D&D 5E Replacing Darkvision with other special senses

AliasBot

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My first thought with the Underdark subspecies was to give them blindsight 60' rather than super-darkvision, playing on how real-life animals that live in isolated cave systems (or just purely underground in general) sometimes go beyond "underdeveloped eyesight" to being out-and-out blind. But I think that would mean that they could ignore their Sunlight Sensitivity by just...keeping their eyes closed? And as much as I personally don't care for Sunlight Sensitivity, it seems like a trait that's pretty important to the peoples that have it, and having an innate trait that counteracts that weakness with no effort required, especially in a way that's that silly, is probably a bad idea. So that might be a dead end.

Aarakocra should have some sort of enhanced vision - that could be the basic "advantage on Perception rolls relying on eyesight" Keen Sight that Eagles and Owls get, or it could be something more like the "can see a mile away in perfect detail" vision that Eagle Totem Barbs get, but they should definitely get something. That might end up stepping on what people want to do with Elves' sight a bit, but I feel like eagle vision is a reasonable justification for Aarakocra to play in that space, too.

Aasimar can innately cast Light, so they have no need for darkvision: why skulk around in the darkness when you can bathe the world in holy light?

(The real spicy vision mechanic for Aasimar would be to give them 5-10' or so of truesight - a bunch of Celestials have truesight, so a highly-restricted version of that effect feels right for a people with celestial blood. Would truesight break anything in the early-game badly enough to take it off the table as an option?)
 

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Ranged weapons attacks have disadvantage beyond their close range. Elves could ignore that.

So...if you want to roll an archer, make it an elf?

:)

Maybe throw in “elves never suffer disadvantage to Wisdom checks relying on sight due to distance” to cover cases where the DM would fiat such a penalty.

How about "Elves have advantage on ability checks relying on vision at distances beyond 120'". That way if there is disadvantage it gets cancelled, but otherwise they have advantage.

Again, it's not something that really comes up very often unless the DM is improvising, but maybe if the ability existed it would happen more often.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So...if you want to roll an archer, make it an elf?

:)
Eh, in my experience it’s very rare that engagements occur at such ranges where it’d really be relevant, except maybe with thrown weapons. But if it favors archers too much for your taste, fair enough.

How about "Elves have advantage on ability checks relying on vision at distances beyond 120'". That way if there is disadvantage it gets cancelled, but otherwise they have advantage.

Again, it's not something that really comes up very often unless the DM is improvising, but maybe if the ability existed it would happen more often.
That seems weird to me, because they’d be more likely to succeed at over 120 ft. than they would at shorter distances.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
My first thought with the Underdark subspecies was to give them blindsight 60' rather than super-darkvision, playing on how real-life animals that live in isolated cave systems (or just purely underground in general) sometimes go beyond "underdeveloped eyesight" to being out-and-out blind. But I think that would mean that they could ignore their Sunlight Sensitivity by just...keeping their eyes closed? And as much as I personally don't care for Sunlight Sensitivity, it seems like a trait that's pretty important to the peoples that have it, and having an innate trait that counteracts that weakness with no effort required, especially in a way that's that silly, is probably a bad idea. So that might be a dead end.
I floated the idea earlier that Duergar could be blind but have blindsight within the radius of their Tremorsense. I forgot to mention it specifically, but under that model they would be unable to “see” creatures and objects that they couldn’t perceive with their tremorsense. Maybe that could be a model to explore with the other Underdark variants - enhance their people’s usual enhanced sense to the point of blindsight, but blind without it.

Aarakocra should have some sort of enhanced vision - that could be the basic "advantage on Perception rolls relying on eyesight" Keen Sight that Eagles and Owls get, or it could be something more like the "can see a mile away in perfect detail" vision that Eagle Totem Barbs get, but they should definitely get something. That might end up stepping on what people want to do with Elves' sight a bit, but I feel like eagle vision is a reasonable justification for Aarakocra to play in that space, too.
Personally, I wouldn’t be inclined to add any more onto the Aarakocra package. Flight at 1st level is strong enough, IMO. Though I suppose eagle vision is more or less a ribbon, so that might be safe to put on them. It’d be a good option for elves too! Thanks for pointing it out, I had forgotten about it.

Aasimar can innately cast Light, so they have no need for darkvision: why skulk around in the darkness when you can bathe the world in holy light?

(The real spicy vision mechanic for Aasimar would be to give them 5-10' or so of truesight - a bunch of Celestials have truesight, so a highly-restricted version of that effect feels right for a people with celestial blood. Would truesight break anything in the early-game badly enough to take it off the table as an option?)
Ooh, that is an interesting idea. Always-on Truesight is pretty crazy powerful though, even at a very short range...
 

Don't be afraid to dream a little bit bigger.

