[RPG] How to mechanically balance a PC being permanently blind


One of my players, playing a Dex/Cha-based bard, wants his character to be completely blind.

I like to let them play whatever they feel enjoyable, even though I'd like to find out how to make it not too impeding as a disability.

The obvious effect for the character would be having the blinded state permanently on him.
That state makes you fail all checks that require sight and have disadvantage attacking enemies, and gives enemies advantage on attacks against you.

The first effect is obvious. The second, though, is too strong to be always there. My first instinct is to let him have the capability of avoiding this penalizer, since he'd learned to fight blinded. That, combined with the fact that he roleplays his blindness, seems fair enough, but I'd like to share it with rpg.SE community to check how to handle the situation.

So, how do I balance the PC so that he's still viable to play with the rest of the group and still have the character flaw?

Best Answer

I played a permanently (from birth) blind character for a couple of years a long time ago in a 3.5 edition game. I was a fighter class.

The GM gave me +10 to listen rolls and the 'blind fight' feat for free, and allowed me to move at significantly reduced speed tapping a staff to find my way.

I was permanently flat-footed vs all ranged attacks, unable to do any ranged actions and automatically missed 25% of all melee attacks. This turned out to be cripplingly frustrating for me - I'd swing at the Big Bad Guy, roll a 20 on my d20 and a 1 on my d4 to determine a 'blind swing' - basically the attack would have crit if the character wasn't blind!

Listen rolls to determine where enemies were was never a problem with an elf's sense, the +10 bonus and all my skill points piled into it.

Eventually the GM found a reason for someone to give the character 5ft blind sight because the attack disadvantage was just too frustrating. So your instinct is correct, disadvantage on all rolls would be too much - such a character would probably not take up adventuring.

I think a fair compromise is having your player's character grant advantage for all ranged attacks aimed at them - they don't see that crossbow being raised at them - but letting him/her go toe to toe in melee without advantage / disadvantage being inflicted to either side - a built in blind-fighting feat. This also allows some interesting stuff to happen with spells like Fog Cloud, and also lets a player imagine their character trading blows like Daredevil, but equally being about as useful as Daredevil in a longer-ranged firefight.

Ultimately though, I don't understand how this could work with a bard's setup. They won't be able to see where their enemies are to land ranged spells or attacks, except possibly for big AOE spells, and being right up close in the action isn't a bard's forte. The possibility for collateral damage from AoE spells is very high. A Barbarian, Paladin or Fighter might make more sense for this form of blind warrior.