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Ridding Elves and Half-Elves of Darkvision

  • Thread starter WhosDaDungeonMaster
  • Start date

Stalker0

Adventurer
Its interesting the wording debate, I myself never considered the interpretation that darkvision turned all conditions into bright light.

Ultimately I think the better interpretation is to treat it as two abilities.

1) If you start in darkness, you may treat it like your in dim light.
2) If you start in dim light, you may treat it like your in bright light.

Otherwise I feel like they would have gone with a different sentence, such as "treat all light conditions as bright light".

Now I see why people interpret it the other way, but that may also people why some think darkvision is too strong.
 

Yaarel

Explorer
Starvision. If any dim or bright light is in your line of sight, you become able to see in any direction as if in bright daylight.




For the convenience of the DM, this version purposely avoids worrying about tracking light radiuses.

Moreorless only darkvision and torches need to force the DM to pay attention to distances.

I am similarly tempted to make ‘superior darkvision’ unlimited so as to eschew radius tracking.

For fey flavor, the Faerie Fire spell becomes fully illuminating for those with Starvision.
 
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MechaPilot

Explorer
I never really thought it made much sense for elves to have darkvision (or infravision), so when I designed my the elves for my homebrew setting I gave them telescopic vision instead. For a race that favors archery, that makes more sense to me.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
I'd be tempted to give tieflings devil's sight instead but I'm guessing a lot of people would be dead set against them having perfect vision in darkness as a racial ability.
The dark elves in my homebrew setting can see in darkness and magical darkness as if it were bright light (in B&W, just like darkvision). It makes them very good at sneaking (because they don't need light sources at all), and it makes them good at noticing potential enemies, but I haven't found it to be overpowering either as a character race quality or as a monster trait.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I’m not “lawyering” anything. “You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.” The most natural reading of that, in my opinion, is that you can see in all darkness as if it were dim light, and you can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, which means that in a lightless environment, you’d have a 60-foot radius around yourself in which you can see as if it were bright light, and beyond that you can see as if it were dim light.

Knowing that the intent is for the “within 60 feet of you” part to apply to the “, and in darkness as if it were dim light” part, it becomes clear that you are meant to be able to see in darkness within 60 feet of you differently than you are meant to see in dim light within 60 feet of you. But it is extremely unclear that that is the intent, which is why I believe my incorrect interpretation to be the most natural one.
IME most people have been running it correctly, including new players, in spite of it being worded wrong, so apparently the intent isn't too unclear, but it definitely isn't worded correctly.
As for lawyering, I was referring to the assertion that because you see in dim light as bright light, seeing in darkness as if it's dim light means you see in darkness as bright light. That isn't a natural reading, it's a bit by bit extrapolation of the exact wording with no regard for what the sentence is meant to say by a casual, natural, reading.

That’s what I’ve been saying. And yes, it’s worded that way in all the race entries.
I know, man. I was recognizing that in the text you quoted.

It doesn’t imply that you see in darkness as bright light, it implies that you see in all darkness as dim light, and that you see in dim light within 60 feet of you as bright light. Since you see in all darkness as dim light, you’d never have darkness within 60 feet of you to treat as bright light, because you’re already treating it as dim light, which you in turn treat as bright light if it is within 60 feet of you.

And once more for clarity: I now understand that this interpretation is wrong, but I stand by my assertion that it is the most natural way to read the text of dark vision in the PC race entries.
I'm sorry, but that makes no sense. You just went in circles. The text as written implies that "darkness as dim light" extends as far as you can see. That part needs errata. Nothing in the text implies that you see as if in bright light while standing in a lightless 60ft room.

There is no "which in turn". The meaning of the sentence clearly does not stack the second clause onto the first. It clearly refers to them as different cases that cause you to see differently. Because that is clear in the sentence structure and wording, it is then clear (with the rules clarification from SA) you see brightly in an area that is objectively dim light, and dimly in an area that is objectively darkness, within the stated range.

Again the elegant solution is to roll back WotC's ill-advised changes. This solves everything because nothing about low-light and dark vision was broken in 3E.
Eh, I'd rather just make Darkvision make more sense by making it explicitly fit Charlequin's initial reading, and leave it at that, or make improved darkvision work that way.

