Stealth in Pathfinder RPG – Fully Explained + When To Use It

In a clearing outside a small village, a wizard faces a group of rogues and demands restitution for their crimes. According to several eye-witnesses, the rogues robbed a blacksmith and overturned a carriage.

When the rogues refuse to surrender, the wizard implores them to stand down.

However, the rogues draw their rapiers and three stealthy rangers spring from hiding and unleash a barrage of arrows, stopping the bandits for good.

How Does Stealth Work in Pathfinder?

Stealth skills allow characters to avoid detection. You can use stealth to hide from an ogre or sneak by a suspicious guard. Stealth checks are based on Dexterity and will enable you to give foes the slip or take items without being noticed.

How and When To Use Stealth

While we usually associate stealth with rogues and assassins, there are times when it behooves even wizards to keep a low profile. You never know what you’re going to find in Golarion. You may need to sneak past a sleeping ogre or circumvent the watchful gaze of a drow rogue.

And even the bravest of knights needs to hide occasionally. Rushing into a bandit camp in the middle of the day may sound like a fun idea, but you’ll end up on the wrong side of a sword. To avoid becoming shishkabob, try finding a good hiding spot and waiting for nightfall. It’s easier to sneak under cover of darkness.

Being Stealthy

If you want to sneak around when there are creatures that can see you, you can use a combination of Hide and Sneak to do so.

  • First, Hide behind something (either by taking advantage of cover or having the concealed condition due to fog, a spell, or a similar effect). A successful Stealth check makes you hidden, though the creatures still know roughly where you are.
  • Second, now that you’re hidden, you can Sneak. That means you can move at half your Speed and attempt another Stealth check. If it’s successful, you’re now undetected, That means the creatures don’t know which square you’re in anymore.

Source: Core Rulebook, pg 251

How To Calculate Perception in Pathfinder

Nearly all creatures rely on their Perception skill to observe the world around them. Whether or not a creature knows where you are is essential. To hide successfully, you’ll need to find cover, and you’ll need to be quiet.

Don’t wear loud or heavy armor if you plan on sneaking your way across Golarion. Avoid chain mail and opt for something flexibly, like leather. 

Perception checks are based on a creature’s Wisdom modifier. Those more aware of their surroundings will act first. Creatures trained in perception will add a proficiency bonus correlating with their level of training.

Almost all creatures have basic training in perception.

Perception check result = d20 roll + Wisdom modifier + proficiency bonus + other bonuses + penalties 

Source: Core Rulebook, pg 448

Calculating Cover

Finding cover is essential for hiding in Pathfinder. It’s harder for enemies to attack you when you’re behind a large object, such as a wall. Cover is relative. You might have cover from some creatures but not others. 

To know if you have cover, draw an imaginary line between yourself and a creature. If the line passes through a solid object, you have cover from that creature and gain a +2 circumstance bonus to your Armor Class, Stealth checks, and Reflex saves against area effects. 

If your character is hiding behind a particularly large and heavy object一like, a stone wall一you might have greater cover, which grants a +4 circumstance bonus to your AC.

Ask your GM what kind of cover you have.

States of Detection

Depending on the situation, hiding may not be enough to escape detection. For example, if you throw a rock at a guard and then hide behind a barrel, he’ll come looking for you.

You may be hidden, but you’re not invisible. The guard may not see you instantly, but he knows somebody hit him with a rock, and he’ll come looking for you.

Characters are in the Observed state by default. Usually, anybody can see you. Successfully taking the Hide action will put your character into the Hidden state. If a creature has no idea that you’re nearby, you’re Unnoticed. You can be both hidden and unnoticed.

Lastly, if a creature knows you’re hiding but can’t find you, you’re Undetected.

Using Stealth Skills and Actions

Characters rely on their Dexterity to avoid the prying eyes of others. When it comes to using Stealth, players have many choices. Firstly, players can hide behind cover, avoiding the enemy’s line of sight. Hidden players are harder to find and harder to attack. 

Secondly, players can try to sneak from one place to another without being seen or heard. You can move up to half your speed undetected by sneaking. After moving, the GM rolls a secret Stealth check to see if any creatures saw you.

On a successful sneak, you move without being spotted. On a failure, you give your position away but remain hidden. Your character is immediately spotted in the case of a critical failure.

Players can find more about Stealth-based skills in the Core Rulebook, pg 251-252. 

Conceal an Object

Let’s say your rogue is trying to sneak a dagger into a private gala, but guards are searching the guests for weapons and confiscating any weapons they find. Your character can use the Conceal an Object action to attempt to hide a dagger from the guards’ prying eyes. 

It’s also possible to use Conceal an Object to hide an item somewhere in your surroundings. For example, you might hide a secret note in a piece of furniture or stash stolen jewelry in a row of bushes. 

Hide and Seek

If you’re hidden, creatures can try to find you. They do this using the Seek action. When a creature tries to find you using Seek, the GM makes a Perception check behind the scenes. If the check is successful, you will be detected and possibly observed. 

Practical Sneaking

There are times when sneaking is useful, and times when sneaking is really useful. Stealthy characters will find plenty of use for their skills in Golarion. As an adventurer, avoiding the leers of deadly monsters is essential for staying alive.

The Best Ways to Hide

In order to hide, you need cover or concealment. That means finding a wall or another large object to obstruct your adversary’s view. Characters will also be hidden while enveloped by thick fog, or by standing behind a waterfall. 

