Magical Light and Darkness 1

Aram Zey, Pathfinder Society's Master of Spells

Aram Zey, Pathfinder Society’s Master of Spells

[The grand auditorium at the Pathfinder Lodge in Absalom is full to bursting with Pathfinders of all races and classes.  In the center of the room, on the raised platform that comprises the stage, stands Aram Zey, the Pathfinder Society’s Master of Spells.]

“Pathfinders, your lives are fraught with peril.  You know this, yet like lumbering morons, you continue to adventure blindly with nary a thought spent on how to keep yourselves alive. Though you crave battle with fearsome dragons and beasts from the pit, most of you will not fall to the claws of some monstrosity or fiendish abomination. You will fall to your own lack of forethought in preparing for the adventures ahead of you. Farabellus thinks most of you worth educating, however, so it falls to me to impart my vast knowledge into your thick skulls.  So then, let’s talk about one of the most dangerous foes you will face:  the dark.

“As children and archers, you fear the dark. That fear lingers long after you grow up or pursue more efficient forms of slaughter, and it is one of the few fears you have which is just. The darkness hides a number of things which would take no sorrow in ending your meager lives. What’s more, many of those same abominations know how to plunge you into the darkness and kill you at their own leisure. So then, how best to fight the dark?

“The most basic forms are torches, sunrods, and even your Wayfinders. Anyone with even the most rudimentary understanding of magic can provide magical light for you as well. When adventuring at night or underground, this can make the difference between being able to pinpoint exactly where your opponents are. For example, let’s say Venture-Captain Heidmarch has dispatched you to the Varisian forests at night. In thinner areas, you will have the moon and stars to guide your path. For those who can see well in low-light, or even those who can see in the dark, this light will be sufficient, but you Pathfinders without any special senses will have a difficult time locating your enemies. My calculations estimate a 20% decrease in your ability to find an opponent through the concealment offered by the darkness.

“What’s more, areas thick with trees that block out the moon’s light will blind anyone who can’t see in total darkness. I shouldn’t have to tell you how being blinded will impair you in battle.  You’ll only hit even the loudest opponents 50% of the time, and you’ll be sitting ducks for their attacks.

“A simple light spell will be able to counteract this darkness. Remember, your Wayfinders can activate such a spell at anytime, but then you must keep a hand free to hold the Wayfinder. That greataxe will not do you near as much good without both hands to steady it. Sunrods and torches offer the same vulnerabilities, though bring with them advantages which will be clear later in the lesson. Dancing lights will also offer you light with more control over where it goes, albeit it will need to be cast more often.

“Now, while exploring areas connected to the Darklands, keep in mind that many monsters native to such regions have learned to manipulate the darkness. A derro, for example, can cast darkness.  This will overpower even a light spell, and plunge the area one step towards ‘dark.’  Were it bright day in the middle of the plains, this wouldn’t be an issue–but underground, where the light levels are not high, this can be devastating. Darkness is more powerful than light, but this does not mean the light spell goes away. Remember, light provides ‘normal light’ for 20 feet, and weaker light for another 20 feet. In an underground tunnel, this means 20 feet of normal light and 20 feet of dim light. A darkness spell will reduce that to dim light for 20 feet and darkness for 20 feet. Again, only those with darkvision will be able to rely on their vision. Anyone else will be blinded.

“So, what can remove this?  A daylight spell is your safest bet. Daylight is a stronger spell than darkness, but again, this does not mean it removes the darkness. Instead, the two spells would overlap and negate each other. The level of light would return to its normal level. For example, a cleric of Sarenrae casts light upon her scimitar. When a derro casts darkness, the spells overlap and negate each other, returning the area to total darkness. A wizard casts daylight upon his staff, and the darkness and daylight temporarily negate each other as well. Now, all three light-affecting spells have overlapped and negated each other, keeping the area dark. Sunrods and torches as well will be limited in their effect, as the spell areas are still active.

“There is one other spell which can factor in, and that spell is called deeper darkness. Deeper Darkness takes the light level down by two, and can bring the light down to supernatural darkness. Supernatural darkness will cancel even darkvision, so do not overly rely on this. Daylight and deeper darkness are of equal power, but again only overlap. Let’s revisit our earlier example. The cleric casts light upon her scimitar. A denizen of the Darklands, such as a darkfolk, casts deeper darkness. This means that the 20 feet of normal light becomes darkness, and the 20 feet of dim light becomes supernatural darkness. Casting daylight would have the same effect as earlier, as the spells overlap and the light returns to normal. In this case, that means regular darkness all around, but no supernatural darkness.

“One last thing to keep in mind about light-affecting spells. These magics are all similar in working, and thus can be used to counter or dispel the other. A skilled spellcaster can time his or her casting of daylight to counter a casting of deeper darkness, or even try to dispel the effect as if dispel magic had been cast instead. Using the spells this way, to counter or dispel instead of overlap, means that those torches and sunrods will be able to work to their full effect.

“So, to refresh, remember your levels of light and how they affect someone with your senses. Low-light vision only improves how far you can see in dim lighting, not how well you can see. Whether elf or human, you’ll still suffer 20% concealment in dim lighting. Only darkvision will negate this–and in areas of total darkness, you will be blinded without it. Supernatural darkness will blind even those with darkvision. So keep your senses in mind, and come prepared to deal with the darkness, or you will see just how valid those childhood fears were. Lesson dismissed.”

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One thought on “Magical Light and Darkness

  • Joseph

    Remember, the ONLY light sources that function in a Darkness spell are from celestial bodies (aka “ambient light”) and higher-level light spells (Heightened Daylight, anyone?)

    Also, it’s worth noting that all those light and darkness spells have a range of Touch, so you’re not likely to have a chance to counterspell with them (and since they’re usually cast as SLAs, you can’t counterspell with Dispel Magic either). Instead, everyone should carry an oil of Daylight (750 gp or 2 PP) and/or an Elixir of Darksight (1200 gp from the ARG).