Dwarves. Tremorsense, sure. Also depth sense, grade sense, and other abilities to navigate caves. That's not that impressive, though. That's just the passive stuff. They can also tremorping: by striking the ground with a hammer as an action, they can sense the location of any creature within 250 feet. However, this negates their tremorsense and that of other dwarves within the radius for one minute; non-dwarves easily hear the sound too. Dwarves also inherently know the weight and composition of anything within range of their tremorsense, allowing them to immediately gauge how many coins are in a treasure chest, for instance, and can detect hidden weapons with ease. Mimics too.

Elves. They can see life force and magic. They constantly have detect magic active, with unlimited range. Living creatures are also visible at any distance, though tree bark and most plants are much fainter than animals. Also, this life energy is sort of reflective, so it's possible to see non-living things - rocks and undead - with concealment if they're close to living things. They can sometimes even detect a lingering light that reveals the path of a group passing through, and if they spend a moment concentrating they can sort of run their awareness up that pathway, like light through a fiber optic cable, to see what is going on. Indeed, if you ask Legolas what his elf eyes see, he can see over the horizon.

Gnomes. Gnomes exist both in the real world and in the fey realm, and they can send forth their mirrored selves like a faint and obvious illusion, and see through the senses of both versions of themselves. They can't wander too far, however, and things like force damage can harm their illusory self, which wounds the gnome. If the illusion is captured and forcibly separated for a long period of time, the gnome goes mad.

Halflings. They possess an empathic community chat channel, and innately absorb the publicly-discussed rumors and public lore of any place with a population of more than a dozen people. This lets them easily navigate crowded areas to avoid notice, even to evade bands of angry mobs or sufficiently large packs of wolves.

Stuff like that.
 

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That seems weird to me, because they’d be more likely to succeed at over 120 ft. than they would at shorter distances.

I don't think so, mostly because there's no hard and fast rules setting DCs as a function of distance in this case.

"Can I make out what it is?"
"I'll need a perception roll. DC 15."
"How far away is it again?"
"About 90 feet."
"I'll back up another 30 feet so I get advantage."
"Ok, smartass, in that case, beyond 120 feet it's with disadvantage, so for YOU it's still a normal DC 15 roll."

But, yeah, it does carry weird implications. I guess it could be written to refer to any such check that is made "because of distance". Basically since there aren't rules for this, any language is going to have to kind of make its own rules.
 

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Back on topic, I'd give Dwarven (or Gnomish?) tremorsense a decent radius, like 100' or more, but only if they use their action and don't move. It's kind of like listening to railroad tracks for approaching trains.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Back on topic, I'd give Dwarven (or Gnomish?) tremorsense a decent radius, like 100' or more, but only if they use their action and don't move. It's kind of like listening to railroad tracks for approaching trains.
That’d also help solve the problem of Tremorsense making dwarves immune to
Stealth attacks that originate within their Tremorsense radius. I like that.
 

In one of the threads about racial ASIs, the suggestion of beefing up other race features to compensate for their removal came up, and one of the suggestions was giving dwarves tremorsense. And I absolutely loved the idea.

Now, I don’t want this to be another thread about racial ASIs, so forget that element of the suggestion. What I want to focus on is the concept of replacing some or all races’ darkvision with other forms of special senses. Here are some possibilities I have been considering:

Dwarves - 60 ft. Tremorsense
Elves - “Low-light vision” a-la the Skulker Feat (dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom checks that rely on sight), or Keen Sight a-la some monster stat blocks (advantage on Wisdom checks relying on sight, which would cancel out with the disadvantage from dim light). The latter would replace the Perception proficiency as well as Darkvision.
Dragonborn - 30 ft. Blindsight, 60 ft. Darkvision (I know they don’t usually have darkvision to begin with, but I feel they could use a boost anyway, and this would put their sensory perception in line with that of dragons, but at half the range)
Gnomes - 60 ft. Tremorsense, or 30 ft. Tremorsense and “low-light vision”
Half-elves - “Low-light vision”
Half-Orcs - maybe 30 ft. Darkvision and Keen Smell (advantage on Wisdom checks relying on smell) to tie in with their classic porcine association?
Tieflings - 60 ft. Devil’s Sight, a-la the Warlock Invocation (normal vision in darkness within range, including magical darkness, but no change to perception in dim light)
Drow, Duergar, and Svirfneblin - 60 ft. Darkvision and Sunlight Sensitivity on top of the special senses for their base race

Any thoughts on introducing such a change? Alternative suggestions? Complaints about balance issues?
"Low light vision" is less valuable, and personally I ignore it in my campaigns. It would be a waste.

For the Elf, I would rather see the radiate an aura of light, even with optional flavor of spontaneously manifesting luminous tattoos if the player was into magical tattoos.

Relatedly, I feel the High Elf should get Mage Armor at will, that can appear as if any armor but traditionally appears as either silky Elven Chainmail or as a luminous aura of light.

