Dungeon Master Assistance

A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons

D&D 5E – How far can you see

worldknit

So What Can I see From Here?

Usually, the limit to how far characters can see will be some obstruction, such as a building, a forest, or some hills. Mist and darkness also limit vision. Sometimes, however, the characters will be on flat plains on a clear day and the only limit to their vision will be their perception and the horizon. Once something goes below the horizon, it can’t be seen. But where is the horizon?

Height in feet Miles away
3 2
6 3
10 4
20 5
30 6
40 7
50 8
60 9
70 10
80 11
90 12
100 13
300 20
500 25
1,000 40
5,000 80
10,000 100
30,000 200
100,000 400
500,000 800

This table has been simplified for gaming use. On an earth-sized planet, the horizon for a six-foot tall person standing at sea level or on flat plains will be about 3 miles. This means that they can see features that are at ground level for up to three miles (depending, of course, on the quality of their vision and the size of the object). Features that are higher than ground level can be seen further.

To determine how far away you can see something, just add together all of the heights. For example, if a 6 foot man is on a 4 foot horse standing on a 30 foot hill, how close would you have to be to a 60 foot tall tower to see it?  First add all the heights together 6 + 4 + 30 + 60  = 100 feet. Look at the table under “height in feet” and find 100 feet. Then look across under “miles away” to find 13 miles. So the tower could be spotted if it was no farther away than 13 miles.

You could see a 14,000 foot mountain a little more than 100 miles away.

 

This is good for seeing features on a map, such as lakes, forests, mountains, towns, etc. but knowing how far you can see is often not what your Player Characters need to know. Just because you can see 3 miles doesn’t mean that you can see a monster on the horizon. For that we need another table.

Perception Distance Table

Item Size Perceive Identify
Creature – Fine 6” or less 30 ft. or less 5 ft. or less
Creature – Diminutive 6” – 1 ft. 30 ft. – 60 ft. 5 ft. – 10 ft.
Creature – Tiny 1 ft. – 2 ft. 60 ft. – 120 ft. 10 ft. – 25 ft.
Creature – Small 2 ft. – 4 ft. 120 ft. – 240 ft. 25 ft. –  50ft.
Creature  – Medium 4 ft. – 8 ft. 240 ft. – 480 ft. 50 ft. – 100 ft.
Creature – Large 8 ft. – 16 ft. 480 ft. – 960 ft. 100 ft. – 200 ft.
Creature – Huge 16 ft. – 32 ft. 960 ft. – 1,920 ft. 200 ft. – 400 ft.
Creature – Gargantuan 32 ft. – 64 ft. 1,920 ft. – 3,840 ft. 400 ft. – 800 ft.
Creature – Colossal 64 ft. or more 3,840 ft. or more 800 ft. or more

In this table “perceive” means that you can see it and may notice it with a perception check. If you do notice it you will recognize the creature type if you have seen one before. If you don’t know what type of creature it is you will be able to tell the creature’s coloration, size, shape, number of limbs, wings, etc. If the creature is moving, you will also be able to tell which direction it is traveling and about how fast.

“Identify” means that you can see details and may recognize an individual that you have met before.

 

Here is a simple rule of thumb that is accurate enough for gaming use:

Distance away (in feet) that you can perceive an item is its size (in feet) times 60.

Distance away (in feet) that you can identify an item is its size (in feet) times 12.

Round fractions down to the nearest 5 ft.

The item’s size is its longest dimension (height or width).

 

One more thing.

You can perceive a burning candle 1 1/2 mile away.

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2 responses to “D&D 5E – How far can you see

  1. Lordomatic March 3, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Great article!

    I assume seeing a lit candle at 1.5 miles is in the dark?

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