Paizo Top Nav Branding
  • Hello, Guest! |
  • Sign In |
  • My Account |
  • Shopping Cart |
  • Help/FAQ
About Paizo Messageboards News Paizo Blog Help/FAQ

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game


Pathfinder Society

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Tackling Scry.

Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

This isn't a "how do we avoid scry" thread but rather a.. "how do you, in your campaign handle scry?"

either from the DM or the Player perspective.

Scry is a 4th level spell, meaning Wizards get access to it at 7th level.
At 7th level the spell has a 1 hour casting time for a net gain of 7 minutes worth of scrying per attempt.

Greater Scrying is 7th level meaning a wizard is 13th level. Most notably, the casting time is reduced to 1 standard action and the duration is increased to 1 hour a level.
Obviously, Greater Scrying is the .. greater threat- for both PC's and DM's alike.

But lets tackle Scry first.

How dangerous is Scry to the villain?
You have to have at least heard of the person you are scrying. So no "I want to scry the guy who stole my sword" if you don't know who he is. Fair enough. Otherwise though, if you've heard about the person even from a tavern story you can try to scry them. A fresh 7th level wizard might have 3 memorized depending on Int level (maybe just 2). Each casting takes him an hour and yields 7 minutes worth of peeping.
As a DM: How much do you let them find out?
As a player: How much do you expect to find out?

You can view a random 14 minutes at least an hour apart and you have to decide an hour before hand when your 7 minute block will start. Handy if you, for example, know when the BBEG Big Pow Wow conference will begin.. but otherwise you are as likely to catch him napping or hanging out with the harem as you are to find him doing anything else.

For the DM:
The same thing really applies here. 7 minutes of observation is enough to catch them in probably 1 whole combat plus a search of the room then the spell is gone again. An hour later they could be anywhere from killing something else to riding horses across the countryside. For that matter- depending on the day and whats going on *all* the BBEG may see is them crossing the country on horse back. (or by ship or whatever).
Depending on distances and possible time zone issues he could even just catch them sleeping. Usually the BBEG catching the PC's sleeping is bad but.. its good for scry. Let him watch them snooze. All he learns is who snores and who doesn't. :P

With such an exaggerated cast time and such a short window to actually see anything how you determine if they see useful or not useful? Obviously the PC's want some bang for their proverbial buck.. but at the same time- 7 minutes at a time isn't really a great chance to find something useful. At 20th level its 20 minutes. that's 1/3 of one hour out of the guys day. You still aren't even getting as much time out of it as it takes you to cast the spell.

Now using it to scry a prisoner or something can be far more effective. You can learn alot from 7 minutes watching a prisoner. Are they alive, what kind of condition are they in, are they in a moving vehicle or are they in a keep/castle/cave etc. There is certainly that aspect to it.
And I'm rather intentionally avoiding the scry/fry issue just because thats more "How do we block scry" than "how do we adjudicate scry to not just make it useless for information gathering".

Greater Scry is, of course, a whole other ball of yarn. Yielding 1 hour per level of scrying with 1 round casting time means that by the time you get the spell you can literally scry an individual all day long. You can literally keep Scry going for longer than 24 hours with two castings, with just a 6 second lag between the two.
The issue here is just- do the PC's have the time in the adventure to dedicate a day or two to scrying the BBEG to find out what they want to know.. and do the PC's have the relevant protections to keep him from just sitting in his throne room and scrying them all day long.

It is worth noting that Clerics have 1 level lag behind wizard/sorc/druid in acquing Scry but don't have that same lag for Greater Scry.

So if you are 14th level with a cleric and wizard in the party they can trade off scrying and keep absolutely full coverage while ven giving the wizard time off for a nap to re-memorize his spells.

(never realized greater scry waas that much of a threat.. gonna hafta take care of that in a level or two :p)

So.. thoughts? Any of you use Scry as a Dm or PC and find it useful? or not useful? Why? and what means could you use to make it more useful? (outside of house rules anyway.. largely looking to keep things as is, while being creative with the toys we already have).


