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Rogues – Sneaky Buggers (or “I Never Knew Hiding Was So Complicated”)

In D&D 4E on January 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm

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:

  1. An enemy gains line of sight to you with no cover or concealment (this activates at any time, during or after movement).
  2. You make a noise that is heard.
  3. You move and fail the corresponding stealth check.
  4. You attack.

Rogue Powers

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…

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  1. Hide from the Light allows a rogue to use basic attacks as well as at-will attacks.

    Hide from the Light, IMO, is probably on of the most powerful utility power in the game. A rogue with ranged at-will attacks (such as Disheartening Strike or Sly Flourish) using Hide from the Light (against enemies that cannot detect invisibility):

    – has some mobility;
    – use ranged at-will attacks when melee range can’t be achieved with a 2-square move;
    – gain CA for the entire encounter;
    – becomes extremely difficult to target;
    – becomes extremely difficult to hit (once targetted)

    With certain feats and features, Hide from the Light becomes almost ridiculously strong. If a rogue grabs a few range attack feats, he can pretty much shoot anything within 40 squares and line-of-sight without ever being seen.

    Using Disheartening Strike (rogues trained in Intimidate) will put enemies at a -7 hit penalty.

  2. There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate! 🙂

  3. I forgot to talk about the Master Infiltrator paragon path in my last reply. At level 12 as a minor action encounter power, the Master Infiltrator can become invisible until the beginning of his next turn without the need to be hidden. This means the Master Infiltrator would not need to rely on a wizard or other ally to grant him total concealment to use powers that require a rogue to be hidden. At level 12, this seems like a mediocre trick but once a Master Infiltrator rogue grabs Hide in Plain Sight at 16 and Hide from the Light at 22, he becomes a formidable opponent.

    The Master Infiltrator also gains at level 16 a class feature that grants him invisibility after dropping an enemy to 0 hp or below as well as on a crit — to other likely opportunities to gain total concealment to use Hide in Plain Sight and Hide from the Light.

    My point is that, if a players finds the stealth rules too complicated or if a DM doesn’t provide a rogue with enough objects to hide behind (like my DM does), the invisibility rules are a lot less complicated to understand and the DM can’t stop your rogue from gaining the edge that he needs by making you fight in large empty rooms where everyone has a clear line of sight on everyone.

    Simply put, if you’re invisible, you have total concealment. If you have total concealment, you can become hidden on a successful Stealth check as per PH2 page 222. Once hidden, you can use Hide in Plain Sight or Hide from the Light.

    On a failed Stealth check, you’re still invisible and still benefit from what amounts to +5 to all your defenses. Now, if you fail your Stealth check after using the Master Infiltrator utility power, you’re not going to be able to use Hide in Plain Sight or Hide from the Light because you lose invisibity at the start of your next turn. But I’d be surprised to see this happen if a Stealth-trained, high Dex rogue grabs the Skill Focus (Stealth) feat, and benefits from a +2 to Stealth as a Master Infiltrator feature. If you’re not beating every enemy’s passive Perception checks on a roll of 3 or more, you should be concentrating on increasing your Stealth skill.

    • Oh…and how can I forget to talk about Peripheral Concealment (Martial Power page 80): Rogue Utility 10, Standard Action, If no creature is within 3 squares you become hidden until you attack or until the end of your next turn.

      This is another power that gives a rogue the opportunity to hide without the help of an ally or without specific terrain advantages.

  4. As a DM my solutions are simple. I don’t require a rogue to be level 16-22 to be effective with stealth.
    Any character can hid behind a wall and not move and make a stealth check not to be seen or heard. A rogue wears light armor not only for the mobility but so he can move silently and not gleam in the shadows. Otherwise why not make a bugbear rogue stick him in chain and have him sneak attack with over-sized heavy blades? It’s because Rogues are exceptional at stealth and can do it in the open provided the following:

    1) Stealth is possible as a rogue without any cover or concealment if you are out of the line of sight of the enemy you are attempting to sneak up on as long as your stealth surpasses it’s perception. You are considered to be invisible as long as it is unaware of your presence.
    2) Rogues can use shadows to gain stealth in.
    3) Rogues can move from concealment to no concealment to concealment again (3 movement) with the standard stealth movement checks.
    Example: Dashing from a dark shadow in the alley to cover behind an abandoned wagon just outside the alley with only one square of illumination and no cover in between.
    Explanation: The darting from cover to cover is all part of stealthy movement.

    There is no reason to rob rogues of their heritage because some rock-for-brains at Wizard thought that it would be over powered to allow rogues their stealth skills.
    According to 4th rules any class can pickpocket, stealth, pilfer, rob, pick locks, and use poison. That leaves rogues with light blades, and d6 in damage if the situation allows a sneak attack. As a DM the rule that I cherish the most is:
    The information provided in the books are GUIDELINES, the Dungeon Master makes the rules.

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