log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Revisiting RAW Darkness Spell

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, or everyone is so good that they've trained a least a little in blind-fighting.
I think the more likely answer is simplicity. They could have done like 3e did and had a rule for when you both can't see each other. Another rule for when you can see the target, but the target can't see you. Yet another rule for when you can see the target, the target can't see you, and you are behind the target. A further rule rule for when you can see the target, the target can't see you, you are behind the target and you have a duck on your head. They didn't, though, they went for a much simpler, leaner rule set.

They decided that if you have the advantage, you get 2 rolls and pick the highest, whether it's a small advantage or a major one. Then, because people might not like all advantages being equal, they went on to tell the DM that the rules serve him, not the other way around, that the rules can't cover everything, and that it's a rulings over rules edition. That way if the DM thinks that having a duck on your head makes things super awesome, he can just say, don't bother rolling, you hit.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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!)
Because you said this, "I'm not saying that the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls."

For the life of me, it really looks like you're saying that if you treat Darkness as an opaque ink-blot, creatures can see through walls. :p
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
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.
I keep trying to explain and re-explain the transparent-walls issue (most recently in the post you quoted!), and every time I do you seem to come back with some variation on "I agree, but I don't have any idea what you were saying about the transparent walls." :) I'm happy to try again, but could you please provide a little more specific feedback about what part of the most recent explanation doesn't make sense to you?

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.
You claim to be applying all the penalties of the Blinded condition, but you're not. One of the explicit penalties of the Blinded condition (first bullet point in the condition) is that the Blinded creature "can't see", so when you say that "...sometimes it just means you can't see WELL. You still have all the penalties of the Blind Condition." you're contradicting yourself.

EVERYONE has agreed on that since the beginning of the thread.
Then we have different interpretations of what positions other posters have taken. I understood both @FrogReaver and @Hriston to have argued that only the transparent darkness version was supported by the text. I believe @FrogReaver may have reconsidered at some point midway through the thread, but I'm not sure what they think now.

Similarly, other posters, particularly at the beginning of the thread were making rules-based claims in favor of the opaque ink-blot interpretation. At one point I made an overly broad claim that they hadn't made any such claims, and @FrogReaver demonstrated otherwise, so I retracted my claim. (The thread is too long to make it practical to link the individual posts.)
 

Nefermandias

Explorer
I'm just glad this thread has stayed (mostly) civil through these 40 pages of argument. At least we can all agree that 5e rules on illumination at not very complete and requires a lot of common sense and case by case adjucating from the DM.

I wish all my players could read this thread. Coming from 3.5 and 4e, they still haven't been able to shed their most deterministic view of the rules, and that really hurts our game sometimes.
 

Nefermandias

Explorer
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.
Frog himself has admitted it's easier to just run the game with the inkblot interpretation, even though he was the one originally proposing the other view.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Because you said this, "I'm not saying that the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls."

For the life of me, it really looks like you're saying that if you treat Darkness as an opaque ink-blot, creatures can see through walls. :p

Ahh! Thanks! The intended structure of the sentence was:

"I'm not saying that (the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls)."

So my intent was to say something entirely orthogonal to what you read it as. The fault is mine for using ambiguous sentence structure. Thanks for pointing out the issue!
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I keep trying to explain and re-explain the transparent-walls issue (most recently in the post you quoted!), and every time I do you seem to come back with some variation on "I agree, but I don't have any idea what you were saying about the transparent walls." :) I'm happy to try again, but could you please provide a little more specific feedback about what part of the most recent explanation doesn't make sense to you?
I'm not sure there's any way you could word it that would make me understand how anyone could interpret walls as transparent through any reading of RAW or Fluff. It's really outside anything I can get behind. And I've HONESTLY tried to follow your logic, I just haven't been able to.

