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Thread: How does Stealth work?

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    Question Coming out from Stealth

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    I would like to know if some ruling from a GM for Stealth are correct to make sure I understand what's going on and all.

    Scenario 1 (pardon my Paint skills):



    A rogue is on the other side of the pillar from a cleric. Position A the Rogue clearly has full cover from the Cleric with Darkvision to 60 feet. There is no fog or anything, but is it dark. The Cleric knows that the Rogue is on the other side of the pillar somewhere.

    I would assume that the Rogue could move to Position B and make a Stealth check since he still has cover to the Cleric.

    1) What happens when the Rogue gets to Position C?

    2) What about Position D?

    3) My GM ruled that since the Rogue made his Stealth check at the start of his move he was able to get to Position D and make a Sneak attack against the Cleric who did not make his Perception check. Is that correct?
    Last edited by harmor; 01-30-2010 at 07:56 PM.
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    I agree. The Cleric failed to perceive the stealthy Rogue. I would provide extra points to the Perception roll (on top of any other mods) but if the Cleric failed, he was looking the other way or otherwise was distracted. Yes, he knew (or thought he knew) the Rogue was on the other side of the pillar but he could have been looking to the right after thinking he heard a sound and didn't catch the movements of the Rogue until too late.

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    Hrmm. Tough call. I would agree with the "if the Cleric failed his Spot check" sentiment but with one particularly noteworthy point:

    Were I DM, I would assign some significant bonuses in the Cleric's favor based on the situation.

    A) The Cleric apparently has some reason to suspect the location of the Rogue and thus know to look for him. +5 circumstantial bonus

    B) The Cleric has Darkvision which eliminates any potential concealment from poor lighting. +2 circumstance bonus for favorable conditions

    C) The Rogue has to leave any cover or concealment for the last 2 squares of his movement before he can Sneak Attack, and the Stealth skill does not allow you to "hide in plain sight" (unless you have the class ability of the same name). The skill specifies that if someone is observing you "even casually", you cannot hide. However, I would be willing to grant the Rogue an opportunity to "get the drop" on the Cleric and attack him before the Cleric has time to react, but would award the Cleric an extra +2 circumstance bonus due to the Rogue having to expose himself before the attack can happen.

    Thus, the Cleric would net a +9 (in all honesty, I would simply round this to +10) bonus to his check to foil the attempt. The Rogue would be better off, in my opinion, hiding and readying an attack once the Cleric comes within range, or use the Cleric's assumptions against him and attack from around the other side of the pillar. Or perhaps even hit the Cleric with a ranged weapon from his hiding spot in Position B.

    My 2 cents.
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    Were I DM, I would assign some significant bonuses in the Cleric's favor based on the situation.
    Why do you feel the need to make significant houserules for a specific situation, and not use use the actual rules, or make consistent houserules? Not to mention the fact that your houserules are inconsistent with the way the rules work.
    Last edited by Karrius; 01-31-2010 at 04:58 AM.

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    What is the RAW ruling on this?
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    Quote Originally Posted by harmor View Post
    What is the RAW ruling on this?
    My understanding is that the RAW says the tactic wouldn't work at all. The Hide skill specifically says that you cannot hide if you are "even casually" observed. That means that if the Cleric is expecting the Rogue and is looking down the corridor for him, the instant the Rogue leaves cover, his Hide skill fails. Unless the Cleric were flat-footed, the Sneak Attack would not work.

    That's my understanding anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karrius View Post
    Why do you feel the need to make significant houserules for a specific situation, and not use use the actual rules, or make consistent houserules? Not to mention the fact that your houserules are inconsistent with the way the rules work.
    Because I come from a GMing sensibility that the rules are only guidelines and (at least as far as I am concerned) common sense and logic prevail. It makes sense that a Rogue attempting to surprise someone who is expecting him, from the front, without the benefit of cover or concealment would have a really tough time doing it. Not impossible (hence why I would allow the Hide check in the first place) but very difficult. As I mentioned, there are several much more sound tactics available to said Rogue.

    I (almost) never tell players that they can't try something but I do try to demonstrate when what they are attempting isn't a good idea.

    But because I am always interested in learning other peoples interpretations, please share your interpretation of the RAW rules and tell me why you feel my house rules are inconsistent.
    Last edited by Webhead; 01-31-2010 at 11:21 AM.
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    Because I come from a GMing sensibility that the rules are only guidelines and (at least as far as I am concerned) common sense and logic prevail.
    Thanks for being insulting! But unfortunately, your rules aren't logical. Let's look at how some of the rules actually work.

