Sunlight Sensitivity 5E: How Does It Work?

Every species in the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons has its own unique sets of traits. Some of these are helpful, like the ability to fly or resistance against poison damage. Some of these species also have traits that are largely drawbacks. An example of that is sunlight sensitivity. What is this sensitivity and who has it? Get all the answers you need with our Sunlight Sensitivity 5E Guide.

What is Sunlight Sensitivity?

Sunlight Sensitivity 5e

What is Sunlight Sensitivity? This trait is pretty straight forward. Let’s take a look at the exact wording directly from the Drow stat block.

Sunlight Sensitivity
While in sunlight, the drow has disadvantage on Attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.

Is it really that straight forward, though? the mechanic itself is. If a creature with sunlight sensitivity is in sunlight, they have disadvantage on attack rolls as well as any perception checks that involve the use of sight. But what does “sunlight’ mean here? Obviously, this impacts any creature in direct sunlight on a bright, sunny day. The question is less clear on whether this sensitivity impacts a creature that is in a heavily shaded area or in partial sunlight. Gray areas include when the sun is spatially obscured by shadows, clouds, or trees.

There is no straight answer for this under the rules as written. As a DM, I’ve adopted a simple way to resolve this question. If the character can see the sun, the sensitivity takes effect. This does not include reflections of sunlight off of water or a mirror. Anything short of direct visibility of the sun does not count in my book.

You are also free as a DM to come up with your own solution, as this trait bothers some players more than others. It’s also worth remembering that many campaigns will never involve seeing sunlight at all. Sticking with campaigns that occur in the Underdark or largely at night render this a non-issue. If it becomes a contentious issue, providing magical items that get around this sensitivity is an easy resolution.

What Species Have Sunlight Sensitivity in 5E?

Sunlight Sensitivity is primarily associated with two different types of creatures in D&D: Beings that live below ground and incorporeal undead. The classic example is the drow, but many ghostlike creatures like wraiths also have this trait. Some of the creatures that have Sunlight Sensitivity include:

  • Drow
  • Kobold
  • Wraith
  • Specter
  • WInged Kobold
  • Skittering Horror
  • Troglodyte
  • Kuo-toa

While these are mostly NPC species, there are two playable options that include sunlight sensitivity. These include the drow and kobolds. You can learn more about them in our kobold guide.

Does the Daylight Spell Affect Sunlight Sensitivity?

It is important to carefully read the text of magical items and spells to determine whether or not they will impact the Sunlight Sensitivity trait. Despite the name of the spell, it is worth noting that Daylight merely creates a 60-foot sphere of “light.” No matter how bright this magical light is, it is distinct from daylight and does not trigger sunlight sensitivity.

There are other situations where magically-created light is considered daylight. For example, the Sun Blade is a magical sword that specifically emits sunlight in a 15-foot radius. This means a drow or kobold in the presence of this weapon would roll with disadvantage.

See Also: How Does Falling Damage Work in 5E?

How Do You Get Rid of Sunlight Sensitivity in 5E?

There is not an easy answer for getting rid of sunlight sensitivity in 5E. According to a series of tweets from Jeremy Crawford, this sensitivity generally follows your character even when they take different forms. For example, a druid with sunlight sensitivity that wildshapes into a different creature will retain that sensitivity, with one exception. As Crawford makes clear, transforming into a creature that lacks the ability to see at all would remove the sensitivity train in that form.

There is also a magical item designed specifically for characters struggling with Sunlight Sensitivity. First released in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the Knave’s Eye Patch has the following qualities:

Knave's Eye Patch
While wearing this eye patch, you gain these benefits:

  • You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
  • If you have the Sunlight Sensitivity trait, you are unaffected by the trait.
  • You are immune to magic that allows other creatures to read your thoughts or determine whether you are lying. Creatures can communicate telepathically with you only if you allow it.

Concluding our Guide

That wraps up our rundown of sunlight sensitivity. While there is no clear definition of what qualifies as sunlight, your options as a DM are wide open. I prefer to give players options to avoid these types of negative traits, as it can be annoying to be the only person at the table to have one. Still, that decision is up to you! Let us know how you plan on handling this question by leaving us a comment.

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