Types of Senses

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This page details how the senses work in combat and how they interact with stealth and invisibility.

There are many types of senses. For game purposes, all that we worry about are the 'useful' ones. We don't really need to worry about your sense of balance, or proprioception, or a monster's ability to know that it needs to take a poop. For our purposes, we just need to concern ourselves with the senses useful for playing.

In general, these senses fall into four main categories:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Exotic

Nearly all monsters have the same targeting senses as your typical human, represented as Standard Senses. The senses below define these senses, as well as the other extraordinary senses that monsters (and some player characters) might possess. Creatures which are missing one or more of the standard senses usually state that they are blind to a particular sensory group (Sight, Sound, Smell). All creatures are assumed to be Blind to the exotic sensory group unless their entry explicitly states they possess one or more exotic senses.

Table: Visual Senses

Sense Range Line of Sight? Line of Effect? Combat Targeting vs. Stealth
Standard Vision Varies Yes No Yes Perception check
Low-Light Vision Varies Yes No Yes Perception check
Darkvision Varies Yes No Yes Perception check
Heartsight Varies Yes No Yes Perception check

Table: Audio Senses

Sense Range Line of Sight? Line of Effect? Combat Targeting vs. Stealth
Standard Hearing 20 feet No Yes Perception check, 50% miss chance Perception check, 50% miss chance, ignores invisibility
Keen Hearing 60 feet No Yes Perception check, 50% miss chance Perception check, 50% miss chance, ignores invisibility
Precise Hearing 20 feet No Yes Adjacent creatures Perception check, ignores invisibility
Echolocation 30 feet No Yes Yes Perception check, ignores invisibility

Table: Olefactory Senses

Sense Range Line of Sight? Line of Effect? Combat Targeting vs. Stealth
Standard Scent 10 feet No Yes Survival check, 50% miss chance Survival check at -10, 50% miss chance, ignores invisibility
Scent 30 feet No Yes Survival check, 50% miss chance Survival check, 50% miss chance, ignores invisibility
Keen Scent 60 feet No Yes 20% miss chance Survival check at +2, 20% miss chance, ignores invisibility
Perfect Scent 120 feet No Yes Yes Survival check at +5, ignores invisibility

Table: Exotic Senses

Sense Range Line of Sight? Line of Effect? Combat Targeting vs. Stealth
Airsense Varies No Yes Yes Perception check at +5, ignores invisibility
Blindsense Varies No No Yes Perception check at +5, ignores invisibility
Cloudsense Varies Special Yes Yes Perception check, ignores invisibility
Lifesense Varies No No 20% miss chance Perception check at +5, ignores invisibility, 20% miss chance
Mindsense Varies No No Yes Perception check at +5, ignores invisibility
Tremorsense Varies No Yes Yes Perception check at +5, ignores invisibility

Line of Effect

A line of effect is a straight, unblocked path that indicates what a spell can affect. A line of effect is canceled by a solid barrier. It's like line of sight for ranged weapons, except that it's not blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight.

You must have a clear line of effect to any target that you cast a spell on or to any space in which you wish to create an effect. You must have a clear line of effect to the point of origin of any spell you cast.

A burst, cone, cylinder, or emanation spell affects only an area, creature, or object to which it has line of effect from its origin (a spherical burst's center point, a cone-shaped burst's starting point, a cylinder's circle, or an emanation's point of origin).

An otherwise solid barrier with a hole of at least 1 square foot through it does not block a spell's line of effect. Such an opening means that the 5-foot length of wall containing the hole is no longer considered a barrier for purposes of a spell's line of effect.

Line of Sight

A line of sight is the same as a Line of Effect but with the additional restriction that that it is blocked by fog, darkness, and other factors that limit normal sight (such as Concealment).

Light and Darkness

The visual senses use light of various spectrums to allow the creature using it to see. Light is divided into bright light, dim light, darkness, and true darkness (as with the Deeper Darkness (Spell) spell).

Bright Light

Any creature with a visual sensory organ can see an unlimited distance in bright light, assuming that no object blocks line of sight (which can include the curvature of the planet). The visual horizon is the critical determinant for distance of vision in bright light when viewing distant objects in vast, open spaces:

  • For an observer standing on the ground with average height, the horizon is at a distance of 2.9 miles.
  • For an observer standing on the second story of a building or a ship's deck (10 feet), the horizon is at a distance of 3.8 miles.
  • For an observer standing on a hill or tower (100 feet), the horizon is at a distance of 12.2 miles.
  • For an observer standing at the top of an average mountain (13,000 ft), the horizon is at a distance of 139 miles.
  • For an observer atop the tallest of mountains (30,000 ft), the horizon is at a distance of 211 miles.

Normal Light

This has been removed from the game. Spells or abilities which reference normal light should be amended to state 'bright light'.

Dim Light

Standard visual sensory organs function poorly in dim light, and creatures in dim light gain concealment against creatures with standard vision. Concealment grants the concealed creature a 20% chance to be missed by attacks in combat.

Typically, a bright source of light, such as a torch, provides dim light an equal distance to its bright light radius, beginning at the edge of that bright light radius. Thus, a torch provides bright light to 30 feet, and dim light beyond 30 feet out to 60 feet. Moonlight and starlight are the most common sources of dim light that do not provide a commensurate amount of bright light. Some magic items are also capable of producing dim light without bright light.

Darkness

The area outside of any light source, beyond the reach of dim light, is considered darkness. Darkness grants total concealment to creatures within it, when perceived by creatures with standard vision. Total concealment grants the concealed creature a 50% chance to be missed by attacks in combat.

Darkness can also be created by magical spells, such as the Darkness (Spell) spell. In this case, unless the spell specifically states otherwise, Darkvision still functions within the darkness.

True Darkness

This is magical or elemental darkness, and cannot be penetrated by visual senses. It goes beyond the absence of all spectrums of light, to the point of being anathema to light, actively absorbing or destroying it. All creatures in True Darkness gain total concealment (50% miss chance) against any visual senses.