D&D General Humans are Blind

Are you describing a racist/speciest world where the different species had to fight it out for supremacy? Or are they decent, enlightened folk where elves and dwarves and humans often worship the same, or allied, Good deities and work together?

If you are describing a very dangerous world of sentient predators and little safety, where humans have had to contend with other goodly species, any species growing in that environment would have to adapt and become dangerous in their own right.

If the world in question has truly been dangerous to human development, humans would have had to rely on building walls, fortifications, and communities with vigilant guards and watches to protect the commonwealth during the night. (Not so different from our world, tbh.) Weapons, magic, violence, and allies would all be important to survival in a dangerous magical world. If many sentient predators can see in the dark, humans would have had to adapt and make us of fire and light a lot more. If danger is what usually lurks in the darkness, it's worlds like that where Darkness would become synonymous with Evil, and Light is the Good that reveals danger so it can be defended against.
 

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nevin

Hero
Been diving into a lot of older D&D lately and while the exact implementation has changed over the years (infravision, low-light vision, darkvision, racial bonuses to Perception, free proficiencies in the same, racial bonuses to Wisdom, etc.), many races, and in fact, most of the "core" races in the game have some kind of special visual acuity beyond what humans possess.

And very few playable races (if any) have vision worse than humans. Thinking about what this means, in most D&D settings, exploring the wilderness, the unknown, and dark places is the norm. And humans are poised to be a major race in most settings.

Yet compared to most other species, humans are effectively blind, limited by torches, lanterns, and possibly magic to see anything, making them effectively blind in comparison. How did humans even evolve when having to compete with not only monsters (most of whom can see in the dark, and in fact, in OD&D, all could) let alone all the other species who can engage in nocturnal combat far better than they can, like goblins or orcs?

Sure, perhaps those species have light blindness, but many don't, and are equally capable of functioning in both day and night.

In our world, the answer is fire. We have it, nocturnal predators don't. But in a D&D world, humans are not the first to have discovered fire, nor do the have an exclusive monopoly on it's use.

I know the Doylist answer here is "because that's how D&D is", but I'm curious what a Watsonian answer might be.
Yes but remember old lowlight vision was infravision. So cold blooded creatures and undead didnt register. ultravision for ogres and a few monsters worked like imprived dark vision with color ut not underground.
First and second edition it wasnt the massive always useful dark vision we have now.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Yes but remember old lowlight vision was infravision. So cold blooded creatures and undead didnt register. ultravision for ogres and a few monsters worked like imprived dark vision with color ut not underground.
First and second edition it wasnt the massive always useful dark vision we have now.
I don't think darkvision is always useful. That disadvantage on Perception checks for functioning in dim light has proven to be a serious thing in games I've run. There are several incidents where someone blunders into a trap or ambush they otherwise wouldn't have, if they were using a light source.

My monsters use light sources when not trying to ambush the PC's- it doesn't make sense to stumble around half-blind in the dark as a matter of course. Once it's known you're defending your territory from surface dwellers, absolutely, but before then? Doesn't make any sense.

As for infravision, sure, there were things it didn't work well on. Just as there are things darkvision doesn't work well on (remember when it was black and white vision only?). In my last game session, the players ran into these annoying jerk CR 1/8 fey who were invisible to darkvision, and they nearly died until someone lit a torch!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
In our world, the answer is fire. We have it, nocturnal predators don't.

Um... no. There was a time in our evolution before we had fire, but nocturnal predators with better night vision than we existed. If fire is the entirety of our defense, then we should not have lived long enough to learn to make fire.

The real answer is that natural predation alone almost never leads to extinction of a species. Driving a species to extinction via predation generally requires intelligence and technology, or pressure from other source (like, say, habitat loss).
 
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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Um... no. There was a time in our evolution before we had fire, but nocturnal predators with better night vision than we existed. If fire is the entirety of our defense, then we should not have lived long enough to learn to make fire.

The real answer is that natural predation almost never leads to extinction of a species. Driving a species to extinction via predation generally requires intelligence and technology.
Ok granted, since nobody knows when our ancestors discovered how to make fires, but I think it's fair to say that it probably predates large settlements by quite a bit. And it's also fair to say that D&D worlds have a lot scarier nocturnal predators, and a lot more sophonts running around than our world does, all fighting for the same resources. Most of whom developed superior visual traits.

Which makes it even harder to figure out how humans didn't die out before they even established cities, or end up in some place like Mystara's Hollow World, preserved forever as a species that didn't quite make it.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Ok granted, since nobody knows when our ancestors discovered how to make fires, but I think it's fair to say that it probably predates large settlements by quite a bit. And it's also fair to say that D&D worlds have a lot scarier nocturnal predators, and a lot more sophonts running around than our world does, all fighting for the same resources. Most of whom developed superior visual traits.

You elide from our real world history to D&D world history, without recognition that they are likely not terribly similar.

In many cosmologies, the game world, all its creatures, and its sophonts are created by deific powers, rather than developed as the result of natural processes. Those races need not have been created in a state of complete ignorance - maybe they started out with several upgrades on the OS, so to speak. In your D&D world, there may never have been a time where there were humans who didn't know how to make fire.

And those races may have been repeatedly or continually influenced and supported by those powers that created them, or others that took a shine to them. So, survival of any sophont species may not be directly related to the qualities of the species.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Been diving into a lot of older D&D lately and while the exact implementation has changed over the years (infravision, low-light vision, darkvision, racial bonuses to Perception, free proficiencies in the same, racial bonuses to Wisdom, etc.), many races, and in fact, most of the "core" races in the game have some kind of special visual acuity beyond what humans possess.

And very few playable races (if any) have vision worse than humans. Thinking about what this means, in most D&D settings, exploring the wilderness, the unknown, and dark places is the norm. And humans are poised to be a major race in most settings.

Yet compared to most other species, humans are effectively blind, limited by torches, lanterns, and possibly magic to see anything, making them effectively blind in comparison. How did humans even evolve when having to compete with not only monsters (most of whom can see in the dark, and in fact, in OD&D, all could) let alone all the other species who can engage in nocturnal combat far better than they can, like goblins or orcs?

Sure, perhaps those species have light blindness, but many don't, and are equally capable of functioning in both day and night.

In our world, the answer is fire. We have it, nocturnal predators don't. But in a D&D world, humans are not the first to have discovered fire, nor do the have an exclusive monopoly on it's use.

I know the Doylist answer here is "because that's how D&D is", but I'm curious what a Watsonian answer might be.
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These gifs are even funnier if you know the plot point of this classic bit in Farscape revolves around, which ties into this thread discussion above.
 
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This is quite real-worldish. Compared to most real species human senses are lousy. They replace them with technology and a symbiotic relationship with another species (dogs). It turned out to be an effective survival strategy.
Compared to almost all mammals, our daytime vision is extremely good. We have far better vision clarity and resolution than pretty much any other mammal, while also having excellent colour vision. Something which is also lacked outside mammals other than the great apes.
 

Compared to almost all mammals, our daytime vision is extremely good. We have far better vision clarity and resolution than pretty much any other mammal, while also having excellent colour vision. Something which is also lacked outside mammals other than the great apes.
Mammals aren’t the only living things on the planet. Human day vision and colour vision is inferior to many bird species.

But if you watch your pet cat it’s quite obvious their close-up vision is rubbish. Maybe tabaxi shouldn’t be able to read?
 


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