There’s a lot to be said about D&D 4E, but poorly written it isn’t. The rules are well-explained and mostly unambiguous, considering the vast scope of special rules coming from feats, powers, etc. There is one glaring exception to this rule however: Stealth and rogues. The stealth rules in themselves had to be revised to the level of “scrap and rewrite” (check out the PHB errata wizards homepage). Using the errata, stealth has joined the crowded corner of “complicated but unambiguous rules” (together with ranged cover rules and perhaps flight). Then came the rogues. Read on to see how the rogue utility powers mess up the stealth rules and how we have interpreted them in our gaming group.
The rogue is a well-done class. The combat advantage rules and the rules for hidden have made them much more fun to play than the flanking fighter sidekick of third edition. Still, rules as written, hiding is hard and keeping hidden in combat is nigh impossible. This is as it should be, you can’t have everyone skulking around making stealth checks all the times, but rogues should be a special case. Enter stealth utility powers. Rogues have several utility powers helping them using stealth in combat to gain and keep that precious combat advantage. After several rules discussions with my players and forum searches, I have summarized my interpretations of the rules roughly as follows. First some basics on stealth, check the errata for details.
Basic stealth rules
The gist of the rules is: to hide, you need superior cover or total concealment, to keep hidden you need cover or concealment. You can’t hide behind other creatures. Added to this and somewhat important for my rule interpretations are four cases when you lose your “hidden” status. You lose your hidden status when:
- An enemy gains line of sight to you with no cover or concealment (this activates at any time, during or after movement).
- You make a noise that is heard.
- You move and fail the corresponding stealth check.
- You attack.
The rogue stealth utility powers are mostly based on manipulating the four cases above. I’ll go through them one by one with my interpretations and advice on how to use them.
Fleeting Ghost (Rogue At-will Utility Exploit lvl 2, PHb 119)
This one is easy, you can move more freely by ignoring the -5 modifier to stealth for moving more than two squares while hidden. Two things to note:
- You still have to make a stealth check to keep hidden when you move, you just ignore the -5 for moving more than two squares.
- You still loose your hidden status immediately towards any enemy who gains an uncovered, unconcealed line of sight towards you. Move in cover or concealment only!
Chameleon (Rogue At-will Utility Exploit lvl 6, PHB 120)
Ah, Chameleon. This is the bad apple in the basket, overpowered or pointless depending on how you interpret it. The basic meaning of the power seems to be that if someone gains an uncovered, unconcealed line of sight towards you, you get a second chance to stay hidden towards that person by making a stealth check against passive perception as usual. There are some problems with the power as written however, these are my interpretations.
- When Chameleon activates, you may, if you succeed with your Stealth check, ignore the requirement for cover or concealment to keep hidden until the end of your next turn.
- As written, the power is a bit ambiguous wether it affects all enemies or only the enemy triggering the effect. I’ve judged it to affect all enemies.
- You will still lose your hidden status if you make a noise, move and fail a stealth check or attack.
- Chameleon is an immediate interrupt. As such, it can’t be activated in your own turn (PHB 269), you have to wait for someone to see you on their turn and then the power is active until the end of your next turn
- An example of using this power would be to use a minor action to throw a stone to get the attention of a guard, then ready a move for when he sees you. The guard checks you out, your Chameleon activates and you move past him to another cover, without losing your hidden status.
Shadow Stride (Rogue At-will Utility Exploit, lvl 10, PHB 122)
Shadow stride is easier than Chameleon. You activate it as a move action and may ignore the cover or concealment requirement to keep your hidden status during this move by just making a stealth check.
- If you make a double move, each move action has to end in cover and requires a stealth check. A double move is comprised of two identical move actions, e.g. two shadow strides.
- As written, the shadow stride rules temporarily replace the stealth rules. This means that even if you should lose your hidden status by making a noise, you retain it if you were doing a shadow stride at the time.
- Shadow stride is easier to use than chameleon, but as written, chameleon combined with fleeting ghost actually allows you to make a double move without ducking into cover between the moves, making the same amount of stealth checks (one per move). Considering this, I will probably allow a double move reaching cover in the end of the second move using shadow stride, as a house rule.
- You can’t run with a shadow stride. Running is one action and shadow stride another, they don’t mix.
- It makes Fleeting Ghost kind of obsolete unless you use the Fleeting Ghost/Chameleon combination. Consider retraining!
Hide in Plain Sight (Rogue Encounter Utility Exploit, lvl 16, PHB 123)
Hide in Plain Sight is easy. Until you leave your square you are invisible.
- Remember that this power isn’t actually a stealth power more than the fact that it requires that you are hidden when you activate it. After that you are invisible until you leave your square. Period.
- People can still hit you when you’re invisible, look it up
- If you are pushed, pulled or slided, you leave your square and the power ends. The same goes for teleportation and so on.
- The power doesn’t end because you make a sound, attack, lose cover or anything like that, you are still invisible. You may however lose your hidden status, making you easier to locate. The hidden rules work as normal, but remember that you have Total Concealment as long as you are invisible and may immediately try to hide again by spending a move action (without actually moving which would end your Hide in Plain Sight)
- Use some kind of invisibility power (through your friend the wizard perhaps) to be able to hide, activate Hide in Plain Sight and then enjoy your recurring sneak attacks
Hide from the Light (Rogue Daily Utility Exploit, lvl 22, PHB 125)
Hide from the Light is more or less the same as Hide in Plain Sight, only you can move two squares per round and you may only attack using basic attacks.
- Using this power you can sneak past guards any distance, it is an invisibility spell.
- Hide in Plain Sight might actually be a more powerful combat ability in some circumstances as you can only make basic attacks with Hide from the Light. You still have you massive lvl 22 sneak attack damage however.
These are the rule interpretations I have made, it would be very interesting to hear wether you agree, also if you have any house rules that apply to stealth, use the comments! Oh, by the way, to use the stealth rules, you have to use the cover rules, prepare to start tracing lines of sight…