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.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 192
When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.
You can’t hide from a creature that can see you and if you make noise (such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase), you give away your position. An invisible creature can’t be seen, so it can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, however, and it still has to stay quiet.
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.
Passive Perception. When you hide, there’s a chance someone will notice you even if they aren’t searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which equals 10 + the creature’s Wisdom modifier, as well as any other bonuses or penalties. If the creature has advantage, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5.
What Can You See? One of the main factors in determining whether you can find a hidden creature or object is how well you can see in an area, which might be lightly or heavily
Player’s Handbook, pg. 177
Unseen Attackers and Targets
When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you’re guessing the target’s location ar 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.
When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.
If you are hidden — both unseen and unheard — when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 194-5
Hide Action 5e
The hide action and its related rules are some of the most confusing aspects of DnD 5e. This article will cover exactly how hiding works in 5e, answer the many questions about the action’s rules, and discuss when a player should actually take the hide action in combat.
Since the rules for hiding are more than a tad fuzzy, I’ll also give some tips for DMs wondering how they should rule on the hide action in their own games.
How Does the Hide Action Do in 5e?
Here’s how the action works in combat:
You attempt to hide. You cannot normally hide from a creature when you’re in full view of them (SAC 2), so you need to move behind cover or into an obscured area in order to attempt hiding. Ultimately, “the DM determines whether a creature is sufficiently obscured to successfully hide” (Jeremy Crawford). So it is totally up to the DM if this attempt CAN be successful, regardless of your roll.
At the moment you take the hide action, you make a Stealth check. The result of that check (d20 + Stealth modifier) sets the DC for enemy creatures to find you.
Creatures might notice you with their Passive Perception. If a creature’s Passive Perception is equal to or higher than your Stealth check, you are not hidden from that creature. You can be hidden from some creatures but not from others. The DM is free to apply advantage (+5) or disadvantage (-5) to the creature’s Passive Perception for this check, depending on the circumstances.
Creatures can search for you. If a creature uses its action to Search, they make an active Perception check against the Stealth check you rolled earlier. If the result of this Perception check is equal to or greater than your Stealth check, you are no longer hidden from that creature.
You become visible again under certain conditions. For creatures you successfully hide from, you can become visible again if you A) approach them or B) make an attack roll.
If you successfully hide from a creature, you benefit from being an Unseen Attacker and Unseen Target (again, only for the creatures whose Passive Perception failed to meet or beat your Stealth check).
Unseen Attacker. Advantage on attack roll against the target. AFTER you attack, your location is revealed to all creatures, and you are no longer hidden from any of them.
Unseen Target. Creatures have to guess your location, and even if they guess correctly, they have disadvantage on an attack roll against you.
Note that you have to be careful about where you move while hidden to actually gain these benefits. If you “run out into the open and then attack, you’re not hidden when you attack” (Jeremy Crawford). So, if you move behind total cover, for example, to become hidden, you have to remain in some level of cover or obscurity to remain hidden before taking attacking and actually benefit from being an unseen attacker.
How Do I Use Hide Action in 5e?
For most characters, hiding in combat is not a wise use of your action. Even if all goes well, you gain advantage on a later round at the cost of your turn on this round; not a good trade. It’s better to make two normal attacks (2d20 rolls; chance to hit twice) than make one attack with advantage (2d20 rolls; can only hit once).
With that in mind, it’s really only worth hiding if you can hide as a bonus action. Here are a few characters that can either do that, or use the hide action in more scenarios in DnD 5e:
Rogue. Cunning Action is a 2nd-level Rogue feature that allows them to Dash, Disengage, or Hide as a bonus action. Note that using Cunning Action to hide in combat is only really useful for Rogues that are attacking at range. If you’re in melee range (or hide and then approach an enemy), you immediately reveal yourself, meaning you are no longer hidden and cannot benefit from being an Unseen Attacker, nullifying the entire reason for taking the hide action.
Still, even with this option, the 3rd-level Steady Aim feature from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything allows a Rogue to get advantage if they don’t move. This is always the more straightforward and reliable option, making the “attempt hide and pop out to shoot” every round tactic much less attractive (and more time-consuming for your poor DM).
Goblin. Goblins have the Nimble Escape feature, which allows them to Disengage or Hide as a bonus action each turn. More often than not, you’ll be using this to Disengage rather than Hide, but hiding can come in handy if you’re in a space with a lot of cover/obscurity around and you’re attacking at range.
Ranger. Vanish is a 14th-level Ranger feature that allows them to Hide as a bonus action each turn. This is a bit late in the character progression to get this feature, but since most Rangers attack at range, they can make good use of it in optimal environments.
Lightfoot Halfing. Lightfoot Halflings have the Naturally Stealthy racial feature that allows them to attempt hiding even if their only obscurity is a creature at least one size larger (so Medium or bigger). Sadly, hiding still requires an action, so this is not usually a very wise feature to use in combat. But it does pair well with a Rogue’s Cunning Action, giving you a much easier time finding places to hide in combat.
Wood Elf. Wood Elves have the Mask of the Wild feature, which allows them to hide even if they’re only lightly obscured by natural phenomena (foliage, rain, snow, mist, etc.). Like the Lightfoot Halfling feature, this doesn’t reduce hiding to a bonus action, so it’s not very useful in combat without being paired with a Rogue’s Cunning Action or a Ranger’s Vanish. But with those things, it opens up more opportunities to hide in combat.
