D&D 5E How Darkness helps the dungeon crawl experience immensely.

Hussar

Legend
Heh, drop a couple of baddies with the Skulker feat if you have parties that insist on relying on dark vision all the time. :D
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I know it's unpopular opinion, but I just can't seem to grasp how hard it is for some people to use light & darkness. While I play on a VTT, I don't have the nifty Dynamic Lighting (which is a paid feature, and I'm cheap). All I do is give the general description to the group, and the players know if they can see it or not based on their character's vision. It's not any different than when a Darkness spell is cast. Maybe I've been spoiled by good players? Of course, despite having darkvision, most of our groups use light sources anyway, since the penalty for dim light can be problematic.
I dunno. I guess that’s great and all that your players are willing to pretend they don’t know stuff is there, but I put it in the same category is pretending to not know about trolls and fire. I’d prefer that DMs give me monsters whose abilities I genuinely don’t know, just like I would prefer to genuinely not know what my character can’t see. I’d rather share the experience my character is having, than pretend to.
 


Celebrim

Legend
Agreed in principle, but in practice this one of the impossible things (along with for example, realistic currency, realistic linguistics, and large numbers of NPCs acting in the same scene). I've got like 100 hours experience in wild caves, and I care about these things but it's just so difficult to pull off.

The trouble is that light sources vary so much that it makes improvising the descriptions of areas very difficult. You have to work out what the players can see from their vantage in the room from any entrance they happen to have come in from. This becomes doubly impossible when, as is common, different characters have different visual acuity and different light sources. Generally speaking, darkness is present and it sometimes matters, but I can only make use of it fully when the area is so large that no one in the party can clearly see the full extent of it.

I think darkness is something best implemented in a cRPG or with computer tools.
 


I dunno. I guess that’s great and all that your players are willing to pretend they don’t know stuff is there, but I put it in the same category is pretending to not know about trolls and fire. I’d prefer that DMs give me monsters whose abilities I genuinely don’t know, just like I would prefer to genuinely not know what my character can’t see. I’d rather share the experience my character is having, than pretend to.
The problem is that outside of a VTT with dynamic lighting and separate voice channels, that's pretty much impossible. You always have information your character would not, simply by hearing what a DM says to the other players. Besides, this seldom actually matters, as I explain below.

Outside of combat, the difference of seeing different things is no more than a 24 second delay (120 ft darkvision vs 5 ft candle). Having the DM describe it once to the group, then having each character experience that description at the appropriate in-game time is no different than everyone seeing it all at once. In the rare instance that your character can't get close enough to actually see it, presumably your companions would describe it to you (in which case their description simply matches what the DM says, unless they choose otherwise).

Inside combat, just because you can't actually see something, does mean you don't know it's there. If an ally with darkvision is fighting an enemy outside of your vision, unless it's Hidden you know where it is. There are limitations on your actions directed at them, but that's a part of the game.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I've had no luck using dynamic lighting, I must be doing it wrong...

.... but in the meantime, what I have found that world reasonably well is fog of war and auras - the PC(s) with a source of light have an aura that shows me where there is light. rather useful if you ask me :)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
If so many races didn’t have Darkvision, and it wasn’t so burdensome to implement in game I might agree on the use of more darkness in the game. As it is, it’s just an annoyance to the point all my dungeons are essentially prelit these days.
The thing everyone forgets is darkvision gives you dim light which is disadvantage on perception checks and renders your vision black and white. It’s not as awesome as most people think it is. The problem is cantrips like light. Ban that cantrip and follow the actual rules on darkvision and you’re 70% of the way there.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Ban light? That seems a bit extreme, a magical cantrip that saves you a little gold over the course of your career on torches? Should we ban lanterns next?
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I've had no luck using dynamic lighting, I must be doing it wrong...

.... but in the meantime, what I have found that world reasonably well is fog of war and auras - the PC(s) with a source of light have an aura that shows me where there is light. rather useful if you ask me :)

The way I wish dynamic lighting would work is:

1) Areas you have explored but can’t currently see are rendered faintly.
2) Creatures and other objects (tokens basically) that you can’t see are not rendered.

