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This issue came up when the party's warlock cast Hunger of Hadar upon some enemies. She argued that because they were within magical darkness, and blinded, that they should not be able to immediately run out of the spells area of effect without having to make some form of a check to know where they were going.

What are the rules for moving when you can't see? Should an enemy be able to just walk out of magical darkness, or should there be a check that needs to be made? Visual below:

A grid map of a Warlock who has cast Hunger of Hadar on two enemies

Should they just be allowed to run towards her, or at least be able to escape? Or should they have to bumble around in the dark in order to try to get out, with ENEMY 1 potentially walking away from the Warlock in difficult terrain, thus being trapped in the spell for another round?

In the meantime, for less wise enemies, we would roll a d8 and they would walk in the direction that they rolled. Until I find more definitive ruling, we were thinking about the enemy having to make a survival check/wisdom saving throw opposed to the Warlock's spell save DC, and imposing the d8 random movement if they fail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you adding the survival/wisdom check on top of the dexterity saving throw for hunger of hadar? This might cause balance issues if they are forced to make 2 saves on one spell, which is not very common. It's like making a check to see if they can avoid making another check. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 23 '15 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a possibility we were entertaining, but yeah I can see that being a bad idea. The only spell I know of that ever forced you to make two checks was Phantasmal Killer, but that's in dnd-3.5/pathfinder. The Warlock was just annoyed that they were able to just walk out of Hunger of Hadar even though they are blind/in darkness. \$\endgroup\$ – Dumpcats Oct 23 '15 at 17:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ HoH is great if used in small areas. Also, how your DM handles it is big too (hence your question). I used HoH on a Wyvern and our DM had it bolt forward and attack the first thing it saw, because it didn't have time to think once it left the blindness. It's a very RP heavy spell for combat, and there's a lot you can do with it. Think of it as similar to using illusions in battle. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 23 '15 at 17:56
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Apply common sense for the enemies.

  1. Have I seen where my enemies used to be before the darkness? If so, charge in that direction and attack. Or, if I think they are too strong for me or preparing a trap, run in the opposite direction.

  2. If I don't know where my enemies are and want to get away from the darkness, probably I would just move in the same direction I was originally going. If I was standing guard, just step forwards from the place I was guarding.

  3. If I am too scared to step out of the darkness, perhaps just take a few careful steps in a random direction to see if I can find some defensible spot, like back to a wall, then hope for the best in case something tries to attack me while I can't see.

  4. Edit: If I have no reason to believe I can actually exit the darkness and its just me going blind, but there is suspicion that I will be attacked, declare a ready action to strike back at whatever attacks me if able.

In any case, try to RP the NPCs acting in a believable manner according to their personality. They might not know the shortest path out of the darkness. Some NPCs could be clever, and other could make bad calls.

If a GM wants to leave this to randomness, then I would suggest an INT or WIS check depending on what the enemy is trying to figure out, but in general it is not required for the GM to roll for this. In case you do want to roll:

  • A Wisdom ability check could be used to use another sense or features in the environment to find the way out of the darkness. Think sounds or wind direction.
  • An Intelligence ability check could be used to recall the layout of the place from memory and move around, or to find the most logical route using known information.
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    \$\begingroup\$ It should be noted that the NPCs don't know that their blindness is due to their surroundings or that the darkness has an area. This is due to the fact that they are BLIND. However, they can know that the place they are currently in is difficult terrain and is damaging them, so it would still make sense that they'd want to leave. But, it doesn't make sense that they could anticipate leaving in order to be able to see, rather than leaving to avoid damage and pain. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 23 '15 at 16:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov To be fair, some enemies will respond to going blind by panicking and running and work out that the effect is limited to an area that way, and others will notice their buddies shouting "Gah, I can't see!" and might guess that the effect is on the area rather than on their eyes from that. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Oct 28 '15 at 0:11
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That really depends on which direction the enemies are facing at the time the spell as cast, and whether or not they're aware of your party's presence.. If the spell is cast and the enemies are facing your party, they already know the direction that they have to run in order to reach you. However, if you cast it on the target soldiers and they're unaware of the location of your party, they would likely be caught unaware and would have less predictable movement.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Facing is an optional rule, not default. Awareness is part of the standard rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Oct 23 '15 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for facing. I use hunger of hadar frequently, and what my DM does is basically make NPCs run forward (based on how their mini is facing (based on whoever they hit last or where they were headed)) as a first instinct, which makes sense to me. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Oct 23 '15 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DerekStucki Facing mentioned here isn't a game term. "Which direction enemies are facing" here = where enemies are heading or looking (depending on circumstances) in the particular moment, when the spell is cast. If enemy1 moved from the left edge of the map straight right to the currently marked spot on his last turn, DM is in his right to say, that enemy1 is most likely facing right, and roleplay this NPC's actions accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Oct 23 '15 at 19:24
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Roleplaying blindness typically falls under DM purview.

In games I run, I rule that sudden blindness (especially that caused by magical effects) causes disorientation, unless the subject has some special effect to counteract this, such as always knowing where north is. In cases of disorientation due to blindness, I roll 1d8 to determine the direction of movement. :)

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Blindness is accompanied by a set of penalties already:

  • 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.

For a battle hardened creature, they might be inclined to move towards where they think the adversary is located; in this situation they experience the aforementioned penalties and no more. However, if you believe that the targets might be intimidated by the darkness and other effects that accompany the spell then it can make sense to refer to the morale rules on the DMG. A series of reasons for individual creatures to flee are given:

  • The creature is surprised.
  • The creature is reduced to half its hit points or fewer for the first time in the battle.
  • The creature has no way to harm the opposing side on its turn.

In this case, it would likely be the first condition that triggered the morale check to see if the creature flees. A DC 10 Wisdom save is used to evaluate whether their morale breaks; if the creature fails the save they could flee in the opposite direction of the caster (if they know who is the source of the spell) or, alternately, roll a 1d8 and have the creature move in the appropriate cardinal direction.

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