# Is being blind and attacking an unseen target two sources of disadvantage or just one?

I'm working on house rules for advantage/disadvantage that makes the number of each matter, instead of any amount of each cancelling out. For this project I need to know how blindness and unseen targets generate disadvantage.

I don't know whether to consider the blindness condition and unseen attacking as two separate rules or one. Blindness gives (among other things) disadvantage to the creature's attacks against others.

My interpretation is that this is because they can't see attackers or targets.

An example situation is that a blinded Ranger shoots an arrow at another archer based on his last known position. He is blinded and the target is unseen. Is this two disadvantages or one?

• I've edited this down to the actual question — how many source of disadvantage are involved — because the house rule material is distracting and not the point of the question. Generally, you want background material to stay in the background, so that you get answers focused on the actual question material. To that end I've simplified the title and remove the [homebrew] tag (which should have been [house-rules] anyway.) Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 18:54
• Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 23:27

This is part of why the "adv and dis cancel out, no matter how many" rule exists, so you don't have to ask questions like this. ^_^ (In other words, it doesn't matter whether they're the same or not, the player still just gets a single Disadvantage, which can be cancelled by a single Advantage.)

However, stepping outside of RAW, then yes, interpreting blindness as just invoking the "unseen attacks" rule is reasonable. Being blind doesn't inherently make you clumsier, you just can't see.

• In the rules these are separate distinct rules that seem to be separate sources. Can you explain more why you think it is reasonable to conflate them? The rules are often written in such a way that the physical logic behind them doesn't matter as much as the game logic they represent. However, this seems to lean entirely on physical logic to justify this. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 19:00
• I think the answer probably just needs a sentence or two clarifying that technically, they are separate sources of disadvantage, before it proceeds to state that it'd be reasonable to houserule that they're two aspects of the same rule and thus one source of disadvantage. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 19:15
• If these are treated as two different sources of disadvantage, then what is the reason blindness gives its effects? Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 19:28
• @PaydenK.Pringle: The reason that blindness gives its effects is because the effects are listed as such in the rule. No other logic is given. You can try to make assumptions based on IRL logic, but that will often get you into trouble with the rules as they tend much more towards simplicity and fun than simulationism. Some rules are nonsense when viewed through the lense of real-world logic, but are necessary to have a fun game. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 19:30
• @Rubiksmoose On the contrary, it seems more nonsense that attacking someone while you're blind is worse if you're blind and they're in a fog. Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 20:44

# The Blinded condition and the act of attacking an unseen target are 2 independent sources of disadvantage.

These are separate rules that happen to be very similar and govern many of the same situations, but they are still separate.

So if you care about counting sources of disadvantage, a creature having the Blinded condition has disadvantage on its attacks, a creature attacking a target it can't see has disadvantage on its attacks, so a creature that has the condition and does the action has disadvantage from 2 different sources.

## They are two separate sources of disadvantage.

Player's Handbook, p. 290, under the Blinded condition:

Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage.

Player's Handbook, p. 194, Unseen Attackers and Targets:

When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether you're guessing the target's location or you're targeting a creature you can hear but not see.

D&D 5th edition's philosophy is that a rule means what it says, and no more. Here there are two things which both grant disadvantage, and no rule which says that those are the same thing. Thus, there are two sources of disadvantage.

The DM can, of course, always rule otherwise, if in their opinion such a ruling makes sense.

Note that the standard rule is that multiple sources of disadvantage don't matter, for two design reasons: counting multiple sources slows gameplay, and a character stacking multiple advantage for an extremely high chance of success would be unbalanced (D&D 3rd edition could devolve into a game of stacking lots of small +1 and +2 bonuses this way).

It's completely up to you, as the author of your house rule.

In the official rules, your question has no meaning - there is no distinction between "one source of disadvantage" and "two sources of disadvantage". You just either do have disadvantage or you don't have disadvantage, the disadvantage doesn't have a magnitude.

Because you are developing a house rule which creates a distinction that does not officially exist, you have to define the parameters of that distinction for yourself. We can offer our opinions about where we think those lines should be drawn, but there is no objective answer to your question.

• This isn't true. In normal 5e there are certainly distinct and countable sources of (dis)advantage. (The very wording of the rule that says disadvantage/advantage cancelling out explicitly acknowledges multiple sources.) Sources are countable even if they don't normally matter. Besides, there is an official rule that cares about separate sources of disadvantage, so “there is no distinction” is not even true in practice for un-houseruled D&D 5e. Commented Sep 8, 2018 at 23:24