I think it’s fun when the unknown beyond you vision is in darkness, but it’s just annoying when you can’t see what you know is there. Especially the jet black shadows behind every column.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Ban light? That seems a bit extreme, a magical cantrip that saves you a little gold over the course of your career on torches? Should we ban lanterns next?
It's not so much the gold cost as the resource management piece, particularly when using the variant encumbrance rules and when far away from a place to resupply. This is not of great importance to many groups though.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The way I wish dynamic lighting would work is:

1) Areas you have explored but can’t currently see are rendered faintly.
2) Creatures and other objects (tokens basically) that you can’t see are not rendered.

I think it’s fun when the unknown beyond you vision is in darkness, but it’s just annoying when you can’t see what you know is there. Especially the jet black shadows behind every column.
Roll20 has this as an option. It's called "Explorer Mode." (Used to be called "Advanced Fog of War." Parts of the map you've been to are revealed but grayed out. Only when you go back through it can you see any creatures that may have turned up since.

The black areas that cover part or all of a token, such as when the monster is behind a pillar, are useful for determining cover in my experience.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It's not so much the gold cost as the resource management piece, particularly when using the variant encumbrance rules and when far away from a place to resupply. This is not of great importance to many groups though.
Exactly. It basically removes resource management re: light sources as a concern. Same problem with Outlander background, goodberry, purify food & water, create food & water, etc for resource management re: food and water. Same problem with Rangers ribbon abilities for resource management re: time and getting lost, etc. Same problem with bags of holding, portable holes, etc for resource management re: weight carried. As a player and referee who likes a bit of resource management, it makes for an unfun game when that entire part of the game is handwaved away.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Exactly. It basically removes resource management re: light sources as a concern. Same problem with Outlander background, goodberry, purify food & water, create food & water, etc for resource management re: food and water. Same problem with Rangers ribbon abilities for resource management re: time and getting lost, etc. Same problem with bags of holding, portable holes, etc for resource management re: weight carried. As a player and referee who likes a bit of resource management, it makes for an unfun game when that entire part of the game is handwaved away.
I think all of those, including the light cantrip, are okay because there are some trade-offs.

If I take light, that's one fewer attack cantrip I can take. If I'm an Outlander, I still have to Forage while traveling meaning I could be automatically surprised. If I cast create food and water, that's one fewer spirit guardians. If I'm a ranger in favored terrain (and that's at most 3 out of 8 possible terrains), I have to Navigate while traveling in order for the party not to get lost which means I can only do that and stay alert to dangers but can do nothing else like foraging, tracking, or drawing a map. If I can buy magic items (as with the downtime activity), buying a bag of holding or portable hole means that I am not getting some other useful uncommon or rare magic item, respectively. (If instead the DM seeded those items in the adventure and I found them, presumably they are there instead of some other useful item like a magic sword or a a suit of magic armor.)

So while these things can end up handwaving certain aspects of resource management, at least they aren't "free." And certainly, if the group prefers more focus on light source management and the like, then it's just a matter of turning those dials to adjust accordingly.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I think all of those, including the light cantrip, are okay because there are some trade-offs.

If I take light, that's one fewer attack cantrip I can take. If I'm an Outlander, I still have to Forage while traveling meaning I could be automatically surprised. If I cast create food and water, that's one fewer spirit guardians. If I'm a ranger in favored terrain (and that's at most 3 out of 8 possible terrains), I have to Navigate while traveling in order for the party not to get lost which means I can only do that and stay alert to dangers but can do nothing else like foraging, tracking, or drawing a map. If I can buy magic items (as with the downtime activity), buying a bag of holding or portable hole means that I am not getting some other useful uncommon or rare magic item, respectively. (If instead the DM seeded those items in the adventure and I found them, presumably they are there instead of some other useful item like a magic sword or a a suit of magic armor.)

So while these things can end up handwaving certain aspects of resource management, at least they aren't "free." And certainly, if the group prefers more focus on light source management and the like, then it's just a matter of turning those dials to adjust accordingly.
I get where you're coming from, but I disagree.

I'd much rather the PCs take yet another attack cantrip than they take a cantrip the obviates an entire subsection of the game. It's not a good trade off. One more attack they can't use simultaneously vs never having to worry about light ever again. It's just not on the same level.

