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I use this homebrew rule for darkvision and add a new racial trait called low-light vision in my games:

Darkvision: The following player races have darkvision to a range of 60ft; Drow, Half-Drow, Tieflings, Aasimar, Deep Gnomes, Duergar, Kobolds, Tabaxi, Leonin, and Triton, as well as any race not mentioned here that has superior darkvision.

Low-light Vision: All other races that normally have darkvision instead have low-light vision (they can see in dim light as if it was bright light).

When reading these rules, a player asked "What about dragonborn?"

I really think it's stupid dragonborn don't get any special senses given how good dragons' senses are, so I want to give them something special like blindsight. However, I don't know if this is balanced. Would this unbalance dragonborn too much? If it does, should I give them darkvision or low-light vision, keeping in mind my current house rules about darkvision and low-light vision?

Blindsight is available for any character via taking the Fighting Initiate (Blind Fighting) feat. Likewise, I am concerned about whether granting blindsight would be mostly useful (and/or too powerful) for Dragonborn characters who are melee fighters, and not be a useful trait for Dragonborn that make ranged attacks or cast spells in combat, and whether that should preclude giving them this trait (or if some other option is available to make this more useful for all characters/less useful for melee characters).

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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri From my take on reading on it...OP's low light vision rule removes the "And in darkness as if it were dim light" second half of true Darkvision. So they can see better in low light, but are still functionally blind in true darkness. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2022 at 17:15

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Blindsight is pushing it but still OK

According to Detect Balance, normal Dragonborn are worth only 21 points, one of the weakest races, vs. an average of 25 points. Darkvision is worth 3 points, so it would be not at all unbalancing to give darkvision to dragonborn, they would be average with it. (This is likely what I would do).

Value of Limited Blindsight. Blindsight 30 feet is worth 8 points, like an ASI +2 that can covert to any feat. 5 feet of Blindsight or the "Fighting Initiate" feat that grants 10 feet of Blindsight should therefore be worth less than 8 points. I think it better than "Blindsight 30 feet, blind beyond" when it comes to ranged attacks and spells, detecting ambushes and so on, and that ability is worth 4 points. So Blindsight 5 or 10 feet might be worth around 6 points.

That would bring you to 27 points, stronger than average but still in the recommended range of 24 to 27, and not unbalanced.

In my experience, blindsight even out only to 10 feet is quite useful. It allows you to detect scrying sensors, fight invisible attackers of which there are quite a few (e.g. duergar, oni, invisible stalkers, mages, imps, genies, pixies, slaadi and various other demons to name just a few ...), and fight in magical darkness or fog without disadvantage, which can be a brutal tactic if one of the party members can cast darkness or fog cloud.

Impact of Low-Light Vision. Your Low-Light Vision is a lot weaker than darkvision. The main value of darkvision is from being able to see in the dark, like in a dark dungeon, not from seeing in dim light as if it were bright. I would at best value Low-Light Vision with one point. This would lower the point value for many other character classes as darkvision is a common racial trait by 2-3 points. About half of the listed classes have it, lowering the average value to somewhere around 23-24 points. The loss of superior darkvision in comparison has no big impact, only very few classes have it and it is valued only one point above normal darkvision.

In such an environment, giving darkvision to dragonborn is still entirely within range, but giving Blindsight would push them just above the recommended range. There are still races that have higher point values though, for example variant human with 33 (which also is unaffected as it has no darkvision), so it it not entirely unbalanced.

Conclusion: You are right that how good it is on a character will depend on how much ranged attacking in dark environments they will do vs melee, and these kinds of dependencies are not well captured by the point system of Detect Balance. If dragonborn had Blindsight, I would probably not use a dragonborn for a sharpshooter build; but on melee fighters it would be strong. To avoid abuse and broken builds, it is wise to think about the build that would abuse it first, not about the build where it would be underwhelming. Therefore, I'd recommend to just go with darkvision as the enhancement.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You are probably right, but until we know what darkvision means to the OP I am not sure the answer can have enough value. Darkvision2.0 sounds like an even more powerful version of normal Darkvision, so recommending adding that may be too powerful, and saying most races average at 25 points also doesn't account for Darkvision2.0. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Sep 9, 2022 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I think their darkvision is just plain normal darkvision. They also have low-light vision, which is darkvision minus seeing in darkness. They merely changed wo has darkvision, and who has the new, weaker low-light vision. Nobody in their game has 120' range darkvision, if I understand them right, those have normal darkvision instead. Is that not what you understand from their question? Do you mean blindsight by darkvision 2.0? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2022 at 17:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Umm, what are you talking about dark vision means to me exactly what it means in the rules(darkness is dim light, and dim light is bright light) if you mean the range then yes everybody has only 60ft, I'll edit that in the post and the original rule. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2022 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin also low light vision is a concept that existed in older editions of DnD they just removed it in 5e for the sake of simplicity(something I always commend in 5e, but they went overboard with this one) so editing in "what I call" is inaccurate. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2022 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Muhammadhiari The issue is that there is no low-light vision in 5e, and so re-introducing it is your house rule. To not confuse the readers of the question, it might be good to be very clear that this is a homebrew rule inspired by earlier editions, and that it does not allow the character to see in darkness. If you are not clear you risk your question being closed for lack of clarity -- you already attracted 2 close votes. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 9, 2022 at 19:23
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Only if you feel it's balanced to give one player a free feat

As you've stated, gaining blindsight is available to all through the feat Fighting Initiate (Blind Fighting). Giving this ability to a character is effectively giving that feat for free.

What you need to ask yourself, and your table, is whether or not receiving a feat for free is balanced. That isn't something we can really answer, but my hunch is that if one player gets a free feat, then everyone should.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be fair, Fighting Initiate is a pretty low-value feat. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2022 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I haven't done the math on it, but I have picked it twice for characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Sep 10, 2022 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yeah I just went with Darkvision. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 11, 2022 at 8:04

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