For the Wood Elf, I like the Shakespeare flavor that they are strictly nocturnal, so I am ok with them having Darkvision.
 

Don't be afraid to dream a little bit bigger.

Dwarves. Tremorsense, sure. Also depth sense, grade sense, and other abilities to navigate caves. That's not that impressive, though. That's just the passive stuff. They can also tremorping: by striking the ground with a hammer as an action, they can sense the locaytion of any creature within 250 feet. However, this negates their tremorsense and that of other dwarves within the radius for one minute; non-dwarves easily hear the sound too. Dwarves also inherently know the weight and composition of anything within range of their tremorsense, allowing them to immediately gauge how many coins are in a treasure chest, for instance, and can detect hidden weapons with ease. Mimics too.

Elves. They can see life force and magic. They constantly have detect magic active, with unlimited range. Living creatures are also visible at any distance, though tree bark and most plants are much fainter than animals. Also, this life energy is sort of reflective, so it's possible to see non-living things - rocks and undead - with concealment if they're close to living things. They can sometimes even detect a lingering light that reveals the path of a group passing through, and if they spend a moment concentrating they can sort of run their awareness up that pathway, like light through a fiber optic cable, to see what is going on. Indeed, if you ask Legolas what his elf eyes see, he can see over the horizon.

Gnomes. Gnomes exist both in the real world and in the fey realm, and they can send forth their mirrored selves like a faint and obvious illusion, and see through the senses of both versions of themselves. They can't wander too far, however, and things like force damage can harm their illusory self, which wounds the gnome. If the illusion is captured and forcibly separated for a long period of time, the gnome goes mad.

Halflings. They possess an empathic community chat channel, and innately absorb the publicly-discussed rumors and public lore of any place with a population of more than a dozen people. This lets them easily navigate crowded areas to avoid notice, even to evade bands of angry mobs or sufficiently large packs of wolves.

Stuff like that.
Of course, Elf gets Detect Magic as a sense.

I would like more options to choose from.

So a player who wants Mage Armor can choose that. And a player who wants Detect Magic can do that.

I tend to associate Mage Armor more with High Elf and Detect Magic more with Eladrin. But it is fine to let the player choose. And add Misty Step to the list of choices.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
"Low light vision" is less valuable, and personally I ignore it in my campaigns. It would be a waste.
Yes and no. Ignoring the disadvantage on Wisdom checks for dim light is less valuable than Darkvision in that it doesn’t allow you to get away with sneaking around dark places without a light source, but to be honest, that’s part of my motivation for replacing Darkvision for most peoples - I think light sources are an important resource management element that I think 5e makes a bit too easy to circumvent. But, capitalizing on it requires either having a party that all have Darkvision or splitting the party, which my regular players are very hesitant to do. At the same time, it’s potentially more valuable than Darkvision when the party is using light sources like torches in that it effectively extends the range at which you can see without penalty by torchlight or lamplight. I also personally want to make elves a tad bit less supernatural, which seems to be the opposite of your goal.

For the Elf, I would rather see the radiate an aura of light, even with optional flavor of spontaneously manifesting luminous tattoos if the player was into magical tattoos.

Relatedly, I feel the High Elf should get Mage Armor at will, that can appear as if any armor but traditionally appears as either silky Elven Chainmail or as a luminous aura of light.
This would be a good option for more Alfar or Shide-like elves, if that’s a thing you want. For me, this is something I might consider for the more Faewild-associated elves like Eladrin, but as mentioned above, I prefer my standard elves to be a bit less overtly supernatural, so this wouldn’t really work for my goals.

For the Wood Elf, I like the Shakespeare flavor that they are strictly nocturnal, so I am ok with them having Darkvision.
The thing is, nocturnal animals tend to have better vision than diurnal animals in conditions of limited light, but some amount light is still required for vision. For this reason, I prefer natural nocturnal creatures to have some form of low-light vision rather than full-on Darkvision, and to reserve Darkvision for more overtly supernatural means of perception. Just a personal preference though, as Darkvision does work fine to emulate natural night vision, so long as you require there be some sort of light for it to function, even if it’s not bright enough to function as “Dim Light” as the rules define it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Of course, Elf gets Detect Magic as a sense.

I would like more options to choose from.

So a player who wants Mage Armor can choose that. And a player who wants Detect Magic can do that.

I tend to associate Mage Armor more with High Elf and Detect Magic more with Eladrin. But it is fine to let the player choose. And add Misty Step to the list of choices.
So, something along the lines of the Warlock’s Eldritch Sight Invocation? I could get behind that for Eladrin. Again, a bit supernatural for elves by my preference, but that could be a decent native ability for Eladrin.
 

So, something along the lines of the Warlock’s Eldritch Sight Invocation? I could get behind that for Eladrin. Again, a bit supernatural for elves by my preference, but that could be a decent native ability for Eladrin.

