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In the Player's Handbook, the rules on Dexterity (Stealth) checks while wearing certain types of armor are pretty straightforward:

Stealth. If the Armor table shows "Disadvantage" in the Stealth column, the wearer has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. (PHB, p. 144)

However, even if not directly related with stealth disadvantage, a text block found earlier on the same page might be taken in consideration here :

Heavy armor Heavier armor interferes with the wearer's ability to move quickly, stealthily, and freely.

Thus, I'm wondering if the penalty still applies if the wearer stands perfectly still?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ 'Move' likely also means other parts than your legs. For example: you can't pick a lock without using your arms and hands, which can not move freely when weighed down. \$\endgroup\$ – MeanGreen Dec 15 '15 at 12:35
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As far as the rules are concerned, you've already quoted everything that is relevant here:

If the Armor table shows "Disadvantage" in the Stealth column, the wearer has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

There is no caveat there about "while moving" or "except when standing still", so yes, the penalty still applies when the wearer is standing still.

You are (as always) free to rule otherwise in your games, or if you're a player, ask the GM to rule otherwise. Of particular note here is the description of Dexterity checks:

A Dexterity check can model any attempt to move nimbly, quickly, or quietly, or to keep from falling on tricky footing.

So if you're standing still, the check might not be a Dexterity check. The description of the Stealth skill doesn't contradict this, either:

Stealth. Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.

Nothing here suggests that standing still should be modeled as a Stealth check, so it could be worth asking your GM (or ruling, if you are a GM), for some other kind of check to model this. The section (I won't quote it all here) on using skills with different ability checks (PHB pg. 175) may be useful for supporting this.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It makes a lot of sense. I tend to forget about the "you only ask for a roll when the outcome is uncertain" part of the rules for ability checks. \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Dec 15 '15 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 A stealth check could be required for standing still in order to remain hidden from someone. Standing perfectly still in heavy armor can prove to be a difficult task, especially for longer periods of time. And if the armor is especially clunky (thus listing Disadvantage Stealth in its stats) even a slight motion could produce a treacherous sound. So if the GM decides to require a roll, he/she definitely has justification beyond "it says so in the book". \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Dec 15 '15 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaFluid Oh, absolutely. I wasn't suggesting there shouldn't be a roll, just that it might not be a Dexterity roll. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Dec 15 '15 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also the armour would limit the places you can hide and how well you can reshape yourself to fit into those places or blend into an area. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Dec 15 '15 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ An elegant solution might be for the GM to grant advantage on certain non-moving stealth checks. This will cancel out the disadvantage from heavy armour, and seems thematically appropriate. \$\endgroup\$ – lithas Dec 15 '15 at 17:30

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