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I am playing in a game where it has been hinted we may come across creatures with very good hide and move silently skills, and most likely have abilities such as hide in plain sight, darkstalker feats, etc. The party we are in will have trouble spotting them. If we come up with a single (or obvious) solution, the DM may have thought of it and give the characters an ability to block it. So I was after as many options (spells, etc.) as possible, and also, what is the best way to block the options we come up with. Options that will spot them rather than locate square they are in will be better.

Some of the most obvious choices are :

  • Daylight Pellet (MIC p.159), stopped by casting Deeper Darkness, antimagic field, or we may not know when to use it.
  • Torch Bug Paste (Complete Scoundrel p.120), don't know which square to throw it into.

In the party we have a warlock, fighter, cleric, wizard/ranger, rogue, and bard, all level 14. Each would be interested in improving their ability to spot and find hidden creatures.

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What levels and available resources? –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jan 10 '11 at 10:42
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4 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Suggestions by class:

Warlock

  • Cha based class, low skills, hefty feat requirements.
    • Take Mindbender (CA) level 6, and the Mindsight feat (Lords of Madness)
    • Tier 4 class, if critical, they can spend one of their invocations on a see invisible or equivalent.
    • Mindsight may be counterable by some of the more obscure telepathy blockers but is not telepathy, RAW

Fighter

  • Immediately ask the DM to come back as a "fighter" from one of the Tome of Battle Classes. Low skills, no access to magic.
    • Tier 5 class, should not be distracted trying to spot/listen. They need to concentrate on "hitting people with their sword/axe/hammer" instead.
    • Grab Earth Sense:

      Prerequisites: Con 13, Wis 13.Benefit: As long as you are touching the ground, you can take a move action to sense the number of creatures within 20 feet that are also touching the ground and the direction to each one. You cannot pinpoint the location of any creature with this feat.

    • Not trivally counterable by anything other than flight. But it costs a move action. A good way to know if people need to spend resources or not.

Cleric

  • As all Tier-1 classes have the ability to excel in any area of the game they care to, this is no exception. *At low levels, the creation of an item of Divine Insight will give a remarkably large boost to their Spot and Listen skills as needed. (Or just using the spell, though that's less optimal)
    • The detect suite of spells will come in handy, as most monsters with supernatural abilities will not have access to nondetection. Detect Magic is a trivial counter to almost all forms of magical concealment sans nondetection
    • Ebon Eyes and other specialized anti-detection counters may come in handy.
    • Access to the wizard's spell list opens all their options as well.
    • My recommendation is for the cleric not to engage in this effort, as she has the ability to make the contest unfun for everyone else.

Wizard/Ranger

  • This pairing is MAD with a vengence, and will therefore be rated as a Ranger tier 4. They have a build in mind, and asking them to cherry pick odd wizard spells will almost certainly not fit their ideas.
    • Best option is to use the scent of the animal companion as a remarkably handy perception backup. A few ranger/wizard spells can also grant animal senses. If travelling, have this character lag behind the party and try to track anyone who's tracking you.
    • Magic aura is a great way to disguise the auras of magic items you're carrying, under the "eliminate magic aura" clause.

Rogue

  • Tier 4, designed for the spot/hide game.
    • Insure spot is high, but don't worry overmuch. Try to outsneak the opposition instead.
    • If you have the con/wis for it, grab earth sense.

Bard

  • Tier 3, and it shows. Access to the incredible spell improvisation means that no-one in the group (besides the cleric) wlil be able to match their spot/listen scores. Access to the detection suite is also possible for this character, and they should have easy access to nondetection, to better shroud the party.
    • A natural for mindbender, they would also have access to the mindsight feat.
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Except Spot is not a class skill for a bard, but he has got ways around the limitation with spells. –  jaye1234 Jan 10 '11 at 11:27
    
I'd suggest arcane sight for the wizard. Can be made permanent. –  Zachiel Sep 2 '12 at 20:11
    
Touchsight (psionic) is up there with Mindsight. –  NiteCyper Apr 12 '13 at 18:24
    
