Darkeness and torches


Rules Questions

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.

The way I read Darkness is that when cast, the light sources (sunrods, everburning torches, etc.) are moved down one step (bright light to normal light, normal light to dim light). Had a situation come up in which the DM ruled that Darkness completely negated sunrods, torches, and the like.


Are you sure he didn't use Deeper Darkness? Maybe that was the spell being cast and he just didn't inform you guys (maybe there was no way for you to know).

If it really was just a Darkness spell, then he played it differently than the RAW, which is fine if that's how he wants to run things in his game, but he should make it clear that he's houseruling (and common courtesy would suggest he might want to discuss houserules with his players, either before they are used or at the time they are used).

Sovereign Court

Page 264, Core Rulebook wrote:
Nonmagical sources of light, such as torches and lanterns, do not increase the light level in an area of darkness. Magical light sources only increase the light level in an area if they are of a higher spell level than darkness.

I noticed that part of the spell just a few weeks ago. I looked back at my 3.5 books and the wording was the same there.

Honestly, I'm not certain what exactly it's supposed to mean, but it seems clear that in the situation of a darkness spell and any number of torches, lanterns, sunrods etc and the absence of any other source of light, full darkness will be in effect for the area of effect of the Darkness spell.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well according to the RAW, torches and non-magical lighting would be drowned out by the Darkness spell. Magical light sources would increase the light level of an area if they are a higher spell level than Darkness(2nd)

Now, everburning torches are technically under the effects of continual flame so it is a magical light source albeit not higher than the Darkness spell. I guess the most you could say is they cancel each other out.

Sunrods aren't tied to a spell and the description states they shed normal light so I guess that would still be stifled by the Darkness spell.

EDIT: And it looks like I was a minute too late.


1 person marked this as FAQ candidate.
Talon Stormwarden wrote:
Page 264, Core Rulebook wrote:
Nonmagical sources of light, such as torches and lanterns, do not increase the light level in an area of darkness. Magical light sources only increase the light level in an area if they are of a higher spell level than darkness.

I noticed that part of the spell just a few weeks ago. I looked back at my 3.5 books and the wording was the same there.

Honestly, I'm not certain what exactly it's supposed to mean, but it seems clear that in the situation of a darkness spell and any number of torches, lanterns, sunrods etc and the absence of any other source of light, full darkness will be in effect for the area of effect of the Darkness spell.

There were many discussions about this cryptic wording some months ago. The way I remember the outcome (though I can't remember whether it was an official response or a community consensus) was this:

If an area is already illuminated by any source, you apply the rule that the lighting decreases one step. But if the Darkness spell is there first, and then somebody brings in a torch, lantern, sundrod, etc., then you apply the second rule that nonmagical light cannot increase the light level of the existing Darkness.

So it really matters which comes first, the light source or the Darkness.

If you don't rule it this way, then you get into rule contradictions. For example, "bright" light can only be achieved by direct sunlight or by the Daylight spell. In the first case, the sun is non-magical, so since non-magical light cannot increase the light level, it would be assumed that casting Darkness outside at noon in broad, bright sunlight would create complete darkness, while in the second case, casting Darkness where there is a Daylight spell would do nothing. If this is true, then why does it even say "bright light becomes normal light" in the spell description, since this cannot happen (bright sunlight becomes darkness, bright Daylight stays bright Daylight)?

Since the spell contradicts itself, the only way to read it without contradictions is to include the understanding that what really matters is the order in which the various lighting and Darkness is applied.

This definitely should have been worded better.


Making the non-magical sun unable to pierce the 2nd level darkness spell in any way if the darkness is cast first seems quite silly. Why not a simple solution:

Darkness reduces light levels (see description) unless the light source is a higher level spell such as daylight.

Who casts first is irrelevant, the torch is dim in the darkness no matter what. Darkness dims the suns rays to normal light no matter who is first. It's less book keeping and fits the spells use.


My dm rules as such:

Normal torches get drowned out by darkness (like the spell description). The level 0 spell light gets drowned out by it as well since its a lower level spell.

Continual flame increases the light by one level since they are equal level spells (although continual flame just simulates a torch).

Daylight increases the light level by one UNLESS its cast as a counter ie: both darkness and daylight disappear when cast this way.

As for darkness on a bright sunny day i am not sure. We have never came across someone that casts darkness when they aren't in an already dark area but i bet it would just function the same since the sun isn't magical.

As for sunrods and the like they get drowned out since they just simulate the light spell which is too low level to counter darkness.

