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Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Extraordinary Senses

Vision & Light


{see also How far can I see}

The first limitation on vision is how far away an object can be before it cannot be seen clearly. Size and weather have a great effect on this. Mountains can be seen from great distances, 60 to 100 miles or more, yet virtually no detail can be seen. On level ground, the horizon is about five to 12 miles away, but a character usually cannot see a specific object that far away. The limit of vision for seeing and identifying man-sized objects is much less than this.

Under optimum conditions, the maximum range at which a man-sized object can be seen is about 1,500 yards, if it is moving. If the object doesn't move, it usually cannot be seen at this distance. Even if it is moving, all that can be seen is a moving object. The character cannot tell what it is or what it is doing.
At 1,000 yards, both moving and stationary man-sized objects can be spotted. General size and shape can be determined, but exact identifications are impossible. It is not likely that creature type can be identified at this range, unless the creature has a very unique shape.
At 500 yards, general identifications can be made. Size, shape, color, and creature type are all distinguishable. Individuals still cannot be identified, unless they are distinctively dressed or separated from the rest of the group. Livery and heraldic symbols or banners can be seen if large and bold. Most coats of arms cannot be distinguished at this distance. General actions can be ascertained with confidence.
At 100 yards, individuals can be identified (unless, of course, their features are concealed). Coats of arms are clear. Most actions are easily seen, although small events are unclear.
At 10 yards, all details but the smallest are clear. Emotions and actions are easily seen, including such small actions as pick-pocketing (if it is detectable).

Of course, conditions are seldom perfect. There are a number of factors that can reduce visibility and alter the ranges at which things can be spotted and identified. Some of the effects of different types of conditions are:

Visibility Ranges
Clear sky1,5001,00050010010
Mist or light rain {Light Mist}1,0005002503010
Fog, light or snow light rain {Thick Mist}5002001003010
Fog, moderate or heavy rain {Dense Mist}10050251510
Fog, dense or blizzard1010553
Night, full moon1005030105
Night, no moon50201053

note: All ranges are given in yards.

"Movement" indicates the maximum distance at which a moving figure can be seen. "Spotted" is the maximum distance a moving or a stationary figure can be seen. "Type" gives the maximum distance at which the general details of a figure can be seen--species or race, weapons, etc. "ID" range enables exact (or reasonably exact) identification. "Detail" range means small actions can be seen clearly.

There are many factors other than weather that affect viewing. Size is an important factor. When looking at a small creature (size S), all categories are reduced to the next lower category (except the "detail" range, which remains unchanged). Thus, under clear conditions, the ranges for seeing a small creature are "movement" at 1,000 yards, "spotted" at 500 yards, "type" at 100 yards, and "ID" and "detail" at 10 yards.

When sighting large creatures, the "movement," "spotting," and "type" ranges are doubled. Exceptionally large creatures can be seen from even greater distances. Large groups of moving creatures can be seen at great distances. Thus, it is easy to see a herd of buffalo or an army on the march.

The ranges given obviously do not take terrain into account. All ranges are based on flat, open ground. Hills, mountains, tall grass, and dense woods all drastically reduce the chances of seeing a creature. (The terrain does not alter sighting ranges, only the chances of seeing a creature.) Thus, even though on a clear day woods may hide a bear until he is 30 yards away, it is still a clear day for visibility. The bear, once seen, can be quickly and easily identified as a bear.

Visiblity modifiers

Darkness means any time the character is suffering from limited visibility. These rules apply when the characters are affected by a darkness spell, blundering about in pea-soup fog, out on a moonless night, walking through an unlit cave, or even blindfolded.

If the character can not see anything in the dark, the safe movement rate of of the character is immediately slowed by 1/3 the normal amount. Faster movement requires a Balance check. Characters also suffer a -4 penalty to attack rolls and saving throws. Their Armor Class is four worse than normal (to a limit of 10). Sight-related bonuses for damage such as backstabbing are negated. However, darkness is not always absolute the distinctions between various levels of darkness are:

The blind-fighting non-weapon proficiency can lessen the effects of fighting in darkness as explained in the proficiency description.

For all types of vision there are penalties when not in clear conditions.

Modifiers for Degrees of Darkness
 Attack RollDamageSavingAC
Moonlight or
Moderate Fog
Starlight, Dense Fog
both moons under
-3 Normal-3*-2
Total darkness
Spell or Underground
* The saving throw modifier applies only to saving throws involving dodging and evasion in these cases.

Being seen

When characters are using light to find their way, then not only can they see, but they can also be seen. Hiding one's light is impossible in this case. Characters using a light to find their way can even be watched by creatures beyond the range of their own light. Since the light source illuminates the area around the characters, it makes them visible to people or creatures out to the watchers' normal visibility ranges. The radius of the light source isn't the issue in this situation.

