Roleplaying games, in general, and DnD, in particular, seek to simulate all manner of different environments and surroundings, from the every day, such as typical fauna and flora and recognizable weather, to the fantastical such as otherworldly landscapes and diabolical settings, the rules have to be flexible enough to cover everything from the ordinary to the outrageous.
One way of doing this is to have broad concepts that can be applied in a number of mundane and mystical situations, which are then used to modify the game’s core mechanics. One of these is the term Heavily Obscured.
What Does Heavily Obscured 5e Mean?
Within the context of D&D 5e, “heavily obscured” is a descriptive term used to denote a specific level of visual hindrance or obstruction. It refers to an environment or condition that significantly impairs visibility, making it difficult for characters to see clearly. When a character finds themselves in a heavily obscured area, their Vision becomes compromised, limiting their ability to perceive objects, creatures, or details within that space.
The effects of being in a heavily obscured area can vary depending on the specific rules, spells, or abilities involved. To fully grasp the significance of this term, it is essential to explore its impact across different facets of gameplay.
Perception and Vision
The primary consequence of being in a heavily obscured area is the hindrance it imposes on a character’s Vision. As the area becomes shrouded in darkness, covered in dense fog, or enveloped by thick smoke, characters struggle to perceive their surroundings.
A character’s Vision is severely impaired within a heavily obscured area, rendering them functionally blind. This means they cannot discern objects or creatures within the obscured area unless they possess special abilities or senses that allow them to see through magical or natural darkness.
Engaging in combat within a heavily obscured area presents unique challenges. When a character attempts to attack a target concealed in such an environment, the DM often imposes a disadvantage on the attacker’s attack roll.
This disadvantage reflects the inherent difficulty of accurately targeting an obscured enemy. The limited visibility makes pinpointing vulnerabilities or weak spots challenging, resulting in a decreased likelihood of successfully landing an attack.
Conversely, a character attacking from a heavily obscured area against a target outside that area may have advantage on their attack roll. Advantage allows the character to roll two d20s and take the higher result. This advantage represents the element of surprise or the benefit of attacking from a concealed position.
Stealth and Hiding
The presence of heavily obscured areas can also have implications for stealth and hiding mechanics in the game. Characters utilizing these tactics may find an obscured environment advantageous. Such areas provide ample opportunities to take cover, move silently, and remain undetected.
Within a heavily obscured area, characters may attempt to hide more efficiently, utilizing the obscuration to their advantage and increasing their chances of avoiding detection.
Spells and Abilities
Certain spells and abilities may uniquely interact with heavily obscured areas. For example, the Darkness spell creates an area of magical darkness that heavily obscures Vision, and characters within it are affected by its rules.
However, some spells or abilities, such as the Devil’s Sight invocation or the True Seeing spell, allow characters to see through magical or natural darkness, mitigating the penalties associated with being in a heavily obscured area.
Applying Heavily Obscured Situations to Gameplay
The effects of being in a heavily obscured area can vary depending on the specific rules, spells, or abilities involved. Primarily, heavily obscured areas render characters effectively blind, meaning they cannot discern objects or creatures within the obscured area unless they possess special skills or senses that allow them to see through magical or natural darkness.
Due to the limited visibility, partaking in combat in heavily obscured areas becomes more difficult. When attacking a target concealed in a heavily obscured area, the attacker often has disadvantage on their attack roll. This represents the challenge of accurately targeting an obscured enemy, decreasing the likelihood of successfully landing an attack.
On the other hand, heavily obscured areas can provide advantages for stealth and hiding mechanics. Characters can use this obscuration to hide more efficiently, utilizing the environment to increase their chances of avoiding detection. This creates opportunities for strategic gameplay and covert maneuvers.
It’s important to note that the term “Heavily Obscured” is a broad descriptor within the rules of D&D 5e. Specific spells, abilities, or magical effects may introduce additional nuances or modifications to the mechanics associated with heavily obscured areas. These additional rules may allow characters to perceive through obscuration or bypass its penalties.
Ultimately, the Dungeon Master has the authority to determine the precise implications and effects of heavily obscured areas in their game. They may provide additional details, variations, or adjustments for specific scenarios, environments, or story elements. This flexibility allows for customization and tailoring of the heavily obscured concept to align with the DM’s narrative intentions and the overall tone of the adventure.
Ironically, as a player dealing with a Heavily Obscured situation, whether using it to your advantage or if hampered by it, you won’t see the whole picture, both in terms of what you see and experience through your character and in terms of what you, the player may or may not know.
Only the DM understands everything that is going on in the story, and so if they seem to make arbitrary judgments and unbalanced decisions when applying this rule, it is because they know something that you don’t. (After all, this is one of the game’s core concepts.)
Final Thoughts on Heavily Obscured 5e
As we can see, Heavily Obscured areas refer to environments or situations where visibility is significantly impaired, making it challenging for characters to see clearly. Being in a heavily obscured area renders characters blind unless they have special abilities or senses that allow them to see through the darkness.
Combat in Heavily Obscured areas is more complex, with attackers often having disadvantage on their attack rolls. On the other hand, heavily obscured areas can provide advantages for stealth and hiding mechanics. The Dungeon Master has the final say in determining the specific effects and implications of heavily obscured areas in their game, allowing for customization and adaptation to suit the narrative and gameplay.
Heavily Obscured 5e FAQs
What does heavily obscured mean?
A heavily obscured area, whether it be darkness, thick fog, or dense foliage, completely blocks Vision. When a creature attempts to see something within that area, they effectively experience the effects of the blinded condition as described in the official rules of D&D 5e.
What does lightly obscured mean?
Light and Vision break down like this: Lightly obscured means you have a disadvantage in seeing it. Heavily covered means you can’t see it.
Can the caster see through Shadow of Moil?
Shadow of Moil creates a unique darkness that differs from the Darkness spell. The spell explicitly states that even creatures with Darkvision cannot see through this darkness, and nonmagical light cannot illuminate it. Notably, the spell does not specify that the caster can see through this darkness unless they possess Darkvision themselves.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages.