OneDnD Darkvision: it's here to stay for most races. What penalties could be added to keep is viable, but still have incentive to use light?

So on the one hand, you want monsters to be functional in darkness, they aren't very scary if they are fumbling about. On the other, humans seeing just fine in the dark is a dissonance from our reality, that's simply not how we operate. So how do you reconcile that?
It's really quite simple. If they have no hands to carry a torch in, then they can have darkvision.
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
I would go the other direction. Make darkvision practically free for anyone.

Currently, 5e Darkvision is a slot 2 spell that is effectively always on, for 8 hours.

Instead, change Darkvision into a cantrip. So any level 1 caster can take it. Make the caster able to have upto one target per proficiency bonus going on at the same time. So a spellcaster that sacrifices a cantrip slot for it, can grace the blind human with sight.

Play the game without worrying about lighting.

Admittedly, a Darkness cantrip is more appealing than the Light and Dancing Light cantrips. But the other two are "not bad" but can be better, so to gain some interesting effects to make them more competitive with Darkvision.
 

Darkvision is fine, and most monsters that live underground would likely use darkvision without any light source. Intelligent underground monsters might keep dim light sources in their lair, like luminescent fungi, but wouldn't use them when hunting. Characters who try to get by with just darkvision are going to stumble into ambushes/traps and miss clues due to the perception penalty (although the DM is also encouraged to apply penalties to other checks that seem appropriate).
 

I would avoid 'goblins have darkvision, of course they'd have no light sources ever', because even we humans can manage to move about in our house in the evening without the lights on, but... most people still put their lights on because it's just so much easier/nicer/faster/productive/uplifting/etc.
 
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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Darkvision is fine, and most monsters that live underground would likely use darkvision without any light source. Intelligent underground monsters might keep dim light sources in their lair, like luminescent fungi, but wouldn't use them when hunting. Characters who try to get by with just darkvision are going to stumble into ambushes/traps and miss clues due to the perception penalty (although the DM is also encouraged to apply penalties to other checks that seem appropriate).
The problem with hanging darkvision on that hope is that it forces the GM to put their own game in a guillotine for several reasons:
  • Tuckers kobolds might be fun for the occasional thing but it's an extreme level of prep & planning with very high overhead for running it. That's not the sort of thing that can be done week after week
  • Gocha traps are the height of adversarial GM'ing & using them makes the GM look bad while souring their players on the game
  • Tomb of horrors style traps where the players know of but needs to find them slows the game to a plodding halt & burns out everyone involved on top of the tuckers kobold adjacent prep needs
  • 5e is designed so the players are not meaningfully impacted even if they "stumble into ambushes/traps" so you have all of the prior negatives for the GM's reputation & negatives for everyone building a result that doesn't really even impact the PCs themselves
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
The problem with hanging darkvision on that hope is that it forces the GM to put their own game in a guillotine for several reasons:
  • Tuckers kobolds might be fun for the occasional thing but it's an extreme level of prep & planning with very high overhead for running it. That's not the sort of thing that can be done week after week
  • Gocha traps are the height of adversarial GM'ing & using them makes the GM look bad while souring their players on the game
  • Tomb of horrors style traps where the players know of but needs to find them slows the game to a plodding halt & burns out everyone involved on top of the tuckers kobold adjacent prep needs
  • 5e is designed so the players are not meaningfully impacted even if they "stumble into ambushes/traps" so you have all of the prior negatives for the GM's reputation & negatives for everyone building a result that doesn't really even impact the PCs themselves
One could argue that 5e is designed so the PCs are not meaningfully impacted...period.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
One could argue that 5e is designed so the PCs are not meaningfully impacted...period.

Mod note:

Folks are free to have negative opinions of a game. However, posts that are loaded with negativity, and no constructive content are threadcrap, and not something the site needs.

If you really must spew bile, try Twitter - I hear they like that kind of thing over there.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Bring back infravision and ultravision. The write-ups for it are already there in 1e; the main piece being that ultravision works great outdoors but not indoors, while infravision works everywhere but at fairly limited range. This at least puts the Elves and other sylvan types on roughly equal footing with Humans when indoors or underground.

Also, be very harsh around the idea of any light source (other than moon/starlight) ruining either type of night-sight.

