My players love putting me in situations where I have to quickly adjudicate without being able to deeply consult the rules. The downside is that we are using 5e, and most of my experience is in 3.x, so it's very easy for me to get things mixed up. The players are happy with the outcome, but I have a feeling this sort of situation will be coming up more often, so I want to be sure I'm not missing something:

Sneaking into town

The level 7 party (rogue, druid, barbarian, sorcerer and cleric) snuck into town unseen by having Insibility cast on the rogue, the druid wildshaping into something small and slipping into his pocket, and the rest hiding in a bag of holding (with just barely enough air to get there). It worked very well, and they managed to get past every patrol and guard (Pass Without Trace + Rogue with sneak expertise = no roll under 30; a few patrols were good enough to spot something that "low" but those rolls ended up being 35+). It was risky, but they pulled it off.

I think everything was "good" from a rules standpoint there, lots of opposed checks and decisions were made to avoid the most populated areas, and they scouted ahead the day before, so they knew the route.

Breaking into the building

When they finally got to the main building where the crown was (a 3 storey manor house) they got in by breaking in through a 2nd storey window with help from their 24 ft ladder (bag of holding :) ) and Mended the glass back to perfection before a patrol came by (they cut a small hole in the glass with a gem and opened the lock, then Mended the piece of glass back in and closed the window).

Technically speaking, the patrol might have spotted the place the ladder was in the ground, but they never got around to that side before the rest of the action happened.

The snatch

Greater Invisbility was cast on the rogue, who then went downstairs, snuck past the guards (good rolls), and managed to distract them by throwing a coin hard against a door, making the old cook come out and start yelling at the guards for making noise. Rogue snuck into the "Throne Room" where there were four people and a large guard cat (a variant of saber toothed tiger that failed miserably to detect the rogue by smell). His plan was to Move up to the table, grab the crown off of one of the guy's heads, and put it in the bag of holding before running back out the door with his Dash.

My ruling was that grabbing the crown would be his action (and take a melee attack to grab it), that everyone in the room got a new perception check when he got up on the table (they all failed miserably) and once he grabbed the crown it was opposed initiative to see if he got to finish his move. My thought being that the leader wearing the crown would get to react to someone taking it (and everyone else would notice the crown disappearing).

The rogue won initiative handily, and got back upstairs with only the guard cat noticing and chasing him. The whole party managed to get away from the town mostly unharmed, but should I have run the snatch itself differently? The rogue usually runs full speed (3× move) when sneaking, which doesn't seem really stealthy (no books on me at the moment, but in 3.5 that would be a penalty to the sneak check).

Are there any rules that it looks like I am missing in these scenarios? Now that it has worked, I expect it to come up a few more times.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What kind of town patrol is capable of rolling above 30? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Dec 16, 2019 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ruse the "not a human town" kind. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16, 2019 at 14:48

5 Answers 5


Possible reasons this might not work:

  • The bag of holding doesn't hold enough weight (500 pounds total)
  • The bag of holding doesn't have enough space for the creatures (64 cubic feet)
  • The bag of holding doesn't have enough air in it (10 minutes total for all creatures)
  • Greater invisibility doesn't last long enough (1 minute total)
  • Greater invisibility doesn't affect creatures you carry (only you and objects you carry)
  • You aren't automatically hidden just because you're invisible (you still need to make Stealth checks when you move)
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "... enough space for the creatures" and a 24' ladder. \$\endgroup\$
    – starchild
    Sep 21, 2018 at 23:31

I see no blatant misses of rules and it sounds like they just rolled really well, which is something the DM just has to eat sometimes. Like you, I pretty recently converted from 3.5 to 5e, and I had to get away from a few habits that really undermine some mechanics in 5e. While you missed no "rules", I would bet you have these "problems":

1) Rolls of 30 and 35+ are pretty absurd in 5e. I'm guessing the player characters have some pretty liberal gear offering them flat bonuses to skills and abilities. While certainly not gone in 5e, these flat bonuses are rarer and seem to have a much bigger impact.

2) One major mechanic change that I love and still don't use often enough is advantage/disadvantage. If you're unfamiliar, "advantage" is when a situation, either via the rules or at the DM's discretion, dictates that a certain party should have a higher chance of success than normal. When you roll with "advantage", you roll twice, and take the higher result. Similarly, when you roll with "disadvantage", you roll twice and take the lower result.

