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I have a question in regards to how vision works at night in pathfinder. According to my understanding of the rules if you are outside at night and the moon\stars are out the dc to see somebody is

+2(unfavorable conditions) +1 per 10 feet.

So this means the average Joe can see somebody at 80 feet relatively easily and the hero player is likely to see people at somewhere in the range of 100-150 feet relatively easily. This is assuming no stealth is involved.

My question is, for many battles that is probably the entire battle map or close to it. Does it seem right that at night players will be able to see pretty much anyone who is not using stealth and behind something? Also how does cover work. Say a npc is crouching somewhere partially covered.

This gets even easier for elves as the penalty for unfavorable conditions would go away.

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Someone who is not hiding, standing 80 feet away, on a moonlit night, visible 50% of the time to an Average Jane? That seems about right. Why does that seem wrong to you? –  SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '13 at 17:38
I am more worried about the player situation which basically means nighttime has minimal effect on perception since 100-150 feet away is a long way for an encounter. A daytime encounter would be the same dc just without the -2. Do you think its almost as easy to see people at day as at night? –  Kendric Nov 5 '13 at 18:16
You're specifically talking about moonlight. That's actually very bright light for night-adapted eyes. (Farmers used to keep working the fields during full moons.) If you mean an overcast, moonless night then that's pitch dark and everyone counts as invisible. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '13 at 18:22
For those of us who actually spend meaningful amounts of time outdoors and/or away from electrical lighting (your pathfinder characters, unless in a VERY unusual campaign, spend a lot of time without electrical lighting), nighttime is a minimal affect on visibility. Especially on a moonlit night, I can often see significantly better than I can with the harsh glare of the mid-day sun. Granted, it does depend on what I'm looking at (small objects with dark colors close to the color of the background are generally easier to spot in daylight, for example.) –  Matthew Najmon Nov 6 '13 at 7:33
Here's a link to the environmental rules for Pathfinder: Darkness –  Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Visibility is extremely situational, and "night" can actually cover a wide variety of lighting conditions, even without artificial light sources.

Someone who is not hiding, standing 80 feet away, on a moonlit night, visible 50% of the time to an Average Jane? That seems about right. Full moonlight is actually very bright light, and to night-adapted eyes is only slightly less useful than full daylight. A mere +2 DC is about right.

By comparison, an overcast, moonless night or nighttime during rain is pitch dark, and everyone counts as invisible. Invisible imposes a +20 DC to visibility-related Perception checks, which also seems about right. It's very hard to see your own hand under such conditions, let alone someone standing quietly ten feet away.

In more mixed conditions, you have to use your judgement. A city street with torches on posts every 50 feet? There will be pools of bright light, and the ambient light between them will be more than "pitch dark", but the bright lights will also cause light adaption, making the spaces between harder to see in. In such cases, you might decide that it depends on where you're standing and looking: If you're in the torchlight, everything outside it is invisible; if you're in the dark and looking at someone in the torchlight, there's no penalty to see them but (because you're ruining your night vision) everything around you is invisible; if you've spent a few rounds focused on just things in the darkness, then you get the +20 DC for invisibility for the first few rounds, then the +5 DC for terrible visibility when your eyes adjust.

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+1 moonlight really is quite bright. Also, I'd add that seeing someone in the city street between the viewer and a light source would count as pinpointing, if not outright visibility. Of course, that assumes that light travels, which is sort of glossed over by the rules lol. –  LitheOhm Nov 6 '13 at 2:21
@LitheOhm Good point! That would definitely count as a bonus to perceive someone. And yeah, for real-world things that aren't outright contradicted by the rules, normal expectations of how reality works is valid. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '13 at 3:14
@SevenSidedDie especially when these points, while perhaps not explicitly covered by rules, are at least given a nod by them in the circumstance modifier guidelines. –  Matthew Najmon Nov 6 '13 at 7:38
I'd like to point out that Darkness in pathfinder does not make everyone Invisible, but makes everyone Blind. Opponents gain 50% concealment against blind foes. A slight technical clarification. Source –  Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:22
@Jason Interestingly enough, the rules effects of fighting/sensing an invisible creature are exactly the same as the rule effects for fighting/sensing while blind. So technically you're right, but it doesn't actually make a mechanical difference. –  SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '13 at 17:54

Sounds like you read Perception but should also read Vision and Light. In moonlight you can "see" with a -2 penalty but everyone has concealment, making hiding via Stealth possible anywhere. So if someone's just standing in a field in the moonlight, they're not all that hard to see; if they're trying at all to hide they're quite effective. In darkness, it's blind time.

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In order to attack a foe in darkness, their position must first be pinpointed with a Perception check. If a creature/character makes an attack roll without first pinpointing an opponent, they attack a random square within reach. The environmental rules are also worth reading. –  Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:24

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