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
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.
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.
He was standing out in the middle of an open field. Where did he think he was gonna hide?
It seemed like way too much to allow him to do after slamming the baddies with his massive sneak attack damage.
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.
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.
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?