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I recently moved my pathfinder 1e campaign online. After some experimenting I decided that the Roll20 dynamic lighting system was worth the investment. However during our first session using the system they found it cool but frustrating.

Most of the players' frustration came from an issue of not being able to see what was next to them. The situation was as follows.

  • I am using Legacy Dynamic Lighting with Advanced Fog of War (updated has too many bugs)
  • The party were trying to sneak up on a group in the dark, hence extinguished their lights.
  • One character has darkvision the other 3 members have low-light vision.
  • They decided to hold hands and move in a line following the character that could see.

This is where they encountered an issue and some frustration. Due to the way darkness is handled with the dynamic lighting tool there was no way for the players to follow the movements of the character with darkvision.

What they wanted:

L L X D . . . .      . L L X D . . .      . . L L X . . .      . . . L L . . .
. . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . D . . .  =>  . . . . X . . .
. . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . D . . . 

X = player token (low light vision), L = Ally with Low light vision, D = Ally with Darkvision

What they saw:

. . X . . . . .      . . . X . . . .      . . . . X . . .      . . . . . X . .
. . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . . 

As soon as the players entered the darkness they could no longer see the characters immediately next to them and therefore couldn't follow their movements in a line style. This led to frustration, and the players without darkvision commenting "I can't do anything since I can't see".

While not being able to see their opponents and having to carefully manage their light was the goal of using this system. Frustrating my players and making them not enjoy the game is an unacceptable consequence.

How can I configure the dynamic lighting system and player tokens to enable them to work cooperatively in darkness?

Goals:

  • Force players to think tactically about use of light (they have indicated they want this)
  • Use Advanced Fog of War for automated map reveal (reduce load on GM)
  • Allow players to move in the line formation without requiring the GM to move their pieces for them
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv How does having the exact tag of the system I am using harm the question? The system actually impacts the grid measurement system, rules for vision and how I set up roll20 in general. Therefore I think it is useful information. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 21 '20 at 7:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv You may be interested in reading this meta post which suggests to always use the exact system tag. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 21 '20 at 7:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman Please also keep reading: "Even if your question could be relevant to other RPG systems, or a broader category of RPG systems, ask about your exact problem in your exact RPG." In general, don't ask querents to artificially broaden their questions. Specificity in questions is explicitly a good thing in these parts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Apr 21 '20 at 10:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, I think it's fairly clear that linksassin isn't interested in changing it, so take any further discussion to a chat room, or open a Role-playing Games Meta question if you feel a need to understand it further, or think the community should have a (new) discussion about what to do. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Apr 21 '20 at 10:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Senmurv All good, thanks for understanding. I thought it might be a common enough problem to be worth posting, particularly at the moment with so many people going online for the first time. Also wondered if people more experienced with Roll20 might have a better solution for it that I hadn't thought of. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 22 '20 at 0:01
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I'm going to give the solution I came up with following some experimenting with my player following the game. It isn't perfect and somewhat mitigates the challenge of darkness but seems to be the best compromise to increase player enjoyment.

Give all players a 3ft Light Source

Under token settings set each player's token to emit a 3ft light source that only they can see, also set the dim start point to 0ft so the only dim light is emitted. This allows them to see halfway into the next square and identify where their allies are to move cooperatively. They can see:

. L X D . . . .      . . L X D . . .      . . . L X . . .      . . . L L . . .
. . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . . . . .  =>  . . . . D . . .  =>  . . . . X . . .
. . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . . . . .      . . . . D . . . 
X = player token (low light vision), L = Ally with Low light vision, D = Ally with Darkvision

Advantages to this solution

  • Simple to implement
  • Allows players to work cooperatively
  • Requires no management from the GM

Drawbacks

  • Also allows players to see enemies they potentially shouldn't be able to see

Why 3ft?

I choose 3ft after some trial and error testing with my players. Initially I went with 5ft but with the way Roll20 blend light into darkness this actually enabled them to see into squares that were 10ft away. Next I tried 2ft but the range was so short players had difficulty seeing tokens in diagonal squares. 3ft seems to be a happy medium that only reveals as much as they need of the adjacent squares.