A single level of Mindbender (Complete Arcane) can get Telepathy out to 100 ft., which is great for Mindsight. Really easy prerequisites, too; the primary requirement is some form of charm person, which the bard, warlock, and wizard can all get. Strongly recommend against taking more than one level of Mindbender, however. –  KRyan Jan 24 at 16:50
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Feat based options:

  • Mindsight + Telepathy '100: allows you to pinpoint living creatures. Should work even on top of telepathy blocking, as you're not looking for stuff that the blockers block. No idea how to block this, but it's stupidly difficult to get.
  • Earth Sense From Races of Stone: countered by Flight

Racial options:

  • Scent (may be gotten by feat or magic (embrace the wild), depending) counter, spell (remove scent)

Skill options:

  • Ovbious skill cheese
  • Trained animals for scent, other detection modes. Enchant the various detect spells into them for even more fun.
  • Countersneaking: if they have cheesed stealth, it's doubtful they've cheesed spot/listen. Out sneak them.
  • Tracking: Have someone follow your party at a decent distance, following tracks on the ground. Unlikely opponents have disguised their tracks. Counter: all the means to disguise tracks. Counter: all the means to magically reveal tracks

Some spells and powers:

  • Detect Magic and Detect Psionics (depending on the settings you have for psi-magic transparency) will detect any supernatural or spell-like abilities. (They should also be enchanted into items or made permanent) countered (sorta) by nondetection. Nondetection is then countered by the standard anti-magic tricks or any of the few spells that function as if they were detect spells but aren't divinatory.
  • Detect Hostile Intent]1, the power, should be enchanted into an item. Standard counters
  • Detect Teleportation
  • Detect Alignment, standard counters
  • Read Thoughts countered by usual detection counters, depending on psi-magic transparency
  • Truesight, countered by... dispel magic?
  • See Invis, countered by one of the more obscure and high-level invisibilities or nondetection
  • Moment of Insight (Complete Psionic) countered by anti-psi field, invis
  • Divine Insight, Improvisation, the whole list of skill boosters is countered by your DM throwing dice at you until you stop cheesing your skill checks or using the same ones on the other side. Mutual Assured Cheese, really.
  • Blindsight countered by things that hide from blindsight
  • Explosive Runes (On your cloak, with appropriate precautions taken)
  • Ebon Eyes counters magical darkness is countered by dispel
  • Zone of Alertness
  • Party has items with expeditious retreat on them: far more difficult for creatures to move stealthily at a dead run. Countered by DM dice throwing, spells.
  • Make manifest: various other-planar coextant planar creatures must be made manifest. Counter: cheese your saves
  • Polymorph into something that has a really nasty positive energy aura. Assassins who sneak too close pop with too many HP. Counter: various planar warding spells
  • Polymorph in general. Too many options to list.

Out-of-game option:

  • A DM who engineers against the player abilities is not necessarily one you should be playing with. The best option here is to note that having the party living in a state of surprise is inherently negating to the character concept, so please don't. Normal (move silent+hide) vs. normal perception should be sufficient for NPCs. DM negation of player abilities is boring and therefore is something that needs to be negotiated within the social contract.
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I'm extremely surprised none of the answers already given mentioned Tremorsense, a 3rd level Wizard spell from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting: Tremorsense

It's very similar to Earth Sense (which Brian suggested) only infinitely better because it has a larger range and allows you to pinpoint the locations of the creatures, and not just detect their presence. The obvious counter however is modes of transportation in which the creature or NPC does not touch the ground, as well as more conventional methods of removing beneficial spell effects from PCs such as Dispel Magic.

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For checking an area, there's always the good old fallback level one wizard spell Alarm

The only thing that won't trigger are:

Ethereal or astral creatures do not trigger the alarm.

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Saying Ethereal and Astral don't trigger, is not the same as saying that they are the only things that won't trigger. That spell also does not trigger on anything of Fine or Diminutive size (text says Tiny or larger), folks who keep their distance (for a lvl14 caster, they only have to be 60' away from the center of the effect, and this group's wizard is lower than that because of ranger levels), anyone with a spell that blocks the divination school (that one's unlikely at this level), and probably some others I've not caught. Also, stationary effect limits usefulness while travelling. –  Matthew Najmon Jan 25 at 7:08
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