As for the rest, it's similar. A bit more sustained damage in combat vs completely obviating an entire subsection of the game. They're not comparable. I'd always rather they pick the more damage and leave the resource management. But, as long as it's an option, players will always opt to obviate any challenge or hindrance.

And gold? Really? In most games PCs are festooned with more gold than they know what to do with before reaching 5th level.

I'll take resource management every time. It can create far more interesting stories and challenges than "did you see how much damage I put out in a round". Having to pick between carrying food or carrying light or carrying treasure or carrying weapons or carrying armor is an infinitely more interesting choice than picking which color pew pew to fire at your enemies.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
It's not so much the gold cost as the resource management piece, particularly when using the variant encumbrance rules and when far away from a place to resupply. This is not of great importance to many groups though.

100%. It’s too bad that running out of light sources is basically a non-existent fear.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I get where you're coming from, but I disagree.

I'd much rather the PCs take yet another attack cantrip than they take a cantrip the obviates an entire subsection of the game. It's not a good trade off. One more attack they can't use simultaneously vs never having to worry about light ever again. It's just not on the same level.

As for the rest, it's similar. A bit more sustained damage in combat vs completely obviating an entire subsection of the game. They're not comparable. I'd always rather they pick the more damage and leave the resource management. But, as long as it's an option, players will always opt to obviate any challenge or hindrance.

And gold? Really? In most games PCs are festooned with more gold than they know what to do with before reaching 5th level.

I'll take resource management every time. It can create far more interesting stories and challenges than "did you see how much damage I put out in a round". Having to pick between carrying food or carrying light or carrying treasure or carrying weapons or carrying armor is an infinitely more interesting choice than picking which color pew pew to fire at your enemies.
I can't debate anyone's preferences, but my point is there are trade-offs even when playing the game as is. As well, it's trivially easy to make the game more focused on resource management if one wants to. Not everyone is down for heavy resource management though and so it's not what their games are focused on. But even if they're doing some resource management and focusing on the exploration pillar without going all the way to B/X or whatever, as written the game has meaningful trade-offs for players to consider in this area.

As well, a simple hooded lantern is better than light in terms of radius with a bullseye lantern being even better than that (albeit directional). The upside of light is reducing encumbrance and concerns you might run out of torches or oil, plus it won't go out in heavy wind or rain. And you can also cast it on an object and throw it without risk of it going out like a torch could do (in, say, wet conditions). You can also cast it on an object not in your hand. Even so I've yet to see a party completely go without torches and lanterns though, even with someone having light. There's no guarantee that light caster will even be alive the whole dungeon delve!

100%. It’s too bad that running out of light sources is basically a non-existent fear.
Easily remedied though.

It can also be fun to have monsters with darkvision focus on anyone with the party's light, either trying to kill them or douse their torch or break their lantern. It takes a number of actions to get those lanterns and torches lit and that's a big problem in combat.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
I can't debate anyone's preferences, but my point is there are trade-offs even when playing the game as is...

But even if they're doing some resource management and focusing on the exploration pillar without going all the way to B/X or whatever, as written the game has meaningful trade-offs for players to consider in this area.
Right. And I'm saying those trade-offs are not equivalent to each other. Especially if you tell them you're not going to handwave exploration, weight carried, light sources, etc.

A different damage type
vs
Never worrying about light sources and all the problems that go with those light sources.

