Mar 022015

Sneaking In Plain Sight
Dude, you know we totally see you, right?

It all started innocently enough, with a developer thread titled Rogue – Assassin Changes, where Severlin provided the changes they are planning to make to the Rogue Assassin enhancement tree.

Which, by the way, is awesome! I love that the developers are involving the community so early in the process, before coding, before things become hard to change.

At one point in the thread, Severlin mentioned:

~ Changes to stealth require tech work and affect lots of game systems and are prone to side effects so we have to be careful there. Anything that involves significant changes to monster AI is out of scope for this update and this hampers any global revamp to Stealth.

(We are still going through feedback.)
(We are still working on Mechanic.)


Which I found quite disconcerting. To me, the biggest issue with rogues, and especially Assassins, is not the enhancement tree. It is the fact that stealth does not work in DDO.

Now before you go all “yes it does” on me, let’s be clear. I am not stating that stealth is bugged (although sometimes it is) nor am I saying that there are no situations where stealth is helpful (although there aren’t very many).

But it is not a viable play style for anyone except the dedicated, flower-sniffing soloer, and not even always then.

But I digress. Back to the thread. I posted a comment:

I don’t think there is any point to a rogue revamp that does not include fixes to stealth.

Put your efforts into fighters or something that is not dependent on a special ability that is inherently broken.

Which, surprisingly, to me anyway, got called out:

We get concerned when players make blanket statements about stealth being “broken” without really outlining what they mean. While we love player feedback and welcome specific suggestions about stealth, I just don’t want to set up false expectations about things stealth should allow. We wouldn’t want players, as an example, to have the expectation that characters should be opening doors and pulling levers while remaining in stealth. This type of behavior would threaten too many types of content. Without specifics we can do nothing to address people’s concerns.


Severlin left me dumbfounded. Not because I didn’t have things to say, but because I had too many things to say. I couldn’t get them organized and set down in time. Not at that moment at least, and by the time I was able to devote appropriate attention to the question, the thread had moved on.

Fortunately others jumped in; there are now multiple pages of how stealth is broken. The rest of this blog post is what I would have said if I’d had a couple of hours to devote to the topic.

There are style problems with sneak that have always been present:

  • Many encounters contain unsneakable monsters. Sometimes it seems like most of them do
  • No one will wait for the sneaky guy to catch up
  • No one will wait for the sneaky guy to power up anything that requires being in sneak
  • So many places where a quest will not advance until you have killed all the monsters
  • The fear of “threatening too many types of content” hobbles stealth play. The pendulum is swung too far. Swing it back a little.

There are style problems with sneak that are the result of game changes:

  • More stop points added to previously sneakable quests prevent most sneak-only completions
  • Dungeon alert

There are issues with the implementation of Assassinate

  • A successful Assassinate should not break one out of sneaking
  • Assassination requires sneak but you cannot sneak while already in melee

And there are some specific technical issues with sneak

  • The bad guys inerrantly hit you with ranged at the first sign of finding you
  • It is supposed to be possible to shake off pursuit if one is able to retain sneak but that does not work *
  • Monsters that hear you inerrantly follow your path when sneaking
  • Monsters that do not show indicators of being able to see you are still able to hit you with single-target spells. Which breaks sneak and now everyone sees you.

* This does not work for me, ever. I assume it is bugged. But maybe I am just inadequately skilled.

Here is a paragraph from the Shadowfell Conspiracy release notes that describes how the stealth rework is supposed to determine when you are detected:

  1. You are invisible but the monster has True Seeing, See Invisibility, tremor-sense, or is within 2 meters and facing you.
  2. You are hiding, but the monster’s spot plus all modifiers is sufficient to beat your hiding skill plus all modifiers, or you are within 2 meters and it is facing you.
  3. You are hiding AND invisible, but some combination of both 1 and 2 are true.
  4. If they are swinging and hitting you but don’t have the icon over their head, they are making blind attacks where they hear you making noise, and you’re making so much running around and getting hit that they can figure out where you are.

Except they do not swing and hit blindly. They go to precisely where you were and always hit you.


It has never been possible to use sneak effectively in a group
It has rarely been possible to use sneak effectively when soloing

And that is why stealth is broken. Or at least, that is my opinion on the matter. What do you think?

🙂 😀 🙂

  7 Responses to “Sneaking In Plain Sight – Why Stealth is Broken as a DDO Play Style”

Comments (7)
  1. Even if you “stand” still while in stealth mobs tend to sweep towards you and eventually spot you.
    This even if you’re out of side behind a door/wall. Closed doors give even more agro.

    Some mobs require activation (by hitting them) and you cannot assassinate them while not active.

    Last time I tried the timer on assassinate was way to long, good luck with that in a pack of mobs.

    Besides this rogues in general should be able to do some damage against the Unnatural if they choose to. (While becoming more one with the unnatural them selfs.)

    On the darkside (pun intended), you should learn to incorporate Bluff more (Bluff-Sneak-Assassinate). 🙂

  2. I disagree that something is “broken” if it is not 100% effective 100% of the time. Of course there should be times where stealth is more effective than other times. The question is this, for me: If I choose to invest in stealth, can I make good use of it? The answer is a current yes.

