0
\$\begingroup\$

The 2020 Sage Advice Compendium has the following question & answer:

The frightened condition says “while the source of its fear is within line of sight.” Does that mean you have dis-advantage on attack rolls and ability checks even if the source is invisible but you have a clear line to its space?

No. If you can’t see something, it’s not within your line of sight. Speaking of “line of sight,” the game uses the English meaning of the term, which has no special meaning in the rules.

This says in no uncertain terms that being unable to see means it's not in your line of sight.

The Divination Wizard's "The Third Eye" feature says:

See Invisibility. You can see invisible creatures and objects within 10 feet of you that are within line of sight.

The Wild Magic Surge result 03-04:

For the next minute, you can see any invisible creature if you have line of sight to it.

How can these features be reworded to continue functioning in light of the Sage Advice ruling?

\$\endgroup\$
7
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I find it interesting that this question is being voted down. This similar question from 4 years ago is in a very similar vein: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/86510/… yet has received the opposite treatment. In fact, the best up-voted answer to that question specifically points out how 5e's obscurance rules simply don't cause Darkness to function as it does in the real world. I suppose that's just another "bug". \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19, 2021 at 14:14
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really see how that question is similar to this one. I upvoted that other question because, after reading it, I thought, "wow, that is confusing, I'd like to see how others have ruled on this". I downvoted this question exactly zero people are going to read See Invisibility and be confused, thinking that you cannot see invisibility with it. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19, 2021 at 14:23
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It's unintuitive & confusing when Darkness in D&D doesn't work like it does in the real world. It's equally so when the rule clarifying document for the system says unseen entities aren't in your line of sight, but the feature that says you can see certain types of unseen entities says they have to be in your line of sight. I feel pointing out this incongruity is important for people new to the game, because then they'll know the experts on the rules recognize it & they're just not missing something. Stackexchange is as much for answering a question, as clarifying the obvious answer as obvious \$\endgroup\$ Apr 19, 2021 at 14:32
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I upvoted because I think this question shows some thought; it's also a useful illustration of how the D&D rules are intended to be interpreted. \$\endgroup\$
    – Marq
    Apr 20, 2021 at 11:46
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why this is getting downvoted. The Sage Advice Compendium is extremely clear: "If you can’t see something, it’s not within your line of sight." So from this statement we know that "The Third Eye" doesn't do anything according to Sage Advice, because an invisible creature is not within line of sight. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18, 2022 at 3:01

2 Answers 2

24
\$\begingroup\$

If your reading of a feature called See Invisibility is that you cannot see invisibility, your reading is incorrect.

It's quite simple, really. The intended function of these features is so abundantly clear, that any argument that concludes that they do nothing can be dismissed out of hand.

In fact, this principle applies in general. If you read a feature, and know what it is supposed to do, but you determine that the feature actually does nothing, you can know without any doubt that your conclusion is wrong.

There is just no meaningful application of reading the rules this way.

Sure, maybe you found a bug in the game. But there is no reason at all to make this ruling at the table. This ruling contributes nothing of value to the game.

Sorry wizard, after reviewing the rules, your feature called See Invisibility does absolutely nothing.

The Dungeon Master's Guide states:

The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren’t in charge. You’re the DM, and you are in charge of the game. That said, your goal isn’t to slaughter the adventurers but to create a campaign world that revolves around their actions and decisions, and to keep your players coming back for more!

Ruling that See Invisibility does nothing is the exact opposite of this. This ruling puts the strictest possible reading of the rules in charge, to the detriment of everyone's fun.

\$\endgroup\$
8
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I can just imagine the arguments if they hadn't said "if you have line of sight to it" -- "It says I can see all invisible creatures within 10 feet, it doesn't say anything about walls blocking it, so I can see invisible creatures on the other side of a closed door!" \$\endgroup\$ Apr 20, 2021 at 21:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think the rules for Total Cover are more specific than a class feature @DarthPseudonym And I think that it's fine as-is without the Sage Advice confusing things by trying to define what "line of sight" is. I, as a person, would definitely say something you can't see is within your line of sight if some effect were preventing you from seeing it normally like Invisibility. Perhaps they should've used "cover" terminology rather than "line of sight". That would've been far clearer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 22, 2021 at 6:01
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "If you read a feature, and know what it is supposed to do, but you determine that the feature actually does nothing, you can know without any doubt that your conclusion is wrong.". I disagree with this. The third benefit of the Grappler feat effectively did nothing before it was removed by an errata. And the third sentence of Feral Senses also does nothing by RAW. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2021 at 7:46
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Just linking and quoting the things mentioned above, as they don't really make sense without these. Grappler used to state: "Creatures that are one size larger than you don't automatically succeed on checks to escape your grapple." And we have the following Q&A on Feral Senses: "Do you need a Ranger's Feral Senses to have positional awareness of invisibile creatures?". I also don't think the logic applies to these, since if I read them I wouldn't know what they were supposed to do, unlike what happens when reading see invisibility \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2021 at 14:19
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Perhaps there's an argument to be made that the description should have read "you can see invisible creatures and objects within 10 ft. of you that would otherwise be within line of sight". \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18, 2022 at 13:37
18
\$\begingroup\$

The SAC gives a clear answer

Speaking of “line of sight,” the game uses the English meaning of the term, which has no special meaning in the rules.

And so, the meaning of "line of sight" is not a game-defined term and has no set meaning. It is natural English which means it requires context. The features you mention are obviously intended to work and so should be read with that context in mind. Thus, in those cases, an invisible creature, even though invisible, is considered to be in your line of sight.

You don't need a strict and consistent definition for non-game terms, often you can find one, but in this case, it is simple to show that you cannot. The GM and the table will have to talk through these cases together to work our what they feel is best and how these things should play out.


Perhaps this is out of place, but there are other ambiguous phrases throughout the rules as well as a result of using natural English:

\$\endgroup\$
3
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I find the "the game uses the English meaning of the term" ruling unsatisfying. In English, "line of sight" means something like "a straight line along which an observer has unobstructed vision". Of course, in real life there is no invisible objects - the English language doesn't tell us whether you have a line of sight when there an unobstructed path to an object that is itself invisible. Another example where using the plain English meaning of the term for the rules actually confuses more than clarifies. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2021 at 6:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GuillaumeF. I believe you've missed my point. "Line of sight" is not a game-defined term and as such has no set meaning. Instead, it is context-sensitive and can even change meaning depending on how/when it is used. In fact, the OP points out how this phrase is actually used to mean two entirely different things. "If you can’t see something, it’s not within your line of sight." implies "If it's within your line of sight, you can see it" and yet we also see this phrase used: "You can see invisible [things] [...] that are within line of sight." These are incompatible, with strict logic \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2021 at 6:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I do agree that "line of sight" is context-sensitive and can change meaning. I just disagree with Sage Advice's statement that the English language is clear on whether the frightened condition works when a creature has a unobstructed path to the source of their fear but the source itself is invisible. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2021 at 6:43

You must log in to answer this question.

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