Conclusion

Overall I plan to use this solution going forward as it provide a good balance between player enjoyment and the challenge of darkness management.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Any insight on whether the dim light modifier on Roll20 helps any with this issue? \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcosa
    Apr 21 '20 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcosa I am using the dim light modifier to simulate low-light vision for the players that have it. This means that the "dim light" they are emitting is actually seen as bright light which is kind of a problem. I haven't experimented with that setting too much, but your comment reminded me that it might be worth trying. I will edit this answer if I find anything useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 21 '20 at 7:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should also be able to do produce 0ft light with 5ft dim and not have them see 10ft away, but the low-light multiplier might mess with that. I'll do some testing to see if there's more ways to accomplish this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Apr 21 '20 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd give this more than +1 if I could. This brilliant. I"ll have to suggest it to my DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 21 '20 at 14:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ For Medium (one square) Tokens, putting a 5 in the first Emits Light box and 0 in the second restricts sight to the 5ft around the token like you want. You can make out diagonals but not 10ft away. For some reason, Large (2x2 squares) can still see 10ft away with this setting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Apr 21 '20 at 14:15
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You as the GM should move their token based on how they describe what they are doing.

It is pitch black, all they can feel is the hand they are holding and have to follow it blindly. Let the player with the Darkvision move as normal and you as the GM move all the other PC tokens along with him. The sense of not having control and relying on someone else fits the situation. Once the lights come back on, they will suddenly be somewhere else on the map with only the verbal discussion for understanding where they went and how they got there. They shouldn't be trying to move their token while they can't see.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As awesome as the other answer is, this one is equally valid, and was the one I immediately thought of. +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Apr 21 '20 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a roll20DM, all I can say is "Great, just load myself up with more work" so I can't up vote this answer. I do get the "tension in the environment" aspect you are going for here. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 21 '20 at 14:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That was exactly my experience. I've already found I have too many things to do to want to move the player's tokens as well. Also my player's had some hesitancy about letting me control everything. They like controlling their tokens. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 21 '20 at 23:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin: While this doesn't solve the issue of players moving their own tokens (although its still probably better than you doing it), you don't have to take on this role yourself; If I am not very much mistaken, roll20 has a feature where you can assign the movement of tokens to multiple players, i.e. make any individual able to move any arbitrary piece. So you can delegate to your darkvision player, who presumably can see everything, move your players tokens at their behest. Also works for lessening your work load for summoned creatures, animal companions, dominated creatures, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – sharur
    Apr 22 '20 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ You could also grant the character with dark vision control over the other players tokens temporarily, as they are essentially pulling them along. \$\endgroup\$
    – Amicable
    Apr 23 '20 at 11:38
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As a compromise between the "blind" player moving the token and the DM moving the token, you delegate the movement of the tokens to the player of the "dark sighted" character, who presumably can see everything.

Roll20 has the ability to grant an arbitrary set of players the ability to move arbitrary tokens.

While they may like moving their tokens as a part of ownership, and it adds a bit of realism; the characters who cannot see are blind, and are being directed by the. Additionally, if you consider "holding hands" and being pulled towards the next person in line to be being grappled, then all of the PCs are moving on the leader's turn (i.e. D is grappling L who is grappling X1 who is grappling X2), in which case allowing the leader to move all of the followers makes sense (I believe roll20 also has the ability to select and move multiple tokens simultaneously, but I don't recall if that is usable as a player).

This also works well for reducing your workload for summoned creatures, animal companions, dominated monsters, mobile spell effects such as Moonbeam and Flaming Sphere, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for posting this as an answer, it is quite a nice solution. +1 from me. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Apr 23 '20 at 8:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I do like this answer, it runs into a few problems: If your tokens are linked to your character sheet, it requires giving control of the entire character over, which not all players may be happy with. Additionally, if you don't want everyone controlling everyone's tokens constantly (and in general, you don't, because that'll give everyone access to the sight of the entire party), you have to configure this constantly for individual tokens, which is a hassle for the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcosa
    Apr 24 '20 at 1:21

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