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D&D 5E Revisiting RAW Darkness Spell

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The game by the way, agrees with me that effectively blind is not the same as legally blind. It says the following,

"A heavily obscured area-such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage-blocks vision entirely. A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition (see appendix A) when trying to see something in that area."

The blinded condition says,

"A blinded creature can't see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight."

Can't see, not can see a little bit and discern light, shadow and movement. And automatically fails any ability check requiring sight, not would get a roll since he can see a little bit and discern light, shadow and movement.
 

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FitzTheRuke

Legend
If legally blind were blind, they wouldn't have needed the new term. I didn't make this up. They are in fact two different things. Effectively blind is effectively blind. The PHB doesn't say effectively legally blind.
I regret my knee-jerk post above (in my defense it was before coffee), so sorry if that was overly aggressive. I still disagree with you, though. By LAW, my friends count as BLIND. That's what legally blind means. Therefore "blind" does not always mean cannot see at all. Certainly "effectively" suggests that it has exceptions. But whatever, this is getting far too much of splitting hairs. I agree that "Blind" MOSTLY means you can't see, but the game doesn't appear to.

There's a reason that 5e is rulings over rules and the DMG says that the rules are not in charge, the DM is and that the rules do not cover every situation. That's because the rules don't work universally. There are cases like this one where they fall apart if you follow them blindly(hehehe).
We all understand this. I'll reiterate:

When faced with rules that seem to contradict our fiction (or themselves) we have two choices:
1) Change the rules.
2) Change the fiction.

We all do a little bit of both, all the time.

This thread has only ever been describing another way to look at the Darkness Spell, that does a different mix of 1) and 2) than the standard Ink-Blot.

If everyone had said, "Interesting interpretation, but I like Ink-Blot better!" it would have stopped many pages back, but instead, those of us who thought that it was interesting got:

"That's impossible to imagine!" (It's not); "That's not RAW!" (It could be); "Now WALLS are invisibile!" (What?); "That's not how light works!" (Uh...it doesn't change light in our fiction.); etc, etc...

(Man, I've said a lot on the subject for someone who meant to bow out what feels like 400 pages ago...)

I'm not trying to convince anyone to adopt this way of looking at it (though I think I have at least once); I'm defending the choice (probably uselessly) and explaining it (because it obviously didn't make sense to a lot of people).
 

Rabulias

Adventurer
This is something that would be good to have clarified for Adventurer's League games, pickup games, or at least add to a session zero for joining a new group. Folks playing casters with darkness need to have an understanding of how it works. Is it a defensive spell that I cast over myself and/or allies to hide us while allowing us to fire out of it with advantage? Or should I plan to use it to block line of sight/vision for opponents? The interpretation can affect spell selection tactics.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
This is something that would be good to have clarified for Adventurer's League games, pickup games, or at least add to a session zero for joining a new group. Folks playing casters with darkness need to have an understanding of how it works. Is it a defensive spell that I cast over myself and/or allies to hide us while allowing us to fire out of it with advantage? Or should I plan to use it to block line of sight/vision for opponents? The interpretation can affect spell selection tactics.
Absolutely. The interpretations seem to be:

1) Only use it to force people to run out of it or to block line-of-sight because "pure RAW" everyone gets advantage AND disadvantage and therefore fights without penalty in and through it.
2) Cast it on your opponents to make them blind, because as long as you can see, your fair DM will ignore RAW that you have disadvantage attacking a target that you can't see, so you can shoot your now-blind opponents.
3) Cast it on yourself because your opponents won't be able to see you, but you can see them because they remain in (presumably) brighter light conditions, which RAW there's no penalty to hit. (The posit of this thread).

Those are all pretty different.
 

Blind means blind, there's no question there.
The big issue stems from the choice WoTC made of linking obscured areas to the Blinded condition.
It's not a bad choice per se; but the blinded condition is too narrow to be a good fit. Stealth is also messy. A "hidden" or "concealed" condition would have worked better for both IMO.

Let "blinded" affect the onlooker and "concealed" describe the target.

[edit] miss chance was a pain but 3.X concealment rules were preferable in principle.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
Two sides flailing around in darkness won't have advantage to hit. They will have disadvantage due to blindness. It's pretty clear that the intent behind granting advantage to an attacker when the defender can't see him is because the attacker can aim the attacks while the defender is oblivious. If the attacker has no idea where the defender really is, there is no advantage gained. The rule doesn't say that, but it's pretty clear where that advantage comes from.
I don't know what you mean by "oblivious". Default is that combatants are aware of their opponents. I also find it somewhat laughable that you claim intent based on that confused interpretation. The blinded condition doesn't make attackers or their targets unaware of each other or their locations.

