Sunlight Sensitivity looks pretty bad — Disadvantage to attack rolls and Perception checks whenever you, your target, or what you're trying to perceive are in direct sunlight. I hope I'm missing something, since no other PC race has a comparable hindrance.

Are there any ways you have used to mitigate this flaw to make players of this race not at a severe disadvantage (or, if it doesn't need mitigation, explain why it's already balanced without any action required)?


9 Answers 9


The easiest way to avoid the penalty of the Drow on prime material plane campaigns, is to only play Drow in campaigns which take place indoors, underground, or mostly at night.

The second easiest way is to gain advantage. A Drow at 3rd level gains the spell "Faerie Fire" which grants advantage to anyone attacking the victim of the spell. If you are willing to multiclass, you can contemplate taking a level of Barbarian which will allow you to rage and get advantage on attacks, but it won't help you with perception, or 2 levels of Rogue to gain the cunning action ability to hide to gain advantage more easily. You can also try to work with spells that don't rely on attack rolls, but rather use saving throws to avoid the penalty all together.

The traditional techniques of wearing a hooded cloak, or only attacking from the shadows will not work in this edition as the text specifies that if either you or your target is in sunlight you have disadvantage.

You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight. (Page 24 of the Players Handbook)

There are two possible reasons for why only Drow get such a handicap.

  1. No other race gains so many spells, and weapon proficiencies as a racial feature, and perhaps this is intended to counteract that.It's possible that without a handicap Drow would become the most common player chosen race for spells casters, rogues, and rangers.
  2. They wished to make it clear that Drow is not a normal race to pick, since most of them are the "bad guys", but the character is so popular they needed to make an option for those who really want to.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another option for gaining advantage to cancel out the penalty is the True Strike cantrip, but it eats up your action for the round. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Don't forget about the Drow's Superior Darkvision. They have a darkvision range of double the normal. They see easier in the dark than they do in the sunlight, so there is a trade-off there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 7:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Or you can use save-based spells. The Acid-Splash cantrip is also a nice alternative to the commonly selected Firebolt, due to targeting different DC (Ref-Save vs AC) and being one extra type of damage that allows you to deal with more creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eldebryn
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 11:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth pointing out that unless you're in a desert setting, it's unlikely that every single day will be a sunny one. If the sky is overcast, game on. If the sky is cloudy, the DM will need to track and communicate when the sun is behind cloud cover. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ellesedil
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 21:55

Since the drow racial abilities synergize well with being a Charisma-based caster, sunlight sensitivity is not such a harsh penalty as it might seem initially.

You can get around the penalty by playing a caster with cantrips and spells that do not require an attack roll, but use a saving throw instead, and use those when under the penalty.

As an example, a bard can attack with Vicious Mockery, a sorcerer with Acid Splash or Poison Spray, or a cleric with Sacred Flame.

This way, there is no Disadvantage on the spell, and you can contribute without being impaired by your sunlight sensitivity.


The Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure (p. 191) has the Knave’s Eye Patch magic item:

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

While wearing this eye patch, you gain these benefits:

  • You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
  • If you have the Sunlight Sensitivity trait, you are unaffected by the trait.
  • You are immune to magic that allows other creatures to read your thoughts or determine whether you are lying. Creatures can communicate telepathically with you only if you allow it.

This item would remove all Sunlight Sensitivity effects at the cost of an attunement slot.

This should be the only official item with this effect. It is the only item that comes up in a DND Beyond search for "sunlight sensitivity", and based on some search engine sleuthing, discussions of similar items prior to the release of Dragon Heist revolved around homebrewing items to deal with this, while discussions after the release of Dragon Heist never mention any items but this one.


Also, are there any ways to mitigate this?

Yes. You can take 3 levels of Warlock and choose the devil's sight eldritch invocation, and the darkness spell. Cast the spell on your weapon. You now have a 30 foot portable darkness that shields you from sunlight, gives you advantage since you have devil's sight, and gives the enemies disadvantage, unless they have true sight, blind sight, tremor sense or devil's sight.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ As an alternative to (or in addition to) taking devil's sight, it's possible to choose Pact of the Chain which gives you the option to see through the eyes of a familiar which has the same ability. \$\endgroup\$
    – intuited
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 13:24

Sunlight Sensitivity might require mitigation, but not for casters.

You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

Compared to other Elves, Drow have more racial traits and, in particular, Superior Darkvision and Drow Magic are quite powerful, so Sunlight Sensitivity is meant to balance this difference.

In practice Sunlight Sensitivity only provides significant drawbacks to martial Drows, not caster Drows. To see why, lets break down the trait's two effects and the condition under which they apply.

Disadvantage on Perception Checks

Disadvantage is generally acknowledged to be equivalent to a -5 bonus, but the Drow PC has proficiency in the check anyway so even under direct sunlight they will not be completely inept. Moreover, in my experience it is not a significant problem because one of these two things tends to happen:

  • the Drow PC chooses to help an ally's perception check instead of rolling their own.
  • a party member succeeds in the same Perception check, thereby nullifying the Drow PC's failure.

