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Darkness is the absence of light. Smoke/fog is the presence of another medium effecting vision.

RAW in 5e are there ways for PCs to see through smoke/fog/things-that-are-not-darkness?

Is smoke/fog an entirely different kind of "heavily obscured" from "darkness"?

I'm thinking of having my PCs interact with a dungeon with an uncapped ever-smoking bottle in it and wondering how they might gain some sub-sight way of perceiving things.

Similarly, does Blindsense work in smoke? I'd think that Tremorsense does but Blindsense not so sure.

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Blindsight or Tremorsense are the only abilities that let you 'see' through fog or smoke.

I'll spare you my original overly-off-topic explanation; suffice to say that according to the rules of visibility in 5E, when something is blocked by something else, there is nothing anyone can do to see through it except for possess the above abilities. You are 'blinded' by the object that is blocking you, and until that thing that is blocking you is removed, you will always be 'blinded' by it.

Tremorsense and Blindsight are the two things that RAW let you detect the location of things without having to see them, and as such these are the two RAW things that would let you look through heavy smoke. Neither is available as a class ability, so your PCs are not likely to have access to them.

As you mention, Blindsense does not let you see through smoke, because Blindsense only works when the person you're looking for is hidden (took the hide action) or invisible (had invisibility cast on them).

Starting at 14th level, if you are able to hear, you are aware of the location of any hidden or invisible creature within 10 feet of you.

If you're just standing in a fog cloud, then someone with Blindsense cannot detect you any better than someone without Blindsense.

If you're worried about a smoky room, you can look at the spell Fog Cloud to see other ways to get around it, mainly:

[the fog cloud] lasts for the duration or until a wind of moderate or greater speed (at least 10 miles per hour) disperses it.

So, it looks like RAW, mild to moderate winds can disperse fog/smoke to a degree that it stops interfering with vision. In that case, if one of your PCs has a spell that generates wind, then by the Fog Cloud rules they could use it to disperse the smoke and see through it.

They could also have the party barbarian tie large paper fans to his arms and flap them like the dickens, but that may or may not be too silly for your campaign.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would argue that being invisible is not a property of being magically affected by the spell "Invisibility", but to be incapable of being seen. If the player cannot see the other character, that character is invisible to the player. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Jan 27 '18 at 9:03
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D&D 5e takes a very simple approach; if something is heavily obscured, you can't see it, if you are heavily obscured you can't see anything. This is the RAW and obviously, it fails to capture a lot of nuances; if you want nuances you will have to house rule them.

AFAIK there is nothing that specifically lets you see while/something heavily obscured not even True Sight

Wish could probably do it:

... the mightiest spell a mortal creature can cast. By simply speaking aloud, you can alter the very foundations of reality ...

It does seem overkill though.

Alternatively, (and much more cheaply), Gust of Wind could get rid of the smoke:

The gust disperses gas or vapour ...

Technically, smoke is only partially "gas or vapour", the particulates (which is what you can't see through) are neither. However, this seems needlessly pedantic.

Blindsight works through smoke (MM p.8):

A monster with blindsight can perceive its surroundings ...

Tremorsense also works but it only detects vibrations; it wouldn't help you determine the position of stationary things like walls, floors and the bottle (MM p.9).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov yes that's how it works but it only detects vibrations \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jan 5 '16 at 21:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're using Wish to remove a smoke cloud, the enemy wizards have already won. Instead, Wishing for Blindsight is a better use of that Wish. Otherwise, your foes will just throw another smoke cloud your way. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Jan 5 '16 at 21:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why the focus on the bottle vibrating? I didn't get the impression that the point was to see the bottle, but creatures/walls/doors/etc. elsewhere in affected areas. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 5 '16 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I read it that the point was to find the bottle and make it stop. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Jan 5 '16 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re-reading the question, I still can't see that reading of it. It's about how to see/operate in a smoke-filled dungeon environment, which is presumably full of many dangerous things long before encountering the bottle itself. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 5 '16 at 21:44

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