Scrying – DM’s Pocket Guide
Welcome to DM’s Pocket Guide, where we discuss the rules, spells, and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.
Rachel: Okay, so today we are going to talk about Scrying, which is on page 273 of the Player’s Handbook.
Tricia: Ahhh scrying. The spell I didn’t know I should have known much more about when I started my Curse of Strahd campaign.
R: Yeah, that’s right. If you want to spy on other people, scrying is the spell that you want to use.
T: Yeah, and I do.
R: Frequently. So this is a fifth level divination spell. So your player characters aren’t gonna get to use this for a little while, but your bad guys, this is one they can probably start out a campaign with.
R: Divination magic – just as a reminder for the Schools of Magic – reveal information.
T: Oh yeah.
R: Which totally makes sense in this context about scrying. The casting time is 10 minutes. You do have to have a bit of time to be able to cast this one, and you cast it on yourself. It has verbal, somatic, and material components. You’ve got to be able to speak. You’ve got to be able to move and you need to have stuff.
R: The stuff you need is a focus worth at least a thousand gold pieces, such as a crystal ball, silver mirror, or a fount filled with holy water or (as my character has) a bejeweled skull with a crown on it.
T: Yes, whatever works. But that is another reason why probably a villain starting a campaign will be able to do this early but as players you’ve got to save up a bunch of treasure. And luckily it’s not like the spell burns through your bejeweled skull with a crown. Once you have it, it will continue to work as a scrying device.
R: Yeah, you just have to have it with you and keep it and don’t let it be stolen.
T: Ooh, I’m taking notes.
R: Hey! Don’t do that! And then it’s a concentration spell up to 10 minutes. So if something happens that breaks concentration, that spell’s going to cut off early.
T: Somebody knocks on the door while you’re trying to scry. Oh Gerald.
R: It’s got to cause damage.
T: Oh right. This is why I need to go back and listen to our Concentration episode.
R: Yes. And then the words of the spell read as: You see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you.
R: The target must make a wisdom saving throw, which is modified by how well you know the target and the sort of physical connection you have to it.
T: I like that. So scrying is easier or harder based on how well you know the thing or person you are scrying on.
R: That’s right. So if you’ve only heard of them like secondhand, when they are making that savings throw, they’re gonna add an extra five to whatever it is that they roll. And if you’ve met them before, it will just be flat with no modifier for personal knowledge. And if you are familiar with them you get a little bonus. It’s a minus five to the saving throw so it’s easier for that spell to succeed if you know the target.
Roar Cat: *small mew*
R: Similarly, with the connection – that’s the physical object that you have – if it’s a picture, it’s going to get you minus two to the saving throws, so that’s good. A possession or garment is better. That’s going to get you a minus four. A body part (lock of hair, bit of nail) is minus ten to that saving throw.
T: Yeah, so like hypothetically if Strahd von Zarovich had a lock of Ireena’s hair and he knew her very well…what would that do?
R: If he was trying to scry on her, she would be rolling with a minus fifteen wisdom saving throw.
T: No wonder Strahd, hypothetically, always knows what you’re up to.
R: Damn it! Okay. Yeah. So on a failed save, assuming that she fails which she probably will with all of that negativity going against her, the spell creates an invisible sensor within 10 feet of the target. You can see and hear through the sensor as if you were there in the room. The sensor moves with the target, remaining within 10 feet of it for the duration.
T: That’s cool.
R: Yeah, and if you are a creature that can see invisible objects, you see the sensor as a luminous thing about the size of your fist.
T: So if you have true sight, you will be able to see there’s a bloop. This thing pops into existence.
R: Yeah, true sight is a trait for some monsters and some creatures. So, maybe your bad guy keeps somebody around with true sight…or I think it’s also a spell.
T: That’s great.
R: Yeah, that’s one way to use it. But if you’re successful on that save, the target isn’t affected and you can’t use this spell again in 24 hours.
T: Ah, so you are trying to make – trying to get that good Wi-Fi connection and you can’t. And you’re like, “I give up for the next 24 hours.”
R: Yeah pretty much. And additionally, if a target knows that you’re casting the spell, it could fail the saving throw voluntarily if it wants to be observed.
T: So, there’s a lot of different things you could do with that. Like, you could cast that on your teammate. And be like, “I go in there and I’ll cast Scry on you!” and they’ll voluntarily fail, so it automatically succeeds and then you can kind of see what they’re doing on their reconnaissance mission.
R: Yeah, exactly. It’ll follow them for 10 minutes, so you can see everything they’re doing. You’ll know if they get into trouble.
T: Also, maybe not to give you ideas, but now that your group knows that Strahd is scrying on you, you could choose to voluntarily fail, just kind of constantly and set up like, little tricksy scenes.
R: That’s true. And we would know because you would be asking us to make a wisdom saving throw.
R: Which brings us to the possible difficult points of using this spell, because any time you ask your players to make a mystery wisdom saving throw, they’re gonna know something is up, and that’s gonna change their behavior. Even if they fail the the save.
R: How do you get around that?
T: I think you’ve got to either just make them roll random saving throws all the time, some of which are just nonsense.
R: Man, this is explains so much about why your players are so paranoid in your campaigns.
T: Never mind that, they were all real. But you have to do that, or I guess it’s like a reward. They would be trying to figure out why they are making wisdom saving throws. And like, it took you guys a long time to figure out that Strahd had the ability to scry on you. And I guess it’s a reward to know it’s happening.
R: Would you consider having a player’s stats in front of you and making that roll for them?
T: Mmm, maybe.
R: Yeah. I mean it does put another piece of something to manage on the DMs plate. You’re now, you know, rolling something for your players as well. It depends on how secret I guess you want to keep it if you want to inspire that feeling of creepiness. Yeah I make them make that mystery roll.
R: But otherwise, yeah up to you of the feeling you want to generate in your campaign.
T: Yeah. If you use scrying in a particular way let us know. I would be very curious.
R: Yeah for sure. OK so there’s a little bit more to cover on this one. So all of this is relevant if you’re casting it on a creature, which usually you are, but you can opt to cast it in a place. You can choose a location that you’ve seen before as the target of this spell. When you do, the sensor appears at that location and doesn’t move.
T: So if I’m like, oh, I want to know what Rachel’s up to when she’s working from home, totally not creepily, instead of trying to cast it on you, I could just cast it on our living room.
R: Yeah, somewhere in our apartment. Well this didn’t get creepy at all. Excellent. Well, that is all of Scrying on page 273 of the Player’s Handbook.
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