I have a question in regards to how vision works at night in pathfinder. According to my understanding of the rules if you are outside at night and the moon\stars are out the dc to see somebody is

+2(unfavorable conditions) +1 per 10 feet.

So this means the average Joe can see somebody at 80 feet relatively easily and the hero player is likely to see people at somewhere in the range of 100-150 feet relatively easily. This is assuming no stealth is involved.

My question is, for many battles that is probably the entire battle map or close to it. Does it seem right that at night players will be able to see pretty much anyone who is not using stealth and behind something? Also how does cover work. Say a npc is crouching somewhere partially covered.

This gets even easier for elves as the penalty for unfavorable conditions would go away.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Here's a link to the environmental rules for Pathfinder: Darkness \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:17

Visibility is extremely situational, and "night" can actually cover a wide variety of lighting conditions, even without artificial light sources.

Someone who is not hiding, standing 80 feet away, on a moonlit night, visible 50% of the time to an Average Jane? That seems about right. Full moonlight is actually very bright light, and to night-adapted eyes is only slightly less useful than full daylight. A mere +2 DC is about right.

By comparison, an overcast, moonless night or nighttime during rain is pitch dark, and everyone counts as invisible. Invisible imposes a +20 DC to visibility-related Perception checks, which also seems about right. It's very hard to see your own hand under such conditions, let alone someone standing quietly ten feet away.

In more mixed conditions, you have to use your judgement. A city street with torches on posts every 50 feet? There will be pools of bright light, and the ambient light between them will be more than "pitch dark", but the bright lights will also cause light adaption, making the spaces between harder to see in. In such cases, you might decide that it depends on where you're standing and looking: If you're in the torchlight, everything outside it is invisible; if you're in the dark and looking at someone in the torchlight, there's no penalty to see them but (because you're ruining your night vision) everything around you is invisible; if you've spent a few rounds focused on just things in the darkness, then you get the +20 DC for invisibility for the first few rounds, then the +5 DC for terrible visibility when your eyes adjust.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to point out that Darkness in pathfinder does not make everyone Invisible, but makes everyone Blind. Opponents gain 50% concealment against blind foes. A slight technical clarification. Source \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason Interestingly enough, the rules effects of fighting/sensing an invisible creature are exactly the same as the rule effects for fighting/sensing while blind. So technically you're right, but it doesn't actually make a mechanical difference. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '13 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie There is one slight difference: When fighting an invisible creature, you can more easily see where the walls and other obstacles are. I guess that's not much different from an environment with some well-lit areas and some dark ones, though. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jun 2 '15 at 0:26

Sounds like you read Perception but should also read Vision and Light. In moonlight you can "see" with a -2 penalty but everyone has concealment, making hiding via Stealth possible anywhere. So if someone's just standing in a field in the moonlight, they're not all that hard to see; if they're trying at all to hide they're quite effective. In darkness, it's blind time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ In order to attack a foe in darkness, their position must first be pinpointed with a Perception check. If a creature/character makes an attack roll without first pinpointing an opponent, they attack a random square within reach. The environmental rules are also worth reading. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Nov 6 '13 at 10:24

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