A veil of shadows and silence radiates from you, masking you and your companions from detection. For the duration, each creature you choose within 30 feet of you (including you) has a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks and can’t be tracked except by magical means. A creature that receives this bonus leaves behind no tracks or other traces of its passage.
Casting Time: 1 action
Components: V, S, M (ashes from a burned leaf of mistletoe and a sprig of spruce)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
School: 2nd-level abjuration
Player’s Handbook, pg. 264
Pass Without Trace 5e
Ah, Pass Without Trace, the spell that’s been giving dungeon masters headaches since the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons. In the fifth edition, it’s an impressively powerful spell.
It can also quickly get out of hand if you don’t fully grasp the spell’s rules and intended applications, so we’ll be deep-diving into both of those things, as well as tips for DMs struggling to run the spell at their table.
Who Can Cast Pass Without Trace in 5e?
The following classes have Pass Without Trace on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Pass Without Trace for free:
Way of Shadow Monks can also cast Pass Without Trace starting at 3rd level by spending 2 ki points (PHB 80). DM permitting, Wood Elves also have access to a racial feat, Wood Elf Magic, that allows them to cast Pass Without Trace once per long rest without expending a spell slot (XGtE 75).
What Does Pass Without Trace Do in 5e?
Pass Without Trace grants the caster and any creature within 30 feet of them that they choose a +10 bonus to their Stealth ability checks. Affected units also leave behind no traces of their passage (hence the spell’s name) and can’t be tracked except by magical means.
That’s really all there is to it. However, there are a few thorny and common questions about Pass Without Trace.
What Are the Rules for Pass Without Trace in 5e?
The rules for Pass Without Trace in DnD 5e are as follows:
You cannot hide in plain sight, even with Pass Without Trace. The rules for hiding indicate that you “can’t hide from a creature that can see you” (PHB 177). No matter how well you roll on a Stealth check — even a natural 20 with a +16 modifier — if you’re plainly perceivable to the creature, it perceives you.
Here’s confirmation from Sage Advice that you still need to “hide behind something or in an obscured area,” even with Pass Without Trace active.
Pass Without Trace only benefits creatures currently within 30 feet of the caster. A party member who leaves the 30-foot range of the spell instantly loses the benefit of the spell. Here’s Sage Advice confirmation.
Note that this applies to both the +10 Stealth bonus and the “leaving behind no trace” part, so be careful about keeping your party tight if the “no-tracking” part of the spell is important to you.
Different targets can be selected for Pass Without Trace after it’s cast. On the flip side, your party members don’t have to worry about being in range at the moment you cast Pass Without Trace. Once they enter the spell’s 30-foot radius, you can have Pass Without Trace instantly benefit them. Sage Advice confirmation.
Pass Without Trace doesn’t magically conceal traces of your current location. This is one of the thornier issues for players to wrap their heads around. A “trace,” by definition, is a perceptible sign made by something that’s passed.
However, the current evidence of your whereabouts (your sounds, your smells, physical, visible presence, etc.) is still totally noticeable. Still, you do have +10 Stealth, so if you’re actively trying to conceal these things, then you’re still more likely to do so successfully.
Just remember the golden rule of DnD spells: they only do what they say. Pass Without Trace actively buffs your Stealth and magically conceals your trail — it doesn’t do anything else. Sage Advice confirmation for good measure.
Hunter’s Mark may work on Pass Without Trace. Hunter’s Mark is a spell that grants advantage on Perception and Survival checks to find the creature hit by it. It’s certainly magical, so it satisfies that criteria for getting around PWT’s “except by magical means” clause.
However, the means that a player is using to track the creature is nonmagical (a regular ol’ Perception or Survival check), so it’s unclear whether this check can possibly work at all. A spell like Locate Creature, on the other hand, is a clear magical way of determining the location of a known creature that can beat Pass Without Trace (so long as the tracked targets are within 1,000 feet and aren’t blocked by 10+ feed of running water).
So does Hunter’s Mark beat Pass Without Trace? Ask your DM!
Pass Without Trace prevents all tracking, not just that which relies on sight. Special senses like blindsight don’t confer any bonus for getting around PWT. No matter how a creature perceives traces (scent, vibrations, vision, etc.), those traces don’t exist if you’re affected by Pass Without Trace.
Pass Without Trace buffs Stealth regardless of sight. Same logic as above — it doesn’t matter if you’re making a Stealth check to pass by someone’s line of sight unnoticed or get past sniffing guard dogs; Pass Without Trace simply gives you and your party a +10 bonus to Stealth rolls.
Pass Without Trace doesn’t make you invisible or create any real obscurity. The flavor text of the spell reads that “a veil of shadows and silence radiates from you,” but this doesn’t mean that you actually emanate magical darkness or create a sphere of silence.
This text only serves to help players imagine how the spell might look.
Pass Without Trace stacks with all other Stealth modifiers. So if you naturally have a Stealth modifier of +3, your cumulative Stealth bonus will be +13 while benefitting from Pass Without Trace.
Traps still spring (and leave evidence of being sprung). If you step on a trap while under the effects of Pass Without Trace, the trap still goes off (because the spell doesn’t say anything about protecting you from traps).
A trap that’s sprung doesn’t become unsprung by the magic of spell, but if you left a trace of your passing in the trap (a scrap of clothing, blood, etc.), then that trace disappears through the power of the spell.
Group Stealth checks. This isn’t a PWT-specific rule, but it bears mentioning in the context of the spell. When you’re trying to be sneaky as a group, you all make Stealth checks — as long as at least half of the group succeeds, the whole group succeeds (PHB 175).