    A) The Cleric apparently has some reason to suspect the location of the Rogue and thus know to look for him. +5 circumstantial bonus
    Action: Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action.


    In short, if the cleric suspects the rogue is there, he gains the ability to use a move action to make another Perception check. This is pretty good, and will heavily shift things into the cleric's favor if he has a larger modifier... but if the rogue is flat-out superior, he's still got a very good chance. It also avoids the issue of players having to specify "where" or they think someone is hiding, and the "No, I was totally expecting that, I get a bonus!" arguments. If you're expecting it, spend the action, get the bonus.

    B) The Cleric has Darkvision which eliminates any potential concealment from poor lighting. +2 circumstance bonus for favorable conditions
    Was the rogue getting a +2 circumstance bonus for poor lighting conditions? If so, where did that come from in the rules? If not, why is the rogue easier to see when he's in the dark? Indeed, it seems according to the rules, you don't get any bonus for being in poor lighting, instead you're just allowed to use Stealth at all.


    In an area of shadowy illumination, a character can see dimly. Creatures within this area have concealment relative to that character. A creature in an area of shadowy illumination can make a Stealth check to conceal itself.
    C) The Rogue has to leave any cover or concealment for the last 2 squares of his movement before he can Sneak Attack, and the Stealth skill does not allow you to "hide in plain sight" (unless you have the class ability of the same name). The skill specifies that if someone is observing you "even casually", you cannot hide. However, I would be willing to grant the Rogue an opportunity to "get the drop" on the Cleric and attack him before the Cleric has time to react, but would award the Cleric an extra +2 circumstance bonus due to the Rogue having to expose himself before the attack can happen.
    This is, frankly, where I have an undying hate of the Stealth rules. However, your rules don't fix it. Does that +2 bonus apply to when the rogue is still behind cover, and he makes his first stealth check? Or when he steps out, does he make another stealth check? Or does he only make one stealth check for the whole action, applying different bonuses and penalties at different points depending on the condition?

    This part of the stealth rules really needs to be clarified. My understanding is that the rogue pops out of stealth and gets to surprise the flat-footed cleric. But is this the surprise round? Is there a surprise round after this? I don't know. The Pathfinder SRD is extremely unclear as to when combat starts.
    Last edited by Karrius; 01-31-2010 at 04:39 PM.

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    Unless it has changed, darkvision means that you can see in the dark. Since the cleric has darkvision, when the rogue moves to position "C", he is now in the open and would definately be seen by anyone or thing that can see in the dark. So, unless you can hide in plain site or make a successful hide in shadows by staying next to the walls, you will be seen. However, just because you are trying to hide in the shadows by the walls, doesn't mean that you are good. A check should be made for moving silently as well, since by trying to stay in the shadows you could brush against the wall and make a sound.

    Plus it said that the cleric knew that the rouge was somewhere, which means the cleric is watching to not be caught by surprise.

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    Darkvision is the extraordinary ability to see with no light source at all, out to a range specified for the creature. Darkvision is black-and-white only (colors cannot be discerned). It does not allow characters to see anything that they could not see otherwise—invisible objects are still invisible, and illusions are still visible as what they seem to be. Likewise, darkvision subjects a creature to gaze attacks normally. The presence of light does not spoil darkvision.

    You are skilled at avoiding detection, allowing you to slip past foes or strike from an unseen position. This skill covers hiding and moving silently.
    Check: Your Stealth check is opposed by the Perception check of anyone who might notice you. You can move up to half your normal speed and use Stealth at no penalty. When moving at a speed greater than half but less than your normal speed, you take a –5 penalty. It's impossible to use Stealth while attacking, running, or charging.


    If people are observing you using any of their senses (but typically sight), you can't use Stealth. Against most creatures, finding cover or concealment allows you to use Stealth. If your observers are momentarily distracted (such as by a Bluff check), you can attempt to use Stealth. While the others turn their attention from you, you can attempt a Stealth check if you can get to an unobserved place of some kind. This check, however, is made at a –10 penalty because you have to move fast.


    the first paragraph is from the srd. as are the other two paragraphs. Personally I would agree with your dm.

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    Thanks Outrider. You gave me some more information that helps clarify some things. I do have a couple of questions though. If it says you can't use stealth while attacking, wouldn't that mean that you can't attack until your next turn in order to not be detected? Or would it simply just give the cleric another chance at making a perception check before being hit by the attack?

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    As one who ran a lot of stealthy rogue campaigns, knowing how to use stealth is very important for players and monsters. My 2 cent Interpretation.

