What races should have Darkvision?

I recently ran a poll asking players what races they thought should have Darkvision. With over 2500 responses in the first 24 hours, players expressed strong sentiment that many of the races should have their Darkvision removed or modified from the rules as written (“RAW”). Here are my observations, as well as a chart identifying what races have Darkvision by popular demand.

General Observations

Players demonstrated an inclination for assigning Darkvision based on the environment of the race. This variance is shown primarily in the subraces of Elves, and Gnomes. Aasimar trended towards various degrees of not having Darkvision. Dwarves preserved a racial tendency towards Darkvision, notwithstanding their environment. Typical stubborn Dwarves.

Players also showed a preference for balance. Any race who has Darkvision 120′ must also accept the penalty of Sunlight Sensitivity (SS). Players also preferred to nerf Darkvision than to apply it. There was not a single majority suggesting that a race should be granted Darkvision.

 

Player Agreements with RAW – (22/31 Subraces)

Players strongly agree that the following races should not have Darkvision: Human (99%), Air Genasi (98%), Tortle (96%), Goliath (96%), Halfling (95%), Aarakocra (90%), Firbolg (89%), Water Genasi (86%), Kenku (84%), Lizardfolk (81%), Earth Genasi (90%).

Players’ agreement with Triton (65%), Merfolk (59%), and Dragonborn (58%), are more borderline, with strong minority support for adding Darkvision.

Players agreed that Mountain Dwarf (90%), Tabaxi (76%), Rock Gnome (76%), Tiefling (71%), Hill Dwarf (70%), and Wood Elf (61%) should keep their Darkvision.

Players agreed that all of the Underdark dwellers, Duergar (96%), Drow (96%), Svirfneblin (92%), should have 120’ of Darkvision, although there was some difference regarding imposition of the Sunlight Sensitivity penalty.

 

Player Disagreements with RAW – (9/31 Subraces)

Players disagree with the classification of Aasimar (Fallen, Protector, and Scourge), High Elf, Fire Genasi, Forest Gnome, Deep Gnome, Half-Elf, and Half-Orc.

Players strongly feel that Half-Orc (69%), Half-Elf (76%), and Fire Genasi (77%) should not have Darkvision, contrary to their RAW-given abilities.

A majority of players also agreed that Darkvision should not be available to Aasimar (51%/57%/65%), High Elves (60%), and Forest Gnomes (55%), although there is strong support for keeping their Darkvision abilities.

 

Specific Races

Dwarf

While players generally agreed that the Dwarves had been assigned the proper Darkvision strengths, there was some support for change. 30% of players thought that Hill Dwarves should be stripped of Darkvision. However, Mountain Dwarves made a stronger case for Darkvision: while most supported keeping Darkvision 60’ (78%), there was more support for increasing them to Darkvision 120′ (12%) than removing it altogether (10%).

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Elf

Players feel strongly that Dark Elves are properly Darkvision 120’ with Sunlight Sensitivity (89%). Among High Elves and Wood Elves, though, there is a closer split. While the balances are close, a majority of players believe that High Elves should not have Darkvision (60% vs. 40%), while the balance is the other way for Wood Elves (39% vs. 61%).

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Gnome

Players have some changes to make when it comes to Gnomes. 61% feel it would be fair for Deep Gnomes to experience the Sunlight Sensitivity penalty that accompanies other Darkvision 120’ races. Most players were fine with Rock Gnomes keeping their Darkvision (76%). Conversely, when it comes to Forest Gnomes, more feel that their Darkvision should be repealed (55%), than feel that it should be kept (43%).

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Underdark (Duergar, Drow, Svirfneblin)

For some reason, all three of these races got Superior Darkvision (120’), but only Deep Gnomes escaped the Sunlight Sensitivity penalty. A majority of players (61%) support applying the Sunlight Sensitivity penalty to Deep Gnomes as well. There is significantly more support for keeping Deep Gnomes without the penalty (31%) than there is for removing it for the other Underdark species. However, some players did support removing the Sunlight Sensitivity penalty from Duergar (8%) and Drow (7%) as well.

