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5E Is 5e Darkvision A Good Design?

Is 5e Darkvision good/which parts are good or bad

  • Limited Distance Is Good

    Votes: 48 61.5%
  • Limited Distance is Bad

    Votes: 7 9.0%
  • Binary Darkvision (no separate low-light) is Good

    Votes: 31 39.7%
  • Binary Darkvision (no separate low-light) is Bad

    Votes: 32 41.0%
  • No Option for Darkness as Bright Light is Good

    Votes: 43 55.1%
  • No Option for Darkness as Bright Light is Bad

    Votes: 12 15.4%
  • I WILL NOT BE CONTAINED! (explain in thread)

    Votes: 8 10.3%

  • Total voters
    78

Nebulous

Legend
As I said. Too many races have DV. With level restrictions I would not mind, but since those days are over, then there must be some drawback to DV. The drawback that I enforce is if a bright light source is brought up suddenly, you are blinded until you make a con save (at the end of your turn) to end the effect. The save is usually easy at 13. Most characters only need a 11 or better to save.
No save is required if you are in the dim light radius. This alone makes up for interesting tactics from the players and the monsters.
The only drawback from this that I see is that PCs will use this tactic 100% of the time against enemies. "Get the hood lantern ready, shield your eyes guys, and....GO" All enemies blinded, PCs attack. My guys would abuse the crap out of that.
 

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The only drawback from this that I see is that PCs will use this tactic 100% of the time against enemies. "Get the hood lantern ready, shield your eyes guys, and....GO" All enemies blinded, PCs attack. My guys would abuse the crap out of that.
Of course they try to use this tactic. That is why orcs and others do have lit torches at strategic points so that they're not blinded. DV became not so prevalent in my games because of that. The tactic does happen from time to time but it is not as prevalent as you might think (and the light spell will do the same as the hooded lantern). With the low save to end the condition it is not as bad as a surprise round and the enemies are still able to attack even if blinded (albeit at disadvantage). Yet they are still able to do stuff like the dodge action until they are no longer blinded. And sometimes, it is the players that get the short end of the stick.

All in all, the tactic is useful, but it is not a trope that works all the time (either for or against the players).
 

Nebulous

Legend
Actually, the -5 passive perception penalty in dim light to notice traps is pretty hefty. A simple DC 10 suddenly becomes very dangerous to anyone scouting with a PP of 14 or lower.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
This to me is the main drawback, and as DM you have to enforce it regularly. Make them miss stuff they would have otherwise seen in bright light. Like ambushes.
Right. All you need are some monsters who are the type to try to surprise the PCs and suddenly a torch isn't looking so bad. Same deal with traps, which I think are hugely underused in many games. As well, secret doors provide places to rest, hide caches of treasure, shortcuts around dangerous areas, or pathways to new opportunities. If someone is traveling the dungeon looking for secret doors but is relying on darkvision, they might just be missing a lot of great stuff.

A party of all darkvision PCs with no light source is putting itself at risk and leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. They'll have to decide if surprising enemies sometimes is really worth it. The players in my game have found that is usually isn't. (But sometimes it is.)
 

Nebulous

Legend
A party of all darkvision PCs with no light source is putting itself at risk and leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. They'll have to decide if surprising enemies sometimes is really worth it. The players in my game have found that is usually isn't. (But sometimes it is.)
yep, I'm running Forge of Fury now and it's a 95% dark dungeon crawl. I think I want to give more monsters improved darkvision, the ones that live in the dark and never leave. Having a barrage of archers 90 feet out with darkvision in a big cave would be one hell of a surprise.
 

