D&D 5E This Almost Never Happens (A Light/Vision Thread)

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
We had our Session Zero a couple of weeks ago, and everyone rolled up brand-new, 1st-level characters. While I was putting together the first adventure in Roll20, I rigged up the map with dynamic lighting and configured the vision for each character...and that's when I noticed:
  • Nobody in the party has Darkvision.
  • Nobody in the party can cast the light or dancing lights cantrips.
  • Nobody in the party can cast control flame, faerie fire, or produce flame, either.
  • In fact, nobody in the party even bothered to purchase a single light source, apart from the torches that are included in their starting adventure pack.
What a gift! This is the best gift my players have ever given me as a DM. Finally, FINALLY, light sources will actually matter!

How often does this happen in D&D? Has it even happened before? Usually the players will collaborate (conspire?) with each other to ensure that at least 2 characters in the group have Darkvision, and the arcanist in the party will spam the dancing lights cantrip like it's a hobby. But not this time!

So as soon as I made that realization, I decided to really lean into it. A DM almost never gets the opportunity to use this level of verisimilitude and immersion. I've decided that their first adventure is going to be in a newly-discovered tunnel of an abandoned mine, deep underground with no light sources. But I'm not completely heartless; one of the first encounters will be against a pair of giant fire beetles, allowing the party to harvest the glands afterward for light sources. And the dungeon is mercifully small and short (they are 1st level characters, after all), but they will find enough coin to hopefully purchase some lanterns back in town afterward.
 
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Unfair DM-ing! Quantum no-lights! Or... something...

But, for serious, I love the fire beetle start. That is the DM being a fan of the PCs in action.
Which also brings to mind this Kickstarter I just got tricked into supporting b/c someone I follow backed it:
(but it does look pretty cool all the same)
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Roll20 really makes it easy to manage the impact of light sources, so I also lean into this hard in most games I run. Even characters with darkvision will also use light sources because of the disadvantage to Perception in dim light. Dancing lights is a fantastic spell that is underused in most games I watch or play in, but in my games, it's a great choice (that concentration requirement though!).

Illumination, elevation, cover, obscured areas, difficult or hazardous terrain - these make the setting real, a thing to be contended with, something that influences decision-making. The game is really lacking if these are not implemented well in my view.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
If you care about such things deeply... have you heard of "Veins of the Earth"? :D :D :D

edit: also, if light is going to be important, then time has to be measured. Torches run out.

I ran a GLOG game that was a lot like this. The PCs had very limited resources, and each torch was precious (they were a day or two away from the nearest village). At one point, goblins threw a bucket of water at the torch bearer....
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
If you care about such things deeply... have you heard of "Veins of the Earth"? :D :D :D

edit: also, if light is going to be important, then time has to be measured. Torches run out.

I ran a GLOG game that was a lot like this. The PCs had very limited resources, and each torch was precious (they were a day or two away from the nearest village). At one point, goblins threw a bucket of water at the torch bearer....
Heh. I like what you did with goblins and buckets of water. :)

Yeah, I'm still working on how I can manage time. Short and long rests are easy enough to handle, since they are measured in hours...but everything else might get a bit tedious. I'm looking into some API Scripts now that might do the trick...my coding is weak and rusty, but I should be able to hammer something out.

UPDATE:
Looks like another user by the name of Filip Č. has already built a Time Tracker add-on script for Roll20. I'm gonna put the links here so that I can find them, and I'll test it out this evening when I'm off work.
Code:
## IMPORTANT NOTE ## When pasting into a macro, if it is opened after saving, the entire command will need to be repasted due to the way queries and macros interact. The ASCII formats must remain intact (ie, { and }) in order for the drop down queries to work as intended.

!time -?{Time options|Plus Time,plus ?{hours|0}:?{minutes|0}|Add Event,addevent ?{name}:?{hours|0}:?{minutes|0}|List of Events,events|Set Time,set ?{hours|0}:?{minutes|0}|Show Time,show|Set Timeformat,setformat ?{format|24}}

UPDATE 2:
That lighting script and macro are both working great! It allows me to set the time of day, and allows me to track things like torches and lanterns and the Mage Armor spell, and then sends a message to the chat whenever one of those things expires. And that's all fine and good, but it's also a pain to set up, doesn't display properly, won't whisper its output to me alone, and worst of all, I have to remember to click buttons whenever time passes. And honestly, I'm not sure I want to fuss this much over it.

So my options are: click three mouse buttons and type in a number, or write down a number on some scratch paper. Mmm, I think I'll go with the low-tech solution.

(That said: if you use Roll20 Pro, and you're looking for a time tracking script, check this one out.)
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Heh. I like what you did with goblins and buckets of water. :)

Yeah, I'm still working on how I can manage time. Short and long rests are easy enough to handle, since they are measured in hours...but everything else will be pretty tedious. I'm looking into some API Scripts now that might do the trick...my coding is weak and rusty, but I should be able to hammer something out.
You just have to tie exploration tasks to a set time. I use 10 minutes. It's 10 minutes to search a set area for secret doors or traps, forage, loot, pick a lock, etc. So just like combat, everyone does their thing, I mark off 10 minutes, then proceed to the next "round" unless the players opt to do something else. Then you make it so every 10, 30, or 60 minutes, there's a wandering monster check to add tension and create meaningful decisions about how much time to spend on these sorts of tasks.

