Is there some reference in the rules what is the Hide check penalty when the subject is under the light spell effect?

The situations: My group is in a pitch black dungeon, and our scout is always auto-detected by DM because the scout radiates light from Light spell.

Is there any rule which says that when you irradiate light you are always detected by monsters?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think I'm missing some sort of context, here. So your scout is a living torch, basically ... in a pitch-black area, he's the only source of light ... correct? Because my initial reaction to this is that the rule is called 'common sense.' How could you hide under those circumstances? \$\endgroup\$ May 23, 2014 at 12:51
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Not even in Theoretical Optimization have I ever seen someone say that darkvision is pointless because there's no negative consequences of glowing brightly. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    May 23, 2014 at 13:07
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't add duplicate answers, vote up and/or comment on ones that already contain your answer (in this case, we don't need more "no durr you're glowing don't be a rules lawyer" answers, we have one). \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 23, 2014 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify: The 0th-level Sor/Wiz spell light [evoc] (PH 248) targets only objects. Is the scout an object? \$\endgroup\$ May 23, 2014 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Maybe it's cast on his hat or something... \$\endgroup\$
    – lily
    May 23, 2014 at 22:53

5 Answers 5


Rules Answer

Lets break it down a bit. Light says this:

This spell causes an object to glow like a torch, shedding bright light in a 20-foot radius (and dim light for an additional 20 feet) from the point you touch. The effect is immobile, but it can be cast on a movable object.

So your scout is a torch. Torches give of bright light.

Hide says this (among other things):

You need cover or concealment in order to attempt a Hide check.

The light rules say this:

A creature can’t hide in an area of bright light unless it is invisible or has cover.

Standing in bright light, you do not normally have cover. So you can't use Hide. (If you get cover from another source, you can then use Hide.)

Spot says this:

The Spot skill is used primarily to detect characters or creatures who are hiding. Typically, your Spot check is opposed by the Hide check of the creature trying not to be seen. Sometimes a creature isn’t intentionally hiding but is still difficult to see, so a successful Spot check is necessary to notice it.

Since you can't use Hide, your scout is not hiding. Thus, unless we're talking very large distances (there are penalties for significant distance), no Spot check is needed to see your scout.

On top of that, even if the Scout was hidden, the 40' pool of light radiating from them is not. Seeing a 40' pool of light in the darkness is not something you have to roll for without extenuating circumstances. So they're going to be aware that a light source is moving around, and will react accordingly.

Common Sense Answer

Hold up a lantern in a pitch black area and see if people don't notice it.

They will. It's the only thing someone without Darkvision can see.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ One could be concealed by cover and hide behind something, even in bright light. Since there's light, however, the source point is understandable by looking at the illumination radius. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    May 23, 2014 at 13:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Yeah, that's what the last paragraph in the rules part is meant to address. Even if you do hide, the torch light isn't concealed. They're going to notice that pretty easily and realize that something's up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    May 23, 2014 at 13:12

The Scout can hide and be hidden, provided they have cover, or perhaps are invisible. This works normally as per the rules, and there is no penalty for carrying a light source. The result of a successful Stealth check:

Creatures that fail to beat your Stealth check are not aware of you and treat you as if you had concealment.

However, the light is not itself hidden by that check, and monsters will notice it, and will know where to target or go to find the scout. Any monsters would be in the position of knowing pretty well which square the scout was in, even though they were not aware of him, they would be aware of the light.

You could equally well have the character shout "Here I am!" - similarly this is not something that stops a character being hidden, but the shouting is not concealed due to the Stealth roll.

Technically, if a monster was a distance away from the Scout, and the Scout succeeded in hiding behind cover, then they could gain the usual benefits from being hidden, and perhaps get Sneak Attack with a missile weapon for instance, or engage in a little Sniping. But their presence and location could be figured out, so this is useless for secretly scouting an area.

There could be one useful exception: Completely mindless opponents, blind opponents, or those that do not think of moving light sources as unusual or a threat, should behave as if the scout was not there if he succeeds in a Stealth check. For instance some oozes, undead, automatons or vermin may ignore the light source, not being able to make sense of it, and not having enough brain power to figure out the scout must be there. Which creatures should behave like that is down to the DM, though, there is no specific rule for it.



