Divination

And here is the third and final in my series of ‘problem spells in D&D’. This week: Divination!

I don’t think I’ve ever made a secret of my fact that dislike the way that relatively low level characters can use Divination spells to circumvent the plot of an adventure. High level characters simply need different adventures in order to take account of their access to divination magic. Something needs to be done to rein in these spells, and that’s something I’m going to look at in this post.

Before I begin I want to emphasise that I have nothing against clever play. Characters who use their abilities, resources or their allies to get one over on the current villain are to be encouraged. I want players who approach problems from unexpected angles; who surprise me with their solutions. What I’m talking about here is the lazy way in which these spells can be used instead of thinking. I don’t have a problem using this spells when they need to be used, I do have a problem when using them gets in the way of roleplaying. That’s an unforgiveable sin.

Scrying Subschool

Let’s start with a few words about the scrying subschool. This was introduced in version 3.5 of D&D (it wasn’t in version 3.0) and is carried over into Pathfinder. It seeks to present consistant rules on how to apply scrying effects in the game. I’m not making any changes here, but I want to reiterate how Scrying spells work just so we are all clear.

Spells of the scrying subschool create an magical sensor that sends the caster information. This information can be purely visual, purely audible or a combination of any number of senses. The sensor is normally invisible, but this may not the case for every scrying spell – as always the spell description trumps the basic subschool definition. The level of visual acuity of the sensor is the same as that of the caster. That means that a wizard with a low perception skill is going to create an equally myopic scrying sensor. Magical effects don’t carry over the sensor. A wizard that casts darkvision on himself can’t use darkvision through the sensor; but a drow wizard who has darkvision as a racial trait, can use that darkvision through his scrying sensor.

The sensor counts as an independent sensory organ for the wizard. So even if he has his eyes gouged out he can still see through his scrying sensor. Unless otherwise noted, the feedback from a scrying sensors doesn’t distract the caster. He doesn’t need to close his eyes to concentrate on what is happening through the sensor, and he can act perfectly normally while aware of what is happening at his current location, as well as the location of the sensor. However, he might need to take specific actions to move or manipulate the sensor in some fashion.

The creature you are spying on is able to notice the scrying sensor by making a perception check with a DC equal to 20 + the spell level. This is a change to the rules in Pathfinder, and certainly better than the Intelligence check that third edition demanded. Scrying sensors can be dispelled, but they can’t be damaged by weapons or energy (even magical ones). Plenty of spells guard against scrying, as we’ll see below. Scrying spells are also stopped by lead.

Finally, for those of your confused by the multiude of editions I’m talking about: there is no Scrying skill in D&D anymore. This was introduced in version 3.0 of the game, but was abandoned in the 3.5 revision. It isn’t in Pathfinder either.

Divination Spells

What I’m going to do now is have a look at the Divination spells that appear in the third edition Player’s Handbook and see whether the modifications already made to them in the Pathfinder game are sufficient for my purposes. For the most part, the spells will stay the same. However, in some cases they will have a radical overhaul. Ready?

Analyse Dweomer

Divination
Level: Arcane 6, Divine (Magic) 6, Song 6
Casting Time: eight hours
Range: close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Targets: one object per caster level
Duration: instantaneous
Saving Throw: none or Will negates (see text)

Casting this spell requires eight hours, and access to a magical laboratory or similar space dedicated to the study and research of magic. The ritual requires the use of magical paraphenalia such as lenses, dyes and reagents commonly found in magical or alchemical laboratories. Analyse dweomer is used to determine the specific magical properties of magical items, and the caster may examine a number of such items equal to his level with one casting of this spell.

After eight hours has passed, the caster learns the following about each magic item: its functions (including any curse effects), how to activate its functions (if appropriate), and how many charges are left (if it uses charges). Intelligent items may attempt a Will save to resist the casting of this spell. If the save succeeds, you learn nothing about the object except what you can discern by looking at it. An object that makes its save cannot be affected by any other analyse dweomer spells for 24 hours.

Analyse dweomer does not function when used on an artefact.

The official version of Analyse Dweomer allows it to be cast as a standard action, and instantly reveal the properties of any active spell or magical item on one target. This new version lessens the potency somewhat, and relegates the spell to a back-room activity. It’s not the sort of spell you cast in the field. This is a theme of many of my changes to divination spells. More often than not, I have increased the casting time to make sure that such spells can’t be used repeatedly.

To my mind most divinations work better as lengthy rituals. They’re more evocative that way. If you’re calling down the avatar of the god of Knowledge to discover a secret lost for three millennia, you don’t want to be able to do it to kill the time while dinner is cooking. In this case, I prefer the idea of a party acquiring new magical items or weapons, and then retiring to their castle or tower to conduct the proper rituals to find out what they do. And considering how infrequently I give away magic items, I think this seems to work reasonably well. Incidentally – no moaning about the lack of magical items in the campaign. I’ll address that in a future post. It’s all about divination this time around.

So what about a wizard clicking his fingers and finding out all about magical auras as a standard action? Don’t worry. That element of analyse dweomer hasn’t been lost entirely. Read on and you’ll see.

Arcane Eye

Read Pathfinder description

No changes here. The only thing I want to underline is that the arcane eye cannot enter another plane of existence. I’ll take this to mean that you cannot send the eye through a teleportation portal, even if the portal links two places on the same plane. Because all teleportation goes through the Astral Plane, the eye would not be able to make the journey.

