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The more I look at spell schools, the more I notice that Divination seems to be severely underdeveloped and mechanically overspecialized, while also suffering from too much overlap with other schools, leaving it lacking. It basically appears to be a dump school. I suppose this wouldn't be much of a problem, except for the fact that Wizards are capable of specializing in it, even though the wizard divination spell list is unusually small for them.

I get that the main focus of Divination is to reveal or otherwise obtain information. That much is pretty clear. But if you take a look at the Message spell, which seems to be a prime target for Divination, it's...Transmutation? What exactly are we transmuting here? How is this that different from the Telepathic Link spell, which is Divination, apart from being lesser in effect and not a direct mental link? It certainly can't be the lack of mental link that disqualifies it as Divination, as spells like Scrying don't require that.

Speaking of Telepathic Link, if you consider that along with Tongues and Comprehend Languages, it's clearly apparent that Divination spells are capable of connecting directly to the mind, as well as manipulating information. Doesn't that sound right along the lines of Modify Memory? But, that's Enchantment!

Ok, so maybe it's purely meant to interpret and collect information, dispelling mysteries. True Sight seems to emphasize that, as it offers a hard-counter for Illusion and shape changing magic. But wait, countering and defending...isn't that basically Abjuration's whole shtick? Further, even if Divination were meant specifically to counter Illusions, why does the Illusion school offer a hard-counter for Divination in the form of Arcanist's Magic Aura?

Alright, let's set aside all of that for now. Time to approach it from a different angle. Health is supposed to be a representation of physical and mental state. This makes sense, given that the Divination spell Contact Other Plane can result in your taking significant psychic damage and going insane if you fail an intelligence save. Clearly, intellectual damage can be done to your mind. So why are there no divination spells that weaponize that? Direct damage and healing is clearly not Evocation-specific, but for some reason even though that is partially mental, Divination plays almost no role.

Ok, so maybe its main combat mechanic is on providing temporary advantages for otherwise normal actions. True Strike and Guidance seem to follow that theme. But, then, Bless is mechanically just an upgraded Guidance, and it's...Enchantment?

Even if we consider information planting, suggestion, and manipulation, these are all gobbled up by Enchanting and Illusion. Even the persuasion skill offers more in this department than Divination.

Ok, so let's set aside the fact that there's seemingly not much consistency throughout the divination spells aside from "ask a question, get an answer", which isn't nearly enough to justify the Divination-spell-specific feature of the Divination wizard except for maybe the special case of a constantly politics-heavy campaign. About the Divination Wizard, the Portent feature is particularly fascinating. According to description, when you use this skill, it's that you've already seen a vision of the outcome of that action. Fortune-telling, basically. You're not influencing it, supposedly. But then, you could also use a Divination spell to ask a god a question about a future action's outcome, and get a "truthful" response...and then deliberately change it with Portent. That means by these descriptions, one of them has to be wrong. Either the entity lied, or it's possible to use Divination magic to change the future. Speaking of, if you know about the future, wouldn't you be able to change it anyway? The Divination spell I just referenced seems to imply that, saying that it doesn't take into account circumstances that might change the outcome. So, then, it's possible to change the future, you can use Divination to learn the future, and apparently to aggressively change it to suit your whims as well. And yet aside from Portent, we don't see this come back up?

It seems like WotC should maybe have rethought their school definitions and capabilities sometime around when they designed a spell that literally shared the exact name of one of the schools (Divination).

What gives? Is there actually some exact definition of what the capabilities of the school of Divination truly are? Or is this just an artifact of poor design, allowing other schools to step on Divination's overly-specialized toes?

My main reason for asking this is because the list of Divination spells is so small and overly specialized. It would be nice to know if there's any official thematic guidelines to guide the homebrewing process when creating new Divination spells, should the opportunity arise.

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closed as too broad by Miniman, ShadowKras, Tim Grant, Thomas Jacobs, Trish Oct 7 '17 at 18:34

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You looking for only 5E or will previous edition canon help? Problem is that all of the effects of the spells can usually be recreated with another school. Message can be done by transmuting the sound or with conjuration to send a planar messenger. Previous editions defined the detailed effect but it can be accomplished several ways. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 7 '17 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know enough about previous editions, but since it's a conceptual question if the old editions had similar school-splits, that would probably be fine. \$\endgroup\$ – Azareel Oct 7 '17 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: Hackmaster (the RPG system that's a parody of AD&D 2.0)'s lampshading of the decision in AD&D to split Divination between "Greater Divination", which is what divination specialists are good at, and is, like, 4 spells, and "Lesser Divination", which was all the good ones and which everyone got for free even if Divination was a prohibited school for them. Because screw Diviners. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 7 '17 at 7:46
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Divination is about information.

PHB 203:

Divination spells reveal information, whether in the form of secrets long forgotten, glimpses of the future, the locations of hidden things, the truth behind illusions, or visions of distant people or places.

PHB 116:

The counsel of a diviner is sought by royalty and commoners alike, for all seek a clearer understanding of the past, present, and future. As a diviner, you strive to part the veils of space, time, and consciousness so that you can see clearly. You work to master spells of discernment, remote viewing, supernatural knowledge, and foresight.

Divination is none of the things described in your rant. With sufficient wordsmithing, you can reinterpret spells into other schools, but every divination spell has to do with the collection of information.

Also, to specifically address your comment about Portent and the Divination spell, the spell text specifies (PHB 234):

The spell doesn’t take into account any possible circumstances that might change the outcome, such as the casting of additional spells or the loss or gain of a companion.

While a diviner can see into the future, the DM and the players cannot. Things like portent are simulating characters that can see the future, but it's impossible to reconcile the issues you have with Divination and portent unless the DM can really see into the future and tell the players what's going to happen.

Why homebrew divination, specifically?

It's true that the limited scope of divination makes homebrewing more difficult, but I wonder if this is a bit of an XY problem: why do you want to specifically make new Divination spells? After all, focusing on Divination as a Wizard doesn't foreclose the possibility of other schools--indeed, I'd be surprised if a divination wizard actually prepared mostly divination spells.

Instead, I'd suggest homebrewing toward whatever concept you're trying to accomplish. If you want a class that has control over information, for example, you could make a spell list that contains specific spells like Message and Modify Memory in addition to the Divination spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The rant was just to explain my thought process, confusion, and reason for the question. But even then, one of the thoughts I visited still falls under "only information": that Divination might also encompass manipulation and distribution of information, rather than just the revealing of it. That has much more potential to be generally useful regardless of setting. But, if the material only references revealing it then I suppose it really is the one-trick-pony it appears to be. \$\endgroup\$ – Azareel Oct 7 '17 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Azareel I've added to my answer about the one-trick-pony-ness of Divination and homebrewing. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Oct 7 '17 at 6:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason for considering homebrewing Divination spells is simple, and twofold: First, the list of Divination spells is small and overspecialized, which makes two of a Divination Wizard's class features, Divination Savant and Expert Divination, unusually vulnerable to being underpowered and uninteresting if the DM doesn't make a point to work with the Diviner. Additionally, the Diviner skill The Third Eye even overlaps the already-limited utility of the school's spells, leaving Portent as the only interesting class mechanic. \$\endgroup\$ – Azareel Oct 7 '17 at 6:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ In other words, I don't necessarily have an issue with the school itself per se. It's the class that specializes in it that's problematic. But even homebrewing a variant of Diviner would need knowledge of the school's scope. \$\endgroup\$ – Azareel Oct 7 '17 at 7:06

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