How Do I Use Pass Without Trace in 5e?
Pass Without Trace has pretty clear applications, but let’s help get those creative juices flowing:
Helping low stealth, high armor party members successfully sneak. The #1 beneficiary of a +10 Stealth modifier is the Paladin with heavy armor on suffering disadvantage on Stealth checks. The party’s Rogue is probably fine without it.
The point is, Pass Without Trace is most impactful when you use it as a party-wide buff to help get the normally non-stealthy players past the stealthy part of the adventure.
Scouting ahead. That being said, Rangers and Druids make great scouts, so they can use Pass Without Trace as more of a self-exclusive buff and check out what lies ahead and report back to the party. With +10 Stealth and no trace of your coming or going, you’ll likely get a clear picture without much risk of getting caught out alone.
Of course, the spell lasts for up to an hour, so you’ll probably have time to both buff your party and go on scouting excursions throughout the spell’s duration.
Preventing your party from being followed. The “leaving no trace” part is sometimes underrated by players. But if you’re being tracked by nonmagical means, there’s no quicker way to put your pursuers off your tail.
You’ll still have to move fast and/or recast the spell to really put distance between you and them, as an hour is probably only good for getting about 5 miles away if your party is really hoofing it.
Escaping. Getting out a necromancer’s lair, a crooked warden’s prison, or anywhere else where you’d rather not hang around for too long, Pass Without Trace makes those schemes a whole lot easier to accomplish.
+10 stealth is no joke, and unless the pursuer is actively looking for you with magic, they’ll have a tough time getting a bead on you once you’ve escaped whatever jail held you.
Thievery. Pass Without Trace is on the naturey class’ spell lists, so people naturally think of its overworld applications. But it’s equally good in urban environments or anywhere else you’d like to pilfer some valuables.
The Stealth bonus makes it easier to pull off your heist, and the “leave no trace” element ensures an all-but-certain chance of getting away with your crime, so long as you vacate the premises cleanly.
Pair with invisibility. As noted in the rules section above, you can’t normally hide in plain sight, even with Pass Without Trace. But the rules of hiding explicitly lay out an exception to this rule — “an invisible creature can’t be seen, so it can always hide” (PHB 177).
This means that pairing Pass Without Trace and Invisibility is a powerful (albeit expensive) combination that ensures you (and your mates, if you/they can upcast Invisibility) can hide under just about any conditions.
Note: both spells require concentration, so this requires at least two party members two pull off.
Protect your concentration. Speaking of concentration, it’s something you’ll want to protect if you’re the person who cast Pass Without Trace. If there’s danger of taking damage from traps, have someone else in your party take that risk so that you don’t prematurely end your powerful 2nd-level spell on a failed Consitution save.
Who Can I Target With Pass Without Trace 5e?
You can target any creature within 30 feet of you with Pass Without Trace. They do not have to be in range when you cast the spell, but they must be in range of you currently in order to gain the spell’s benefits.
Is Pass Without Trace 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Pass Without Trace is a good spell. A +10 modifier of any kind is unheard of in DnD 5e — so much so that Pass Without Trace often leaves new DMs scratching their heads at the power level of this 2nd-level spell.
That combined with the undetectability aspect of the spell makes it quite powerful for both getting stealthy missions accomplished and leaving no evidence of your doings.
However, Pass Without Trace is not some version of Godmode like getting 100% Chameleon in Oblivion.
Pass Without Trace 5e DM Tips
Pass Without Trace is a common pain point for new DMs who feel that their clever dungeon designs are being trivialized by a group of ultra-stealthy Batmen. It’s not your job to “beat” players who are using their abilities well, but if you feel that your players are getting too much mileage out of this 2nd-level spell, keep some things in mind:
Stealth only works if players can’t be seen/perceived. One easy way to get around PWT is to have players stealthily enter a room…only to find a monster staring right at the spot they just entered. No amount of Stealth in the world turns a creature invisible — time to roll initiative!
Set traps. If your dungeon doesn’t have traps, add them on the fly, regardless of where players step. If your dungeon already has traps and players are managing to avoid them, move them around and put them in choke points they have to pass through.
Make it a noisy trap, and the hordes of baddies they’ve been sneaking past can all come rushing in at once.
Use area of effect spells. Pass Without Trace only benefits parties that are grouped up within 30 feet of the caster. That sort of formation also leaves parties incredibly vulnerable to area of effect damage (with traps, spellcasters, environmental effects, etc.)
Make parties decide if the Stealth bonus is worth this extra “all your eggs in one basket” risk.
Guards on doors. Make it literally impossible for players to get somewhere without engaging a guard who is standing on a closed door they need to pass. Make that guard call friends. Stealth bonus nullified.
Make them pay for slips. This one is extra cruel, but if a player leaves the 30-foot radius of the spell for even an instant, make them pay by being automatically perceived (by a creature in a reasonable range and/or line of sight, of course.
Same goes for leaving a trace. Make the party curse the time that the Barbarian got too far from the PWT-casting Ranger and got blood everywhere, leading the enemy right to them.
Other than that, make sure players understand the rules as laid out above. Some people think the spell is a lot more powerful than it is, so remind them that while +10 Stealth is a lot, it’s not Invisibility.
Simple Pass Without Trace 5e Spell Text
Pass Without Trace: (2nd-level, self (30-foot radius), concentration, up to 1 hour, V/S/M (ashes from a burned leaf of mistletoe and a sprig of spruce)) You and all creatures you choose within range have +10 to Stealth checks and can only be tracked by magical means. Affected creatures leave no trace of their passage.