I like more the mythic elves that personify magic, and like less the mortal elves of Tolkien. D&D has room for both concepts.

So, Eldritch Sight is highly appropriate for the mythic elves, such as those inspired by Norse alfar or French faie or Scottish sith.

I am comfortable with a list of options to choose from, including magic ones and mundane ones. Let players pick depending on character concept. I like associating each option with a specific elven culture, such as Misty Step being a Fey Eladrin Elf thing, and longsword fightingstyle being a Material High Elf thing. (I feel the Longsword feature should be more powerful, such as treating it as a finesse weapon or so on.) Then, a High Elf can choose Misty Step if the player wants, but this choice implies exposure to Eladrin Elf culture, and can be fun for a player backstory to explain how this happened.
 
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This would be a good option for more Alfar or Shide-like elves, if that’s a thing you want. For me, this is something I might consider for the more Faewild-associated elves like Eladrin, but as mentioned above, I prefer my standard elves to be a bit less overtly supernatural, so this wouldn’t really work for my goals.


The thing is, nocturnal animals tend to have better vision than diurnal animals in conditions of limited light, but some amount light is still required for vision. For this reason, I prefer natural nocturnal creatures to have some form of low-light vision rather than full-on Darkvision, and to reserve Darkvision for more overtly supernatural means of perception. Just a personal preference though, as Darkvision does work fine to emulate natural night vision, so long as you require there be some sort of light for it to function, even if it’s not bright enough to function as “Dim Light” as the rules define it.

Heh, still not a fan of low-light. ;)

Brainstorming. What if, the Wood Elf can see thru the eyes of any living plant within a 30 foot radius (maybe increasing to 100 feet at level 5, 300 feet at level 11, and 1000 feet at level 17). The Wood Elf wouldnt move or manipulate the plant, but would be able to see from its point of view, as a kind of sentry. I am not quite sure how useful it would be, but it would be flavorful. It emphasizes the bond that the Wood Elf has with natural lifeforces.
 



NotAYakk

Legend
I don't like the idea of races having tremor sense or blind sight. There's no reason for them to be immune to stealth like that. It seems overpowered to me.
I agree. Even if it takes a "ping" action.

My attempt had limited tremorsense; a bonus against stealth and not being able to see things. But people could still walk quietly and sneak by a dwarf.

Blindsight 5' is different than general blindsight in that it only matters against stealth in bitch black or against the invisible.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
A few other things (rules-free at the moment):

Bat sonar - a blindsense?
Troglodytes have Enhanced Smell and can use their stench as a kind of code
Psionic "Detect Thoughts"-like sense
Spend an action to get Advantage (or "Take Ten") on a Perception check

Now I want to dig out my old Gamma World notes and see what Enhanced Senses would let your character do...
 

My first thought with the Underdark subspecies was to give them blindsight 60' rather than super-darkvision, playing on how real-life animals that live in isolated cave systems (or just purely underground in general) sometimes go beyond "underdeveloped eyesight" to being out-and-out blind. But I think that would mean that they could ignore their Sunlight Sensitivity by just...keeping their eyes closed? And as much as I personally don't care for Sunlight Sensitivity, it seems like a trait that's pretty important to the peoples that have it, and having an innate trait that counteracts that weakness with no effort required, especially in a way that's that silly, is probably a bad idea. So that might be a dead end.
Blindsight is very powerful, and probably not necessary: the only "cave creatures" that might realistically have it to that extent are bats. Darkvision in its current form works OK I think because it means that underground races can get by without a light source, but still have a use for one.

Aasimar can innately cast Light, so they have no need for darkvision: why skulk around in the darkness when you can bathe the world in holy light?
Only really seems odd from an optimisation perspective if you are assuming that they should get something else better instead.

(The real spicy vision mechanic for Aasimar would be to give them 5-10' or so of truesight - a bunch of Celestials have truesight, so a highly-restricted version of that effect feels right for a people with celestial blood. Would truesight break anything in the early-game badly enough to take it off the table as an option?)
Truesight is pretty powerful, even if you have to approach the disguised object or person. A reduced power version might be advantage on checks and saves against illusions or magical disguises.


"Low light vision" is less valuable, and personally I ignore it in my campaigns. It would be a waste.
If you have a lot of dungeon crawls, it probably would be, but it fits the flavour of elves being a little nocturnal and living outside in forests.
Low light vision not only increases the effective range of light effects like darkvision, it has no range limit in low light conditions.
 

What if, the Wood Elf can see thru the eyes of any living plant within a 30 foot radius

So ... potatoes? They're the only plants with eyes, right?

Can they hear out of corn?

I kind of like the idea of elf farmers trying to breed other crops with metaphorical sensory organs.

I wonder what they can do with eggplant? suggestive eyebrow wiggle
 

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