Stealth – Playing Hide and Seek

There are a few different ways to approach stealth as a Rogue. You could be a charming swashbuckler with prowess in camouflage and hiding in plain sight, you could be very much like the protagonist of the Splinter Cell series; a husky voiced, no-nonsense spy. You could even be a Shadow magic user, a sorcerer like the early Illidan Stormrage; bending the shadows around you with magical prowess. There is no right or wrong way to justify your ability to use stealth, but there is a good and bad way to use the stealth itself in RP. Here is a blast from the past; Robinas (an old rogue RPer from TVC) said to me on the subject of Stealth “It isn’t invisibility like the graphics, many rogues forget that.” – truer words were never spoken, I think.


Let’s face it, you have the stealth button and you are clearly going to use it. Asking you not to use stealth is like asking a mage not to use magic; it is an integral part of your class. However, there is a right and fair way of doing it and there is a wrong and inconsiderate (not to mention meta-gaming) way of using it. Stealth, in game mechanic, is very powerful; you can stroll casually through the streets of an enemy city or listen in on conversations and nobody will ever be any the wiser. I even once pick-pocketed Garrosh Hellscream just because I could (well, that isn’t strictly true. It says ‘No Pockets to Pick’ but you get the idea). However, this isn’t how things should go IC, yes you are a rogue, yes you are good at spying and remaining unseen. But give nobody the slightest chance of catching you, find out everyone’s deepest and darkest secrets without them getting the chance to so much as try to catch you, and you will quickly be ignored out of sheer frustration and labelled a meta-gamer or god-moder. There is a fine line here, and it is easy to avoid crossing.
As with many things in RP, it can easily be resolved with a quick OOC chat. Let me make this very clear, if we are not grouped and you /emote at me to let me know that you are there and spying, these days, I cannot see your emote. This is a trap that I have fallen into, and I resolved it by poking the person OOC in a /whisper because I noticed a very acute lack of acknowledgement. More luck than judgement, in that situation, I was very close to almost reporting back on a successful spying mission that the other person had no chance to prevent. In the end it worked out fine; they were happy with the information that I sent back, but it could easily have gone another way. Learn from my mistakes here, if you are spying on someone; /whisper them. It could be an emote, an OOC explanation, an offer to group so that they can see your /emotes. But whatever you whisper them with, it will be far better than nothing.


So, how do you get spotted as a rogue? What is fair and what isn’t coming in the other direction?
I am glad that you asked. Go into a hallway at night, close the doors to rooms with windows, and turn off the lights. What can you see? Not a lot. Now, wait for your eyes to adjust, what can you see?
Blackened outlines of things, maybe some more detail but not much. When you are looking at things at night time you are using the rod cells in your retina – these are responsible for black and white vision and have much poorer resolution than the cells you use to read or to focus on things during the day (your cone, colour recognising, cells if you must know). It simply isn’t biologically possible to make out vast amounts of detail at night, your rods are better at using low-light levels than your cones and this is what you’re stuck with. However, you can still see things and make out shapes. All a smart character needs to do is see an odd, roughly humanoid shape in the black and then put two-and-two together to sound an alarm or throw a javelin/sword/bullet/spell in your direction. Congratulations, you have just been spotted and now have an arrow lodged in your ass. Let me make clear what the purpose was of going through the biology above, however. They are not going to know who it was. They’d need a lucky break to make out enough facial detail to catch you in a line-up if you escape without exposing your face under some kind of light. Besides, most self-respecting rogues use masks anyway. But note, again the point of the biology, they will not be able to report “he was wearing red and white armour” to anyone, unless they caught you under some light. You can’t make out colours in the pitch black. Well done, you have been spotted, you have an unfortunate arrow wound to nurse, but you got away and nobody knows it was you. Of course, there will be times when you get well and truly caught. Maybe you take a wrong turn in your escape and land in front of some patrolling city guards men, maybe you end up in a corner. Then what? You could try for a smoke bomb or flash powder. But the other players are going to have a decent chance to catch you anyway when you try to slip past them in the confusion (even if they just swing a weapon wildly, you might be unfortunate). In that scenario, personally, I’d admit defeat. Besides, nobody comes off scot-free every time.

A few basic notes for everyone involved, I think would be appropriate:

  • Don’t stand in the Light; don’t stand under/next to candles. Keep an eye on the surroundings; you can’t hide in a shadow which doesn’t exist. – You’d be surprised how many genuinely good RPers slip up here.
  • Don’t get within five feet of anyone. Not only will the game mechanic expose you, but even IRL you’d be much easier to spot. Keep your distance.
  • The game world is darker at night than displayed. There are more shadows and it is harder to see where you are going. If you are outside of a city, almost everyone more than five feet from you is going to be pitch black. The full moon gives some illumination but not a great deal. Try to remember that the world, IC, is going to look darker.
  • If the person you are trying to spot is behind something which breaks your line of sight, you can’t see them. Please remember the above point about night time. You could hear them, but be realistic. Too many people try to get past being spied upon in, frankly, ridiculous ways.
  • Vanish isn’t an excuse to never be caught. If you can’t justify the disappearance IC, don’t do it.
  • Using stealth isn’t even always necessary. My mage was a spy for years and nobody even knew about it, because he hid in plain sight; the kindly old Draenei gentleman who frequented the local taverns. Think Assassins Creed; you do not have to be physically hiding to be effectively stealthed.

You can use these basic points for playing as a Feral Druid also, just remember that you are probably more used to stealthing in woodland/natural environments compared to urban ones. Even so, the above all still works for the most part. Only, of course, nobody is going to know it was you regardless of how well lit you are; you’re in another form, after all. Let’s not go too far into this as it is off-topic; but please stop easily recognising people in Druid form who you’ve seen in that form once or twice. Humans are not good at recognising individual animals unless they see them often, get two ginger cats and try to tell the difference after only meeting them each twice. Use your brain, be realistic.

So that is my take on stealth, there is more detail I could waffle into but it would end up going around in circles. Use your head, be realistic, don’t overdo it – these are golden rules for a lot of things, keep them in mind. Both the hiders and the seekers often screw it up with regards to stealth, you both need to know your limits if using stealth in RP is going to work. Play fair with each other, it’ll be better RP for everyone involved.


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