D&D 5E What's the point of Augury in 5E? Can we give it a better point?

Ondath

Hero
Well, auguri's point is to wish someone happy birthday in Italian. But what about the spell?

I searched the forums to see if this was ever discussed since 5E's launch, but since it wasn't, here I am.

So... What's the point of Augury? As a DM, whenever my players cast it, I felt like the only logical answer I would give them would be Weal and Woe, since most ideas PCs come up with can go either way. As a player, I never saw the spell's benefit.

I'm guessing that it's a holdover from earlier editions, and kinda serves like the Common Sense perk in WoD games (AKA the "DM, please tell us if what we're about to do is patently stupid!" power, the most OP of them all). But even with that goal, it doesn't seem to do that much. The "next 30 minutes" time limit means that it can only be applied for quick plans in the short term, and like I said, I feel like 99% of most queried plans of action will yield the Weal and Woe result. Furthermore, I feel like the spell more fits a player skill-centric play style (like the OSR games), but doesn't really work with modern sensibilities. I feel like most DMs wouldn't require their players to burn up a 2nd-level spell slot to say that their plan is doomed because they as players didn't account for a factor their characters (being creatures of average intelligence living in the world) would know. So the DMs would just straight up say "Your PC would know that...", which makes the spell even more pointless.

I was curious to see if Level Up improved upon the spell's idea, but it's basically the same as O5E. But I've been thinking that the Circle of Stars Druid's Cosmic Omen could offer a nice mechanical alternative. So instead of asking how a course of action will go and getting the DM's assesment of it, the DM would roll on a table and give a bonus or penalty to rolls related to the queried course of action according to the result. So if the result comes up Woe, it's not that you have a stupid plan, it's that Fortune has decided that course of action will lead to a bad result, and you'll get a d6 penalty whenever you attempt something related to it. That sort of thing. Do you think this would be a balanced alternative to the spell?
 

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Larnievc

Hero
My table uses it quite a bit in our Level Up game. I’ll always ruled that the spell targets a course of action within 30 minutes so setting off down a road (within 30 minute from now) could have weal or woe that does not happen for a day or two.

In that example if there are bandits along the way who will ambush them when they set camp I’ll tell them woe. The course of action way within 30 mins even though the outcome wasn’t.

That works for us.
 

jgsugden

Legend
As written, it has a very limited scope. When you cast it, the DM determines whether a course of axction you'll take in the next 30 minutes is good, bad, both or not really significant. Specifically, the spell assumes only the things woven into your description of a course of action take place - not additional spells, the loss of an ally, adding additional allies, making more detailed plans, etc...

The problem I have seen is that DMs tend to default to one answer based upon their perception of the spell.

One DM I knew almost always gave woe. If there were any threats on the way, the DM told the party woe because they'd never be specific about what they'd do to respond to the threats, so he'd assume they'd just stand around and be slaughtered.

Another DM almost always went weal and woe. He assumed the PCs would face a threat, get some treasure, but lose some hps.

Another DM almost always said weal. After all, how often does a PC ever really have a permanent negative outcome from an encounter? They usually come out ahead in treasure and experience - with no long term penalty outside of lost ammunition or a used up potion.

To that end, I effectively eliminated the spell by making my own homebrew Ritual Divination at 2nd level that fulfills the role better. This spell: Lesser Divination - works like Divination (4th level spell) except for 2 things: 1.) The response is a single word, 2.) Using any other divination magic to research the situation asked about can anger the particular (fickle) powers you're asking and they will curse you.

That second clause means no Augury, 4th level Divination, Commune, or other spellcasting/abilities can be used without punishment. If they cast the other spell first, the curse comes when they cast lesser divination. When they cast lesser divination first, the punishment comes when they invoke the other divination.

A one word response is usually vague, but hints meaningfully towards the future.
 

MarkB

Legend
I'm experiencing this myself at the moment. One of the players has augury and has cast it a few times, but I've yet to be able to give a useful answer - either because they were asking about a much longer-term decision, or because the action they described would lead to both good and bad potential results.

I've noticed, though, that in many cases what the players are actually trying to decide is which of a few possible options they should choose - take the left corridor or the right, grab the idol from the altar or don't. Maybe what would help to improve the spell would be for it to let the PC know which would be the more beneficial of two choices - which is more likely to lead to a good, or at least less-bad outcome.

You could even build in an option for upcasting, then - the spell usually only mediates between two possible actions, but at higher levels you can add additional alternative courses of action.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
It does exactly what is written on the tin, and fairly well. It seems to be meant mostly as a ritual or for higher level play, when 2nd level slots are utility, not combat. Did we miss a trap? Can we turn this uninformed choice into an informed one? Can we really take that sleeping dragon or should we just sneak away.

It doesn't consume the material components, so once you have them it can be brought out anytime 10 minutes isn't a issue.

It's a quite useful spell, not sure the confusion.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Using it for foreshadowing is an option, a little flash forward scene that lets the characters see what lies before them for weal or woe. But yeah the 30 minute stipulation makes it kind of dumb especially as every option I’m going to lay ahead of PCs comes with both weal and woe outcomes
 

MarkB

Legend
Using it for foreshadowing is an option, a little flash forward scene that lets the characters see what lies before them for weal or woe. But yeah the 30 minute stipulation makes it kind of dumb especially as every option I’m going to lay ahead of PCs comes with both weal and woe outcomes
The requirement about it not taking into account any further spells is also odd, and open to some interpretation. Like, if there's a battle ahead, must the spell provide an outcome on the assumption that no spellcaster will cast anything during the combat?
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
I think it has more to do with your style of DMing.

I suggest taking the favourable for the players interpretation of their actions and abilities.

Is their course of action a generally good idea? Weal
Is their course of action a bad idea due to something unforeseen like a trap? Woe

A thousand things can change the outcome but the spell gives guidance that those are not taken into consideration.

It's one of my favourite spells but then Divination is my favourite type of Wizard.
 

Ondath

Hero
It does exactly what is written on the tin, and fairly well. It seems to be meant mostly as a ritual or for higher level play, when 2nd level slots are utility, not combat. Did we miss a trap? Can we turn this uninformed choice into an informed one? Can we really take that sleeping dragon or should we just sneak away.

It doesn't consume the material components, so once you have them it can be brought out anytime 10 minutes isn't a issue.

It's a quite useful spell, not sure the confusion.
But why would you spend ten minutes ritual casting Augury at higher levels? If it's relatively safe stuff, just test it and don't waste 10 minutes (or a spell slot) casting the spell. If it's something potentially dangerous, cast one of the higher level Divination spells like Contact Other Plane and... Divination.

Maybe it's my playstyle, but I just see no situation where Augury doesn't end up being superseded by another option.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Maybe it's my playstyle, but I just see no situation where Augury doesn't end up being superseded by another option.
. . . because it's been an horrific adventuring day, all the high spell slots are used up, there's a balrog out there - somewhere - looking for you, and you'd really like to take a long rest? "Should we camp in this seemingly safe dwarf-crypt?"

The DM knows where all the traps are, all the wandering monsters, knows all the NPC motivations, and how the forces of nature will strike. "Can I conscript my farmers one week later to give them time to finish harvest (or do they need the training right now)?"
 

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