Sneaky lighting

I played a lot of D&D from the late 70s to early 90s and consider myself mostly an “old school” kind of guy. Some of my players weren’t even born then and most of them come from a background of 3.x, storygames, and computer “RPGs”. I’m trying to get them turned on to the older playstyles, but there’s one major issue that they complain about endlessly which I don’t have a good answer for:

The visibility of light.

Most of their characters are level 3-4, with a couple just starting to hit 5 (note that we converted these characters from Savage Worlds and they started at level 3-4; they haven’t clawed their way up from level 1) and they have a hard time finding something they feel up to doing. “We can’t explore the wilderness because everything is too tough at our level and we can’t go into dungeons because everything can see in the dark except us, so we need light, which they can see coming from a mile away and makes it impossible for us to be sneaky.”

How have others dealt with this? Do you handwave it and say that dungeons are naturally illuminated, so the PCs don’t need to give themselves away by carrying lights? Do you have all tool-using monsters carry lights at all times, even though they don’t need them? Do you tell your players “you’re supposed to be at a disadvantage in the mythic underworld, so just suck it up and roll a new character when you die”?

Most creatures in ACKS cannot see in the dark. The ones that can are: Gnome, Goblin, Kobolds, Lizard (Giant Tuatara), Morlock, and Varmint (Giant Weasel). All other creatures need light, just like the PCs. Also note that any light will disrupt infravision; I’d personally rule that that includes light that is nowhere near enough to actually see by.

Oh, and another thing that may be worth pointing out to them is that a small party has a very good chance of Evading an Encounter in the Wilderness, particularly with an Explorer in tow…

In my experience, lighting is largely a non-issue in dungeons because rooms are rarely more than 60 feet across, so there’s never something looking at you from beyond the range of your torch except maybe if there’s a dude standing exactly at the end of a hallway.

Yup. Closed doors and other dungeon architecture can make it very difficult to see light from that far away.

If you’ve got a mile of straight hallway, then absolutely, they can see your light from a mile away. But if the hallway takes a right-angle turn every 20 feet, no one is going to see you from more than 100 feet away, and probably much less than that.

In general, I tend to assume that, in the average twisty turny dungeon corridors, sound and light will carry very similar distances. So the monsters are more likely to notice the PCs first, but the PCs might still hear then at the same time, and then since the monster preparations are likely to be loud, might get another chance to notice them as they move up.

ACKS core, page 149, first paragraph:

“Itis assumed that all monsters, except humans and demi-humans, have infravision of 60’.”

The ones you listed mention an infravision range in their descriptions because it is of a different range than the default 60’, not because they’re the only ones who have it.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the main mechanical effect of being ‘blind’ is -4 to hit, which can be partially mitigated with Blind-Fighting. If they’re sneaky enough and careful enough, they might be able to operate blind and not worry about it (obviously they’re going to miss some intel like how big rooms are, and they’re going to have to use sound to synchronize, but I think it might be workable if stealth is an overriding concern).

Alternatively, tell them to play Gnomes or Thrassians :stuck_out_tongue: Also note that a Continual Light source is relatively easy to conceal (compared to a torch) if you believe the enemy is near; one fun trick I’ve heard of people using is casting Continual Light on a slingstone and then slinging it down hallways. This way your target area is illuminated and the enemy is made aware, but is likely also light-blinded for a round or two while you can set up.

Ah, sorry! I am utterly stunned to discover that! Completely missed it. Quite frankly, I’m not sure whether or not I’ll adjust that. I’ve got an open table campaign starting up in mid-October… but I haven’t been running that way with ACKS so far.

All monsters having infravision is definitely harder for the PCs, but no worse than most TSR editions of the game. I’d still keep idea of any light disrupting it in mind. The PCs also have to adjust their behaviour to be much more cautious, and listening becomes really key. Also keep in mind as Judge that more open dungeon areas become vastly more difficult for the PCs to deal with (although that isn’t just an infravision issue); tight, winding areas with lots of doors much less so.

You know, the -4 is something that always (i.e. long before ACKS) bugged me. I’ve done a lot of spelunking, and it’s a truly singular experience to shut off all light sources when you’re 100’ underground. It’s really nothing like closing your eyes, or even shutting yourself in a lightless room. The utter lack of light is enough to disrupt even your sense of up and down, particularly without the familiar references of horizontal floors and vertical walls. A -4 to Attack Throws doesn’t begin to cover the difficulty involved.

In a similar vein, I think the reason I was so quick to “ignore” infravision in ACKS for so long was the difficulty I have with the concept of infravision in the first place. Towards the end of AD&D 2nd I started treating anything with infravision as having the low-light vision typical of many nocturnal animals. I was actually happy when 3.0 changed this to Darkvision as it eliminated the incoherence by simply saying “it works this way 'cause magic!”

