STAR TREK 2d20 02
  1. #1

    Detect Threat Homebrew Spell (Help!)

    Hello all, so I've been thinking about a homebrew spell for my games, because I feel like I want to give the players a tool to really help them avoid unwinnable situations. This is the entire point of the spell.

    The reason I really want this is because I want the world to be realistic, in the sense that it will be filled with monsters and it doesn't care what level the party is. The world is the way it is and the party has to navigate that. But honestly, the beginner's Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure apparently has a ton of TPK situations if the DM doesn't pull punches, so it would be useful there too.

    I've been discussing it with one of my players already but there's a lot to consider and it's getting quite complicated so now I'm here.

    Right, so the one part I know for sure is it'll be a Divination Cantrip, which can be upcast for greater effects.

    As a cantrip, it simply identifies a monster/group of monsters you can see, and tells you how big of a threat the situation is. This considers all factors, like how alert the monsters are, the terrain, fortifications, the party's strength, etc.

    Very limited as it can only be used on what you can see, but hey if you have 6 seconds you can quickly gauge if something is too much to handle.

    Upcasting it is where things get interesting and where all the questions are raised.

    It will gain a range, that works through all walls/obstacles/terrain.

    Now there's 3 additional possible effects to consider. Which ones to use and in what combination, and to what degree, are why this is so complicated.

    1. You could sense the direction of the threats.

    2. You could sense the (very rough!) distance of the threats. Like whether they're in the same dungeon as you or half a mile away.

    3. There could be a duration, requiring concentration of course.

    Higher levels of upcast could:

    *Increase the range
    *Increase the duration

    ---

    Alright, so that's the gist of it. Now to break down what I'm thinking about some of these options and the spell as a whole.

    The big question ultimately I suppose is how effective should the spell be? Obviously that is up to me but I'm seeking to make something balanced and thus am looking for outside opinions.

    The biggest thing I consider is that it uses a spell slot, and that means a whole heck of a lot. That's a spell slot that you can't use in the combat. This spell doesn't actually do anything to help get anything done, whether that's combat or utility. Don't get me wrong, obviously staying alive via avoiding danger is incredibly helpful, and that is the entire reason I'm making this spell. But when you use the spell you do effectively weaken yourself. This is why I think the spell should be quite good at what it does.

    But I still want to avoid making it just busted and way too good.

    So the first consideration is sensing the direction. This was part of my initial idea for the spell and pretty critical to its purpose. Knowing which direction the bad threat is lets you know which direction to run. However, if certain other parts of the spell behave differently, then maybe direction won't be needed. And this would avoid some other potential problems, if they can't sense direction.

    If they can sense the distance at all, then it should be extremely rough, so they don't just know exactly where all the threats are. That's the line I'm trying to avoid, where I think the spell gets just a little too strong. My thought is if they can't sense direction at all, and the range is super big, then they wouldn't know if a threat is 100 feet away or a mile away. It would actually make a huge range more of a hindrance than anything. And figuring out the exact ranges each level of the spell should be is quite complicated...

    Duration. So first it should be mentioned that even without any duration, if they can sense direction, then they could use the spell multiple times to triangulate threats. While this is a possibility, I don't think it's a big deal, because you're using MULTIPLE spell slots to pull it off, and as mentioned earlier, this just weakens you for the actual combat... So if they really want to, then fine. But, if the spell has any sort of duration, and they're able to sense direction, then that would let them pretty easily triangulate where the threats are. So I'm thinking of perhaps an entirely different version of the spell which has a duration, and a low-medium range (with extremely rough distance detection as mentioned), but can't actually sense direction, to avoid the triangulation problem entirely...

    Because if it doesn't have a duration, then the spell just gives you a single quick flash of nearby threats. Which makes me feel like it should have quite a generous range.

    So let me list some combinations I'm considering...

    1. Good duration, with short-medium range (120 feet+?) and no direction sensing. No distance sensing.

    2. No duration, with pretty good range and direction sensing. Rough distance sensing.

    That's kinda it right now I guess.

    So yeah! Help me sort this out, thanks!

  2. #2
    Zacchaeus's Avatar
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    Sounds very similar to the Paladin's Divine Sense feature. You could use that for inspiration.
    If there is something that you would like to see in Fantasy Grounds that isn't currently part of the software or if there is something you think would improve a ruleset then add your idea here http://fgapp.idea.informer.com/

  3. #3
    Well, the problem is that Divine Sense is a feature that you can use repeatedly, and so of course it's going to be less powerful. Something that uses spell slots needs to be a lot better.

  4. #4
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    MOD: moved to 5E forum for better visibility.

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  5. #5
    damned's Avatar
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    Remember the "fight" scene in the final Twilight movie that never happens?
    Maybe you could give them a 6 second premonition of some scenes that might happen...

    The ogre strides forward and crushes the paladins head in with a single blow, the barbarian leaps into the fray and delivers a brutal slash but it hardly slows the ogre down, three goblins rush from the bushes and grab the wizard from behind, sticking a sack over his head

    vs

    The ogre strides forward its giant club striking a ringing blow to the paladins head, the barbarian leaps into the fray and delivers a brutal slash causing the ogre to shift its attention from the paladin, the rogue and the wizard turn to face off against three goblins with wicked grins

    One suggests that the fight might end badly while the other suggests a more even contest... just a thought.

  6. #6
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    In my experience, I have found that an open conversation during session zero is usually all it takes. And then maybe one death or near death experience is all the reminder they need. A cantrip like this... it just makes me think of giving the players a perpetual crutch.

    I guess I would say, if PC death is possible (i.e. should be discussed at session 0), then it needs to be a real possibility.

    I don't know. Do your players want a tool like this? In short, if you don't have a problem to fix, then don't try to fix it.

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  7. #7
    I mean, it's still up to them if they even want to take the spell.

  8. #8
    That's an interesting idea, damned. An entirely different approach to the same idea. The thing is it's functioning about like an augury spell, depending on how far ahead it can see. And it doesn't help with knowing even roughly where that threat actually is.

    I've been thinking on this some more and I think the whole duration thing isn't what I really want. What I really want this spell to do, essentially, is let players know if there's a terrible threat anywhere in the dungeon.

    So I'm thinking I may just give it a very good range and it just be able to be upcast to level 1. No higher level upcasts. Level 1 range could be something like... 300 feet? Maybe I don't even need to specify a range. Maybe it just sees as far as is relevant. What if there's a dragon miles away that hasn't even seen them yet, but it's pretty much heading right for them and might see them? I really like that idea.

    What I really don't want to happen is they cast the spell and nothing happens. That would just be disappointing all around. Plus, not having a range would make it so much easier on me, cuz I won't have to do any thinking/measuring.

    Thoughts?

  9. #9
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Not having a range or too many specifics lets you tailor it to how you want it to act in any given situation. It also means you don't have to worry about getting the wording perfect.

    I return to thinking about the way I run games, and if there isn't a terrible threat, then I'm just narrating the dungeon anyway. But, obviously it is a concern to you, so I think the more generalize augury approach would work well. Or enhancing the Divine Sense or some other class feature as needed to do something similar.

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