Hide Action 5e DM Tips
I’ve done my best to explain the rules of the Hide Action in a straightforward and by-the-book, rules-as-written way. That being said, the rules of hiding explicitly rely on DM fiat, which is further confirmed by 5e’s lead designers (“under certain circumstances, the Dungeon Master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted” (PHB 177) + “the DM determines whether a creature is sufficiently obscured to successfully hide” (Jeremy Crawford).
With that in mind, here’s my advice on the Hide Action for DMs out there:
Require at least 3/4 cover or a heavily obscured area to attempt hiding. This preserves the usefulness of Wood Elf’s racial feature (being able to hide in light obscurity under certain conditions) and tracks with common sense. If you see someone in real life, you won’t lose track of their location until they’re almost entirely covered by stuff obstructing your vision, or they move into an area of darkness.
If a monster you’re running has Darkvision, I’d suggest requiring the PC to be in total darkness to attempt hiding from the creature.
Don’t let your players “waste” an action hiding. If you know that there’s no chance that a Hide attempt will be successful — maybe because “You can’t hide from a creature that can see you” — or that the result the player wants to achieve won’t be possible — maybe because “if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you,” tell the player that before they make their attempt.
Hiding is already a neat and niche thing to do in combat; don’t make players avoid it like the plague by allowing them to attempt something with a 0% chance of success (especially when something as valuable as their action is on the line).
Require a character to stay behind some cover or in at least a lightly obscured area to continue hiding without automatically revealing themselves. To me, the “only if it approaches” limitation of revealing a hidden creature is too small and illogical a situation. Plus, it encourages weird behavior, like circling an enemy or moving away from it to remain hidden, even when you’re in plain sight.
Of course, the specific situation matters a lot for how difficult it is to remain hidden; more on that in a tip below.
Give disadvantage on repeated Stealth checks in combat. If a player is repeatedly using the “hide -> move a bit -> attack” approach, remind them that (most) creatures aren’t idiots. Disadvantage on their Stealth check is the easiest way to represent this mechanically, since a creature will cop on to what you’re doing and pretty much know where you are at all times if you attempt these kinds of shenanigans. This is supported by 5e’s game designers, Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford.
Consider the situation. This is the most important DM tip I have, really. The rules for hiding are nebulous for a reason — it’s up to you to determine how challenging it is in a given context. Sure, darkness, obscurity, and cover are all semi-supported by the rules/5e designer tweets, but how you use those tools is up to you.
Noise is a factor (both that of the player and the environment itself), as is the creature’s ability to focus on the player (that’s what the “stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted” clause is about in the rules of hiding). How many other creatures are around might also impact their perceptive ability; allies might make it easier (“look, boss, that guy’s trying to hide again), while having more player characters around will make it harder (“where’d they go? I was busy getting surrounded by three other dudes”).
Basically, use advantage and disadvantage (either on the player’s Stealth check or the creature’s Passive Perception, expressed as +5 or -5). as a way of neatly expressing the mechanics of these different scenarios.
Talk to your players. Always a good tip, but especially to sketchy rules like hiding, where player expectation and DM ruling can be miles apart. If you have a player who really wants to make use of hiding as part of their regular tactics, and you see nothing wrong with bending the rules for them a bit to make their character actually work, I suggest you go with that.
But make it clear that there are always scenarios where hiding is impossible or extremely difficult so that they understand the stakes and can plan accordingly. Ultimately, it’s unlikely that a character that relies on hiding every turn will be overpowered (heck, Rogues can get advantage every turn just by standing still, so…) But it might make for a character that’s more interesting to play, play alongside, and DM for, which is good for everyone.
DnD 5e Hide Action FAQ
Hide action DnD 5e questions and answers:
Is hiding an action or a bonus action? Hiding is an action. However, Rogues (Cunning Action; 2nd-level class feature), Rangers (Vanish; 14th-level class feature), and Goblins (Nimble Escape; racial feature) can hide as a bonus action.
Can you hide while in combat? Yes, you can hide while in combat. This normally uses your action for the turn, but it otherwise follows the normal rules for the hiding (requiring a Stealth check against the Passive Perception of creatures in the area, and you must stay quiet, can’t normally move out into the open, creatures can use the Search action to make an active Perception check to locate you, etc.)
While you certainly CAN hide in combat, it is not usually advisable. The (possible) benefit of hiding is to get advantage on one attack roll. However, this costs your entire action (normally), and your action would be better served by just attacking. Basically, you can either attack on two turns (totaling 2d20 rolls, with a chance to hit twice) or you can hide on one turn and then (maybe) attack with advantage on the next turn (totaling 2d20 rolls, with a chance to hit once). And that’s assuming your hide attempt is successful, which is not guaranteed.
Does hiding give advantage? Yes, hiding gives advantage on your first attack roll if you succeed in your Stealth check and are an Unseen Attacker at the moment you attack. Being heavily obscured or otherwise unseen always grants the benefits of being an Unseen Attacker; if a creature can’t be seen by the target of an attack, the attack has advantage. However, once you attack, you give away your location and no longer benefit from being an Unseen Attacker (or an Unseen Target) (PHB 194-5).