Sunday, March 1, 2015

Between Light and Darkness - Rules for light

One thing I've been tinkering with that I was never really thrilled with in NGR was light sources.  "Torches give you 30 feet of light",  which brings into question a lot of other things to me.  How dark is it before a torch is useful in that case? If its dark enough you can only see 40 feet, is a torch useless?  What if you have a lot of torches?  What is something is 25 or 35 feet away and you have a torch?  Is one magically visible and the other not?

The other is that NGR works on "areas"  (ie,  rooms - corridors) rather than getting into the specifics of feet and yards.  So mixing the two was jarring.

In 5th edition I just left it as having a light source gave you a bonus to spotting things hiding in the dark (and being in the dark gave a bonus to hiding).

But it really didn't capture the feeling I want in dungeons.  People often describe "vanilla" dungeons as boring and I can't really get into the mindset of how being a claustrophobic stone tunnel deep underground, cramped like sardines and unable to see clearly whats only a few seconds ahead of you could be boring.

So I started tweaking around and this is the system you'll see in the next print release tucked in a "finicky" rule for those times when simply adjudicating "its light" or "its dark" works well enough (and it usually does 90% of the time).

Areas have a darkness level  between 0 and 10.  0 is daylight,  2 is dusk/dawn/full moon, 5 is a night sky,  10 is a pitch black room (ie, a dungeon).

Every ten feet of light a light source provides lowers darkness in an area by 1 and halves again the next area (round down).  So if you are in a pitch dark corridor with two torches (+6) its 4 darkness, 7 darkness further down the hall,  and theoretically 9 the next area and back to 10 after that (if you had such a long corridor).

Darkness gives a straight numerical penalty to attack rolls, detection rolls, awareness checks for seeing things, and resistance rolls against the possession and insanity attempts.  Its hard to see and do things in the dark, but very easy to hide. One of the things I strive for in NGR is that numbers be intuitively comparative.

Of course there is the additional question of who is holding a light source.  The cons of holding the light source are that you can't hide, you lose a hand to holding something (unless you have say a +5 sword brandished that is bathing the area in light), and people attacking you don't suffer an attack roll penalty.  As for benefits,  you don't suffer attack roll penalties in melee, you don't suffer resistance roll penalties against the supernatural, or penalties to awareness checks for things you can inspect up close (such as finding a secret door).

This also makes it easier to deal with using suspicion in a dungeon to track random encounters.  When you enter into a hallway, courtyard, or other connection space light causes suspicion to those present.


  1. Nice. I've really struggled with wanting to bring light, esp who's holding it and not carrying shield/bow/etc. Still not satisfied.

  2. well done,
    infravision r lowlight vision
    (dwarves, elves and humanoids)
    is not equivalent to normal vision,
    but halves all these penalties

    darkness also grants monsters a bonus to surprise

    It is a relatively easy task for the DM to simulate the suspense and tension that occurs in low light conditions by adjusting the real world light of the game room to correspond to that of the simulation. By using candles or a dimmer switch, the DM can alter the gaming environment to promote immersion.