One night this past weekend, I ventured outside this weekend into a narrow strip of woods near our place. (I was actually looking for a misplaced toddler bike, but no matter). On a night with no visible moon, I was struck by how very, very dark it was, even so close to civilization. Imagine then, how dark the woods would be with a sky that wasn’t dimly illuminated by the light pollution from some car dealer and a small Indiana downtown a mile distant.
I notice this when I go camping as well—out in the woods, with no moon, it is dark. Really, really dark. Storming, even darker. Now, some people are blessed with excellent night vision, but how do you think you would do if you dropped in a campsite in the middle of the woods with a sword and were attacked by goblins?
We did night exercises in Korea. Your eyes get tired. You begin to make humanoid figures out of shapes in the distance that aren’t really there. Movement blurs.
Most RPGs give some penalty for fighting in the dark, but I sometimes wonder if it’s sufficient. Those demi-human races with night vision are in good shape, but what about us sorry humans? I wonder if as Game Masters we adequately convey how frustrating and challenging not only fighting and other tasks would be on a dark night?
It seems to me, as a player and as a Game Master, I tend to treat the darkness in my head as sort of a manageable inconvenience, a sort of dimming background effect that doesn't really hamper as much as perhaps it should. This may be because it might be hard to represent on a minis mat the sort of uncertainty and difficulty darkness can bring, or perhaps it's because I want to imagine the scene in my head.
This is something I'll have to ponder for my group's next nighttime encounter.
I never did find the toddler bike until the next morning. I had passed right by it.