Online Dungeon Master

November 3, 2010

The Hidden Condition in 4th Edition

Filed under: 4e D&D, Advice/Tools — Tags: , — OnlineDM @ 10:12 AM

(Pardon the rhyming title)

Related to my earlier post about line of sight and line of effect is the “condition” of being Hidden in 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons.  This particular post owes a debt of gratitude to the excellent “Hidden Club” post on the Wizards of the Coast message boards by LordOfWea.

What is Hidden?

A question that often comes up when there’s darkness or magical fog or blindness or invisibility is, “Does my character know where Monster X is, even though I can’t see him?”

The answer: Yes, you know exactly where everybody on the battlefield is, UNLESS they are Hidden from you.

Hidden does NOT just mean “you can’t see it.”  Hidden in 4th Edition is basically a state, a condition like Blinded or Dazed or Bloodied – you have it or you don’t (though it’s possible to be Hidden from one creature but not another).

When you are Hidden from another creature, that creature is unaware of your presence and doesn’t know where you are.  They can’t see you, hear you, smell you, feel the breeze of your movements or taste the acrid smoke that comes off your body (or they can’t do those things well enough to pin down your location).  You are undetectable to them.

If you do NOT have the Hidden condition against a creature, that creature knows EXACTLY what square you are in.  It might not be able to see you (in which case you have Total Concealment against that creature and its ranged and melee attacks will have a -5 penalty to hit you), but it can at least aim at the right square if it wants to attack you.

Think of it this way: All creatures in D&D are assumed to have super-sensitive hearing.  Even if they can’t see you, they can hear your movements and therefore know where you are.  Hitting what you can’t see is still tricky with melee and ranged attacks (-5 penalty from Total Concealment), but it’s no problem with close or area attacks (refer back to the earlier post about line of sight).

Getting Hidden

So, how does one go about getting the Hidden condition?  One makes a Stealth check  for free at the end of a move in which they end with Superior Cover or Total Concealment against a creature.  If your Stealth check exceeds the Passive Perception score of the creature you’re trying to hide from, then you are Hidden from that creature. (You should write down the result of this Stealth check so that you know whether future Perception checks from your enemies succeed in finding you or not.)

That’s it.  If you’re out of sight of a creature at the end of a move, you can roll Stealth to try to become Hidden.  If you don’t do that successfully, even if you’re invisible or anything like that, you are not Hidden and the creature knows where you are.

Losing Hidden

  • If you attack, you end up losing Hidden (though you’re still Hidden until the end of the attack action, so you have Combat Advantage for the attack).
  • You also lose Hidden if you end up with no cover and no concealment – if you’re standing out in the open, the bad guys can see you again.  Partial cover or regular concealment is enough to keep Hidden once you have it, though hiding behind your buddy doesn’t provide enough cover to stay Hidden.
  • If you move more than 2 squares on your turn, you’re making noise, which means that you’ll have to make another Stealth check – this time with a -5 penalty from the noise.  If that Stealth check fails to beat your opponents’ Passive Perception, you’re no longer Hidden.
  • If a creature spends a minor action to make an active Perception check and beats the Stealth roll that you made to become Hidden, you are no longer Hidden from that creature.
  • Note that if one creature on the other team can see you (good Perception), it’s allowed to cry out to its buddies, “He’s in THAT square, right there!” and they’ll all know where you are, even though you’re still Hidden from most of them.

What’s so great about being Hidden?

Two things:

  • You have Combat Advantage against anyone you’re Hidden from.
  • Your enemies don’t know what square you’re in, so it’s really tough for them to attack you.

The latter point brings up the “Targeting what you can’t see” rules.  If you don’t know what square your target is in, you’re allowed to guess and target “that square.”  If you guessed wrong, you miss (but the DM doesn’t have to tell you that you guessed wrong, just that your attack missed… mwoo ha ha!).  If you guessed right, you might hit, but keep in mind that the target does still have Total Concealment, which means that if you attack is melee or ranged it will have a -5 penalty (remember, though, that this penalty doesn’t affect close or area attacks).

Wrapping up

Being unseen is not the same as being hidden – D&D creatures can hear well enough to know where another creature is, even if they can’t see it.  If you’re Stealthy enough, you can perhaps become Hidden, in which case your enemies are unaware of your existence.  This goes away when you attack, become visible or make too much noise from movement, or when an enemy successfully searches for you.  Until that time, though, sneak into those shadows and Hide!


  1. Great post! Plus, one advantage of hidden is for all of those effects that require it (ala seeker’s pp rattling arrow)!

    That aside, none of our characters here survive to paragon, so combat advantage is the main advantage! 😀

    Comment by Dane — November 3, 2010 @ 11:45 AM

  2. This is great stuff. For me, one of those of-course!-it-was-there-right-in-front-of-us-all-along moments.

    Comment by Chronosome — November 4, 2010 @ 1:49 PM

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