How to Sneak Like a Pro

Using the Sneak action will allow your character to possibly move undetected. While you can only move half your normal speed while sneaking, you’ll do so without drawing anyone’s attention if you do it correctly. The loss of speed is a result of the effort of trying to conceal your presence. 

If you end your movement without cover, you’ll be immediately spotted. Also, failing your Sneak check will give your position away, as will taking any actions other than Hide, Sneak. 

Sneaking behind cover or greater cover grants a circumstance bonus to your Stealth check, but not to your AC. You have to stand still to relieve the bonus to AC granted from Taking Cover.

During exploration, characters can use the Avoid Notice action to move undetected. Characters who are trying to Avoid Notice move at half their speed. They also roll a Stealth check instead of a Perception check for initiative rolls in case of an encounter.

Expert Thievery

Thievery and stealth go together like peanut butter and jelly. You’ll draw attention if you try to pick the lock on someone’s door in broad daylight. It’s a lot easier to break into a house at night. The best thieves are also masters of hiding and sneaking.

There are times when you may need to Palm on Object. With quick hands and nimble fingers, you can quickly conceal an object on your person. Excellent for party tricks, use the Palm an Object action to snatch important documents or cheat at cards.

Using Stealth in Combat

Sneaking is excellent for keeping you out of trouble, but everyone’s luck runs out eventually. Can you be stealthy in combat? Absolutely! This strategy will be crucial for some characters. 

Creatures are flat-footed against attacks made by hidden characters, and suffer a -2 circumstance bonus to the Armor Class. Keep this in mind as you plan your action economy. 

Best Classes for Sneaky Characters

Just about any character will benefit from Stealth training. Fireballs and battle axes are pretty useless against a dragon or an army. Hiding and sneaking are often the best choices when the odds aren’t in your favor. 

But some classes are better at stealth than others. If you’re making a stealthy character, you’ll find your best options below.


Of all Pathfinder classes, rogues are the most likely to go about lurking in the shadows. Trained at hiding and sneaking, rogues use these skills to their advantage more than most classes.

The rogue’s Sneak Attack ability is legendary.  As a rogue, you can use this ability to deliver fatal amounts of damage in a single round. By using Stealth to give your enemy the flat-footed condition, your rogue can land more Sneak Attacks.

Sneak Attack

When your enemy can’t properly defend itself, you take advantage to deal extra damage. If you Strike a creature that has the flat-footed condition with an agile or finesse melee weapon attack, you deal an extra 1d6 precision damage. 

Source: Core Rulebook, pg 181


Masters of martial combat and survival, rangers know how to use the environment to their advantage. Most rangers are deadly with a bow and prefer to pick off enemies from afar. 

Expert hunters, rangers know how to track prey and deliver a killing blow. Rangers can use their training to hunt a creature with a single-minded focus. By using the Hunted Prey action, rangers can designate a creature to hunt. 

While chasing their Hunted Prey, some rangers can use Hunter’s Edge to gain a +2 circumstance bonus to stealth checks as well as a +1 circumstance bonus to their AC.

Rangers can also use stealth to increase their likelihood of damaging targets. Springing out of a hiding place to fire an arrow will put your target in the flat-footed condition.

Stealth Feats

Characters can learn feats to improve their Stealth skills. You’ll need to be at least trained in Stealth before you learn any Stealth feats. But if you plan on pushing your training to the limits, learning feats can unlock extraordinary abilities. 

If your character is already trained in Stealth, you can learn the Experienced Smuggler feat. Use this feat to conceal items from guards, bouncers, and snooping soldiers more easily. With your advanced smuggling skills, it’ll be almost impossible to catch you trying to conceal a small item.

Experts in Stealth can gain the Quiet Allies skill feat, improving their ability to move with a group. A Level 2 feat, Quiet Allies allows an expert in Stealth to roll a single check for their group while they are attempting to Avoid Notice. Normally, allies would need to roll separately. 

Players can find a complete list of Stealth Skill feats in the Core Rulebook, pg 257.

Can You Use Stealth for Initiative?

Rolling for initiative is usually based on your character’s Perspection skill, but this isn’t always the case. GMs can choose other skills to use for initiative depending on the situation. If a character is attacked while taking the Avoid Notice action, the player rolls a Stealth check to determine their initiative order.

Using the Right Type of Roll for Initiative

It’s up to the GM to choose what type of roll makes the most sense in determining a character’s initiative. 

If you’re unsure what roll to call for, use Perception. If a different type of roll could make sense for a character, you should usually offer the choice of that roll or Perception and let the player decide.

Don’t do this if it’s absolutely clear another kind of check matters more than Perception, such as when the character is sneaking up on enemies and should definitely use Stealth.

Source: Core Rulebook, pg 499

Leaving Without A Trace

It’s not always easy to escape an adventure with your head still attached to your shoulders. Between hungry ogres and devilish bandits, there are plenty of things to avoid when traveling around Golarian.

Sometimes it’s best to travel under cover of darkness and use a false name. Other times, it’s best to sneak your way past danger.

If you find yourself in a dragon’s lair, you probably shouldn’t take your chances. Ditch the heavy armor, pull on some leather boots, and tip-toe your way to safety. 

And watch your back if you end up crossing paths with a villainous rogue.

Remember, it’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for!