As written, the darkness spell is a 2nd-level spell that last 10 minutes, requires concentration, impacts a 15' radius, and cannot be seen through even with darkvision.

As written, the daylight spell is a 3rd-level spell that lasts 1 hour, does not require concentration, impacts a 60' radius with bright light, and another 60' with dim light. This seems notably stronger without a countering spell.

To counter this, I'd propose a spell with properties similar to those for daylight, but for darkness:

Greater Darkness

3rd-level evocation

Casting Time: 1 action

Range: 60 feet

Components: V, S

Duration: 1 hour

Magical darkness spreads from a point you choose within range to fill a 60-foot-radius sphere for the duration. The darkness spreads around corners. A creature with darkvision can’t see through this darkness, and nonmagical light can’t illuminate it.

If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn’t being worn or carried, the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it. Completely covering the source of the darkness with an opaque object, such as a bowl or a helm, blocks the darkness.

If any of this spell’s area overlaps with an area of light created by a spell of 3rd level or lower, the spell that created the light is dispelled.

If it affects the balance, I'd make this spell available to any class that has darkness on their spell list.

Is this spell unbalanced?

  • 3
    Stepping back to 'real' situations: It's very easy to produce light and very hard to make 'dark'. My laserlight will cast a beam visible on the next mountaintop, but I can't for the life of me make a little puddle of darkness at my feet. – user3445853 Sep 25 at 15:11

I think what you are confusing is the fact that Daylight is a direct counter to darkness. What I mean by that is that most spellcasters won't find the spell useful outside of RP and dungeons where lighting or other spellcasters casting Darkness is a problem. Darkness on the other hand can be used in a lot more situations. For example, you can cast Darkness on mages that are casting spells at you from the top of a castle. Now, imagine that instead of darkness being 15 ft. radius (π32 grid squares), it is 60 ft. radius (π122 squares). This is 16 times stronger than the level 2 darkness spell.

I think at the moment the spell is too powerful as a level 3 spell. Make it level 4 or 5 and it's more balanced.

  • Daylight is not a counterspell but a roving dispel of any magical darkness cast with a lower level slot. It will dispell any darkness within 120' so long as it has line of sight/effect. – Slagmoth Sep 24 at 16:02
  • 1
    Your archer example might not be the best one. Creatures in a heavily obscured area have both advantage and disadvantage and thus roll a single d20 (unless they have a way to see through it). Enemy mages might be a better example, since heavy obscurement blocks any spell that requires you to see your target. – Chris Starnes Sep 24 at 16:05
  • 1
    You indicate that this spell 'is 16 times stronger than the lvl 2 darkness spell'. That appears to just be a direct comparison of area affected, but you don't indicate why this is unacceptable. This spell could be countered by a casting of Daylight or Dispel Magic, moving, etc. – Pyrotechnical Sep 24 at 16:15
  • 1
    @Oxtrooo I'm an idiot. You're right. – Daniel Zastoupil Sep 24 at 16:35
  • 1
    Ah! Alright, that explains it. I’ve made that explicit in the answer. (As my physics prof always said, “always state units!” :) – SevenSidedDie Sep 24 at 16:57

This spell is too powerful when comparing PCs, monsters, and Darkness

Almost all PCs in D&D 5e have no way to see through a hindering magical darkness. Of the ones that can, there are exactly two ways you can do so:

  1. Warlock level 2 invocation, Devil's Sight.
  2. Ranger Gloom Stalker level 3 feature, Umbral Sight.

Due to how specific these abilities are, you are unlikely to have more than one character in your party who can see through Darkvision.

Consider the fact that there are a decent number of creatures who have Blindsense, Tremorsense, Truesight, or the ability to see through magical darkness. Many of these abilities are more common to monsters, and as a result, creating an encounter around this concept is extremely "unfun", as there's only a few ways a PC can deal with it:

  1. They can ignore the Darkness, making it so only one player is capable of aptly participating in the fight while the rest bumble around.
  2. They can try to cast some kind of level 3+ light spell in an attempt to dispel it, assuming they had one prepared (like Daylight)
  3. They can go around it (6x6 square)
  4. They can break the concentration of the caster (disadvantage to hit, can't use most saving throw abilities due to no Line of Sight, and they'd have to guess where the target might even be in the first place)
  5. Dispel Magic

Note the possible options for a non-caster.

Compound this fact that the existing Darkness spell has a 15 foot radius, and the fact that your Greater Darkness spell has a 60 foot radius. The area of the Darkness spell is roughly a 6x6 box. Your spell, in comparison, is roughly a 24x24 box, or covering 16 times as much area than the Darkness spell.

This makes option #3 nearly impossible, which is the only reliable method for a non-caster, or someone who does not have Daylight/Dispel Magic prepared.

In this situation, how do you plan for mundane warriors to participate in this kind of encounter? How many of these solutions are going to be available for your Fighter/Barbarian/Rogue/Paladin/Most Rangers/Most Warlocks?

The Darkness spell works because upcasting it when you have higher spell slots isn't very beneficial (when it can be dealt with using higher spell slots, more prepared spells, or magical items) and also due to its limited area. By removing those weaknesses, you leave no real possibility for counter play.

