Dark Arts of Nerdery – DnD 5 House Rules: Blindness

2016 February 24
by mackan

Ulgarth the Cane Bearer. Don't trip on those sharp objects, Ulgarth!

After having read Elsa Henry’s wonderful Dungeons, Dragons and Disabilities (go read if you haven’t already! No, I mean it – do it! It is great!) I got inspired to try to translate my real life experience of being and becoming blind as an adult into the DnD game.

This is mostly a starting point for a deeper discussion, but it is also a real suggestion on how to add one more… feature – because it is not only a disability – to the game.

So anyway – here are some house rules for a blind character

First of all – how should one correctly calculate DEX? Dexterity is both ones ability to move around, which typically blind people might have difficulty with. On the other hand, most blind people are very tactile, dexterious (as in nimble-fingered), etc. DEX is standardly used in defining ability to move, though, so I would suggest a 3D6 – a D4 (instead of an ordinary d20) to determine dexterity. (A DEX with maximum of 17 is feeling more realistic to me than a max of 19 with a D20 – 1, for a blind character.)

The D4 Points you detract from DEX can be added (and split between) WIS and INT instead. I am not sure that lack of eye-sight makes you smarter, per se, but intelligently adapting to your surroundings is certainly a skill that is developed in real life.

Classes

When choosing a class for a blind adventurer, I would automatically think about the different spellcaster classes. Simply because they can strike from out of range of the monster.

However, if you play a role who becomes blind during the game, I would use some sort of multi-classing. But I would not recommend that to beginner players. It makes total sense, though, reality-wise. You can be a Rouge, but loss of eye-sight force you into becoming a Bard. However – your Rouge experience is still very much in place, although you have changed careers and are now learning a new trade.

Ability scores

Being blind is not a only a DIS-ability, but also an ability. Sure, you have lower DEX, but higher WIS and in My House Rules, you have an Advantage (roll two D20, choose the best result) on any checks for Perception or Insight.

You have a disadvantage (roll two D20, choose the worst result) on any attacks. As explained by the Players’ Handbook

When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have
disadvantage on the attack roll. This is true whether
you’re guessing the target’s location or you’re targeting
a creature you can hear but not see.

Tough luck, blind adventurer. But you are gifted in other areas.

In closing

I think that any player, really, should be encouraged to try this. Maybe multi-classing is the most realistic way of describing loss of eye-sight as a grown up. But I would certainly use these rules on level 1 characters too.

In closing, I am a bit disappointed in the combat system in DnD, that only deals with general Hit Points. I would love to read some alternative on how to calculate damage in order to see if any adventurer or creature actually loses eye-sight, permanently, in the game. (Or, actually, is permanently disabled / differently abled in some other way.) But the combat is Clean this way. And the system opens for several other parts of the adventuring to be as important, so there’s that.

If there are blind players out there, I would love to hear from you about how realistic these house rules are, when describing our condition(s).

And as Always – it is, in the end, Always about having fun!

One Response leave one →
  1. 2016 February 26
    Mats Arndtzén permalink

    I like your suggestions, Mackan. This is both a way to bring more realism in the game, and at the same time acknowledge the existance of dissabilities, may them be fysical or psycological.

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