The monk's Shadow Step ability allows him to 'step' into "an unoccupied space you can see that is also in dim light" (PHB p.80). However, with Darkvision, an elf can see normally in dim light, so does he perceive any difference between dim light and normal light? If not, how does he know whether the intended destination area is in dim light or normal light to allow the 'step'?

I totally get that the elf's darkvision doesn't change the actual physical condition of the dim light, but how can he be sure he can 'step' into it if he doesn't actually know it is dim light?

It gets worse if you multi-class and pick up Devil's Sight, meaning you can see 'normally' in darkness. So out to 60' (the range of Shadow Step) the elf can see normally in normal light, and dim light (because of Darkvision) and darkness (because of Devil's Sight) - does this mean that he is therefore unable to perceive the lighting condition of any area within 60' which he would like to 'step' into.

Is this right & does it essentially mean that Shadow Step doesn't work in these conditions?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question buries the lede. Fundamentally this is the question, "with darkvision does a character perceive any difference between dim light and normal light?" The elf and shadow step details are the reason or asking, but not the crux of the matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Mar 20, 2022 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


Shadow Step doesn't care how your eyes work.

From a mechanical perspective, the game doesn't care how your character perceives different kinds of lighting condition (except darkvision being black-and-white). You can tell which spaces are in dim light or darkness, and provided you can see the space, you can teleport to it. If you want an explanation of how the character perceives the world, you don't get one -- we can speculate, but there's nothing in the rule book that tells us that. It doesn't really matter.

We know that normal vision and darkvision look different, as mentioned; presumably seeing in dim light and treating it as bright light is similarly distinguishable from actual bright light, the same way you can tell sunshine from a low-wattage lightbulb even if you can't directly see the light source. Both of them allow you to see your environment equally well, but you can just tell they aren't the same thing. The most likely explanation is that an elf still sees low-light as being darker than daylight, it just doesn't actually stop them from seeing as well as they could before. It's the same as you seeing by a lightbulb, the scale just keeps going down without ever losing clarity.

But it's possible that under low light, colors are dulled though still visible, as darkvision starts to operate side-by-side with color vision; or maybe it's not really something you can describe to a human because we don't have words for sensations we can't have. An elf might consider trying to explain how they can tell bright light from low light similar to how we think about trying to explain colors to somebody who was blind from birth, or explaining music to a deaf person. It's a sense you just don't have.

I would assume Devil's Sight is similar, you can tell when you're looking at darkness and seeing anyway, but we don't have any particular explanation of what that might look like to the character.


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