Welcome to our full guide on the Scrying Spell. We’re going to give you a full description of the spell, explain who should use as well as when and where to use it, and provide some tips for DMs, so let’s get to it.
- Casting Time: 10 minutes
- Range: Self
- Duration: 10 minutes
- School: Divination
- Class: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: 5th level
- Damage/Effect: Detection
- Attack/Save: Wis Save
- Components: V, S, M (a focus worth at least 1,000 gp, such as a crystal ball, a silver mirror, or a font filled with holy water)
You can see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you.
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.
If a target knows you’re casting this spell, it can fail the saving throw voluntarily if it wants to be observed.
On a successful save, the target isn’t affected, and you can’t use this spell against it again for 24 hours.
On a failed save, 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.
The sensor moves with the target, remaining within 10 feet of it for the duration. A creature that can see invisible objects sees the sensor as a luminous orb about the size of your fist.
Instead of targeting a creature, you can choose a location you have seen before as the target of this spell. When you do, the sensor appears at that location and doesn’t move.
What Is Scrying in 5e?
Scrying is a detection spell that allows you to look through a focus and spy on someone or something. The typical image of someone peering through a crystal ball to watch over their enemies comes to mind, and that’s exactly what you’ll get to do with this spell.
This spell works in a rather interesting way, allowing you to scry over either people or places that you already know in some way.
While this is a divination spell, scrying in this context doesn’t mean looking into the future, it just means seeing a different place in the world.
The specifications for this spell are very light. If you have any knowledge of someone, you can scry them. In fact, the more you know them, the easier it is to scry on them.
The tables above give you a few ways to increase your chances of successfully scrying.
Specifically, the modifiers in the Scrying table affect your target’s saving throw, not the spell save DC.
This means that if you are familiar with a target and happen to have a lock of hair, they’ll have to subtract 15 from their wisdom saving throw!
With all of those ways to make it harder to save against your DC, it might seem impossible that someone could actually protect themselves from scrying eyes.
However, as with most mechanics in 5e, we only count the most effective instance. There are two tables though, so you’ll at least be gaining benefits from both tables.
Naturally, you’ll only have one level of recognition with your target, but hypothetically you could have multiple items to connect to them.
In a situation where you had, say, a picture of them and a garment of theirs, you would apply the highest modifier (in this case the -4 for the garment).
With a little bit of research and scavenging, you can have yourself a one-way ticket to viewing the life of another. But what’s the point of scrying?
Is Scrying a Good Spell in 5e?
Scrying is a spectacular spell for many reasons. Mainly, it is one of the safest ways to learn things about your enemies. When it comes to reconnaissance, this is the spell you want in your playbook.
Exploration is one of the three pillars of the game that is Dungeons and Dragons.
Unlike combat and social interaction, this pillar is really a huge umbrella term. Essentially, it covers everything that isn’t straight up talking to someone or bashing their head in with your warhammer.
A lot of the time, if we’re exploring, it’s so that we can learn new information. Whether it’s discovering a lost artifact or learning more about the BBEG, we like to do our research before we run in spells blazing (some of us at least).
This spell gives us a really convenient way to spy on the things we could want to learn about. It summons a virtually undetectable sensor that is going to let us see exactly what we need to see most of the time.
So yeah, it’s a great spell, but nothing is without flaws. A 5th-level spell slot is a pretty huge resource to be spending on 10 minutes of spying.
This spell doesn’t promise any information, which means that we could burn the spell slot and just get 10 minutes of our BBEG reading a book.
Unless your party is extremely interested in bibliography, this will probably feel like a wasted spell slot. That’s probably not going to happen, but it’s certainly a possibility if your DM is reluctant to disclose information about your target.
Scrying on a location is equally based on chance. You kind of have to ask yourself, “Why am I scrying on a location?”
Maybe you’re trying to spy on a person that frequents that location – in which case, see above.
Perhaps you’re trying to learn what’s happening somewhere.
If you’ve already been to a town and you’ve heard that there’s something plaguing them, you might want to pop over and get more details. Insert scrying. Now you get some information without having to undergo a trek.
Still, this is going off of the basis that you can garner any real information while you’re scrying. If you choose the tavern as your target, you may be disappointed to learn that people are still drinking their problems away.