Nebulous

Legend
That looks like roll20. Did you edit the screen cap to make it grayscale, or is there a feature I didn’t know about to make players’ Darkvision grayscale?
I had to photoshop it, but I WISH there was a grayscale toggle! If there was, I really truly think players would want bright light more often. There's no way they would want a colorless, bland, dim, dark experience every session. They'd hate it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
yep, I'm running Forge of Fury now and it's a 95% dark dungeon crawl. I think I want to give more monsters improved darkvision, the ones that live in the dark and never leave. Having a barrage of archers 90 feet out with darkvision in a big cave would be one hell of a surprise.
Cool. I'm running that right now, too, for two different groups. I recognized the Glitterhame from the screen shot you posted upthread.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Cool. I'm running that right now, too, for two different groups. I recognized the Glitterhame from the screen shot you posted upthread.
FYI, it is really really fun to put a big albino lizard in the glitterhame cave and have it swallow a PC. Like, it's awesome :)
 

Nebulous

Legend
Right. All you need are some monsters who are the type to try to surprise the PCs and suddenly a torch isn't looking so bad. Same deal with traps, which I think are hugely underused in many games. As well, secret doors provide places to rest, hide caches of treasure, shortcuts around dangerous areas, or pathways to new opportunities. If someone is traveling the dungeon looking for secret doors but is relying on darkvision, they might just be missing a lot of great stuff.
Yep, all of this. I think DMs (and myself included earlier in 5e) totally ignored this and treated darkvision as see everything all the time, when in fact, not having bright light is a problem sometimes.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This to me is the main drawback, and as DM you have to enforce it regularly. Make them miss stuff they would have otherwise seen in bright light. Like ambushes.
I have a theory that they put in the penalty to encourage diversity in races. I've heard countless times, "Let's all pick races with darkvision so that we don't have to have light." By putting in that penalty and making light superior to darkvision for visual perception(the primary method of detecting the enemy), I think they hope that more of the races without darkvision will be chosen.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I utilize the hell out of dynamic light in Roll20 and FoF, so it's an easy visual reminder when they're entering a spot with a trap or enemy or secret and they're in total darkness and might not see it.
 

Nebulous

Legend
I have a theory that they put in the penalty to encourage diversity in races. I've heard countless times, "Let's all pick races with darkvision so that we don't have to have light." By putting in that penalty and making light superior to darkvision for visual perception(the primary method of detecting the enemy), I think they hope that more of the races without darkvision will be chosen.
Could be. But the ability to sneak up on enemies without being seen first usually trumps having bright light nearly all the time. That I have seen. I'm running Dungeon World right now too in Roll20 and it is so fun not having goddamn darkvision. Two characters have a light source. If the other three get too far away they are plunged into darkness. It's so...refreshing...to see them afraid of the dark.
 


Nebulous

Legend
When the party is all Darkvision capable I start writing up Gloomstaker NPC villains. Hah! Stick that in your infravision and smoke it.:devilish:
There are definitely ways to make them regret their superdarkvisionparty design! At the very least, now that i'm thinking about this, I'm going to add more simple traps to Forge of Fury, and they're going to stumble into them so many times I bet they'll have second thoughts.

They're in the Sinkhole level now, and in our campaign, a squad of powerful orcs escaped the Mountain Door and fled down, so they're likely to set traps behind them.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Could be. But the ability to sneak up on enemies without being seen first usually trumps having bright light nearly all the time. That I have seen. I'm running Dungeon World right now too in Roll20 and it is so fun not having goddamn darkvision. Two characters have a light source. If the other three get too far away they are plunged into darkness. It's so...refreshing...to see them afraid of the dark.
With no light and darkvision, the vast majority of the things encountered in the dark are also going to be able to get around without light. Most others don't wander around in the dark. Against those things, you are as likely to be snuck up on as to sneak up on them. More likely in fact as many creatures are built to do everything in the dark and will have more advantages designed around darkness.

