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All Rules in Spells of Intrigue

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Mid-Level Play (7–12)

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 158
The spells that come into prominence around 7th level can greatly affect campaigns, making it more complicated to run mysteries and interaction-heavy adventures. These spells are typically 4th level or higher.

Conjuration

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 158
Teleportation effects have a big impact on your game because they can foil situations such as being tracked or followed, and can bypass protections, such as locks and walls. These kinds of effects often only enter the game during mid-level play.

Dimension Door: Dimension door works by specifying a distance within long range, and then the character and any passengers suddenly appear at that spot. This is useful for bypassing obstacles, which means that any vault-maker who plans to keep out characters with access to teleportation magic needs to consider this and plan accordingly. Forbiddance is an excellent effect for hedging out teleportation effects such as dimension door, and tying a hallow or unhallow to dimensional anchor also works well for this. Remember that the caster of the spell can take no further actions after arriving at their destination unless she has the Dimensional Agility feat.

Teleport: Teleport is like dimension door, but adds considerably to the range and versatility. However, it is important to note that teleport has several special limitations built into the spell. For one thing, the caster needs to know both the layout of the destination as well as where it is physically located. If the caster has managed to use divinations to see the layout of a secret hideout, it still won’t do any good unless she knows where it is. Second, areas of strong physical and magical energy may make teleportation more hazardous or even impossible. Many GMs forget this important component, which actually gives the villain a good in-game reason to establish a secret volcano lair or build her fortress on a ley line. This advice applies equally well to greater teleport, although the results of a failed teleportation are less dire.

Divinations

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 159
A lot of the game-changing divinations become available in the mid-level range, particularly scrying.

Arcane Eye: Although similar to clairaudience/ clairvoyance, arcane eye is better in most ways and only 1 spell level higher. With it, the caster can use enhanced vision, and move the sensor around to spy throughout an area, potentially revealing much of a dungeon’s layout. It still has a long casting time, and it requires concentration to move it around and receive sensory information. Keep the eye’s movement speed in mind; if the caster wants to actually look around and see the walls and ceilings, it can only move 10 feet per round, so it could potentially take quite a while to travel very far. Remember that it can only squeeze through holes 1 inch in diameter or larger, so most doors will likely block it. Enemies can still notice the sensor with a successful DC 24 Perception check, and while most foes can’t really harm it (unless they have countermeasures such as dispel magic available), an enemy can prevent the eye from moving further by capturing it in a container, since it can’t pass through solid barriers.

Commune: This is a critical spell to note, particularly because some improved familiars can use it earlier than normal and without spending the required gold. Normally, casting commune consumes 500 gp worth of special materials. Remember that commune talks to either a deity or divine agents; there is no guarantee that the spell will contact a god. The spell text includes a reminder that powerful beings of the Outer Planes are not necessarily omniscient, so be sure to think about whether they would know the answer. As a rule of thumb, look at the deity’s portfolio and have the contacted agent be particularly knowledgeable in that area. This can also lead the PCs to find a cleric of a more appropriate deity to cast the spell on their behalf. This could add an interesting narrative step and a potential for roleplaying the interaction. In any case, remember that commune calls out that the question has to be one that could be answered with a yes or no, though if the deity’s agent thinks a misleading one-word answer would harm their own interests, they might give up to five words to help clarify. Chances are, the PCs were already suspecting something before they cast the commune to begin with. For instance, if they already suspect that Lady Hidimbi is a rakshasa, they could ask if she is, and if it makes sense for the deity’s agent to know the answer, it might say “yes.” However, if they know there is a rakshasa but not who it is, they couldn’t ask “Who is the rakshasa?” and receive the answer “Lady Hidimbi.”

Commune with Nature: Out of the three spells that return cryptic information from outside forces, commune with nature can potentially give the caster the most robust information, since it provides three full facts from a variety of topics. However, commune with nature provides limited types of information compared to other divinations. First of all, it is most useful in large outdoor areas, where it finds information across miles and miles (although that could lead to false positives, if the caster prefers a narrower area and doesn’t think to specify). It is still effective in unworked caves, since 900 or more feet is usually enough to cover an area that the PCs want to explore, but remember that it can’t see into settlements or even constructed dungeons at all. The awareness of nature tends to return general information rather than specific. A druid trying to determine the identity of the most powerful unnatural creature in the area might get a sense that a malevolent, unnatural thing has been stalking the jungle, but she probably wouldn’t learn specifics about the creature. Nature can sense corruption in its midst, but doesn’t possess specific knowledge about types of undead, for example.

Contact Other Plane: One of the easier divinations to handle, this spell takes 10 minutes to cast, requires concentration, and has a non-negligible chance of rendering the caster useless for multiple weeks with no real way to remove the negative effect. Though the odds of getting a true answer aren’t terrible, the spell isn’t very trustworthy. All questions get a one-word answer, such as “yes” or “no,” without exception. Compare this to commune, where a helpful deity might rarely give a few more words for context. With all these mitigating factors, this spell isn’t especially dangerous to the integrity of a mystery.

