5E Philosophy: Devil's Sight

merwins

Explorer
Put on your GM hat:

When you narrate the effects of Devil's Sight (DS) and darkvision (DV) ...
Does the character actually recognize the difference between dark and light?

Foundational information (please correct if wrong):
  • For typical (racial) DV, areas of dim light appear as if it was bright light (good as day) and in darkness you can only discern shades of gray.
  • With DS, inside of 120 feet, darkness is as bright light, and dim light remains dim.
  • So with DV and DS, both darkness and dim light within 60' would be as bright light.

If a character's vision is constrained to 60 feet or less, and and they had both DS and DV, would they have any idea whether the area was lit or not?

Obviously, the helpless squeals of characters without DS or DV are a good indicator of darkness, as well as outside cues (the sun, behavior or flora and fauna) and inside cues (lit torches), but let's not go there right now.

Also, let's not get into the brain scramble of nothing would cast a shadow and how that might result in depth perception issues and minuses to hit. Insert evil GM laugh.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
If a character's vision is constrained to 60 feet or less, and and they had both DS and DV, would they have any idea whether the area was lit or not?
Yes, they would be able to tell, but not without effort.

The operative word is "can", implying they can simply turn off their Devil Sight, or Darkvision, much like how someone could close their eyelids to stop seeing things.

Which brings up the cool mental image of a Warlock having a second set of eyelids that they use to see in the dark.
 

merwins

Explorer
@Leatherhead Love your tagline.

Nowhere in the rules does it say you can turn those abilities off. They're not spells. They're just natural. You can close your eyes, but then you're effectively blind. But a nictating membrane is a cool concept.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Nowhere in the rules does it say you can turn those abilities off.
The rules don't need to specify that. 5e is written in a format they call natural language. If I said "You can go get a soda from the fridge" that doesn't mean you must go get a soda from the fridge.

Likewise Darkvision and Devil Sight both use the word "can". The word "can" implies that it is an option, which could only be possible if there was some other option as an alternative. Which would be the default vision option.
 

merwins

Explorer
I'll have to think about that. I always considered invocations that didn't take some sort of action to activate to be always on.

The followup would be, do you consider "can" abilities on or off by default? Probably up to the character.

And does it take an action to turn on or off? I'd guess that's GM fiat.

I looked at all the invocations. The only ones that are not optional are dependent on another action, such as Agonizing Blast, Eldritch Spear, Lifedrinker.
 

merwins

Explorer
Might be worthwhile to interpret DS and DV as they do the lenses in the Predator franchise.

You recognize dark from light because you flip rapidly between the two states of vision when you want to.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
The rules don't need to specify that. 5e is written in a format they call natural language. If I said "You can go get a soda from the fridge" that doesn't mean you must go get a soda from the fridge.

Likewise Darkvision and Devil Sight both use the word "can". The word "can" implies that it is an option, which could only be possible if there was some other option as an alternative. Which would be the default vision option.
In the English language, the word "can" doesn't necessarily mean an option, it also means you are able to.

Ex. I can ride a bike.

Your meaning: I have the option to ride a bike.
My meaning: I have the ability to ride a bike.

For Devil's Sight:
You can see normally in darkness, both magical and nonmagical, to a distance o f 120 feet.

The natural language here, to me anyway, means I am able to see normally in darkness, not that I have the option to.

To the OP: Yes, they would know if the area was lit IMO.

Of course, if you have DS and can see in darkness "normally" you should be able to see in dim light normally. After all, dim light is brighter than darkness. So, I wouldn't need DV to see in dim light normally if I had DS. DS also shows colors as if vision was normal. It is basically superior to DV in every respect.
 

merwins

Explorer
To the OP: Yes, they would know if the area was lit IMO.

Of course, if you have DS and can see in darkness "normally" you should be able to see in dim light normally. After all, dim light is brighter than darkness. So, I wouldn't need DV to see in dim light normally if I had DS. DS also shows colors as if vision was normal. It is basically superior to DV in every respect.
Yes/no is not what I'm going for.:)
"Because magic/fantasy" is an adequate answer, though.

Unless I missed some authoritative source, DS does not affect dim light. It only makes darkness appear as brightly lit. Dim stays dim.

DV expressly makes dim appear as brightly lit.
 

delphonso

Explorer
I would assume there's some sort of shift when changing light backgrounds. If you walk out of a lit bathroom into your dark house, it takes a second for your eyes to adjust. I consider the same for these abilities - not long enough to effect rolls or combat, but some sort of shift happening that they may or may not completely notice in certain conditions.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Yes/no is not what I'm going for.:)
"Because magic/fantasy" is an adequate answer, though.