I never really thought it made much sense for elves to have darkvision (or infravision), so when I designed my the elves for my homebrew setting I gave them telescopic vision instead. For a race that favors archery, that makes more sense to me.
OK, you really gonna just drop that and then not explain how you made telescopic vision work in 5e mechanical terms?
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
OK, you really gonna just drop that and then not explain how you made telescopic vision work in 5e mechanical terms?
I figured I'd leave it unexplained unless someone asked. Kinda feels like I'm plugging my homebrew stuff if I just drop in it without people asking how it works. The ability is pasted below:

Telescopic Vision. Elf eyes contain several lenses that can overlap to create telescopic vision. When an elf has activated her telescopic vision, she can (barring obstructions) see anything within 2 miles as if it were within five feet of her. While this telescopic vision is active, the elf doesn't suffer disadvantage on ranged attacks against foes at long range. The elf is also blind to anything between her and the thing she is viewing. Activating or deactivating her telescopic vision uses the elf's free object interaction and can therefore be done as part of the elf's movement.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There is no "which in turn". The meaning of the sentence clearly does not stack the second clause onto the first. It clearly refers to them as different cases that cause you to see differently. Because that is clear in the sentence structure and wording, it is then clear (with the rules clarification from SA) you see brightly in an area that is objectively dim light, and dimly in an area that is objectively darkness, within the stated range.
Look, it’s really not that complicated. “You see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.” If we go with the most natural reading of this text instead of the intended reading, it suggests that you see in any and all darkness as if it were dim light, and you see in dim light that is within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light. So let’s say you’re in a lightless 120 foot room. You see in that room as if it were dim light. If it were dim light, you would see normally out to 60 feet, and with disadvantage (and in monochrome) beyond that. Ergo, in order to see in it as if it were dim light, you must see in it normally within 60 feet of you. Otherwise you’re not seeing in it as if it were dim light, you’re seeing in it as if it were some other light quality in which you see with disadvantage when it’s within 60 feet of you.

There’s nothing unnatural about that interpretation. I’ll grant that it’s not the way everyone intuitively interprets it (clearly, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion) but I certainly interpreted it that way initially, and I don’t think there’s anything particularly outlandish about that reading. In fact, I think it is more consistent with the text as it is written. I’m perfectly comfortable with that not being the intent, and we seem to be in agreement that the section in question is in need of errata, and that a clarification about the distance would be sufficient (although I maintain that also changing “as if it were” to “as other creatures see in” would further improve the clarity). What further purpose do you have in arguing this point except to demean my (admittedly mistaken) initial interpretation?
 
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Grakarg

Explorer
I find that players often think Darkvision is more powerful than it is, and don't bother to carry torches or use it as a way to avoid thinking about light sources.
Don't forget some wrinkles about darkvision if your group of players think they are totally fine to run around in the dark.
Darkvision treats darkness as if it were dim light, not bright light. Things are still tough to see in dim light and you can't see color.

From the PHB: "In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight"
Just remind them that they're at disadvantage, have them roll it a few times to see if they are surprised by the monsters while they stumble around in the dungeon. Its amazing what a motivator the disadvantage mechanic is for lighting a torch.

As well as stumbling into the green slime or yellow mold because you can't see color.

It has its uses but... it has its drawbacks too!
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
Look, it’s really not that complicated. “You see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light.” If we go with the most natural reading of this text instead of the intended reading, it suggests that you see in any and all darkness as if it were dim light, and you see in dim light that is within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light. So let’s say you’re in a lightless 120 foot room. You see in that room as if it were dim light. If it were dim light, you would see normally out to 60 feet, and with disadvantage (and in monochrome) beyond that. Ergo, in order to see in it as if it were dim light, you must see in it normally within 60 feet of you. Otherwise you’re not seeing in it as if it were dim light, you’re seeing in it as if it were some other light quality in which you see with disadvantage when it’s within 60 feet of you.

There’s nothing unnatural about that interpretation. I’ll grant that it’s not the way everyone intuitively interprets it (clearly, or we wouldn’t be having this discussion) but I certainly interpreted it that way initially, and I don’t think there’s anything particularly outlandish about that reading. In fact, I think it is more consistent with the text as it is written. I’m perfectly comfortable with that not being the intent, and we seem to be in agreement that the section in question is in need of errata, and that a clarification about the distance would be sufficient (although I maintain that also changing “as if it were” to “as other creatures see in” would further improve the clarity). What further purpose do you have in arguing this point except to demean my (admittedly mistaken) initial interpretation?
I guess it just bugs me that you’re insisting that the “see as if in bright light within 60ft no matter what” interpretation is a natural reading. IMO, it is entirely dependent on going multiple steps down an extrapolation spiral, which inherently makes it not intuitive or natural.

I’ve seen many players read it as darkvision out to the horizon. I’ve never seen anyone else interpret it as giving full vision in darkness within the radius.

Which I guess means I’m just doing the thing I despise, and being pedantic. Which means I’m wrong even if I’m right, because pedantry is always stupid and useless. So, sorry. Carry on.

