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D&D 5E UA Primeval Awareness Hysteria

Lord Twig

Adventurer
I've been wanting to bring this subject up for a while. When the Unearthed Arcana Revised Ranger came out a lot of people panicked when they saw Primeval Awareness. It can be used an unlimited times a day! You know of every enemy in range! Pure madness! :erm:

Of course this ignores the ability that is already in the game that lets you detect every creature that is not blocked by cover or concealment, yet is somehow not a problem.

"I want to know which creatures are present within line of sight, their number, general direction and distance," the player calmly declares.

Oh my gods! He can do this every round and it doesn't even require an action! What if he is in a town square! Now the DM needs to determine the number of creatures in the square, their race, gender, hair color, manner of dress, where they are located, and so much more that the character is entitled to know!

"There are about 100 people of various races milling about and doing business in the square," the DM replies. "Also a few horses, either ridden or pulling a cart and a few dogs dodging between peoples legs."

"I spend a minute to know what beasts are within 5 miles of me," says the player of the ranger.

Ah ha! What will the DM do now?

"There is the usual assortment of animals outside the town, like rabbits and squirrels, a couple deer, and a stray wolf pack at the very edge of your range. Also numerous dogs, cats, rats and other such creatures in town," the DM answers. "Was there anything specific you were looking for?"

"Nope! Just curious."

"Okay. What do you do now?"

And the quest continues! Some how Primeval Awareness didn't destroy the game, or even really delay it.
 

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Creamsteak

First Post
I was one of the people that commented in the negative for it and still do.

It's not that it would ever be an actual problem in my real games, I have mitigating factors like common sense and playing with friends that share game goals with me. I don't think the "solution" you describe is incorrect, but I think you are conflating your own sense of common sense with what kinds of rules should be in the rulebooks.

It's actually a bit funny to me that in that same article they introduced the more restrictive rules for animal companions, where once again the rules could work fine for your group or mine, but some people do end up finding themselves in groups where very explicit clear rules work and open-to-interpretation rules create problems. Let's say a GM, for any reason, doesn't believe your druid can shapeshift into a dire wolf, versus a player who presumes they can always play a dire wolf druid. I don't have these problems currently, but I have seen these kinds of problems before.

The awareness this granted I didn't like because it was worded more in the explicit rules way and not the interpretive way you're using, and with it's explicit wording it made it seem like monster radar that would raise questions I couldn't easily answer.

Really, at the end of the day I would imagine this skill itself, especially under the interpretation you are using, also just seems like "information you might get from the Survival skill". There's a good argument that just giving rangers double (or even triple) proficiency to survival and maybe the relevant knowledge skill when tracking their favored enemies might have been a cleaner solution on all counts.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Yep, and I think this question:

"Was there anything specific you were looking for?"

Or something like that question should precede the DM narrating the result. It makes adjudication so much easier.
 

GameOgre

Adventurer
Party Ranger-BUT NOT one cow in the town? I find this suspicious! There is a bovine conspiracy afoot! I accost the cook at the tavern! Just where do you get the meat you devil! WHERE DO YOU GET THE MEAT!

TAINTED MEAT! TAINTED MEAT!

OH GOD! What did I eat? Who did I eat? YOU FIEND!

DM(thinking on his feet)-ooook, The Cook jerks out of your grasp and makes a animalistic sound as she bounds over the counter. As you turn to face her you notice everyone in the Inn is suddenly standing there features suddenly seem broader. The cook walks forward pointing her cleaver towards the party as she transforms into a werecow" We get our meat from travelers like YOU"

Another game destroyed by random questions.
 


ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
"I use Primeval Awareness! How many favored enemies are within range?"

"46."

"Why so many? Are you trying to TPK us?"

"You're in a kobold den. At least half of them are children."

So many ways to use abilities like this to mess with the players...
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Party Ranger-BUT NOT one cow in the town? I find this suspicious! There is a bovine conspiracy afoot! I accost the cook at the tavern! Just where do you get the meat you devil! WHERE DO YOU GET THE MEAT!

