I want to make a simple reference for non-combat spells that bad guys or allies of the characters might use. I can never remember anything about scrying, and it seems like it should be the number one tool in the classic villain's arsenal.
First I'm going to talk about the Arcana skill. Then I will list spells by group and detail them:
- Gathering Information
- Magical Communication
- Scrying Protection
The more that I played 4e, the more broad and abstract the Arcana skill got. By the end, I had it deeply ingrained in me that the Arcana skill could do almost anything that the adventure required.
This has been a problem for me in 5th edition. If you use Arcana in a 4e way, you are making a lot of 5e spells useless. It's almost like you are punishing your players for taking non-combat spells.
The more I think about it, the more I feel like I'm doing my players a disservice. The spells have limitations that the heroes could exploit and they will often present some weird wrinkle that makes fun, unexpected things happen.
Additionally, the more you use the spells, the more you can communicate the feeling that D&D has this whole complex magical interplay going on. I think that making non-combat spells useful in your campaign can add a lot of dimension and intrigue.
(PH page 177) "Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."
That's it! Just lore. No "sensing," no detection, no magical manipulation of any kind.
Utility Spells: Now let's look at some of the "utility" spells of D&D 5th edition. Keep in mind I probably missed some spells, particularly in the scrying defense section. In my descriptions, I just lay out the basic idea of each spell. You should refer to the Player's Handbook or the online rules for exact wording and details.
Using this, I think you can get a sense of how NPC spellcasters get things done in your campaign world.
(PH page 231) Detect Evil and Good: You know if certain creature types or objects are within 30 feet. This spell doesn't actually tell you the alignment of a creature.
(PH page 231) Detect Magic: You can detect the presence of magic within 30 feet and the school of magic it belongs to.
(PH page 231) Detect Poison and Disease: You can sense/identify poisons and diseases within 30 feet.
(PH page 252) Identify: Touch one object. If it is a magic item, you learn what it can do and how to use it. You can use this on a creature to learn what spells are affecting it.
(PH page 231) Detect Thoughts: You can detect thinking creatures within 30 feet and/or learn surface thoughts. Probing deeper means the target gets a WIS save. It knows you are probing.
(PH page 241) Find Traps: You can sense any trap within line of sight and 120 feet. You don't know the location of the trap, you just know that there's a trap nearby.
(PH page 215) Augury: You can find out information on how an action you are about to take within 30 minutes will go. Possible answers: Weal (good), Woe (bad), Weal and woe, or nothing.
(PH page 234) Divination: You ask a deity one question about something happening within a week. The god responds with a short phrase/cryptic rhyme/omen.
(PH page 224) Commune: You ask your deity (!) three questions that can be answered with a yes or no.
(PH page 224) Commune with Nature: You become one with nature and you can learn 3 facts about the land within 3 miles of you.
(PH page 227) Contact Other Plane: You can ask 5 questions and get one-word answers. You might take psychic damage.
(PH page 254) Legend Lore: You can learn the lore of a person/place/object. The target of the spell must be of "legendary importance."
(PH page 259) Message: You whisper a message to a target creature within 120 feet. That creature can hear it and reply.
(PH page 212) Animal Messenger: A little creature like a bat or a squirrel delivers a twenty-five word message to someone up to 50 miles away.
(PH page 252) Illusory Script: The message you write is unreadable except to those you designate. Lasts 10 days.
(Elemental Evil Player's Companion page 22) Skywrite: Up to ten words appear in the sky. The words remain for up to one hour.
(PH page 274) Sending: You send a message of 25 words or less to a creature you're familiar with. The creature can answer. This spell has no limit on distance. You can even communicate with those on another plane.
(PH page 237) Dream: You can enter the dreams of someone on the same plane and communicate with them in their dreams. You can even shape the dream.
(PH page 270) Rary's Telepathic Bond: You link with up to 8 creatures for one hour and can communicate telepathically. Must be on the same plane.
(PH page 281) Telepathy: You create a telepathic link with one creature you are familiar with on the same plane. You can communicate telepathically for 24 hours.
(PH page 217) Beast Sense: You can see and hear through a willing beast.
(PH page 222) Clairvoyance: You create an invisible sensor within a mile. You can either see or hear through it.
(PH page 214) Arcane Eye: You can summon an invisible eye that you can see through (not hear) and move around. Lasts an hour.
(PH page 273) Scrying: You can see and hear a creature on the same plane for up to 10 minutes. You observe them through an invisible sensor that moves with them. The target gets a saving throw
(PH page 270) Project Image: You create an illusory copy of yourself that appears within 500 miles. You can see, hear and talk through it.
(PH page 263) Nondetection: You hide a creature or object for 8 hours. It can't be seen through scrying sensors or targeted by divination magic.
(PH page 263) Nystul's Magic Aura: You place an illusion on a creature or object that lasts 24 hours. Divination spells reveal false information about it.
(PH 274) Sequester: The target is invisible, can't be targeted by divination spells, can't be seen by scrying sensors. The creature falls into suspended animation and doesn't age. This can last for hundreds of years - you set the conditions to awaken them.
A lot of spells let you travel up to 500 feet. I am focusing on long distance travel spells.
(PH page 256) Longstrider: The speed of one creature is increased by ten for one hour.
(PH page 240) Find Steed: You summon a spirit that becomes your permanent mount. You have a telepathic bond with it.
(PH page 243) Fly: One creature can fly for ten minutes.
(PH page 265) Phantom Steed: You summon a quasi-real horse-thing that has a speed of 100 feet. Lasts one hour.
(PH page 282) Teleportation Circle: You make a circle that links to a permanent teleportation circle on the same plane that you know the sigil sequence to. Creating a permanent teleportation circle takes one year.
(PH page 238) Etherealness: You can travel through the ethereal for up to 8 hours.
(PH page 266) Plane Shift: You and eight creatures hold hands and travel to another plane or a teleportation circle on another plane.
(PH page 281) Teleport: You and up to eight creatures teleport to a location on the plane you are on. If you aren't familiar with the destination, there's a chart to roll on. Bad things can happen.
(PH page 244) Gate: You can make a portal to another plane. Lasts up to a minute.
Spells in Your Campaign
For example, a druid might contact the heroes by having a squirrel deliver a message through an animal messenger spell. Heroes going before the King might find that one of the court wizards is using detect thoughts to probe their mind. Sooner or later the group will probably meet a mystic that can cast clairvoyance once per day.
I really like the idea of running a campaign where NPCs cast every spell in the Player's Handbook by the time it is over. I doubt I could do it, but trying might lead to fun things.
I also like the idea of the bad guy using a dream spell to confront a hero and give them one final warning.
Hopefully this will save some of you a bit of time and effort.