You claim to be applying all the penalties of the Blinded condition, but you're not. One of the explicit penalties of the Blinded condition (first bullet point in the condition) is that the Blinded creature "can't see", so when you say that "...sometimes it just means you can't see WELL. You still have all the penalties of the Blind Condition." you're contradicting yourself.
Ah, I see what you mean. I don't read "can't see" as a mechanical penalty. The penalty is "Fail Perception Checks" and "Have Disadvantage on Attacks", ETC. The rest is story-fluff. And when the mechanics make it seem like you might be able to see a little, to make it make sense, I'm going to say that you see a little, even if you're "effectively blind". To me that means you have all the mechanical penalties of the Blinded condition, but you can see whatever I feel like describing. (Be it shadows, movement, or whatever).

Then we have different interpretations of what positions other posters have taken. I understood both @FrogReaver and @Hriston to have argued that only the transparent darkness version was supported by the text. I believe @FrogReaver may have reconsidered at some point midway through the thread, but I'm not sure what they think now.
No, I'm pretty sure no one ever claimed that. They were just trying to say, in the face of opposition, WHY they personally choose to rule it that way, over the (obviously more popular) Ink-Blot interpretation. That's what I inferred from their posts, at any rate.
 

I'm not sure there's any way you could word it that would make me understand how anyone could interpret walls as transparent through any reading of RAW or Fluff. It's really outside anything I can get behind. And I've HONESTLY tried to follow your logic, I just haven't been able to.
No one is suggesting that anyone would ever play it that way, but you could still try to follow the logic that leads to it. It was perfectly coherent.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Ahh! Thanks! The intended structure of the sentence was:

"I'm not saying that (the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls)."

So my intent was to say something entirely orthogonal to what you read it as. The fault is mine for using ambiguous sentence structure. Thanks for pointing out the issue!
Okay, but now that leads me to the next question. Why does not treating Darkness as an opaque ink-blot allow creatures to see through walls? I don't understand it that way, either. :)
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
A plant, its leaves, stems, etc., is an opaque object. That doesn't mean that an area of dense foliage constitutes an opaque area. There are gaps between the leaves, stems, branches, and vines that incompletely fill the area. Again, this is the sort of thing that the rules don't need to spell out for you. I seriously doubt that anyone imagines an area of dense foliage as a solid block of plant material.
But we know that foliage dense enough provide Heavy Obscurement gives effectively gives observers the Blinded condition when trying to see anything in the area. The only way that can be true is if every possible sight line is obstructed by foliage.

So yes, in three dimensions the foliage isn't a "solid block of plant material". But when seen from a distance as a two-dimensional image, the overlapping opaque branches, stems, and leaves fill the entire area. If there were any significant gaps that persisted even 5' into the dense foliage an observer would be able to see a creature at the edge of the dense foliage, which Heavy Obscurement does not permit.

It sounds like you envision dense foliage as much less dense than I think the rules require. Even going with your interpretation, however, how can an area of dense foliage be sufficiently opaque to provide Heavy Obscurement to the creatures inside it while simultaneously not sufficiently opaque to provide Heavy Obscurement to creatures beyond it? (That is your position, yes? That a creature/object among the foliage can't be seen, but a creature/object behind the foliage can be?)

The fiction comes first. You imagine an area in which there is much growth of plants, and if the level of obscurement provided by that area in your imagination meets the description of a heavily obscured area then you apply the rules for that type of area. This is pretty fundamental to how the rules function, and if you don't understand this, you're going to see these types of gaps. That isn't a fault of the rules.

It seems to me that you are the one not following your own guidance. You're imagining an area of foliage with gaps big enough to see through and into the area beyond, but then applying the mechanics for Heavy Obscurement even though the presence of such large gaps conflicts with the description of Heavy Obscurement as effectively inflicting the Blinded condition.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Okay, but now that leads me to the next question. Why does not treating Darkness as an opaque ink-blot allow creatures to see through walls? I don't understand it that way, either. :)
It doesn't! :) I'm explicitly not making that claim.

Claim A: "the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls."

What I was trying to say: "I'm not saying (Claim A)."

Hopefully that makes it clear? I do not think either of the interpretations of the Darkness spell as creating opaque or transparent darkness leads to creatures being able to see through walls.

