Rules as Written: Invisibility

Picture this, you’re in a dungeon, a rival thief is about to make it’s way out with the treasure. The party has worn him down, he’s close to defeat, but you see the faint twinkle as the Ring of Invisibility blinks him out of sight. You quickly cast see invisibility and see where the rogue is headed. Initiative continues and your party can’t do anything. You’ll be able to make one last attack before he escapes. You’re about to roll when the DM tells you to grab another d20 because you have disadvantage attacking an invisible foe. “I can see invisible things though,” you say.
“Yes, but he’s still invisible,” comes his reply

I’ve seen this one come up a lot lately, and it appears to be the best way to start an argument. It sounds dumb right, you already cast See Invisibility, it’s still active, you can see the creature you need to attack, but per the rules, you still have disadvantage. Now, I’d like to start by saying that I don’t particularly agree with the rule, and if you do as well, you are certainly free to make any changes you want at your table, but until it is eratta’d, it is currently RAW.

So, how does this work? What do the rules actually say. When a creature is made invisible, they are granted the Invisible Condition:

  • An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature’s location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves.
  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.

An invisible creature is granted two bonuses, the first being that they can’t be seen, and the second that attack rolls against them have disadvantage. The way the rules are written, these are two separate things that do not depend on each other. See Invisibility grants the following:

  • For the duration, you see invisible creatures and objects as if they were visible, and you can see into the Ethereal Plane. Ethereal creatures and objects appear ghostly and translucent.

See Invisibility allows you to see creatures that are invisible. So, looking at the Invisible condition, the first bullet point is negated. You can see creatures that are invisible, so they are no longer able to hide from you; however, the second bullet point is still valid. Nothing in that second bullet point requires you to be unseen. It’s not just mee saying that, but also Jeremy Crawford, the guy in charge of making the rules.

Both True Seeing and See Invisibility have this problem. You still have disadvantage attacking them, and they still have advantage attacking you. This goes both ways of course, so if your character is invisible and the enemy can still see you, you still have advantage, and they still have disadvantage.

It’s not all lost though, Faerie Fire however, is different because it states:

  • …the affected creature or object can’t benefit from being invisible

With Faerie Fire, the target loses all benefits of invisibility, negating both bullet points in the condition.

The whole thing could be easily fixed by adding a few words:

  • Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage if they can’t see it, and the creature’s attack rolls against targets that can’t see it have advantage.

It’s a simple errata, but since they haven’t done it yet, we can only assume that this is how they want the spells to function.

And again, feel free to rule this however you want at your table. Changing the rules is in the rules. You can do what ever you want with invisibility in your game. Jeremy Crawford isn’t going to kick down your door and take away your DMG. He wants you to change what you want and make the game your own.

So, remember, RAW doesn’t always work the way you want it to, but you’re free to do what ever you want, so don’t sweat it. The only thing you need to do is make sure your players know how everything works and everybody will be happy.

Author: Illithilich

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