The Darkness Spell in 5e is Pointless


 Here's a fun observation. The spell darkness, in 5e, has absolutely zero mechanical effect in 5th edition D&D.

  1. Darkness creates a heavily obscured area
  2. Creatures within that area effectively suffer from the blinded condition.
  3. Blinded characters suffer disadvantage on attacks, and creatures attacking them have advantage.
  4. The spell negates darkvision.
  5. All characters within the sphere of magical darkness have disadvantage to attack, but advantage to attack other creatures in the darkness. This advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out.

All creatures within the space of a darkness spell battle as normal. The spell is, from a mechanical sense, pointless and negated.

Certainly this discounts a proper GM who looks past it and says, "no, that's stupid," but yeah, strictly BY THE BOOK it's a pretty gross oversight by the designers of the game from a mechanical standpoint. Also, I pointed this out to the Sage Advice people some time ago and they confirmed this reading is correct. Oddly, they didn't seem to think it problematic.

Sadly, I lost the link to that particular conversation ages ago so I can't back that up. But I did, actually, ask the question and get it confirmed.

The only time this matters is in the case of a warlock who has eyes of the fiend and the darkness spell. This enables them to see through magical darkness and thus get advantage on all attacks while others have disadvantage against them. But that's a VERY oddly specific single exception to the rule.

Comments

  1. Not to mention the obvious, but creatures outside the darkness bubble won't be blinded and that leaves creatures inside the bubble at a disadvantage when attacking them with ranged or reach weapons. So there is some mechanical effect RAW, just not one that makes a ton of sense or has much impact on the game. The simple fix is to change point 3 so that it ends with "...and creatures attacking them that are not themselves Blinded have advantage on attacks against them." This leaves critters that can see (eg through blindsense or by being outside the bubble) advantaged against blinded ones, while leaving all Blinded victims fumbling around with disadvantage. A more complex and realistic approach would involving messing around with line of sight rules and some kind of automatic miss chance, but it hardly seems like it's worth bothering.

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    Replies
    1. Except creatures outside the darkness bubble cannot see INTO the darkness bubble, so they are, in fact, blinded to anything inside it. Which brings us back to square one. Really its only utility (which is limited at best) is to drop it between you and an enemy so you can escape a confrontation without them seeing where you went.

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  2. Ha...that's kind of amusing.

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  3. Its kinda useful in that if you're facing down a foe that has advantage and you don't, you can bring them down to your level.

    It would be better if it instead left everyone at disadvantage, with no cancelling out due to advantage. Combatants blindly flailing about, hoping for a lucky hit.

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  4. I've broke 5e many times, and using Darkness was one of those.

    There was that time when I've created this Warlock. I was a dark elf I think, and I had a Darkvision that included magical darkness, I don't remember if the Darkvision was from the elf or any warlock pact. And I could cast Darkness at early levels.
    It was a good fighter as well because of some pacts I've chose, hexblade or something like that, I don't recall the names of abilities but I received my CHA mod as bonus for Attack and Damage and my hits counted as Magical. I was CHA 18, casting Darkness, letting everybody virtually blind (including the rest of the party) where I was the only one attacking with advantage and seeing everything in darkness.

    This adventure obviously didn't last long, my character was broken.
    It was fun to think about it, I'm not sure if it's a know combo, but you can do that in 3rd or maybe at 5th level, I don't recall in which level I was, it was on 2017 or earlier.
    I really hate 5e, but since my friends were modern edition guys, when I wanted to spend some time with them I had no choice. The DM was a modern edition guy he was asking for dice rolls for literally everything, he was a "by the book" Referee. It's by the book that you want? Then, this character is "by the book", deal with it.
    Breaking the game was my revenge every time I've played with them.
    I'm guilty to make the DM have a hard time.
    The game limits you so much that you need to break it to be able do to what you want, and I think most of people think the fun is into this, which is madness because if you had less rules like playing odd or basic you could do everything you wanted as well without losing time with a lot of reading and thinking.

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  5. Nowhere in the spells description does the spell imply it grants the condition Blinded. It simply states you cannot see inside of it. which is an important distinction.

    Word for word the spell reads as follows.

    Magical darkness spreads from a point you choose within range to fill a 15-foot radius sphere for the duration. The darkness spreads around corners. A creature with darkvision can’t see through this darkness, and nonmagical light can’t illuminate it.

    If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn’t being worn or carried, the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it. Completely covering the source of the darkness with an opaque object, such as a bowl or a helm, blocks the darkness.

    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.

    This leaves the spell more open to interpretation. If your DM wants to make the spell useless by ruling it the way described in this post then sure I guess, not sure why but I'm not that DM. But there are other ways to Rule The spell that make it far more useful and interesting that still follow the rules as written.

    I personally rule it that since nobody can see into this space or out of it I rule that all attacks made into this sphere are at disadvantage.

    You could also rule it so that Since nobody can see where anybody is the combat inside that Sphere has effectively come to a halt until the spell ends or until they move their way out of the sphere.

    The spell is worded vaguely so that DMs and players can Run fun spells and use them in interesting and fun ways without being bogged down by strict mechanics for every single spell. Its important to clarify that the spell does not imply the blinded condition anywhere in the spells description as this give off the wrong impression of the spell making it seem more useless than the true strike cantrip.

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  6. Similar to an earlier comment, our Warlock is casting darkness then casting spells at the creatures in the darkness because she has the ability to see in magical darkness. At the same time our sorcerer is casting fireball on the entire darkness area, and our druid conjured bats to attack creatures in the darkness. So it seems to be pretty devastating to the creatures within.

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    Replies
    1. Don't even get me started on how broken the Warlock is. I generally don't allow them in my games without some serious nerfing.

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