[RPG] Can a Giant Fire Beetle choose to not emit light


Illumination: The beetle sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and
dim light for an additional 10 feet.

A giant fire beetle is a nocturnal creature that takes its name from a
pair of glowing glands that give off light. Miners and adventurers
prize these creatures, for a giant fire beetle's glands continue to
shed light for ld6 days after the beetle dies. Giant fire beetles are
most commonly found underground and in dark forests.

It's not clear from this feature or description if the beetle shines this light 24/7, or has the ability to dim itself. Has this creature been in previous versions of D&D? Is it based on a real-life counterpart?

Best Answer

The answer to questions like this always ends up depending entirely on your playstyle.


The gamist answer to this question is "no." The game rules are all that create the abilities and their operation, and the rules don't say it can be suppressed. You would choose the gamist answer if you desire a rules-first/RAW playstyle where the rules determine the physics of your game world.


The simulationist answer to this question is probably "yes." Real world fire beetles can control the degree of their luminosity, so it'd be a reasonable extension that giant ones do too. You would choose the simulationist answer if you focus more on the fictional game world and consider the rules to be a simplified abstraction of this that you can augment with "reality" as needed.


The narrativist answer to this question is "maybe." You'd decide either based on what is more interesting to the plot, or based on the fact that an interested PC is asking is an opportunity to let them answer the question themselves as part of sharing the narrative responsibility for the game. You would choose this if you are more focused on the plot of the game and are comfortable with it not flowing directly from the rules or being consistent with other campaigns.


All of these are valid playstyles with their own pros and cons outside the scope of this question, but the point is that there is no "right" answer to this question, it depends on your perspective on the game, and there is no "right" perspective. Understand your own perspective and needs, and then the answer that fits that perspective follows.

Earlier editions of D&D and the general D&D play community has leaned in specific directions on these playstyles over time, for example in 1e-2e time there were plenty of "Ecology of the Fire Beetle" type articles written from a sim point of view, while 4e was very strictly gamist with a slight amount of narrativism, but with 5e it's been left deliberately agnostic so you can use whichever style you and your players prefer fairly readily.