# How do I GM an encounter where all characters are effectively blind?

I would like to include an encounter in my campaign that involves a battle between the PCs and a group of monsters where they are all effectively blind. To take away the race abilities that allow for dark and low-light vision I planned on pitting the PCs against a group of humans in black robes in a room circled in drapes of the same material along with a carpet of the same material. I feel that this would provide a plausible enough reason to treat everyone as blind.

Being new to Pathfinder and RPGs in general I'm not quite sure how to deal with such a scenario. I was thinking that perception checks can still be used based on other senses. Should a perception check be required by everyone against everyone every round or are the characters required to use stealth once they've been spotted by a successful perception check?

My main problem is understanding how anyone will be able to get close enough to anyone else to have a melee. Once they are close enough the rules are pretty clear: they suffer several penalties according to the blinded condition.

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Have you given this a try yet? I'd be interested to know how your players reacted & how the encounter progressed and if/how any of yhe suggestions here worked out for you. Anything else you wish you would've or wouldn't have done? – Ben-Jamin Jan 3 '13 at 15:25
Another GM is hosting for a session and we usually only play every 3 weeks or so. I hope to include the encounter in the next session that I host. I'll be sure to report back! – steven_p Jan 11 '13 at 1:44

First off, I love the premise, sounds like an exciting fight.

However, there are definitely going to be issue to consider based on the PC level. Let's just consider a fight with PCs at level 5 or so (access to 3rd level spells).

Things to consider:

1. First off, rules for total darkness are here. Worth a read-through to ensure you know all of the effects.
2. Decide how the robed villains will actually "see" the PCs. How will they approach the PCs (flying? walking? sneaking?)
3. Light, is a 0th-level spell. Consider something like Deeper Darkness, possibly a permanent version. Note that Light will counter one level of visibility. Players will likely have Dispel Magic as well, so your Darkness spell will need a caster level. Additionally, players may have access to Daylight.
4. Consider what happens when spells that emit light are cast. What happens if a player shoots a fireball "into the darkness"? Do players get an extra perception check?
5. Consider extra-sensory perceptions. Do the PCs have any abilities with that grant Scent ability? Maybe they have access to some form of lifesense or blindsense or tremorsense. Are the creatures undead? Do they move on the ground or float? Do they emit any smells?
6. Consider how you will treat summoned creatures or familiars / allies with one of these abilities. i.e.: Can I summon dogs and send them to attack and simply follow their growls?

Total darkness is really difficult thing to achieve in a world where PCs have access to any number of light spells and magical items that emit light. By the same token, if you don't use any spells and go with "the material was really black", be prepared to answer some questions from the PCs who will want to harvest this stuff. If the material was black enough to completely hide villains, then every rogue worth their salt wants a piece of that :)

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I hadn't considered using the robes\drapes as loot but I may just have to do that. Thanks for highlighting many of the things that I'll need to consider. I would have no doubt overlooked many of them. I'm working with level 2 PCs so I guess I'll have to keep deeper darkness in my back pocket. – steven_p Dec 31 '12 at 18:06

IMHO, you would be better served to use a spell like Deeper Darkness that prevents darkvision. Be aware that PCs may be able to dispel it. Depending on your PCs' abilities, they may also have access to things like tremorsense or blindsense that enable them to locate and target enemies without being able to see. You could also consider using Greater Invisibility, or making the attackers ethereal using Ghost Touch weapons (this would make it even harder); there are ways to work around each of those too, though.

I would treat the robed figures as invisible attackers. The PCs can make Perception checks to determine which squares contain enemies; they can choose to attack a square, and suffer a penalty on their attack (offhand, I think it's 50% miss chance). If they don't make a good enough Perception check, they can choose to attack a random square and hope that an enemy is there. I think characters are treated as flat-footed against an invisible attacker (though abilities like Uncanny Dodge can negate this penalty).

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Great tips. It looks like I'll be adding deeper darkness to the fight. – steven_p Dec 31 '12 at 18:08

They will seek to find the enemies and each other. They might be stunned for a round but they'll come out of it quickly, good players will react faster and the other players will follow suit. Also describe in detail what they can hear, it'll help to make them move about "looking for their targets".

Keep a small grid map behind a GM screen, put the players as small tokens (Pennies, dimes, painted stones) and the robes as other tokens. Move your tokens and then ask players to roll checks for things like attacks of opportunity as the mobs pass them (ask the whole group and if anyone makes the DC allow them a roll). Remember things like Blind-Fight feat and spells that help you Sense things should lower the DC for perception checks.

When the PC's get a turn allow them to swing where they choose and if they hit a target then have them roll damage, remembering their comrades are there and that they may in fact be hitting those other players.

Do not give them any map of their own unless they have made sure to be touching one another (lower AC's accordingly for more encumbering movement).

This can be a really great encounter, having done this myself, one note keep in mind that the robes need to be a lower CR or the PC's will never hit them or be slaughtered so quickly that they would have no chance to survive. Also this makes the XP for the encounter go up a step or three.

This really adds to the game if your players love dramatic encounters, mine sure did.

Good luck.

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Excellent answer, particularly about focusing on the other senses in describing the scene. – Wibbs Nov 30 '12 at 22:59

# Be Preapred for the ingenuity of your PCs!

As stated, Deeper Darkness may be the way to go, or atleast add it aswell to hinder the PCs ability to thwart your well thought out plans. I know this has already been stated, but there is more to consider! (I'm new here so I can't yet comment or I would have done it there, but I think these points are valid enough to warrant a post)
Another way to avoid Darkvision that wouldn't require such a stringent setup is to have your enemies wear a Ring that negates your enemies Darkvision (it's been awhile since I've used it so i can't remember the name of the ring, but it makes hide checks work vs darkvision as well)

However, regardless of how you go about this, Mundane or Magical you have to be prepared for the ingenuity of your PCs.

For instance, without any magical effects (ie, simply a dark room setup as you described), the 1st thing I would likely do as a PC is cast some version of light. (light/dancing light/daylight etc) If for whatever reason that doesn't work, Glitterdust is a fantastic way to light your enemies and your allies (although you may risk blinding your allies as well).

Another trick I have personally used is Detect Magic! True, it only works while concentrating (and on creatures possessing magical items) so I'll have to deal with that if I want to attack, but it will be worth the 0-lvl spell! If you allow talking as a "free/immidiate action" I could also use it to warn my allies: "Fighter watch your left!" (hopefully granting him atleast some of his dex back)

I don't know the level you're planning on using for this, but as long as your enemies don't plan on using magic, (including magical darkness) an anti-magic field would eliminate over 90% of what the PCs can do! Otherwise, you're enemies may only have an advantage for 1-2 rnds.

Lastly, if I'm in that scenario and none of my magic is revealing the enemies, I may just set the carpet/drapes on fire! Sure it may not be the safest thing to do, but it beats getting sneak attacked to death!

I'm sure there are several more ways for the PCs to deal with it. BTW, if they do figure it out, while you may be disapointed that the fight was easier than you intended you may want to consider rewarding the player who figured it out with a little bit of bonus XP. (depending on how long it took and the like...)

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I had hoped for a mainly mundane solution. Setting the drapes on fire certainly falls in the scope of that type of encounter. Thanks for the feedback. – steven_p Dec 31 '12 at 18:03