Hiding in 3.5 D&D is Dumb

By Frank Trollman

OK, we all know that it makes us feel kind of bad when the Rogue sneaks up on people and stabs them in the face without them ever seeing who did it. But you know what? People totally do that crap all the time. It’s not even an uncommon occurrence, and there’s really no cause to get excited about. The 3.5 rules for hiding, where you need cover or concealment to hide, are retarded. That makes Rogues run around with tower shields so that they can hide themselves and their equipment behind the cover of the tower shield (including the tower shield itself, which makes my brain hurt). Yes, you can totally hide when there are no intervening objects between you and the victim. It’s called “sneaking up behind people” and in a game with no facing it’s handled with a hide check opposed by spot.

If you attempt to hide in a combat setting, you are under a number of restrictions:

  • A character who has been attacked automatically can guess what square you are in. You may retain your invisibility, but that’s just Full Concealment, and they could very plausibly hit you.
  • There is a -20 penalty to Hide for attempting to fight while hidden. The distance penalties on Spot are pretty amazing, but most people can’t hide at a -20 penalty.
  • Once they see you, they see you. If an opponent successfully spots you even once (and they get to try every round while in combat), they just plain see you until you manage to get all the way out of their field of view (generally requiring you to leave the scene or make bluff checks or something).
  • Spot Bonuses can get quite large. A spotter who knows what he’s looking for gets a +4 bonus, and a spotter who is extremely familiar with the target gets a +10 bonus – these bonuses are weirdly listed under the Disguise skill, but they still apply (so if someone says “There’s a halfling Ninja over there!” every other Guard gets a +4 bonus).

But you can do it. Hiding in combat is hard, but it’s a thing that powerful characters may be able to do against some opponents. Some of the D&D authors have an outdated idea that Rogues should be forced to “hide in shadows” or something. But this is D&D, and most enemies have Darkvision. There are no shadows. Attempting to force Rogues to hide only in areas that they could plausibly hide in if a suspicious person was looking right at them and knew what they were looking for is incredibly cruel. In any kind of stressful situation that isn’t an accurate picture of what is going on.

Hiding in 3.5 D&D is Dumb

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