Detect Scrying: This spell lasts a long time and automatically detects nearby scrying sensors, potentially even revealing the scryer’s location and offering a glimpse of her. This spell doesn’t entirely counter the scrying. The scrying effect still happens, but now it gives information to the target. Paranoid PCs are likely to cast this spell in an intrigue campaign when they have access to it, so have paranoid NPCs do so as well, but only if it makes sense that they would have a 4thlevel slot they are willing to use. If a character always has an active detect scrying spell because it’s a reasonable resource expenditure for that character, then the player and PCs will buy into it as part of the way the world works (particularly if they are also casting detect scrying each day). However, having the NPC conveniently use the spell off a scroll only when the PCs want to scry on her is sloppy—unless the PCs have given the NPC some strong reason to expect that they will scry on her that day. All in all, when scrying starts becoming available, detect scrying is a great way to say “yes, but.”

Divination: Like augury, divination also costs 25 gp, but can see 1 week into the future, and returns a short phrase, cryptic rhyme, omen, or something similar if successful. As the GM, be creative and play to your strengths when giving responses. For instance, poetry is a great way to structure a response for this spell, but if you aren’t as skilled at writing verse, but are great at making collages, do that. The result of this spell could be anything! It’s a great chance to give some interesting clues that the PCs might use to their advantage, or even figure out later in a moment of revelation. Coming up with a satisfying result for this spell takes time, so try to work with your players and have them come up with divination ideas outside of the session, if possible, letting them know that the result will be more fun if you have some time. If there’s just no way to predict it until the game, however, there’s nothing wrong with calling a quick time-out. Divination opens up tons of possibilities and puts all the power in your hands. The PC is spending 25 gp and a spell slot and trusting you to make it awesome, so make sure the answer is neither worthless nor overly blatant. Getting the result just right is more of an art than a science.

Find the Path: The major restrictions for this spell are that the caster can only specify a location (not an object or creature) and the location must be prominent (which typically means either important or famous). Though many of the locations that an adventurer may be trying to find are important, not all of them are famous—and if they’re famous enough, chances are that they aren’t hard to find. Where the two overlap, there is usually some sort of powerful magical effect protecting the area from divinations. That’s a reasonable plot device to use if you must have such a location, and it makes sense from a narrative perspective. After all, if the place were famous, chances are someone before the PCs would have tried basic divinations such as find the path already (and catalogued the results of their attempts), so it wouldn’t also be hard to find. If you do use this plot device, it is a good idea to introduce it early as the result of the PCs’ research. Finding old notes from a previous explorer who determined that a place must be protected against divinations right at the outset helps cement the fact as a fundamental part of the initial challenge, rather than seeming like a desperate cop-out added later as a counter to something unexpected the PCs did.

Legend Lore: Legend lore costs 250 gp to cast, so the PCs probably won’t cast it frivolously. They are likely looking for some interesting information about a person, place, or thing (here, thing means an object that can be at hand, not a conceptual thing like love or a specific mystery). Even if the target is at hand, casting the spell still takes up to 40 minutes. Without the subject, the spell takes a long time to cast—up to 12 weeks if working from rumors. Remember that not everything is legendary. Recognize that 11th-level characters often use or deal with things that would usually count as legendary; mythic creatures likely count as well, even if they have a low CR.

Depending on the PCs’ previous access to the target, they might get vague results that lead them to somewhat better information about the target (if they know only rumors), incomplete and unspecific lore (if they started with detailed information), or legends about the target (if they have the target at hand). The kinds of legends aren’t specified; they can come from all over. Legends are generally told verbally, so text is an easy format for conveying the results to your players. But legends can be anything, so unleash your creativity. Some legends might contradict one another, particularly if the PCs don’t have the target at hand, and legends are rarely conclusive. Particularly if the object is at hand, be sure to give some useful or at least interesting information that enhances the experience, rather than just a rambling story that reveals nothing. Since the spell might reveal legends that were never generally known, it is an excellent opportunity to provide PCs with cool or useful information that goes above and beyond what they might expect if you want to advance the narrative more quickly or give them some more clues. Everything in the spell works at your pace.

Locate Creature: This spell has many of the same problems as locate object, although running water blocks it rather than lead (the spell still helps in cities with canals, though). For this spell, a kind of creature is distinct from a type of creature. For instance, an orc is a kind of creature, while a humanoid is a type of creature. Remember that the caster must have seen that kind of creature up close. A specific creature must be known to the caster; this terminology is less-defined compared to other locating spells. Consider it synonymous with the “with which you are familiar” clause of the sending spell. A creature is known to the caster only if the caster has met the creature in person and recognizes it on sight.