Arcane Sight/Greater Arcane Sight

Read Pathfinder description

No changes here either, but still something to say. Originally I had envisaged having two versions of analyse dweomer: one cast as a standard action that worked like an augmented detect magic spell, and one cast as the eight hour ritual that is described above. Then I read the description for arcane sight. Arcane Sight is already an augmented detect magic spell. It is everything that my version of analyse dweomer would have been if I’d left it castable as a standard action. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why third edition bothered to have both to be honest. In short, any utility that you think you have may lost in analyse dweomer is present here, in arcane sight.

Augury

Read Pathfinder description

I’ve never been completely happy with augury as a spell, but I felt that on balance I might as well leave it as it is. It takes 1 minute to cast the spell, so it’s not something that can be whipped out in the middle of combat. Additionally, the utility of the spell isn’t that hot. It only provides a weal/woe response to an event that is to take place no more than 30 minutes into the future. In those terms, I don’t have a problem with it.

Clairaudience/Clairvoyance

Read Pathfinder description

Remarkably, I didn’t feel the need to change this spell either. I must be getting soft. The casting time of 10 minutes, the limited range of 400 feet + 40 feet per level, and the general Achilles heal of all scrying spells (that it may be noticed) are all enough to stop Clairaudience from breaking the game. Once more, I should point out that you can’t use clairaudience/clairvoyance to see what’s on the other side of a teleportation portal.

Commune

Divination
Level: Divine (All) 5
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: 1 round/level

You contact the extraplanar agents of your deity, and may ask questions of them. A divine caster with no particular deity (such as a mystic) appeals to an equivalent entity. You may ask one question per caster level, and the spell ends when he final question is answered. If you delay, discuss the answers or go off and do something else, the spell also ends.

The amount of information gained from a commune spell is entirely dependent on the knowledge of the entity that you invoke. Some may be more helpful than others in certain circumstances. For example, if the party wishes to know more information about an uncharacteristic increase in volcanic activity, a commune spell cast by a priest of Calafax is more likely to summon a being who knows useful information, than if the spell was cast by a cleric of Sharrash.

The entity invoked by this spell is played as an NPC by the GM. These beings have their own personalities and goals which will colour any answers that the caster receives. Depending on the questions asked, the entity may be deliberately duplicitous or genuinely eager to help. Entities conjured by the commune spell are not omniscient, and there may be some questions that they simply cannot answer.

Okay, big revisions to Commune. In the original description you summon your deity or proxy and ask them a question that can be answered with yes/no replies. With this revision, the spell is altogether more interesting. We get to have a meaningful  conversation with the summoned entity (whatever it may be) and the questions you ask are limited by the knowledge of this being. So if you summon an archangel from the sixth mount of Heaven and ask them “which one of these people stole my wallet” the archangel will be able to reply “How the @#!?@# should I know?”.

Certainly, this lessens the impact that commune can have in the game. If the PCs are searching for a werewolf, they can’t use a commune spell to unmask the villain. They need to ask the sort of questions that the invoked entity is likely to know. So asking an angel “How do we cross the Weirlands” would be a reasonable question.

Commune with Nature

Read Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Comprehend Languages

Read Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Contact Other Plane

Divination
Level: Arcane 5
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: Concentration

You send your name to another plane of existence in an attempt to answer a perplexing and unknowable puzzle. The great powers you contact by means of this spell resent the intrusion of mortal minds upon their time. At best the answers they give are terse and to the point. At worse, they deliberately lie and may feeblemind the spellcaster. No arcane caster attempts to contact other plane on a whim. It is likely the spell of the last resort, when all other avenues of enquiry prove fruitless.

The further the caster sends his mind, the more likely the entity he finds knows the answer to his questions. However, the further the caster sends his mind the more likely he is to suffer a disastrous reduction in his mental faculties, and a loss of his spellcasting power. It may also result in other – unavoidable – side effects.

When this spell is cast, you must decide where you are sending your mind to seek out an answer to your current dilemma. You can only visit one plane with one casting of this spell, and you may not ask the same question more than once. You must concentrate on on maintaining the spell (a standard action each round) in order to ask questions. You may ask questions at a rate of one per round.  A question is answered by the power in the same round. You may ask a maximum of one question per two caster levels.

Every time you ask a question, the GM (secretly) rolls percentile dice and consults the following table:

Plane Contacted Avoid Int/Cha Decrease True Answer Don’t Know Lie Random Answer
Elemental Plane DC 9/1 week 01-40 41-80 81-90 91-00
Astral Plane DC 12/2 weeks 01-50 51-80 81-90 91-00
Outer Plane DC 15/3 weeks 01-60 61-80 81-90 91-00
Far Realm DC 18/5 weeks 01-70 71-80 81-90 91-00

Plane Contacted: The elemental planes of Iourn are the planes of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life and Death. They are the domains of the Moon Gods and their elemental servants. They are the closest and least mind-bending of the planes of existence. The Astral Plane (or Astral Sea) is the great silvery realm of magic and the mind. The outer planes are the realms of gods, and other powerful entities that drift in the void beyond Iourn – the Feywild, Arvandor, the Shadowfell and Ostoria are all outer planes. The Far Realm is a plane outside reality, full of entities and intelligences that simply shouldn’t exist.

Avoid Int/Cha Decrease: When contacting this plane, the caster must make an Intelligence of Charisma check (whichever is higher) at the specified DC. If he fails then his Intelligence and Charisma scores are reduced to 8 for the duration indicated. You only have to make one ability score check regardless of the number of questions you ask.