I believe this is pretty close to RAW if i am not mistaken. We do agree that darkness is powerful though for a level 2 spell thats for sure.


Esham wrote:

My dm rules as such:

Daylight increases the light level by one UNLESS its cast as a counter ie: both darkness and daylight disappear when cast this way.

You rule a 2nd level spell has it's full effect over an opposing 3rd level spell? That doesn't seem a bit odd to you?

Esham wrote:
We do agree that darkness is powerful though for a level 2 spell thats for sure.

Oh, I guess it does.

Darkness is pretty clear in it's description: lower light level. Normal light goes down to dim light. If it were not for the unfortunate wording of pg 264, there wouldn't be any real question.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I think you would need a Deeper Darkness L3 spell to counter Daylight L3.

"This spell does not stack with itself. Darkness can be used to counter or dispel any light spell of equal or lower spell level. "

Sovereign Court

DM_Blake wrote:
a bunch of stuff

That's exactly the contradiction I was seeing, but didn't have time to express it clearly. I can see the logic of your take on it, DM_Blake, it's the only way to avoid the contradictions inherent in the way it's worded. And it certainly allows for more strategic thinking when using Darkness. That's a good thing in my book.

Scarab Sages

The way it played out: Our party walked into a room with two different light sources, a sunrod and an everburning torch. There was a secret door outlined by a source of light. The creature in the room could only cast darkness, not deeper darkness. The DM ruled that the door was the source of illumination (WTF? We couldn't see the door until we were within 10 feet of it) and that the sunrod and the everburning torch didn't count as a source of illumination. We read the spell description, and I argued that since we had the torched out already, they counted as sources of illumination and that they only went down one step.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

And another question: Continual Flame is a 3rd level cleric and 2nd level sorcerer/wizard spell whereas Darkness is a 2nd level cleric/sorerer/wizard spell. So if a cleric cast Continual Flame would that counter and/or dispel the Darkness cast by a wizard? According to the rules it's a higher level light spell.


2 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

I read the darkness spell as having the following two effects:

1) Eliminate the lighting changes from all light sources of level 2 or below that are within the darkness. This would include a torch or light spell within the area of effect, but not the ambient lighting conditions in the absence of such local light sources (so it does not negate light outside during the day, for example).
2) Lower the light by one level.

Calculate the two effects in that order and there's no issue or contradiction.

As for the "counter/dispel" language, that allows you to cast the darkness spell specifically as a counterspel or to dispel a light spell. It's an additional option for the spell, so when the spell is cast in its normal way that language doesn't mean anything.


A little history on this spell.

In 3.0 D&D, darkness made an area completely dark and even darkvision didn't work. That was clear, but it made a 2nd level spell very powerful for dragons and others with area attacks as it became "mass blind". It also made combats drag as everyone moved at half speed and all direct attacks missed half the time if you could even find your enemy. It also made deeper darkness useless except duration and level. The only reason to choose deeper darkness was that daylight was third level.

3.5 came along and the spell got an upgrade: it radiated shadowy illumination. That closed the speed problem as you could target and only missed 20% for most attacks but it still had issues. The sun went directly from bright to shadowy, the same as a torch, implying the sun was no better than a torch. More importantly, if a space was already completely dark, darkness would illuminate it. Awfully strange for a spell called darkness.

Paizo's authors saw these problems and tried to move forward. They defined 4 levels: dark, dim, normal and bright. That made darkness's effect clear, light level down by 1. Fine but what about this strange wording:

Quote:
Nonmagical sources of light, such as torches and lanterns, do not increase the light level in an area of darkness. Magical light sources only increase the light level in an area if they are of a higher spell level than darkness.

I propose a simple explanation: "increase the light level" means "not ambient". All light sources are light sources but they are all decreased as per darkness unless they are a higher level spell. Now darkness is useful spell (dim light is still 20% miss for most) but not overpowered such as making a light spell heightened to 4th level ineffective.


So essentially you're arguing that darkness simply lowers light level by 1, except it doesn't even do that if there's a higher-level light spell in effect?

The Exchange

I agree with Avalon XQ. I just played the scenario that generated the question last night. All the GMs in my area are in line with what Avalon has stated.


I agree with Avalon as well. Thats how we've been running it. It makes it a fairly useful spell in many situations if combined with darkvision or any other way to 'see' through the darkness. It will quite often result in an area of total darkness, especially if used inside or underground, as most light sources in those situations would be overpowered and suppressed by the darkness spell.

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