I was recently faced with the following scenario:

A rogue activates darkness (as the spell) in an area of dim light. The rogue has darkvision, whereas the target does not. Therefore, the target cannot see the rogue, but the rogue isn't technically invisible, and the target isn't technically blinded, because nothing specifies that you cannot see through darkness into an area of light.

Is there some rule by which the rogue could add sneak attack damage when hitting the target in these circumstances?

A similar scenario would be activating deeper darkness in an area of normal light, or merely standing in an area that is naturally dark, with sources of light visible in the distance, such as torches 100ft away - the point is, the victim can see SOMETHING and either way, as far as I can tell, isn't technically "blind".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be related/helpful: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/28378/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik It's a nice read, but it's a 3.5 edition question, whereas mine is pathfinder. As similar as the two are... \$\endgroup\$
    – Antonio
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Dim light. Actually, I'll clarify the question regarding that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Antonio
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about actual darkness, like a lack of a light source, or the spell Darkness? \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Apr 15, 2015 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Javelin Rather than the confusing (and potentially dysfunctional) shadowy illumination created by the D&D 3.5 spell darkness the Pathfinder spell darkness actually lowers the literal light level, a surprisingly reasonable change. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2015 at 19:34

3 Answers 3


Vision and Light covers this

  • In bright light a creature that's visible or lacking cover can't make Stealth checks.
  • In normal light a creature that's visible or lacking cover can't make Stealth checks.
  • In dim light a creature can make Stealth checks.
    • Creatures have concealment (20% miss chance) against creatures lacking either darkvision or low-light vision.
  • In darkness a creature can make Stealth checks.
    • Creatures have total concealment (50% miss chance) against creatures lacking darkvision.
    • Creatures lacking darkvision are, essentially, blinded.
      • Blinded creatures, in addition to other effects, lose their Dexterity bonuses to Armor Class, making such creature vulnerable to sneak attack damage.

Light sources beyond an area with a different light level

A light source whose effect falls outside an area with a differing light level has no effect on the area with a differing light level. Bringing the light source into an area with a differing light level can change the light level. For example, assuming mundane darkness, a lit candle 100 ft. away doesn't help a creature see in darkness, but were the creature to acquire the lit candle and bring it into the darkness, the lit candle would change the light level around the lit candle (and the creature carrying it).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes! This covers it. That means anyone without darkvision is blinded, and therefore loses dex to AC, and can be sneak-attacked. Thank you! \$\endgroup\$
    – Antonio
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Antonio Because the Pathfinder stealth (n.b. lower case) rules have undergone numerous changes since their inception, it's possible someone may develop a more precise answer that gives more details and describes the many possible exceptions. (That's an answer I'm looking forward to, actually). Might want to hold off on the accept to encourage others to chime in. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2015 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer could probably due with an update to mention that the Rogue's Sneak Attack from Pathfinder Unchained allows for (partial) concealment, just not total. And given the way Unchained works, it can be hot-swapped onto a normal Rogue. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2015 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LeesusFreak You're welcome to update this answer with Unchained information, but I lack the treeware and the PDF's unavailable until 4/29 (at which point it'll hopefully be added to the SRD, and I will update this answer). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2015 at 17:49
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik Vision and Light says, "In areas of darkness, creatures without darkvision are effectively blinded. In addition to the obvious effects, a blinded creature has a 50% miss chance in combat (all opponents have total concealment), loses any Dexterity bonus to AC, takes a –2 penalty to AC, and takes a –4 penalty on Perception checks that rely on sight and most Strength- and Dexterity-based skill checks." The condition blinded also says that, too. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2015 at 22:16

There are a few issues that might cause some confusion.

An attacker with sneak attack qualifies when the target is denied his or her Dex bonus to AC. On the other hand, the attacker must also be able to see the target clearly to sneak attack.

This can make a sneak attack difficult when both the attacker and the target have the same type of vision. Natural light sources will have an area of shadowy illumination that will allow the rogue to hide, but if the target is also in the shadowy illumination, the rogue can't make a sneak attack.

If the target is inside bright illumination and the rogue is in the shadowy illumination, then a successful hide check will allow a sneak attack***.

If the rogue has superior vision to the target, this can allow sneak attacks. For example; a rogue with low-light vision can attempt to hide in what is bright light for the rogue, but is shadowy illumination for the target's normal vision (20-40' from a torch and the like).

***In 3.5, it was never explicitly stated until the Rules Compendium that if an attacker is hidden with respect to a target, that target treats the attacker as invisible, although it logically follows, even if not stated explicitly.

With Pathfinder, although they have changed a lot of the text, I could not find anywhere this was explicitly stated either. They do say a creature in darkness without darkvision is effectively blinded, but they do not explicitly state that while hidden, your target treats you as invisible. They did however, make this clarification on the forums.

"It was our intent that if you are unaware of a threat, you cannot react to a blow."

Also in the RC (which may have come from Comp Scoundrel) is moving between cover and sneaking up from hiding. These allow you to move from cover or concealment while still hidden (qualifying you for a sneak attack if successful).

Pathfinder also has a similar rule;

"if you leave cover or concealment, you may make an attack "unobserved" as long as you end your turn in cover or concealment."

The mechanic is slightly different (and does not suffer the penalties in 3.5), but the end result is the same.

What 3.5 also never came out and said explicitly is the -20 penalty from attacking applies after you attack. That's how I've always ruled/understood it, but Pathfinder actually added that to the entry.

"Your Stealth immediately ends after you make an attack roll"


If they can't see you, they can't take attacks of opportunity. If you can see them, you can if the other conditions are met. After a brief google search:a question on the same thing They seem to already have answered the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! I think you could have a great answer if you explain a little what your link says about sneak attacking. At the moment you've told us the rules for opportunity attacks, but not sneak attack damage. =) \$\endgroup\$
    – sillyputty
    Apr 15, 2015 at 15:55

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