Divinations: A DM's best friend


Since this month is all about foresight it should come as a surprise to no one that I'd take the time to talk about divination. A quick search will turn up dozens of articles about how to "save your game" from divination. How to deal with the "most problematic school of magic". How to "Thwart your players plans of ruining your campaign". As though divination were some kind of plague on your game.

The truth is that as a game master you are being given a whole box of new toys and tools when a player decides to take an interest in information.  We've all read a book, watched a movie, or played a game where the narrative shifts over to the villains and their wicked plans. We learn a vital piece of information, meet new characters, or learn more about the antagonist through experiencing it firsthand. Scenes like those can be some of the absolute greatest and most memorable and yet they're so much harder to use in a dnd game. Unless of course your players have divination magic.

As a DM it can often be hard to find the right place to insert lore or history or even vital plot info in a way that your players will not only receive it, but take interest. Shoving unwanted exposition at a party is the fastest way to get bored or confused players and some riddles can't be solved until players have learned something besides how to attack everything. If only there were a way a player could not only request a boatload of exposition, but also use class abilities and be able to tell you exactly what they want to learn and when. Well, I suppose there is divination magic.

But what about secrets? What about unexpected plot twists? What about keeping the players from having too much advantage? These are important things for your campaign surely. But if your plot, your story and writing are ever going to survive and be worthwhile you will need to trust your players eventually. And as far as players having the advantage? Do you know what your players are up against? Of course you do. They need the help. They need it because you want them to win. You NEED them to win. If the players can use magic to get the drop on their opponents then they should be allowed to. That is the very purpose of those abilities, its the reason anyone has abilities, to use them.

There are a score of spells that will allow someone to protect themselves from scrying and detection certainly, but before you decide every wizard has a constant non-detection think about this. Each time your player casts a divination spell they are saying to you "Tell me more about the campaign you made". How would you answer that question? Every time divination simply doesn't work you are telling your player "No." but every time it succeeds you are saying "Of course!"

Divination is not something to be feared or minimized or banned, it is a school of magic devoted to letting you show your players more of the world around them, build immersion and reward their cleverness.  If used properly it can form powerful connections between you, your players, and the world around them. If you need more divination advice, and I forsee you will, keep your eyes peeled for more to come in the future.