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I am about to begin a campaign with a party of characters who can see in the dark - a half-elf ranger, a half-orc barbarian, and a drow elf warlock.

... and a human monk.

Especially considering the drow's sunlight sensitivity, I suspect this party will want to stick to dark areas and nighttime quite a bit, which could cause a problem for our human monk player.

So it's likely she will need to see in the dark. Of course, she could carry a torch along, but that feels so mundane. What other options are available?

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Embrace it

I play a human cleric in a party full of characters with darkvision. Granted, we don't find ourselves in pitch darkness all that often, but it happens enough.

Rather than find a way to level the playing field, I find that embracing this difference makes for some interesting narration and adventuring.

Roleplaying

I have to trust at least one other character enough to have them lead me through darker areas. The DM can get creative about how this works, without being adversarial. For example, they might say, "those with darkvision see some slippery ground up ahead." But if whoever is leading me forgets to explicitly relay this information to me, it's DEX saving throw time.

This is actually a plot point: there is one character in the group I've known for longer, and so I trust them more, and usually have them lead me. This is just one more little detail that adds to the reality of our world.

It's important to note that this is something we'd discussed ahead of time — don't just spring this on your players. Even though I, as a player, hear the DM say something, I am perfectly happy to go along with my character not knowing it. Your monk might find it silly, and not like the idea.

Establish, through a couple of examples, what might be reasonable in such a situation. Maybe they don't want to constantly be saying "I tell the monk about that thing you just said. I tell the monk about that thing too. I tell the monk about this other thing." You might all agree that unless there's a reason to be quiet (eg. stealth situations) it's said by default.

Sometimes it's an advantage! My cleric will often try to use other senses eg. explicitly telling the DM "I listen carefully for sounds of activity above," or "I inhale slowly through my nose, trying to smell anything other than the dankness of the cave." On more than one occasion it's led to sensing something no-one else did, because they were all looking for something. Again, this was a detail the DM thought about in advance. You should think about your settings, and identify things that the characters could sense, but would miss without specific attention.

Combat

Combat is tricky but not impossible with appropriate tactics. Encourage your players to think about this in advance. Many of my cleric spells have "a creature you can see" as a valid target, but not all, so I have to plan what I might do if I can't see anything. Maybe the monk has abilities that will work blind.

Being a cleric, I can use the light cantrip on my own mace or shield; maybe your party has someone who can do that too. If they do this, describe the combat to your players! Think about how bizarre this would be — a glowing mace or quarterstaff flashing around, flying from creature to creature! Shadows of goblins and kobolds dancing large and small on the walls! You've really got some opportunities for creativity here.

Mundane doesn't have to be boring

Torches are mundane, but you've still got to remember to buy them. And if it's been a long time since the last town, your monk may have to decide whether this is the time to use their last one.

Many solutions may have a price: will the whole party want to risk breaking cover just to accommodate the monk? Again? (Don't foster PvP sentiment just for cheap conflict, but this can still be interesting).


It's already a given that your party comprises characters of different classes with different abilities in combat, and during roleplaying. Sometimes this can cause issues and make a single player feel a bit useless, it's true. Completely levelling one of the senses to get around this might smooth over exploration and combat, making things more fun; OR it might close off a bunch of opportunities for the party to work together, strategise and build the reality of their world.

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Spells

Darkvision is a 2nd level Druid/Ranger/Sorcerer/Wizard spell that lasts for 8 hours (no concentration).

It is also available to 3rd level Monks who take the Way of the Shadow monastic tradition at the cost of 2 ki points.

Unfortunately, if you don't pursue the Way of the Shadow, the only person in your party who can cast that is the Ranger, who will need to sacrifice a spell known and a 2nd level slot. Also, he won't gain access to that spell until 5th level.

Magic Items

The DM Basic Rules (p 59) include an uncommon magic item goggles of night which grant 60 feet of darkvision and don't require attunement. If your DM is generous, you may be able to find or buy these somewhere.

