Last Updated on January 22, 2023
- Casting Time: 1 action (ritual)
- Range: Self
- Duration: Instantaneous
- School: Divination
- Class: Cleric
- Level: 4th Level
- Damage/Effect: Foreknowledge
- Attack/Save: —
- Components: V, S, M (Incense and a sacrificial offering appropriate to your religion, together worth at least 25 gp, which the spell consumes)
Your magic and an offering put you in contact with a god or a god’s servants. You ask a single question concerning a specific goal, event, or activity to occur within 7 days.
The GM offers a truthful reply. The reply might be a short phrase, a cryptic rhyme, or an omen.
The spell doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as the casting of additional spells or the loss or gain of a companion.
If you cast the spell two or more times before finishing your next long rest, there is a cumulative 25% chance for each casting after the first that you get a random reading. The GM makes this roll in secret.
What Is the Divination Spell in 5e?
Not to be confused with the school of magic with the same name, the divination spell allows clerics to ask their god for information about the future. Specifically, they get to ask a single question about something that will occur within the next 7 days.
The magical school of divination is concerned with revealing hidden knowledge.
This spell holds true by giving clerics access to a godly level of information. However, there are rules in place so that you can’t just figure out the secrets of the universe.
First, you can only ask a single question. In typical cryptic riddle fashion, you’ll have to format this inquiry well so you don’t end up getting an answer to the wrong thing.
Second, your question can only be about a “specific goal, event, or activity to occur within 7 days.” You can’t ask questions of identity or location, so you won’t be able to use this spell to uncover the hideaway and name of the BBEG.
We can break this into a couple general types of questions.
“If” questions let you ask if “something” will cause “something else” to happen. Normally, this is going to be in reference to a decision your party is making. Example: “If we go to Pelage will we find the candlemaker?”
“Will” questions get straight to the point and ask whether or not something will occur. These questions are typically concerned with things that the characters’ decisions will have little effect on.
If these question categories sound familiar, it’s because they’re all things you could ask a magic 8 ball.
For most DMs, the word “specific” in this spell’s description means yes or no questions. Asking things like “What will we find in the Peltwood?” or “Who is the baron working for?” are pretty vague.
The third rule for this spell is regarding the DM’s role. The spell basically says that their answer can be as cryptic as they want, but it has to be true.
I love this inclusion in the spell’s rules. While it might seem like this makes divination a bad spell, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just because your DM can be shifty about how they answer your question doesn’t mean you aren’t learning things. Rather, it means you’re learning things without just getting handed their notes about the next section.
In game, this makes a lot of sense because the future isn’t written in stone and the gods only know so much.
The fourth and final rule regarding divination is that if you use it more than once in a single day (before finishing your next long rest), the chances of receiving a random answer are increased.
Your first question will always get a truthful answer, but successive questions could be anything.
The chances of a random response increase pretty quickly, so your third casting will have a 50/50 chance. Basically, once you’ve asked your first question, this spell becomes untrustworthy.
This is probably a good thing, because if you could just funnel all of your spell slots into divination, you’d know everything that was going to happen.
While that may be fun to some people, it would probably end up as a sort of Rick and Morty Death Crystal situation. Having limitations on spells that give you access to godly knowledge is a good thing, trust me.
How and When To Use Divination in 5e
Using divination is a simple process that really just requires you to think of a specific question that fits within the spells rules. Still, deciding on the best question to get the answers you want can be a tricky process.
For starters, I’d like to remind you that this isn’t an excuse to “peer behind the DM screen.”
While it can certainly feel like broader divination spells give you full rights to the DM’s session plans, you have to think of this from a character’s position to really understand what’s going on.
You can imagine your character rolling a magic 8 ball to get a glimpse of their future. The answer is a little bit cryptic, but there’s some form of simple yes or no answer at play.
The difference here is that your character is praying to a god for these answers.
Gods aren’t omnipotent or all powerful; rather, they have knowledge that far surpasses that of any mortal being.
When you ask them if an event is going to occur, they’re not literally peering into the future and giving you a play by play of events. Instead, they’re using their incomprehensible knowledge to divine events yet to occur.
In this case, divine means “to discover by means of guesswork or intuition,” although, godlike is a relevant definition of the word here too, which is the fun pun of this spell.
So, while you can certainly ask a question, your god won’t be able to answer everything.
Your god certainly won’t be able to answer whether or not your plan will be successful, but they might say something along the lines of, “follow your heart’s path and victory shall be yours.”
Asking about events that you can control the outcome of is a waste of a 4th-level spell slot.
