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5E Making Best Use of Vision Impairing Spells

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
Vision-impairing spells like darkness, fog cloud, and stinking cloud (did I forget any?) seem like they could be super-useful, but I've never felt like I've managed to use them really effectively. If everyone is within the effect, the vision-impairing aspect cancels itself out: the PCs have disadvantage on attacks and attacks against them have advantage--but the same is true for the BBEG. So in both cases, disadvantage for the attacker is canceled out by advantage on attacks against the target, and then both sides are just rolling regular attacks as if the spell had never happened. On the other hand, even if one side is outside the vision-impairment zone, then both sides get disadvantage to hit each other; that's not very worthwhile if you're actually trying to defeat the other side, as opposed to just stalling so you can escape, or something like that.

The only way around this that I know of is devil's sight, but that only applies to darkness, not to fog. Are there other counters that I'm not thinking of?

I'd be interested in hearing how other people have used these vision-impairing spells in their games and what has worked well for you. Or how you would use them effectively, if you haven't actually done so.
 
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jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
One of the things I've done, which I got from someone here, is that Blindness only grants advantage to other creatures who CAN see you. Thus if you're both fighting in the dark, you're both swinging wildly with disadvantage, which is far more realistic.
Yeah, that's one of the reasons I never use it: the advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out, and you're making the exact same rolls you would make without the spell.

I guess it does prevent the other side from gaining advantage against you, for whatever that's worth.
 

They can also be very useful for stealth. Fog Cloud in particular can be cast at night when trying to sneak in somewhere, since not many will question the appearance of fog under the right conditions. You just have make sure you know where you're going before you cast it!
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Their best use is often to block line of sight and divide the battlefield.

Imagine, if you will, a group of smart foes attacking the party, an ambush perhaps. From the north, archers open up on the PCs, and some obstacle make them hard to reach. From the east, heavily armored warriors close in, swords in hand. What to do?

If you raise a fog cloud or something to the north, the archers suddenly can't shoot at the party, they can't see them. Furthermore the obstacle is now a big impediment. With a single, low level spell, the party has now removed 50% of the threat, and they can focus their entire attention on the enemy swordsmen.
 




Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
To clarify: you're not both swinging with disadvantage. Each of you has disadvantage to hit the other, but each of you also has advantage to be hit. Right? Or do I have that wrong?
I'm going to have to check the PHB... my understanding used to be yours, but someone in this thread mentioned that to get advantage on a blinded creature, you have to see the creature...
 

I'm going to have to check the PHB... my understanding used to be yours, but someone in this thread mentioned that to get advantage on a blinded creature, you have to see the creature...
I believe they were talking about how they house rule it. Which is the same as how I would treat it. I think it's a good ruling for blind people fighting each other.
Completely RAW, your attacks have disadvantage because your blind, but if your opponent is blind then all attacks against them have advantage. So the advantage and disadvantage cancel out and you attack normally. It's an odd, unintuitive rules interaction.
 

Arvok

Explorer
One of the best uses I've found for spells that blind opponents is to pair them with a spell that also creates difficult or damaging terrain before enemies get to you. This requires two casters (since both spells require concentration) but if you can bottleneck opponents, then cast darkness and spike growth in the same area, it can be devastating. Hordes of creatures (which often have lower hit point totals) tend to push through en masse (kind of like an excited crowd trying to push through a store entrance on Black Friday) and kill off many of their number. Enemies that aren't so numerous tend to lose their sense of direction and wander around aimlessly, taking damage every round. Even if all the secondary spell does is slow movement (like grease, for instance), enemies tend to spend a while in the area and the rest of the party can pelt them with arrows or, better yet, hit them with area effect spells. Even at disadvantage, a slew of free ranged attacks are nothing to sneeze at.

This all depends on how your DM handles blindness, of course. My groups generally have enemies roll each round to see how well-oriented they are. With some bad dice rolls on the enemies' part, they might end up wandering around in the darkness until they're dead. Even if they do manage to work their way out, you can have a few PCs standing by with readied actions to shove them back in. A beefy fighter with shield master or a warlock with repelling blast work nicely.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It's decent for beating a retreat as well since OAs require the attacker to see the target. A fog cloud or the like means some members of the party don't have to Disengage and can just Dash and move. There's not necessarily anything preventing as faster or faster creatures from catching up, so this is best combined with some kind of escape route or a DM who uses actual Chase rules that come into play given certain conditions.

Other than that, it's best against casters as was mentioned upthread.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
A fog cloud or the like means some members of the party don't have to Disengage and can just Dash and move.
Not following this--why wouldn't they have to Disengage? A blinded enemy can still make an Opportunity Attack, just with disadvantage (which is canceled out by advantage against blinded creatures), right?
 


To clarify: you're not both swinging with disadvantage. Each of you has disadvantage to hit the other, but each of you also has advantage to be hit. Right? Or do I have that wrong?
You are correct, normally two blinded people would attack each other "normally". Shiroiken said they have a house rule that if your blind, you can't get advantage on your attack against a blind person. So in that model, two blinded people would attack each other at disadvantage. So this is a houserule that may get darkness and vision more to your liking.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Not following this--why wouldn't they have to Disengage? A blinded enemy can still make an Opportunity Attack, just with disadvantage (which is canceled out by advantage against blinded creatures), right?
"You can make an opportunity attack when a hostile creature that you can see moves out of your reach. To make the opportunity atta⁠ck, you use your reaction to make one melee atta⁠ck against the provoking creature. The atta⁠ck occurs right before the creature leaves your reach."
 


DMMike

Guide of Modos
Darkness and fog are stealth spells, mostly. For use when, you know, the thief has to drag a bunch of clumsy, noisy party members behind her. They become SIGNIFICANTLY more useful in close quarters (because why is there a 20' radius ball of fog over there?).

Imagine, if you will, a group of smart foes attacking the party, an ambush perhaps. From the north, archers open up on the PCs, and some obstacle make them hard to reach. From the east, heavily armored warriors close in, swords in hand. What to do?

If you raise a fog cloud or something to the north, the archers suddenly can't shoot at the party, they can't see them. Furthermore the obstacle is now a big impediment. With a single, low level spell, the party has now removed 50% of the threat, and they can focus their entire attention on the enemy swordsmen.
Right idea here, but don't turn your back on archers! You can use concealment to make ranged weapons ineffective (by hiding behind it) requiring archers to turn into footmen/swordsmen. If you're getting flanked as badly as in Ancalagon's example, a fog cloud on the archers will buy you enough time to reposition to cover - don't stay in the same spot!
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Just to be clear, a creature can make a ranged attack against another creature it cannot see. It just has disadvantage on the attack roll. So while the fog cloud or whatever is helpful, you're still a target.
 

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