Infravision nightmares

Christ, I didn’t know what kind of headache I was getting myself into. Graham from brought up just one of the horrors of infravision logic, telling me, “It always led to silly situations where an elf with infravision kept running into walls or trees, which don't show up on infrared because their heat isn't really different from ambient temperature.”

I, as a player, generally always play human beings. I have played 1 elf, and 1 half-elf, just to say that I’ve done it. I honestly never put much thought into infravision! And I know that I was sloppy about adding this to descriptions. I’ve got a player who almost exclusively plays elves. The only time I put much thought into it was when I could use it as a tool to build tension (seeing a monster’s breath as it is sniffing under the door) but other then that, it was all purely mathematics. BAD DM, RIPPER! BAD DM!

Clearly there is a huge problem with how 2e handles infravision, and I just don’t have the imagination for it. Other forms of infravision states that a character creates his own light, which would be seen by others with the same ability, but it isn’t. A character can only see 60ft, thus, if there was a giant fire breathing dragon standing 61 feet away, they wouldn’t see them . . . Why not? It is stupid.

3rd edition did away with infravision and replaced it with Darkvision, according to wikipedia, “This refers to the ability of a creature to see in the dark. It allows the creature to discern shapes (as in normal, daylight vision) but only in shades of grey.”

This makes more sense, but I’m not so sure that I like this any better. I am the type of person that really needs to experience things, I guess that you can say that I lack true imagination. I suppose that I see a better description of infravision as how a cat sees the world. They need some light, but not as much as we do.

As a side thing, I research the occult and have gone on several ghost watching expeditions. I have made the following observations in regards to light and how our eyes use it.

While working night shift (graveyard) it took less time for my eyes to adjust to darkness (about 5-10 min. depending on moon intensity) now that I keep day hours, it can take anywhere from 20-60 minutes for my eyes to adjust to little or dim light. This can be really screwed up by a sudden change of light, we use very dim and tinted flashlights to see fine materials, such as amateur astronomers who keep a book near them to write notes and read their sky charts, it’s always done with dim tinted light of either blue or red because we don’t want to lose our night vision.

I suppose, for mythical races, such as elves and Halflings, the time that it takes for them to achieve perfect night vision is greatly reduced, their eyes automatically adjust, such as a cats does, or any other nocturnal animal that prowls the night.

Why most forms of elves even have infravision is beyond me. They live the same life-styles as we humans do. Drow, and Dwarves whom spend most, if not their entire lives below ground, would have incredible vision . . . But one would assume that evolution would change and adapt to their surroundings. They would instead lose their eyes and focus more on other senses like R/L cave creatures do. However, I have figured out a mechanical fix for this. A mold or moss that casts a light that our eyes cannot detect, but underground creatures whom see in a different frequency or wavelength then ourselves, can use this light with ease.

Of course this no doubt creates its own problems because of my own lack of understanding, and limited play-testing; this is magic, and in my opinion it is the worst kind as it starts to impede on science and reasoning.

Clearly there is much work to be done on this subject, I think that the best course of action is to work slowly for specific characters, some of the races clearly see differently then others, but it’s all been clumped up as “Infravision” to save space for more stable game mechanics, which is just fine with me.

I think, in my personal game, I’m going to do away with the entire heat-vision concept, it’s never been a problem before but I sure as hell don’t want to pause a game for a 6 hour discussion about problems that it presents. While Darkvision is better, I’d still just prefer to entirely do away with the optional rules involving infravision, and just have it mean that you can see stuff in the dark. You can’t do any fine work that requires any fine detail, but you can get a slight edge in combat and in moving without bouncing off of walls.

Monsters whom live underground . . . Ugh . . . Would have a more advanced system of infravision, specifically the drow and other organized societies that can and do perform fine detailed work completely in pitch black. I will admit that my expertise in Drow is very limited, a friend would talk about them all the time, but I personally have never fought them, nor used them in an adventure. Surely they would use fires though, wouldn’t they? Clearly I need to do some research on them.


trollsmyth said...

You might find this '95 article by Roger Moore on infravision interesting:

I myself, however, have always just tossed out infravision and declared it to be a sort of low-light vision, while ultravision used some mythical radiation that penetrated to the deepest parts of the earth.

As for drow, in 1st edition they were closely linked to subterranean radiations, either of odd crystals (like tumkeoite in Vault of the Drow) or some supernatural earthy magics. These radiations not only provided drow with their vision, but also powered their magical weapons and armour, such that, if you took their magical gear to the surface it would first lose its magical properties and then quickly degrade.

- Brian

RipperX said...

Oddly enough, if you study this post, you will notice that a part of it is missing. I had written a paragraph with a link to that very article, however it failed to work and I didn't have time to fix it, so I just scrubbed the paragraph.

That was the very article that got my brain to try and crawl out of my skull. TERRIBLE!!!! I always considered myself a deep thinker when it comes to mechanics, however, as it turns out, I'm not!

I myself have never encountered any problems with infravision, but I am glad that the seed is there now.

Vision really shouldn't be a mechanic anyway, we all see things differently, me personally, I would rather focus more on how many ogres I can pound into the ground rather then how clearly my character can see them.

Some suspention of disbelief, I find, is very helpful to the success of a game.

trollsmyth said...

Well, that article pretty much had the same effect on me. I'd always run infravision as low-light vision anyway, because really, who can "think" in heat-vision? How do you "hide in shadows" when your body blazes like a torch?

- Brian

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