    Currently, the rogue is out of the cleric's line of sight, and has successfully made himself quite enough for the cleric not to hear him (we assume). The Cleric knows he's behind the pillar, but the rogue could come from either side or may run off in another direction. Provided that the rogue has successfully hidden from the cleric, he remains hidden until the situation changes. That could be as simple as the Cleric walking around the pillar; effectively having the rogue lose the only thing that allowed him to hide in the first place.

    If he has not made a successful Stealth check, then if the rogue moves away from the pillar (out of cover), the Cleric automatically regains line of sight of the Rogue.

    We will assume that the rogue has successfully hidden from the cleric as I stated that if the rogue does not make a stealth check while using the cover, he will be spotted when he moves from it. Basically, the Cleric heard him behind the pillar. (Incidentally, a smart thief would use their bluff and throw a object in another direction to fool the cleric into thinking they moved elsewhere.)

    This scenario will also depend if this is in combat (during initiative sequence) or out of combat (before Initiative).

    If in initiative, the cleric can take the ready action to charge or throw a weapon, cast a spell at the rogue should he/she see him. This could effectively disrupt the rogue's attack.

    In the case of the Cleric, who is aware of the rogue, there is no chance of surprise on the Cleric, however, the rogue who wins initiative can apply his SA if the target is flatfooted, even if the cleric spots him (the rogue simply loses his +2 to hit). If the cleric wins, most likely he will move or ready an action.

    In any of these scenarios, the rogue has the opportunity of striking the cleric flatfooted if the rogues stealth roll beats the clerics when he reaches C. If he had beaten the cleric's perception (reactive) at C, he can move to D (its all part of the same move and remains hidden) and do a melee strike. If he chose to strike at C with a ranged weapon he also has the opportunity, if he had adequate cover, to do a snip (but not in this case unless he has shot on the run; removing himself from the cover exposes the rogue as shadow concealment will not work on the cleric.)

    At the end of the Rogues turn, he is no longer hidden as he has no concealment or cover at the end of his turn (unless he has the ability to turn invisible, hide in plain sight, move to cover, etc.) The darkvison of the cleric negates any use of shadows for the rogue as concealment. On the cleric's turn, the thief is clearly visible.

    If the cleric spots the rogue (at C), he is aware and is not denied his Dex from the attack and cannot be SA. If he readied an action, he can attack the thief or use a readied spell, etc.

    It's all about sneaking up and shagging someone and Rogues are really good at it. In this scenario, the sense of the cleric are not superior enough to deny the rogue opportunities to hide. If the cleric had tremor sense,for example, it would be impossible (unless the thief had some ability or under a spell to do so.)
    Last edited by wizarddog; 02-01-2010 at 03:55 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Karrius View Post
    Thanks for being insulting!
    My statement wasn't intended to be insulting but if it was taken as such, I apologize. Rather, mine was a statement to help people better understand how I view my job as a GM and thus why I would house rule in such a situation to apply my views of what is logical to the situation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karrius View Post
    In short, if the cleric suspects the rogue is there, he gains the ability to use a move action to make another Perception check.
    On later turns, by the RAW, you are correct. However, as it was established that the Rogue was making a Stealth check on his turn, as part of his action to move and attack, that tells me that the Stealth roll triggers the Cleric's Perception roll as a reaction for the current turn.

    Action: Most Perception checks are reactive, made in response to observable stimulus. Intentionally searching for stimulus is a move action.
    By the RAW, the problem arises once we analyze the Stealth skill:

    If people are observing you using any of their senses (but typically sight), you can't use Stealth.
    And:

    It's impossible to use Stealth while attacking, running, or charging.
    If I were going strictly by what the RAW is telling me, I would rule that the tactic mentioned above would be impossible based upon the situation described. The Cleric's awareness of the presence (and general location) of the Rogue, combined with the Darkvision which prevents any possible concealment for the Rogue to hide in, would mean that the Rogue's Stealth check fails the instant he is in a position to be observed by the Cleric (the moment he enters Position C).

    The arguement might be made that the Rogue isn't stepping out into the open but rather clinging to the wall and siddling forward. This would be a valid arguement in the Rogue's favor if he had some degree of concealment to muddy the Cleric's sight but with no shadows and no fog to do so, the Cleric would still have no problem seeing his form slinking down the hallway at him.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karrius View Post
    Was the rogue getting a +2 circumstance bonus for poor lighting conditions? If so, where did that come from in the rules? If not, why is the rogue easier to see when he's in the dark? Indeed, it seems according to the rules, you don't get any bonus for being in poor lighting, instead you're just allowed to use Stealth at all.
    On to the logic behind my house-ruled modifiers. I'm not sure if they have carried over whole-cloth into Pathfinder, but D&D 3.5 used to have a general rule governing modifying skill checks based on favorable/unfavorable conditions. This was to say that a modifier of +/-2 might be applied to a check if there was some exterior factor that would help or hinder the attempt.