The sneaking advantage is primarily going to show up when the other side has to have light and you can see them from far away and then sneak up. Of course, you likely have to enter the light at some point anyway, either to attack or when the light source moves to you after you surprise them.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think darkvision is supposed to provide vision equivalent to dim lighting and therefore disadvantage on all perception checks. But I've never seen a DM use it that way. If they did then everyone would be carrying torches or lanterns.
I certainly use it as written.
besides, a horde of 20,000 orcs bearing torches is more interesting narratively than 20,000 orcs that no one can see (because 99% will be out of range)

but now that I think of it,my issue isn’t so much with darkvision than regular vision. D&D darkness is so thick that a torch doesn’t reveal anything beyond 60ft. I’d revise that before revising darkvision...
I can't imagine how 20,000 torches could be scarier or more interesting than 20,000 orcs marching and howling in the pitch black dark of the moonless night, only being able to guess at their numbers and how close they are, and pray that there aren't 10x the number that are making noise. I mean...I'd have every person in that town/keep/whatever make wisdom saves against fear. The orcs would fire arrows with inflamable pitch at the town's torches as they attack, their shamans would cast spells to make the town even darker, and they'd come screaming into the town in a seemingly endless wave of death.

But yeah the range limit of light and darkvision is really wierd.
I definitely preferred 4e's split of low-light and darkvision. On range, I think a limited range is not only fine, it's longstanding tradition.

As for "no way to see in darkness without impairment"- sure there is: bring a light. I'm absolutely fine with that one, and I think it's very good that everyone without blindsight of some kind suffers some degree of impairment in lightless conditions.
I feel like the second paragraph intentionally sidesteps the point to be pedantic? Sorry if that isn't your intent, but...yeah we all know that torches and such exist. That is obviously not the point.
Obviously, it's good design. Thousands of D&D Next players approved.

I wouldn't design it that way though. The 5e, rulings-not-rules, bounded-accuracy way to do it should be:

"Darkvision: you can see everything within 60 feet of you as though it were well-lit."
WEll that just isn't how "good" works, but okay. I disagree with the last part, though. That isn't any better.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
There's a few things I think I'll add to ''dim light'' penalties:
  • disadvantage on tool's checks
  • disadvantage to Investigation and checks to spot illusions
  • Halves range of ranged attacks and spells.
  • Speed halved

probably not all of it, but its a start.
 

TaranTheWanderer

Adventurer
I also find this mildly annoying, and I believe it's one of the thing most DMs just decide to ignore eventually.

But see below...



A party where everyone has darkvision can choose what is more important between noticing threats (carry a light to avoid disadvantage on perception) or staying unnoticed by threats (don't carry a light).

I think disadvantage is a significant penalty and darkvision range is better than most light sources dim light range, so you would be able to negate disadvantage up to the light source full range, but so would your enemies.

The rules create a sort of minutiae I usually don't want to bother with, so I much prefer having a whole party with or without darkvision, but not a mixed one.

An interesting consequence of darkvision limited range is that a city of creatures with darkvision (e.g. drow in the underdark) still needs street illumination to be able to spot intruders from afar, but not indoor illumination.
My personal preference would be low-light which bumps all dim light to bright light.

  • My problem with Darkvision, as is, is 60 feet is too big. It encompasses multiple rooms in a dungeon and Players just assume they can see everything. It is only seen as 'disadvantage' outdoors when targets are further than 60 feet.
  • DMs rarely remember to enforce disadvantage on perception.
  • I think it would be better if it also created disadvantage on attacks...then players might opt for torches and light sources.

Regarding the above quote, I did an experiment with my players on roll20. I wish I'd taken screen shots.
1. Player with no darkvision enters a cave. No light source. Pitch black.
2. Player with no darkvision enters a cave. There are candles interspersed. They could see almost nothing. Huge areas of pure blackness with tiny dots of light.
3. Darkvision and no lightsource. It's hard to make things out. Details disappear behind you as you move. Objects pop out of the shadows as you approach them.
4. player with darkvision enters same cave with the candles. The candles are double normal light and dim light is bright light. Simple candles in the corners of rooms were lighting up whole rooms with some dimmer areas in the middle. It was a HUGE difference.

It seems to me that Drow and other creatures would ALWAYS want candles in their houses. To read, to cook to do everything.

I think low-light would just be that much more flavourful than darkvision. I'm not a big fan of the 'orb of sight' And, in moonlit areaas, creatures who live outside but are nocturnal would be able to see perfectly well as if it was daytime.

Darkvision just doesn't come across well for me.
 

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