For situations like Obscuring Mist, darkness, and other vision impairment, how have you successfully enforced that in physical tabletop play?

Measurements of success:

  • Players are able to manipulate their character on a battle grid to explore the area of restricted sight
  • The GM can interrupt players when their sensory information changes without significantly interrupting play each round
    • Ideally, you would also avoid constantly moving them back
  • You have some method of providing information to players about what their character perceives
    • Ideally, only the player that "should" have the exact knowledge would have it, and others only what they can convey

Good answer(s) will follow the concept of Good Subjective and cover key points:

  • What has been your experience using the system?
    • i.e. player feedback, how you felt it worked
  • How you were able to restrict sight and also reveal information
    • Did you just tell the one player? Did everybody get to know when Bob was next to the bad guy?

Related question for online play using Roll20's virtual tabletop: In Roll20, how do you restrict PCs' vision in situations like fog?


3 Answers 3


If we're talking about a grid, I just don't place or draw any creatures or terrain features in or on the other side of an obscured area. I keep my own mini-grid, up to date with everything's location, behind my screen.

This simulates the lack of vision pretty well. I always know where everything is, but the players are stuck with dead reckoning. Players are roughly aware of how large an area they're in, but have to rely on their characters' senses (by asking me what they perceive, and then remembering my answers). Since they have no other information to review, they can't game the system very easily.

It's relatively rare that I feel the need to do this. It works, but that scenario is often a not-very-exciting one. There is little to see, and the lack of knowledge about their surroundings make it hard to come up with interesting plans. So they don't get to hear much in the way of interesting descriptions, and have less scope to come up with interesting things to do and less ability to avoid dangers (making them more arbitrary).

More often the situation is an area the players have had a chance to get a sense of where things are, an a sudden spell obscuring the area wouldn't eliminate that. With a decent sense of where things were when the vision was obscured, I'll leave minis on the map and let players perceive them through non-visual means (hearing their feet on the ground, feeling disturbances in the air) and leave disadvantage (or related mechanics) to simulate the lack of visibility.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is more or less what I was expecting, but I feel compelled to link the good subjective Meta. I think this will need more details (how do you give sensory information to players, for instance) as well as information about how well it's worked (ie player feedback) to be The Answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso I've fleshed it out a bit more, but perhaps you could add some information to the question? It's pretty bare, and you've not described what criteria would make restricting PC senses "successful". I don't know that I can make my answer much more specific than it is now or add in "good subjective" elements without assuming beyond the bounds of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Upper_Case
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a good point. I'll see if I can be more descriptive. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:41

This only applies to buildings/dungeons. Open wilderness or areas where there aren't rooms or clearlyb defined areas don't really work with this method.

For my games, I print out the maps and scale and use spray mount to glue them to sheets of cardboard. After it dries, I highlight doors and windows (in yellow/orange and blue, respectively) and then cut the rooms apart into tiles, numbering the backs as I go.

When the walls have been cut apart, sometimes it can be a little difficult to tell where doors and windows are because they've been slot in half and can be quite thin. That's why I highlight them.

Then, I place the room tiles into a bag in numerical order so that it's easy to pull them out as the party progresses.

I originally tried taping blank paper over the rooms on a large, unrolled map but found that doing this revealed the scale and general orientation of the dungeon to the party. Sometimes, that's fine (if it's inside a house that they've seen from the outside, for example). Other times, it influenced their decision on which door to open, etc.

The other nice thing about it is that you don't need to use the entire map. You can use theater of the mind to move throug ith the dungeon and, once you need a map (for a bath, say) you can whip out the necessary tile(s) to create it. This is also really helpful if your map is huge and wouldn't fully fit on your table. You can place only the necessary areas of the map and "roll" through the dungeon.

My party rarely splits up by any distance greater than 30 feet so it hasn't really been an issue for me where one character is aware of something the others aren't. If I really needed to do that, though, passing a note works and, to simplify matters, I tend to say that combat can be heard from a good distance so if character A in one wing of the dungeon gets into a fight, I say character B in a different wing can hear the scuffle. What they choose to do about it is up to them.


I've used the extremely low tech method of putting black construction paper on the battle mat, when, after detailing an area I don't want to erase, the players' vision or light source has changed. However, this is really only suitable for effects that impact the entire party.

These days, I use Maptool, where this is automatic.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I made some edits to try to provide more structure for more Stack-able answers \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Oct 16, 2019 at 20:50

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