I'm DMing for two PCs, a half-orc and a half-elf. Both have Darkvision. I'd like to create a dungeon/combat session that uses darkness as a puzzle element, obfuscating their view and making them think about how to overcome it. However, since they have Darkvision they're never unable to see due to light levels. How can I introduce "darkness" that they actually won't be able to see through?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Michael> Wondering whether darkvision-enabled people would be blinded by a flash. It seems like darkvision does not rely on light at all to see, and is unaffected by it? \$\endgroup\$ – spectras Jul 7 '17 at 9:01

As the DM, you can introduce whatever you want, including darkness that Darkvision doesn't see through. However, if you're looking for options that already exist within the rules, there are plenty.

  • The Darkness spell creates magical darkness that normal Darkvision does not see through.
  • The Fog Cloud spell creates magical fog that heavily obscures an area.
  • There are a bunch more "fog" or "cloud" type spells, but they have additional effects that you may not want (like a bunch of damage).

That said, all of those spells affect a fairly small area and last a fairly short time. You want to fill a dungeon and have it last an adventure? You want one of the most underused spells in the book. Guards and Wards. It does a bunch of stuff, but the one you care about is:

Fog fills all the warded corridors, making them heavily obscured.

It lasts for 24 hours, and can be made permanent with some work. It covers a huge area. It's really cool. It's almost as if it was made for this exact situation. (Because it was.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 7 '17 at 3:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Coming back to this nearly a year later; Guards and Wards is awesome. I've used it twice now and it's always such a blast. Thanks again for introducing me to it! \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Apr 25 '18 at 15:13

The Hallow spell has an option to fill an area with magical darkness. RAW, it does not provide an impediment to Darkvision; however, it's a very small step outside of RAW for it to do so. This could be interesting, as you could have a temple that has patches of supernal darkness scattered throughout, giving opportunities for some very Zelda-esque puzzles.

Another similar option would be extraplanar spaces where magical darkness they cannot see through exists. The realm of the Night Lord Shargaas (see Volo's, under orcs) is a good example. The players could either be transported there, or the planes could be coterminous in a select location.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Holy darkness, Batman! I'm not sure why you've been downvoted, but both ideas in this answer seem like perfectly good solutions. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jul 6 '17 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure both of these ideas are UNholy darkness. \$\endgroup\$ – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Jul 8 '17 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @QPaysTaxes Darkness != Evil != Unholy. Both options could go either way. Although the Shargaas example is a legit deity, so his realm would be a holy place. \$\endgroup\$ – Nobbynob Littlun Jul 9 '17 at 7:50

One common house rule is that Darkvision is actually Low-Light vision. This means that for darkvision to work correctly, there must be some amount of light.

However, in an environment where there is no light (ie deep underground in a dungeon), even creatures with Darkvision are unable to see.

I have used this house-rule with my group and it is generally accepted by the players as logical and fair. Using this system, if I want to make a dungeon or adventure element based on darkness, Darkvision does not become an issue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pity you are getting downvotes; that's exactly what I do. Darkvision works in extremely low light (e.g. starlight), but not pitch black. Still, I guess it is rather different from what the questioner is asking for. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Jul 6 '17 at 2:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ It'd be a great option if I'd brought it up on day one. I fear, 12 weeks in, that suddenly cutting off one of their racial bonuses might start an uprising! \$\endgroup\$ – Alex Jul 6 '17 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not a fan of limiting character options arbitrarily. Why not make your darkness element based on visual obstruction, or colour? I get that the change can seem more realistic, but creatures with DV were explicitly chosen to see in darkness (compare to previous LLV creatures like cats, who lost the ability entirely). What about in underground creatures (like dwarves) who often encounter pitch darkness? Darkvision is an unexplained combination of alternative senses (e.g. more sensitive to other wavelengths), enhanced normal vision, and mystical ability. \$\endgroup\$ – Samthere Jul 7 '17 at 9:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be akin to biological night vision, which while a "real" thing, would be difficult to adjudicate, especially with adaptation. It would be interesting to see a well thought out house rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Wyrmwood Jul 8 '17 at 0:06

Fog or smoke creates heavily obscured areas which dark vision and even devil's sight cannot see through.

Some examples:

Fog Cloud PHB. p243 Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

You create a 20-foot-radius sphere of fog centered on a point within range. The sphere spreads around corners, and its area is heavily obscured. It lasts for the duration or until a wind of moderate or greater speed (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses it.

Perhaps you have a wizard or set of wizards maintaining a Fog Cloud on the party to keep them disorientated?

Guards and Wards PHB p.248,

Corridors. Fog fills all the warded corridors, making them heavily obscured. In addition, at each intersection or branching passage offering a choice of direction, there is a 50 percent chance that a creature other than you will believe it is going in the opposite direction from the one it chooses.

The "dungeon" has one of these cast upon them. You get lots of other things to play with too!

Eversmoking bottle DMG p.168

Smoke leaks from the lead-stoppered mouth of this brass bottle, which weighs 1 pound. When you use an action to remove the stopper, a cloud of thick smoke pours out in a 60-foot radius from the bottle. The cloud's area is heavily obscured. Each minute the bottle remains open and within the cloud, the radius increases by 10 feet until it reaches its maximum radius of 120 feet.

The cloud persists as long as the bottle is open.

There is one of these has been left open for some reason and it has filled the space. 120' radius is pretty huge, particularly if you remember it is a sphere...

Illusion magic could be used to create fog, with spells like Hallucinatory Terrain and Mirage Arcane and Major Image (cast at 6th level to become permanent) providing ideas as to how to run the effects, with you justifying how the magic came in to being (a custom spell, a wish a magic item a creature...)


If you can require them to distinguish color, that will necessitate a light source; darkvision only allows you to see in shades of gray.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Requiring them to see more than 60 feet ahead of them would also do this. \$\endgroup\$ – r256 Jul 6 '17 at 20:52

There are a number of other environmental factors that can help with this, too.

As pointed out by Protonflux, fog or smoke can create an environment that would render darkvision next to useless.

You have the ability to introduce both fire and water; mix the two and you get masses of steam. In volcanic environments you could make this even more hazardous by introducing sulphur dioxide gas (known as vog - volcanic smog) etc.

Also, what about introducing rooms that have massive root systems dangling through from above.

Water-wise, if there's a lot of water coming through the ceiling, like heavy rain, that can instantly reduce visibility and make the environment much more hazardous. Also, what if the room is completely underwater, and the water is very silty?

Fire, by itself, may be from burning oil which creates thick, choking smoke. Even in a room full of torches, you'd find that the burning pitch on the torches produces a lot of smoke.

Then you could have more biological forms, such as a room full of fungal spores, with the spores being so dense that visibility is reduced to a few feet ahead.


I'm not that familiar with DnD-5E, so I wouldn't know how to go about it, but it seems to me you could achieve the same effect by reversing the conditions:

Don't go for darkness but for extreme light.

A lot of reflective surfaces (Hall of Mirrors, Crystal Cave) and a lot of extremely bright light-sources.
For bonus points have surfaces move/vibrate so the reflections waver about as well.
Good luck trying to find your way through that when you are blinded by the glare.


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