Blinded Character gets Darkvision cast on them


I had something come up where I was a player at the table considering casting "Darkvision" on a character who had been blinded by a flash of light. I posted my thoughts on the Paizo board (first mistake) and was summarily accused of being illogical and out in left field. I'll re-post my logic here to see what the Greeners think. I should have done that in the first place -- it is just that they already had that topic going.

In the case that a character is temporarily blinded by a flash of light we do not have an interaction between two spells, but the interaction between a spell and a condition.

Well, my two cents is that the Darkvision spell grants a new kind of sight to the recipient. Nowhere in the text of the spell does it require the recipient to have any kind of sight already. It does however limit the effect of the ability to things that could normally be perceived. The absence of an exclusion in a rules-as-written scenario and the use of the word "grant" we must conclude that this ability is added to the character either physically or magically.

Since the spell is cast after the effect that blinded the character, the new ability cannot be retroactively blinded by an event that happened in the past.

Imagine that the spell works by adding rods to the retina (black and white photoreceptors). It doesn't matter how the sight is actually added, just follow along for the sake of the argument. When a person experiences flash blindness, the rods and cones of their eyes become overloaded and send a white signal to the brain along the optic nerve. The lens of the eye still functions. The optic nerve is fine. The only damage is to the receptors. When something "grants" a character new receptors, it would stand to reason that those receptors are not overloaded.

Don't get hung up on the physics of the above example. It is the order of events that is important. An event happens. An ability is granted. The event in the past is not applied to the new ability. In order to say it does you must add a dependency that does not exist in the rules.
The rules say that blinding a character will blind darkvision. It does not say that blinding a character will blind all the senses that they later acquire. That is a really dubious leap of logic.

Those who argue against this believe that the rules indicate that their is a attribute in the game called "vision." This one conflated attribute can be enhanced to be "normal, low-light vision, darkvision" etc. This means that the darkvision replaces normal vision. This is not supported by the rules. A character can still see colours in normal lighting -- thus, darkvision and normal vision are two separate kinds of vision. They can be affected simultaneously by effects. It is egregious to the laws of causality to deduce that darkvision is blinded by a prior event.

.... [rebuttal]

"It does not allow characters to see anything that they could not see otherwise"

That sentence describes how the ability functions. It functions in all other ways like regular vision. It does not say "this ability is tied to your normal vision" or "you cannot have darkvision without regular vision."

This came up in a recent session so I thought I would weigh in on it. I am not that emotionally invested in the answer one way or the other. I just thought that the logic was a bit faulty that suggested that the two kinds of vision are connected when the rules only establish that effects that blind, blind both (all) kinds of vision.

Thanks for taking up the thread after so long. Do you find my argument convincing?

... [rebuttal on my ability to read]

@Kazaan I found your post slightly condescending.

"Darkvision is contingent on the ability to see normally" is exactly the assumption that I am challenging. Not because I lack the ability to read, but because the abilities seem morphologicaly different both in real life and the rules. The rules do not expressly conflate normal vision and darkvision, in fact they do the opposite. Effects or feats that increase the range of your normal vision do not increase the range of your darkvision, and vice-versa.

Your senses are especially keen in the utter darkness.
Prerequisite: Darkvision 60 feet.
Benefit: Your darkvision has a range of 120 feet.
Normal: Darkvision normally extends 60 or 90 feet.

Low-Light Vision (1 RP): Prerequisites: None; Benefit: Members of this race can see twice as far as a race with normal vision in conditions of dim light.

Stop and mull this over. Although both darkvision and normal vision use the eyes to see they can be modified separately. If they are modified separately then these abilities do not overlap. A spell that creates blindness may create a condition that is not thwarted by the casting of Darkvision. However, my post was about a character blinded by a flash of light. If darkvision is on a separate scale (according to evidence from the rules), why would a flash of light blind a character on a scale that they do not yet possess?

In my interpretation the character's normal color vision is still blinded, but they acquire the sensitive darkvision rods in their retina that allows them see in darkness. Darkvision comes from an old D&D ability called Ultravision, which used to be the ability to see the ultra-violet spectrum. After 3.x the designers took the concept of infra/ultra vision out of the rules and gave us a darkvision mechanic. Normal vision relies on light. Darkvision uses some other unidentified mechanic. What we know is that it is NOT normal vision. Modifying your normal vision has no effect on darkvision and modifying your darkvision has no effect on normal vision.

The rules imply that these two modes of seeing are separate. Although they can both be affected by a blinding effect, they do not need to overlap.

In order to see where I am coming from please re-read my original post with these considerations. I hope my position becomes more clear on second inspection.

Perhaps it would follow that such a character would be "blind" in full light. They would see 30' in dim light; and they would see 60' in darkness. They have lost the ability to see in normal light, but their dark-sight functions.

I am suggesting that Darkvision is a visual sense.

It lets you see in a range that is not normal. (Somehow)

If you can't perceive something your ability to perceive it cannot be damaged.

When you add this new level of perception it should come in as un-blinded.

I said that darkvision and normal vision do not overlap.

Please re-examine my premise and syllogisms.

Major premise: Darkvision is a visual sense.
Minor premise: Normal vision is a visual sense.
Minor premise: A flash of light can overload all visual senses.
Minor premise: If a sense is not present it cannot be overloaded.
Conclusion: Casting Darkvision on a flash-blinded character bestows Darkvision but not normal vision.

Please explain my fallacy again. I must be missing something.

Your argument seems to be as follows:

Major premise: Darkvision is a visual sense.
Minor premise: Normal vision is a visual sense.
Minor premise: A flash of light can overload all visual senses.
Minor premise: Darkvision requires (overlaps) the normal vision.
Conclusion: Casting Darkvision on a flash-blinded character bestows nothing as the ability modifies normal vision.

