In more than one of my D&D campaigns, I've found myself feeling disappointed at my inability to make the darkness of the dungeon matter.
Everyone has enough torches, and I'm not likely to be able to undo that repeatedly. I can strip the party of torches once or twice, maybe, and after that I'm just a jerk. I don't even need them to be in total darkness, I just want the darkness to have an impact beyond easily-ignored ambiance. So far, it feels like its main impact is that the party can't split up as easily, and at least one of the party's hands is tied up holding a torch.
I've tried thinking about films that I think do a good job with darkness, but so far not many have helped: they all have protagonists caught without a light, or using a flashlight – a very directional light, which totally changes the nature of visibility.
Here are some options that have come to mind, but I would love to hear from the voices of experience, rather than being forced to try each of these in turn:
- crank the chances of a random encounter way up because of omnidirectional torches
- add occasional rooms where torches won't or shouldn't stay lit (wind, flammable gas)
- crank up the chances (read: add a chance) of torches going out during combat
…and beyond these, which just look to reduce the use of torches or other fire, I want to improve the effectiveness of darkness as a environmental effect even when there is some light source. After all, eventually the party will have continual light and I can't threaten them with mine gas. How can I make the darkness matter, even when it's only outside the 30' radius of the light source? So far, I've got even fewer ideas here:
- any creature moving in the outside the torchlight is invisible
Thanks. I look forward to finding out how to make darkness a real problem.