I figured I'd leave it unexplained unless someone asked. Kinda feels like I'm plugging my homebrew stuff if I just drop in it without people asking how it works. The ability is pasted below:

Telescopic Vision. Elf eyes contain several lenses that can overlap to create telescopic vision. When an elf has activated her telescopic vision, she can (barring obstructions) see anything within 2 miles as if it were within five feet of her. While this telescopic vision is active, the elf doesn't suffer disadvantage on ranged attacks against foes at long range. The elf is also blind to anything between her and the thing she is viewing. Activating or deactivating her telescopic vision uses the elf's free object interaction and can therefore be done as part of the elf's movement.
Nice! I might steal that!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I guess it just bugs me that you’re insisting that the “see as if in bright light within 60ft no matter what” interpretation is a natural reading. IMO, it is entirely dependent on going multiple steps down an extrapolation spiral, which inherently makes it not intuitive or natural.

I’ve seen many players read it as darkvision out to the horizon. I’ve never seen anyone else interpret it as giving full vision in darkness within the radius.
I dunno, it was intuitive to me. Maybe I just process that kind of extrapolation more easily than most? I dunno, but like I said, I’ll grant that it is not the way everyone intuitively interprets the text, but I don’t think it’s especially unintuitive, and it’s certainly more technically accurate. But, sure, I guess it’s fair to say that it’s not the most intuitive reading, even if it is how I intuitively read it.

Which I guess means I’m just doing the thing I despise, and being pedantic. Which means I’m wrong even if I’m right, because pedantry is always stupid and useless. So, sorry. Carry on.
No worries. If you were being pedantic, so was I, so sorry about my part in it as well.
 

5ekyu

Explorer
I find that players often think Darkvision is more powerful than it is, and don't bother to carry torches or use it as a way to avoid thinking about light sources.
Don't forget some wrinkles about darkvision if your group of players think they are totally fine to run around in the dark.
Darkvision treats darkness as if it were dim light, not bright light. Things are still tough to see in dim light and you can't see color.

From the PHB: "In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight"
Just remind them that they're at disadvantage, have them roll it a few times to see if they are surprised by the monsters while they stumble around in the dungeon. Its amazing what a motivator the disadvantage mechanic is for lighting a torch.

As well as stumbling into the green slime or yellow mold because you can't see color.

It has its uses but... it has its drawbacks too!
But... barring tremorsense, monsters with darkvision and no light have the same issues - so those monsters are as likely to be surprised in many cases yes?

Compare this to carrying lights which give away your presence well before you get close enough that their light helps you see better than dim.

And it's not like vision is the only sense that tells you of things around you - sound and smell go a long way.

I have seen way to many get hung up on vision and light and pretty much treat them as be all end all of encounter setups... and then some wonder why some players exclude non-Dv races so much - it's because they were trained to do so by GMs.

Had a recent game where this was the case and every night varmints seemed to keep popping up at the edge of someone's visual range by light. Even large varmints with net stealth of -1 or worse never got heard on approach. They just appear at the 30' range if that's where the light ended.

My answer to "Does your character have darkvision?" became "No, but they have ears!" to no avail.
 

clearstream

Explorer
I find that players often think Darkvision is more powerful than it is, and don't bother to carry torches or use it as a way to avoid thinking about light sources.
Don't forget some wrinkles about darkvision if your group of players think they are totally fine to run around in the dark.
Darkvision treats darkness as if it were dim light, not bright light. Things are still tough to see in dim light and you can't see color.

From the PHB: "In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight"
Just remind them that they're at disadvantage, have them roll it a few times to see if they are surprised by the monsters while they stumble around in the dungeon. Its amazing what a motivator the disadvantage mechanic is for lighting a torch.
That's true, albeit I think partially it becomes fiddly so DM's rightly hand-wave it.

That thought aside though, that disadvantage hits heavily as it applies a -5 to passive Wisdom (Perception), which is what is used when stumbling around unless slowing considerably to make active checks.
 

clearstream

Explorer
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!
I'd like to chime in reiterating that fog and smoke, are the new dark.
 
