[RPG] Are ranged attacks into an area of heavy obscurement made without disadvantage


Facing a large group of enemy archers, I cast a spell such as Darkness or Fog Cloud which creates heavy obscurement around me and my companions.

The next turn is that of one of the enemy archers. Can they simply shoot us just as they were doing previously, with no disadvantage, because them not seeing us and us not seeing them cancels out?

I base this assessment on the following rules:

Heavily Obscured (p183, PHB):

A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition (see appendix A).

The Blinded condition (p290, PHB):

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.

Attacking a creature that can't see you or that you can't see (p193-4, PHB):

When you attack a target that you can’t see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll.

When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

Advantage and disadvantage cancel each other out (p173, PHB):

If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage.

Now given that my allies are now Heavily Obscured from the archers, they could take the Hide action, and if successful the archers would have to guess their position to try and shoot them (still no disadvantage, I believe). But if none of us take the Hide action, does the spell do precisely nothing in terms of making us harder to hit?

Best Answer

Yes, but there’s more.

You are correct in assuming that an archer firing into an area of heavy obscurement has a normal attack roll due to advantage imposed by the target not seeing them and disadvantage imposed by them not seeing the target.

However, the part between your unseen attacks quote is also relevant to the attack. The question you ask in your post is also different than the question in your title. You asked additionally, “Does the spell do precisely nothing in terms of making us harder to hit?”

And so I quote the part you left out:

PHB Pages 194-195. 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.

The DM can determine whether the attack hits or misses without referring to the attack roll in certain circumstances. For example, if you cast the Fog Cloud spell and then use your movement to move out of the cloud or elsewhere within the cloud, but still remain mutually obscured to the enemy, the enemy would have to be able to hear you to get a normal attack roll.

If it’s ruled that the enemy can’t hear you, perhaps by a low perception check roll, passive perception at the DM’s discretion, or the deafness condition, then the attacker would have to guess your location. The attack could then automatically miss regardless of any attack roll up to the discretion of the DM. In the event your location is guessed correctly, however, the attack is made without either advantage nor disadvantage.

So, to answer your second question: no, the spell does not do absolutely nothing to make you harder to hit. You should also consider the case where the enemies have advantage before the Fog Cloud spell, as well, and the effect that it has on cancelling out said advantage.