In my first campaign as DM, I clearly stated in session 0 that we'd get to play in the Underdark. I explained the consequences very clearly in that the players wouldn't be able to see anything unless they had darkvision.

All the players took underdark-related races, but one player created a Firbolg character anyways, even acknowledging "then I'll be kind of blind 3/4 of the time, I'll roll with it".

In the session 1 I was kind and placed the players in a surface-friendly location where torches were lit in most places. We had quite fun when that character was forced to play blindly in less lit areas.

However in the long term that player will be handicapped by not seeing anything or by attracting many more enemies due to having a visible, warth-emitting torch. I don't really like that idea, but that's how D&D is designed, mostly.

The player is not really experienced but previously played two different campaigns which ran about 25 game sessions in total.

How should I deal with a player that intentionally hinders their character? They knew they would be blind most of the time so I think that my communication was clear enough. Usually, this is tackled in the famous session 0, which was done.

How should I have handled things if I actually already messed up?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding dupe candidate: that's from the player's POV. Here I'm on the GM's side. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2018 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure there is a difference between player and GM in this case. The options are the same unless you invoke Rule 0 and do whatever you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Mar 26, 2018 at 12:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you thinking that Darkvision doesn't have disadvantages? They still treat darkness as dim light, so have disadvantage on all perception checks having to do with sight. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Mar 26, 2018 at 12:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri No, the player is not that experienced (3rd campaign in DnD, 1st in the Underdark). However, I kept warning about that specific point even after they told me they'd take a firbolg character. The other players also insisted on that point stating that the firbolg player should take another race or class that provides with some lighting mechanism. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2018 at 12:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ So if I understand well, everybody's saying me that it's not my problem as a GM, but I keep it as the player's problem? I can go with that too, as it's the first option I listed in my question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2018 at 12:55

4 Answers 4


Let them fail (if that's what happens).

You told the players they were going swimming. One of them doesn't know how to swim, so I guess we'll find out how fast he learns. If he sinks, you can come up with a new character. One of the best teachers is failure. Also, some players might think back about their first character, Blindy McBlindypants, stumbling around in the Underdark and have a good laugh. Don't fix the player's choices. Let them learn from them and adjust. Just like a fire can lead to a cleansing renewal, sometimes bad characters need to fail badly, so that players can learn from them. Sometimes even advanced players will handicap their players to see where it leads. Maybe the role-play is worth the trouble.

There are multiple ways for the character to survive. In the short term, they'll need to carry around some kind of light, probably either a torch (which takes up their hand) or a casting of the light spell. They won't be blind if they have some light; however they will be effectively blind against attacks which come from outside the light (torches shed bright light for 20' and then dim light out to 40'; so attacks from >40 would have advantage). Using a torch in darkness will advertise your presence. Your party might be able to sneak ahead and not suffer from it (thanks to turns in tunnels and other ambient light in some places), but the character with the light would stand out like a sore thumb. This would make them a juicy target in combat too. (Don't ease up on them if they are easy to hit.)

Keep in mind that there is still light in the Underdark. There are bioluminescent organisms and even creatures with Darkvision need warmth and light. Remember that Darkvision still sucks for perception compared to having light handy. Most races will snuff their lights when hunting or evading, but might use a campfire if they think they are safe or bring out a light to study something.

If they survive long enough, there are ways to get Darkvision separate from racial traits (some even at level 1).