Usually we use just a CMB roll vs CMD to determine tackling.

Grand Lodge

As DM I typically run Campaigns where the ultimate BBEG is "around" many levels before the PCs actually get to "him." And when the PCs are "low" level of course the BBEG has no idea who they are. Depending on the Campaign the PCs are maybe somewhere around APL 6th-9th when the the Ultimate BBEG learns of them for the first time. Then maybe another bit of time before "he" decides to use some of "his" resources to get some intel on them. By that time, plenty of "lieutenants" or minor BBEGs or other NPCs can provide enough info on the PCs so that when the ultimate BBEG is ready to scry or use "his" crystal ball or mirror or whatever to get some info, "he" knows enough to look at the PCs directly. And "he'll" likely have the 7th level spell. But probably will send a "minor" force of NPCs to eliminate the PCs. (And of course they fail, making the Ultimate BBEG even more interested in the PCs.)

Each Campaign is different, of course, but I admit that one of my weaknesses as DM is that my ultimate BBEGs are pretty much all really intelligent, Lawful, detail oriented planners and have plenty of resources.

And my design style makes me outline the BBEG's resources and goals before we begin. I don't design "what he'll do" -- just what he has available and what he wants to do.

So even when the PCs are still 2nd & 3rd level, I know the Marilith Wizard's whole set of resources including her 2 Glabrezu Inquisitors (captains), her Nalfeshnee Barbarian (bodyguard), special strike force (high level NPC party) and about how integrated her little army is into the city's NPCs. Often down to how many Rutterkins and Dretches she has in the sewers.

Depends on campaign, characters, etc. Some percentage of the time, you want the spells to be able to turn up useful information. The best way to handle this, IMO, is just to come up with some ideas of things the PCs could potentially learn if one thinks they're likely to try using the spell. High level play gets complicated like that.

However, alternately a fair percentage of the time the BBEG will be sufficiently clever and skilled at maintaining a low profile that the PCs will not have enough to scry upon. They may know that SOMEone or SOMEthing is directing the undead/giants/demons/assassins, but not know who. This has the benefit of conveniently allowing one to reconcile the existence of a high powered BBEG with nations, kings, wizards guilds, and armies that might otherwise be tempted to make concerted efforts to remove such threats.

Or a BBEG may simply have defenses. Generally speaking, the organization of a BBEG will have more resources than are available to the PCs. Wards against scrying tend to be lower level and longer lasting than the spells themselves. But another solution I use is to have a plan of counteroffense for an intelligent BBEG if the PCs make too much of a ruckus (and a scrying attempt that is saved against would certainly qualify) in investigating or invading their lair - a party of assassins or a bound demon, for instance.

Because its A) not a terribly common spell and B) has such a big time investment, as a DM I'd make sure to give at least 2 pieces of pertinent information with each scry. If they start using it all the time, then I'll have them see the target walking into the bathroom, sleeping, or having a ham sandwich.

As a player, I would hope that my DM would do the same, especially if I make a Diviner or get Spell Focus: Divination. If I'm going to make scrying a part big part of my character, I'd want to see it be effective.

I appreciate the advice on how a DM can counter Scrying.. but really I'm more looking for:

How do you as Dm determine what 7 minutes the PC's happen to witness?
IF they have really super reliable intel on the foe (keeping in mind the 1 hour casting time) they could conceivably catch 7 perfect minutes.. but without super-reliable intel they are far more likely to catch him at the privy or picking his nose or eating breackfast/lunch/supper or just out on the rounds rather than really garnering great intel.
Of course, that is an inherent limitation of the spell and- I think- a purposeful one.

but just as everytime they cast the spell they shouldn't listen in on Superman discussing Kryptonite, they should at least occasionally find out something useful or the spell just becomes inherently useless.
If every BBEG is scry proof then the spell is a waste in the spellbook.. Might as well just take the red pen and erase it.

