D&D 5E Bats and Silence

Bit of an odd one...

Faced with an angry colony of bats, one of my players cast Silence on the basis that their echolocation wouldn't work, and so they'd get confused and fly into one another, the walls, and then the floor.

Not being an expert, this seemed reasonable and 'out of the box', so I went with it*.

Any other interpretations? Does this sound fair to you?

Also, any other similar lateral thinking you guys have come across? Might be fun to share.

*of course, the hunt for non-V spells memorised by the other players was quite fun to watch, and ultimately pretty painful. The bats were helping a vampire, you see.
 

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Yes, good ruling. Bats may have Eyes, but if you are suddenly losing half of your senses you rely on while navigating... could bring a swarm to collapse...
 

Tectuktitlay

Explorer
Yes, good ruling. Bats may have Eyes, but if you are suddenly losing half of your senses you rely on while navigating... could bring a swarm to collapse...

Bats actually have decent eyesight, and can fly just fine without sound provided there is enough light to see (and the dimmer the light, the better their vision). That being said, studies actually do show that they crash more often when relying strictly on eyesight. This doesn't mean they perpetually crash or anything without their echolocation, just that they do so a bit higher than normal. They also crash a bit more than normal in bright light, even while using their echolocation. A blind bat echolocating still crashed a little less often than a regular bat in bright light did, and the research seems to point to some sort of hormonal cause; some hormone production switches on in bright light that interferes with their interpreting the incoming sonar pings. In all likelihood, I'd say they'd switch to sight, and get the hell away from the area in the fastest, safest route possible, and not come back. It would likely freak them out quite a bit, and that colony, at least, would avoid your group's party for the rest of that particular excursion. I don't think they'd crash all over the place, though. Just try to leave asap.
 
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Bit of an odd one...

Faced with an angry colony of bats, one of my players cast Silence on the basis that their echolocation wouldn't work, and so they'd get confused and fly into one another, the walls, and then the floor.
Ah, yes. Magic + Science = Win.

It really depends on your style. If you want to create the feel of a magical world, bats probably don't use sonar, maybe they have blindsight or can see only in the dark, because they were created by some tenebrous bat-god, or because their eyes emit rays that pierce darkness but are blocked by light. If you want a 'realistic' world with magic layered over it, and wish to explore the implications thereof, by all means, deafen bats to blind them.

Does this sound fair to you?
Maybe not exactly 'fair,' depending on how you think of it. Magic already does a lot, mixing magic and science like that lets it do even more. One of the defenses of the classic D&D design of casters having many options and non-casters few is that the latter can 'improvise.' Keeping magic magical (even if that makes it occasionally nonsensical) rather than having it interact beneficially with conveniently-applied scientific realism can make that rationale less invalid.

Also, any other similar lateral thinking you guys have come across? Might be fun to share.
Way too much over the years. It became so common so fast that even the 1e PH and DMG had explanations why certain tricks wouldn't work (why you couldn't use Enlarge/Reduce to 'squeeze someone to death in their armor' for instance).
 


Bats actually have decent eyesight, and can fly just fine without sound provided there is enough light to see (and the dimmer the light, the better their vision). That being said, studies actually do show that they crash more often when relying strictly on eyesight. This doesn't mean they perpetually crash or anything without their echolocation, just that they do so a bit higher than normal. They also crash a bit more than normal in bright light, even while using their echolocation. A blind bat echolocating still crashed a little less often than a regular bat in bright light did, and the research seems to point to some sort of hormonal cause; some hormone production switches on in bright light that interferes with their interpreting the incoming sonar pings. In all likelihood, I'd say they'd switch to sight, and get the hell away from the area in the fastest, safest route possible, and not come back. It would likely freak them out quite a bit, and that colony, at least, would avoid your group's party for the rest of that particular excursion. I don't think they'd crash all over the place, though. Just try to leave asap.

I still believe, they would be very irritated when they first enter the silence zone. And thus I Imagine, that while flying in a swarm they may get problems. A single bat not so much.
 

Tectuktitlay

Explorer
I still believe, they would be very irritated when they first enter the silence zone. And thus I Imagine, that while flying in a swarm they may get problems. A single bat not so much.

Oh, sure. That's why I'd probably have them just book it the hell out of there. A zone of silence is a place they do not want to be, and it'd also be a weird dead zone to them from outside. Any inside when it hits will be somewhat disoriented and use their eyes to get away. But any bats on the outside? Their pings in the direction of the zone would not return at ALL, and that would likely freak them out enough to make them vacate the area posthaste. They would not go anywhere near a silenced zone.
 


Tectuktitlay

Explorer
Something I'm going to touch on which hasn't been fully addressed. How do the characters (as opposed to the players) know that the bats are using echolocation, and therefore silence might work (subject to the actual science being discussed in this thread regarding bats' eyesight)?

It wasn't until 1790 that it was determined that bats used hearing to help them navigate, and echolocation wasn't uncovered until the 20th century.

It's something that I'd be curious about. In game terms (if you wanted that), it would probably be a very high nature (intelligence) DC check.

This is a good point. But, this is also a world where there are intelligent races with much better hearing than a human (elves come to mind), and thus this knowledge might have been discovered much, much sooner. I am picturing elves and humans in early adventures together, and the elves shaking their head in frustration that those poor humans can't hear that there are bats in the area. Whether or not they understand why the bats are making the pulses of chirps they are making to steer, who knows? Same with dolphins, although perhaps sea elves being aware of the latter communicate to land elves, and a lightbulb moment goes off?
 

Yeah, he tends to 'bleed' knowledge a bit, but as a Druid I figured he knows a thing or two. Benefit of the doubt.

I do have to administer a verbal slap from time to time, including insisting when in wild shape he communicates only in growls/barks/squeaks as appropriate. And that everything they say is what the characters say. Which got one of their characters a punch in the nose last time!
 


S

Sunseeker

Guest
I would probably give them disadvantage on their attacks against anything else, but no real punishment to the bats for "bumping into each other". Might require them to make a perception check before making an attack, but probably one or the other, not both.

As for "how did the players figure it out" is one of those age-old player/character knowledge issues. If it's worth it to the DM, one could demand an intelligence check, or specifically a Nature check to see if their character could have the same idea as the player. I'd keep it fairly simple, maybe DC 12. It's a magical world and magical knowledge is likely going to be different. Perhaps the wizard read about bats when they were studying magic, perhaps this magical world knows more about bats. Maybe some vampire wizard or a druid wrote it all down after turning into one!
 


Tectuktitlay

Explorer
Also, it's possible that Speak with Small Animals revealed the echolocation which, without it, in our world took longer to discover.

Lol, that's true. Very true. Again, it conjures amusing images. Of a druid speaking to a bat, who is trying to describe how they perceive the world, with the same difficulty describing color to someone who only sees in black and white has.

There's also the whole shapeshifting issue. A druid turning into a bat would have to figure out very quickly how to echolocate. A druid flies around haphazardly, bumping into things occasionally, until it finally makes her exclaim out loud, at which point she SEES SOUND, OMG!!!
 

Makes you wonder, if humans are considered generally the dominant species, and everyone else has darkvision pretty much, why Potions of Darkvision (or Goggles of the Dwarven LordsTM) aren't considered a staple like Healing Potions.
 



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