  • Eyes of the Dark (XGtE 51)
    • available at 1st level Sorcerer - Shadow Magic feature
    • Darkvision 120'
  • Devil's Sight (PHB 110)
    • available at 2nd level
    • Darkvision 120'
    • this is a Warlock invocation which allows the characater to see in darkness (even if it is magical)
    • available at 2nd level
  • Darkvision spell (PHB 230)
    • available at 3rd level
    • Darkvision 60'
    • a 2nd level spell which lasts 8 hours
    • can be used on others
    • this will use up a precious spell slot and might require 2 castings a day
    • this can be cast by the character or as a favor by someone else in the party
    • it's on the Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard spell lists
  • Umbral Sight (XGtE 42)
    • available at 3rd level; Gloom Stalker (Ranger) feature
    • Darkvision 60'
    • also gain the ability to not be seen by other creatures' Darkvision
  • Transmuter's Stone (PHB 119)
    • available at 6th level - School of Transmutation Wizard feature
    • Darkvision 60'
    • can be used on others
  • Goggles of Night (DMG 172)
    • wondrous item, uncommon
    • Darkvision 60'
  • Belt of Dwarvenkind (DMG 155)
    • wondrous item, rare
    • Darkvision 60'
  • Robe of Eyes (DMG 193)
    • wondrous item, rare
    • Darkvision 120'
  • Charm of Darkvision (DMG 228)
    • minor supernatural gift
    • cast Darkvision spell 3 times, then it fades away

There are also a variety of weapons and armor which glow when wielded, negating the need for carrying a torch.


Just because "dark" is right there in the name, doesn't mean there isn't any light! You can ameliorate the character's lack of vision by placing a portion of the encounter landscape in caverns lit by fungi, glittering faerzress, or any number of other sources of illumination found in the weirdness of the Underdark. Perhaps a nearby fountain fluoresces only when magic is invoked nearby. Perhaps a swarm of glow-beetles becomes agitated at the sound of combat.

These kinds of effects will seem awfully convenient, but they might tide the character over until you can justify dropping goggles of night, or similar, into the campaign.

I note that simply requiring the player to choose a different race is not on your menu. I can understand that, given that the ship has kind of sailed, but this is also an option.


Based on the warnings the player was given during character creation, I don't see any reason to believe this is anything other than a player issue. Given it's a new player, however, I would be lenient on letting the player create a different character when they find out how vulnerable they are when everyone (friends and enemies) can see but them, or everyone can see them at ridiculous distances because they're carrying a torch or lantern.

Get them into one fight where everyone can hit them, but they're effectively helpless (barring something akin to blind fighting ability) because they can't see what's going on, and they'll come around...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that 5e does not have flat-footed. You may want to correct this. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 26, 2018 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ They wouldn't actually be blinded (if next to a light like a torch). They would be effectively blind against attacks from outside the dim light of the torch (> 40'). \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick Brown
    Mar 26, 2018 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NickBrown Missed the torch part. Darkvision has its own issues though. Even Drow and Duergar cities are lit (albeit more dimly than cities of races without Darkvision) and they carry light sources as well if they actually want a good chance of finding things. Granted they are more able to set up ambushes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Mar 26, 2018 at 13:45

Good News

You haven't done anything wrong. You were up front about the situation, you provided relevant information, and you let your player make her choice. You even factored that choice into the early encounter design, ensuring that some lighting was available for large parts of the adventure.

What Next?

Now that the players have had an "easing in" period, you have to choose how to carry on.
The player in question already told you the way she expects to deal with it. She expects to have to "roll with it". Respect that decision and let her try for a few sessions.
After a few sessions you'll have enough data to answer some key questions.

  • Is the player in question having more fun than frustration?
  • Are the other players have more fun than frustration?
  • Are you having more fun than frustration?
  • Is the novelty of dealing with the blindness wearing off, and the whole problem becoming tedious?

Once you have some answers you can choose what to do next.
If everyone is still having fun and it isn't getting boring yet then just keep going. You might want to include an everburning torch, or grant the party the light cantrip, to reduce the resource expense of all those torches, but that's optional.
If this is turning into a problem then make a loot pile include goggles of night - the intended recipient is obvious, and while it would be useful to everyone the party as a whole benefits most from removing their liability. If sharing is a problem, the source could be a party of human mercenaries and they all have a set - goggles for everyone.
If this has turned into a major problem then drastic action is needed. You can talk to the player about a race or character change (reincarnate is a fun option for the former). Or you can capture the character and have a monster perform horrific experiments that incidentally give the character darkvision (useful if the player misses a session and you need to explain why the firbolg is not active). Just make sure the player is on board with your attempt to fix the issue in a story friendly fashion.

Good luck.


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