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As the title says, can an earth elemental see while using Earth Glide?

I don't see anything in particular in its stat block that would make me think it could see or hear. They have no tremorsense, and darkvision seems like it would not be terribly useful when swimming in dirt and/or stone. Stone is fairly effective at stopping sound, and without specialized hearing or sight, I suspect them to be blind and deaf while using Earth Glide.

Is this another example of an oversight by the writers of 3.5?

Note: This appears to be updated in 5e since the earth elemental in that system has tremorsense.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m voting to close this question because part about designers' intent (oversight / balance part) is deemed to be off topic by the current community consensus and is likely to encourage discussion and guessing, something Stack Exchange is not suited to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 30, 2021 at 11:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot That inquiry was easily enough edited out. the question is fine now. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2021 at 14:01

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No, they can't see. They can potentially hear.

Like you've noted, they're unable to see while underground, since earth and rock are typically opaque, and they have no special ability to see through it. However, they should be able to potentially hear things, since "a stone wall" imposes a +15 DC penalty to Listen checks. In order to locate a creature in combat by listening for it, they'd thus have to succeed at a DC 15 Listen check, +1 for every 10 feet away they are from their target. This is quite doable, especially since Earth Elementals are all trained in Listen, and their skill bonus goes up as they gain hit dice.

Attacking creatures located this way would, however, impose a 50% miss chance unless they pop up out of the ground to visually acquire their target. While none of the example stat blocks for Earth Elementals have taken it, they all qualify for the Blind-Fight feat since it has no prerequisites, which would allow them to reroll this miss chance, on the event of a miss.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In case you mean getting the exact location (5 ft. square) of a creature, the DC should probably be greater than 15+1 per 10 ft. See epic skills. It says " If the character beats the DC by 20 or more, he or she can pinpoint the location of the invisible creature". \$\endgroup\$
    – Ols
    Nov 30, 2021 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Consider that "Incorporeal creatures hiding inside solid objects get a +2 circumstance bonus on Listen checks, because solid objects carry sound well. Pinpointing an opponent from inside a solid object uses the same rules as pinpointing invisible opponents (see Invisibility[...])' dndsrd.net/abilitiesAndConditions.html#incorporeality \$\endgroup\$
    – Chemus
    Dec 3, 2021 at 6:42

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