This is important when characters are using spells such as Illusions to create something to be seen by others.


Most characters cannot see much without light without some sort of extraordinary senses. Some night conditions (those for the outdoors) are given above. But all of these assume some small amount of light. In totally lightless conditions, normal vision is impossible, unless a source of light is carried by the party.

Light sources vary in the area they affect and allow normal vision.

Light Sources
SourceRadiusBurning time
Beacon lantern240 ft.*30 hrs./pint
Bonfire50 ft. hr./armload
Bullseye lantern60 ft.*2 hrs./pint
Campfire35 ft.1 hr./armload
Candle5 ft.10 min./inch
Continual light spell60 ft.Indefinite
Hooded lantern30 ft.2 hrs./pint
Light spell20 ft.Variable
Torch15 ft.30 min.
Weapon**5 ft.As desired
* Light from these is not cast in a radius, but rather in a cone-shaped beam. At its far end, the cone of light from a beacon lantern is 90 feet wide. A bullseye lantern has a beam 20 feet wide at its far end.
** Magical weapons shed light only when fully unsheathed normally.

Of course, while a lantern or fire enables characters to see, it does have some disadvantages. The greatest of these is that it is hard to sneak up on someone if he can see you coming. It is hard to remain inconspicuous when you have the only campfire on the plain, or you are carrying the only torch in the dungeon. Furthermore, not only do creatures know you are coming, they can generally see you before you see them (since the light source illuminates the area around you, those outside this area can see into the area). Characters should always bear these risks in mind.

Moving from light to dark too quickly is another disadvantage. The abrupt change from bright light to darkness or the reverse takes one full round for the character to recover from and is considered Surprised for that round. If the change in light is planned for (one full round of preparation) then the character is not surprised but only suffers the penalty for being treated as being in darkness for that round.

Underwater Vision

For most surface dwellers, the teeming depths of an ocean, lake, or river present a visual challenge. Submerged adventurers will experience a tremendous alteration in their ability to see. The problem of Absorption effects Extraordinary Senses because of the color shifting effects of depth. Lakes, rivers, and seas are much more than sterile, clear liquid. Rather, it would be more appropriate to think of them as thin soups. With small microorganisms and small animals as well as silt and other debris. All these particles suspended in water scatter light's rays and dissipates them.

Clear Water Visibility Ranges
Clear day1008060405
Night, full moon2520151010 feet
Night, no moon1510510 feet5 feet

note: All ranges are given in yards.

Clear Water refers to a body of water that is generally free of heavy silt, algae, or other visual impediments, This is the default classification for saltwater bodies, as their high salinity inhibits the growth of algae.

Depth Modifier: The deeper a character goes, the more the surrounding water scatters and absorbs light filtering down from the surface. For every 50 feel of depth the surface condition moves down one category. Below 250 feet or a depth modifier that moves beyond the Night, no moon category use the Turbid Water table. Dropping another 50 feet means the character cannot see as light does not penetrate the water in sufficient quantities for normal vision.

Turbid Water Visibility Ranges
Clear day806040205
Stormy20151055 feet
Night, full moon151055 feet-
Night, no moon10510 feet--

note: All ranges are given in yards.

Turbid Water refers to water that contains a moderate amount of silt, algae, swirling sands, seaweed, or other visual impediments. Because of the high growth of algae in freshwater, this is the default classification for all lakes and rivers.

Depth Modifier: For every 35 feet of depth below the surface, the surface condition moves down one category. Below 175 feet or a depth modifier that moves beyond the Night, no moon category means the character cannot see as light does not penetrate the water in sufficient quantities for normal vision.

Murky Water Visibility Ranges
Clear day20151055 feet
Overcast151055 feet-
Stormy1055 feet--
Night, full moon55 feet---
Night, no moon5 feet----

note: All ranges are given in yards.

Murky Water refers to water that contains excessive amounts of algae, seaweed, mud, or other visual impediments. This is the default classification of swamps, lagoons, and stagnant bodies of water.

Depth Modifier: For every 10 feet of depth below the surface, the surface condition moves down one category. Below 50 feet or a depth modifier that moves beyond the Night, no moon category means the character cannot see as light does not penetrate the water in sufficient quantities for normal vision.

Artificial Light Sources Underwater

Characters may use artificial light including magical weapons or spells to improve their vision while underwater. Any artificial light that illuminates with the same intensity as sunlight raises the prevailing surface condition to Clear Day within the light's radius or area of effect, regardless of depth. Any light source that does not equal sunlight in intensity only raises the prevailing surface condition to Overcast within its radius.