When I reread your recap above, I see multiple places where I think I would have granted advantage to the parties they were sneaking around - most notably when the rogue climbed up on a table in what sounds like an otherwise quiet, empty, and uneventful room. Doubling the number of dice rolled, in my opinion, would have been appropriate and either A) Resulted in someone noticing them, which it feels like they should have or B) Made it all the more epic to the party when they got away with it despite your 400 dice rolls.

So, no, I don't see any "missed rules" in the sense you did something you weren't supposed to or overlooked an element the rules explicitly called for, but perhaps "missed opportunities to employ extra mechanics unique to 5e".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 23, 2018 at 0:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think in your second to last paragraph you mean you would have granted disadvantage to the party, the rational you give afterwards suggests you think things should be harder, not easier! \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9, 2019 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ concerning 1): rolls of around thirty are far from absurd for a rogue with expertise in stealth who is under the effects of Pass Without Trace (which was the case here). Assuming 18 DEX, that's d20 + 4 + 2*3 + 10. In other words, the rogue has a flat +20 bonus to his stealth checks and only has to roll a 10 for a 30 stealth check. With a little bit of luck and perhaps the Lucky feat (as a variant human), it's not too unreasonable that a rogue can pull off a series of difficult stealth checks. Even more so if someone cast Enhance Ability on him before (not mentioned in the question though). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 21, 2021 at 11:41

The PHB talks about spell range on pages 202 - 203, and says that range doesn't matter for buffs once a spell is cast. That said, specific always beats general in 5e. and Pass Without a Trace contains the wording

"For the duration, each creature you choose within 30 feet of you (including you),"

Creatures need to stay within your 30 ft aura to receive the +10 Stealth bonus.  [Wild Shape]Transforming doesn't break your concentration on a spell you've already cast so the druid doing Pass Without a Trace and Wild Shaping into a cricket in the rogue's pocket is a legal and very powerful combo.

The Sorcerer's Greater Invisibility would stick despite line of site or proximity from being inside the Bag of Holding. You could potentially introduce a concentration check on the Sorcerer entering the Astral Plane but that's kind of before the action, anyway.

Your Bag of Holding physical limitations are where it unravels.

The Bag of Holding can hold 64 cubic feet, or basically a space 4ft x 4ft x 4ft (like a small gun safe). A 24 ft ladder has no chance of fitting in this bag, so their entry way to the 2nd floor was not possible. I don't think a Barbarian, Sorcerer, and Cleric could all fit in there unless they were all gnomes, and it'd still be tight, although probably not exceeding the 500 lb weight limit.

Furthermore, you don't use 1+constitution minutes breathing with the bag of holding, it uses a mechanic of 10 divided by the number of creatures in the bag. In this case, you'd have 3 minutes 20 seconds with the 3 gnomes in your bag of holding, not nearly enough time to get all the way through town, set up a ladder, cut a g,em hole, etc without suffocating and having to make concentration checks on invisibility. They implemented these Bag of Holding mechanics so that it's not overpowered for this exact reason; your players are abusing the bag. They couldn't have done any of this (mechanically), although it is pretty rule of cool.

Greater Invisibility is also sort of tricky. It makes you completely invisible, but you still have sound and smell. The creators of 5e have said it doesn't automatically hide you, you can just attempt to Hide anywhere, which the rogue with PWAT would be quite good at. I'm not sure I agree with how you handled the crown snatch, but it was not bad with the contested checks. In my opinion, snatching the crown in the manner he did (as an action) would have broken his hide and everyone would automatically become aware of him (just like an attack), but he could re-hide without advantage anywhere because of Invisibility.

Alternatively, he could attempt to use the pickpocket ability with a relatively high DC since a worn crown is a very noticeable item, along with a stealth check against passive perception of the room to hide the obvious action. Ultimately, these are pretty similar outcomes to your method and probably wouldn't have ended much different than yours because of the sorcerer + invis + druid PWAT + rogue sneak wombo combo.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ The Bag of holding's internal dimensions are not 4 x 4 x 4 ... it could be 32 X 1 X2 or any other combination arriving at 64 cubic feet. We have an answer on that here. I'd remove that part; your point on weight was well made. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 21, 2018 at 17:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get a feel for how a Q&A site works best. Thanks for the effort you put into your answer. I did a little edit for format. You could probably revise it again to make it a bit more concise. That's up to you. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 21, 2018 at 17:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've touched on the fact that invisibility is not complete undetectability. One detail in the original story that you may want to address is the Rogue moving at three times his normal pace, presumably Dash+Cunning Action Dash. However, if the rogue is double-dashing, he's not hiding - that means he's easy to hear, even if he's impossible to see. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Sep 21, 2018 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is really the missing piece. I figured they were abusing the bag (64 cubic feet sounds like a lot of space, but really is about the size of a recliner, which maybe they could twister conform into uncomfortably), but the "Invisibility is not Hidden" thing is important and I need to reread the Hiding rules. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2020 at 15:28

