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Ridding Elves and Half-Elves of Darkvision

  • Thread starter WhosDaDungeonMaster
  • Start date
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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
For some reason, when my players all made their characters, there was a slight oversight (no pun intended) in giving the Dragonborn Darkvision. I was told they had it, it made sense (hey, Tieflings get it due to their heritage, why not Dragonborn...), but then recently discovered they don't get it.

Well, that sucks for my players because everyone chose a race purposefully so they all had Darkvision! Now, of course, the Dragonborn doesn't. Since this was my mistake in not checking myself, I'll probably let the player keep it this time.

But, it got me thinking: why do certain races get it and others don't?

To review, these races have Darkvision (or Superior Darkvision): Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-Elf, ,Half-Orc, and Tiefling.
These races don't: Halfling, Human, Dragonborn.

Now, I can certainly understand Dwarf, Gnome, and Half-Orc since all of these races do spend quite a bit of time underground. Likewise, I get Drow Elf having it. An argument can be made for the Tiefling's heritage I suppose, but then why not Dragonborns?

And why would the other Elf races and Half-Elf get it? There is no reason why except for a hold-over from earlier editions IMO.

If anyone would like to chime in on this, I'd love to hear your opinions and thanks!
 

Lord Twig

Explorer
Well the used to get low-light vision. But they decided to dumb it down so now everyone just gets the 60' darkvision (or 120' for Drow elves).
 

guachi

Villager
^^^^^^^
This.

It might make more sense to give elves low light vision, but 5e dumbed it down.

EDIT: or simplified it. 5e, to its credit, simplified a lot of things.
 

Charlaquin

Explorer
I agree that it's really, really dumb that dragonborn don't have darkvision. Dragons have it, kobolds have it, why not dragonborn?

As for elves, yeah, as others have said, they've historically had low-light vision, and 5e doesn't distinguish between low-light vision and Darkvision. And Darkvision only seems to come in 60 ft. and 120 ft. - Darkvision and Superior Darkvision. Not to mention, Darkvision has historically allowed you to see in darkness as if it were dim light within the specified radius, where in 5e it lets you see in darkness as if it were dim light at any distance, and in dim light as if it were darkness within the radius. Now, I'm not sure if this is RAI, but the that means by RAW, creatures with Darkvision can see out to their Darkvision radius in any lighting with no penalty at all (apart from it being monochrome, I guess).

I'm not a fan. Personally, I house rule Darkvision back to its historical function, allowing you to see in darkness as if it were dim light out to the radius, and add in a Low-light vision that functions like the Skulker Feat, allowing you to make attacks and vision-based checks without penalty in dim light. Elves and half-elves have low-light vision in my games rather than darkvision, and Dragonborn have Darkvision in a 60 ft. radius.
 
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Lord Twig

Explorer
^^^^^^^
This.

It might make more sense to give elves low light vision, but 5e dumbed it down.

EDIT: or simplified it. 5e, to its credit, simplified a lot of things.
Okay. Simplified.

And generally I am okay with simplifying. In this case I think it was unneeded. Low-light vision was simple enough to understand and made the races a little more diverse.

And yes, infravision was a thing back in the day. It was limited to 60' for elves, just like darkvision now. So I guess you could say that it is just going back to the basics of 1st and 2nd edition.

Still like low-light vision better. :)
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
Technically 5E has basically gone back to infravision (since everyone forgot/ignored ultravision). Simplicity is good, but I wish they would have prevented it from working in Normal Light and required you to adjust between the two at the end of your turn. This would then only require one description, rather than two (those who only see 40 feet from the torch vs. 60 feet for darkvision), and blind darkvision characters for about a round if the lights suddenly go out. I've considered houseruling it, but I don't know if my players will go for it.

Given my choice, I would have designed both Darkvision and Low-Light Vision, each with a listed distance.

Darkvision: you can see in Darkness within this range as if it were Dim Light.
Low-Light: you can see in Dim Light within this range as if it were Normal Light.

Darkvision: Dwarf 60 ft, Gnome 40 ft, Half-Orc 60 ft, Tiefling 40 ft
Low-Light: Elf 60 ft, Half-Elf 40 ft, Dragonborn 40 ft
Neither: Human, Halfling
Both: Drow 120 ft/ 60 ft, Half-Drow 60 ft/ 40 ft

Arguments could be made about distance and possibly moving Tiefling and Dragonborn between the two, but they shouldn't have both. Ideally you want a balance of 1-2 with good of each type
 

Kobold Stew

Adventurer
The flip side of this is that "historically" darkvision removed the problem of darkness, but in 5e it doesn't -- even with darkvision, in 5e you suffer disadvantage on all perception checks.

