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I'm gearing up to DM an urban d&d 3.5 setting. It's loosely based on cityscape. The party is low level (3) and includes: an urban ranger, a crusader, a rogue/wizard who wants to become a prestige bard, and an archivist. Without pandering to one party member (likely the wizard or archivist) too hard, I'd like to include a faction of bad guys in the setting who are spottable in a crowd. Basically I want a visible effect that does not require magic to discern, but that is subtle in nature.

I'd like to add some racial modification to a base race (human, elf, dwarf, etc) in order to make specific members of a nefarious faction glow in the dark. In daylight or in the dim lights of a tavern, they should appear normal- but outside at night, say, in an alleyway- or under the effects of a magical darkness spell (if the PCs get aggressive enough to cast darkness), these particular NPCs should be bioluminescent.

The SRD light spell doesn't quite cut it for me- since that sheds "bright light as a torch"- I think it would be overkill. Is there a lesser published light spell that would suffice to make creatures glow X-Files style?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Should they really show through darkness? The whole point of that spell and its brethren is to swallow light—even if they are producing it, it shouldn’t likely overpower darkness if their glow is even weaker than light. And it makes the odds of finding an official template that does this that much worse. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 12 '18 at 20:30
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Your question made me think of Faerie fire

A pale glow surrounds and outlines the subjects. Outlined subjects shed light as candles.

You could apply that as some sort of curse and give that race a benefit to offset. Or use that effect as the basis for a house rule.

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Quite simply, no, I don’t think any such thing exists in official publications. Quite simply, I think, it’s too small to bother writing up—DMs are supposed to be modifying and adjusting and making the published materials work for their game. To print something like this would be, in my speculation, be considered a waste of Wizards of the Coast’s extremely valuable and limited page space—their position would be that a DM doesn’t need something like this spelled out for them.

On top of that, there’s the issue that you want something that shines through darkness—that is simultaneously weaker than light. That’s almost a contradiction in terms, and almost-certainly doesn’t exist.

Nonetheless, D&D 3.5e is absolutely massive, so even with all those reasons for this to not exist, something fairly similar actually does.

Circle of the third eye warforged component

It’s not a template, and not something you can apply to just any character, but the circlet of the third eye attaches to a warforged’s forehead, and, well, gives them a third eye, on an eyestalk. The reason this is relevant is because

The eye glows a bright yellow and is clearly visible even in darkness or deep shadow (all Hide checks are made at a −5 penalty).

That gives you mechanics you could use for this, though of course you’d have to apply it to these creatures as a houserule, rather than only having warforged who all use this component.

Again, note that “darkness” here isn’t darkness; the spell would presumably still overcome this light.

You could, of course, dim the lights a little bit, and say the Hide penalty only applies in darkness or deep shadow.

Other not-nearly-so-close options

Aside from that, everything remotely close I can come up with just reinforces the idea that this is just too minor a detail for Wizards of the Coast to publish: all of the effects are vastly more potent than you seek.

Saint template

Book of Exalted Deeds has this preposterously overpowered template, which includes this bit:

A saint looks no different than she did before achieving sanctification, though she is surrounded by a palpable aura of holiness that sometimes (though not always) takes visible form in her protective aura of light.

Presumably this refers to the saint’s protective aura,

a nimbus of light having a radius of 20 feet. This acts as a double-strength magic circle against evil and as a lesser globe of invulnerability, both as cast by a cleric whose level equal to the saint’s Hit Dice.

That, obviously, is extremely powerful and probably inappropriate for the purposes you describe, and it doesn’t actually offer anything about, ya know, light and sneaking and stuff. I guess they imagined that saints never have cause to be stealthy.

Phantom Sparks flaw

Dragon vol. 327 has the Phantom Spark flaw,

You spontaneously emit bursts of colored light. These lights are completely out of your control and cannot be used as a light source. They only cease when you are unconscious, petrified, asleep, or dead. You suffer a −4 penalty on all Hide and Spot checks.

As with all flaws, the creature with this flaw gains an extra bonus feat. These effects—minor though they are—are still more significant than you describe, because you don’t want their glowing to be enough to stand out in decent lighting, so the Hide penalty shouldn’t apply except in darkness, and the Spot penalty is too much regardless. It’s still the smallest thing I can find.

Radiant creature template

Dragon vol. 321 has the radiant creature template, which can be added to any aberration, animal, dragon, fey, giant, humanoid, magical beast, or monstrous humanoid.

Radiant creatures are natives of the Plane of Radiance and are at least partially made up of the raw materials and energies of that plane. Most radiant creatures are bright, luminous versions of beings found on the Material Plane. A radiant creature is the same size and shape as its Material Plane counterpart, but it appears as a semi-translucent mass of shimmering, shifting colors and sparkling lights.

Despite the claim that they are “semi-translucent,” the accompanying art of a radiant giant eagle does not appear to be any such thing.

Radiant creatures gain a rainbow aura special attack, which says that they

constantly shed a glaring aura that most creatures find difficult to look at. Those within 30 feet of a radiant creature must make a Will save (DC 10 + ½ the creature’s racial Hit Dice + the creature’s Charisma modifier) or be dazzled for 1d6 rounds, suffering a −1 penalty on attack rolls, Search checks, and Spot checks. Radiant creatures are immune to the rainbow aura of other radiant creatures.

They also gain color spray, blur, searing light, freedom of movement, rainbow pattern, prismatic spray, repulsion, scintillating pattern, and prismatic sphere as spell-like abilities, at least if they have enough HD, along with immunity to the blind, dazzled, dazed (!), and stunned conditions.

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Since exactly what you're looking for doesn't seem to exist within published sources you could consider the following:

There is a race called Illumians in Races of Destiny pages 51-90. They look similar to humans (basically a subrace) but have floating, glowing sigils above their heads!

Each Illumian's sigil is unique and grants them unique abilities. With certain feats they can become even stronger!

It should be noted that RAW an Illumian can suppress their sigil (standard action) but will lose the benefits of their sigil until it's restored (free action). If their constant glowing is instrumental to the campaign it is a small handwave by the GM for an otherwise well fitting race for your purpose.

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