I do think that the basic rules have an inconsistency, where the addition of silhouettes to the vision rules violates the rules for the Blinded condition (by letting observers see backlit creatures they are effectively Blinded to), but not adding silhouettes to the vision rules causes backlit creatures/objects/walls to fail to interrupt an observer's ability to see the lit area behind (meaning the creatures/objects/walls must not be opaque).

Does that make sense? (Same question for @FitzTheRuke.)
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
No one is suggesting that anyone would ever play it that way, but you could still try to follow the logic that leads to it. It was perfectly coherent.
I HAVE tried! I just can't seem to wrap my head around it.
So yes, in three dimensions the foliage isn't a "solid block of plant material". But when seen from a distance as a two-dimensional image, the overlapping opaque branches, stems, and leaves fill the entire area. If there were any significant gaps that persisted even 5' into the dense foliage an observer would be able to see a creature at the edge of the dense foliage, which Heavy Obscurement does not permit.
I think this comes from the fact that the creature can MOVE through it (sure, difficult terrain, yadda yadda) without having to hack away at it that makes it seem like it probably had more openings than you might imagine it to - leading back to "can't see WELL" over "can't see AT ALL" being a probable interpretation of "effectively blinded" by Heavy Obscurement.
Does that make sense? (Same question for @FitzTheRuke.)
Sort of? Maybe a little? It seems to me that it would be the wall itself not its silhouette that would block your vision - though you might see it's silhouette in the story fluff, if that's what you mean. I think it might not be so much that I can't understand how you could come up with a way to make walls transparent by RAW, but it's so far outside what anyone would rule that I can't understand why we'd even talk about it. It makes it hard for my brain to "go there" even if I'm trying to be with you for the intellectual exercise. I really am trying to play along here!
 

Okay, but now that leads me to the next question. Why does not treating Darkness as an opaque ink-blot allow creatures to see through walls? I don't understand it that way, either. :)
As far as I understand it, it goes like this: under the assumption that one can see beyond the borders of a darkness spell...

You cannot see through darkness. You also cannot see through a wall.

But you can see beyond the dark area (as long as there is light behind). Therefore, you can see beyond a wall (as long as there is light behind).

It's a false analogy IMO, but that's how I understood the contradiction.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
As far as I understand it, it goes like this: under the assumption that one can see beyond the borders of a darkness spell...

You cannot see through darkness. You also cannot see through a wall.

But you can see beyond the dark area (as long as there is light behind). Therefore, you can see beyond a wall (as long as there is light behind).

It's a false analogy IMO, but that's how I understood the contradiction.
Yeah. That makes no sense. The darkness does not exist in a vacuum and other things can affect the outcome. If there is a wall, you still cannot see through the wall, regardless of whether or not you can see a torch behind darkness if there is no other obstruction. It's apples and oranges.

This is especially true since the Darkness spell goes around corners, which means that it doesn't go through the wall, indicating that the Darkness, like vision, obeys line of sight/effect.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I HAVE tried! I just can't seem to wrap my head around it.
There are a number of things like that where if you use your head and consider the argument, are clearly wrong. One of my favorite is from 3.5.

In 3.5 if you go to -1 or greater hit points, you dying which adds unconscious. Dying only applies until -9. Okay. So far so good. Once you go past -9 to dead, you are no longer dying, which means the unconscious caused by it no longer applies. Okay. Now we look at dead. Dead says that your soul leaves. Okay. You can't be healed naturally or through magic. Okay. You start to decay. Fine. Nowhere does it say that you can't get up now that you are no longer unconscious. :p

At some point you just have to accept how words are commonly used and understood and just apply them. WotC clearly thinks that you should know what dead really means and didn't feel the need to tell you that someone who is dead can't get back up and keep fighting, but if all you do is follow the chain of effects, you can do just that.

This wall idea seems the same to me. Even if you play Darkness as some measure of opaque, it's pretty clear that walls are not normally in any way see through and you can't see through them.
 

There are a number of things like that where if you use your head and consider the argument, are clearly wrong. One of my favorite is from 3.5.