True Answer: The entity knows the answer to your question and answers as briefly as possible. If it can answer with one word then it does, otherwise it speaks a short phrase.

Don’t Know: The entity doesn’t know the answer to the question, and tells the caster that is doesn’t know.

Lie: The entity knows the the answer to the question, but chooses not to impart it to the caster. A result of “lie” provides dangerously misleading information – the sort of information that is more likely that not to get the caster killed.

Random Answer: The entity doesn’t know the answer, but doesn’t want to admit its ignorance. It gives the caster an incorrect answer that it thinks is likely. This answer won’t be maliciously intended kill the caster, but it won’t be all that helpful either.

On rare occassions, this divination may be blocked by an act of certain deities of forces.

In addition to the chance of feeblemindedness, loss of spellcasting and gaining the wrong answer, using contact other plane repeatedly gains the notice of certain entities that the spellcaster would probably rather didn’t notice him. Sending one’s mind into the Far Realm is seldom without its consequences. These are left to the imagination of the GM.

This is the arcane equivalent of the Commune spell. While Commune summons the spirit of a helpful entity to answer questions, contact other plane sends the spellcaster’s mind into the great beyond to try and find the answers that he seeks. A wizard casting this spell has a much broader collection of entities to consult and can theoretically find the answer to anything. However, it’s not without its dangers.

And what dangers they are! I altered the table for the spell – reducing the number of options to reflect Iourn’s cosmology – and also slightly modifying the DCs and percentage chance of getting the right answer. Even sending your mind to the Far Realm has just a 70% chance of finding the information you seek, and you need to make a DC 18 Intelligence check or lose all spellcasting powers for five weeks.

But then, you CAN use this spell to discover the impossible. You can use this spell to find out the password to the thieves guild’s underground hideout, or the location of a fabled artefact or the colour of Karatath’s underpants. No answer is completely beyond the power of contact other plane, it’s just a question of whether you want to take the risk of asking.

Detect Animals or Plants

Read Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Detect Chaos/Evil/Good/Law

Read Pathfinder description

The descriptions of these spells don’t see much if any change, but how the spells are adjudicated and implemented in the game is going to change a great deal. Why? Well, there’s no such thing as Alignment in the game any more. I hate alignment: always have. It’s a pointless crutch for roleplaying, and I hate the way that it’s been hard-wired into the D&D rules. So all alignment has disappeared. You can’t use this spell to identify an evil man or a cutpurse. It just doesn’t work that way.

However real, tangible evil does exist in the Iourn setting. It’s called Taint and it’s present in areas of terrible infamy such as Thannassanoir. Certain truly horrible creatures such as demons, thinking undead and so on possess this taint. So from now on <i>detect evil</i> doesn’t locate the rather wishy-washy concept of “evil”, it instead locates the presence of Taint. Mass murderers, evil despots and petty thieves don’t have Taint. Tainted creatures are almost always sources of supernatural evil.

These are, to be fair, much the rules I have been using for years. However, I want to take the opportunity to underline them here. I’m more than happy with a paladin being able to sense the presence of a vampire in a room – I’m less happy with him being able to torpedo every whodunnit plot by just squinting at the subjects.

So do Good, Lawful and Chaotic equivalents of Taint exist? Are the angellic beings of Aduro shot through with Rapture that can be detected and warded against? Are the changelings rampaging through the Underdark dripping with Entropy? Well, maybe. Why not? Strikes me as more of a story-related issue we should deal with in-game.

Detect Magic

Read the D&D 3.5 description

Unchanged, but I want to be clear that we’re going with the 3.5 description of detect magic and not with the Pathfinder one. The main difference is that the Pathfinder version of detect magic allows you to use the cantrip to identify the properties of magical items. I would prefer to keep detect magic working the way it has always worked in the game – a successful Spellcraft check reveals the school of the magic, which might give you an educated guess to the properties of the item.

Detect Poison

Read the Pathfinder description

Not to be confused with the Sharrashan clergy’s Detect Poisson; otherwise unchanged.

Detect Secret Doors

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Detect Snares & Pits

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged. 

Detect Thoughts

Divination [Mind-Affecting]
Level: Arcane 2, Song 2
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: 60 ft.
Area: Cone-shaped emanation
Target: You
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates (see text)

You detect surface thoughts. The amount of information revealed depends on how long you study a particular area or subject.

1st Round: Presence or absence of thoughts (from conscious creatures with Intelligence scores of 1 or higher).

2nd Round: Number of thinking minds and the Intelligence score of each. If the highest Intelligence is 26 or higher (and at least 10 points higher than your own Intelligence score), you are stunned for 1 round and the spell ends. This spell does not let you determine the location of the thinking minds if you can’t see the creatures whose thoughts you are detecting.

3rd Round: Surface thoughts of any mind in the area. A target’s Will save prevents you from reading its thoughts, and you must cast detect thoughts again to have another chance. Creatures of animal intelligence (Int 1 or 2) have simple, instinctual thoughts.

Detect thoughts provides only the most general information about a target’s mood and intent. It is used in the field to assess the danger or pliability of large groups of individuals. The surface thoughts revealed are raw emotions such as hosility, anger, fear or curiosity. There is no sense of a coherent narrative in the thoughts detected, this spell couldn’t be used to find a pass-phrase or code word.

