Among other topics, darkvision in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons has been discussed at Nerdarchy HQ. While myself and the other Nerdarchists really don’t agree with the problem, I wanted to offer some helpful tips that I use in my sessions that might work in yours to make D&D darkvision more enjoyable. There are all manner of creatures and tactics that can be used to increase the level of intrigue in your campaigns, making your players less comfortable in the dark.
What happens in the dark with D&D darkvision
This is our house
Somewhat controversial to other Dungeon Masters when I mention it, is my tendency to give my monsters a kind of home field advantage. While the players are slowed, slogging through underbrush deep in a forest, the satyr defending the only home they’ve ever known do not suffer the same limitations. They know the these woods like an old friend and are able to move and flow with the foliage all around them. Using this natural home advantage that anyone living in a location for a long while would have, you can extrapolate this to dark caverns. Just as when you wake up in the night for your hazy trek to the restroom, you generally know your home well enough to navigate with your eyes closed. With this, kobolds, goblins, and the like within my world do not consider the dark as lightly obscured. They would easily be able to pick up on errant motion or small changes done to their home. This isn’t that they simply succeed all their Perception checks, it just makes a party that insists on going in the dark have a small penalty compared to the home defenders. What I commonly quote to my players when they debate using a light source or not is, “Whatever lives in here is probably very accustomed to the dark. How comfortable do you feel in their dark?”
D&D darkvision is not rare
Any creature that has survived in the weird world of D&D would probably develop all manner of skills to be successful. Anything that lives in the dark would have to contend with prey or worse, predators, that live in the same conditions. This would mean that to remain hidden in such an intense arms race over many generations, these creatures would develop abilities or tactics to focus on tricking the built-in flaws of darkvision. The camouflage patterns of a lurking beast might be perfect to disappear from darkvision, but simple torchlight uncovers the creature easily if it never deals with light. Sentient creatures could be even worse. Tactics they would learn to deal with darkvision foes could be as simple as hiding behind objects but could also be wearing paints or cave-dwelling animal hides to be rendered nearly invisible without the aid of light. This is without even mentioning the use of fog, magic, water and traps.
The points to remember are simple: creatures that dwell in the dark understand, likely on an instinctual level, D&D darkvision and have developed many tricks to level the playing field. What do you think? Is darkvision tanking your sessions or is this whole thing over blown? Let us know below and I’ll see you next time. Stay nerdy.
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Child of the Midwest, spending his adolescence dreaming of creating joy for gaming between sessions of cattle tending. He holds a fondness for the macabre, humorous and even a dash of grim dark. Aspiring designer spending most of his time writing and speculating on this beautiful hobby when he isn’t separating planes.