Lately my players have been venturing without light sources such as torches, lanterns.

They've been making up for it by casting light on rocks and throwing them ahead, but they still often don't have enough light sources to not get disadvantage when they themselves are still in the darkness.

I asked them about it, and it's because they feel like holding a torch or lantern when starting combat takes at least one free hand that they could hold something else in. And the person with the light cantrip doesn't wanna use it on weapons.

Here is my proposed house rule:

House rule:

New use for lighting

Any object that sheds bright light can be used in combat as a bonus action to attempt to blind a creature.

Make an improvised weapon attack. On a hit the enemy makes a DC 12 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, it has disadvantage on its next attack roll. If it fails by 5 or more, the creature is blinded until the end of its next turn.

Would this house rule make sources of light useable in combat without taking away from how other usable combat items work?

The reason I am doing this is because I don't like feeling like players are being punished because of constantly failing to see stuff. For example, last session they missed a hidden door and got attacked from both sides.

  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast okay edit is made ^.^´ sorry for all the extra work you've been having to do due to me \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2019 at 2:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems answerable now, thanks. I've cleaned it up a bit and edited the title to match. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 26, 2019 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why don’t they cast light on their weapons? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jan 26, 2019 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ The player who has it has been against it, gonna ask after the session later today \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2019 at 21:29

3 Answers 3


It's too complex

In D&D 5th edition, rules are generally simple and have only a few clauses. They're easy to remember, don't slow the game down, and don't get caught up in lots of little details that have relatively little impact.

This rule is has many parts: bonus improvised weapon attack, deal damage, if it emits heat, or saving throw, at the player's choice, if it emits heat, and failure imposes disadvantage on checks requiring sight, until the end of their next turn, and the next attack is at disadvantage, or the next attack against them has advantage, unless they have tremorsense/blindsight, or immunity to blindness.

That's about twelve different things to worry about.

Most stuff in D&D 5th edition has fewer clauses and complexities: e.g. you have disadvantage performing action X in situation Y; or action Z gives enemies disadvantage on attacks until the end of their next turn.

Some balance issues too

This effectively gives characters two-weapon fighting with torches.

You're able to use a bonus action to make an extra attack dealing 1d4+1, average 3.5 damage plus Strength, so about as good as a shortsword or other 1d6 melee weapon. That's even better than standard two-weapon fighting, which doesn't even get to add Strength modifier.


Special combat options should move the game along quickly. Look at the Action Options (DMG 271-272). Don't have a lot of time-consuming calculations or options.

Your players already don't want to hold a torch in their off-hand because other things are useful. Consider that maybe they don't want a torch even if it's good.

Remind the players that they can cast light on anything and it still works; adjudicate it that even if you make your belt buckle glow, that's plenty, and even the guy behind you isn't obscured in your shadow, to be practical. Why throw the lightstone ahead? Just hang it from your helmet/backpack, or just cast light on your backpack or something.

Your players may not really enjoy the challenge of securing light sources. Simply have most of your dungeon well-lit. Many species who live in the dungeon benefit from light and heat; there may be glowing moss; the people who built this dungeon may have built magical lighting that still works.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you I think I'll shorten it to torches and other sources of bright light can be used as a bonus action to force a dc12 constitution save and on a fail cause the next attack by the creature to have disadvantage. Failing by 5 or more causes blind condition till end of their next turn \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2019 at 2:48
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Deceptecium still more trouble than it's worth. Let them cast light on mini hooded lanterns affixed to their helmets like miners or something, it's just not worth all the bother to do what you're suggesting. Foe that matter, dropping a torch and drawing a weapon can be done without penalty on the opening turn...there's just no reason for this special rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – Paul
    Jan 26, 2019 at 16:24

Being in the dark is a challenge to surmount, just like pretty much everything else in a dungeon. As players, they have several options for how to deal with it. Each option has their own advantages and drawbacks and have all been a thing for many editions:

  • Torches and lamps: they provide ample vision around you and are cheap to acquire, the obvious disadvantage is that you have to carry them.

  • Light spells: via cantrip or spell, these can also provide light, typically at the cost of a spell slot or a short duration.

  • Darkvision: Either as a spell or a character creation choice, this is another way around the issue. Once again, this comes with a cost.

These are all good options and give your players meaningful choice. However, there seems to be some further reason why they don't want to have light sources right next to them (possibly concerned they'll attract too much attention from monsters?). In exchange for this reduction in risk they have chosen to be disadvantaged in other ways. Furthermore, from what you've said they seem to be fine with this arrangement. You're the only who seems to see this situation as a problem.

Thus, instead of trying to convince them to play the game the way you think it should be played, adjust the game to match them. Use less darkness if you don't want them missing stuff, or at least give them reason to look around for that hidden door. Let them sneak by a patrol because they weren't illuminated by torches and glowing swords. But also occasionally put them at a disadvantage because of their choice. There has to be both benefits and drawbacks or the decision wasn't meaningful after all.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks I have a session for it in a few hours, way its ran is just a get together campaign where there's a quest board etc and they pick quests they wanna do. There's ones with light sources in the quest but yet again they picked the one that is essentially walking into a dangerous animals home. (Level 3 characters. Last time was wolf den this time is poorly lit abandoned sewer) I put a few permanent torches around to help with. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2019 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer. I agree that they have to deal with their own choices - if they would rather walk in blind than have any source of light, that's on them. Sometimes there are difficult choices about whether to give away their position with light or whether to sneak up on an enemy, but as the answer says: "There has to be both benefits and drawbacks or the decision wasn't meaningful after all." \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 26, 2019 at 20:23

D&D is a game of choices; tradeoffs and gambles. Your players are gambling that they can sacrifice their ability to observe their surroundings to have an edge in combat. That's a valid gamble. If you make torches stronger in combat, then you reduce the disparity between these two choices. Similarly, if you make dungeons well lit, you again reduce the disparity between the choices.

The worst kind of choices are ones where one option is better in every way. The second worst is the kind of choice where both options are similar. The best kind of choice, the kind your players are making when they choose to forego torches, are when the options are not easily comparable and both come with their own advantages an disadvantages.

In my experience players having a "default choice" is the result of them not having enough information, or not understanding how to gather it. Ideally a stealthy character would go ahead to scout out the area for danger, then the party can decide if and when to use torches based on that information. Again, in my experience, the reason why players don't consider other options is because what they are doing is working. In this situation I try to teach players about their options by creating situations where their current strategy doesn't work or is clearly a bad idea.

I would recommend that you also make sure you understand the stealth (and hiding), lighting, and cover rules. All too often DMs heavily nerf the stealth users in the party, then wonder why the party never sends out scouts. Make sure you aren't doing this!

I will leave the exact solution up to you, as I don't want to do idea generation.


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