Scry and Greater Scry have to be useful sometimes for their intended uses or you are just house-ruling them out of the game. Which I'm not entirely against.. I just think DM's should be up front about it.
"No ingelligent foe after level X will be able to be scryied upon" is a legitimate thought. But its also one the PC's should be told since you are also saying "Don't bother wasting your time/resources with that spell since i decided before you created your character that its never going to work on anything worth casting it on".
Another way of saying it is: if you have predetermined that a spell will never ever work against your BBEG's because they are always going to have the intelligence and resources to thwart/trick/misdirect against Scry and other divinations then you've really just eliminated a school of magic without letting the PC's know., in the same way that you tell the Ranger that goblinoids won't be a big part of your campaign or that you tell the guy rolling the pyromancer that the elemental plane of fire will be predominantly featured through their adventures.

Which rolls back into.. Assuming your world has scry and that it works and that all foes aren't just immune to it by fiat- how do you handle what kind of information the PC's acquire from it?
Clearly if they have their ducks in a row and have a 'sweet spot' of intel they can use to get the perfect 7-10 minutes in worth of scrying, they should get alot of use out of it.. but what if they just randomly scry the guy.
Some sort of reward is nice.. but too much is too much.
so how do you handle it?



Predetermine what sorts of information would be useful but not destroy the plot? Examples: The chance of uncovering the villain's plans might be slim (to nonexistent) unless you decide it advances the story, but scrying might give information on: What sort of personal defenses and guards the villain keeps around, some of the villain's major minions, location of a secret compartment in their den, a couple traps around the villain's lair...

If knowing the villain's plans DOES advance the story, you can drop hints like...sacrifices, altars being consecrated to certain deities, books about history or particular civilizations if the villain is trying to find some macguffin from the Long Lost Civilization, speaking to (monstrous) mercenary leaders etc...

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just because the BBEGs of the world (beyond a certain level) are effectively immune to scrying doesn't mean their mercenaries, minions, and servitors are too. Scry them and learn information about their master through them. Perhaps you might end up witnessing that big intel gold mine of a meeting after all.

What would make this a lot easier would be a non-creature-dependent scrying spell; farsight, if you will. The creature-only limitation on Scrying means I don't pick it up. I'll wait for Greater Scrying, because at least with IT, you can actually get a meaningful chunk of time spent observing your target.

It depends largely on my players. For an average group I might do a percentile roll to find out just how lucky they are on they're time slot. For a bad group, they're likely not going to receive much, for a good group or new group (they get benefit of the doubt) they'll probably learn something overtly important.

Regardless there will be something important, it just may not be obviously relevant. Like the BBEG sleeping for seven minutes. Maybe his sleeping companion is someone the PCs will run into, or the room is an inn that they have stayed at/know, or maybe a glance out the window shows a city scene someone will recognize.

I'd hate to have a player go through the effort and get absolutely nothing, but conversely I'm not the type to put out "I win" buttons.

I think scry, as opposed to greater scry, only exists for the purpose of making crystal balls.

Paizo / Messageboards / Paizo / Pathfinder® / Pathfinder RPG / General Discussion / Tackling Scry. All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.

©2002–2016 Paizo Inc.®. Need help? Email or call 425-250-0800 during our business hours: Monday–Friday, 10 AM–5 PM Pacific Time. View our privacy policy. Paizo Inc., Paizo, the Paizo golem logo, Pathfinder, the Pathfinder logo, Pathfinder Society, GameMastery, and Planet Stories are registered trademarks of Paizo Inc., and Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Player Companion, Pathfinder Modules, Pathfinder Tales, Pathfinder Battles, Pathfinder Online, PaizoCon, RPG Superstar, The Golem's Got It, Titanic Games, the Titanic logo, and the Planet Stories planet logo are trademarks of Paizo Inc. Dungeons & Dragons, Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron are registered trademarks of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc., and have been used by Paizo Inc. under license. Most product names are trademarks owned or used under license by the companies that publish those products; use of such names without mention of trademark status should not be construed as a challenge to such status.