If used while interrogating a specific creature, then detect thoughts can offer valuable insight into the state of mind of the subject. Are they nervous? worried? Are they likely to respond to kindness or threats? What the spell won’t do is read thoughts that the subject wants to remain hidden (even if the saving throw is failed). You can’t use this spell to drag out the identity of a murderer or reveal the location of a hidden treasure.

Each round, you can turn to detect thoughts in a new area. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

Detect thoughts is one of those spells that is designed for one purpose, and then promptly used by players for something quite different. Its built in the same way as the various detect magic clones that we’ve just covered: concentrate on an area for three rounds and discover the presence or absence of thoughts or magic or alignment or poison or traps and so on and so forth. In practice everyone uses it to interrogate the bad guys.

And as a spell that third level characters can get their hands on, it shouldn’t be used to that end. We all know how it’s used don’t we? If someone tells you not to think of a banana, what’s the first thing you think of? Players often use the same tactic on NPCs with this spell. “What do you know about the death of Earl Smurfhammer?” – instantly the surface thoughts of the NPC will turn to the murder and in that second the canny character with detect thoughts running discovers the truth!

Well, I don’t like that. I prefer the PCs to turn their hand to some honest detective work – you know: going and out talking to people, interacting with the NPCs, roleplaying… the sort of things that make the game fun. The way I have rewritten the spell, detect thoughts is still useful during interrogations. It can offer insight into the mental state of the NPC, and it can used to guide the questions asked: “Mary the milk maid felt ashamed when you mentioned her brother, maybe we should pursue that”.

So the ill-defined “surface thoughts” from the original spell description is defined as a target’s intent and emotions. Less powerful to be sure, but easier to cope with in the game and much more in keeping with a 2nd level spell.

Detect Undead

Read Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Discern Lies

Divination
Level: Divine (Justice, Knowledge) 4
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: One creature
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 round/level
Saving Throw: Will negates

You concentrate on one target, who must be within range of this spell. You know if the target deliberately and knowingly speaks a lie by discerning disturbances in its aura caused by lying. The spell does not reveal the truth, uncover inintentional inaccuracies, or necessarily reveal evasions. A target that succeeds on its saving throw cannot be affected by further discern lies spells cast by the same caster for 24 hours.

One a couple of small change to the description. Firstly, the spell now only works on one specific creature, as opposed to one creature per level of the caster. Secondly, targets that succeed on their saving throw can’t be affected by the spell until the following day – this prevents characters repeated casting discern lies on a target until it fails its saving throw.

Beyond that, this spell is pretty much as it has ever been. You can tell if a creature is lying, but you can’t tell if it’s speaking the truth. Even a target that fails its saving can simply answer “I’m not going to tell you” to any question. Discern lies works best at determining innocence rather than guilt, as its the innocent who are more likely to submit to the spell and speak freely.

I would also add that the fact that discern lies exists is proof enough that detect thoughts shouldn’t be able to be used for the same purpose.

Discern Location

Divination
Level: Arcane 8, Divine (Knowledge) 8
Casting Time: 8 hours
Range: Unlimited
Target: One creature or object
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None

A discern location spell is among the most powerful means of locating creatures or objects. A mind blank or equivalent spell, or the direct intervention of a deity would be required to prevent you from learning the exact location of a single individual or object. Discern location circumvents normal means of protection from scrying or location. The spell reveals the name of the creature or object’s location (place, name, business name, building name, or the like), community, county (or similar political division), country, continent, and the plane of existence where the target lies.

To find a creature with this spell, you must possess an item of significance to the creature or a part of the creature (such as a lock of hair, toenail clipping etc.) In order to find an object, you must either have a part of the object or you must have handled and examined the object carefully at some point.

This is almost the same spell description. Discern location is a very powerful and game breaking spell. “Help! My daughter has been kidnapped!” – “She’s at number 42 Broad Street in Uris, in a back room on the second floor. She’s currently eating an apple”. But it is an 8th level spell, it should be powerful. And as mind blank (also an 8th level spell) is still capable of countering it, the GM does have a legitimate means to keep objects and individuals hidden when he doesn’t want them to be found.

The modification to this spell comes in the second paragraph. The standard text of the spell reads: “To find a creature with the spell, you must have seen the creature or have some item that once belonged to it. To find an object, you must have touched it at least once.” Now, simply knowing a creature is not enough to find the creature – you need an object that belonged to that creature. And not any object either – it has to be something significant. It’s all very well to be handed a diamond necklace that belonged to the princess, if that necklace meant nothing to her then it won’t work as a component for this spell.

Oh, and I’m increased the casting time from 10 minutes to 8 hours. This really isn’t the sort of spell I want players to be able to use repeatedly. Work out what you want to do, cast the spell and then move on to something else. If the spell doesn’t work, then Plan B shouldn’t be simply casting the spell again.

Divination

Read Pathfinder description

No change here. Divination is just an augury spell with a little more poke. As a GM it might be annoying to come up with a cryptic rhyme at the drop of a hat, but on balance divination can add to the mystery and the interest of a game rather than circumventing it.

Find the Path

Read Pathfinder description

Unchanged. What? Find the path? The most broken spell in the game? Surely I want to completely rip the guts out of this spell? Sadly, I can’t – Paizo got there first. Look at the 3.5 version of the spell and then reread the description of the Pathfinder version. See the difference? I have no problem with the Pathfinder version.

Find Traps

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Foresight

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged. However, I will happily take advice on the level of this spell. I always thought that Foresight was underpowered as a 9th level spell. Would it be better as an 8th level spell, or even 7th?

