PHB ch. 8 states that a creature in a heavily obscured area (e.g. a completely dark area, if the creature does not have darkvision) effectively suffers from the blinded condition. The definition of blinded is "A blinded creature can't see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight" and "Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature's attack rolls have disadvantage."

I am a first-time DM running Lost Mine of Phandelver. The party is exploring the Cragmaw Hideout, which is completely dark in most places. Two PCs have darkvision and three do not. In a combat with a group of goblins, the last surviving goblin fled and the party gave chase. I struggled with how to handle the characters without darkvision chasing the goblin through the darkness. None were carrying a torch. Dancing Lights was cast, but they could only be moved by the caster on her turn (I kept things in initiative order throughout the chase).

Per the rules I quoted above, the only hindrance that the darkness gives the PCs without darkvision is that they have disadvantage when attacking, enemies have advantage when attacking them, and they automatically fail ability checks related to sight. The Cragmaw Hideout contains such things as stairs, narrow passages and a rickety bridge, but I couldn't find any rules reason why the characters without darkvision couldn't traverse those just as easily as the characters with darkvision. The rules don't even say that heavily obscured areas are difficult terrain. I suppose I could have come up with some ability checks, which per the rules would have automatically failed, but that didn't feel right either.

Am I missing something that would have made this a straightforward thing to handle?


6 Answers 6


Use Dexterity Checks

tl;dr Use dexterity or acrobatics checks to see if the blind characters can remain on their feet while moving at full speed.

Running blindly over terrain at least qualifies as "tricky". From using dexterity scores:

A Dexterity check can model any attempt to move nimbly, quickly, or quietly, or to keep from falling on tricky footing.

Acrobatics reiterates the point:

Your Dexterity (Acrobatics) check covers your attempt to stay on your feet in a tricky situation...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using an acrobatics check when going above 1/2 speed was what was required for previous editions, with a failed check causing them to fall prone (they tripped in the dark). However this was also mitigated by having a guide, so you could certainly rule that the players with darkvision can effectively guide those without it in a pursuit situation. With this being the case, they could not do so silently as verbal communication should be required to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mathaddict
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mathaddict those with darkvision could always take the aid action to help the blind instead of dashing. That would at least give their ally advantage on the "don't fall on your face roll". \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but at that point you run the risk of too much mixing current mechanics with old ones, its a fine line, but it makes sense to do or at least say something to promote realism because otherwise it kind of breaks the illusion (which is one of the downsides of 5e). \$\endgroup\$
    – Mathaddict
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:58
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mathaddict That's straight 5e. Moving at full speed in the darkness is "tricky". Darkvision ally aids character with help action. Character gets advantage to avoid falling on their face. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 19:09

The Cragmaw Hideout contains such things as stairs, narrow passages and a rickety bridge, but I couldn't find any rules reason why the characters without darkvision couldn't traverse those just as easily as the characters with darkvision.

This is a situation that is (intentionally) left to DM fiat.

Things like "safely cross a bridge" won't often have terribly difficult ability checks, to the point that most [reasonable] DMs won't even bother calling for a check unless there's something exceptionally dangerous about said bridge.

Crossing a rickety bridge while blinded would probably constitute making said bridge "exceptionally difficult".

But how that manifests falls within DM purview. Maybe there's gaps in the bridge, and the character has to make sure (through Acrobatics checks) they don't slip and fall into them; but being unable to see them makes it that much harder to avoid. Since Lost Mine of Phandelver is a module for early level characters, I wouldn't pose a risk of dying on this check ("Sir Gregory, you failed the acrobatics check, so you're now stuck between two floorboards of the bridge."), but that's just my perspective. Like I said, DM fiat.

There's a few other things to take into consideration:

  • The bridge might have a built-in check to navigate safely. A DM might rule that crossing this bridge while blinded requires making the check with disadvantage.
  • Same goes for checks to scale a difficult set of stairs or navigate a narrow passage.
  • A creature hiding on the bridge or in a narrow passage can be especially dangerous if the PC can't see them before encountering them.

Take the scenario into account, and make adjustments to deal with the circumstances that the players encounter.


Perhaps surprisingly, there is no movement penalty indicated in the rules for moving in darkness or while otherwise blinded.

I have to admit, I assumed there was, but I must have been thinking of previous editions.

As a DM of course, you are free to house-rule something. Ruling that moving in an unfamiliar location while blinded counts as 'difficult terrain' (each foot of movement costs an extra foot, effectively halving speed) would be reasonable assuming that the PCs are moving more carefully due to their blindness. A PC would still be entirely free to move at normal speed while blind, but perhaps this would require ability checks to avoid bumping into an obstacle or falling down stairs.

You would also then have to factor this in to the difficulty of any encounter (chasing those goblins would have been much more difficult!)


You should house rule this, or let them make checks

As the other answers already stated, the written rules have no penalty to movement speed for creatures that are blinded or unable to see. They also have no penalty for pinpointing a unseen creature's location exactly over long distances, if that creature is not using stealth to mask it.

I can tell you from our own play experience: in battle against a large number of opponents that we knew had no darkvision like us we retreated into a pitch black cave system to fight them there. The DM just continued to move them with perfect accuracy, as well as have them target fireballs with perfect accuracy over long distances, arguing that the rules do allow for it, so they had no penalty. He also let them move on optimal paths through the caves to get to us, at full speed, never running into walls or anything. WE HATED IT.