Prying Eyes: This spell and its greater version work in much the same way—the only difference with the greater version is that the eyes can see extremely well with true seeing and a respectable Perception total skill bonus. Focusing on the commonalities, this spell is useful in much different situations than arcane eye, but situations that are more common in games using intrigue. The spell doesn’t work well in a dungeon, but with its 1-mile radius, hour-per-level duration, and numerous eyes, it can tell the caster basically everything that is going on in a small community—without the caster having to concentrate. The main vulnerability of prying eyes is that it produces sensors that are both semitangible and visible and have only a +16 total skill bonus on Stealth checks. That means that opponents of a similar level to the caster are likely to see the eyes and could destroy them easily. Remember that an eye’s destruction is interesting knowledge that a savvy PC can keep in mind. If that sweet and foppish nobleman somehow noticed the eye, chances are he is more than he seems, or at least that he has bodyguards with keen vision.

The spell says that an eye sent into the darkness could hit an obstacle and be destroyed. This should only happen if the caster tells the eyes to act recklessly, such as if he commands them to travel so far in so short a time that they have to fly at full speed, rather than slowly traveling in the dark. As the spell mentions, when an eye is destroyed, the caster is aware of the destruction, but can never be sure how it happened, which can lead to interesting speculation and more investigations. If the eyes are doing general scouting, be sure to think of some amusing anecdotes of things the eyes saw, potentially showing another side of an NPC by relaying information that isn’t crucial to the plot. This serves many purposes. First of all, it gives the caster a strong sense that the spell is effective, and it helps her feel like a powerful diviner whose spells provide lots of information. Second, it adds depth to the game world and helps change the mood a bit or relieve tension, particularly if it is humorous. Finally, and most importantly, it serves as a smoke screen if you decide to put in extra clues that the caster wasn’t necessarily trying to find. For example, if you often have the eyes report interesting extra tidbits, you could slip in a small bit about a certain woman hiding her silverware, and at first it will seem like just another peculiarity, perhaps to protect her valuables from thieves. If you never describe anything from the eyes except for plot-crucial information, the PCs are very likely to immediately jump to investigating the woman (who you were hoping to slowly reveal had just been infected with lycanthropy).

Scrying: 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. The caster needs to buy a reusable 1,000 gp mirror and then spend an hour to see and hear a small area around a creature (only 10 feet in all directions, but with magically enhanced senses for vision). This lasts for 1 minute per level, and the sensor moves with the creature with a 150-foot speed. Creatures are able to notice scrying’s effect as they would with other scrying sensors, requiring a successful DC 24 Perception check. There’s good news for the target, however. First of all, those observed targets can automatically detect (and possibly uncover the source of ) the spell via the 24-hour-duration detect scrying spell. Even without that spell at their disposal, the target receives a Will saving throw and spell resistance (if applicable) to avoid the attempt (and a failed attempt prevents another from that caster for 24 hours). Not only that, unless the target and caster have met before, chances are that the target also gains at least a +3 bonus on the saving throw (from secondhand knowledge and a picture, which is the best the PCs can usually hope to have). Scrying can be enormously useful for a spy, if the circumstances all align well for the scryer, but it isn’t particularly useful on its own for a potential teleport. The 10-foot-radius visual requires the target to move in order to provide a clear idea of the layout of the destination, and the spell doesn’t directly indicate the location. The PCs must use contextual clues to figure this out, unless they already know where the target is.

Stone Tell: This one is similar enough in nature to speak with animals and speak with plants that much of the same advice is applicable for you to apply. Play up the stones’s different way of thinking, including how they view the world and events on a much longer timescale than most living beings.

Enchantments

Source Ultimate Intrigue pg. 162
In mid-level play, enchantments become more versatile, affecting more creature types, and dominate spells also come into play.

Dominate Person: Unlike suggestion, this spell gives the caster total control over another character, and the demands don’t need to be reasonable. The one saving grace in a game that employs intrigue is that the Sense Motive DC to detect the effect is only 15, so someone is very likely to notice it. Still, the effect is quite powerful, and it can potentially ruin a player’s time if her character becomes dominated, or it can ruin a plot if players dominate a vital NPC. The spell even allows a caster to use the dominated creature as a spy and see through its eyes, though again, the low DC of the Sense Motive check means that there are usually better ways to do so. In addition to other means of protecting against compulsions, dominate person has two special escape clauses.

First, the creature never takes obviously self-destructive actions. The spell doesn’t mention whether this means only bodily harm, but there are many sorts of destruction beyond the physical. For instance, a command to make a king announce something that will obviously irreparably destroy his reputation and tear his kingdom apart likely counts. Even if something isn’t obviously self-destructive, each time a command forces the dominated person to take actions against his nature, he receives another saving throw with a +2 bonus. It’s up to you to determine how often to give these new saving throws if orders result in many successive acts against a character’s nature, but be fair in applying them at the same rate for both PCs and NPCs. Since being dominated can be highly frustrating for PCs, you can consider choosing a particularly fast rate in applying these new saving throws in both cases, though be sure to let the PCs know about this if it looks like they can use a dominate effect before the NPCs do. The advice here also applies to dominate monster.