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D&D General Invisibility, line of sight, and the frightened condition

Pickaxe

Explorer
I was looking at the gloom stalker ranger subclass and was wondering how Umbral Sight and the Fear spell, which gloom stalkers get at 9th level, interact.

Fear imposes the frightened condition, which affects creatures while the source of their fear is within line of sight. In darkness, a gloom stalker’s Umbral Sight makes it invisible even to creatures with darkvision. If a gloom stalker casts Fear while in the dark, do those who fail their save not suffer the affects of the frightened condition if they can’t see the gloom stalker? Similar issues arise with monsters that have fear effects but also some sort of concealment in dim light, e.g., shadow mastiff alphas.

Part of the issue is the definition of “line of sight,” which does not seem to be defined in the PHB, and the index refers you to the Targeting heading of casting a spell, which does not use the phrase “line of sight” but talks about a “clear path” in terms of cover. Is “line of sight” entirely a matter of cover, or does it include concealment, like being hidden or invisible?

Thanks!

Axe
 

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jgsugden

Legend
The spell says:

You project a phantasmal image of a creature's worst fears. Each creature in a 30-foot cone must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or drop whatever it is holding and become frightened for the duration.

The target does not need to see you in order to have these impacts. If it fails the save, it drops what it is holding and becomes frightened.

While frightened by this spell, a creature must take the Dash action and move away from you by the safest available route on each of its turns, unless there is nowhere to move.

This also takes place regardless of whether it can see you. At the start of their next turn, they take the dash action and move away from you by the safest route available, unless there is nowhere (safe) to go. They'll continue to do so until they are no longer frightened by this spell.

If the creature ends its turn in a location where it doesn't have line of sight to you, the creature can make a Wisdom saving throw. On a successful save, the spell ends for that creature.

This is the only place where being able to see you matters. If they see you, they get no save and the spell continues as long as you concentrate (up to 1 minute). If they can't see you, because you're invisible, behind a corner, hiding, or whatever other reason, then they get a save to try to end the spell.
 

Pickaxe

Explorer
Line of sight means just that. Can you see the source of the fear? Yes or no.

While that sounds right, it has some implications for things like the frightened condition and creatures that impose it. If a shadow mastiff alpha uses its Terrifying Howl to cause creatures within 300 feet to have the frightened condition and uses a bonus action to become invisible with Shadow Blend, do the frightened creatures not gain disadvantage on rolls because they cannot see the mastiff, even if the mastiff has line of sight to them?

I could see how “line of sight” might be more about the cover rather than concealment, which would make sense if a howl was the source of the frightening effect.

Either way, it’s a little surprising that the phrase “line of sight” is not defined anywhere in the core rules, as far as I can tell.
 

Bayushi_seikuro

Adventurer
I would think being invisible and making something Frightened of you wouldn't work per Sage Advice.
However, the fear spell doesn't make them afraid of you, but of some image in their brain: You project a phantasmal image of a creature's worst fears. Each creature in a 30-foot cone must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or drop whatever it is holding and become frightened for the duration.

The frightened condition says “while the source of its fear is within line of sight.” Does that mean you have dis-advantage on attack rolls and ability checks even if the source is invisible but you have a clear line to its space?
No. If you can’t see something, it’s not within your line of sight. Speaking of “line of sight,” the game uses the English meaning of the term, which has no special meaning in the rules.
 

jgsugden

Legend
While that sounds right, it has some implications for things like the frightened condition and creatures that impose it. If a shadow mastiff alpha uses its Terrifying Howl to cause creatures within 300 feet to have the frightened condition and uses a bonus action to become invisible with Shadow Blend, do the frightened creatures not gain disadvantage on rolls because they cannot see the mastiff, even if the mastiff has line of sight to them?
...
Terrifying Howl. The shadow mastiff howls. Any beast or humanoid within 300 feet of the mastiff and able to hear its howl must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to any shadow mastiff’s Terrifying Howl for the next 24 hours.

There is nothing in the Shadow Mastiff Alpha's (SMA) ability that is impacted in any way by whether you can see the SMA or not. The visibility of the monster is only important when the rules say it is, and most monsters that can turn invisible have not been built so that they need to be seen to be effective.
 




Pickaxe

Explorer
Terrifying Howl. The shadow mastiff howls. Any beast or humanoid within 300 feet of the mastiff and able to hear its howl must succeed on a DC 11 Wisdom saving throw or be frightened for 1 minute. A frightened target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. If a target’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the target is immune to any shadow mastiff’s Terrifying Howl for the next 24 hours.

There is nothing in the Shadow Mastiff Alpha's (SMA) ability that is impacted in any way by whether you can see the SMA or not. The visibility of the monster is only important when the rules say it is, and most monsters that can turn invisible have not been built so that they need to be seen to be effective.

But the effects of the frightened condition are determined by whether or not the source of the fear is within line of sight. So, yes, you need to hear the SMA to become frightened, but my question is whether invisibility of the SMA negates the disadvantage on rolls for the target that would otherwise obtain due to this condition. (Terrifying Howl notably doesn’t use frightened as a delivery mechanism for other effects.)
 

You dont have line of sight to a target if the line between you and the target crosses something that blocks sight, which Darkness does.