    The Perception skill in Pathfinder seems to support this idea, listing Perception modifiers thusly:

    Perception Modifiers to DC:
    Distance to the source, object, or creature: +1/10 feet
    Through a closed door: +5
    Through a wall: +10/foot of thickness
    Favorable conditions: –2
    Unfavorable conditions: +2
    Terrible conditions: +5
    Creature making the check is distracted: +5
    Creature making the check is asleep: +10
    Creature or object is invisible: +20
    Here, the Perception skill also demonstrates that drastically favorable/unfavorable conditions can grant larger modifiers...as much as +/-5 to the check.

    Because, as a GM, I like to encourage players to try clever or challenging things, I would ignore the RAW of the Stealth skill in this case and would give the player a *chance* for it to work (in other words, I would allow him to try the tactic and roll his Stealth skill). However, I would apply what I know of the situation to influence the contest as it reasonably should:

    1) I would rule that the Cleric knowing the location of the Rogue and suspecting an attack to be "terrible conditions" for the Rogue and would thus apply a -5 penalty to the Stealth check (mechanically equal to a +5 to DC).

    2) I would also rule that the Cleric having the benefit of Darkvision means that there is no concealment for the Rogue to use, which means that the Rogue is performing "unfavorably" in that respect. This would grant a further -2 penalty to the Stealth check (the same as a +2 to DC).

    3) If the Rogue planned to approach the Cleric to attack him in the manner described, he has to leave cover when he reaches Position C which means that, at least for a second or two, he will expose his position to the Cleric before he strikes. Again, I would rule in favor of the player being allowed to attempt the action but it is clear that this is another instance where the Rogue is having to act in the face of "unfavorable" circumstances, thus an additional -2 check penalty.

    The end result is a total of a -9 modifier to the Rogue's Stealth check based upon what we know of the situation. Because I prefer more "rounded" numbers, I would bump this modifier up to -10 for simplicity's sake. A -10 modifier to the Stealth check is mechanically equivalent to a +10 modifier to the Cleric's Perception roll to notice him and at that point it's just a judgement call about who you want to give the modifier to.

    Hopefully that clarifies the path to my end result and thus where my logic is in making that judgement. As I said, I'm really attempting to act in the player's favor according to the RAW and I have no problem with that. I like to encourage my players to be bold and clever...but I also urge them to be smart and reasonable and tell them when a course of action is going to be difficult. Then again, when they actually manage to succeed in the face of such adversity, they feel all the more satisfied by it. It is the greatest challenges that bring the sweetest victory!

    To answer your question about consistency of ruling and the Rogue's Stealth skill, if the Cleric didn't have Darkvision and the Rogue had the benefit of deep shadow or heavy fog to hide in, yes, I would grant the Rogue a +2 circumstance bonus to his skill check. The Rogue needs *some* degree of cover or concealment to use his skill but superior concealment will make his job easier. Likewise, if the Cleric were engaged in a hearty conversation with someone and facing away from the Rogue's approach, I would grant a +5 circumstance bonus to his Stealth due to the Cleric being distracted.

    If I am inconsistent in any regard or not using reasonable interpretations of the rules, please feel free to comment.
    Last edited by Webhead; 02-02-2010 at 12:36 AM.
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    Also think of it this way. A move action is ~2-3 seconds (you can make 2 move actions as a full action which is 6 seconds). If the rogue's stealth beats the cleric's perception, he was able to catch him off guard. This can be rp'd plenty of different ways, individual results may vary.

    The only caveat I'd interject is if the cleric had an action readied against the first person who rounded the corner. Then the cleric would get a favorable circumstance bonus vs. the rogue's stealth plus an attack before the rogue, eliminating the sneak attack bonus, that is if the cleric was able to detect the rogue...

    *mutters about one of his player's +12 stealth on their level 1 rogue*

    Just my 2cp.

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    1) Suspecting an attack doesn't necessarily mean it's not surprising, though. Try playing some survival horror video games sometime - you just know when stuff is going to leap at you, but it still manages to elict a response. A -/+5 is a really, really big number, and handling it out for stuff that's still vague ("on the other side of the pillar somewhere") is a risky idea. How much of a bonus do you give when the PCs know someone is in a room, but not where? What if it's a really large room? What if they're just expecting someone, but don't know for certain (as in, they break into the thieves guild, but find nothing) ? It's a big can of worms.