Yep, and just as usually both sides are attacking each other. Not one side attacking and the other side doing nothing. It's a combat.
It doesn't make much sense to call one side the defender when you're only talking about both sides as attackers.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I don't know what you mean by "oblivious". Default is that combatants are aware of their opponents. I also find it somewhat laughable that you claim intent based on that confused interpretation. The blinded condition doesn't make attackers or their targets unaware of each other or their locations.
They have absolutely no awareness of exactly where the strike at them is going or when it will arrive. They might be aware that a hit is coming towards them at some point. They can hear the enemy flailing around with a weapon, but that hit could come in 1 second or 6, and could come at the left leg or right arm. Or with that disadvantage, they may never get hit. They have no way of telling. Hence, oblivious.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Sure. It's exactly why I believe that Darkness and Heavy Obscurement do not mean that you can never see anything at all. Effective Blindness does not mean Full Blindness and they used the word "Heavy" with Obscurement for a reason - they could have chosen "Total Obscurement" or "Absolute Obscurement". Things are just obscured a lot not 100% completely.
The Blinded condition says that the creature "can't see". That seems pretty total to me. I think reinterpreting the condition to be "able to see, but not well" is a great way to fix the problematic interactions with Heavy Obscurement, but that approach both goes against the text and may produce other problems when you want the Blinded condition to actually mean "can't see", like with the Blindness/Deafness spell.

You seem to have made my case, unless I'm missing something. (I guess I must be, because I still don't understand what you were getting at with "transparent walls".

As far as I can tell, the alternative to what you were describing would be that the walls would be so dark that you couldn't tell that they were there, not that you could see through them.
If it was a dark wall seen against a dark background, I would agree--the character wouldn't be able to visually discern the presence of the wall. But there's a lit background here seen through the door, so in the real world the wall would be seen by the fact that it interrupts that lit background (i.e. the wall is silhouetted against a lit background).

To clarify the purpose of the transparent-wall example, I'm not saying that the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls. I'm saying that the rules for darkness/vision/obscurement are not comprehensive, and contain contradictions that require every DM to make decisions about how they want to run darkness/vision/obscurement. In particular, I'm saying there is a contradiction in the rules between being unable to see an obstruction and that obstruction remaining opaque if the obstruction is backlit. Running the Darkness as akin to normal darkness happens to run into this already-existing contradiction in the rules.

I see this contradiction as pretty straightforward (but apparently am terrible at explaining it!): if there's a big opaque object/creature standing in darkness between an observer and a well-lit background, then in the real world the observer can see the big opaque object/creature because it obstructs the well-lit background (i.e. it's silhouetted). D&D doesn't have rules for silhouettes, so the DM has to decide whether to include silhouettes in their game or not. If they do let observers see heavily obscured objects/creatures as silhouettes, the DM isn't giving full effect to the Blinded condition--the observer is able to see something the Blinded condition says they can't. By contrast, if the DM does not let observers see heavily obscured objects/creatures as silhouettes, then, by definition, the object/creature isn't obstructing the well-lit background, and so must not be opaque.

Obviously, I expect every DM to work around this contradiction in one way or another--that's the DM's job. Multiple ways to adapt/reinterpret the rules have been presented in this thread that would work well.

Regarding the Bold bits: It's been a long thread. I assume you both missed the part, quite awhile back, where I talked about knowing a few people who are Legally Blind who can see movement, shadows, and/or light. Even actual real-world Blindness does not equal "absolutely cannot ever see anything at all. One would think that EFFECTIVE Blindness suggests that it could possibly have exceptions, when useful to the narrative.
I saw it and replied directly quite awhile ago. "Blind" in the real world may not mean "can't see", but in D&D that's exactly what the Blinded condition says. That means that not everyone who would be considered legally blind in the real world would have the Blinded condition in D&D. By contrast, everyone trying to look into a heavily obscured area in D&D does (effectively) have the Blinded condition.

I read "effectively has the Blinded condition" as "takes penalties as if they had the Blinded condition". I don't think "effectively" can be used as a synonym for "partially", particularly since D&D conditions are binary in every other context with which I am familiar. One could decide instead to ad-hoc the penalties inflicted by each condition based on the circumstances, but that would seem to negate the entire point of having codified conditions in the first place.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
They have absolutely no awareness of exactly where the strike at them is going or when it will arrive. They might be aware that a hit is coming towards them at some point. They can hear the enemy flailing around with a weapon, but that hit could come in 1 second or 6, and could come at the left leg or right arm. Or with that disadvantage, they may never get hit. They have no way of telling. Hence, oblivious.
And all the attacker gets is advantage? You'd think they'd have an easier time hitting an "oblivious" target than just advantage.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
After nearly 40 pages, perhaps the conclusion is that there is no RAW Darkness? The rules text is inherently ambigious and can't be used without DM interpretation, and several interpretations are supported by the rules.
That's been the claim I've been trying to support from my very first post in this thread. I fear I've done a poor job of supporting it, as my examples seem to produce more confusion than illumination.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
The Blinded condition says that the creature "can't see". That seems pretty total to me. I think reinterpreting the condition to be "able to see, but not well" is a great way to fix the problematic interactions with Heavy Obscurement, but that approach both goes against the text and may produce other problems when you want the Blinded condition to actually mean "can't see", like with the Blindness/Deafness spell.