Unless I missed some authoritative source, DS does not affect dim light. It only makes darkness appear as brightly lit. Dim stays dim.

DV expressly makes dim appear as brightly lit.
Actually, it doesn't make darkness appear as brightly lit. I says you can see normally. What exactly is "normally?" I guess that is where interpretation of the rules comes in.

As I see it (pardon the pun), if you can see "normally" in darkness, how would it make any sense you couldn't see "normally" in dim light which is actually brighter than darkness?

Consider an example where both darkness and dim light would be present: You are standing on the edge of the forest on a bright moonlit night (full moon). The shadows under the trees cast those areas in darkness.

You are saying you could see under the trees (the darkness) as bright light, but the areas around that darkness is still dim light. Personally, I would fine that rather odd that the area with greater natural light is seen less easily. But, if that is how your table plays it, then I can't help since how someone would "see" under the scenario described in the OP would differ between us.

Sorry. :(
 

merwins

Explorer
Hey don't shoot the OP. :) I only came up with this question after researching online and finding those definitions for DS and DV.

The logic of 'dim light doesn't change under DS, only DV" is pulled from Crawford+ related sources. I'm just rolling with it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Disclaimer: Sage Advice is not The Rules. It is clarification of what the rules are meant to say.


But per SA, Devils Sight doesn’t interact with Dim Light. Which is super weird, but maybe that is the point.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Hey don't shoot the OP. :) I only came up with this question after researching online and finding those definitions for DS and DV.

The logic of 'dim light doesn't change under DS, only DV" is pulled from Crawford+ related sources. I'm just rolling with it.
LOL I would hardly call my response "shooting the OP". :D

Disclaimer: Sage Advice is not The Rules. It is clarification of what the rules are meant to say.


But per SA, Devils Sight doesn’t interact with Dim Light. Which is super weird, but maybe that is the point.
And yet, IME, another reason why JC is not the best game designer out there.

Let's place three rogues hidden in a forested area:

#1 is hidden behind some bushes within the bright light of a torch held by a character. So, the character can try to see #1 with a normal Wisdom (Perception) check.

#2 is hidden up in a tree at the edge of the dim light provided by the torch. The character makes a check to spot #2 with disadvantage.

#3 is hidden behind a rock in the darkness beyond the light spell, so the character automatically fails the checks to spot him.

1575703685331.png

Note: the outer circle is 60 feet, the edge of DV typically.

Throw just DV in:

#1, bright light, no change
#2, dim light is now "bright", no disadvantage
#3, darkness is now dim, so with disadvantage

With just DS (JC-version):

#1, bright light, no change
#2, dim light is still dim light, so disadvantage
#3, the darkness beyond the dim light is now "bright, so no auto-fail and no disadvantage

So, by his (JC) interpretation, with DS, you have normal bright light, dim light, and darkness--which within 120 feet is also bright light... So, a rogue hiding in the bright light or darkness can be seen with normal perception, the one in dim light is a perception check with disadvantage?

That means the region between bright light and "bright" DS darkness is "dim light". How can your vision be bright, dim, and then bright again?

Yeah, that makes so much sense... Sigh. :(

Back to the OP: If a light is on in a room, it radiates light as well as that light illuminating the area. If magical darkness were cast over the light, it still radiates light, but now the illumination is suppressed. DS allows you to see through into the darkness, so you would see it radiating light as always just as you see a candle radiating light normally.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
LOL I would hardly call my response "shooting the OP". :D



And yet, IME, another reason why JC is not the best game designer out there.

Let's place three rogues hidden in a forested area:

#1 is hidden behind some bushes within the bright light of a torch held by a character. So, the character can try to see #1 with a normal Wisdom (Perception) check.

#2 is hidden up in a tree at the edge of the dim light provided by the torch. The character makes a check to spot #2 with disadvantage.

#3 is hidden behind a rock in the darkness beyond the light spell, so the character automatically fails the checks to spot him.

View attachment 116655
Note: the outer circle is 60 feet, the edge of DV typically.

Throw just DV in:

#1, bright light, no change
#2, dim light is now "bright", no disadvantage
#3, darkness is now dim, so with disadvantage

With just DS (JC-version):

#1, bright light, no change
#2, dim light is still dim light, so disadvantage
#3, the darkness beyond the dim light is now "bright, so no auto-fail and no disadvantage

So, by his (JC) interpretation, with DS, you have normal bright light, dim light, and darkness--which within 120 feet is also bright light... So, a rogue hiding in the bright light or darkness can be seen with normal perception, the one in dim light is a perception check with disadvantage?

