Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dark Vision, Infravision, and Night Vision

I recently got to thinking about the price of Dark Vision and Infravision in a Dungeon Fantasy context, and after a comment in the GURPS Discord on it, started questioning the cost of Night Vision, as well. Each of these have slightly different effects, so I want to see if their prices relative to each other feel right, and then consider their absolute prices.

Night Vision [1/level]. This trait offsets penalties to Vision for poor lighting. It only works if there is at least some light present, so it is possible to negate even a full 9 levels by dropping PCs in total darkness.

Dark Vision [25]. This trait lets you see in the total darkness, but you can only see black and white.

Infravision [10]. This trait gives you +3 to offset Vision penalties for poor lighting and lets you see in complete darkness if what you look at has a heat contrast with its background. In total darkness, you don’t see in color, but rather a false color that may as well be black and white for all mechanical purposes.

Immediately, we see that Dark Vision is just a cosmic version of Infravision or, from the opposite perspective, Infravision is a limited form of Dark Vision that gives three levels of Night Vision. That is to say, Infravision (No Night Vision, -3 points; Cosmic, Can see in darkness without heat contrast +250%) [25] = Dark Vision [25] and Dark Vision (Only with Heat Contrast, -75%) + Night Vision 3 [3] = Infravision. In both cases, I feel like the modifiers are way out of whack.

As a Cosmic modifier, +250% is nearly on par for Cosmic attacks and is more expensive than never having to roll for success. That is just too much. I’m much more comfortable with a +50% modifier, bringing it in line with most applications of “breaks a rule” instead of “is total unbalancing and godlike”. As a limitation, “Only with Heat Contrast” is hardly on par with “Lasts less than 30 seconds” or “only defends the hands from the front” or even “only defends the arms from the front”. Consider things that don’t have heat contrast: undead, constructs, and some elemental begins in their home environments. That’s not a huge swath of things; at most, I’d call it around 20% of monsters on average, so around -30% to -35% as an Accessibility limitation. Let’s take the friendlier of the two.

Considering our new options, we find that Dark Vision as Infravision (Cosmic, +50%) now costs [15] and Infravision as Dark Vision (Accessibility, -35%) + Night Vision 3 costs [19]. That doesn’t mean much like that, but let’s compare apples to apples: Taking Dark Vision to cost [15], as found based on Cosmic, and applying a -35% modifier, we get Infravision to cost [10] – not bad! Conversely, taking Infravision as Dark Vision with Accessibility minus Night Vision 3 to cost [16] and applying Cosmic (+50%), we get [24]. Again, this is pretty good and suggests we have two viable ways of attacking this issue that produce self-consistent results. In other words, either way might work!

Now the question becomes one of how much is seeing in the dark worth in DF? In my experience, people buy as much Night Vision as is allowed always. This suggests that it might be underpriced at my table. If I were to increase its cost to [2/level], this might help, but without testing, it’s hard to say. What I can say is that at this higher price, it brings it into line with an Infravision cost of [19] and Dark Vision cost of [25]. At its current cost, however, it is in line with Infravision [10] and Darkvision [15].

So which will I personally use? I’m not yet decided, but I lean toward Night Vision [2/level], Infravision [20] (I like round numbers), and Dark Vision [25]. If I find that no one will buy NV at this price, I’d adjust it down to Night Visino [1/level], Night Vision [10], and Dark Vision [15].

The Bottom Line

As they are currently priced, Dark Vision, Infravision, and Night Vision prices are neither self-consistent or congruent with the way they function in Dungeon Fantasy. There are two potentially acceptable pricing schemes based on how your gaming group values Night Vision:
  • Dark Vision [25], Infravision [20], and Night Vision [2/level]
  • Dark Vision [15], Infravision [10], and Night Vision [1/level]

Has anyone tried either of these setups? How does this look to your group?

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