And, look at the various playable species and ask whether each one would even have night-sight...and while you're at it, ask yourself how keen (or not) its other senses might have evolved to be. Most creatures really rely on one or maybe two senses, with the others there more for confirmation and backup. Then, tweak your species write-ups to suit.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The only “nerf” I think Darkvision needs is specifying that it doesn’t allow you to see in total darkness. There has to be some source of illumination, even if it wouldn’t normally be bright enough to constitute dim lighting (e.g. stars on a moonless night). I’d also be fine with just saying dim light imposes disadvantage on any ability checks relying on sight (leaving it up to DM discretion what counts) rather than specifying Wisdom (Perception) checks relying on sight.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The only “nerf” I think Darkvision needs is specifying that it doesn’t allow you to see in total darkness. There has to be some source of illumination, even if it wouldn’t normally be bright enough to constitute dim lighting (e.g. stars on a moonless night).
See, now that's the beauty of infravision and ultravision. With ultravision you are seeing by starlight and other ultraviolet radiation that can to some extent even get through clouds much like it doesn't get totally dark on a cloudy day. With infravision, however, you can see in total darkness because you're "seeing" heat, though I also long ago ruled that above a certain ambient temperature (about 30-35C) infravision doesn't work worth a damn.

I have it in my game that while a fair number of species have evolved one of these vision types, very few have both - the most notable (and only playable) one that can* is Hobbits; as they are somewhat genetically related to both Dwarves (infra) and Elves (ultra). Dragons and Drow are two others that have both, which makes them tougher sometimes as opponents.

* - it's not guaranteed; there's some random factors that set this during char-gen.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
too many races have darkvision. So much so unless there is human or halfling in the group I assume everyone has it.
There are 67 RACES 54 AL LEGAL. 37 races have Darkvision 32 of those AL Legal. I would love if Darkvision races were 1/4 and accept 1/3 but this over half is Beep Less than desirable.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Bring back infravision and ultravision. T.....
OH HECK NO. I remember every time a new movie with infrared or new documentary about night vision googles, or infrared research appear; Everyone had to change the rules. DM 60 minutes had a person behind a rock, and in a gillie suit but you could still see the heat column above the rock.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Huh. It really is interesting how different people's games are. I just use the standard rule that you have disadvantage on Perception checks if you're relying on your Darkvision and that's generally enough that the players want to have a lantern or a light spell or something. When I described Darkvision to one of my players as "it's like when you wake up at night and there's enough light in the room for you to make out shapes but not enough to not stub your toe on your dresser" that was pretty much enough for him to decide he wanted to carry a lantern and use the Darkvision as an emergency go-to.

I guess from reading some threads here it probably also helps that being in total darkness is a really rare thing in the games that I run. Dungeons tend to be lit somehow - the humanoids who live in them don't like stubbing their toes on dressers either so they use torches, and more cavernous systems not so densely populated with humanoid inhabitants tend to be lit with phosphorescent fungi and other weird magical things. So tactically there really isn't any advantage for the players because except in the rare occasion that the encounter is all about avoiding a grue, I'm not using darkness to ambush them either.
 



Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
Be explicit and highlight the disadvantages in a sidebar.

Specifically say when and where disadvantage and that you are not able to read scrolls etc.

And put this where it is consumed by the players—-like a sidebar in the races section.

Have somewhere a heading under races about darkvision—-“note many intelligent character races have darkvision” and explain it in detail. Up front. Clearly and with examples.
 

Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
I would rather they just removed darkvision from most of the races unless it REALLY makes sense in the narrative to include darkvision for a race.
Me too—-BUT now we have create your own package of bonuses. The genie has been let out of the bottle for good and ill.

In a few years’ time, the pre tasha’s experience won’t even be remembered.

Barbarian halfling? Dwarf wizard? As common as any other. My grog is showing there—-used to enjoy surprising the party with an odd pairing but those days are well past now.

Darkvision is just something people will choose to have 99% of the time. Limiting it is probably not going to be widely done.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Me too—-BUT now we have create your own package of bonuses. The genie has been let out of the bottle for good and ill.
We are already creating our own packages of bonuses... shrug

In a few years’ time, the pre tasha’s experience won’t even be remembered.
I don't think so. You have a lot of pushback IME on what Tasha's did. For new players, sure, they will never have experienced "pre-Tasha" so they won't know any better (or worse, depending on your POV).

Barbarian halfling? Dwarf wizard? As common as any other. My grog is showing there—-used to enjoy surprising the party with an odd pairing but those days are well past now.
While I think this will be lessened, it won't go away. Many people will come to the game from media, particularly main-stream movies, and while tropes are challenged, they will still exist (Orc Barbarian, Dwarf Fighter, Halfling "Treasure Hunter", etc.).

Darkvision is just something people will choose to have 99% of the time. Limiting it is probably not going to be widely done.
It is a choice DM's have to make and enforce IMO. I've reduced the number of races with darkvision to less than 10-12 IIRC.

Another option I like is what we call shadowsight, which turns Dim light into Bright light, but doesn't help in Darkness at all. Many races would have this IMO, but not true Darkvision.
 

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