Guidance

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Identify

Read the D&D 3.5 description

Unchanged from version 3.5. Because detect magic allows the identification of magic items in Pathfinder, the identify spell just grants a +10 bonus to Spellcraft checks. As we’re using the 3.5 version of detect magic, we must also use the 3.5 version of identify. So it takes 1 hour to identify the properties of one magical item, but you don’t have to roll to do it.

Know Direction

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Legend Lore

Divination
Level: Arcane 7, Divine (Oracle, Knowledge) 7, Song 5
Casting Time: See text
Range: Personal
Target: You
Duration: See text
Saving Throw: Will negates (see text)

Legend lore brings to your mind legends and stories about an important person, place or object. If the person or object is at hand, or if you are in the place in question, the casting time is only 8 hours. If you have only detailed information on the person, place, or thing, the casting time is 8 days. If you know only rumours, the casting time is 8 weeks.

The usefulness of the lore gained by this spells is dependent upon your existing knowledge of the subject. The more familiar you are with the subject, the more esoteric gems this spell will reveal. If you know the subject extremely well either because you are friends with a  living subject well, or because you have researched and discovered a great deal about the place or object, then you can gain specific and directed information about the legends surrounding the subject. The less familiar you are, the less complete and specific the information the spell reveals.

For example, if the only thing you know about the god Calafax is his name, then casting legend lore would reveal the role of the god, and his place in the Moon Pantheon. If you are a worshipper and know many of the teachings of his religion, then legend lore might reveal older and less well known information such as the process through which Calafax intervenes to annoint Firewalkers. If you are a learned scholar of the deity, then legend lore might reveal the deepest and darkest information – such as that Calafax has been a name taken by many divine entities in the history of Iourn.

During the casting, you cannot engage in other than routine activities: eating, sleeping, and so forth. When completed, the divination brings legends (if any) about the person, place, or objects to your mind. These may be legends that are still current, legends that have been forgotten, or even information that has never been generally known. If the person, place, or thing is not of legendary importance, you gain no information. As a rule of thumb, characters who are 11th level and higher are “legendary”, as are the sorts of creatures they contend with, the major magic items they wield, and the places where they perform their key deeds.

If the subject of this spell is a person, and if that person is still in existence (either living or undead) then he is entitled to a Will saving throw against the spell’s effects. On a successful saving throw, the caster gains no information about the subject.

The GM controls the amount of information gained through legend lore and the type of legends and information that are imparted to the caster. If there are many legends, the caster may only discover the most significant of them. Casters should attempt to narrow down results of legend lore with their own independent research before casting the spell.

Once a caster casts legend lore on a particular topic, then every time he casts legend lore on the same topic in the future he will get the same result. Only if the caster discovers more information about the subject, (through more research, or gaining access to the subject itself) will futher castings of legend lore prove effective.

Of all the spells in D&D, legend lore is the one I dislike the most. The ease with which it could be cast, and the way it can be used to discover information that the GM and (indeed) other players would prefer to remain hidden is terrible. Something as significant as legend lore can’t be just excised from the game, but I have taken some steps to limit its use, and reduce its utility somewhat.

Firstly, I’ve upped the level at which it can be cast. It is now a 5th level song spell (not 4th), and a 7th level arcane spell (not 6th). The divine version remains the same level. The casting time of the spell if you have the subject present is increased from 1d4 × 10 minutes to 8 hours. I have given living (or unliving) subjects a saving throw against its effects – which is largely there to protect PCs. I have underlined that multiple attempts to cast the spell don’t get different results if your knowledge of the subject remains the same. Finally (and most importantly) I have said that the amount of information you gain about a subject depends on your existing knowledge of the subject.

To me, legend lore should be used to gain that extra little bit of information about the subject. The caster still has to do the research in esoteric libraries and in the field to find out all he can about a subject. Only when he has a firm understanding of what it is he wants to know, will legend lore prove to be of value. Casters who know this spells should always think: do I know enough information about the subject to make the casting of legend lore worthwhile?

Or to put it in campaign terms: if the Chosen of Narramac cast a legend lore on the entity Faust now, then would learn significantly more about him than if they cast legend lore when Faust was first mentioned by the Saldarím back in session seven.

Locate Creature

Read the Pathfinder description

This spell is unchanged, but I think the description requires a fuller explanation. As it stands the spell reads thusly: “The spell can locate a creature of a specific kind or a specific creature known to you. It cannot find a creature of certain type.” This is all well and good, but requires you to understand the terms “kind” and “type”. And Pathfinder doesn’t actually have a definition for “kind”.

“Type” is much easier to get to grips with. A creature’s Type is found in the stat block of every creature in the game. Types include Aberration, Animal, Construct, Dragon, Fey, Humanoid, Magical Beast, Monstrous Humanoid, Ooze, Outsider, Plant, Undead and Vermin. Type is the broadest possible method of defining creatures.

“Kind” is a little trickier to define. There is a pseudo-definition in the text of the Familiar’s ability to speak with animals of its kind its kind – but that doesn’t work very well in this context. Therefore, I’m going to rule that “kind” in this context means creatures of the same species. So you can define cats, dogs, grey dragons and so forth.

To put it into a D&D context you could cast locate creature and look for wolves (but not animals), or pit fiends (but not devils), or beholders (but not aberrations). Is that clear? Obviously, if you’re looking for a specific individual then that works too – to the limit of spell’s power, naturally.