    I'm also not saying that the cleric doesn't get that base perception check. I'm saying that if you suspect something is there, you can spend actions to keep searching, getting MORE perception checks. This is a much better way to handle it - "You think something is there? Well, roll again, but if you're right and fail, it's going to get the drop on you as you're using a move action."

    2) I would also rule that the Cleric having the benefit of Darkvision means that there is no concealment for the Rogue to use, which means that the Rogue is performing "unfavorably" in that respect. This would grant a further -2 penalty to the Stealth check (the same as a +2 to DC).
    If the rogue had concealment, would he have gotten a +2? If so, then there's no complaint here - it essentially becomes a wash, although which case is easier to understand is debatable (I feel not changing modifiers at all is easier, and that a penalty for poor vision should be applied to the stealth check). If not, then you've flat-out made it easier to hide in daylight than in darkness, which is silly. Unless you feel hiding in daylight with cover (which, remember the rogue is doing) deserves some penalty, despite that not being called out on.

    The default for the stealth rules seem to be that you either have cover OR concealment, and that is required. While having both may give some bonus, having only one should not give a penalty, and having none at all just flat-out forbids you from using stealth. (IMO, it should not be this way, but that's a totally different thread). If the rogue auto-fails, it's regardless of if the cleric knows he's there or not, and simply due to the lack of cover.

    Issue 3, there is no good answer for. I'd probably let the rogue finish his movement and attack, as a "surprise round", even though surprise rounds don't allow two actions. But there's no place to put this -2 penalty, really, which is the problem. Is the rogue rolling for stealth as soon as he gets behind cover, but within LOS? Is he rolling for stealth once he steps out of cover? Once for the whole action? Multiple times? I THINK what you're implying is that the rogue makes him movement, rolls stealth, and if the cleric is surprised is based on that one single perception check.

    This also gets into surprise round rules, which I hate. Curse you, money-in-a-barrel problem.

    There's also enough reason to think that the rogue could move OR attack for his surprise round. The "using stealth when attacking", however, does not forbid ambushes. You can totally hit and shoot some guy, gaining all the benefits for hiding. It just forbids from *staying* hidden, unless you use the sniping rules.

    The questions basically become:
    -Does the rogue immediate become unhidden as soon as he steps out of cover, or does he get to finish his action? (in short, is the cleric flat-footed while the action is occurring, or does he become "cured" of flat-footedness during it?)
    -If he does immediately become unhidden, when is initiative rolled?
    -Does this count as a surprise round?
    -IS there a surprise round?
    -If not, how much of an action should the rogue get? And should there be another surprise round on top of it?

    I don't think there are clear answers on any of these points, although I'm willing to accept rules quotes otherwise. What is clear, however:

    -If the rogue wants to remain hidden, he must stay in a spot where he has cover or concealment.
    -If the rogue attacks while hidden, the cleric is flat-footed.
    -The rogue should not get a penalty for not having concealment in any circumstance. Either he has cover, in which case he does not need concealment, or he lacks cover, in which case he can't make a stealth check in that situation at all.



    More on this later when I'm more coherent.

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    I'm just interested where all these modifiers come in. Seems like some people are trying to over complicate the game. Stealth is rolled against perception.

    Example: If the rogue rolled 20 on stealth at the beginning of his turn and the cleric rolled a 17, he would not be able to perceive the rogue sneaking up on him. If the rogue rolled a 20 and the cleric rolled a 21, the cleric would be able to identify the rogue 10 ft away and before the attack was made (PRPG pg 102: +1/10 feet Distance to the source, object, or creature).

    As for stealth itself, if need cover or concealment for it to work in the first place. It doesn't specify how much cover or concealment you need, just the need for it to be there more the check to work.

    Example: If the Cleric can draw a line of sight to the rogue, the rogue is denied his sneak (I'll still let the rogue roll it if he chooses, however). This is what one would call an auto failure. If the rogue gets behind cover, concealment, or has an ally distract them, they [can attempt a stealth check if they can get to an unobserved place of some kind.] (cover or concealment). (PRPG pg 106)

    That being said, If you begin your turn observed, you are denied you sneak unless you can find cover or concealment after your enemies have been successfully distracted. Even then you get a -10 on your stealth check for having to stealth because you have to move fast. (PRPG pg106)

    Invisible stealth grants a +40 while immobile and a +20 while moving too. (PRPG pg 107)

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