Tuesday, September 5, 2023

5E: Stop it with the Darkvision Please

5E and its darkvision problem are almost a joke now.

I was reading through the race selections of Esper Genesis, and seven of the nine races have darkvision or a variant of it. One of the races that doesn't can get it as an option, though. For some, it does not make any sense.

Stop it. You might also list torches, lanterns, flashlights, night vision gear, and other light sources as "human vision assistance." If I play this game, the races are getting a massive redesign. I see one or two having it out of the nine. They have an aquatic race with tentacle hair, and I expected them to have another enhanced sense, like vibration sense (or even hearing), but no, it is darkvision again.

What is the problem with 5E? Would enhanced senses ruin every module Wizards ever published? Does sensitive hearing or smell cause so many arguments designers banned it from the game?

If a race has darkvision, it will get swapped with another enhanced sense. I am done with darkvision unless it is granted by equipment. Yes, even the cat people. After a thousand years of being in space, they are accustomed to normal light but retain their heightened senses of smell.

And sadly, 5E puts too much emphasis on vision. Senses like the enhanced sense of smell, heightened hearing, vibration sense, enhanced taste, empathy, heat sense, distance vision, and so many other great senses are there to design with - yet this darkness dungeon map line of sight mentality rules 5E designs.

There is no such thing as a dark and spooky starship wreck if every race in the party can see through the darkness. To be fair, it isn't just Esper Genesis; many 5E games have this reflexive, "give them darkvision," thing going on - even the D&D expansion books have darkvision like the plague.

No wonder Shadowdark is taking off; 5E designers just can't get enough of the darkvision, and people are sick of it. If people ask me why I play other games, I can usually say, "darkvision," and they instantly know why. What's worse, some players will pressure people who pick non-darkvision races in a party to change their minds and align the party to the god of dark-vision.

It is like playing Resident Evil but with full-bright environments. Hello, zombies in the back corner of the room! Hello, zombie dog waiting to ambush me outside the window! What is the point of a dungeon anymore? It is just walls now.

AI Art by @nightcafestudio

Describing a dark spaceship corridor and having characters shine a flashlight down there to check it out is ruined. Are the designers more concerned about how the game plays with other 5E material, ease of play on battlemats, or immersion?

For sci-fi, I am choosing immersion every time.

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