Using Scrying in Creative Ways
To get the best results out of such a vague spell as this one, you’ve really got to be creative with how you apply it.
Planning and creativity are your greatest tools against bad luck. They also help encourage your DM to reward you for your hard work.
I’m sure there are DMs out there who know exactly what spells their players have and are always prepared with a scene for any number of possible scrying targets their bard might think up.
I’m also pretty sure those gods are far and few between.
Most of us are just winging it as much as you are, so when you hit us with a Scrying spell on that one goblin whose name we’ve already forgotten, we’re probably not going to come up with a whole lot.
There’s also the pleasant fact that some players can become over-reliant on certain spells.
Leomund’s Tiny Hut gets the brunt of this hatred, and DMs have hundreds of solutions for spell spammers with it in their arsenal.
Scrying can definitely come close though, and using it as a crutch makes DMs reluctant to show you anything other than 10 minutes of some demon sitting on the toilet with today’s issue of the Baator Times.
As a player, if you give your DM something to work with, they’ll genuinely reward you for it.
First off, this is a game that at its very core rewards creativity. Secondly, a game of D&D is just improv with rules. The more fleshed-out your request is, the better we can respond to it.
We can make scrying more interesting by saying exactly what we’re hoping for. Talk it out with your party, and figure out what you need to see.
The more you can deliberate, the more precise you’ll make your scrying.
A very simple example goes like this:
If you want to learn more about a moonlit ritual, maybe don’t cast the spell during the day. That might seem obvious, but that’s kind of the point.
When you can really fine-tune what you’re trying to learn about, you have such a better chance of setting appropriate conditions for your spell to work well.
In a more meta sense, this gives your DM time to think of what they can and can’t show you.
They probably know that they can’t show you the monster they’ve been waiting to use for five sessions, but they might not immediately remember how important some small details are to the plot.
This theory works in the game just as well. The spell has a casting time of 10 minutes for a good reason: some actual work should go into casting it.
Who Should Take Scrying?
This spell is very interesting. It has many uses and a singular use all at the same time.
This definitely isn’t one of those exploration spells that you can finagle to be useful in combat, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get your money’s worth out of it.
For this reason, it works best for casters that can prepare their spells instead of being stuck with this in their repertoire.
This pretty much excludes bards and warlocks from using Scrying. Both of these casters run on the “spells known” design rather than the “prepared spells” design.
This means that, as they level up, they learn new spells and are more or less locked in to the ones that they choose.
We’re left with wizards, clerics, druids, and the handful of paladin oaths that have access to this spell.
If you gain this spell from your subclass (circle of land (coast or swamp), oath of vengeance, oath of the watchers, light domain, knowledge domain), congratulations, you get this spell automagically.
From there, it’s less about whether or not you should take this spell and more about when you should prepare it.
The answer to that is shockingly simple. You should prepare this spell when you need to use it.
If your party can’t afford to break into the BBEG’s castle, can’t travel hundreds of miles to check on their friend, or is just having a lazy day, feel free to set this spell up and force your DM to tell you some stories.
DM’s Corner: How To Roleplay the Scrying Spell in 5e
When your players cast Scrying, it can be tough to come up with a reasonable 10 minutes of something going on elsewhere in your world.
This can be difficult, but treating this scenario like it’s just another scene your players walked in on can be insanely helpful.
This could be its own article and may be at some point. For now though, I want to stress the fact that all DMing is essentially improv with a loose script.
If your players decide to scry on someone or somewhere, chances are you know what the loose script is for their target.
From there it’s a relatively simple process of deciding how much to let them know. I’m a firm believer in the cost matching the reward.
A 5th-level spell slot is a lot for a 17th-level paladin, but it’s relatively cheap for a 20th-level wizard.
Assess how much effort it really costs for your player to cast this spell, and then reward them accordingly.
This might mean showing them a mere glimpse into their target’s life that creates more questions than answers. It could also mean that you provide the missing puzzle piece to whatever your party has been trying to solve.
Aside from that, there’s not much you can really do to prepare, other than pay attention if your players start asking about a spell they just learned called Scrying.
Now you know all that there is about being a peeping Tom in D&D 5e.
Hopefully you have better intentions than the stereotypical teenage boy in a sitcom, but whatever you decide to use this spell for, you’re sure to have a good time and learn some valuable information.
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.