You can add time to the list of things that I think makes the setting real (as I mentioned above).
 

You just have to tie exploration tasks to a set time. I use 10 minutes. It's 10 minutes to search a set area for secret doors or traps, forage, loot, pick a lock, etc. So just like combat, everyone does their thing, I mark off 10 minutes, then proceed to the next "round" unless the players opt to do something else. Then you make it so every 10, 30, or 60 minutes, there's a wandering monster check to add tension and create meaningful decisions about how much time to spend on these sorts of tasks.

You can add time to the list of things that I think makes the setting real (as I mentioned above).
I use an excel spreadsheet for the time, writing in brief descriptions for when notable events occur so its easy to reference back how much time has passed since x event. It is the best thing I've incorporated for our exploration pillar as it is easy to then insert random encounters, control light sources, rests, duration of spells, time of day and forced marches as well as create time pressures.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
You just have to tie exploration tasks to a set time. I use 10 minutes. It's 10 minutes to search a set area for secret doors or traps, forage, loot, pick a lock, etc. So just like combat, everyone does their thing, I mark off 10 minutes, then proceed to the next "round" unless the players opt to do something else. Then you make it so every 10, 30, or 60 minutes, there's a wandering monster check to add tension and create meaningful decisions about how much time to spend on these sorts of tasks.

You can add time to the list of things that I think makes the setting real (as I mentioned above).
Yeah, this is the old "turn", a unit of time (10 min) used to measure dungeon exploration in older ruleset.

What I normally do - when an adventure demands tighter time keeping - is to assign each room or "zone" (like a long corridor) a number of turn the room should take to explore/search. A fight takes one turn - the looting the bodies, healing wounds, looking for clues etc takes a fair amount of time. And then just have a time tracker - it could just be ticks on a scrap of paper - to count the turns. once you have 5 turns, you inform the party that the torch is starting to look worn, they have one more turn of light.

Of course, if the party decides to hoof it back to the surface, just use normal movement rates - but not moving cautiously around might trigger a random encounter...
 

Stormonu

Legend
In the immortal words of Picard, “There. Are. No. Lights!”

A campaign I was building has a level that magically dims/negates light. I haven’t had the chance to test it, but I’m curious to see how making light important (and not having ways around it) change up the game.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yeah, this is the old "turn", a unit of time (10 min) used to measure dungeon exploration in older ruleset.
I tied it to 10 minutes not for legacy purposes but because it fits pretty neatly within certain things like spell durations or ritual casting times. As well, 6 "rounds" per hour is a little easier to manage in my view than, say, 60 if I tied it to 1 minute increments. If I am using a rule of 8 hours of travel/adventuring per day before forced march rolls start happening, it means each adventuring day has 48 of these increments which end up being a resource like hit points or hit dice for the players to manage. You get 48 "rounds" of things you can do minus travel time, use it wisely!
 

pukunui

Legend
Next time I run Curse of Strahd, I'm thinking I'll either limit it to races without darkvision or just say that darkvision doesn't work in Barovia (except for vampires and other allies of Strahd). I found that having PCs who could see in the dark ran against the theme of a horror story too much for my taste.
 

Tales and Chronicles

Jewel of the North, formerly know as vincegetorix
I'm a big fan more magical darkness in supernatural/haunted/mysterious places. In fact, most of my Underdark is filled with with the equivalent of a mass upcasted Darkness spell. Now the players have to invest in some light!

Oh and dont forget living spells: a Huge (or gargantuan) sentient Shadow of Moil or Maddening Darkness engulfing the party in the dungeon will guarantee that they'll never use Darkvision as a once-size-fits-all anti-darkness solution!
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
The part that baffles me is that this wasn't planned at all. I didn't restrict any race options, the players could choose any race they wanted (and I also allowed the customization options in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.) I didn't have any houserules or restrictions for darkvision, either. The players could choose their spells from any WotC sourcebook they wanted, they could purchase their equipment a la carte, and they even got to start with a free magic item from Table B.

I was deliberately hands-off with their characters: I wanted them to have free reign to play exactly the character they wanted to play, and then I would shape the world around them. (You know, the opposite of what usually happens with homebrew campaign settings.)

The odds of this happening were almost nil.

I'm really looking forward to looking at the sword-and-board Fighter and asking, with a straight face, "Which hand are you using to hold the torch?" Because just this once, after more than three decades of playing D&D and seeing the same clichés, the fighter won't be able to beg the mage for a light spell.
 
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Warpiglet-7

Cry havoc! And let slip the pigs of war!
I have been wondering about this problem for some time. I like the atmosphere and groundedness that torches and lamps imply.

I toyed with the idea that since my world’s main religion involves the symbol of a brazier, magical light works differently. I want to get rid of the cantrip.

But I don’t want to frustrate folks—-just create more atmosphere and little more logistics. I have less and issuer with prestidigitation to light stuff.

I think as a player and DM I have been lax in keeping track of my own and other pc’s and monsters’ darkvision. It ain’t perfect thought we sometimes treat it that way!
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Something else I should mention - not every system has 80% ish of races having darkvision. In the GLOG (keeping in mind there are many, many versions of the GLOG) only one race can see in the dark (goblins). It creates the situation depicted in the OP by default.
 

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