Extraplanar Beings (Aasimar, Tiefling)

Glowing eyes apparently aren’t enough for Darkvision. A small majority of players generally don’t buy the premise that Aasimar possess Darkvision. Among Aasimar, players are most likely to believe that Fallen (49%) have Darkvision, followed by Scourge (43%) and Protector (35%). Interestingly, several players felt that the Fallen Aasimar should have 120 feet of Darkvision, split between regular (3%) and Sunlight Sensitivity (4%).

Here are the Aasimar third level abilities to give you a taste of the flavor supporting their alleged Darkvision:

  • Radiant Soul. …you can use your action to unleash the divine energy within yourself, causing your eyes to glimmer and two luminous, incorporeal wings to sprout from your back.
  • Radiant Consumption. …you can use your action to unleash the divine energy within yourself, causing a searing light to radiate from you, pour out of your eyes and mouth, and threaten to char you.
  • Necrotic Shroud. …you can use your action to unleash the divine energy within yourself, causing your eyes to turn into pools of darkness and two skeletal, ghostly, flightless wings to sprout from your back.

Genasi (Air, Earth, Fire, Water)

The Elemental Evil Player’s Companion seems to suggest that Fire Genasi have a form of infravision:

  • “Your ties to the Elemental Plane of Fire make your darkvision unusual: everything you see in darkness is in a shade of red.”

Players generally reject the premise that Fire Genasi have Darkvision. 77% indicate that Fire Genasi should be without Darkvision, akin to their other Genasi brethren. However, players do feel that Fire Genasi (23%) are most likely to have Darkvision, followed by Earth Genasi (20%), Water Genasi (14%), and Air Genasi (2%). It’s interesting to note the large gap between the different types of Genasi.

Waterborne Races (Merfolk, Tritons)

While the majority supports that waterborne creatures do not have Darkvision, there is strong minority sentiment that both Merfolk (41%) and Tritons (35%) should have Darkvision. However, there is an argument that Tritons effectively have Darkvision in deep water:

  • Guardians of the Depths.  Adapted to even the most extreme ocean depths, you have resistance to cold damage, and you ignore any of the drawbacks caused by a deep, underwater environment.

The fact that this ability is “built in” to the Tritons may explain why players were more likely to grant Darkvision to Merfolk.

Half-Races

Players generally felt that half-races do not benefit from one of their parents having Darkvision, voting that Half-Elf (76%) and Half-Orc (69%) races should have their Darkvision stripped.

Conversely, there was even stronger minority support for granting Darkvision to Dragonborn (42%), although most still felt that Dragonborn should not inherit Darkvision (58%).

Awards

Least Likely to Have Darkvision

  1. Humans (99%)
  2. Air Genasi (98%)
  3. Tortle (96%)

Most Likely to Lose Darkvision

  1. Fire Genasi (77%)
  2. Half-Elf (76%)
  3. Half-Orc (69%)

Most Likely to Gain Darkvision

  1. Dragonborn (39%)
  2. Merfolk (33%)
  3. Triton (27%)

Most Likely to be Bumped from 60’ to 120’

  1. Mountain Dwarf (13%)
  2. Tabaxi (8%)
  3. Tiefling (7%)

Most Likely to Gain Sunlight Sensitivity

  1. Deep Gnome (61%)
  2. Fallen Aasimar (4%)
  3. Scourge Aasimar (1%)

Most Controversial

  1. Fallen Aasimar (51%)
  2. Forest Gnome (55%)
  3. Scourge Aasimar (57%)

The Adjusted Darkvision Chart

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5 thoughts on “What races should have Darkvision?

  1. For the underwater races perhaps an alternative:
    Bioluminescence. You can make your skin glow at will with a pale light that radiates 15 feet of bright light and a further 15 feet of dim light. Once per short rest you may double the radius of illumination for one hour.

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  2. As Aasimar are essentially an anti-Tiefling, I’ve suggested that they should not have darkvision, but instead have some sort of light-vision. Perhaps some sort of limited true-sight. As a strawman, consider a once-per-day true-sight with a range of 5 feet that lasts for one round and requires concentration. If you’re on-board with that, consider improving it by changing the range or rounds to be per-level. If you think it’s too powerful, consider it causing one level of exhaustion due to the mental strain.

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