Assistance from NPCs

The Wizard Transmutation Tradition (Player's Handbook) grants a Transmuter's Stone at 6th level which can have one of a variety of effects. One such effect is:

Darkvision out to a range of 60 feet, as described in chapter 8

A Wizard can give you his Transmuter's Stone, but he can only have one stone active at a time, so finding a Wizard willing to part with his permanently probably isn't feasible.

Multiclassing

At 2nd level, a Warlock gains access to the Devil's Sight invocation, which grants an upgraded darkvision that goes out 120 feet and pierces magical darkness.

You will need at least 13 Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma to qualify for the Monk/Warlock multiclass.

Non-mundane Torches

You expressed distaste with torches (which are insanely cheap, though heavy in bulk), but if it's the mundanity that is problematic rather than the bright light illuminating you and your friends, there are magical means to replicate that simple effect.

A Bard, Cleric, Sorcerer, or Wizard can cast the light cantrip to create a torch's worth of light on any object for an hour. Similarly, a Cleric or Wizard can cast the 2nd level spell continual flame to create a permanent magical torch.

Alternatively, a Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard, or any Drow can cast the dancing lights cantrip to create dim light around you or around a target in the distance. Note that you will have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks to see in the dim light.

Of these, dancing lights is probably your best bet, but this will monopolize your Drow Warlock's concentration, which he may prefer to use for hex. If your DM allows, you may be able to pay a Cleric or Wizard to cast continual flame for you, but this spell requires 50 gp worth of ruby dust, and you could buy 5,000 mundane torches with that money instead.

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I too am DM to a party where the only member without darkvision is a human monk. Most of the time I "account for the discrepancy" by ignoring it. If necessary I can produce a lame excuse: "Well, there's a moon out." "Well, the sewer walls are covered in luminescent fungi." "Well, you've been in this crypt for three days, so his eyes have had time to adjust." But my players are easygoing and helpful, and unlikely to make a stink about it.

In a few situations, being without darkvision has made things more interesting for the monk (and the rest of the party) than they would have been otherwise. He prudently waits at the top of the stairs, comically unaware of the combat raging in the basement; in a Roll20-enabled maze, he's the only character who can't see all the way to the end of a dark corridor. I can decide on a case-by-case basis whether "remembering" that he doesn't have darkvision will be worth the trouble.

A within-the-rules, realism-enforcing solution would be fun, and I'm sure many groups would insist on one. For my group, though, the "Eh, don't worry about it" option has worked splendidly.

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How about turning your monk into Zatoichi? Ask the GM if they will allow the monk to be blind, but to gain blindsight out to 60 feet, based on heightened senses.

I checked the 5th Ed D&D Basic Rules, and it has entries for both Blinded and Blindsight:

Blinded

  • A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

Blindsight

A creature with blindsight can perceive its surroundings without relying on sight, within a specific radius. Creatures without eyes, such as oozes, and creatures with echolocation or heightened senses, such as bats and true dragons, have this sense.

[Addendum to Blindsight from the DM Rules]

If a monster is naturally blind, it has a parenthetical note to this effect, indicating that the radius of its blindsight defines the maximum range of its perception.

Basically, Blindsight should remove the advantage/disadvantage combo from the Blinded condition, and the monk no longer relies on light to perceive their surroundings. It may also allow them to perceive invisible things, though that's up to the GM - the rules don't cover that any more.

The disadvantage is that they fail all sight-based ability checks.

If the blindsense is based on heightened hearing, then the player would be especially vulnerable if deafened, since they'd lose their blindsight totally.

However, the only examples of blindsight being removed by deafening in the DM rules is in the case of creatures that use echolocation - basically bats and whales. They have the following special rule:

Echolocation. The [creature] can’t use its blindsight while deafened.

Other creatures, like true dragons who use "heightened senses" for blindsight, are not subject to the same restriction.

The GM may thus allow the sense to be based in "heightened senses" such as proprioception (sensing currents in the air, and tremors in the ground), and therefore not subject to deafening attacks.

And remember, you can fool the blind man, but you cannot fool his sword cane!

(Apologies for using 3.5ed mechanics the first time around.)

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