5E Eliminating darkvision from most races

machineelf

Explorer
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?
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
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.
 

machineelf

Explorer
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.
 
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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.
 

machineelf

Explorer
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.
 

machineelf

Explorer
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.
 
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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!
 

machineelf

Explorer
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.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
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.
 
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With the prevalence of darkvision, all that is lost. And that takes something special away, in my opinion.
I get where you are coming from, but perhaps you are misjudging the situation?

A party of characters that don't all have darkvision will probably choose to use a light source, whatever it may be, so that they don't have to have characters with darkvision lead the completely blind because they don't have darkvision characters around, and so the characters without darkvision can more easily do whatever their "job" in the party happens to be, since not being able to see out-right shuts down a lot of things a character might try to do (like picking targets for most spells) and disadvantages almost all of the rest.

And a party of characters that do all have darkvision, they have to make a choice in the darkness between A) having their vision extend only 60', and be at disadvantage to notice threats like traps or monsters, plus not be able to tell what color things are which can be a huge benefit (imagine looking at a slithering mass of ooze and being unable to gauge whether it is an ochre jelly or a black pudding), and B) lighting up a bullseye lantern and having their 60' field of vision in their choice of direction be bright light so not subject to the disadvantages mentioned above, and then have another 60' past that where-in they can still see, in color even, but with the above disadvantages otherwise applying. With the only additional downsides being a need to keep a stock of oil (not actually that big of a downside, since oil has other reasons to keep it on hand besides just providing fuel for a lantern), and signaling some opponents that you are coming (but you were probably already doing that by making noise, by smelling, or because creatures living in dark dungeons often have senses that provide them the advantage of noticing you even in the dark before your darkvision has an opportunity to notice them).

And if your players don't default to choosing to use light in most circumstances for the above stated reason, they probably will if you let them wind up in situations that highlight the disadvantages of their choice - such as drow with bows that ambush them on no merit besides being able to see them 120' away while it is still impossible for the party to see the drow, or when not being able to tell what color something is means the difference between realizing a threat is extremely dangerous and getting caught off-guard by it (the above ooze situation, or a patch of mold of indeterminate color proving to be a dangerous specimen, as examples)
 
Also, 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.
That's not completely accurate. People already learn the light cantrip with no alteration to how many cantrips anyone gets.

Sure, more often than not it will only be one character in the party that has it, but it is not at all a waste of a cantrip choice, even as one of the character's first 3 cantrips chosen. Because it has benefits that a torch or lantern doesn't have, like being able to toss your light-source down the hall without feeding heat to brown mold or breaking the light source, or drop it into water without it extinguishing, and generally not causing any smoke to obscure your vision or consuming your limit oxygen supply at a greater rate should you ever end up sealed in somewhere.
 
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, 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.
Because light sources can be extinguished.

They can be of varying strengths, providing areas of light and shadow.

They can be placed and moved.

They can run out of fuel.

Darkvision can do none of those things.

Also, a party is very likely to contain humans and halflings. So having a bunch of races with darkvision is already kind of pointless, as the party is going to need to carry light anyway.
 

Caliburn101

Explorer
There are two things about Darkvision.

Firstly, mechanically it's fine.

Secondly, it is FAR too ubiquitous!

Everyone and their dog has it, leaving the likes of Halflings and Humans as the kind of sad 'also rans' that would never get invited to dungeon delves or underdark missions.

What is unrealistically played in many games is the utter lack of problems caused by creeping along in the dark with a light source lighting up your position, giving you away, making stealth absolutely impossible and announcing your arrival for as far as the eye can see.

Why would any adventurer group expecting to be in the dark on an adventure take races along that flag the party and guarantee frequently successful enemy ambushes?

They wouldn't...

However, bring back Low Light Vision, where dim light counts as normal, but total dark is still total, and just have Dark Vision as something reserved to underground living races only, and this problem goes away - as does the OPs valid points about atmosphere, fear of the dark, etc.

I am running a game currently with Low Light Vision replacing Darkvision except for Drow and Dvergar etc. and it works fine. No-one feels 'robbed' as in the vast majority of cases there are low level light sources in the darkness - stars, glowmoss, the moon, lava, the slight sunlight penetrating a full forest canopy... etc. In cases where there is utter darkness, yes, the party need light sources, but the low light vision races still get an advantage there at the extremes of the artificial light they aren't at disadvantage. :)

I greatly prefer this way of doing things - it feels 'right' and allows me to more easily build atmosphere where darkness and the unknown are factors.
 
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machineelf

Explorer
Just wanted to pop back in and say thanks to all who have offered various opinions here. Some of you have somewhat convinced me that there are other ways I can emphasize the limitations of darkvision, that plus the fact that humans, halflings, and dragonborn in the party may necessitate light sources anyway. I think I will work harder on emphasizing to my players the limitations of darkvision and the need for light sources in certain situations.

For now, since I am leading my players through adventurers in the Forgotten Realms, I will stick to the standard racial rules. But I am still going to give a lot of time and thought to having fewer races with darkvision in my own homebrewed campaign world. (Work in progress but coming along.) My personal feeling is still that 5th ed. is a bit out of balance with way too many races getting darkvision.
 
Just wanted to pop back in and say thanks to all who have offered various opinions here. Some of you have somewhat convinced me that there are other ways I can emphasize the limitations of darkvision, that plus the fact that humans, halflings, and dragonborn in the party may necessitate light sources anyway. I think I will work harder on emphasizing to my players the limitations of darkvision and the need for light sources in certain situations.

For now, since I am leading my players through adventurers in the Forgotten Realms, I will stick to the standard racial rules. But I am still going to give a lot of time and thought to having fewer races with darkvision in my own homebrewed campaign world. (Work in progress but coming along.) My personal feeling is still that 5th ed. is a bit out of balance with way too many races getting darkvision.
Looking forward to seeing it!
 

machineelf

Explorer
However, bring back Low Light Vision, where dim light counts as normal, but total dark is still total, and just have Dark Vision as something reserved to underground living races only, and this problem goes away - as does the OPs valid points about atmosphere, fear of the dark, etc.
Oh, nice suggestion. I might have to try this. So how would dim light work exactly? Would a human have disadvantage on perception checks, and low-light creatures not? Are there any other mechanics differences?
 

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