In 3.5 if you go to -1 or greater hit points, you dying which adds unconscious. Dying only applies until -9. Okay. So far so good. Once you go past -9 to dead, you are no longer dying, which means the unconscious caused by it no longer applies. Okay. Now we look at dead. Dead says that your soul leaves. Okay. You can't be healed naturally or through magic. Okay. You start to decay. Fine. Nowhere does it say that you can't get up now that you are no longer unconscious. :p
I mean where you think all those zombies and skeletons come from? ;)

At some point you just have to accept how words are commonly used and understood and just apply them. WotC clearly thinks that you should know what dead really means and didn't feel the need to tell you that someone who is dead can't get back up and keep fighting, but if all you do is follow the chain of effects, you can do just that.

This wall idea seems the same to me. Even if you play Darkness as some measure of opaque, it's pretty clear that walls are not normally in any way see through and you can't see through them.
The issue arose because some people say that you can see things behind heavily obscured areas, but the intervening things in said area still do not become visible as silhouettes. I.e. they remain heavily obscured, i.e. you cannot see them. Walls becoming see through is a logical reductio ad absurdum consequence of that. No, no one would actually play that way.
 

Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
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.
Okay. I wouldn't call that "oblivious", but I mostly agree with your description of the situation. Now, don't you think the target would have a better chance of avoiding that blow if they could see the attacker?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Okay. I wouldn't call that "oblivious", but I mostly agree with your description of the situation. Now, don't you think the target would have a better chance of avoiding that blow if they could see the attacker?
Sure, but that deficit is more than countered by the deficit the attacker has in being totally blind. Most of the attacker's swings aren't going to hit the target, instead they're just going to be wild swings in the darkness. Some of those wild swings, had the target been able to see, would have been better aimed and hit(attacker has disadvantage). Once the attacker overcomes that disadvantage and hits anyway, the defender's defensive skills would come into play, except that 5e doesn't really work that way. There are no real defensive skills other than dex bonus.

The best way to model what happens is to give the target the appropriate disadvantage on the attack, but also remove the target's dex bonus from AC and perhaps shield. That would involve a house rules, though.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It doesn't! :) I'm explicitly not making that claim.

Claim A: "the Darkness spell needs to be an opaque ink-blot because otherwise creatures can see through walls."

What I was trying to say: "I'm not saying (Claim A)."

Hopefully that makes it clear? I do not think either of the interpretations of the Darkness spell as creating opaque or transparent darkness leads to creatures being able to see through walls.

I do think that the basic rules have an inconsistency, where the addition of silhouettes to the vision rules violates the rules for the Blinded condition (by letting observers see backlit creatures they are effectively Blinded to), but not adding silhouettes to the vision rules causes backlit creatures/objects/walls to fail to interrupt an observer's ability to see the lit area behind (meaning the creatures/objects/walls must not be opaque).

Does that make sense? (Same question for @FitzTheRuke.)
It sounds like you are saying that if a solid object should be backlit, but isn't due to Darkness making everyone blind to everything inside of it, that the object is transparent if you can still see things behind it.

That's a possible interpretation, but so is "magic." "Magic" seems like a cop out in this circumstance, so I think that making Darkness pitch black and allowing no light to go through it is the more elegant solution. No seeing anything behind an area of the Darkness spell.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I mean where you think all those zombies and skeletons come from? ;)


The issue arose because some people say that you can see things behind heavily obscured areas, but the intervening things in said area still do not become visible as silhouettes. I.e. they remain heavily obscured, i.e. you cannot see them. Walls becoming see through is a logical reductio ad absurdum consequence of that. No, no one would actually play that way.
As far as I recall, no one argued that a creature in the darkness would be invisible, just that they wouldn't necessarily imagine them as a perfectly back-lit silhouette. Usually this distinction was part of an argument about a back-lit silhouette being too visible and counting as dim light, or some other ruling. I think the expectation was that a creature in the darkness spell would be more obscured than that. Perhaps a barely visible figure in deep shadow or only visible at all as some vague movement in the darkness.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top