Stealth Initiative

by ArcaneEye

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4.1 Stealth Initiative

What is Stealth Initiative?

Stealth Initiative is a way to allow for a more forgiving and interesting stealth mission experience. Instead of relying on one stealth check to determine if the party fails or not, the party will enter Stealth Initiative with any creatures nearby. Depending on how well or poorly the characters do on their stealth checks, creatures will move up and down the Awareness Track.

If combat breaks out, the same initiative rolls can be used.

Awareness Track

Track State Effect
2 Unconscious An unconscious creature is unaware of its surroundings.
1 Distracted Perception checks are made with disadvantage. Passive perception takes a -5 modifier.
0 Unaware Normal. Apply passive perception.
-1 Cautious Spends an action each round to make a Wisdom (Perception) check, but does not actively search.
-2 Alert Actively searches. Will alert others if available.
-3 Aware Aware of your exact location. Will alert others if available.

If you fail a Stealth check, the creature will move -1 on the Awareness Track.

Players can move creatures up the Awareness Track by succeeding in Distract checks.

Line of Sight

Creatures outside of direct line of sight of the creature they are trying to percept make Perception (Wisdom) checks with disadvantage and take a -5 modifier to passive perception checks.

Waking Someone

A creature that is naturally sleeping, as opposed to being in a magically or chemically induced sleep, wakes up if it takes any damage or if someone else uses an action to shake or slap the creature awake. A sudden loud noise — such as yelling, thunder, or a ringing bell — also awakens someone that is sleeping naturally.

Whispers don’t disturb sleep, unless a sleeper’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score is 20 or higher and the whispers are within 10 feet of the sleeper. Speech at a normal volume awakens a sleeper if the environment is otherwise silent (no wind, birdsong, crickets, street sounds, or the like) and the sleeper has a passive Wisdom (Perception) score of 15 or higher.


Players receive their typical 3 Action (Bonus Action, Movement and Standard Action). They will also have to make a Stealth check as a Free Action after their movement each turn.

The following are available as Standard Actions in Stealth Initiative:


Using the Hide action as your Standard Action will give you +2 to your Stealth check.


Using the distract action allows players to roll a Charisma (Deception) check against a creatures Wisdom (Insight).The target must not be aware of the player's current location.

Using at least one free hand , you may make a Charisma (Deception) check against the target's Wisdom (Insight) check . If you succeed, you can cause the target to immediately move +1 up the Awareness Track. You can also cause the target to immediately move up to lOft in any direction (the target avoids any plainly dangerous areas), the target then gains the distracted condition (see the Distracted state in the Awareness track) until the end of its next turn.

If the Charisma (Deception) check fails, the player will get -2 to their next Dexterity (Stealth) check.


Any player that takes the dash action will roll their next Stealth check with disadvantage.

Running Stealth Initiative

Running Stealth Initiative will require a different mindset then combat encounters. For a Stealth Initiative encounter to be effective, it needs two things:

Letting Your Players Know

Informing your players that stealth is of the utmost importance will allow them to get into the proper mindset. It can also give the Paladin or Fighter a chance to leave their heavy armor at home.

Playing NPCs

Making your NPCs dynamic is a key component to Stealth Initiative. Each opponent will act differently based on their Awareness, but this is a good guide to follow:

Unaware – NPC moves their speed (no dash) in a random direction (1d4 for North, East, South, West) OR NPC follows a predetermined patrol route.

Cautious – NPC moves their speed (no dash) towards the sound they heard.

Alert – NPC moves their speed (dash) towards the sound they heard OR NPC calls for help.

Aware – NPC will attack the party OR NPC will move their speed (dash) towards the alarm bell.


Making sure that your environment has plenty of places to hide, as well as things to interact with is particularly important in Stealth Initiative. Battlemaps are a huge part of Stealth Initiative, I would recommend using a battlemap for in-person sessions and Roll20 for online sessions.

Avenues of Movement

Giving your players plenty of options when it comes to routes, distractions, and lethality is very important.

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