Disadvantage on Attacks

Caster Drows. Consider that (at the time of writing) only 11 cantrips and 23 spells of 1st level or higher require the caster to make an attack roll. Drow casters can simply choose not to learn these spells and they still have plenty of other good spells to choose from (including offensive ones), so much so that Drow casters are just as effective as any other caster, even while fighting in direct sunlight.

Martial Drows. Martial characters are those that rely primarily on weapon attacks to be effective combatants, so by definition making attacks at disadvantage is a significant drawback for these character. As such, Martial Drow are significantly weaker than other martial characters when fighting in direct sunlight. However, it's worth noting that both faerie fire and darkness can undo the disadvantage, so Drow Magic provides the tools to handle one or two combats in direct sunlight.

When Sunlight Sensitivity applies

How often sunlight sensitivity comes up varies significantly from campaign to campaign, but in my experience the most significant parts of the campaign seldom take place in direct sunlight:

  • dungeons, caves, and typical buildings are obviously not a problem.
  • streets, forests, and jungles ought to have plenty of shade at any time but midday.
  • plazas, thoroughfares, and sparsely-wooded wilderness are the kind of places on which sun shines the most.

Finally, don't forget that as a DM you have full control over the weather and the direction the sun is coming from, as well as some control over the time of day. This control is all the mitigation you need, for example if the Drow PC is struggling during a cross-country trek you can just banish the sunlight with some bad weather, or push most encounters to occur at nighttime.

Manage player expectation in session 0

At the end of the day, Sunlight Sensitivity is only a big problem for martial Drow (and only if the DM chooses to make it into a big problem), whereas it's not much of a problem for caster Drow. Nonetheless, if a player is thinking of playing a Drow you should talk to them about how often you think Sunlight Sensitivity will come into play, so they can make an informed decision.


There is no specific answer to your question. However this is an important element of the trait's description that needs to be considered when deciding how a Drow can overcome this limitation.

You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.

You will have to decide what things a character can do to avoid being in direct sunlight. Is the wearing of a hooded cloak sufficient? Does being in the shadow of a building work? What about cloudy days; does that mitigate direct sunlight?

It's not a defined term, so the rule on page 3 of the Basic Rules PDF, or on page 6 of the PHB, comes into full force.

Ultimately, the Dungeon Master is the authority on the campaign and its setting, even if the setting is a published world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks--you're right that the DM will be involved. I was trying to find a RAW source that helped clarify (like 7SD comment above--gaining advantage is enough to negate the disadvantage). \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 4:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wearing a hooded cloak, will not prevent your target from being in direct sunlight. Both you and your target need to not be in sunlight to avoid the disadvantage. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 5:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Khashir I understand and I am not criticizing you for asking. But unlike 4e and most of 3.5e, there are many part of 5e that will require an interpretation by the referee. That it is deliberately set up this way to accommodate varying play styles. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Aug 24, 2014 at 13:57

The racial feature rule states:

disadvantage to attack rolls and Perception checks whenever you, your target, or what you're trying to perceive are in direct sunlight

One way to change the impact of this as a DM would be to vary how strictly you define and rule what "direct sunlight" means. Is full cloud cover direct sunlight for instance?

If you want to make the hinderance less, then you could rule that unless the character or the target have "line of sight" to sunlight or are within a magical effect that counts as sunlight, then they don't suffer the effect as it is not "direct" in terms of line of sight.

If you want to make the hinderance greater then you could rule that if the target or character are in a fully lit area provided by sunlight then they suffer the effect as the light comes directly from the sun as the light source even if reflected or through a cloud.


One of my ideas for this: if you can get access to the darkness spell, you are outside in the sunlight, and you do not want to disadvantage your entire party... think in 3 dimensions. Place the darkness above the party. This will provide coverage from the sun, within a certain range.

If your character does not have access to it, maybe somebody in your party does. Team up with them, if possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. You seem to be addressing the issue from a player perspective, but not really answering the balance question. Also, have you tried this in your own games? How has it worked? You should support your recommendation with evidence or experience. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 6:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't work if you accept the generally agreed upon answer to Does the Darkness spell cast a shadow?. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 17, 2021 at 5:22

A good idea I came up with to mitigate it, is to have some form of sunglasses or goggles that allow your character to walk in direct sunlight without the disadvantage.

Now since it's no fun to play without your racial disadvantages, the idea is that, if you are hit below half total health, you need to make a constitution save or dex save to keep the goggles on. If you fail and you are in direct sunlight you are stunned from the immediate sunlight for 1 round, then it takes a bonus action the next turn to place them back on. This repeats again when at about ¼ of your health.

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    \$\begingroup\$ We expect answers to include supporting evidence that the solution presented worked well and isn't just an idea off the top of someone's head. You can edit your post to include supporting information, such as: • Have you actually used this in a game? • If you have used it, how well did it work? What was not ideal about how it worked? What about it worked perfectly? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm examining doing something with "sunglasses", but I'm going to lean away from the saves idea. Instead I'm thinking of shifting the disadvantage by having the sunglasses lower the light levels by one level. Bright becomes dim, dim becomes dark, etc. It would also eliminate the character's darkvision trait of they have it. This item approach could have an advantage in deserts, where as the GM we can introduce challenges with being in really really bright light. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – JamesA
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 12:46

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