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Sunrods, those banishers of darkness, are they a problem or not, I've met a number of DMs that don't want them in their games.

Are they a problem?


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closed as primarily opinion-based by C. Ross Apr 30 at 11:34

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To people answering, remember that Sunrods act very differently in different versions of D&D, explaining which version you're talking about will help. –  Not a Pumpkin Apr 30 at 6:09

14 Answers 14

up vote 32 down vote accepted

The question is: Is darkness an important element of the adventure? If yes, then torches may be a rare resource and it can be important to keep track of them. A sunrod could destroy some of the atmosphere and take some danger from the dungeon.

If the focus lies on slaying monsters and grabbing treasure, bookkeeping of torches and their duration may be a tedious thing, and sunrods are a nice and easy solution to this.

It is a bit like ammunition: Do you keep track of every arrow or bullet fired? An empty quiver or magazine can lead to a lot of drama, but on the other hand, the bookkeeping involved may not justify the few dramatic moments.


I've recently cut them from my game because we've instituted turn-based dungeon exploration and I found that it just doesn't feel like dungeon exploration when you're walking around with the equivalent of a halogen worklight. I mention the turn-based exploration, because if you're ticking off ten-minute squares on a grid it's easy to keep track of when the torch burns out.

What I did was just replace all of the sunrods with a lantern and a number of pints of oil equal to their sunrods. I think it adds a lot not to be able to see all the way across a 100' X 100' room.

Am I missing something? I thought a sunrod illuminated a 30' radius, while a bull's eye lantern lit up a 120' cone... –  Cypher Nov 6 '13 at 1:58

Sunrods are no more disruptive than the older Continual Light spells (going back to AD&D 1E, even). Many an intrepid group deemed that since Continual Light lasted for years, decades even, it was more than fitting to cast it upon some handy small object, which could then be dropped into the lantern or mounted on a stick, and covered with a sack, to produce a rather impressive light source.

Given that it's low enough level that most major cities should have one or more magi to cast it, it's also the likely preferred method of lighting in cities.

3E's Continual Flame is no worse, either.

If you really want darkness to hinder, put it in an area of magical dampening. Or make light a trigger for some local danger worse than fumbling in the dark. (Explosive moths, anyone?)

If you want them to really be annoyed, make them go through some hall of a zoo after a teleport or slide trap, through where several caged medusae are kept... they're likely to race to bindfold themselves.


Back in the "good olde days" of AD&D, whenever we played in a "dungeon" and light was an issue, we (like Numenetics above) always counted off rounds. So taking 2 torches into a dungeon was silly as you'd get an hour in there, and if you are checking for traps in each 10' square, you'd end up going 120 feet before heading back out.

As players we got around this by casting continual light spell on a pebble, and placing that in a bullseye lantern, this could then shut the light off when we wanted to "hide" or slide the shutter down to only light a small amount in front of us.

The thing you have to remember is, if you are in a dark place, and you are holding a light source, anything with vision can see you -- and any element of surprise you may have had, is gone (the exception to this would be if you have to open a door -- if no light can seep under or around it).

You are also very good targets for anything with ranged attack ability which you can't respond to because they are out of range of the Sunrod.

I personally don't like SunRods, and would prefer to use a controllable light source. Most of the players who I play with carry a "continual light pebble" or two in a pouch as a "deployable" light, you can put them in a sling and propel the light down a tunnel, or drop it down a "deep hole" to see things better.

Just as a reply to Sebastian Dietz (above) We also count off "ammo" as well, which is very easy to do, have a box with 20 squares for a quiver and tick them off as you use them, DM will tell you how many you recover after combat. It really means that either everyone carries spare ammo for the archers / slingers / crossbow peeps, etc or they ensure they collect any they fired after the encounter.

But then, we also watch for Encumberence ... but that's a whole other story :)

Good luck in your adventures,


As a DM I never had a problem with them. To me they're just like an exaggerated torch. I've never encountered any special rules with them. If I didn't want my players to have them I'd just say that none are available when they go shopping for supplies (even the best merchants run out of stock).

I'm curious as to what some of the issues DM's have with them.

I had a DM that felt they ruined any chance of suprising us, or that they ruined his dark and moody atmosphere. I've heard others complain that they are not realistic in a fantasy setting? I have no problem with them myself :) –  Iain M Norman Aug 20 '10 at 11:56
@Bucc hhmmm I'd say they no more ruin surprise than a torch ... they have a 30 foot (or is it meter) radius ? You can still be surprised even if you have one (I.E. all of a sudden monsters BURST from the door). As for the realism ...hhmmm maybe ... but to me they're nothing more than a stick with a "Light" spell on it but each DM is different. I'm a little more lax with stuff like that. :) –  Scott Vercuski Aug 20 '10 at 12:08
Yea, I'm not sure how they would feel it prevents surprise. It does no more than the lowlight or darkvision held by many character races. –  BBlake Sep 5 '10 at 4:01
If you're walking around carrying a massive glowing light; it's more likely that the monsters are going to get the drop on the players and prep-up with spells and formations if they can see that coming down the corridor... –  Rob Sep 26 '12 at 16:34

I think it comes down to what you want in your game.

Sunrods were, I believe, introduced as part of a conscious effort to simplify lighting.