Locate Object

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Moment of Prsecience

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged. But I think that this 8th level spell points out how much the 2nd level spell Divine Insight (as seen in Complete Adventurer and the Spell Compendium) is broken. I’ll be looking at Divine Insight when I get around to the Cleric in the upcoming magic document.

Prying Eyes/Greater Prying Eyes

Read the Pathfinder descriptions

The wizard’s very own magical CCTV system. I’m not changing the description of prying eyes or greater prying eyes as they appear in the Pathfinder rules. However, because I have changed the description of true seeing some of the effects of these spells may not be quite as potent as they once were.

Read Magic

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Scrying

Divination (Scrying)
Level:
Arcane 4, Divine (Knowledge, Oracle) 4, Primal 4, Song 3
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: See text
Effect: Magical sensor
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates

You can observe a creature at any distance. Casting this spell requires a still pool of water (for primal casters) or an elegent and elaborate mirror (for all other casters). You only need the most basic knowledge of a target to attempt a scrying. The magic instantly seeks out the target, as long as they are on the same plane of existence as the caster.

When the spell is cast, the subject must make a Will saving throw to adjudicate the success of the spell. The difficulty of the save depends on how well the caster knows the subject and what sort of physical connection (if any) he has to the subject. The will save is made using the following modifiers. All applicable modifiers stack:

Knowledge Will Save Modifier
None (you must have some sort of physical connection if you have no knowledge of the subject) +10
Secondhand (you have heard of the subject) +5
Firsthand (you have met the subject) +0
Familiar (you know the subject well) -2

 

Connection Will Save Modifier
Likeness or picture -2
Possession or garment -4
Body part: lock of hair, bit of nail etc. -6

If the save fails, you can see and hear the subject and its surroundings (approximately 10 feet in all directions of the subject). If the subject moves, the sensor follows at a speed of up to 150 feet. A subject who fails the saving throw is unaware that they are being scried.

As with all divination (scrying) spells, the sensor has your visual acuity, including any magical effects. In addition, the following spells have a 5% chance per caster level of operating through the sensor: detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law and message.

If the save succeeds the target is aware of the attempt to scry upon it. You also you can’t attempt to scry on that subject again for at least 24 hours.

Scrying is the sort of spell that gets a lot of use in campaigns. On the whole it hasn’t been too bad, and I’ve only really tweaked the spell rather than changed it wholesale. There are three small changes: 1) it doesn’t work across planar boundaries, 2) I’m reduced the penalties you can impose on a target’s saving throw, 3) if the target makes its save it is aware of the attempt to scry on it.

Greater Scrying

Divination (Scrying)
Level:
Arcane 7, Divine (Knowledge, Oracle) 7, Primal 7, Song 6
Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: See text
Effect: Magical sensor
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will negates

This spell functions as scrying except where noted above. Additionally, greater scrying will function across planar boundaries, although the subject gains a +5 bonus to their saving throw if this is the case. All the following spells can be cast through the sensor with total reliability: detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law, message, read magic and tongues.

The only benefit of the higher level version of scrying is that it can be cast across planar boundaries and there is a slightly longer list of spells that can be cast through the sensor. Otherwise it remains the same as scrying including the duration and casting time. Greater Scrying under conventional rules was cast as a standard action and lasted one hour per level. I think that is excessively overpowered, so I’m happy to remove those options.

See Invisibility

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Speak with Animals

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Speak with Plants

Read the Pathfinder descripton

Unchanged.

Status

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged. Just to say that this spell gives you an idea of your companion’s relative position to you – not his exact location. You may get the result that they are twenty miles north, not that they are in the oven of a m’canti witch. At its best, a running status spell can lead you to the general vicinity of a companion, but it’s not a find the path spell. It’s not going to show you how to get around a raging river or bottomless ravine.

Stone Spell

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged

(Rary’s) Telepathic Bond

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged, although I will point out that regardless of that the SRD or Pathfinder rules say I will always endeavour to use the third edition name of a spell. So it’s Rary’s Telepathic Bond and not just Telepathic Bond.

Tongues

Read the Pathfinder description

Tongues grates on me slightly. In a  setting with no common language, players are encouraged to spend their skill points on learning a large number of different languages. Tongues undermines that somewhat. What’s the point in having specialised linguists if any fifth level wizard can understand any language by snapping his fingers?

However, Tongues has been in the game for a very long time. And the reason its been in the game for so long is because a situation where the PCs can’t communicate with the NPCs is normally undesirable. Yes, it’s fun in the short term to have the PCs washed up on an isolated atoll and have to pantomime their desires to the natives – but it isn’t long before it becomes tiresome and gets in the way of the plot. Without talking, advancing the story is very difficult. That’s the strongest case for tongues that I can think of.

True Seeing

Divination
Level: Arcane 6, Divine (Knowledge) 5, Primal 7
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: Creature touched
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: Will neagtes (harmless)

You confer on the subject the ability to see through all magical attempts to hide, deceive or bamboozle the senses. You see things as they truly are: not how magic might make them appear.

The subject sees through magical darkness (but not normal darkness); notices secret doors hidden by magic (but not by mundane means); sees the exact locations of creatures or objects under blur or displacement effects; sees invisible creatures or objects normally; and, sees illusions for what they are – the illusion is still visible to the subject, but they are aware of its unreal nature. the subject can focus its vision to see into the Ethereal Plane (but not into extradimensional spaces). The range of true seeing conferred is 120 feet.