I have indicated examples from the rules where this is not consistent. The two modes of "seeing" are independent. All of the text around the topic suggests that the ability is "granted" not that normal vision is modified. The flavour of the text suggests to me that these are separate ranges of sight.

[then I find an entry from the official canon of Pathfinder]


Source Pathfinder Chronicles: Faction Guide

Created by the drow-hunters, this alchemical flare explodes in black sparks 1 round after lighting. Any creature in the same square as a darkflare when it explodes must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be unable to see with darkvision for 1d10 rounds. Affected creatures can still see in normal light with no penalty. A darkflare has no effect on creatures without darkvision. The DC to create a darkflare with Craft (alchemy) is 20."

This clearly illustrates that darkvision is on a separate scale from normal vision.

So the published material seems to contradict the consensus on this topic.

I was hoping that the Greeners could weigh in on the topic.

My assumption is that the blindness effect created by a flash of light blinds all visual senses that the character has.

If they add to their visual sense after the fact, I am not sure that sense would be blinded. It was my default assumption. I can see ruling the other way -- that the entire visual mechanism is broken.

I get annoyed when my position is described as illogical or re-phrased incorrectly. D&D was supposed to be a game of imagination. I imagined flash blindness. I imagined a darkvision ability that allows one to see in total darkness. I don't imagine them using the same mechanism. I do imagine that they both use the eyes.

The rules support some separation between these abilities. From a rules point of view I find it interesting that once they gain the "blinded condition" you consider the source of that blindness irrelevant in discussion.

A character blinded by a blinding critical and a character blinded by a flash of light have the exact same condition. I'm not sure I like that. I respect it. It is logical and consistent. To me, it makes the game flat and two-dimensional. Lifeless. Boring. I'd rather play chess.

That's a very cool thought Gil. As it stands, I never really understood Darkvision anyways, because the more you stop and think about it, the more confusing it seems to become. Low-light/Darkvision always seem to be this strange transition effect, sort of like 'the lights go dim, suddenly character B can still see better than the rest of the party' or 'the room goes pitch black but character B has Darkvision so suddenly everything turns greyscale.' I always happened to think somewhat subconsciously that Darkvision operated as a sort of 'switch on and off' thing for races that had it, somewhat like their eyes had nightvision goggles installed in them. That was a poor analogy. I'm tired.

Anyways, I think your idea is far more interesting than the naysayers, and probably makes more sense as well, given the incredible vagueness of the vision abilities. I mean, reading your last example of Pathfinder canon, it seems you could apply the inverse somewhat: if a character has their Darkvision blinded in a dark tunnel, it would seem odd that their regular vision would be blinded as well.

Also, the consensus seems to run against a problem I've had with low-light/Darkvision for a while. I often discussed with my players that it's quite pointless in my view to select a race based on the decision that "hey, I have low-light/Darkvision" if the rest of the party selects races that do not. Because it always occurred to me that if Darkvision or low-light vision operated at the same time or on the same 'mechanic' I guess as regular vision, it occurred to me that 1) Darkvision/Low light would be practically useless unless the party wanted the character with that vision to scout ahead in a dark or completely lightless room, because since the other players can't bloody well see, they'll be carrying sunrods and torches and lanterns everywhere they go or 2) as a supplement to this, anytime anyone struck a torch or emitted any sort of bright light while Darkvision or even Low-light vision was being used, the character with Dark/Low-light vision would be completely blinded by the sudden introduction of an incredibly bright light source. Because how would you turn it off? Absence a clear explanation of Darkvision in the text, it would seem that it just sort of happens. It doesn't seem to imply to me that a character could change visions at will. Of course, having thought about that, I found the idea that the sight mechanics was something the character could elect to use was far more interesting. But that would encounter, probably, the same problem that you have encountered discussing your idea. That it wouldn't make any sense and it would be illogical, because normal sight and Darkvision are the same. From there we go in circles. Of course now that I've read your idea, it also makes more sense that someone blinded by a bright light could 'turn on' their Darkvision and still be able to see, albeit in a sort of super saturated greyscale if out in bright light (since I can't stop comparing Darkvision to conventional night vision technology). But that leads to interesting mechanics in and of itself.

In sum, I think your idea makes quite a bit of sense, considering I've thought about Darkvision for a while as well, but on a somewhat different line of thought.

There is a video of a fox hunting rodents in the snow cycling around youtube. Check it out. It raises a lot of questions around the "darkvision" connundrum, although some I am sure would relate it to tremorsense or some other ability. I always find it hard to come to a ruling in a game without understand the "why" behind the ability. I like a consistent view of the imaginary world.

Is darkvision on the same logarithmic scale as normal vision? If so, I think all of the challenges that you address are valid.

While we are the topic of vision, I thought I'd share a magic item that I like to use. They are called "Subtle Cinders." A wizard prepares and harvests them from a special fire. The cinders can be used in various ways. When added to a fire they cause the fire to cease emitting light. The flames become invisible, yet still give off heat. If the cinders are rubbed beneath the eyes of a character, that character gains the ability to see the fire and benefit from the illumination that it provides.

When characters first encounter this invisible fire it will take them a long time to figure out what is going on. The secret recipe for "subtle cinders" could be very valuable. Subtle Cinders can also be mixed with spell components to make invisible walls of fire, etc.

I submitted "Subtle Cinders" to the Paizo folks a couple years ago for their "Superstar" competition, but they didn't like them. I was underwhelmed by some of the items they did pick.