TAINTED MEAT! TAINTED MEAT!

OH GOD! What did I eat? Who did I eat? YOU FIEND!

DM(thinking on his feet)-ooook, The Cook jerks out of your grasp and makes a animalistic sound as she bounds over the counter. As you turn to face her you notice everyone in the Inn is suddenly standing there features suddenly seem broader. The cook walks forward pointing her cleaver towards the party as she transforms into a werecow" We get our meat from travelers like YOU"

Another game destroyed by random questions.

Now the adventurers know why everyone else in the village was cowed. It also explains the corpse they found the other day that had been mootilated. Still, if they play their cards right they can milk the situation for all it is worth!
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
Yep, and I think this question:

"Was there anything specific you were looking for?"

Or something like that question should precede the DM narrating the result. It makes adjudication so much easier.

Yes, this was exactly my point. If a character looks around a village square they see villagers in the square. If they look around the square for a halfling with a patch on one eye that's a different question. Maybe they'll see him, maybe they won't.

Likewise if the ranger isn't looking for anything specific when he use Primeval Awareness he would learn that there is all the usual beasts about. Maybe that wolf pack might be a little unusual so close to the town. And if he makes a Wisdom check he might notice the disturbing lack of cows... ;)
 

Caliban

Rules Monkey
I think it could be a lot of fun for the DM.

"I have favored enemy undead. I'm in the middle of town, how many undead are within range?"

"Hmm...About 5,000."

"What? That's greater than the population of the town! No one's been reporting any undead hordes!"

Cue panicked investigation. Eventually they learn there is a necropolis in caverns a mile beneath the town, just chock full of undead minding their own business. Until the adventurers show up looking for them anyway...
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
I was one of the people that commented in the negative for it and still do.

It's not that it would ever be an actual problem in my real games, I have mitigating factors like common sense and playing with friends that share game goals with me. I don't think the "solution" you describe is incorrect, but I think you are conflating your own sense of common sense with what kinds of rules should be in the rulebooks.

It's actually a bit funny to me that in that same article they introduced the more restrictive rules for animal companions, where once again the rules could work fine for your group or mine, but some people do end up finding themselves in groups where very explicit clear rules work and open-to-interpretation rules create problems. Let's say a GM, for any reason, doesn't believe your druid can shapeshift into a dire wolf, versus a player who presumes they can always play a dire wolf druid. I don't have these problems currently, but I have seen these kinds of problems before.

The awareness this granted I didn't like because it was worded more in the explicit rules way and not the interpretive way you're using, and with it's explicit wording it made it seem like monster radar that would raise questions I couldn't easily answer.

Really, at the end of the day I would imagine this skill itself, especially under the interpretation you are using, also just seems like "information you might get from the Survival skill". There's a good argument that just giving rangers double (or even triple) proficiency to survival and maybe the relevant knowledge skill when tracking their favored enemies might have been a cleaner solution on all counts.

I understand what you are saying (at least I think I do), but it seems like this would eliminate any open ended ability for the fear that someone, somewhere, wouldn't know how to properly rule it. Maybe a sentence at the end that says, "DMs need not provide information about every Favored Enemy detected by this ability if they are not important to the game, but just mention that others exist, but are not relevant."
 

ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
I think it could be a lot of fun for the DM.

"I have favored enemy undead. I'm in the middle of town, how many undead are within range?"

"Hmm...About 5,000."

"What? That's greater than the population of the town! No one's been reporting any undead hordes!"

Cue panicked investigation. Eventually they learn there is a necropolis in caverns a mile beneath the town, just chock full of undead minding their own business. Until the adventurers show up looking for them anyway...

"I have orcs as my favored enemy... How many are within range."

"Seven thousand."

"Holy crap! How did so many sneak into the city?!?"

"They didn't. The city's been hiring them as guards, soldiers, and laborers."
 