Sure; not arguing that the -4 is accurate simulation, just that it is there. My groups tend to resign themselves to never having surprise and bring lots of light with them. Nothing like the crushing despair of being separated from the party and your last torch guttering out…

Huh; I always sort of figured infravision was supposed to be infrared like some snakes have. Wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be magic.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know the ability to see infrared would only allow you to see sources of thermal radiation, as well as seeing better in areas of low light. It’s possible that the infrared light produced by a creature’s own body heat could reflect off of surfaces and allow them to see (physics isn’t really my subject…), but otherwise infrared vision wouldn’t actually allow a creature to navigate underground. It could spot prey, but it would bump into the cold stone walls a lot.

Seeing in the total absence of light, on the other hand, would obviously require magic. Other senses might be able to compensate, of course… all of a sudden I’m imagining orcs with big bat ears navigating by ecolocation…

Better than some TSR editions, even. I seem to recall at least one having a rule that “all monsters have infravision… unless they are charmed or otherwise join the PC party, in which case they lose that ability”. That, along with the doors which open easily for monsters but have to be forced by PCs, did a lot to establish the sense of the dungeon environment actively working against the players in the early days.

Light disrupting infravision isn’t really relevant to the concerns in this particular case. “A stray photon just disrupted my infravision!” may not give away the party’s exact location, but it still reveals that someone (presumably an intruder) is present.

Despite the name “infravision”, it’s not infrared in ACKS, nor was it ever understood to be IR in any group I played with in the 70s/80s. It’s essentially the same as Darkvision in 3.x:

  • "The subject is able to see in the dark to a distance of 60' for the duration of the spell." - Infravision spell, ACKS 79
  • "Some creatures have infravision. Creatures that have infravision can see in the dark out to a limited distance, usually 60'. Infravision does not allow creatures to read or see fine details, so normal light will still be needed for many purposes. Infravision only functions in the darkness, so any visible light, whether normal or magical, will disrupt it." - Light and Darkness, ACKS 92

I think it rather specifically became infrared-vision in AD&D. I’m guessing that was Gygax’s intent from the start, but whether or not you played it as such depended on the local culture.

@jedavis: Oh, I wasn’t taking issue with you pointing out the actual rule at all! It’s just long been a (minor) pet peeve of mine. I have issues with virtually all cave maps for similar reasons, but none of these things stop me from playing.

As for what infravision actually is, I think AD&D specifically called it out as infrared-vision (and added ultravision, to boot). ACKS avoids the inherent problems with that by just calling it magic.

nDervish said: Better than some TSR editions, even. I seem to recall at least one having a rule that “all monsters have infravision… unless they are charmed or otherwise join the PC party, in which case they lose that ability”. That, along with the doors which open easily for monsters but have to be forced by PCs, did a lot to establish the sense of the dungeon environment actively working against the players in the early days.

Yeah, that was OD&D. The “dungeon” was like this otherworldly environment where the normal rules of reality did not apply, and that was utterly inimical to the PCs.

To your other point about getting the drop on dungeon denizens, again, consider that small rooms, winding corridors, and lots of doors mean that there’s a decent chance the PCs can hear their opponents (who have no reason to be quiet in their own home) long before the party’s own light can be seen. This still allows for surprise.

I agree; I’d say the classic example of PCs getting surprise in a dungeon is listening at a door, hearing what’s on the other side, and then kicking it in with weapons drawn. Of course, it helps to have a reliable noise-hearer and door-kicker. :stuck_out_tongue:

I have really mixed feelings on infravision, blind-fighting, and more.

Darkness Penalties: On the one hand, having spelunked and had a battery in a flashlight go dead, I can attest that the darkness is indeed absolute, total, and paralyzing. I find it hard to imagine I could do anything in such a condition. On the other hand, characters like Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman demand that blindness not be utterly punitive. Moreover, if blindness is too incapacitating, then simple spells like Darkness become devastating.

Infravision: I almost changed the name of this to Darkvision, and I do not recall why I didn’t. I think because I was enamored of close compatiblity with LL/BX. The fact that I did not give dwarves and elves infravision should show that I was not very enamored of infravision, though! I did leave the monsters as possessing infravision, largely so that the Judge can run dungeons without having to worry about light sources here and there; it’s binary: the monsters can see in the dark, the PCs can’t and bring light with them. In any case, it’s not infrared, though my Cyberpunk-weaned players constantly try to use it as such.

Advanced Adventurer Conqueror King (LOL) will have better rules for darkvision.

When I play monsters with infravision, I assume that infravision enables them to function in an underground environment, but it is by no means desirable… for example, goblins can see in the dark via infravision, but they can see better with light, so they use light sources as well in their dwellings.

Also, if PCs want to use stealth while carrying light sources, I assume the sneaky types (a thief for example) can operate in the shadowy range of 20’ beyond the light source’s area (ACKS p.92) to remain sneaky, so although the party as a whole might or might not be sneaky, the really sneaky ones still can be regardless.