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D&D 5E Does being Heavily Obscured grant Cover... And should it???

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I was thinking about two niche rules issues:

1) Advantage can be very prolific and easy to grant, making it less special.

2) The classic "shooting at a target in a Fog Cloud" scenario in which advantage and disadvantage always cancel out.

It made me wonder: would a creature in a Fog Cloud or Darkness, or otherwise Heavily Obscured, have cover?

Here's what the PHB says about being Heavily Obscured:

A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area.

And Total Cover:

A target with total cover can't be targeted directly by an attack or a spell, although some spells can reach such a target by including it in an area of effect. A target has total cover if it is completely concealed by an obstacle.

Now I'm assuming that if the game designers wanted concealment to grant cover, they would have said so (or just combined the rules), so RAW it probably doesn't. Especially with that word "obstacle" in there, the designers were obviously thinking about being behind a wall, not a cloud.

But should it grant cover???

I could see a House Rule granting characters who are heavily obscured 3/4 cover or even total cover. This may make effects like Fog Cloud and Darkness more effective. What other consequences would it have?
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Attacking a creature you can't see is covered in PHB chapter 9
When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.​
When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.​

So any obscurement that goes both ways (fog cloud) cancels each other out.

When it comes to spells, it just depends. Many spells specify that you must see the target others just state.
The target of a spell must be within the spell's range. For a spell like magic missile, the target is a creature. For a spell like fireball, the target is the point in space where the ball of fire erupts.​

So you can't magic missile the darkness but you can fireball it. Cover does not come into play.
 

embee

Lawyer by day. Rules lawyer by night.
I was thinking about two niche rules issues:

1) Advantage can be very prolific and easy to grant, making it less special.

2) The classic "shooting at a target in a Fog Cloud" scenario in which advantage and disadvantage always cancel out.

It made me wonder: would a creature in a Fog Cloud or Darkness, or otherwise Heavily Obscured, have cover?

Here's what the PHB says about being Heavily Obscured:



And Total Cover:



Now I'm assuming that if the game designers wanted concealment to grant cover, they would have said so (or just combined the rules), so RAW it probably doesn't. Especially with that word "obstacle" in there, the designers were obviously thinking about being behind a wall, not a cloud.

But should it grant cover???

I could see a House Rule granting characters who are heavily obscured 3/4 cover or even total cover. This may make effects like Fog Cloud and Darkness more effective. What other consequences would it have?

Heavily Obscured: Hidden in the bushes

Total Cover: Crouching behind a concrete jersey barrier

The bushes affect the ability to aim at someone. The jersey barrier affects the ability of that person to be hit by some kind of damage.

Think of an action movie. Any action movie. There will be that scene where the hero has set off some kind of explosive, runs and vaults over a jersey barrier, and takes cover behind it just before the big bang. The explosion goes off and the wall of fire spreads out. It hits the concrete jersey barrier and the hero is left unharmed.

But what if he jumped into the bushes instead? Would he have been unharmed? No. The wall of fire would have taken him out. Roll credits.

Concealment negates aim, but not damage. Cover negates damage. They are two separate concepts. Bushes provide concealment but will not provide cover from an attack.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
You shouldn't grant an AC bonus to a creature that is heavily obscured because they, also, are unaware of potential attacks (hence the advantage/disadvantage cancelling out). Heavy obscurement prevents you from being targeted by spells which the caster must see, so it is still a good thing. It should also grand advantage on Stealth checks, so if the creature a makes the stealth check and becomes "Hidden", an attack should not be able to target them at all unless the DM determines (via minis or ToM) that the attack is in the space occupied by the target.

Total cover does not prevent the creature with total cover from seeing everything else around them. Keep in mind, while a creature has total cover, any target they might attack also effectively has total cover, which is why the creature must move out from behind cover to attack and then move back.
 


toucanbuzz

Legend
Obscured = vision

Cover = barrier

A cloud/darkness doesn't impede the progress of an arrow.

Think of it this way. If 20 archers fire arrows blindly into a fog, they might still hit something. If 20 archers fire arrows at a brick wall barrier, they won't hit whoever is behind that wall so the "attack" on anyone behind that wall is invalid. If 20 archers fire arrows into the darkness at someone hiding behind a table (3/4 cover), they might hit something. It's possible. In that scenario, both the "blind" and "cover" effects apply.

The same applies to spells. Remember, some spells don't function like arrows. Some can't "blindly" be fired and hope to hit something. They require a specific target "that you can see" to be valid.

That's all old news Sage Advice and Errata.

If you're talking a homebrew rule, I wouldn't because you're turning insubstantial barriers into physical barriers and adding a lot more power to low level effects.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
I could see a House Rule granting characters who are heavily obscured 3/4 cover or even total cover. This may make effects like Fog Cloud and Darkness more effective. What other consequences would it have?
It would make the game slower, as everyone would miss more often.