A few items that may've been missed.

  1. As I stated in comments, your guards' check results may have been unusually high. I'm not sure if they had Expertise in Perception, but being able to spot a DC30 is very unlikely.
  2. You haven't mentioned if any of these activities were made with Advantage or Disadvantage. The speed that the Rogue was moving, 3x normal, I assume occurred because they dashed as a bonus action and then did a normal movement. This is a situation where as the DM you could state that moving this fast will impose Disadvantage on an attempt to be Stealthy.
  3. Invisibility was important to the effectiveness of this plan. It may have been appropriate during any stressful activities for the sorceror (I assume) to make periodic concentration saves to maintain the spell. You mentioned that the air supply in the bag was 'barely enough', this may've made it much more difficult to focus on the spell since the caster is also focused on not suffocating.
  4. The Bag of Holding has a capacity of 500 pounds, which could easily have been exceeded by the weight of a Barbarian, Cleric, and Sorceror with their equipment. Whether you hold the bag's weight limit as a strict number is a table to table decision. Myself and many others are all equally irritated when we apparently have a Skyrim 'overloaded' moment from picking up a flower. However, in this scenario if they were well over, you'd have been within your rights to say they needed to consider a different method.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Sep 23, 2018 at 0:57

You made a couple of mistakes in your rulings, but they were to the disadvantage of the party.

My ruling was that grabbing the crown would be his action (and take a melee attack to grab it), that everyone in the room got a new perception check when he got up on the table (they all failed miserably) and once he grabbed the crown it was opposed initiative to see if he got to finish his move. My thought being that the leader wearing the crown would get to react to someone taking it (and everyone else would notice the crown disappearing).

In 5e you can interact with one object for free as part of a move or action:

You can also interact with one object or feature of the environment for free, during either your move or your action. For example, you could open a door during your move as you stride toward a foe, or you could draw your weapon as part of the same action you use to attack.

Some relevant examples of things that can be done for free are listed:

pick up a dropped axe

take a bauble from a table

pull a torch from a sconce

take a book from a shelf you can reach

When you move from freeform to rounds, you can use a surprise round:

The DM determines who might be surprised. If neither side tries to be stealthy, they automatically notice each other. Otherwise, the DM compares the Dexterity (Stealth) checks of anyone hiding with the passive Wisdom (Perception) score of each creature on the opposing side. Any character or monster that doesn't notice a threat is surprised at the start of the encounter.

In this case the Rogue is surprising the guards. Since none of them beat the Rogue's stealth check, they are all surprised:

If you're surprised, you can't move or take an action on your first turn of the combat, and you can't take a reaction until that turn ends. A member of a group can be surprised even if the other members aren't.

Even if the Rogue went last, everyone else is already surprised so they can't do anything. The Rogue will run away with Dash, Dash, and 3x their movement. They would still be hidden since there is no rule saying you have to move at X speed to do so stealthily. The fact is that they are being stealthy, they took a stealth check. They are picking each step carefully and taking the path they judge to be quietest.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The crown was a worn object, so you can't take it for free. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 16, 2019 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik why? Picking a crown off someones head is not functionally different to picking it off the floor or off a table. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16, 2019 at 14:19
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ for the same reason you can't take your opponents weapon from their hand or belt, or their helmet off their head as a free action. Interacting with objects as a free action is generally reserved for things that aren't currently in use. The basic rules also say: "The DM might require you to use an action for any of these activities when it needs special care or when it presents an unusual obstacle." which this probably qualifies as. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Dec 16, 2019 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Do you really think that taking a crown off someones head is as difficult as taking off their belt? I feel like this is a pretty disingenuous false equivalence. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 16, 2019 at 23:46

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