Bright light negates concealment, which a scout requires to Hide under the god-awful stealth rules in the game.

But if the Scout has Hide In Plain Sight or something similar, he can still Hide, and he is still hidden.

The problem is the Light. Anything with regular sight (so not troglodytes, grimlocks, so forth) will see the Light, and know something is up. There are spells such as Dancing Lights, and creatures such as Light Archons, so it's not unreasonable that the monsters might assume that it's not a Plain Sight Hidden Rogue or an Invisible Wizard, but equally, there's no great reason for them not to assume it anyway.

TL;DR - Don't carry around a bright light if you are trying to be stealthy.

The Fix (is in): Cast Light on a Rock, toss the rock, have the Rogue tie a string to the rock, and drag/toss/kick it around with him. He's in darkness, monsters are lit up, everyone is sort of happy.

Rogue buys a wand of Dancing Lights, casts it using Use Magic Device, moves lights around to give himself sight but stays in the shadows. Enemies will know something is up, but not exactly where he is.

Rogue gets Darkvision. Via magic item, or spell, or whatever.

Rogue uses Listen checks to pinpoint foes, stumbles around in darkness somehow still being a stealthy, sexy, james bond lookalike.

Darkvision: Creatures with darkvision (orcs, goblins, most monsters) will see through darkness and see your rogue even in the dark within their native darkvision range (usually 60' or 120'). See: Godawful Stealth Rules.

The Fix: The feat Darkstalker from Lords of Madness allows a Rogue to use the Hide skill to hide from creatures with Darkvision, Tremorsense, everything that normally Auto-Detects a Rogue hiding. They need to roll a Spot check vs Hide normally, even though they have Darkvision or Blindsight or whatever. It is amazing.

Lesser Fix" From Magic Item Compendium, there is the cheapo Ring of the Darkhidden - for 2000gp it hides you from Darkvision (but not tremorsense and so forth) as if you were invisible. Invisible the status condition, not the spell, so it doesn't break when you attack. Note that you are not invisible to normal, light-based vision, or tremorsense, or any of that noise - just darkvision. So people can see you just fine by lighting a match.

Relephant: Sniping and the Hide Skill.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Kicking the light-rock around is actually a pretty good solution. It not only works by RAW, but it's a RAW solution that is perfectly sensible to people who care about verisimilitude. \$\endgroup\$ May 23, 2014 at 16:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Fix is not working against magic aura detection and thought detection. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    May 23, 2014 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel - If you find a better one, do please let me know. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2754
    May 23, 2014 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, no, I didn't mean that. I meant that Darkstalker only protects you from most ways to auto-spot you (tremorsense, blindsight, blindsense and scent), not from "everything that normally auto-detects a rogue hiding". Not having spells on yourself but only on items enchanted with magic aura, the GM reading arcane sight to be in need of actually seeing the items to see their auras and some item to protect you from telepathy might do the trick and protect you against everything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    May 23, 2014 at 18:48

It's common sense that for those living in pitch-black dungeon light is something easily detectable. Since they are acustomed to dark, they can notice even slightest radiance. But if the scout shines bright enough, OTHERS can actually roll hide checks, since the scout will apperar as a big bright spot for dungeon's denizens' untrained eyes.

And no, it's nowhere in the rules.


Rules reference? No. Though I think the srd does a good job of explaining the rules as given. http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Vision_and_Light Since the rules don't say you can't hide inside reach of a lightsource in a pitch black dungeon, you can. That being said any creature using "normal" Vision can definitely pinpoint the source of the light. As far as rules go. Normal conditions for hiding should apply. So as long as you have cover or concealment and take the time to hide yourself, you can do it.

Ruel Zero applies as allways, but I think a hefty malus to the hide check would be a more reasonable approach, since most creatures down there would be reliant on darkvision most of the time and since this is more of a common sense argument then anything else, I'd say it is reasonable to assume they could overlook the scout if his hide check is sufficiently high.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually the rules do say you can't hide in bright light in a dungeon. A creature can’t hide in an area of bright light unless it is invisible or has cover. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    May 23, 2014 at 13:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ The rules say you can't hide unless you have cover ( or possibly concealment, depending on which wording you use), but you can't do that in any case... so the presence of the lightsource actually doesnt change anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy
    May 23, 2014 at 14:18

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