What to Do About Players with Darkvision - Ep. 11 Transcript




Finally, you have escaped the Ogre’s cave and are running for your life. As you leave the cavern, dread sets in as you realize it is night and the partial moon above is just casting shadows into an already dark space. Without hesitation you dash into the dark forest charging through the underbrush; your only hope being that you escape the ogre that isn’t far behind you. Okay, Can you see where you are going? What if you have dark vision? We will answer these questions and more in today’s episode!



Hello Dungeoneers and welcome to another reading from the Tome of Dungeoneering. Now, I’ve got a question for you. Have you ever DM’d for a player or been a player that had darkvision? The answer to this question is almost certainly yes because darkvision is one of the most common traits in the game. So if you have ever wondered how do I challenge a party with darkvision with darkness, then this episode is for you! Today we are going to shine a light on to that which is obscured. Let’s go!



What do dim light and a layer of moderate fog have in common? Well, they make it harder to see obviously, but for the purposes of Dungeons and Dragons, they both impose a specific penalty on players. Did you know that the same condition is applied to a character whether they are outside at night with a full moon overhead or swimming through a seemingly clear body of water? Well it’s true! This is because vision has nothing to do with the penalty being imposed. That penalty comes from obscurity.


In 5th edition, we’ve got two types of obscurity to work with. The first type is lightly obscured. That’s stuff like dim light, fog, or moderate foliage. So, when you are holding a torch in an otherwise dark room and you are straining to see what is lurking at the edge of your torches bright light you are experiencing the disadvantage caused by your surroundings being lightly obscured.


Whenever you or your players are impacted by a situation that is lightly obscured there is only one penalty provided to us by the rules. Any attempt to perceive with sight will be rolled with Disadvantage.


The Second of our two types of obscurity is Heavily Obscured. Let’s go back in time to the beginning of this podcast. You’re running away from an Ogre and it’s dark out. The moon is probably occasionally shining through the trees but it is mostly shadow and while you run you are getting hit in the face by the underbrush and spider webs all while beads sweat form on your brow. This is the definition of heavy obscurity.


Again, the handbook provides us with only a few examples...Darkness, opaque fog, and dense foliage. When you find yourself in these sorts of environments the penalties given are far greater than even the normal penalty of “disadvantage” on dice rolls. You are given the blinded condition. This means you immediately fail ability checks that rely on sight and attacks against you have advantage on dice rolls, while your attacks have disadvantage on their dice rolls.


That is the primer, those are the rules without any sight enhancement. Now let’s take a look at how vision comes into play.




You and your party are travelling on a cloudless night through an open field many miles from the nearest tavern or reprieve. Overhead a partial moon casts a soft bluish light onto the land. This certainly isn’t bright light. So would you call this Dim Light or Darkness? It really could be either!


This is where the vagueness of the rules gives you and your table the opportunity to be flexible. The Player's Handbook tells us that “The soft light of twilight and dawn as well as a particularly brilliant full moon all *might* bathe the land in dim light.” It’s interesting to me that it says “A particularly brilliant full moon.” It doesn’t mention a brilliant half moon or even a somewhat underwhelming full moon. It should be particularly brilliant. To me that means anything less than that is darkness. I think it would also be fair to say that if it was a particularly brilliant full moon but you were in a forest that would very likely be total darkness because that is just shadows being cast into an environment that was already Dim at best.


So how can players overcome these blinded conditions or dim environments? The game offers us three core types of vision outside of standard vision. The first is the of course oh so common Darkvision, which is the one that will get the most of my attention today. The second is blindsight, which comes in a few different flavors for the monsters in the world. Lastly, Truesight which is so powerful, you can see through the very fabric of the material plane.


As a Drow raised in the city of Menzoberranzan deep in the underdark your eyes quickly became accustomed to seeing with little to no light and thus you gained the “darkvision” trait. Well, what is that? Dark vision does two simple things up to a range of 60ft. The first is seeing in dim light as if it were bright. So where you would normally struggle to see beyond the edge of your torch’s light, you would see as if it were bright. The second is that when in non magical darkness you can see up to 60 ft as if it were dim light and anything you do see would be a shade of grey.


Far too often, I have seen players take that to mean that they do not need a torch or that they are invincible in the darkness. That just isn’t the case. Admittedly you aren’t blinded when you have darkvision so that’s a plus but you will still need to make sight based perception checks at disadvantage. That means that when you are traversing a cave with no light and a roper lies in wait up ahead if you fail that roll it will look like any other grey detail this cavern possesses.


So what other ways can you mess with your player’s vision? As we mentioned earlier, any time you can lightly or heavily obscure something you are going to be putting your players at greater risk. Let’s Explore this.


The magic sword “Demons Bane” rests at the bottom of a lake. After years of research you are sure you are at the right spot now, you just need to find it beneath the silt. The water looks clear and the sun is shining brightly over your head. You jump in. As you open your eyes you realize the water wasn’t nearly as clean as you thought. I would call this Lightly obscured. What about seeking shelter during a rainstorm. Think about the last time you were stuck outside in a heavy downpour. Yeah, you were probably fine but seeing around you probably wasn’t the easiest. Where I’m from, every spring we hide from the pine pollen. It isn’t a small amount of pollen, it gets everywhere and gets into eyes. It’s scratchy like sand because the pollen granules are so large. What if your party is travelling through a thick pine forest in the spring. Would you have considered assaulting the senses with allergies? I would call these things at least lightly obscuring.


You and your allies stand atop the mountain, haggard, tired, bordering on exhausted and that’s when you hear it. A loud roar bellows as a dragon descends on to your location in a steep dive. As it nears the ground it opens its wings and gives a mighty flap to slow its descent. Air rushes towards the ground with each beating of the dragons mighty wings, each time kicking up a torrent of dirt, rocks, sand, and debris. I need everyone to make a Constitution saving throw against being blinded by the debris for one round. Oh and roll initiative.


Now, unless you are playing “The Rise of Tiamat” You probably won’t fight a dragon every day, so what else can you do to cast heavy obscurity on to even your players with darkvision. Severe weather, or white out after a blizzard. White out is a fun one. For all intents and purposes the party can see fine...but everything and I mean everything is blanketed in pure white snow and the snow is falling and the sun is reflecting off of it. White out is not fun. Lastly, I’ll leave you with mud. Give your small humanoids mud and mud traps. There is nothing worse than dealing with kobolds with pact tactics while you have mud smeared in your face. Good luck.




Thank you all for joining us as we shined this light into the darkness, and hopefully helped give you a better understanding of how you might use obscurity to better hinder your players in the future.


As always, We want to take a moment at the end of our episode to express our deepest gratitude to all of our viewers, fans, and other supporters. Your contributions, whether they are from sharing our show with all of your friends or supporting us on patreon means the world to us. Your continued support will enable us to keep doing something we are extremely passionate about. If you know someone that you think might enjoy our show; please consider sharing us with them and if you want to support us directly please consider subscribing to our patreon. You can find more information at patreon.com/intothedungeon and more of our content at inthedungeon.com.


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