April 13, 2024
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Rogues and Hiding in 5e – It’s Giving Me Hives

By Agatha Devere, undead staff writer

I don’t like rogues. Just the thought of rogues and hiding in 5e gives me hives. I wish I could ban them from all the D&D games I run as a DM.

Unfortunately, far too many of the best Dungeons & Dungeons players I know love to play rogues. The little shits. Why?

Because they are ridiculously overpowered and thwart my combat plans every time.

“You did how many points of damage???”

– Me, the DM

Rogues And Hiding In 5E
It should say “rogues will drive your DM nuts, so don’t be one.”
Image courtesy Wizards of the Coast (WOTC)/Carla Bumstead

Sneak, attack, hide – OMG, are you done yet?

I am a relatively new DM. Role-play is my wheel house. Combat isn’t. I struggle with all the combat mechanics that come with D&D 5e: Action, Bonus Action, Move, Disengage, Hide, Reaction, Hide Again, Disengage Again and (obviously) Sneak Attack.

I admit combat alone can give me fits. But add a rogue into the mix, and my eye starts twitching. Who the hell thought up that whole sneak attack and cunning action thing anyway? It’s not fair. My other players are hitting away at the BBEGs, very well-behaved and reasonable. But when it is my rogue’s turn, they always seem to dish out so much more than the others. It’s depressing – for the other players and me.

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One of Agatha Devere’s favorite Discord reactions.
Image by starryfox

Confession – Rogues and Hiding in 5e

For far too long – because I just couldn’t believe a rogue could do as much as they actually can do – I have violated the rules of being a good DM. Don’t tell anyone.

There is no place to hide!

When, at the end of his turn during combat, my dear Vamir the Rogue would ask me “can I hide?” I would tell him “no” – for two reasons.

  1. He was standing out in the middle of an open field. Where did he think he was gonna hide?
  2. It seemed like way too much to allow him to do after slamming the baddies with his massive sneak attack damage.
Mikhail Vasilyev Nodtncsldte Unsplash
The taxbaxi rogue wants to hide. Again.
Photo by Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash

Rogues and hiding in 5e (it’s their thing)

Luckily for rogues everywhere, a fellow DM pointed out my sins. They explained to me that a rogue’s ability to try to hide is one of their things. Barbarians have their rage and reckless attack. Warlocks have their patron and eldritch blast. Well, rogues have their sneak attack and crazy good hiding skills.

Yes, I know RAW (rules as written) makes it clear it is up to the DM to decide when “circumstances” are right for hiding. No where does it say “rogues are exempt from the hiding rules.”

The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding. When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or 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 clearly.

– Player’s Handbook, page 177

But we need to remember that, as DMs, we often need to rise above the rules. That is key when it comes to rogues and hiding in 5e.

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Players want their characters to stand in the spotlight and do what they do best.
Photo by Eric Smart on Unsplash

Make them happy

As DMs, we are committed to making our players happy. And what do our players want most?

They want their character to shine. They have picked their character very carefully, knowing exactly what special skills they want in the spotlight. Stormy picks a barbarian because she wants the spotlight to shine when she rages and rumbles through the front lines. Carla picks a warlock because she wants to eldritch blast, eldritch blast, eldritch blast. Well, Vamir picked his rogue because he wants to sneak, stab and hide.
So let him hide!

Blame the Hobbits

Remember when Frodo and Samwise got stuck outside the Black Gate in Mordor? They were completely out in the open, no place to hide. But they were able to do it anyway – thanks to some quick thinking and eleven cloaks.

Sam and Frodo can attempt to hide!
Image courtesy New Line Cinema

I know rogues are annoying. I know they try your patience and mess up your combat. But when it comes to rogues and hiding in 5e, you need to let them be rogues. Rogues sneak up, attack and then (try to) hide. Let them try. What’s a few hives anyway?

Avatar Of Carla Bumstead

Carla Bumstead

Carla Bumstead learned how to play D&D two years ago, all online. She followed the above rules and was able to join three great, full-length campaigns. In the spring of 2021, she founded an online school for teaching others how to play called Frogwarts School of D&D.

View all posts by Carla Bumstead →

2 thoughts on “Rogues and Hiding in 5e – It’s Giving Me Hives

  1. I agree with the sentiment surrounding the “cheapness” of the rogue’s ability to sneak attack and then bonus action disengage or hide in certain scenarios.

    As someone who is currently playing a rogue, it’s much easier to get away with it in tight spaces because there’s almost always a place to hide (behind walls, doors, barrels, crates, the minotaur in our group, etc) when I’m a 5 ft tall kenku with a +6 to stealth at level 2.

    I am in full support of any DM who wants to deny a rogue’s ability to hide when it doesn’t make sense, or when a legitimate argument could be made against it. If my black-feathered kenku is fighting in the snow, what are the chances he would be able to hide in a field of glistening white? Pretty low, and I’m not even sure I would attempt a bonus action hide in that scenario because it wouldn’t make sense to me.

    But if my kenku is hiding behind a tree while the rest of the party is fighting some goblins, what are the chances the goblins can spot my kenku while they’re caught up in the chaos of battle? At that point, the goblins have bigger things to worry about (until one of my arrows goes through one of their skulls).

    If my DM wants to regularly create encounters in environments with little to no cover, my rogue will have to hang back and take shots with his short bow. But if he wants to regularly create encounters inside and with plenty of places to hide, I will do everything in my power to maximize my damage while minimizing the risk of being detected.

    1. thanks for the response! And heck yes on the Kenku in the snow! lol I just built a rogue but sadly won’t get a chance to use her soon. Thanks again.

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