It was totally immersion-breaking. In our own real-life experience, when we have to move in pitch black at night without switching on the light, it is a slow, tentative groping ahead with your hand as you take baby steps to not run into stuff. There is a short story by Mark Twain about this, too. This is even true in our homes that we know like the backs of our hands. So it really rubbed us the wrong way.

And it is no use to say, well it is symmetical, the players can do it too: that does not make it any more believable. Plus, its not true because except for rare situations with magical darkness, most PCs have darkvision or light sources and never have that issue.

Based on this experience, I strongly recommend that you rule some negative effect for blind movement, however you see fit: treating darkness as difficult terrain seems to be the easiest way; the accepted answer is strictly within printed rules and looks great if you do not mind rolling extra checks.

Having the creatures spend time to make a perception check to pinpoint an unseen opponent's location (especially if far away), or have them missing the exact spot a bit, while not rules-as-written, is a lot more believable and might be a good house-rule too.


that's where you think you moved...

I have always used a houserule to have player roll a wisdom check to see if they head in the right direction, (hard if they are fighting, easier if they are just trying to move).

Since the characters cannot see, they can't tell you where they are going, only where they THINK they are going. If they fail, I roll a D8 to figure out which direction they actually head. The only way around it is to see, or to have a wall you can keep your hand on.

It works well: it discourages too much metagaming in darkness and reflects the real problem with darkness. It got real interesting when a player stabbed another player thinking they were an enemy because they got turned around. You can run full tilt right into a wall or go ass over teakettle on furniture. My players say it feels realistic.



You have correctly stated the consequences of the Blinded condition, and as you note, they do not result in a reduction in speed. A Blinded creature, including creatures without Darkvision in the dark, should be allowed to move without automatic movement penalties should they choose to do so.

Further, a Blinded creature should be able to hear and follow its quarry. The 5e assumption is that each creature knows the placement of all other creatures 'on the board' by both seeing and hearing them. In the absence of sight, or when facing an invisible foe, a creature still knows the location of other creatures 'to the square' by the sounds that they make. [Note that while this is not stated explicitly in the rules; it is a common, though not universal, interpretation] of what is in the rules.

Consider the complications in Chases

Other answers to this question, including the accepted answer, suggest using Dexterity or Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks for creatures moving at full speed while Blinded, and cite the suggested situations for those checks. I agree with this, but would like to add further rules support. The DMG section on Chases (pp. 252 - 255) are optional-but-official rules. Narratively, they posit a situation in which the action leaves a defined battlefield where the participants are moving at tactical speed, and enters unknown conditions through which the participants are moving at maximum speed. Doing so results in the sudden appearance of unforeseen 'complications', which are physical obstacles that must be negotiated to continue the chase. This, I think, is precisely the situation that would present itself to Blinded characters attempting to move at full speed through an unknown dungeon, as in your situation.

In the Chase rules, the complications that appear are randomly determined, likely because the DM does not have an appropriate map prepared; in your situation, you would introduce them at the points appropriate on the map (as you say, when there are stairs, narrow passages and a rickety bridge). Combining the two tables, we can see that the most frequent result is the character must make a skill check (usually Dexterity (Acrobatics) but there are others depending on the complication), with failure resulting in a certain amount of difficult terrain being applied. Other results of failed checks are being knocked prone, taking damage, or taking damage and difficult terrain. Certain complications call for saves (again usually Dexterity but there are others depending on the complication), with failure resulting in being knocked prone, taking damage, being attacked, having one's speed halved, being restrained, or taking damage and being knocked prone. I would suggest reading through the various complications and their consequences and finding the ones you think appropriate for a Blinded creature attempting to traverse your situations. As you state, these checks should be made at disadvantage if the nature of the complication would rely on sight to negotiate it.

Also consider Orientation

While the default in 5e is to assume that Blinded characters know the location of creatures on the board by the sounds they make, there is no such assumption for static environmental features. Instead, this part of the game falls under 'the DM describes the environment', and a Blinded character won't necessarily receive information about walls, doors, obstacles, etc. Should they run into these at full speed, treating them as chase complications would be appropriate.

Even in an environment relatively free of obstacles, if there are no sounds with which to orient themselves, it should be quite possible for a Blinded character moving at full speed to veer off course or otherwise get disoriented. In my games, I typically call for a Survival check for characters attempting to move at full speed when they can't see, with failure indicating they end up off course. This also allows me to fully describe the environment, or display a map, for the characters who can see, while the characters who can't see still have a chance to go off course without having to role play their ignorance of the environment.

A note on chasing goblins

Even those with Darkvision should have difficulty chasing down a goblin that knows the terrain, because of their Nimble Escape feature. A dashing speed of 60 is not great, but if is enough to get beyond the range of your darkvision, they can then Hide as a bonus action, either letting you run past them and doubling back, or confusing you whenever there is a decision point as you will no longer hear them and not know which way they took. On the off chance you are able to catch them base-to-base by dashing yourself, they get Disengage as their bonus action, meaning you won't even get opportunity attacks as you get deeper and deeper into territory that they know and you don't.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .