The Tricksy Fey spirit can create a cube of magical darkness. Summon Fey (TCoE, p. 112):

Tricksy. The fey can fill a 5-foot cube within 5 feet of it with magical darkness, which lasts until the end of its next turn.

Magical darkness does not have a mechanical definition, but this particular instance of it does not say it blocks darkvision. Sage Advice Compendium (V2.7, p.3):

Does all magical darkness block darkvision?
Magical darkness blocks darkvision only if the rules text for a particular instance of darkness says it does. For example, the darkness spell specifies that it produces a magical darkness that obstructs darkvision. That obstruction is a feature of the spell, not of magical darkness in general.

Elves have 60' of darkvision. Presumably this means that an elf within 60' of the darkness can see through the square just fine (though dimly lit), but if they stand 65' away they are blind to whatever is in that square. If the elf were to stand inside that square of darkness, could they see foes 65' away as clear as day while remaining invisible? Could they gain the unseen attacker bonus without suffering any disadvantage? Or does the whole world appear dark to them so they only get 60' of dim light and then darkness beyond that?


1 Answer 1


Yes, they can see and attack with advantage

In summary, characters with darkvision can see in darkness as if it were dim light. Dimly lit areas do not block vision, so they can look right through the area with their normal, unlimited vision. And if their target cannot see them in the darkness, they get to attack it with advantage.

Darkness in the game

In the real world, darkness does not block your vision — if you stand in darkness at night, you can see a campfire in the distance just fine, even without darkvision. (Thanks to @DaleM for pointing this out). Darkness in 5e from a rules mechanics perspective however creates a heavily obscured area that blocks vision, p. 183 PHB:

A heavily obscured area--such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage--blocks vision entirely.

It is treated just like opaque fog. On a strict reading, by the game rules you cannot see through even normal darkness as you could in the real world (for more discussion on how to adjudicate this unexpected result, see Does the Darkness spell block vision?)1.

Here however, the character in darkness has darkvision. Darkvision says (p. 183 PHB):


Many creatures in the worlds of D&D, especially those that dwell underground, have darkvision. Within a specified range, a creature with darkvision can see in darkness as if the darkness were dim light, so areas of darkness are only lightly obscured as far as that creature is concerned.

So, for a creature with darkvision you treat squares within the radius as only lightly obscured, and a lightly obscured area of dim light does not block vision. Without heavy obscurement's unnatural rule, looking through dim light works just as in the real world.

Darkvision does not limit your other senses

Nothing in the description of darkvision says it restricts the creature's other senses in any way. Would a creature's other senses enable it to look out beyond? If the answer is yes, they can see beyond. So the elf can see creatures beyond 60 feet in clear daylight normally. The world does not appear dark to them beyond the radius of their darkvision, if it isn't.

If the creature they are attacking cannot see them in the darkness, they get advantage on their attacks against it, and the creature has disadvantage to attack them, because (p. 195, PHB):

When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll. (...) When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

1Interestingly the DMG on p. 105 says, "Bright light in an environment of total darkness can be visible for miles.". This contradicts the effect heavy obscurement from darkness would have, because for this to work you need to be able to see light through darkness, like in the real world. If your DM rules like this, you would not even need Darkvision to see someone in a bright space outside the area of darkness you are in. Kudos to @Picklespeare for finding this.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This comes down to whether or not the "magical darkness" blocks vision, or if it is just an area without light. For Groody's explanation to make sense, we need justification that "magical darkness" is associated with "blocking vision". \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Apr 27, 2023 at 7:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu It's definitely different from the real world as the magical darkness is an actual thing, not simply the state of an absence of light - the fey is able to fill a space with it, like it's a gas. If you assume it's a substance that absorbs a large amount of light (but not all light, as darkvision is still able to function), then it would make sense that light entering the area from beyond would also be somewhat reduced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kayndarr
    Apr 27, 2023 at 7:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ The alternative is that either a player without darkvision would also be able to see perfectly beyond 5' but nothing directly in front of them, or that the 5' darkness would be nothing more than maybe a slightly shady area as all of the surrounding light immediately travels into the space as usual. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kayndarr
    Apr 27, 2023 at 7:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kayndarr an interpretation that works is that the area simply rejects light. What "fills" the area then is the magic that repels light, thus enforcing darkness. Both this interpretation and your interpretation make sense, but without rules to determine which one is the valid one, it's up to the DM to decide, and neither is more "valid" than the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Apr 27, 2023 at 7:28
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Picklespeare Great find on the DMG one - it does not really change the conclusion (i.e. you can see out), and it shows that even Wizards themselves stumbled over the effect the wording of heavy obscurement has. I'll add a footnote in case the comments get flushed. The errata is in the description of heavy obscurement in the PHB, it used to say you are blinded by darkness (and blinded is a condition that is permanent if not time-limited, , which was an issue, if I recall right). That part does not change the "blocks vision entirely" statement, though. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2023 at 17:03

You must log in to answer this question.

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