Their upside is that they trivialize lighting issues. For example, you no longer have to worry about who can see what - the entire area is illuminated.

But the downside is that they trivialize lighting issues. For example, they make racial features like low-light vision irrelevant and they make it harder for characters (and creatures) to sneak around the battlefield or snipe from the darkness. They make iconic class abilities (such as the light cantrip) meaningless. Not to mention that they make several other pieces of equipment useless - including some magic items that offer illumination as one of their properties. Why bother with torches, lanterns, etc. when you can buy a sunrod for a trivial cost? For that matter, why bother with items such as an everburning torch (which ought to be a desirable item) when a sunrod is a tiny fraction of the price and iluminates four times the radius (20 squares rather than 4 squares).

Personally, I dislike them. I think that they illuminate far too large a radius for far too long for far too cheap a cost. If I were to suggest changes, it would be to change two (or more) of the three of those. Perhaps make them more expensive by treating them as a low level consumeable/ alchemical item (~10 gp). Perhaps reducing their radius to a radius 5 or 10 so that they illuminate much of, but not all of, the encounter. Perhaps reducing their duration to 5 minutes so you need one per encounter (which fits better with the 4E duration systems than a 4 hour radius anyway). One could even create more than one version of the sunrod whose level/ cost is dependant upon its radius and duration.

But if you find all of this too fiddly for you and want the simplified approach to lighting, they are the perfect light source.



My personal feelings on this are:

If you wouldn't remove a Drow's darkvision (superior to a sunrod) then why mess with sunrods. If you have a problem with them then DM better and work your way around it.


As has been pointed out, sunrods are a fairly expensive and regularly depleted resource. As a DM I consider this a plus. It's not a serious money sink of course, but every little bit helps keep the PCs' pockets a little less full.

The big drawback of sunrods for the PCs in my experience is that they don't make fire. You can't burn down a door, fend off a pack of wolves, light a firebomb made from a flask of oil (assuming you have any oil since you're already carrying sunrods) to toss at on onrushing group of gnolls, and so on. I've seen the tide of many a battle turned due to the use (purposefully or accidentally) of fire.


is the issue that it's a sunrod vs a torch or lantern? I think once you start making sunrods common equipment - even though it's a minor thing-- you've made a creative decision about the "flavor" of the campaign.


I am of 2 opinions, As a DM, for the vast majority of the time I do not want to be hastled by the "fog of war" effects that smaller light sources require. Roleplaying is supposed to be fun and unless I have a fun plot reason to plunge the party into darkness sunrods are fine. (and if it is a plot based reason to have darkness...)


Back when GenCon SoCal was around I had a chance to go through True Dungeon and I must say it is an amazingly fun experience to actualy walk through a set of rooms with just enough light to see outlines but no detail. Everyone clusters around a "light" spell (glow stick) trying to read the glyphs on a tomb. Taking a sunrod (Halogen Light) into this setting would spoil the entire adventure.


I find that in most cases, light sources or lack there of, are an element that players would rather not manage. So in most games I treat them like I do food, ammo and spell components, which is to say I ignore them unless required for mood or a combat scenario. That being said, I can think of a number of campaigns where I might not allow them. They aren't allowed in my Dark Sun campaign for example. Since the world has no divine magic and arcane is exceeding rare, I plan on making those rare instances were the players are in the dark an important element of each battle. Which I think fits well with the resource management inherent with the Dark Sun setting. I can also see them being restricted in a darker themed game like Ravenloft, where gloom and shadow play an important role in creating a certain "feel". I would never restrict them in an Eberron game or most that have gone into paragon level because at that point I think the game should have moved beyond resource management.


This question completely depends on which version of the game you're using, and what you're trying to do.

In 4e, Sunrods illuminate a radius of 100 feet. That's absolutely huge. If I wanted to make darkness and exploration part of my game, I would probably houserule them straight into the ground, however this isn't my default playstyle for 4e, honestly I don't even pay attention to light sources when I run 4e, and neither do the 4e adventures I've used. Exploration heavy 4e would be pretty cool, but it would need a bit more time than my group usually has, and isn't what I would consider the default playstyle.

In 3.x, and particularly Pathfinder, Sunrods just aren't a big deal. They illuminate slightly more range than a torch or a light spell (30/60 feat instead of 20/40), and cost more money than either. While not a waste of gold in the right campaign, I can't see them making a huge difference.

I don't know what the rules for sunrods are in the other versions (although I'll try to find them), but from that, I would assume the issue is GMs wanting to run 4e more like BD&D/OD&D, which is cool, but was always going to require house rules.

Sunrods don't appear in D&D before 3e. –  SevenSidedDie Apr 30 at 14:53

Sunrods come with a built in expense (they cost gold to get). If players are willing to part with their gold for a sunrod, I say let them. Most adventures as written do not rely on darkness as a major factor in an encounter, but for those rare times when it is a factor you can always state there is a magical effect that extinguishes the sunrod (or reduces its radius to 1 square) for the duration of the encounter. This way players who want and like the sunrod can still get and use them and you can control their use in certain circumstances.


They aren't all bad - I recently used a sunrod in a role-playing context to temporarily blind/distract some guards while I hightailed it in the other direction.


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