Player decision making is the heart of D&D, and this spell injures that. This spell is not beneficial to D&D as it is.

  • Can you expand your countering options to address Daylight and Dispel Magic as a potential counter to this spell? As written, either would end this spell's hampering effects on a fight. – Pyrotechnical Sep 24 at 16:13
  • @Pyrotechnical I'm not sure what you mean. I did have Counterspell in the options (I really meant Dispel Magic) and I did have mention of upcasting a light spell. Was there something I missed? – Daniel Zastoupil Sep 24 at 16:15
  • Sorry, I was unclear. Upcasting daylight is not required. Daylight ends a darkness spell of 3rd level or lower. – Pyrotechnical Sep 24 at 16:16
  • You may need to upcast it if this spell was upcasted to begin with. But I'll clarify that. – Daniel Zastoupil Sep 24 at 16:18
  • Shadow magic Sorcerer's Eyes of the Dark feature also allows to see through your own Darkness spell (if cast with sorcery points). – cpcodes Sep 24 at 16:29

This Spell is Problematic

Visibility is an important aspect of warfare. Many fundamental aspects of battle have emerged around this concept: from camouflage, to the high-ground, to cover, to trench warfare. Thus, any time you fundamentally change the ability of a character to restrict or enhance visibility, it brings great potential to seriously shift the tide of battle. I see this proposed spell as problematic for several reasons.

Ending the spell

Darkness is already prone to abuses, especially since a two level dip in the Warlock class can give a character access to an invocation (Devil's Sight, PHB p. 110) that can see through the spell at a range of up to 120 feet. As Daniel Zastoupil also pointed out, many monsters also have abilities (such as tremorsense or blindsight) which could allow them to see through either Darkness spell. So it is not unreasonable to imagine that the Darkness spell could be cast on creatures who cannot see through it while they are fighting creatures that can.

One major thing that prevents these abuses is that there are several ways to end or circumvent the Darkness spell. You can damage the caster (ending Concentration), simply run out of its radius (if you are the intended target), or cast Daylight. But Greater Darkness removes (or complicates) all of those options.

By removing concentration, you guarantee that if the spell is cast on yourself (or an object that you carry), there is virtually nothing that a non-magical creature can do to can be done to stop the ensuing carnage. And by increasing the radius to 60 feet, you prevent many creatures (like Goblins or Halflings) from escaping its radius in a single round. Greater Darkness could still be dispelled, but that's pretty much your only option.

Naturally, Greater Darkness should be more powerful than Darkness: any increase in spell slot level indicates at least a two level difference in character class, and 3rd level spells tend to be a particularly noticeable step up in power (hello Fireball). But it's worth noting that this increase not only improves the power of the spell, but seriously reduces the fun of working around it. Having fewer ways to end the spell means less creativity, and fewer opportunities for characters of every class to contribute to a solution to a problem.

Comparing Greater Darkness to Daylight

It's worth noting that every objection I've made about Greater Darkness applies to Daylight as well. But there is a major difference between the two spells. A caster of Daylight must be included in the spell's radius, and affected by it. A caster of Greater Darkness may (quickly) avoid one or both of these requirements.

Daylight illuminates an area in a 120 foot radius (60 feet of bright light, and 60 feet of dim light), but its range is only 60 feet. So a caster who casts daylight is almost certain to find themselves within its area of effect for at least a round or two (this can be circumvented by using a mount, but usually will be the case). Greater Darkness, by contrast, would allow a caster to encase enemies in darkness, and then step into the light by using just five feet of movement. Both spells are 3rd level spells that influence visibility, but their ability to give and restrict visibility are very different.

Also, a minor point of confusion for me would be if Daylight and Greater Darkness were both cast on a space, which would win? Both are 3rd level, and both say they cancel 3rd level spells of each others' type. It's a bit of a sticky wicket.

There are other options

There are a number of options for creating a heavily obscured area that will not be dispelled by Daylight. Amongst them are the 3rd level spells Stinking Cloud and Sleet Storm (which I just now realized heavily obscures its area of effect). Neither of these spells are prone to the abuses that Darkness can be (they aren't explicitly overcome by Devil's Sight, for example). Crucially, all the spells I have found that heavily obscure an area (at any level) require concentration. From where I'm sitting, this new spell may unbalance certain builds in the game. And even if those builds are omitted, it creates a spell with very few workarounds: that seems to me it's more likely to reduce the fun had playing the game than increase it, whether ones enemies or allies are casting the spell.

You might compare your Greater Darkness to Deeper Darkness, from 3rd ed. It solves the above problem by not overriding the existing light spell, but rather specifying that in any area where both Daylight and Deeper Darkness are in effect, neither spell has an effect and the normal prevailing conditions decide how bright it is. However neither spell is dispelled, so they have their normal effects outside the overlapping area.

  • 1
    I'm unclear how this does not have a counter. Daylight cast as a 3rd level spell would dispel this effect. As would Dispel Magic. – Pyrotechnical Sep 25 at 0:19
  • @Pyrotechnical So it does. I didn't realize that clause was in Daylight's description. I've removed that line from the answer and elaborated a bit on the difference between how Greater and Deeper Darkness interact with Daylight. – Ray Sep 25 at 15:28

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.