Why is there no Scry spell for locations?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

In Ultimate Intrigue, page 161, it says "The most important thing to remember about scrying is that it must scry a creature. It is not able to scry a location. Erroneously allowing the spell to scry a location is a common mistake."

At first, I wondered how on earth people could misread something as simple as "You can observe a creature at any distance", or how a point in space could make a Will save, but then I realized that perhaps this was a result of GMs and players trying to fill a hole in the rules. Because I've looked, and there seems to be no spell in PFRPG that lets you clearly see and hear an arbitrarily distant location without having physically been there before. The symbol of scrying spell requires you to travel to a location and prep it for a future scrying, and clairaudience/clairvoyance has the range of dimension door but without the blind guessing aspect that makes dimension door as useful as it is (occasional Xd6 damage notwithstanding). The closest you can come is putting vicarious view on an object, turning it invisible, and using teleport object to send it to a particular location.

My main question is why there is no means yet released in PFRPG to reliably scry a location without an elaborate setup. I have additional thoughts, which you can comment on, but they are secondary to my main question.

There's always a danger when adding new utility spells, especially divinations, that you will upend the game with unintended consequences, especially when there is no counter or inherent drawback to a particular capability. For example, allowing wish or a 9th-level divination spell to replicate the effect of the Vizier card from a deck of many things would break the game.

But I've thought long and hard, and I can't think of any serious issues with creating a version of scrying that works for locations, if it's done right.

The spell screen seems almost tailor-made as a countermeasure: scrying the screened area gives a false vision with no save. Additionally, if an area is completely surrounded by a thin sheet of lead, scrying magic of all kinds simply fails to create a sensor at the specified location.

For those afraid of scry-and-fry, the lower-level cousins of screen, namely mirage arcana and hallucinatory terrain, can also foil teleport (and even greater teleport.)
For teleport, the key text is: "You must have some clear idea of the location and layout of the destination. The clearer your mental image, the more likely the teleportation works."
For greater teleport, the key text is: "If you attempt to teleport with insufficient information (or with misleading information), you disappear and simply reappear in your original location."

So if you scry a location and see a desert instead of a swamp, or if you see buildings or landmarks that aren't really there, your teleportation magic won't work. For standard teleport, they wind up in a similar area to the illusion they saw, and thus might not realize anything is wrong for quite some time. And for greater teleport, (where false information causes the spell to simply fail rather than send you on a wild goose chase), the failure could be indistinguishable from trying to reach a forbidden or dimensionally locked location. True, they do know that something supernatural is trying to impede them, but they can still come to a false conclusion just as with teleport.

I've thought about it, and this seems like a decent compromise:

Scry Location
School divination (scrying)
Level bard 5, cleric/oracle 7, druid 7, shaman 6, sorcerer/wizard 6, witch 6
Casting Time 1 hour
Components V, S, M/DF (a pool of water), F (silver mirror worth 1,000 gp)
Range unlimited
Effect magical sensor
Duration 1 min./level
Saving Throw None; Spell Resistance No

You can see and hear what occurs at a location which can be at any distance. You must make a successful caster level check to scry a specific location. The difficulty of this check depends on how familiar you are with that location and what sort of physical connection (if any) you have to that place. Furthermore, the difficulty to scry the desired locale increases if the location is extremely far removed, indoors or underground, or on another plane. The DC of this check is 20 + any modifiers related to your knowledge of the area, your connection to it, and the location’s distance, as set out in the following table:

Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DC
None* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . +10
Secondhand (you have heard . . . . +5
of the location)
Firsthand (you have been . . . . . . . +0
to the location)
Familiar (you have been to . . . . . . –5
the location often)
*You must have some sort of
connection to a location you have
no knowledge of

Connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DC
Likeness or picture . . . . . . . . . . . –2
An object that has been in . . . . . –4
the area for a week or more
within the last year
A plant, mineral, or other . . . . . –10
object taken from the area
within the last year

Location . . . . . . . . . . . . . . DC
Per 1,000 miles away . . . . . +2
Indoors or underground . . . +2
On another plane . . . . . . . . +10

If you fail this check, the scrying attempt simply fails, and you can't attempt to scry on any place within 1 mile of that location for 24 hours. If the caster level check succeeds, you create an invisible magical sensor at any point you desire within the area. Through this sensor you can both see (as clairvoyance) and hear (as clairaudience) as if you were actually at that place, allowing you to make Perception checks as normal. You can rotate the sensor as you wish, seeing in any direction you desire. Once the spell is cast, however, you cannot change the position of the sensor.
The following spells have a 5% chance per caster level of operating through the sensor: detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law, detect magic, and message.

It seems to me that that might be too easy, and that a knowledge check of the location should be undertaken to determine what you know about the location beforehand(possible to have an ally undertake or gather information to prevent adverse results by spending time):

1-4... you were lied to or misinterpreted what you know of the location(knowledge DC +10)

5-9... you heard conflicting unsubstantiated rumors of the location (knowledge DC+5)

10-17... your knowledge is rather basic but solid (DC -0)

18+.... you learned a few things to narrow your search(DC -5)

Muses starting a debate on that horrible "Scry and fry doesn't work" nonsense from Ultimate Intrigue.

Under the pretense of that paragraph from UI being a flat out wrong interpretation of the rules. It's because being able to Scry locations in conjunction with long range teleportation removes a fair number of narratives / stories.

Also in the context of ye-old dungeon crawl, which is what the game was built for the Ability to Scry the last room in the dungeon makes the whole dungeon crawl rather difficult.

Then there the whole travel anywhere thing that some people take issue with.

Basically "because teleport" is the reason. If teleport didn't exist or it worked like they claimed it did there would be a much, much higher chance there would be a "Scry on area" spell.

If you could scry on an area there wouldn't be a useful saving throw to resist it.

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber


If you want a longer range, longer duration, and/or the ability to both see and hear, research a higher-level version. Using Words of Power as the rule of thumb for combining effects, a version that allows both sight and hearing of a location at Long range (400 ft + 40 ft per level) with a 1 min/level (D) duration would be a 5th-level spell. Scale up from there.

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