Creamsteak

First Post
I understand what you are saying (at least I think I do), but it seems like this would eliminate any open ended ability for the fear that someone, somewhere, wouldn't know how to properly rule it. Maybe a sentence at the end that says, "DMs need not provide information about every Favored Enemy detected by this ability if they are not important to the game, but just mention that others exist, but are not relevant."

I'm not saying that it's a hard design rule, I'm saying that this particular rule fails the smell test. Your interpretation, as much as I agree with your intent, is not exactly fitting for what the rules seem to say it should do. It's sloppy wording for someone at Wizards, something that we usually see culled before print, so I'm not that worried.

I would note that by a pretty strict reading it asks me a question that I, as the GM, had no answer to until asked. It's Shrodinger's zombies, as someone else just described. They didn't exist until you asked the question and I came up with an answer, for good or ill.

The way you want to rule it is fine, and most likely how people actually intend to use it in practice, but it's sloppy in the UA article.
 


Lord Twig

Adventurer
I'm not saying that it's a hard design rule, I'm saying that this particular rule fails the smell test. Your interpretation, as much as I agree with your intent, is not exactly fitting for what the rules seem to say it should do. It's sloppy wording for someone at Wizards, something that we usually see culled before print, so I'm not that worried.

I would note that by a pretty strict reading it asks me a question that I, as the GM, had no answer to until asked. It's Shrodinger's zombies, as someone else just described. They didn't exist until you asked the question and I came up with an answer, for good or ill.

The way you want to rule it is fine, and most likely how people actually intend to use it in practice, but it's sloppy in the UA article.

So how should it be worded? I'm honestly not sure how you would fix it without just limiting the ability to the point where it is no longer useful (again).
 

Creamsteak

First Post
So how should it be worded? I'm honestly not sure how you would fix it without just limiting the ability to the point where it is no longer useful (again).

As I already stated, your example basically amounted to something someone might figure out from a simple well rolled Survival/Perception/Insight/Knowledge check of your choice, as opposed to what the rules as written seem to grant. Let me ask, what more should it be able to do exactly? What is the thing we are trying to bring into the game? That the ranger is "the best" at tracking down their favored enemies and knowing everything there is to know about them? If so, I think something as simple as getting double (or triple to one-up the rogue) proficiency on these skills, but only when you are using them in relation to your favored enemies.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
As I already stated, your example basically amounted to something someone might figure out from a simple well rolled Survival/Perception/Insight/Knowledge check of your choice, as opposed to what the rules as written seem to grant. Let me ask, what more should it be able to do exactly? What is the thing we are trying to bring into the game? That the ranger is "the best" at tracking down their favored enemies and knowing everything there is to know about them? If so, I think something as simple as getting double (or triple to one-up the rogue) proficiency on these skills, but only when you are using them in relation to your favored enemies.

Sure the Ranger isn't getting anything he wouldn't get from a Survival skill when there is nothing to find, but if he is looking for something in particular, that is when the ability shines.

For example, say a Ranger has Favored Enemy Humanoids and wants to scout a bandit camp. He can spend a minute and know which direction and how many miles away the bandit camp is and how many of bandits are in the camp. The exact number and type. That isn't something you can do with a Survival check and it isn't something that a GM should have to make up on the fly as it is (most likely) part of the adventure.

Once he has the camp in sight he can spend a minute again and maybe determine if there are any guards around that he can't see in the camp. Maybe there are some bandits up in trees keeping watch and Primeval Awareness would let him know that there are some humanoids to up and to the sides, or over on the hill across from him, or whatever. Again this is all information that would not be given from a simple Survival check.

Another example. Say there is a tribe of goblins on the move and they are threatening to overrun a village. The heroes go out and the Ranger uses Primeval Awareness to locate any advance scouting parties that the adventurers can pick off. Survival won't help at all if the goblins haven't come by yet, but Primeval Awareness will tell him that there is one scouting group a mile northwest, a second a mile to the east, a third 3 miles to the northeast and the main group advancing from four miles to the north. He would know that there are 10 goblins and 5 hobgoblins in each scouting party and that the main group has 124 goblins, 25 hobgoblins 5 bugbears and a dozen humans. Maybe the same 12 humans that disappeared from the outlying farms last week?

