[RPG] Can an invisible creature see themselves and their own gear


Suppose there's an everyday ordinary human character who becomes invisible, either due to quaffing a potion of invisibility or from somebody casting the invisibility spell on him. This causes both him and the gear that he's carrying to become invisible.

While he's invisible, can he see himself? Can he see the items he's carrying that are invisible with him?

The plain reading of the "invisible" condition would say "no", as he is "impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense". There's nothing in either the potion or the spell which says it gives such aid, and since effects generally do only what they say they do, then it looks like he can't.

But on the other hand, I'm trying to figure out how that would work in practice, in both a narrative sense and if there are any game mechanical implications. For instance,

  1. It'd be harder to watch one's footing on rough uneven terrain, so perhaps it would be even slower going than usual, or some dexterity checks or saving throws might be called for.
  2. It'd be harder to swing a sword or aim a bow. Mechanically, attacking a creature that can't see you grants you advantage on the attack, but I'm having a tough time picturing it really being easier to attack if you can't see what you're doing (particularly for some weapons like a bow), even if the opponent isn't seeing it coming.
  3. It'd be really hard to find a particular item from among one's belongings. For instance, if I had two different potions in similarly shaped containers, I might not be able to quickly figure out which was the specific one I wanted to find.

For those reasons and others, I'm thinking that allowing a person to see themselves and the invisible items they're carrying may make things a lot easier (and more fun), even if it's not supposed by a strict reading of the rules.

So, my questions:

  1. Is my reading of the invisibility rules correct, that rules-as-written one can't see oneself when invisible or one's carried invisible items?
  2. Is it "typical" for a DM to treat this as a downside of being invisible, such as by making it take longer in combat to be able to get out a desired item?
  3. Is there anything I need to be wary of if I decide to make it a house rule that people can see themselves and their things while invisible? I'm assuming it doesn't make the invisibility spell overpowered or anything like that, but there may be something about the trade-offs the designers have in mind when being invisible that I'm missing.

Best Answer

You can't see yourself while invisible

As pointed out in the question, an invisible creature

is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense

Spells only do what they say they do. The Invisibility spell does not grant any special sense. If it did, it would say so.

But this doesn't impose many penalties, under the rules

The other part of the invisible condition states:

  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.

This means that, far from it being harder to aim a bow while invisible, it's actually easier - you get advantage. Under a strict reading of RAW, this might even apply against enemies that can see you, but I wouldn't allow that argument as a DM.

As for your other disadvantages - such as it being difficult to find your footing or pick an identical potion out of a set, once again: If the condition did that, it would say so. Presumably, adventurers who have access to invisibility have the kinesthetic awareness to know where their feet are even if they cannot see them, and also have mnemonics to know which of their potions are which without looking. After all, they need to be able to do both of these in combat without leaving themselves open, presumably keeping their eyes on their enemies.

There is one drawback to invisibility, which is that you cannot use spells or abilities that target "A creature you can see" on yourself if you are invisible (or blinded, or in pitch darkness), because in order to target yourself with such an effect, you need to be able to see yourself.

As a general rule, don't limit your players' abilities unnecessarily

When adjudicating a player's ability, they should always work at least as well as the book says they do. In D&D, the players have very limited opportunities for agency as it is, with the DM holding most of the creative power, and your players are probably plenty excited to get access to Invisibility after gaining a couple levels. Don't take their fun away by slapping invisibility with a bunch of penalties.