    Keep in mind that if people were able to remain always-stealthed, and get through any door or encounter without ever leaving stealth, it would utterly break the game.

    • Hi Jerry! Always awesome to see you! Even when we disagree 🙂

      In this case we definitely disagree. On several levels actually, but I am again time-constrained so will focus in just this one statement:

      “…if people were able to remain always-stealthed, and get through any door or encounter without ever leaving stealth, it would utterly break the game.”

      I dispute this. I think there are some quests, maybe even a minority of quests, that would be made exploitable and would require adjustment. Some quests. Not all quests.

      Saying it would utterly break the game as a monolithic statement like that is not only incorrect, but it also removes the idea from the table without chance of discussion.

    • Jerry, geoffhanna’s points are sound and should not be summarily dismissed,

      The issue isn’t that “an investment in Stealth is helpful most of the time but not 100%”.

      The issue is that “an investment in Stealth will not be useful or usable in a majority of content, especially content run in groups”.

      Sure, you CAN invest in Stealth and SOMETIMES get some use out of it, but being viable in a minority of content and encounters and desirable in fewer is unambiguously broken.

      To suggest that a player can make Good use of stealth in most content or in most groups is disingenuous at best.

      It’s easier to get a party to cooperate with Chest Blessing than to cooperate with the needs of Stealth, and Chest Blessing requires a smaller investment than Stealth.

      Stealth needs to offer some compelling advantages that apply to more than a very small number of quests without its current party-unfriendly penalties in order to be considered more attractive than blowing everything up as quickly as possible.

  3. Yay! This time I get to agree with Geoff!

    “Assassination requires sneak but you cannot sneak while already in melee”

    Arrgh!! This mechanic is so endlessly frustrating! Next to impossible to use while soloing, but not much more effective in a group where others have the aggro. Assassination makes me want to kill things!

    When I think about stealth on my rogue, I’m not even thinking ‘I want to be perma-stealthed.’ That’s not what I want. Did someone ask for perma-stealth? That’s unreasonable and cheesy. Things like pulling levers, opening doors, murdering people should all boost awareness that ‘Hey! Someone’s in the room!” BUT if I’ve maxed out my Bluff, Hide and Move Silently skills *and* I’m sneaking, I should be able to give them the slip after these points of awareness.When I talk about making sneak mode work as a playstyle, I’m not talking about two flavor levels of Rogue. I’m not talking about sneaking in medium or heavy armor where it’s feasible for just anybody to do it (should have penalties to stealth skills or sneak mode should just not turn on when wearing med or heavy armor), so I can be uber and have the best of everything. I’m talking at least 6-12 levels of Rogue required for being really stealthy

    Deception skills are the only part of the stealth equation that do seem to currently have a significant payoff. You can Bluff or Diplo your way out of some aggro, but then what?

    We used to be able to invis and run through dungeons prior to Shadowfell with little impunity. Hide and Move Silently really didn’t feel like they mattered, because people without those skills could still invis and their hearts out successfully. Why spend points in stealth skills? Well, things changed,invis isn’t the all or nothing it used to be, but Hide and Move Silently still don’t feel like they matter. Why? Because my character that has maxed out in stealth skills is not discernibly more effective and subtle than my character in the single digits. What’s the point of trying to be stealthy when a character trained to be stealthy fails to be stealthy as regularly as a character not trained to be stealthy? Not much point. If an Assassin build cannot assassinate, because they can’t stay sneaky for more than one second in combat, why be an Assassin?

    So I agree that perhaps it would be better to address something else, like Fighters or handwraps. If Turbine is looking for an easy, lower development win that just tweaks a couple items in enhancement trees, Rogue is not that win. Because stealthiness contributes largely to what makes Rogues unique. Really playing as a Rogue means committing to a different play style, one that goes at a different speed than the sprinting barbarians, one that avoids fighting and goes for Devious/Discreet bonuses. If a pass doesn’t make the character investment in stealth skills matter, then it’ll continue being just a splash in multi-class builds, or part of stick builds. I’ll continue running my rogue around in heavy armor because it adds to her survival more than trying to sneak through dungeons.

  4. I did just earlier this evening have a fun time with a sneaky run on Gladewatch Outpost Defence. Had logged on, no pugs going, checked adventure list and saw I needed Gladewatch. Hmm, that will be a tough grind solo I thought. Checked wiki and saw option to hide and wait out for the ogre. Never been a sneaky sort before, and I have to say, a whole different new excitement hiding in the bushes seeing mobs swarming around and just keeping very quiet. With invis and sneak did manage to get up close to the ogre without being spotted, but of course as soon as I hit him, all hell broke loose – though did just manage to get the kill before the death as it were.

    However, my conclusion is that more viable sneaking would be great, not that sneaking is currently very viable.

  5. I’m late to this party after my sabbatical. But I wanted to post a dissenting view, point by point.

    Here ’tis:

What do you think?

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