If it was a dark wall seen against a dark background, I would agree--the character wouldn't be able to visually discern the presence of the wall. But there's a lit background here seen through the door, so in the real world the wall would be seen by the fact that it interrupts that lit background (i.e. the wall is silhouetted against a lit background).

To clarify the purpose of the transparent-wall example, I'm not saying that the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls. I'm saying that the rules for darkness/vision/obscurement are not comprehensive, and contain contradictions that require every DM to make decisions about how they want to run darkness/vision/obscurement. In particular, I'm saying there is a contradiction in the rules between being unable to see an obstruction and that obstruction remaining opaque if the obstruction is backlit. Running the Darkness as akin to normal darkness happens to run into this already-existing contradiction in the rules.

I see this contradiction as pretty straightforward (but apparently am terrible at explaining it!): if there's a big opaque object/creature standing in darkness between an observer and a well-lit background, then in the real world the observer can see the big opaque object/creature because it obstructs the well-lit background (i.e. it's silhouetted). D&D doesn't have rules for silhouettes, so the DM has to decide whether to include silhouettes in their game or not. If they do let observers see heavily obscured objects/creatures as silhouettes, the DM isn't giving full effect to the Blinded condition--the observer is able to see something the Blinded condition says they can't. By contrast, if the DM does not let observers see heavily obscured objects/creatures as silhouettes, then, by definition, the object/creature isn't obstructing the well-lit background, and so must not be opaque.

Obviously, I expect every DM to work around this contradiction in one way or another--that's the DM's job. Multiple ways to adapt/reinterpret the rules have been presented in this thread that would work well.

I saw it and replied directly quite awhile ago. "Blind" in the real world may not mean "can't see", but in D&D that's exactly what the Blinded condition says. That means that not everyone who would be considered legally blind in the real world would have the Blinded condition in D&D. By contrast, everyone trying to look into a heavily obscured area in D&D does (effectively) have the Blinded condition.

I read "effectively has the Blinded condition" as "takes penalties as if they had the Blinded condition". I don't think "effectively" can be used as a synonym for "partially", particularly since D&D conditions are binary in every other context with which I am familiar. One could decide instead to ad-hoc the penalties inflicted by each condition based on the circumstances, but that would seem to negate the entire point of having codified conditions in the first place.
We agree on pretty much all of that. (Though for some reason I still don't have any idea where you were ever going with the thing about transparent walls). You're making my case while appearing to argue with me, which is the part I don't understand.

Adding "well" to "can't see" only comes up when you need it to because of the exceptions. The blind condition gives you certain penalties, and MOST OF THE TIME it means you can't see. Sometimes it just means you can't see WELL. You still have all the penalties of the Blind Condition. I've never been trying to say that you don't get all the penalties of the Blind Condition, or that being Blind always means that you can see a little. The Blind spell would blind you, of course.
 



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
To clarify the purpose of the transparent-wall example, I'm not saying that the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls.
I liked your post, but I don't understand this part. How does treating the Darkness spell as pure blackness allow creatures to see through walls?
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
You'd think, yes, but that's the rule that WotC came up with. I guess they figure that armor or luck play enough of a roll to only grant advantage.
Yeah, or everyone is so good that they've trained a least a little in blind-fighting.

(Or, as I've been trying to get across, sometimes they can see a little, if only just movement, when it makes sense to use that as part of your narrative.)
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
I liked your post, but I don't understand this part. How does treating the Darkness spell as pure blackness allow creatures to see through walls?
It doesn't and I'm not saying that. How are you parsing what you quoted to think I'm saying that?

(Legitimate question here--I've been having hard time in this thread expressing myself without being misunderstood, so any clarity on why you're reading it that way would be helpful!)
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
That's still not true. FrogReaver most definitely didn't.
I'm not sure that's true. Obviously I don't speak for FrogReaver, but I always got the impression that they were only defending their original position as a possible reading of RAW, not the only way one can read RAW. FrogReaver's way WORKS by RAW as well as any other way does (better than some, maybe), but I don't think anyone thinks that it's the BEST or ONLY way to "correctly" read RAW (as if such a thing exists). I'm pretty sure that this was mentioned multiple times and argued with anyway.
 

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