True seeing also has a limited ability to reveal the true form of polymorphed, changed or transmuted things. As long as the transmutation was caused and sustained by magic then the true form of a creature of object is visible as a ghostly image overlapping its current form. True seeing does not reveal the true form if the transformation is a natural (or supernatural) ability, or if the transutation effect is permanent. Therefore, true seeing will reveal the true form of a wizard polymorphed into a dragon, but will not reveal anything if directed at a werewolf in its humanoid form, or a statue that is actually a petrified prince.

True seeing does not penetrate solid objects. It in no way confers X-ray vision or its equivalent. It does not negate concealment, including that caused by fog and the like. True seeing does not help the viewer see through mundane disguises, spot creatures who are simply hiding, or notice secret doors hidden by mundane means. In addition, the spell effects cannot be further enhanced with known magic, so one cannot use true seeing through a crystal ball or in conjunction with clairaudience/clairvoyance.

What I have tried to do here is reposition true seeing as a magical means to detect magical disguises. It’s still pretty powerful in what it can reveal to the caster of the spell, but now it isn’t the spell of choice to torpedo every “hunt the werewolf” plot that has ever been written. Yes, it’s less powerful – but I think all of you were expecting that by now.

True Strike

Read the Pathfinder description

Unchanged.

Vision

Divination
Level: Arcane 8, Divine (Oracle) 8, Primal 8
Casting Time: 1 standard action (see below)
Range: Touch
Target: Willing creature or object touched
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)

The caster touches a person or an object and immediately gains a vision of the target. The vision is always something of great importance (although the importance may not be immediately apparent). The vision may be a scene from the past or from the future. If cast as a standard action the caster has no way to control the vision or what the magic reveals.

The casting of a vision spell is often the springboard to a quest or campaign, as the caster tries to work out the significance of what they saw.

Casters of vision spells often rely on complicated rituals involving animal entrails, tarot carts, tea leaves or other items befitting their tradition. While, technically, these materials are unnecessary when casting the spell (you either have the Gift of Sight or you don’t) casters who rely on them believe they are more able to direct the vision. They still can’t control what they are seeing, but they can control when they are seeing it.

If vision is cast as a ritual lasting not less than 1 hour, the caster states a specific point in the past or in the future for his vision. He then makes a caster level check (1d20 + 1 per caster level to a maximum of +25). The further removed from the present his vision is, the more difficult the check:

Level Check DC Effect
20 or less DM fiat
21-25 1 month
26-30 1 year
31-35 10 years
36-40 100 years
41-45 1000 years

All visions must be fixed to a particular person or object. There’s no point touching a young boy and then having a vision to see what he’s doing 1000 years from now: regardless of what you roll for your spell level check, the boy will still be long dead.

You cannot cast a vision spell on the same person or object more often than once per month. If another such spell is cast (by the same caster) during this time, then the results are always the same.

Right, pick this one apart at your leisure. In the Pathfinder rules, Vision is just an augmented version of the legend lore spell. As it stood, there was absolutely no way that vision would ever have been included in the game. Rather than just jetissoning the spell wholesale, I kept the name and wrote a completely new spell description. I think that’s fairly evocative, and (as it can’t be called upon very often) has the potential to open up adventure paths that may not have otherwise been apparent.

Anti-Divination Spells

No, I’m not proposing an “anti-divination” category of spells. That would be silly. But I do what to have a closer look at those spells designed to vex and protect characters against divination magicks. Not all of these are Divination spells, some are Abjurations. I think I’ve covered all the main ones here, but if I’m missed any then please feel free to point it out.

Detect Scrying

Read Pathfinder description

The description fo this spell is unchanged, but I just wanted to underline its properties if could. Casting this spell wards an area with forty feet of the caster for twenty-four hours. During that time, the caster becomes instantly aware of any scrying attempts. The caster of this spell, and the foe behind the scrying sensor immediately make opposed caster level checks. If the caster of detect scrying wins, then he can see through the sensor and note the location of the originator.

Detect scrying does not prevent the scrying from working, it merely let’s you know if someone is trying it on. It is a 4th level spell, which is a level higher than clairaudience/clairvoyance. For a while in the game, therefore, your character’s ability to guard against scrying doesn’t keep pace with his ability as a scrier. However, detect scrying works against any spell of the Scrying subschool, regardless of level and with no saving throw to avoid its effects. It certainly punches above its weight for those who can cast 4th level spells.

One change I am considering in the long term is adding detect scrying to the limited number of spells that can be made Permanent with a permanency spell. I’ll discuss permanency more when we get onto the post about magic items.

Nondetection

Read the Pathfinder description

This is your best low-level spell to avoid divinations. It’s a 3rd level spell that lasts one hour per caster level. During that time any divination cast on you must succeed at a caster level check DC 11 + caster level of the caster of nondetection (or 15 + caster level, if nondetection is cast on you and by you). You have to go all the way to 8th level and discern location to find a spell that can automatically nondetection.

Mindblank

Read the Pathfinder description

An 8th level spell with a duration of 24 hours that guards against pretty much any form of divination and scrying. There’s no reason for high level wizards not to have this spell running on them all the time, and no reason why non-spellcasting NPCs with enough money or influence couldn’t have this spell cast upon them.

