If the point you choose is on an object you are holding or one that isn’t being worn or carried, the darkness emanates from the object and moves with it. Completely covering the source of the darkness with an opaque object, such as a bowl or a helm, blocks the darkness.
If any of this spell’s area overlaps with an area of light created by a spell of 2nd level or lower, the spell that created the light is dispelled.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, M (bat fur and a drop of pitch or piece of coal)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
School: 2nd-level evocation
Player’s Handbook, pg. 230
Darkness is one of the trickiest spells for new players to wrap their heads around. It can even be a doozy for experienced DMs, as a point emanating darkness sort of defies natural human comprehension.
But once you untangle the nuances of Darkness and find a common-sense way of approaching it in any situation, it’s a lot of fun to use. We’ll cover both the rules and the fun applications of the Darkness spell in DnD 5e.
Who Can Cast Darkness in 5e?
The following classes have Darkness on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Darkness for free:
All Tieflings can cast the Darkness spell once per day, starting at 5th level.
Additionally, Way of Shadow Monks can spend 2 ki points to cast darkness without material components, using the Shadow Arts feature (PHB 80). Shadow Magic Sorcerers can also expend a spell slot to cast Darkness starting at 3rd level or spend 2 sorcery points to cast an empowered Darkness that they can see through using the Eyes of the Dark feature (TCoE 51).
What Does Darkness Do in 5e?
Darkness creates a 15-foot-radius sphere of darkness within 60 feet or causes an object in range that isn’t being worn or carried to emanate darkness in a 15-foot-radius sphere and move with it. If the source of the darkness is complete covered, the darkness is blocked (the way light would be).
Creatures with darkvision can’t see through Darkness, and nonmagical light can’t illuminate it. However, magical light of 3rd level or higher can dispel Darkness.
If you’re using a grid-based battle map with 5-square-foot squares, You can draw the circle’s diameter as 6 squares. To make drawing easier, make an X with the point of origin in the center. Then, draw the circle by connecting the ends of each line.
For the more confusing parts of the spell…
What Are the Rules for Darkness in 5e?
The rules for Darkness in DnD 5e are as follows:
Creatures inside Darkness can’t see out (normally). What Darkness does is create a heavily obscured area that blocks vision entirely. A creature inside such an area “effectively suffers from the blinded condition” (PHB 183).
The blinded condition, in turn does the following:
A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.
Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage,
Only one piece of the puzzle is missing: Unseen Attackers and Targets. The rules on this state: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. If the target isn’t in the location you targeted, you automatically miss, but the DM typically just says that the attack missed, not whether you guessed the target’s location correctly.
When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden-both unseen and unheard-when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.
Okay, so let’s put all this together. First, let’s take the perspective of a creature inside the sphere of Darkness:
They can’t see anyone outside of the sphere of Darkness, so they’ll have to either hear where their enemy is and attack with disadvantage, or (if they can’t hear or sense their foe in some other way) take a random attack with disadvantage, and possibly miss entirely without the DM telling them they’ve guessed incorrectly.
However, because the target also can’t see the attacker, the attacker gets advantage on their attack. This advantage cancels out with the disadvantage to a normal roll.
Result: You might have to guess where the enemy is if you can’t detect their location, but your attack roll isn’t made with advantage or disadvantage.
They also can’t target creatures outside of Darkness with most spells, since most spells require sight of the target in order to cast.
Now, let’s look at the perspective of a creature outside the sphere of Darkness:
They can’t see anyone inside the spell’s effect, so they’ll also have to guess (if they can’t detect location through other means) or roll with disadvantage. However, the same thing happens from before where advantage and disadvantage cancel out.
The result is the same as a creature inside attacking a target outside the Darkness — no advantage or disadvantage, but no ability to target directly with spells. Also, the attack still might miss entirely if you’re guessing the target’s location.
Some players think that Darkness is useless when they learn this, as it cripples you just as much as your foes. Hopefully, the rest of this article proves otherwise.
Blindsight beats Darkness. Just because the Darkness spell is magical, doesn’t make it any more effective against creatures with Blindsight (MM 8). To them, Darkness has no effect whatsoever.
Darkness blocks light from the other side. If you have a candle at one end of a hallway and Darkness in the middle of the hallway, someone at the other end won’t be able to see the candle.
However, in a situation where you block a campfire in an open forest with the Darkness spell, you might still see the flickering of light off trees to the left and right sides of the Darkness spell.
Devil’s Sight beats Darkness. Both the monster feature and the Eldritch Invocation that Warlocks can pick up work to see through magical darkness (PHB 110).
Magic items can dispel Darkness. A magical, light-producing item, like the Sun Blade, can dispel Darkness. Here’s a Sage Advice thread on the topic.
How Do I Use Darkness in 5e?