W

WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
Thanks all for the input. I can understand the Darkvision interpretation debate from either side, and don't think either reading is more sensible than the other. One was the spirit of the ability, the other the literal interpretation of the text. The reading of all darkness as dim lights removes the arbitrary 60" range on total sight distance, instead limiting the bright light from dim to that range. Either works. *shrug*

While I can understand the idea of Elves having "telescopic" vision ("Legolas, what do your elf-eyes see?"), I think making 2 miles seem like 5 feet is a bit extreme IMO, but if it works for you then cool. I like the idea, but I would probably make the mechanic work differently. For me, somewhere around making Elf-eyes 5-10 times more accurate would be more than enough. Since there is no rule for making perception checks at distances (say over 100 feet or something), game mechanic-wise the DM would have to rule when Elf-eyes come into play. Maybe for Perception checks beyond 120 feet, Elves have advantage? Or, if you house-rule any sight-based Perception check beyond 120 feet is at disadvantage, Elf-eyes would counter that.

Right now we're still playing RAW, but I did give the Dragonborn character Darkvision simply because it was also my error from the beginning. The player appreciates it, because he was shocked when I told him Dragonborn normally don't have it. Since I nerfed their Move Speed to 25, it seems like a balanced trade-off.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
I find that players often think Darkvision is more powerful than it is, and don't bother to carry torches or use it as a way to avoid thinking about light sources.
Don't forget some wrinkles about darkvision if your group of players think they are totally fine to run around in the dark.
Darkvision treats darkness as if it were dim light, not bright light. Things are still tough to see in dim light and you can't see color.

From the PHB: "In a lightly obscured area, such as dim light, patchy fog, or moderate foliage, creatures have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight"
Just remind them that they're at disadvantage, have them roll it a few times to see if they are surprised by the monsters while they stumble around in the dungeon. Its amazing what a motivator the disadvantage mechanic is for lighting a torch.

As well as stumbling into the green slime or yellow mold because you can't see color.

It has its uses but... it has its drawbacks too!
Nah, monsters have abysmal skill scores. You can easily detect monsters even with disadvantage.

On the other hand, being able to travel in total darkness (as a group) is a game changer advantage.

You easily choose dim light over being insta-spotted from miles away (overland) and a hundred yards (in the Underdark).

Tldr: Darkvision isn't particularly powerful on its own. But the absence of it, in a group that otherwise could extinguish their light sources, is a severe handicap.

You are much better served by choosing a Darkvision race in a group that doesn't already consisting of Humans.

And the bottom line: reverting Elves and Gnomes to low-light vision relegates the all-Darkvision party to the sidelines where it belongs! :)
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
Remember, treating Darkvision as only providing dim light is a 5E invention to justify the removal of low-light vision.

It makes Darkvision far fiddler than it needs to be.

The solution is to restore low-light vision to the game, and drop the gotchas surrounding Darkvision.

Yes, Underdark races do use light. But only within the safety of their settlements!

No sane sentry or watchtower use light, when maintaining a total blackout when you yourself can see in the dark gives you a huge advantage, and keeps your post hidden.

Even the tiniest pinprick of light is instantly visible from far away in blackout conditions.

Human adventurers trying to conceal their lanterns, holding them underneath their cloaks, and so on... Just forget about it.

From the vantage point of a sentry (or lurking monster) this light is instantly visible from far away, much farther than 60 ft.

Carrying a light into a pitch black cave automatically means never surprising anything ever again.

So revert foresty races to low-light vision and do away with easy all-Darkvision parties! emoji846 is gigantic
 
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Caliburn101

Explorer
Everything and its dog has Darkvision in 5th Edition - it's ridiculous - a very foolish design decision. WotC have added to the mass of DV races by adding it in nearly every statblock. It's like a 'filler' ability these days.

They even had to design the Gloom Stalker Ranger so their 'hide the dark' abilities fool Darkvision. Otherwise it would be practically useless.

It was a simplification gone too far, Low Light Vision is easy to run - you see in dim light like bright light... there... done.

In my games none but Underdark races and the right sorts of Monsters have Darkvision, and all relevant PC races etc. have had it replaced with Low Light Vision.

It works much better and takes nothing from the game or the players.

I recommend you replace it too, and enjoy running night ambushes that actually work as intended again.
 

clearstream

Explorer
Everything and its dog has Darkvision in 5th Edition - it's ridiculous - a very foolish design decision. WotC have added to the mass of DV races by adding it in nearly every statblock. It's like a 'filler' ability these days.

They even had to design the Gloom Stalker Ranger so their 'hide the dark' abilities fool Darkvision. Otherwise it would be practically useless.

It was a simplification gone too far, Low Light Vision is easy to run - you see in dim light like bright light... there... done.

In my games none but Underdark races and the right sorts of Monsters have Darkvision, and all relevant PC races etc. have had it replaced with Low Light Vision.

It works much better and takes nothing from the game or the players.

I recommend you replace it too, and enjoy running night ambushes that actually work as intended again.
The great eye-biting plague of '79, also a possibility. But really, just make it a dark and foggy night...
 

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