That's huge, and even parties with darkvision need to use light sources regularly.
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
Going back to the original post, I wouldn't see a problem house-ruling Dragonborn darkvision. It's really just a convenience if you don't want to bother micro-managing torches an the like. The race is a little underpowered anyway.
 
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WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
Yeah, besides I already house-ruled Dragonborn move to 25 (I like the idea of a slower, lumbering gate) and my players are fine with it. Giving Darkvision seems a nice trade-off.

I will also probably remove Darkvision from Elf and Half-Elf since the only justification seems it was a legacy ability (in various forms) from 1E on. I'll have to give it more thought, though.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts.
 

ExploderWizard

Villager
The flip side of this is that "historically" darkvision removed the problem of darkness, but in 5e it doesn't -- even with darkvision, in 5e you suffer disadvantage on all perception checks.

That's huge, and even parties with darkvision need to use light sources regularly.
Actually infravision did not remove the problem of darkness. It allowed heat signatures and differences to be seen in the dark. Cold blooded creatures and undead could still sneak right up on you and of course you literally couldn't see the writing on the wall. Darkvision is much better even with the drawbacks it still has.
 

Paul Farquhar

Explorer
I don't see any reason to remove darkvision from elves. They have it because D&D elves are based on Tolkien, and Tolkien's elves had a preference for night.

And in terms of gameplay, "doesn't have darkvision" is a minor inconvenience that adds nothing.
 

schnee

Villager
Our table has talked it through, and we're more about 'heroic drama' than logistics, so we track light, but only get super-picky when it's a more fright/horror game and we warn the characters ahead of time.

Still, even with that, disadvantage is HUGE, so the players still make difficult choices about when to use light, even though over half the party has dark vision.

The only house rule we have so far is that Dragonborn get Darkvision (and a free racial skill of Intimidation).

But, I might eventually make it more like 1e - only Dwarves and Drow get true underground Darkvision, and the Elves/Gnomes have Nightvision which gives the exact same benefits as long as they can above them is open sky, or if the sky is completely obscured it's because they're in thick forest. So, it retains some mystical connection with nature, and Dwarves are unique among the 'default' PC races.

That won't change the game much, but the places it does change it will feel more flavorful and add some new variations in encounters.
 
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Kobold Stew

Adventurer
Actually infravision did not remove the problem of darkness. It allowed heat signatures and differences to be seen in the dark. Cold blooded creatures and undead could still sneak right up on you and of course you literally couldn't see the writing on the wall. Darkvision is much better even with the drawbacks it still has.
All true - I could have been more precise. It remains true that darkvision in 5e presents significant obstacles that need light to overcome.
 

Bupp

Villager
One house rule I've seen is making the darkvision situational. Dwarven and drow darkvision only works underground, while elven darkvision only works under an open sky.
 
I can see removing darkvision from half-elves; their vision is lessened by their human heritage. Elves ("What do your elf eyes see?) make sense, for me. They're from Faerie, ancestrally, and I assume Faerie has some incredibly dark areas.

If I was going to rewrite the dragonborn (and I want to), I'd give them darkvision. It makes perfect sense.
 
I liked low light vision. It’s pretty easy to implement. Also to echo some of the other comments, make sure you are giving disadvantage for dim light conditions. You’ll find your players will carry light anyways.

If ou give Dragonborn darkvision, you should consider taking it away from half elves. With their human heritage, why would they get it anyways. Besides, they get the best racial bonuses.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
i would have handled it differently altogether

Start with the lighting rules...

magical darkness would equal blinded.
darkness would allow hide and provide advantage to those rolls.
dim light would allow hide checks.
normal light would not allow hide checks.

Obviously, other conditions would allow or disallow hide checks.

Then darkvision or other types of senses would provide advantage on perception checks in certain lighting and/or treat one lighting type as another.

As it is now, with almost all the "outdoors at night" basically equating to blinded - its way too much of a penalty to not have darkvision (leading to a lot of handwaving of the issue in actual play.)
 

Draegn

Explorer
For my game each race has a list of characteristics a player can choose from. Not all elves have dark/night vision.
 

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