Those things are not equivalent. That's not a meaningful choice. It is technically a trade-off, yes. But it's like asking someone if they want $1 or $10,000. Yes, it's technically a question, and technically they could opt for $1, but they're not going to. So pretending that's really a serious head-scratcher of a choice to spend time deeply considering is silly.
As well, it's trivially easy to make the game more focused on resource management if one wants to.
It's not that easy. A few pages of house rules to do so. Ban a dozen spells. Ban a half-dozen magic items. House rule rangers. House rule outlander. I've tried. It's more trouble than it's worth. Easier to just play a game designed to do it from the start. Like an TSR edition of D&D or a retro-clone.
Not everyone is down for heavy resource management though and so it's not what their games are focused on.
Of course. To each their own. But a fair amount of people like that style.
As well, a simple hooded lantern is better than light in terms of radius with a bullseye lantern being even better than that (albeit directional). The upside of light is reducing encumbrance and concerns you might run out of torches or oil, plus it won't go out in heavy wind or rain. And you can also cast it on an object and throw it without risk of it going out like a torch could do (in, say, wet conditions). Even so I've yet to see a party completely go without torches and lanterns though, even with someone having light.
Cost. Limited use. Carried separately in one hand. Weight carried. Chance of it being blown out. Dropped. Oil spilling. Flasks breaking. Oil igniting. Light source can ignite other things, intentionally or accidentally.
vs
No cost. Infinite use. No carried separately (cast on staff, etc). No weight. No chance of being blown out. No chance of being dropped. No oil to spill. No flask to break. No fuel to burn accidentally. Light source cannot ignite other things.

If you're tracking light sources, there's no contest. None.

I've had players assume that every dungeon will simply be lit permanently with infinite ever-burning torches. They legit assumed that every dungeon would just have torches in sconces at all times, in every room and every corridor. When I told them that wasn't the case, the players groaned, and the characters went back to town to load up on light sources. You know, despite me telling them upfront they'd need to bring their own light.
There's no guarantee that light caster will even be alive the whole dungeon delve!
Have you seen the death & dying rules? Yeah, it's basically guaranteed that everyone lives. Unless the referee goes out of their way to kill off PCs or the players make a long series of really bad mistakes.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Right. And I'm saying those trade-offs are not equivalent to each other. Especially if you tell them you're not going to handwave exploration, weight carried, light sources, etc.

A different damage type
vs
Never worrying about light sources and all the problems that go with those light sources.

Those things are not equivalent. That's not a meaningful choice. It is technically a trade-off, yes. But it's like asking someone if they want $1 or $10,000. Yes, it's technically a question, and technically they could opt for $1, but they're not going to. So pretending that's really a serious head-scratcher of a choice to spend time deeply considering is silly.
Again, one light spell versus a couple of torches or one lantern is not really a contest. My games show the characters are at a disadvantage relying on just one light spell, particularly in large caves or chambers or long corridors. It's very obvious on a VTT. If you're not playing on a VTT, consider you're just making light more powerful than it really is.

It's not that easy. A few pages of house rules to do so. Ban a dozen spells. Ban a half-dozen magic items. House rule rangers. House rule outlander. I've tried. It's more trouble than it's worth. Easier to just play a game designed to do it from the start. Like an TSR edition of D&D or a retro-clone.
When I make a game that emphasizes this, the house rules are easy: Custom backgrounds only with no features. Must eat real food and drink real water, not conjured, to gain the benefits of a short or long rest. That's about it. I leave rangers alone as the trade-offs are covered in Activities While Traveling. Light spell also gets left alone as above.

Cost. Limited use. Carried separately in one hand. Weight carried. Chance of it being blown out. Dropped. Oil spilling. Flasks breaking. Oil igniting. Light source can ignite other things, intentionally or accidentally.
vs
No cost. Infinite use. No carried separately (cast on staff, etc). No weight. No chance of being blown out. No chance of being dropped. No oil to spill. No flask to break. No fuel to burn accidentally. Light source cannot ignite other things.

If you're tracking light sources, there's no contest. None.
Not as good an illumination radius which has significant disadvantages. Unless you're ruling one light spell just solves the problem.

I've had players assume that every dungeon will simply be lit permanently with infinite ever-burning torches. They legit assumed that every dungeon would just have torches in sconces at all times, in every room and every corridor. When I told them that wasn't the case, the players groaned, and the characters went back to town to load up on light sources. You know, despite me telling them upfront they'd need to bring their own light.
Could be the players just didn't want to deal with it. Many don't. It's not fun for some people. Certainly only some of my games focus on this because it's not particularly relevant given particular themes. They should have at least listened to you though in the beginning and opt out if they weren't into it.

Have you seen the death & dying rules? Yeah, it's basically guaranteed that everyone lives. Unless the referee goes out of their way to kill off PCs or the players make a long series of really bad mistakes.
About 10% of characters across all of my campaigns die. So I'm decimating them, technically.
 

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