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Darkness reads:

Magical darkness spreads from a point you choose within range to fill a 15-foot radius sphere for the duration... nonmagical light can’t illuminate it... If any of this spell’s area overlaps with an area of light created by a spell of 2nd level or lower, the spell that created the light is dispelled.

Faerie Fire read:

Each object in a 20-foot cube within range is outlined in blue, green, or violet light (your choice). Any creature in the area when the spell is cast is also outlined in light if it fails a Dexterity saving throw. For the duration, objects and affected creatures shed dim light in a 10-foot radius.

Given this, casting Faerie Fire using a spell slot greater than 3 inside magical darkness should work. What exactly would the effects be on a creature inside the darkness and Faerie Fire who failed their saving roll?

Specifically who would get advantage, disadvantage, or be rolling normal (due to cancelation of advantage and disadvantage), in the case of an attacker in the darkness, another outside, and the original creature?

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It depends on where they are standing

The darkness spell is described in such a way as to give the impression that it is something tangible that spills out around corners, but can be blocked by objects. Think of darkness as not unlike a fog cloud.

The darkness spreads around corners....

Completely covering the source of the darkness with an opaque object, such as a bowl or a helm , blocks the darkness.

Likewise, darkness engulfs non-magical light or rather it cannot be illuminated by non-magical light. This means that magical light can illuminate it.

Light in 5e is described as having bounds. Faerie fire indicates that afflicted creatures shed dim light, which means that area imposes disadvantage for Wisdom(Perception) checks ONLY. Attacking into dim light behaves as normal.

This is where location comes into play. The bounds of the dim light must penetrate the bounds of the darkness in order to be seen. Put another way, there must be no darkness between you and the creature. You need to check the positions and radius of the darkness and creatures affected by the faerie fire. If the radius of the darkness completely engulfs the radius of the dim light, they cannot be seen by you from any angle. If they are 5 feet or more away from the center of the darkness, they can be seen from the direction the dim light is from the center. This is sort of mathy, but really no more difficult than normal line of sight. Darkness spills out around corners continuously, so just visualize or draw the circles and draw a line to the center of the dim light. enter image description here

Who do I have advantage against?

Advantage and Disadvantage hinge on who can see whom. In general, you have disadvantage on targets you cannot see and advantage on targets who cant see you. However, when neither target can see each other (such as when a target is standing in darkness and you are not), you have neither disadvantage or disadvantage. From the basic rules on advantage

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa.

This means that Faerie Fire's advantage only has an effect when no disadvantage is imposed. It is important to note that, as explained in the question, faerie fire must be cast at a level greater than 2 or darkness will dispell it

You have advantage against

  • Targets you can see that can't see you. It shouldn't matter the circumstances in which this takes place (Devil's Sight, location, etc), if you can determine who can see whom, this will suffice for advantage.

  • Targets affected by Faerie Fire that you can see

  • Any situation in which you have at least 1 source of advantage and no sources of disadvantage

You have disadvantage against

  • Targets not affected by Faerie Fire that you can't see and that can see you

  • Any situation in which you have at least 1 source of disadvantage and no sources of advantage

You have neither against

  • Targets you can't see that also can't see you

  • Targets affected by Faerie Fire that you can't see

  • Targets standing in dim light that you have line of sight to (ie you can both see eachother)

  • Any situation in which you have any number of advantage AND disadvantage sources

This answer hinges on the fact that the darkness spell is dark in 3-dimensions, much like a 15 foot radius of fog or smoke. I believe this is true because of how the darkness spills around corners and can be blocked by objects. If the darkness only "darkens" objects and ground in its radius, then it makes sense to imply that the Faerie Fire penetrates through it, making line of sight meaningless. Is it a floating black orb or is it a radius of darkened objects? Again, I say the former, but I would personally leave this up to the DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! The only other thing I would like to see in it is if someone is standing in the area inside the darkness and inside both the darkness and light. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Jan 20 '16 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ You mean someone not afflicted by Faerie fire standing in the dim light? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jan 20 '16 at 18:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are three cases not covered in your answer. someone in the darkness not inside the dim light (which I think from your answer, you'd likely argue can't see anyone), someone in the the dim light who rolled successfully, and the "target". Can the target see the people who can see them? \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jan 20 '16 at 23:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @J.A.Streich I've added an edge case, in case you are curious (2nd point of Advantage list) \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Jun 17 '16 at 15:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hm, does faerie fire block the darkness emanating from darkness? I.e. is there a “shadow” of light behind the one with faerie fire that is unaffected by either spell? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 17 '16 at 15:33
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Yes, it can be seen

In disagreement with Premier Bromanov's answer:

If you're in normal darkness and someone has a torch, it illuminates things up to X feet away, but you can still see the light even if you're outside the range.

Since Darkness won't stop the Faerie Fire's light, it will illuminate things up to X feet away, but you can still see the light even if you're not in the range.

Assuming a failed save, this would let people anywhere outside the darkness be able to see someone who is illuminated inside the darkness. However, the people inside the darkness (assuming normal/darkvision) would not be able to see the people outside the spell, since the normal light illuminating those people would not penetrate the darkness.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I just realized that darkness is blocked by Opaque objects, and was curious if a glass object would block darkness. Maybe that might be a good point to hit on \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 11 '18 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov Glass objects aren't opaque, so not sure what you're wondering. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle W Dec 11 '18 at 19:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I think it pokes holes in my answer as behaving exactly like fog. I thought it behaving more like light might bolster your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 12 '18 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov Ah, I see what you're saying. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle W Dec 12 '18 at 19:27

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