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After spending many hours reading the forum descriptions and debates about Stealth, and even starting a few threads with specific questions, I would like to present what I have come up with so far. This is meant to help me keep everything straight in my head when one of my players uses Stealth.
The following is a combination of RAW, RAI, and statements made by PF developers in other threads. I simplified the exact rules and definitions in some places to Keep It Short and Simple (my version of the KISS rule). This is meant to be a reminder of HOW things work, not just a complete listing of all the rules! So yes, I know there's more kinds of Cover than Regular (which is my own term) and Total, that's not the point.
Please let me know if there's anything that obviously contradicts RAW, nothing here is intended to be a house-rule. If you'd like to know where a statement comes from, I'd be glad to explain.
If you disagree with a RAI, please feel free to mention how you do things, I'm always open to new ideas. And if it makes sense to me, I'll gladly change!
And if you like the summary, hey, letting me know that would be nice, too.
Due to forum formatting limitations, '*' are main bullets under the heading, and '-' are sub-bullets (I used several to get some indentation). Hope the formatting makes sense, especially if you don't have a wide screen.
Let the piranha-like nit-picking begin! :)
C/C = Cover or Concealment (of any kind). Cover is something big enough to hide behind (wall, pillar, desk, etc.). Concealment is something that obscures vision (darkness, underbrush, fog, etc.). C/C can be “Regular” or “Total”. You cannot be seen with Total C/C!
Lighting and C/C
* Objects (underbrush, crowds, pillars, fog) can provide C/C even in Normal and Bright lighting conditions.
---- Invisibility is the only (magical) condition that allows you to use Stealth in Normal or Bright lighting
* Dim and Dark lighting (as perceived by the viewer) automatically provide C/C from that viewer.
Rule #1 : Stealth is not invisibility! Everyone with line-of-sight to you has a chance to notice you any time you're not in Total C/C. All such observers get a Stealth/Perception check ("S/P check") to notice you. However, if you succeed, they are not at all aware of your presence, and even if they happen to attack the square you’re in, you still get a 50% miss chance on all attacks except area and targeted spells (which thus acts very much like invisibility).
To be able to enter Stealth
* If there are no observers, “using Stealth” means moving silently (which may prevent the guards around the corner that you don’t know about from hearing you).
---- But, if you’re just walking down a hall "using Stealth" in this way and someone comes around the corner unexpectedly, they will see you
* If there are no observers, you can also get in C/C as preparation (or use a special ability like Camouflage).
---- For example, if you hear a guard coming you can try to get in C/C before he turns the corner
* If there are observers, and you’re already in C/C : you can use Stealth on your next action (see below).
* If there are observers, and you’re not in C/C : you must “break” the observation AND get in C/C :
---– Create a diversion (Bluff), or
---- Use a special ability like Hide in Plain Sight, or
---- Temporarily blind the observer, or
---- Get to Total C/C (which accomplishes both goals at once, but note your opponent could move to see you before you can use Stealth next round), etc.
---- From a PF developer : “having a blurry outline or displacement is not enough to enter Stealth” [with observers present]
Once in C/C AND using Stealth
* If you move from C/C to C/C (even with no C/C in-between, even thru Normal or Bright lighting), make a S/P check to remain unnoticed. Per observer, you will end your action :
---- In regular C/C and observed : standard C/C attack rules apply; you cannot use Stealth next round
---- In regular C/C and un-observed : observer doesn't know you’re there, so you can't be attacked; you can use Stealth next round
---- In Total C/C and observed : standard C/C attack rules apply; you can use Stealth next round if the observer does not move to keep you in sight
---- In Total C/C and un-observed : observer doesn't know you’re there, so you can't be attacked; you can use Stealth next round
---- If you do not end your move in C/C, your Stealth ends at the end of your action, and everyone can see you.
* If you leave C/C to attack someone, make a S/P check to approach them unnoticed.
---- Your target loses their DEX bonus to AC (this has been confirmed by a PF developer), and you add Sneak Attack damage, but your Stealth ends after your first attack.
* In both of the above cases, all observers with line-of-sight get a S/P check to notice you while moving, and if they see you they may shout a warning, or use a Readied attack or AoO, etc.
* Even if you do absolutely nothing (stay behind C/C), all observers with line-of-sight get a S/P check to notice you, unless the C/C itself is Total (around the corner from the guards, very heavy fog, etc.). If noticed, standard C/C attack rules apply.
Total Cover or Total Concealment is not required in order to enter stealth whilst observed.
Using Bluff to "Create a Diversion to Hide" does not have a listed Action, although it should probably be a Standard Action. Nor does it state whether movement is included in it's use.
The Heretic(Inquisitor) ability to Smite:Escape changes this to a Move Action following an Attack. Only usable if movement is included.
The Street Performer(Bard) ability Quick Change changes this to a Swift Action, and if movement is included, this is very powerful.
This is my understanding of Stealth (click)
Subtract out the part about Situational Concealment, the Bushwack stuff, and some of the table entries, and that is how I interpret the CRB rules. Add them back in and you have a funner system IMHO. I run Diversion as a standard action, no movement.
Dunno if that helps.