When this spell talks about events that are yet to occur, we want to turn our attention to things that are separate from our decision making. We might ask when the goblin party will arrive or if the king will be assassinated.
It would be insane of me to try to list every possible scenario this spell fits into. The point I’m trying to get at is that you want to learn things that can help you plan, not things that provide you the plan.
DM’s Corner: How To Answer a Divination Spell
Giving the players a spell that allows them to ask what’s going on in the world can be very difficult for DMs. A huge part of our job is to create a world with secrets to discover and a world ripe for exploring.
When players cast divination, we need to find a way to provide answers that don’t give everything away.
Luckily, the spell’s description gives us some pointers on how to do this.
A short phrase, a cryptic rhyme, or an omen all come back to that one word: cryptic. In this situation, you can give as much or as little of an answer as you’re willing to provide.
I do want to stress that DMs shouldn’t use this bit of the spell’s text to not tell their characters anything useful. The one thing holding us to this is that our response has to be truthful.
From a meta perspective, we also have the ability to talk with our players and say whether or not a question is acceptable.
Setting ground rules once a player unlocks this spell is a very admirable thing to do that should avoid any issues or arguments over interpretation.
For me, this spell has the same rule as 20 questions or a magic 8 ball; the question must have a yes or no answer. This keeps my players from asking who the cult’s leader is or where the raider’s hideout is.
The exception to my rule is that I’ve also allowed players to ask when an event might occur. The caveat is that my answer is typically much more cryptic.
Asking when the castle will be raided gets a response that feels almost biblical. “The keep’s walls will fall when the blind worm stings your throat.”
This is almost a riddle as it refers to blind worm’s sting, another name for knotweed.
Since this plant can be used for herbal remedies to a sore throat or cough, I might have one of my players get offered a knotweed tonic and allow them to discover the plant’s other name.
This sort of a thing can be a bit difficult to come up with on the spot, but you don’t have to come up with anything complex. Saying an event will happen when a crow lands is cryptic and simple all at the same time.
The most important thing is that you remember your response and ensure that you employ it in the game to let them know their event is about to happen.
Roleplaying as a God
While throwing out some cryptic responses is a great start, you can take this spell to the next level if you actually put some thought into the alignment of the character’s god who is answering the question.
As far as the alignment chart goes, we’re not worried about the good and evil side of things when it comes to a response.
A god’s morality won’t have much impact on how they give answers to their followers, but it certainly can if you want to add that extra bit of spice.
Instead, we’re goning to look at the god’s attitude toward order. For the examples below, we’re looking at the question, “If we travel west, will we find the dragon?” where the answer is yes.
Chaotic gods want to sow more chaos, so if they can do that with their response, they will. They still have to tell the truth, but they’ll probably try to include something devious in there as well.
“Certain death awaits on this path.” (This answer could be saying a lot of things, but in this situation, it just means something will die if the characters go west.)
Lawful gods will give as straightforward of an answer as they deem necessary. They still might be a bit cryptic, but their answer will be pretty clear.
“The dragon rests with the sun.” (Alluding to a setting sun.)
Neutral gods ride in the middle of these, and their answer will probably depend a lot more on the situation and their followers’ goals. I also think they’re the most likely to use rhymes.
“A great beast lies with scales to match the amber skies.” (Again, a sunset metaphor slips in, this time a bit more cryptic and difficult to decipher.)
These are just examples though. The god your player’s character worships likely has a distinct personality that will give you a much better way to respond.
You should make sure you’re familiar with the god of a cleric or druid anyway, but do so especially if they pick up the divination spell.
Random Responses to Divination
If a character casts this spell more than once in a day, the odds of a random response go up by 25% each time after the first. This means that you’ll have to do some rolling and come up with some random responses.
You could roll percentile die for this, but it’s much easier to just roll a d4. Each time they cast this spell, the target DC for a clear answer will increase by 1.
So, if this is their third time casting divination (50% chance of a random response), you’ll have to roll above a 2 in order to give them a clear answer.
Otherwise, you get to employ a random answer! What better way to do that than to roll dice. Gee, if only there were some dice out there that had answers on it instead of numbers.
Oh wait! There is, and it’s called a magic 8 ball. That’s right, I haven’t been name dropping our favorite scrying orb for no reason.
You can use the table below (or an actual magic 8-ball if you have one) to come up with the basis of your response. I’ve switched up the answers in the table to feel a bit more godly, but that’s just for fun.
Divination is a really great spell, but like the game of D&D as a whole, it requires some cooperation and communication.
If either a player or DM abuses this spell, things can get out of hand fast. Make sure some ground rules have been set out, and I divine that you’ll have a blast using this spell at your table.
As always, happy adventuring.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.