That's just as bad idea as making attacks in the darkness with disadvantage.
 

Spohedus

Explorer
Another thought... even to fire into a heavily obscured area, how do they know where to attack? Perhaps with an opposed Perception check? The obscured target may still be moving about a bit. At our table, there's two steps to try to hit something obscured. Determining which square you are attacking, then resolving the roll based on advantage/disadvantage the particulars of the attacker and target.
 

ninjayeti

Adventurer
I think it makes sense. In 1E both cover and concealment provided penalties to hit rolls although concealment provided a smaller penalty than the equivalent amount of cover. So you could say that three-quarters concealment gives a +2 AC bonus (same as half cover) and total concealment gives a +5 AC bonus (same as three quarters cover). Hiding behind a fog cloud isn't as effective as hiding behind a brick wall, but its not useless either.
 

MarkB

Legend
The whole point of cover and obscurement granting different things is so that their effects can be applied independently, or in combination, as required. A character who is heavily obscured is hard to see and target, but one who is heavily obscured and also manages to find something solid to hide behind is even moreso.
 

The whole point of cover and obscurement granting different things is so that their effects can be applied independently, or in combination, as required. A character who is heavily obscured is hard to see and target, but one who is heavily obscured and also manages to find something solid to hide behind is even moreso.
Exactly.
 

Dausuul

Legend
But should it grant cover???
No.

Cover is both a mechanic and a rules shorthand for "there is a physical barrier between you and the attack." You can have other mechanics that say "when you have cover, XXX." As soon as you start granting cover in cases where there is no such barrier, you have to go back and rewrite those other mechanics.

If you don't think being heavily obscured grants enough defensive benefit, then the rules for obscurement are what you should be fixing. Don't get cover involved where it doesn't apply.

For instance, at my table, we have a house rule that you do not get advantage on ranged attacks if there is mutual blindness (you can't see the target and it can't see you). So the disadvantage is not canceled out, and you attack with disadvantage.
 

I think the area where the rules for attacks in heavy obscurement need work is on the end of the player and enemies knowing where to target. If they attack an area and their enemy isn't there then that enemy effectively has full cover from an attack. Unfortunately for metagame reasons of the hidden enemy often being still represented on a game board, or of the players knowing the enemy's turn hasn't come up for him to move yet since the last time they were seen, the principle extra protection one gets from heavy obscurement, an enemy not knowing where you actually are so that they can effectively attack you, is often moot.
 

I think the area where the rules for attacks in heavy obscurement need work is on the end of the player and enemies knowing where to target. If they attack an area and their enemy isn't there then that enemy effectively has full cover from an attack. Unfortunately for metagame reasons of the hidden enemy often being still represented on a game board, or of the players knowing the enemy's turn hasn't come up for him to move yet since the last time they were seen, the principle extra protection one gets from heavy obscurement, an enemy not knowing where you actually are so that they can effectively attack you, is often moot.
In a VTT game, the hidden enemy can be moved to the GM layer to “hide” them from the players. Or, for an in-person game (or on a VTT), the DM can simply say the token/mini represents the last known location of the enemy. The players then decide where to attack. Metagaming doesn’t need to be a concern.
 

As others have pointed out, it should not grant cover, both by RAW and RAI.
2) The classic "shooting at a target in a Fog Cloud" scenario in which advantage and disadvantage always cancel out.
This came up very early in 5E and our group has a very simple houserule for it:

When a creature you can see can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

This removes the cancelling of disadvantage while blinded. If two people can't see each other, there's going to be a LOT more missing than two people who can see each other.
 

RAW, no, and it shouldn't because the rules don't say that.

RAI, no, and it shouldn't because that would have several knock-on effects and make certain actions/effects even more powerful than they are. Especially because magic is one of the only ways to (spontaneously) create total concealment, so you'd be giving yet another shiny new toy to casters while weakening non-casters.

Natural language, no, and it shouldn't because "cover" means you have some thing covering you, e.g. hiding behind a barrier to physical objects, whereas concealment simply means you can't be seen. Someone could be standing in the middle of an empty field under unnaturally dark conditions and have total concealment without cover, while someone could be standing behind a thick glass barrier and have cover without any concealment whatsoever.

I honestly don't see any way of analyzing this situation that says you should do this. Neither a gamist nor a narrativist reading leads to this conclusion.
 


TheSword

Legend
I think it would be better if you could only get advantage for being an unseen attacker if you yourself can see the target. Two characters fighting in the dark trying to hit each other should both have disadvantage.
Absolutely this. This idea that wildly swinging in the dark is successful because the opponent can’t see you wildly swinging is ridiculous. Even more so when it comes to ranged attacks. You shouldn’t be the same efficacy attacking in the dark (or worse, more effective if they already have some form of disadvantage.)

It falls into the same unsatisfying category of rules as invisibility not making you better at hiding behind a crate or in a light fog.
 
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