That means the region between bright light and "bright" DS darkness is "dim light". How can your vision be bright, dim, and then bright again?

Yeah, that makes so much sense... Sigh. :(

Back to the OP: If a light is on in a room, it radiates light as well as that light illuminating the area. If magical darkness were cast over the light, it still radiates light, but now the illumination is suppressed. DS allows you to see through into the darkness, so you would see it radiating light as always just as you see a candle radiating light normally.
DS isn’t a vision improvement like DV is. It works in a weird way, making you see normally in darkness. You don’t treat it as bright light, you just see in darkness in full 4K HD. It’s unnatural. It has nothing to do with lighting beaming into your eyeballs.
So, arguments about it making sense or not don’t really mean much to me.

That said, 5e is intentionally written so that you can just interpret the rules however is most natural to you, and just play. It isn’t this way because the designers couldn’t write a “tighter” or “more coherent” game (accusations I’ve heard dozens of times. It’s this way because for the majority of players it is easier to run. Most people don’t need to look up rulings on SA. They just trust their own interpretation and run with it.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
DS isn’t a vision improvement like DV is. It works in a weird way, making you see normally in darkness. You don’t treat it as bright light, you just see in darkness in full 4K HD. It’s unnatural. It has nothing to do with lighting beaming into your eyeballs.
So, arguments about it making sense or not don’t really mean much to me.

That said, 5e is intentionally written so that you can just interpret the rules however is most natural to you, and just play. It isn’t this way because the designers couldn’t write a “tighter” or “more coherent” game (accusations I’ve heard dozens of times. It’s this way because for the majority of players it is easier to run. Most people don’t need to look up rulings on SA. They just trust their own interpretation and run with it.
Totally get your point but as you say that is your interpretation, which is cool.

For me, DS is an improvement and more "powerful" than DV, after all many races have DV (too many IMO actually) but only some warlocks choose DS. Now, rarity is not the only reason since increased rarity does not necessarily equal increased power. It is often true, but not universal.

And as far as treating it as bright light, I was using that in my point because that is what JC says. If he interprets DS as making darkness into a brightly lit area, you will have dim light always in between.

As far as the language used in 5E, I am of two minds on that, myself. Personally, I don't find tighter and more coherent rules harder to follow. The language they use to make things easier, often times, has created a lot of issues with those rules. How many times have feat likes Shield Master come up? How many interpretations can you make for what is "normal" vision in DS?
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Hahahah. I knew a very anal DM who ruled that Devil Sight did not allow you to see through darkness, because you "normally" see nothing in darkness. :-S
You know, I almost pointed that out... but well, I am not that anal myself. ;)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Totally get your point but as you say that is your interpretation, which is cool.

For me, DS is an improvement and more "powerful" than DV, after all many races have DV (too many IMO actually) but only some warlocks choose DS. Now, rarity is not the only reason since increased rarity does not necessarily equal increased power. It is often true, but not universal.

And as far as treating it as bright light, I was using that in my point because that is what JC says. If he interprets DS as making darkness into a brightly lit area, you will have dim light always in between.

As far as the language used in 5E, I am of two minds on that, myself. Personally, I don't find tighter and more coherent rules harder to follow. The language they use to make things easier, often times, has created a lot of issues with those rules. How many times have feat likes Shield Master come up? How many interpretations can you make for what is "normal" vision in DS?
But the point is, it doesn’t actually matter if you get the ruling “right” on any of those. Your own mental filters will lead you to an interpretation pretty immediately, and you can just use that.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
But the point is, it doesn’t actually matter if you get the ruling “right” on any of those. Your own mental filters will lead you to an interpretation pretty immediately, and you can just use that.
Sure, but problems sometimes arise when different people have different interpretations. It is only supposed to be a game, but I've seen some people get pretty upset when those differences create problems. Much of that could have been avoided IMO if the rules were more concrete since the DM can always change them.

Anyway, I agree there is no "right", though.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Yes/no is not what I'm going for.:)
"Because magic/fantasy" is an adequate answer, though.

Unless I missed some authoritative source, DS does not affect dim light. It only makes darkness appear as brightly lit. Dim stays dim.

DV expressly makes dim appear as brightly lit.
FWIW, that was added in later printings of the PHB. Originally, DV only made darkness into dim light, it didn't help dim light at all.
 

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