All of that gives the Ranger the ability to really stand out as an amazing (superhuman even!) tracker. When shared with the rest of the group all the players can then try to decide on a plan of what to do. Sure the Ranger had a moment to shine by getting the information, but after that the whole group is once again engaged in what to do with that information.

Edit: What the Ranger doesn't know is that there are three more scouting parties to the rear of the group and that 5 of the goblins in each group are riding dire wolves. ;)
 
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Creamsteak

First Post
So you want it to be even better than monster radar, yet you want to conceal significant information from the player when that's not what the ability says it does. Some people are going to turn that into 20+ questions as they try to irk out every possible avenue for success or failure. Honestly now I think you're making it worse. Throw on how this manifests "in game" and how that irks some players and some DMs and it's just a mess.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
For my player using the Low magic UA revised ranger, I just removed the ability. Possible ramifications? I have no idea. However, he hasn't been clamoring for a way to find everything within 6 miles. How would you even explain that range for a spell-less ranger?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I've been wanting to bring this subject up for a while. When the Unearthed Arcana Revised Ranger came out a lot of people panicked when they saw Primeval Awareness. It can be used an unlimited times a day! You know of every enemy in range! Pure madness! :erm:

Of course this ignores the ability that is already in the game that lets you detect every creature that is not blocked by cover or concealment, yet is somehow not a problem.

"I want to know which creatures are present within line of sight, their number, general direction and distance," the player calmly declares.

Oh my gods! He can do this every round and it doesn't even require an action! What if he is in a town square! Now the DM needs to determine the number of creatures in the square, their race, gender, hair color, manner of dress, where they are located, and so much more that the character is entitled to know!

"There are about 100 people of various races milling about and doing business in the square," the DM replies. "Also a few horses, either ridden or pulling a cart and a few dogs dodging between peoples legs."

"I spend a minute to know what beasts are within 5 miles of me," says the player of the ranger.

Ah ha! What will the DM do now?

"There is the usual assortment of animals outside the town, like rabbits and squirrels, a couple deer, and a stray wolf pack at the very edge of your range. Also numerous dogs, cats, rats and other such creatures in town," the DM answers. "Was there anything specific you were looking for?"

"Nope! Just curious."

"Okay. What do you do now?"

And the quest continues! Some how Primeval Awareness didn't destroy the game, or even really delay it.

Speaking as someone who didn't think PA was great shakes when it came out, I changed my tune a bit after seeing it in play.

I don't think it's too powerful, exactly. Getting a sense of what favored enemies you have nearby isn't a bad Rangery thing to do, and it's bang-on effects include things like avoiding ambushes and following creatures around, which are Rangery things that Rangers should be able to do.

I do think the fact that it's at-will and reliable means that there's never any downside to just constantly using it. Which isn't great from a gameplay perspective - "always remember the ranger has perfect knowledge of every humanoid within 6 miles" is a pretty big demand to make on the DM.

It's also worded in a way that's impossible to actually run at the table in any functional way. It is a very rare DM who has the precise knowledge of the demographics of any given six-mile radius of their campaign. I don't know what's within six miles because I haven't rolled for it yet. I can't tell you if there's X, Y, or Z within range. It's like Shrodinger's cat, I can't tell you if it's alive or dead until we open the box and find out together.

While an answer like you suggest is vaguely functional, it nerfs the ability and sells it short. The Ranger as a character becomes aware of each of those creatures, and it's up to the Ranger to decide what to do with that information. It's a kludge that shouldn't have to be there.

PA is a good idea that needs some development - pretty much what I'd expect out of a UA article.

I'm still playing the game where the UA ranger with that ability is a character, but every time she uses PA, I just sort of throw up my hands and end up answering specific questions. If that's the design intent of the ability, then it should be designed to reflect that intent, and not couch it in language that gives the Ranger character something that the players and the DM cannot possibly know themselves.
 

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