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The Path of the Totem Warrior barbarian (PHB, p. 50) gets the Aspect of the Beast feature at 6th level, with a number of different totem options with different benefits. The Eagle totem description states:

You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you. Additionally, dim light doesn't impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Perhaps I'm being facetious, but the wording on this seems to imply that you can see 1 mile away no matter what. Through trees, dirt, rock, magic fog clouds, magical darkness, etc. It doesn't say you need line of sight or that magical effects block it still. It says "no difficulty".

How would a DM interpret that if a player challenged him on this wording RAW?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Clearing votes. This is neither unclear nor PoB. Not liking a question is fine for downvotes but hold/close votes are expected to be saved for matching the hold/close reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 10 at 18:10
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Eagles can't do that.

It says very clearly "you gain the eyesight of an eagle." Live by exact words, die by exact words.

This is one of those "there ain't no rule that says fire is hot" situations. The rules are meant to be interpreted by someone with at least a little bit of life experience, not by RuleBot 9000.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair--and admitting I know next-to-nothing about eagles--I doubt their vision hews exactly to the "see at 1 mile as a human sees at 100 feet" rule set forth in the text. If that's true there's a contradiction in the text: "you gain the eyesight of an eagle" and "1mi as at 100ft." How does one square those conflicting statements of acuity? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 10 at 2:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 fluff vs crunch. Your vision's so cool it's eagle-grade. Specifically, 100 feet to 1 mile. \$\endgroup\$ – ThanosMaravel Jan 10 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer best answers it from the RAW perspective I was seeing it from. \$\endgroup\$ – Semada Jan 10 at 13:42
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You can see up to 1 mile

The wording here states that any objects that are within 1 mile will block your vision, as normal vision works. This does not allow you to see through solid objects. If that were the case, the wording would state that as part of the ability.

The addition of "with no difficulty" is simply to describe the difference between this particular ability, and your normal eyesight. For example, in reality, using a Snellen Chart, even with 20/20 vision, the human eye has difficulty reading letters below the bottom third line, from more than 2 metres away, without the use of binoculars, or any other magnification devices.

This feat is stating that at 1 mile, you would be able to clearly read the same sign, at up to 1 mile away, provided that the line of sight is unobstructed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 10 at 2:27
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There is RAW and there is RAW.

The rule books need to be read in the context of standard English while applying a bit of common sense.

With rules this complex there will always be some ambiguities and interpretation issues (hence these forums), but one useful thing to bear in mind is that paragraphs are meant to be read in their entirety. If you take just one section of a sentence or paragraph ("You can see up to 1 mile away"), then you risk taking it out of context.

This is backed up by a Jeremy Crawford tweet.

The entire sentence reads:

You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you.

The second part of this sentence ("able to discern fine details...") is clearly meant to clarify the first part of the sentence, indicating that this ability is about being able to see detailed information from a long distance away as clearly as though it were only 100 feet away.

Furthermore, the "common sense" aspect applies when you consider that the rules can't simulate every single bit of common knowledge. If this feature was intended to allow you to see through solid objects a la 'x-ray vision' then it would say so. It doesn't, so you can't.

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The fact that the ability doesn't work that way has been argued to death, so I will focus on answering the last question:

How would a DM interpret that if a player challenged him on this wording RAW?

Or, why not by strictly RAW:

It says you can see up to one mile away as if 100 feet away. If an object is within 100 feet but hidden, you can't see it. Therefore, an object 1 mile away but hidden is just as visible as if it were hiding within 100 feet: not at all.

Then, if the player wanted to get real pedantic, he could state that with an obstacle at 125 feet and an object 150 feet away, he would be seeing the object 'as if 100 feet away' and thus in front of the 125 obstacle. To which the response would be that the obstacle is also an object, thus also seen at the 100feet mark, thus still hiding the object (in a weird, 2D way).

So, yea, this is the RAW counter-argument, if everything else isn't sufficient.

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Does the Totem Warrior barbarian's 6th-level Eagle totem allow you to see through anything up to a mile away?

Yes it does:

  • Glass
  • Air
  • Water

Basically anything transparent that you could normally see through without the Eagle totem you can also see through with it. This isn't an exhaustive list of course and their may be exceptions even to these.

What it doesn't allow you to do of course is see through everything up to a mile.


Ok, a facetious answer to a facetious question. My point being to emphasise that you are indeed being too facetious and this is likely what a DM would tell you.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There’s a facetious comment that could be made about logical errors from mistranslating contextual English “anything” into \$∃x\$ instead of \$∀x\$. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 10 at 18:14

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