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Sowelu
2010-03-18, 02:30 AM
I'm used to playing low-magic, low-level games, and I'm GM'ing one where the players have access to higher-level casters than I'm used to.

In this case, I want the party to be able to locate a certain big bad--or at least, I want to know if they'll be able to. The party is level 3, but they've got some cash and a friendly NPC wizard, so they'll be hiring a spell or two next session.

The Scrying (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Scrying) spell (Sor/Wiz 4) seems like the blatantly obvious solution, but by every reading of the rules that I can come up with, it only lets you see and hear the target--not locate him. What's up with that? I don't get it.

Detect Scrying (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/SRD:Detect_Scrying) (Sor/Wiz 4) on the other hand, is very specific that it gives the scrier's direction and distance from you. It's the same level as Scrying. How come the target gets to know where the scrier is, but the scrier doesn't get to know where the target is?

Greater Scrying (Sor/Wiz 7) is nearly identical to Scrying for the most part.

Locate Creature (Sor/Wiz 4) only works at 400 feet + 40 feet/level, which is way too short-range.

Discern Location (Sor/Wiz 8) is WAY, WAY OVERKILL. It cuts right through almost all forms of protection. It's also out of the league of anyone on their continent, and certainly out of their budget.

Divination (Clr 4) would be a good choice if they were going to storm the hypothetical castle within the next week, but it's pretty far away for that, and besides, the party only has a vague idea of where to go--they want specifics.

Contact Other Plane (Sor/Wiz 5) only gives yes/no answers, so that won't help.

My players would be mostly happy with a spell that just gives a location, without all that seeing/hearing stuff, but I can accept that scrying is balanced as a level 4 spell, and locating someone anywhere would probably be unbalanced at level 3, so it's all cool.

Anyway. Is there a spell I've somehow failed to notice? I was pretty sure I scoured the book and the online SRD, but I might have missed something. Or, more simply, am I wrong about the Scrying spell? If it just said it gave the location, it would be totally understandable...but since it doesn't contain that text, I'm having a hard time, here. Surely I could just handwave it and say that it has that effect as well, but what's the explanation? It says it creates a magical sensor; does that sensor automatically let the caster know where it is? What would you do in your campaigns?

Pluto
2010-03-18, 02:44 AM
Contact Other Plane (Sor/Wiz 5) only gives yes/no answers, so that won't help.
Why is that, exactly?

Sowelu
2010-03-18, 02:49 AM
Why is that, exactly?

"Where is the big bad's secret hideout?"

"Yes."

They could always divide the map into increasingly-small binary regions, and then play 20 questions, but that would take a lot of time and annoy the cleric I think.

TheMadLinguist
2010-03-18, 04:44 AM
It doesn't only give yes or no answers.

It gives one word answers.

"What city is the bad guy's lair in?"

"Paris."

ka_bna
2010-03-18, 05:06 AM
What if he lives in New York?
"What city is the bad guy's lair in?"
"New"

Just be creative with your questions, like Is he in Europe, Is he in the western half of Europe, and so on, like Sowelu said. It is much easier to use once you've got his location narrowed down to 10 possible locations, so they may want to do some preliminary work before using COP.

Sowelu
2010-03-18, 04:48 PM
Okay, granted, if it's one word answers then they can still get some pretty decent info. So that works.

However, I'm still real curious about the Scrying spell itself. Does it or doesn't it give you an actual location? If it doesn't, then why does Detect Scrying give you one, when it's the same level?

I'm pretty sure I'll houserule that "Scrying gives you the location, too", but it'd be nice to have a better explanation for why it works. Does the caster just plain know where the magical sensor is? That seems reasonable to me--but again, it's not in the text anywhere that I can see.

KillianHawkeye
2010-03-18, 04:50 PM
I think that scrying doesn't tell you the target's location because you don't need that information to teleport there. Of course, at level 3 that probably isn't the reason you're using it, so I guess you're just SOL.

jiriku
2010-03-18, 04:57 PM
Magic does a lot. But it doesn't do that.

Don't forget the other resources the players have at their disposal.

Gather Information, Knowledge (local), and bardic knowledge could all be used to learn a villain's whereabouts.
If they can capture one of the villain's associates, Bluff, Intimidate and Diplomacy can be used to get information from him, along with spells like detect thoughts or brain spider.
Clues can be left in one of the villain's hideouts, to be discovered using Search, Decipher Script, or Speak Language, or magic that duplicates the same.
Plus, you have DM fiat up your sleeve: a turncoat, escaped prisoner, information broker, or other NPC can approach the players and offer the information they need, either freely or for a price.
If all else fails, then information can be obvious. The villain can arrogantly announce his presence and dare the players to come after him. As Admiral Ackbar would say, "It's a trap!", but they have to pursue even knowing that the villain plans to trap them.


If finding the villain's lair is central to your planned adventure, you should probably do all of these things: cryptic messages are left poorly hidden, henchmen are available to be captured, specific knowledge can be gained if players employ their skills, and if the players are stumped, an NPC comes forward. If they still don't take the bait, then the villain becomes impatient and initiates conflict.

Riffington
2010-03-18, 05:17 PM
I think that scrying doesn't tell you the target's location because you don't need that information to teleport there. Of course, at level 3 that probably isn't the reason you're using it, so I guess you're just SOL.

You probably do want to know the location before teleporting there, to be honest. It's a good safety rule.

Detect Scrying really should give more knowledge than Scrying does. It's only good against Scriers, and it doesn't even stop the scrying. As such, Scrying is much more versatile, so the defense should be either lower level or should give more information.

Sowelu
2010-03-18, 05:23 PM
Alright, perfect--That's the kind of answer I was after, many thanks KillianHawkeye, jiriku, and Riffington! That explains the balance a lot better (and I previously hadn't noticed the scrying-specific details in Teleport).

A few henchmen are already on their way, in fact... The Big Bad doesn't really know the players are after him at the moment, but he's going to make that int check to notice the sensor, at which point it's time for some visits on his behalf to the local wizards.

Kol Korran
2010-03-18, 05:24 PM
actually, a correctly phrased divination can help you find the villain's whereabouts: "If we seek to teleport to the villain's location within the next week, which location will provide the best results?" i know some DMs rule that the spell only gives advice in the same way as augury and the like, but the spell can actually be used for wider uses than that.

this makes it a powerfull spell, if it were not for two facts:
- the spell fail chance. (one of the real reasons to take divine oracle PRC)
- more importently- the cryptic answer. it can render the answer ambiguous, or at times even misleading if interperted wrongly.

i had lots of fun with the spell, as DM and as player.
hope this helps,
Kol.

KillianHawkeye
2010-03-18, 08:00 PM
You probably do want to know the location before teleporting there, to be honest. It's a good safety rule.

True, but it isn't necessary, and I don't think the designers were really thinking about using it in another manner.

unre9istered
2010-03-18, 08:43 PM
Scrying might still work if the big bad's outside and they can spot some geographical clues (mountains, lakes, forests, etc.).

Sowelu
2010-03-18, 09:00 PM
Scrying might still work if the big bad's outside and they can spot some geographical clues (mountains, lakes, forests, etc.).

Not quite. From the SRD: "If the [target's] save fails, you can see and hear the subject and the subjectís immediate surroundings (approximately 10 feet in all directions of the subject)." That's barely enough to tell anything.