The Frightened condition does this:
  • A frightened creature has disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack Rolls while the source of its fear is within Line of Sight.
  • The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.
Meaning (with no line of sight to your target) you retain the Frightened condition (and cant move closer to your target willingly, provided you have some idea of where it is) but suffer no other penalties from the condition itself.

If you dont have LOS to your target, you suffer the Blinded condition relative to that target of course, and that can be bad on its own (advantage for them to hit you, disadvantage for you to hit them with whatever abilities you have that are capable of attacking a creature you cannot see).

It does lead to the interesting situation where if you wanted to Shove something you're afraid of (Strength Athletics check), you should close your eyes first (Blinded doesn't affect ability checks, only attack rolls for and against).
 

Dross

Explorer
But the effects of the frightened condition are determined by whether or not the source of the fear is within line of sight. So, yes, you need to hear the SMA to become frightened, but my question is whether invisibility of the SMA negates the disadvantage on rolls for the target that would otherwise obtain due to this condition. (Terrifying Howl notably doesn’t use frightened as a delivery mechanism for other effects.)

Specific overrides general:
I would say that SMA's specific description of when the saving through kicks in overrides the general frightened condition. so in this case line if sight does not affect when to roll the save.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Specific overrides general:
I would say that SMA's specific description of when the saving through kicks in overrides the general frightened condition. so in this case line if sight does not affect when to roll the save.
I'm not sure I understand this. The frightened condition doesn't entail a saving throw. The saving throw (if there is one) is part of the effect that causes the frightened condition (in this case, Terrifying Howl). The only effect of failing to save against Terrifying Howl is that you can't move willingly closer to the shadow mastiff alpha.
 

jgsugden

Legend
There are two concepts to consider: Line of sight and line of effect. These are terms from prior editions, but they relate to the rules in the books even if they do not use the terms in the same way in 5E.

A Clear Window does not block line of sight, but it blocks line of effect.

Heavy obscuring fog and darkness can block line of sight, but not line of effect.

If someone is invisible, line of sight to them is blocked, but not line of effect.

Line of sight matters when someone is told they need to see someone. Literally, if they can see them they have line of sight.

Line of effect is a requirement for spellcasting, generally. If you want to target something, you have to have line of effect unless the spell tells you otherwise. Sometimes this direction is less than clear, like in the case of scrying.

The frightened condition gives penalties to attack rolls and ability checks when the source of the fear is present - but if the source is invisible, then generally you can't see them so the penalties are dropped - except that invisibility is also going to result in disadvantage to the attack anyways. However, if the source of the fear is invisible, there will not be penalties to perception checks to hear them, stealth checks to hide from them, etc...
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
The effects of failing to save against a fear spell cast by an invisible creature are:
  • dropping whatever you're holding,
  • dashing on each of your turns to move away from the caster by the safest route available, unless there is nowhere to go,
  • and you can't willingly move closer to the caster.
You can save to end the spell at the end of each of your turns.
 

Inhumer

First Post
So I would think the answer would be that the phantasmal image (which is standing where you are) is not invisible. It would be silly if it were. It is that, not you, that the targets find frightening. The spell description talks about line of sight to 'you'. For simplicity I would say that line of sight to the phantasmal image (which, you will remember, is standing where you are) is good enough.

If you are not happy with that, then bear in mind that 'line of sight' is not actually blocked or otherwise affected by invisibility. Line of sight simply means that there's nothing blocking a line between you and the target. Look at page 204 of the PHB, which is what 'Line of Sight' refers to when you look it up in the index and it becomes clearer. It talks about having a clear path so can not be behind total cover. Invisibility does not provide cover.

Consider this also: if you could break line of sight by just not being able to see something then closing your eyes would do the trick and all you'd need for a save against the Fear effect would be to do that. Again, that would be silly.

Sorry for the necro.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So I would think the answer would be that the phantasmal image (which is standing where you are) is not invisible. It would be silly if it were. It is that, not you, that the targets find frightening. The spell description talks about line of sight to 'you'. For simplicity I would say that line of sight to the phantasmal image (which, you will remember, is standing where you are) is good enough.

If you are not happy with that, then bear in mind that 'line of sight' is not actually blocked or otherwise affected by invisibility. Line of sight simply means that there's nothing blocking a line between you and the target. Look at page 204 of the PHB, which is what 'Line of Sight' refers to when you look it up in the index and it becomes clearer. It talks about having a clear path so can not be behind total cover. Invisibility does not provide cover.

Consider this also: if you could break line of sight by just not being able to see something then closing your eyes would do the trick and all you'd need for a save against the Fear effect would be to do that. Again, that would be silly.

Sorry for the necro.
I think the clear intent for the frightened condition is that you be able to see that which is scaring you.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
I think the clear intent for the frightened condition is that you be able to see that which is scaring you.

But isn't it even more scary if you know you are scared of it, and it's invisible to you, able to creep up on you without you even detecting it ? :)

That being said, I generally agree with you, the way the condition is phrased:
  • The first bullet point clearly requires line of sight.
  • It could be argued that the second one could work if the source of the fear is invisible but not hidden, as you still know its location (in the general case at least)
But it's a corner case anyway and as such will really depend on the circumstances, I can see myself doing different local rulings depending on the situation.
 

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