5E Eliminating darkvision from most races
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  1. #1
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    Eliminating darkvision from most races

    When I DM, one of the things I really like to establish is mood and setting for my players. I want to play up the dread and unknown when they venture into a dark, damp dungeon. I want them to almost hear the scraping of the flint and the crackling fire as they light their torch. I want them to see the light dance upon the cavern walls, or light an ancient underground tomb that hasn't seen light in hundreds of years. I want them to wonder what else lurks out in the darkness just beyond where their light reaches.

    I also want their light spells to be meaningful and useful. I want magical potions of darkvision, or goggles of night, to be coveted items.

    But the fact that most all the races have darkvision simply ruins things. Sure it makes it easier of DMs that want to forget about running lighting and vision rules anyway, but I want to run those rules. That's a big part of the ambiance of dungeon crawling, in the way I run my games.

    So in my own homebrew universe, I am thinking about getting rid of darkvision for all but Drow and Snirvneblin. Are there some potential game-breaking problems if I do that? Have any thoughts on running a game without racial darkvision?
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  2. #2
    Darkvision in 5e is a lot less powerful and a lot less widespread than in 3e.

    Advantage:
    It is low light and darkvision together.
    Disadvantage:
    - only limited to 60 ft
    - in total darkness you are only seeing as good as in dim light. So disadvantage on perception checks.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by UngeheuerLich View Post
    Darkvision in 5e is a lot less powerful and a lot less widespread than in 3e.

    Advantage:
    It is low light and darkvision together.
    Disadvantage:
    - only limited to 60 ft
    - in total darkness you are only seeing as good as in dim light. So disadvantage on perception checks.
    Thanks for the reply, but I understand those rules. I know the distance limits and that perception checks still have disadvantage. Even with those limitations though, it still removes the ambiance I want in a dungeon crawl. For example, being lowered in to the well in the Yawning Portal and only having the light pouring in from above from the distant hole to the tavern. Pitch black passages lay ahead. The adventurers would have to take a beat to take out a torch and light it, or have their wizard cast some sort of light spell.

    With the prevalence of darkvision, all that is lost. And that takes something special away, in my opinion.
    Last edited by machineelf; Tuesday, 17th January, 2017 at 08:29 AM.
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  4. #4
    Keep in mind they cannot see in color with Darkvision either.

    Then color-code a dungeon. And make certain one color indicates traps.

    They will carry lights with them forever after.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ArchfiendBobbie View Post
    Keep in mind they cannot see in color with Darkvision either.

    Then color-code a dungeon. And make certain one color indicates traps.

    They will carry lights with them forever after.
    For me, the idea of color-coordinating traps is a clever idea, but more of a gimmick that gets old fast if overplayed. It really doesn't solve my problem. If you don't mind widely prevalent darkvision in your games, go for it. But I do, and I'm just wondering if there are any gamebreaking problems with eliminating it from most of the races.
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  6. #6
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    To clarify a bit, there are specifically two things that I feel are lost with widely prevalent racial darkvision:

    1. The ambiance of storytelling as a DM when the characters venture into some ancient, lost, deep dungeon that is pitch black. Sure we can still say that the characters only see in grays, or that they can only see 60' out. But that's still enough for them to be comfortable in a dark space. The slight mystery and horror of an ancient dungeon filled with who-knows-what that I want to bring to the story is impacted if they can see everything in grays. I want them to have to pierce the veil of darkness with the effort of pulling out a torch and lighting it as the cavern drips with moisture in the distance, or have the wizard perform an arcane ritual to lighten the space,

    2. The utility of spells, tools, and items that can help them deal with the darkness is reduced or lost. How many times do your players worry about bringing torches with them? How often do wizards worry about learning light spells? How often do your characters hope to find goggles of night or a potion that allows them to see in the dark? With so much racial darkvision around everywhere, almost never.

    To me, darkness is one of the hazards (and storytelling elements) of the dungeon. Prevalent racial darkvision almost makes it a nonissue.
    Last edited by machineelf; Tuesday, 17th January, 2017 at 08:46 AM.

  7. #7
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    They did that in 4e.

    It worked great.

    In 5e the big drawback of removing it from PCs is that it puts monsters at a big advantage over lightless parties.

    But that could be a bonus for you.

    I say go for it!
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Human Target View Post
    In 5e the big drawback of removing it from PCs is that it puts monsters at a big advantage over lightless parties.

    But that could be a bonus for you.

    I say go for it!
    Sounds great to me! Creepy monsters in the dark that can see you but you can't see them until you light the torch ... oh yeah.

  9. #9
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    I'm not sure why you think having a black and white world filled with ill-defined shapes isn't atmospheric.

    But taking away darkvision isn't as keen an idea as it seems, it just begs the question of why isn't dungeon already lit up if nothing can see in the dark?

    Also, most people aren't going to learn the light cantrip regardless of how many people have darkvision. Cantrips are too valuable to waste a pick on the edge case scenario that you don't have a light source. You would need to start by doubling the number of cantrips casters get, and then you might see someone picking light instead of just using a lantern.

    In fact, lanterns kind of wreck any attempt at torching the place up too.
    Last edited by Leatherhead; Thursday, 19th January, 2017 at 06:39 AM. Reason: clarity

  10. #10
    Just be careful, as you can easily TPK a party if you don't take into account the lack of darkvision and adjust tactics accordingly.

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