing important parts of the hiding rules (PHB p.177, emphasis mine):

In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the Dungeon Master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack before you are seen.

At the DM's discretion, hiding enables your character to not be seen even though he normally would be, for a short while.

There is a difference between the act of "hiding", and "being hidden/not being seen". Hiding makes you hidden, being hidden means a creature can not see you, granting you advantage on attack rolls against that creature.

Putting it all together: Being unseen enables you to hide, making you hidden, which in turn makes you unseen under different circumstances. You can not normally stand in front of an enemy and be unseen. You can potentially hide behind that tree, come out of your hiding place and still be unseen (until you attack).

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The benefit of being hidden is concealing your position. How your position being concealed effects combat is described in the rest of that same quoted paragraph of pg 195 (bolded for emphasis)

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.

The advantage of being hidden is forcing attackers to guess your location. There are ways to become hidden without already being unseen (Skulker Feat, Wood Elves' Mask of the Wild, Halfling's Naturally Stealth), hence the followup errata. Under these conditions hiding DOES grant the status of unseen. Generally however, being unseen is a prerequisite of (and required status for) being hidden.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain why someone who's unseen (but didn't Hide) doesn't also force attackers to guess location? \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Sep 11 '15 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ The attackers can hear them. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Sep 11 '15 at 23:56

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