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Facing a large group of enemy archers, I cast a spell such as Darkness or Fog Cloud which creates heavy obscurement around me and my companions.

The next turn is that of one of the enemy archers. Can they simply shoot us just as they were doing previously, with no disadvantage, because them not seeing us and us not seeing them cancels out?

I base this assessment on the following rules:

Heavily Obscured (p183, PHB):

A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition (see appendix A).

The Blinded condition (p290, PHB):

A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

Attacking a creature that can't see you or that you can't see (p193-4, PHB):

When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll.

When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

Advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out (p173, PHB):

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage.

Now given that my allies are now Heavily Obscured from the archers, they could take the Hide action, and if successful the archers would have to guess their position to try and shoot them (still no disadvantage, I believe). But if none of us take the Hide action, does the spell do precisely nothing in terms of making us harder to hit?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @AguinaldoSilvestre The other question assumes they cancel out. This question is about wheter it does cancel out. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 10 '18 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint No, Vigil already said in his post that they cancel each other, he also assumes it. He wants to know if his spell makes his allies any harder to be hit. The repercussions of this course of action were discussed there. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jun 10 '18 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AguinaldoSilvestre "Can they simply shoot us just as they were doing previously, with no disadvantage, because them not seeing us and us not seeing them cancels out?" - This is stated as a question. The title question also is clear that he is not sure this assumption is correct. I assume his final wording on "making us harder to hit" is, again, about giving any disadvantage to the attack rolls. Some of the answers from the other question answer this one, but the questions are different. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 10 '18 at 12:33
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Yes, but there’s more.

You are correct in assuming that an archer firing into an area of heavy obscurement has a normal attack roll due to advantage imposed by the target not seeing them and disadvantage imposed by them not seeing the target.

However, the part between your unseen attacks quote is also relevant to the attack. The question you ask in your post is also different than the question in your title. You asked additionally, “Does the spell do precisely nothing in terms of making us harder to hit?”

And so I quote the part you left out:

PHB Pages 194-195. This is true whether you’re guessing the target’s location or you’re targeting a creature you can hear but not see. If the target isn't in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target's location correctly.

The DM can determine whether the attack hits or misses without referring to the attack roll in certain circumstances. For example, if you cast the Fog Cloud spell and then use your movement to move out of the cloud or elsewhere within the cloud, but still remain mutually obscured to the enemy, the enemy would have to be able to hear you to get a normal attack roll.

If it’s ruled that the enemy can’t hear you, perhaps by a low perception check roll, passive perception at the DM’s discretion, or the deafness condition, then the attacker would have to guess your location. The attack could then automatically miss regardless of any attack roll up to the discretion of the DM. In the event your location is guessed correctly, however, the attack is made without either advantage nor disadvantage.

So, to answer your second question: no, the spell does not do absolutely nothing to make you harder to hit. You should also consider the case where the enemies have advantage before the Fog Cloud spell, as well, and the effect that it has on cancelling out said advantage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You are correct. I will amend my answer to include this information. \$\endgroup\$ – Kenpari Jun 10 '18 at 16:05
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Short answer, yes.

No one can see anyone; everyone has both advantage and disadvantage; therefore, all attacks are made with a single d20.

Fog Cloud and Darkness can still save you from getting hit, though:

  • Your party can take the Hide action and move around, at which point the enemy archers will have to guess a 5ft square to shoot at and hope someone is there.
  • If you run from melee range, there are no opportunity attacks if your opponent can't see you.
  • If your opponents had advantage on their attacks, fog/darkness effectively cancels that advantage.

Rules Errata

Note that the rules for Obscurement have been modified by errata:

Vision and Light (p. 183). A heavily obscured area doesn’t blind you, but you are effectively blinded when you try to see something obscured by it.

The old wording would have meant that someone hiding in the shadows wouldn't be able to see someone standing under a street light, and that would be silly.

http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/sage-advice/rules-references-august-2017 has a link to this and all other Player's Handbook errata.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "at which point the enemy archers will have to guess a 5ft square to shoot at and hope someone is there." Can you cite this rule please? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 10 '18 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov Which part? The fact that monsters don't lose track of an unseen foe is based on the rules not explicitly saying that monsters lose track of an unseen foe. See Vision and Light p183, Unseen Attackers and Targets p194, and the Blinded condition p290. The fact that you need to use the Hide action comes from the rule that to "slip away without being noticed" requires a stealth check (PHB p177) and the rule that the way you attempt a dexterity (stealth) check in combat is with the Hide action (PHB p192). \$\endgroup\$ – Greg Faust Jun 10 '18 at 16:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean guessing a 5 foot square as a mechanic for shooting at hidden targets who may or may not be there. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 10 '18 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Small and medium creatures occupy a 5'x5' space (PHB p191). The Unseen Targets rules mention guessing "the targets location" (PHB p194). I'm assuming "the target's location" is synonymous with "the target creature's 5'x5' space" (just change 5'x5' as appropriate for larger or smaller creatures). \$\endgroup\$ – Greg Faust Jun 12 '18 at 0:08

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