Undetectable Alignment

Read the Pathfinder description

So, no alignment in the game. However, as a logical progression from our discussion about the detect evil family of spells, undetectable alignment still has a role to play in the game. Creatures that have Taint could use this spell to mask its presence. So a vampire could use this spell to hide himself from the gaze of a paladin.

Conclusion

Well, this has been thorough. I have no desire to micro-manage any other part of the D&D game as much as I have divinations. Most other spells can go hang, as long as I can rein in the excesses of this particular branch of magic. Now, what do you all think?

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13 thoughts on “Divination

  1. I think you’re being far too nice with Contact Other Plane and the Far Realm. Asking questions of the entities in the Far Realm should almost always garner a correct answer, and absolutely always result in complete and irreversible insanity. Just thinking about the Far Realm can be damaging to the mind; you’re talking about a realm so alien to the very fundamental nature of existence that creatures from it actively warp and degenerate the fabric of reality itself around themselves (Gibbering Mouthers come to mind).

    Sending one’s mind to the Far Realm is pretty much equivilant to suicide, and should be treated as such.

    • Yes, I am far too nice, that’s always been a problem of mine.

      I just didn’t want to make the spell significantly less useful than it is now. There is a caviat in the spell description that says contacting other planes is “not without consequences”. So the GM does have written permission to liberally persecute any player who tries it.

      • I have no problem with chatting with the other planes, you might even get some useful information out of the denizens of some of them, i just think that any circumstance where any creature contacts the Far Realm in any significant way (and sending your mind right there to ask the Outer Gods a question definitely qualifies as significant) is pretty much suicide.

        The various different D&D settings are riddled with examples of beings; many of them substantially more than mortal, who attempted to study the Far Realm and i’m pretty sure that universally they all failed and went horribly mad.

        Even 4th edition is a bit leery of letting PC’s wander around the Far Realm; it -does- appear in the Manual of the Planes, but they do a pretty good job of explaining exactly why you should never want to go there, and to be perfectly honest there probably isn’t anything there you want to learn anyway. All the epic destinies involving the Far Realm end in the transformation of the PC into something horrible and prompt abduction back to the Far Realm, so it’s managed to remain mostly inviolate in 4th Edition, which is pretty goddamn impressive. Only the Lady of Pain from Sigil can say the same.

        One thing i will add is that it might be worth allowing the caster to pick the sort of creature he’s looking for on a given plane and adjusting the results as appropriate. Given the risks involved i don’t think it’s unreasonable that if the Caster wants to find out about a nearby Volcano, he goes to the Elemental Plane of Fire and asks around (or calls out) for a spirit that inhabited that Volcano in the past.

        You’ve already got this sort of mechanic for Commune, so i don’t really see any reason why you can’t do the same for Contact Other Plane, especially considering Commune mostly just runs the risk that the being you summon doesn’t know the answer, wheras Contact Other Plane runs the risk of a powerful Devil noticing your mind as it floats through his realm and deciding it would make a tasty snack.

      • You make some good points there. Maybe I could revisit Contact Other Plane and make some of the changes you suggest. Certainly, the caster should be able to choose the plane he is trying to reach. If he knows of a specific entity – probably through research – then he could attempt to approach that entity.

        I completely see where you’re coming from regarding the Far Realm. It plays a big (if unrevealed) part of the cosmology of Iourn, and I don’t want it to be something that is dismissed lightly by players.

        Yeah. Okay. Let’s change the way that the Far Realm works for Contact Other Plane. I’ll have a think and perhaps come up with some alternative text for the spell.

      • If the Far Realm has an important place in your cosmology, then that’s even more reason to keep it inviolate. The Far Realm is heavily Lovecraftian inspired and the key to Lovecraftian horror is helplessness; characters can fight the things that spawn from rifts to the Far Realm, but the longer and harder they fight them, the more they become like them. The instant you let players directly influence the Far Realm it loses all sense of danger and threat; it is a realm that by it’s very nature must remain inviolate in order to remain dangerous.

        Contact Other Plane, as-is, feels kind of ‘hacked together’ or rushed, especially in comparison to Commune.

        The alternative text probably doesn’t need to be too much; what you have already seems fine for just random hunting, i’d add a line that asking appropriate questions (such as looking for answers about a Salamander who the PC’s suspect may be trying to summon an army of Fire Elementals in the Elemental Plane of Fire) for the area you are looking increases the odds that you’ll get a correct answer and adding that while you -can- use the spell to go to the Far Realm and ask questions of the Great Old Ones, it is generally recommended that you do not.

      • Although, now that i think about it; considering the nature of the Far Realm as a plane that exists beyond and apart from the cosmos, an aberration that has no place in reality (and potentially a realm full of all the things that -could- have existed, but did not), it’s also perfectly reasonable to say that typical cross-planar spells just don’t work when dealing with the Far Realm; it’s too alien for general spells and requires specialised magic to interact with. Such magic would also typically be located in the possession of the previous user of said magic, who is now quite mad and has grown a few tentacles, amongst other things. :P

  2. there’s no point complaining about magic items Elias & Raza create such a gravity well of magical trinkets now, all new ones just flow towards them for company.

  3. I wondered how long it would be before the fabulous “divine insight” spell would be yanked away from us players.

    Kaylas starts sulking.

    • Divine Insight doesn’t exist as a spell anymore, but it’s not gone from the game. It’s now a special ability available to all divine spell casters. More on that later in the month.

  4. So with no clear distinction between evil and good, does that also means paladin can only smite ‘tainted’ evil creatures only?

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