There are countless ways to employ Darkness to great effect both in and out of combat. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Casting it on an easily-storable object. By casting Darkness on an object that you carry with you, you open up a bunch of extra utility. No longer do you have to worry about possibly impeding your allies as much as your foes. For example, if you cast Darkness on a dagger, all you need to do is sheathe it or draw it to turn the darkness spell on or off.
Both of these things can be done without expending an action in combat (PHB 190).
Avoiding opportunity attacks. Opportunity attacks can only be made against targets you can see (PHB 195). With that and the above tip in mind, a good move can be to run in, attack, unsheath your darkness-producing object, then run out without provoking a single OA.
Escaping. Whether you cast it on an object you’re holding or put Darkness in the perfect spot, you can confuse your enemies as to which path you took to run away from them. With a sizeable radius, this can work for a whole party as well as a single player.
Dispelling light. Darkness is great for dispelling magical light. An especially good application of this is Faerie Fire, a first-level debuff. Jeremy Crawford confirmed that the Darkness spell can dispel the debuff of Faerie Fire; quite handy indeed.
You can also dispel nonmagical light with Darkness. For example, if you approach an orc party in the evening, and they’re all standing around a bonfire, casting Darkness on the fire will make everything real dark, real fast.
Pair with Devil’s Sight invocation or Shadow Sorcerer. Both the Warlock’s Devil’s Sight and the Shadow Sorcerer’s empowered Darkness spell allow for players to see through the effects of magical darkness. The result is that you’re now an unseen attacker, but your target isn’t an unseen target. That means you don’t have to guess where they are and you get advantage on your attacks.
Note that Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything opened up invocations for every class that has spellcasting or pact magic, so many players are able to take advantage of this deadly combination (TCoE 79).
Block line of sight. A simple use of Darkness is to stop enemy spell caster’s from directly targeting you. Note that continuous effects, like Eyebite, will be able to continue even if the caster loses sight of you.
Pair with Hide. Being able to use the Hide action multiple times in combat isn’t always great. But if you’re a Rogue using Cunning Action to hide and then eeking out Sneak Attacks every round, Darkness can be your best friend.
Pair with shapeshifting Druids. Many beasts have Blindsight, which, like Devil’s Sight, will allow you to be an unseen attacker without the target being an unseen target (resulting in you getting advantage on every attack). Common choices include scorpions, spiders, snakes, insects, and bats.
Battlefield control. Darkness can force a group of enemies to scatter, blind archers up in their tower, create impossible choke points for ranged attackers, and make re-positioning a bad-looking fight a breeze. This is the core of the spell’s utility.
Darkness projectiles. While the spell’s range is only 60 feet, there’s nothing stopping you from casting Darkness on an arrow and shooting it further than that. You can apply the same tactics by dropping a Darkness-touched item over a ledge to enemies below.
Way of Shadow Monk stuff. Shadow Monks can cast Darkness. They can also teleport to a dark area from a dark area with Shadow Step, gaining advantage on their next attack. They can also become invisible while in Darkness.
Protect from sunlight. If you’ve got a Drow or Kobold in the party, you know that fights in sunlight can be annoying. Why not make your sun-hating friend a 15-foot tall pole that has a pebble imbued with Darkness tied to the top?
Is Darkness 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Darkness is a good spell with plenty of applications. When paired with Devil’s Sight, Blindsight, or the Sorcerer’s empowered version of the spell, it becomes downright ludicrous the types of shenanigans you can pull off.
Even characters who don’t take advantage of these powerful pairings will get a lot of utility out of Darkness. Being able to avoid opportunity attacks without spending an action is powerful for any class, as is avoiding directly targeted spells.
Darkness 5e DM Tips
Rules as written, Darkness might feel a bit strange to you and/or your players. The fact that advantage and disadvantage wash out and target-guessing is the only tangible in-combat effect may just not feel realistic.
If you don’t like the way that Darkness plays out with rules as written, feel free to play with alternative rulings. We don’t suggest allowing players to see out of the sphere (without the combos listed above), however, as this vastly enhances the spell’s power.
For players who are guessing their target’s location, make them choose a location, not a creature. Then, be honest about whether they hit. Alternatively, you can roll a die to see if their random guess hits.
For you controlling monsters that are attacking players inside of Darkness, use a die. You can’t trust players to be honest about whether your guess was right or not, so simply assigning odds and rolling is the fairest and straightforward way of handling it.
Simple Darkness 5e Spell Text
Darkness: (2nd-level, 60, concentration, up to 10 minutes, V/M (bat fur and a drop of pitch or piece of coal)) Choose a point or object. Darkness emanates from it in a 15-foot-radius sphere that spreads around corners. A creature with darkvision can’t see through this and nonmagical light can’t illuminate it. If you choose an object, completely covering the object with something opaque blocks the darkness. If this spell overlaps with an area of light created by a 2nd level spell or lower, that spell is dispelled.