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When it comes to stealth, 5e is very vague on what can or cannot be done.

If we refer to the rules as written:

You can’t hide from a creature that can see you,... (PH. p177)

This means that being in partial cover doesn't grant you hiding potential since others can still "see" you.

So following this thinking, you couldn't hide behind a target since you would get half cover and could still be seen. What about hiding behind two consecutive targets? Could a DM rule that it would provide an improvement toward 3/4 cover? But then again, one could still be seen since it's partial cover... But what if you are behind multiple (3+) consecutive targets? At what point can we say that you are behind enough covering targets to provide a total cover?

Imagine an Assassin's creed type of scene where the hero is concealed and breaks line of sight by hiding in a massive crowd. It would definitely be an interesting scenario but the rules on hiding as they are make it difficult.

So my question is in two parts:

  • Do you think by some DM ruling, it would be appropriate to allow multiple creatures to provide enough cover to completely hide someone?
  • What would be a balanced ruling to permit such stealth play?
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You can’t hide from a creature that can see you,... (PH. p177)

... is perfectly clear.

The question you have to answer as DM is is the crowd dense enough that they can't see the hidden person.

A human in a crowd of halflings is going to struggle but a human in a crowd of a few dozen people is probably going to break line of sight sufficiently that they can not be seen. Of course, you could hide around the corner and then use the crowd to approach.

Notwithstanding, once you are hidden the crowd will certainly keep you hidden. To remain hidden you do not have to remain unseen, you just have to be unable to be seen clearly; the crowd will accomplish that.

See What advantages does hiding have?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ General idea about crowd density makes sense but i'm not too sure about your last lines. It contradicts the rule as stated: "You can't hide from a creature that can see you". I think that would apply to either a creature that can be seen clearly or not. \$\endgroup\$ – JWhitewolfS Jan 24 '16 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ No you can't; but you can remain hidden from a creature that can see you. Hide in this context is specifically about taking the Hide action - read the whole sidebar. There is a designer tweet about this too. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jan 24 '16 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok I see! Thanks for pointing out the difference between the hide action and the hidden "status". This nuance actually answers a lot of questions... \$\endgroup\$ – JWhitewolfS Jan 25 '16 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that the lightfoot halfing subrace has a feature that allows them to use medium or larger creatures as suitable cover for hiding. \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Mar 29 '16 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ This language has since been changed to "You can't hide from a creature that can see you clearly". \$\endgroup\$ – jgn 13 hours ago
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A lighfoot hafling can hide when behind another medium or larger creature.

That is the only character rule for that allows hiding behind another. So hiding in the crowd is not allowed RAW.

Personally I would not house rule for this either as hiding in a real crowd is going to show up as people look at you acting weird.

However, trying to act natural in a crowd as you sneak up on another person without being suspicious (like Assasins Creed) should be allowed, but should be based off not DEX, but CHA (I would go with Deception), e.g. you are trying to act inconspicous. As soon as the enemy is alerted, they can see you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ My call would be to ask for a CHA (Stealth) roll. \$\endgroup\$ – Greenstone Walker Jan 24 '16 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the idea of adapting the skill roll. Good thinking. \$\endgroup\$ – JWhitewolfS Jan 24 '16 at 21:02
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There isn't a DnD rule for this, but there should be, because as you will note that in a crowd if you duck you will not be visible to many folks. I borrow from games like warmachine and WarHammer for making calls like this and borrow the line of sight rules and the couple them with the cover rules on pages 250-251 in the DMG.

If who you are hiding from does not have line of sight to your miniature base and you are trying to hide behind creatures that are the same size as you (a man couldn't hide behind hobbits) then you may become unseen.

Line of sight defined thusly, if any part of his/her base has uninterrupted line of sight to any part of your base, then there is line of sight (although perhaps with cover). If you cannot draw a straight line from any part of his base to any part of your base, then you do NOT have line of sight and are fully covered and out of sight and can hide.

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